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Spotlight on Spinouts and the Importance of Seed Funding

About The FSE Group

At The FSE Group (FSE), we have a 20 year history of supporting high growth UK SMEs, especially in underrepresented areas of the UK. In that time, we have been proud to back multiple university spinouts from across the country.

Emerging trends in investment into spinouts

A recent Beauhurst report found that even though investment into spinouts increased in 2020, it was to a smaller number of spinout companies (269 in 2020 compared to 360 in 2019) implying an increase in the average investment size and suggesting that investment efforts were focussed on existing portfolio businesses rather than new deals.

However, the amount of capital invested in university spinouts in 2020 is still lower than the record number in 2018 (£1.11 billion compared to £1.3 billion). What are the reasons for this? A paper by Research England found that compared to conventional startups, university spinouts tend to have a longer time horizon to exit, which increases the variability of returns and requires several rounds of funding, some of which can be explained by the inherent DeepTech focus of university spinouts. This latter point is further corroborated by Beauhurst’s finding that the biggest sectors for university spinouts are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Health, both of which are research and capital-intensive.

Spinouts clearly need long-term patient capital to fully grow and realise their potential, and this is reflected in the fact that spinouts tend to exit more than non-spinouts (10% compared to 7% in the wider SME population). However, investment into spinouts is heavily focussed on the Golden Triangle (Oxford, Cambridge and London), with over a third of investments made there, driven by funds local to each region, which has helped build a local ecosystem. To grow more spinouts from universities outside this area, they need investment from funds local to them, who have networks within their region to help create value for an SME.

In recent years, many universities have built vibrant ecosystems boosted by programmes to support graduate enterprise and science parks geared towards SMEs, which encourage collaboration with the university.  Research intensive universities tend to have their own linked funds, but this leaves a large number of other institutions without easy access to funding for their SME community.  In 2019, the government announced the launch of 20 University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) in universities across England, to provide support and funding to university connected startups.

Our experience with spinouts

FSE’s first fund, the South East Seed Fund, was developed in conjunction with 11 universities across the South East with public and corporate funding. Since the launch of that fund the FSE Group has continued to invest in university linked businesses with its other regional SME funds and through its angel network. 

On average, 20% of spinouts have at least one female founder, and only 6% of spinouts have an all-female founding team. FSE is proud of its success in supporting female led SMEs, and across our funds, 24% of our portfolio companies have at least one female director.

Some examples of FSE’s investments in university spinouts are:

UltraSoC – FSE first began funding support to this project in 2004 when the concept behind UltraSoC Technologies was initially conceived at the University of Kent. At that time, FSE provided funding from the South East Proof of Concept Fund for research into an optoelectronic debug support interface for embedded System-on-Chip’s (SoC’s). The South East Proof of Concept Fund (SEPoC) was managed by FSE on behalf of six South East based universities and was financed by the Higher Education Innovation Fund to increase the levels of commercial innovation within the academic knowledge base.

During the SEPoC grant, the University of Kent spun out the ‘project’ into a company that became known as UltraSoC Technologies Ltd. FSE continued to advise on business planning and funding strategy development. In 2006, FSE provided UltraSoC with a PoCKeT loan, which was designed to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from universities into industry, Funds were used to develop a prototype software tool for the electronics industry in collaboration with the University of Essex as well as market research and maintenance of the IP portfolio. UltraSoc subsequently took its first institutional equity investment from FSE managed South East Seed Fund alongside a specialist fund connected with the University of Essex in 2008.  From there followed further IP development, a leading customer base and international private equity investment.

UltraSoc was acquired by Siemans in 2020 to provide a comprehensive solution for their semiconductor industry customers including manufacturing defects, device failure, functional safety, and malicious attacks. 

Codices Interactive Limited (Codices)  – was founded in 2018 by Tim Edwards and Fern Pombeiro at the Falmouth Launchpad Entrepreneurship programme. Through the FSE managed Cornwall and Isle of Scilly Investment Fund (CIOSIF) the company secured equity investment in 2020.

Codices works with brands and influencers to create live interactive shows on Twitch, a video live streaming service which is a subsidiary of Amazon. By using Codices’ tools, broadcasters can build, engage and monetise their audiences through player-driven entertainment. The Twitch platform has proved a great success with over 3 million unique active streamers and over 15 million daily active users.

The business continues to go from strength to strength, most recently having won awards and connected people across the UK during these difficult circumstances with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Glas Data – Rob Sanders and Colin Phillipson, founders of Glas Data, recognised that data fragmentation issues within the agricultural sector existed and saw how it restricted farmers, processors and retailers.

Referred from Falmouth University’s Launchpad (with MA Entrepreneurship) course, they approached FSE who were delighted to be able to invest in the agri-tech company as part of a larger funding round.

Their technology is developing rapidly, allowing farmers to collect real time data on everything from weather and animal health to load cells and a vast array of sensor devices. With so much data & technology now available, the challenge is how to make it accessible and easy to understand. The clear visualisation of data analysis makes real-time decision making easy from any device. Glas Data now employs seven people, with more recruitment to follow.

In Summary

Some university spinouts in the UK have been successful and raised considerable sums of capital, when compared to international counterparts. Between 2013-17, spinouts from Cambridge raised over $2.2 billion, compared to $1.84 billion for spinouts from Stanford, or $906m for spinouts from MIT. However, there is still a long way to go, and UK spinouts that can compete on a global scale are few and far between. As a comparison, MIT has supported 26,000 businesses who generate a turnover of $2 trillion, far beyond UK universities.

FSE believes there is a funding gap to provide investment for developing commercial scale across a wider number of Universities. This requires specialist fund management skills to understand the particularities of spin outs, how to make the best use of the innovation available, the funding landscape and the objectives of the universities themselves. We believe that more UK universities should come together to share expertise and build a sustainable funding model to support spinouts across the country.

We are committed to supporting eligible, ambitious, innovative, high growth and scalable SMEs to help fuel their growth ambitions, as an essential part of helping the UK’s economic bounce back.

For more information on FSE’s funds under management visit: www.thefsegroup.com/overview-of-funds/

Words by Julie Silvester, Head of Commercial at The FSE Group.

Leicestershire Gin Distiller Secures £250,000 MEIF Funding to Boost Growth

A Leicestershire gin distiller business has secured a £250,000 investment to scale-up its operations and create new jobs.

Burleighs Gin secured the finance from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), provided by The FSE Group and backed by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

The funding package will enable Burleighs Gin, based at Bawden Lodge Farm, Loughborough, to expand its operations. Five full-time jobs within its sales and operational functions will be created as the brand focuses on developing its premium brand gin range with two new products in the pipeline.

The funding will also allow the company to further establish its export sales – expanding its presence in Europe and the Far East, with further plans to expand into the United States.

Sam Watson, Commercial Director of Burleighs Gin, commented, “These are exciting times for Burleighs Gin as we have a clear vision as to where we wish to take our business. We are aiming to expand the brand overseas and continue to grow in the UK. We are due to launch two new marketing campaigns to support the forthcoming product launches and would like to extend our thanks to Chirag, at The FSE Group, for helping us to source the funding which will enable the business to pursue its growth ambitions and keep the day-to-day sales, distribution and operations fluid whilst we look to the future.”

Chirag Mistry, Fund Manager, at The FSE Group, which manages the MEIF Debt Finance Fund adds:We are proud to have supported Burleighs Gin with its expansion plans. The job creation will have a positive impact on the local economy and further strengthen the future of the business. Through the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, The FSE Group is committed to providing finance for innovative Midlands’ businesses with the potential to grow.”

Lewis Stringer, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “The MEIF Early Assessment Report, published last year, evidenced the Fund’s role in driving forward exports, growth and job creation in the region’s businesses. We’d encourage other businesses in the Midlands looking for finance for growth to consider the options available through the MEIF.”

Kevin Harris, Chair of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Limited (LLEP), said:  “It is great to see a growing Leicestershire business receive this type of funding through MEIF. The £250,000 investment will help Burleighs Gin to expand and reach its full potential, which is exactly what the fund was set up to achieve. Burleighs Gin is proof that despite the current economic climate, those businesses that can see a global future for their products have many opportunities to thrive, and I wish them every success with establishing its brand in these new markets.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS). Deadline for CBILS applications has been extended to 31st March for UK businesses.

Greater London Investment Fund (GLIF) Supports Technology Brand Kokoon, Helping People Unwind, Sleep Better and Aid Their Wellbeing

London based Kokoon, a leading digital health technology business specialising in personalised audio coaching proven to promote better sleep, has secured a £430,000 loan from The Greater London Investment Fund (GLIF) which includes £250,000 in conjunction with the government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Many environmental factors can contribute to restless nights, varying from reduced sleep patterns to full on insomnia, anything can trigger it: noisy neighbours, family worries or financial concerns. Currently, more than half the population have experienced more anxiety, isolation and screen time during the pandemic, having an increased effect on sleeping patterns.

Tim Antos, Kokoon’s CEO and Co-Founder was no stranger to a poor night’s sleep. Struggling with insomnia for many years he attended sleep clinics in a bid to find better sleep. Tim realised that sleep clinics provided fantastic support but tended to be inaccessible and inconvenient for most, so he set out to make the knowledge and insights he had gained at these clinics, available to the public and he decided the best way to do this would be via a consumer-friendly product which uses audio to slow a busy mind. He got in touch with Richard, a highly skilled Electronic Engineer and together they set about designing and producing a non-pharmaceutical, digital “go to” product which would enable people to get a better night’s sleep.

Founded in 2013, they launched Kokoon; intelligent, interactive headphones which use audio, proven to be effective in clinical trials to help improve and encourage sleep. Audio from their app ranges from personalised CBT coaching tailored and based on an individual’s sensor data through to soundscapes, relaxing music or audio books.

Working with and drawing on expert advice from sleep scientists, these comfortable easy to wear headphones lull the wearer to sleep at night with their favourite audio. Being linked to a smartphone app, it will also monitor and record important sleep data patterns. The intelligent software lowers the sound once asleep to avoid disturbance. Should the wearer awaken during the night, the audio then recommences to encourage sleep. Upon waking refreshed, the app will provide insights and coaching specific to the individual, helping them to understand their sleep pattern enabling them to make necessary adjustments to further improve their sleep.

Tim Antos, Co-Founder and CEO of Kokoon commented: “Richard and I wanted to create a product which would help democratise sleep science. Nearly 2/3 of the population are reporting poor sleep and it’s become an issue for nearly 1/3 of the population yet very few of us can justify a visit to the sleep clinic. We wanted to make the established science and techniques of the sleep clinic more accessible and convenient to all.  This growth loan will allow us to recruit 5 new employees in the early part of 2021 whilst the CBILS element allows us to retain existing staff to continue working from home fulfilling current sales orders. There will also be a strong focus on new product development. As well as the widely available original Kokoon over ear headphones, our in-ear bud product is on pre-order and we wish to further promote this whilst continuing to develop our product offering.”

Paul Shadbolt, Senior Fund Manager for The FSE Group, who manages the £55 million GLIF debt fund on behalf of Funding London, commented: “GLIF supports innovative high growth businesses in Greater London. We were impressed by Kokoon’s products which have demonstrated commercial traction which are key attributes for commercial success. We are pleased to be supporting them through the opportunities and challenges of the pandemic and into their next phase of growth.”

Maggie Rodriguez-Piza, CEO at Funding London, adds: “Kokoon has developed an innovative and affordable solution to a problem which seriously affects one third of the population. We are delighted to help Tim and Richard and support the excellent operation they have built, to fulfil current demand and to underpin future growth.”

GLIF is a £100m initiative to help address the SME finance gap in Greater London, promoting economic growth through enterprise and an inclusive and sustainable economy. £55m of debt funding is available, via loans between £100,000 and £1m, to early-stage and established SMEs looking to scale-up and realise their growth ambitions. GLIF is financed through the European Investment Bank (EIB), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), London Waste & recycling Board (LWARB) and Funding London’s Legacies.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS). Deadline for CBILS applications has been extended to 31 March for UK businesses.

Lincolnshire Chocolatier Secures £250k Boost to Meet Increasing Demand

A Stamford based chocolatier business has secured a £250,000 MEIF loan to help meet increasing demand for its products from the UK and overseas. This is alongside boosting its marketing campaigns to drive sales in 2021.

Firetree Chocolate secured the finance from The FSE Group Debt Finance Fund, part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) and backed by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Incorporated in 2016, Firetree Chocolate aims to become the top UK luxury brand of premium craft chocolate. The company manufactures, from bean to bar, rich volcanic chocolate and focuses on sourcing and sustainability. The company sources cocoa beans direct from farmers in the remote volcanic islands of the South Pacific and Madagascar, where the volcanic minerals produce a unique bean and taste. The beans are imported to the UK and crafted into chocolate by expert chocolatiers at its factory, before being wrapped in packaging depicting the volcanoes from where the beans were sourced.

Firetree Chocolate’s products are all dairy free and suitable for Vegans, Halal, Kosher and those with lactose intolerance.

David Zulman, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Firetree Chocolate, commented: “Although Firetree, along with other businesses, has been operating differently during the pandemic, we have adjusted well to the new normal and are encouraged to see demand for our product increasing. We take immense pride in what we do, working closely and directly with our farmers and creating single estate super-premium quality chocolate to delight our consumers. I would like to thank Paul at The FSE Group for helping us through the funding process which will assist in supporting the day-to-day sales, distribution and operations process whilst we plan ahead for an exciting future.”

Paul Lynam, Fund Manager, at The FSE Group, which manages the MEIF Debt Finance Fund adds: “We are proud to have supported Firetree throughout this process. The loan will support David and the team in their ambitions to continue to develop the brand and increase sales into 2021 and beyond. The FSE Group is committed to providing finance for innovative Midlands-based businesses and we wish them well for the future.”

Lewis Stringer, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank said: “The MEIF offers a range of funding options which can be used to support different business needs. Having previously secured an equity investment from MEIF fund managers Foresight Group, this latest funding package for Firetree Chocolate will play a key role in the business improving its operations. We would encourage other Midlands’ businesses to consider the finance available through the MEIF.”

Pat Doody, Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said:  “It’s exciting to see Firetree Chocolate opening new premises in Greater Lincolnshire in Stamford and investing heavily in its operations and marketing capacity. The Firetree brand is a fantastic addition to an already long list of high-quality food producers in Greater Lincolnshire and we are watching their progress with interest. We would encourage all innovative and ambitious businesses in our area to consider the Midlands Engine Investment Fund if they are look for finance to help them grow and innovate.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS). Deadline for CBILS applications has been extended to 31st March for UK businesses.

Inward Investment in UK SMEs & The Power of Regional Funds

About The FSE Group

At The FSE Group, we have a 20 year history of supporting high growth UK SMEs, especially in underrepresented areas of the UK. We have seen how inward investment has helped our portfolio companies to grow and thrive, whether it be from large VC funds from Silicon Valley, or reputable funds from the UK.

Location, Location, Location

Inward investment is the deployment of capital into a country or region from an external source. This definition is usually applied to FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), but is also applicable to funding from capital providers in different regions in the same country.

Beauhurst recently released a report on inward investment trends in every UK region in 2020, which mentions, to little surprise, that most of the UK’s funding providers reside in London. As this is the case, high-growth SMEs based in the UK’s regions need to secure capital from funds outside of their region to scale.

Existing funding providers within an underrepresented region can help an SME scale to the point where it becomes an interesting proposition, with a proven business model and a loyal, early set of customers.  At this point, the business becomes attractive to larger funding providers based outside the region. This is important to fuel economic growth and the ecosystem within a region, since when  larger and more prominent funds invest in a region, it acts as a signal to other stakeholders and funding providers that a region’s ecosystem is maturing and is ready for more investment.

Regional Funds and Scaling Up SMEs

Wildanet, one of our investee businesses in Cornwall which provides superfast wireless broadband to hard-to-reach areas, recently raised £50m in investment from the Gresham House British Strategic Investment Infrastructure Fund, which will enable it to roll out its gigabit-capable broadband network across Cornwall.

This is one of the largest investments ever made in Cornwall, and is positive on two fronts. Firstly, it proves that businesses in Cornwall are capable of scaling up to the point where they can attract inward investment from larger funds. Secondly, one of the key requirements for remote working to be a long-term sustainable option for businesses is the availability of reliable, high-speed broadband. Wildanet’s proposition will allow more Cornish SMEs and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in Cornwall, further building a virtuous cycle of growth.

In Summary

UK Plc needs SMEs business to scale-up (we are still massively behind other major UK economies when it comes to scaling up SMEs), and we believe that strong early-stage funding via venture debt and equity works best on a Regional basis.  This then supports businesses to reach the level of scale required to secure inward funding. 

At The FSE Group, we are committed to supporting eligible, ambitious, innovative, high growth and scalable SMEs to help fuel their growth ambitions, as an essential part of helping the UK’s economic bounce back.

For more information on FSE’s funds under management visit: www.thefsegroup.com/overview-of-funds/

Words by Paul Marston, CEO at The FSE Group.

Warwick MedTech Business Lands £250k Investment

A Warwickshire-based manufacturer of fertility monitoring products, Fertility Focus, has secured further investment from MEIF through a £250,000 loan, enabling it to invest in its staff, continue research and development, while safeguarding against the impact of COVID-19.

Fertility Focus secured the finance from The FSE Group Debt Finance Fund, part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) and backed by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Established in 2005, Fertility Focus specialises in the manufacturing and marketing of fertility monitoring products designed to help women who are experiencing issues conceiving. Fertility Focus is driven by the emergence of new medical understanding of infertility and the causes of issues in pregnancy.

The company has created its OvuSense™ platform, which is currently the only fertility monitoring product in the world which predicts the onset of ovulation up to one day in advance and provides 99% accuracy for detection of the exact date of ovulation in real-time. No other method of cycle monitoring currently available offers these features. The company also recently launched the OvuSense® Pro clinical portal which helps clinicians to remotely screen for the common causes of female sub-fertility, infertility, pregnancy issues and miscarriage. OvuSense® Pro also helps clinicians to monitor the effect of treatment.

Rob Milnes, CEO of Fertility Focus, commented: “Health statistics tell us around 12 million women in North America and Europe start out trying to conceive each year. Of these, 4 million end up trying to conceive for 6 months or more, with a further 2 million moving on each year into the clinical segment. Securing additional funding is a significant step towards continuing to support women and their partners through a highly emotional journey. We would like to extend our thanks to Paul, at the FSE Group, for taking us through the process of securing finance from CBILS and MEIF – enabling us to help the business to navigate the impact of COVID-19 which will help us through these difficult times, maintaining key staff whilst continuing with key research to help us develop our product offering.”

Paul Lynam, Fund Manager, at The FSE Group, adds: “Rob Milnes and the team at Fertility Focus are driven by a commitment to help women understand their reproductive cycles in order to better inform why they may be experiencing difficulty in conceiving. The product is of particular relevance at the moment as the ability of individuals to visit IVF clinics during COVID-19 has been disrupted. It has been a pleasure to support Steve, Rob and the Fertility Focus team and we look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

Grant Peggie, Director at the British Business Bank said: “An Early Assessment Report into the MEIF revealed its role in supporting Midlands’ businesses to develop new technologies and drive forward innovation. Having initially received equity investment from our fund manager The Foresight Group, this latest finance package for Fertility Focus is a great example of how this additional funding is supporting ongoing innovation and manufacturing operations while allowing it to also manage disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Sean Farnell, Director at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), said: “Fertility Focus has been based at the University of Warwick Science Park’s Warwick Innovation Centre for ten years and it is great to see a start-up business flourishing despite these difficult times. This new investment will allow the business to accelerate its growth as well as continue its research and development which will be important for its future success.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS). Deadline for CBILS applications has been extended to 31st March for UK businesses.

Notes to Editors:

For more information about the MEIF Debt Finance Fund visit https://www.thefsegroup.com/fund/midlands-engine-investment-fund-debt-finance/ or contact Paul Lynam, paul.lynam@thefsegroup.com  tel: 07818 087997

For more information about Fertility Focus visit www.fertility-focus.com

For more information on the company’s OvuSense® platform visit www.ovusense.com

Maternity fitness wear brand Fittamamma secures CIOSIF funding

Fittamamma, the maternity fitness wear brand, has secured investment from The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund, (CIOSIF).

Fittamamma will receive a £150,000 loan made up of £131,250 from CIOSIF and £18,750 from SWIG Finance, who work with The FSE Group, the appointed CIOSIF Fund Manager, on delivering smaller business loans. As the business grows over the next three years, it is forecast to create five new jobs.

The business, founded in 2012 by mother and daughter team, Deborah Hazeldean and Alexandra McCabe, spotted a gap in the market for stylish, well-designed and supportive maternity fitness wear. The range was developed over time, with a particular eye on the detail, ensuring it would meet the ever-changing body needs of pregnant women wishing to enjoy the benefits of exercise during and after pregnancy.

The team worked with the University of Portsmouth to carry out independent tests on the new range, with the results proving that the uniquely designed Fittamamma vests and leggings, not only look stylish but provide important, essential support where it’s needed most, reducing “bump bounce” by a significant 48% compared with other maternity ranges.

Studies have shown that exercising in pregnancy is beneficial for both the mum-to-be and her baby, decreasing some common discomforts such as backache and fatigue, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, boosting mood, managing weight gain and improving strength and stamina in preparation for birth and parenting.  Research has shown that babies born to active mums tend to develop more quickly and have improved long-term vascular health. 

Alexandra McCabe, Co-Founder of Fittamamma comments: “With plans for my own family on the horizon, I realised that pregnant women were consigned to the back of the gym, with no fitness wear that accommodated or supported the changes to their bodies – staying active was clearly more challenging wearing fitness wear which simply didn’t fit. I recognised this was a serious gap in the market and started work on my own brand and Fittamamma was born.

“The unique design and fabrics we have developed for our range provide support throughout pregnancy and afterwards, negating the need to purchase additional workout clothes. This CIOSIF loan will enable us ramp-up our marketing to raise brand awareness, scale-up the business and to recruit more likeminded people to join our team. I’d like to extend my thanks to Mike, from The FSE Group who helped us secure the funding to make this possible.”

The deal was led by The FSE Group, and SWIG Finance as part of CIOSIF. Mike Chapman, CIOSIF Business Manager at SWIG Finance, added: “It was great to meet Alexandra and Deborah and to hear about their inspirational story. The range is very well designed and these are exciting times as the team seek to create jobs in the Cornwall area for their expanding team. I am really looking forward to the next stage of their journey.”

Sarah Newbould, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “ CIOSIF was established to supporting growing and innovative businesses across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and we would encourage other smaller businesses to contact the Fund to see if it can support their growth ambitions..”

LEP non-executive director John Acornley, who chairs the CIOSIF Advisory Board, said: “CIOSIF exists to help entrepreneurs like Deborah and Alexandra access the finance they need to realise their business ambitions. This latest investment adds to the growing diversity of businesses the fund is supporting across the local economy.”

CIOSIF is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. Further investment has come from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP and HM Government.

The £40m Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund provides debt and equity finance from £25,000 to £2 million to help growing small businesses across the region. It has been established by the British Business Bank in partnership with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and is operated by appointed fund managers The FSE Group. For more information about the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund including how to apply, please visit www.ciosif.co.uk  or follow the fund on Twitter at @CIOSIFBBB2

Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator Supports Artelli42, a Leader in Human Behavioural Emulation Systems with a £150,000 Expansion Loan

Reading based Artelli42, has secured £150,000 from Thames Valley Berkshire Expansion Loan to take their ground-breaking product EXALT™, to the next level.

There is a broad assumption, that when learning is delivered to professionals in critical roles, like airline pilots or pharmaceutical professionals, they will have understood and digested the subject matter which they have been taught, but most importantly they will be able to apply this knowledge to their roles.  However, once away from the learning environment this assumption of not just knowledge retention, but its application within the workplace is incorrect. This is mainly due in part to what is referred to as the “forgetting curve.” Put simply, knowledge can be forgotten if it cannot be recalled and applied reducing the effectiveness of what has been learned.

The “forgetting curve” can be addressed with what is referred to as “spaced recall” repeated recall of the learned knowledge.  This recall still doesn’t mean that it can be competently applied within the workplace.  So how can this be addressed?

Artelli42, established in 2018 by Ian Welburn and Alan Casey with the support of Phillip Hall, is a global leader in human behavioural emulation. Ian, Alan and Philip understood that the knowledge competency of professionals in critical roles is tested through role play simulations, which strengthens recall allowing knowledge to be better applied in the workplace. Together, they began working on virtual role play simulations. From their research, they have developed an advanced form of “Chatbot” called EXALT™

Ian Welburn, Co-Founder of Artelli42 explains: “We are very excited to grow our business and to use this funding to scale-up Artelli42. EXALT™ is an exciting Artificial Intelligence (AI) product and is a new class of conversational technology.  EXALT™ delivers spaced recall, tests competence and confidence through app based virtual replays whilst providing forensic insight into the development needs of teams. We would like to thank Cheryl for guiding us through the funding process and we look forward to the completion of the development and delivery of the core production and configuration systems, to take EXALT™ to the next level.”

Cheryl Weeks, Head of Funds, South East for The FSE Group, commented: “It was great to be introduced to Ian and his team and to help them take EXALT™ to the next level. The application of knowledge is key within organisations and with the virtual learning and support provided to teams by EXALT™, this can be achieved. These are exciting times for the team as they look to continue to develop EXALT™ reaching out to more companies to support learning and development.”

TVB Expansion Loan Scheme is part of TVB Funding Escalator, an £11.3m initiative funded by Thames Valley Berkshire LEP. The escalator, which also includes a Trade Finance Loan Scheme and a Growth Equity Fund, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £50,000 and £300,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator, please visit www.thefsegroup.com/thames-valley-berkshire-funding-escalator or contact Cheryl Weeks cheryl.weeks@thefsegroup.com tel: 01276 607303 / 07866 835143

For more information about Artelli42 and how EXALT™ could help with any learning & development needs within your business, please visit https://artelli42.com/ or email enquiries@artelli42.com

Cornish Wireless Internet Service Provider Secures £50m Investment

Superfast wireless broadband provider Wildanet has secured £50m investment, which will allow the company to continue to expand its broadband network across Cornish communities and create up to 98 new jobs. The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund (CIOSIF) portfolio company has secured funding from the Gresham House British Strategic Investment Infrastructure Fund LP (BSIF).

Wildanet was established in 2017 by Ian Calvert, with the ambition to establish a high-tech, low-hassle, fast broadband solution for hard-to-reach rural areas which would guarantee broadband speeds. Fast forward three years and the Liskeard-based company can now deliver its service to over 65,000 premises across Cornwall.

Ian Calvert, CEO and Founder of Wildanet commented: “We were really pleased to receive this investment which will enable us to accelerate our expansion plans. This is exciting news for residents and businesses in Cornwall as we’ll be able to provide more of them with access to reliable, fast broadband whilst creating new jobs in the county. The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund have helped the company develop to a point where we are ready to accelerate the growth of our network which this new funding will enable.”

Ralph Singleton, Head of Funds Cornwall at The FSE Group adds: “We have been working with Ian and his team for over two years now and have had the pleasure of seeing the business grow and develop during this time. Their technical skill, customer service and branding have all been excellent. We have seen them go from an early-stage business to raising one the largest investments into Cornwall in recent years. This level of private investment alongside the support of CIOSIF demonstrates the work and the opportunities that our funding can go on to create. We look forward to them delivering their expansion plans and are delighted to continue supporting the company through the next stage of their development.”

The £40m CIOSIF provides debt and equity finance from £25,000 to £2million, to help growing small businesses across the region. It has been established by the British Business Bank in partnership with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and is operated by appointed fund manager, The FSE Group.

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said: “CIOSIF has been a real catalyst for attracting additional investment into Wildanet and helping the company realise its growth ambitions. We wish Ian and his team all the best in this next stage of their development.”

LEP non-executive director John Acornley, who chairs the CIOSIF Advisory Board, added: “Over the last two years CIOSIF has invested £1.35m in Wildanet, helping to establish the business as a credible provider in a competitive market and giving other investors confidence. This deal is a terrific achievement and puts the businesses on the cusp of significant further growth.”

CIOSIF is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

Storystream, A Content Experience Marketing Platform for Digital Commerce, Secures Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) Funding from Greater London Investment Fund.

London based StoryStream, a leading Martech SaaS business has secured a £250,000 loan from The Greater London Investment Fund (GLIF).

This loan will be used to support unprecedented demand for its platform driven by the acceleration of digital commerce through changes in consumer behaviour during the current pandemic.

Also backed by MMC Ventures and with Storystream being profitable, the board sought external funding to respond to the opportunity to accelerate growth by investment in product and sales resources.  

StorySteam helps both brands and retailers sell more products by enabling them to deliver authentic, engaging and personalised content across the online customer journey, driving purchase consideration and increasing propensity to buy.  

Businesses now face the reality that eCommerce has become the primary way for people to shop. However, the customer experience is largely transactional and is not emotionally engaging which can result in lost sales.

Traditionally, consumers have relied solely on static content and product pictures. Brands now understand that consumers seek “social proof” in the form of authentic content and inspirational visual testimonials from existing customers, experts and influencers to help them decide when and where to buy. 

Using patent pending AI, StoryStream provides the technology to help brands source this type of authentic content and seamlessly deliver it into their eCommerce experience at scale, helping consumers to better connect with the brand, the product and ultimately enabling them to make informed and concerted buying decisions.

StoryStream has established a position as the leading Content Experience Platform provider to the Automotive Sector, whose customers include Porsche, Mercedes and Vauxhall. The company is now witnessing a surge in demand from the wider digital commerce sector for its technology, such as leading supermarket brands like Sainsbury’s, as they seek to respond to the high growth in demand fuelled by consumers under the current circumstances.

Alex Vaidya, Co-Founder and CEO of StoryStream commented: “StoryStream is fortunate to be in a position to address opportunities for growth and job creation in Greater London which requires access to funding.  Raising funds during an economic crisis can be challenging and I’m delighted that David at The FSE Group with the support of Funding London were able to see these opportunities and provide access to this additional support. “

David Booth, Senior Fund Manager for The FSE Group, who manage the £55 million GLIF debt fund on behalf of Funding London, commented: “GLIF supports innovative high growth businesses in Greater London. We were impressed by the StoryStream business model, strength of management and demonstrable commercial traction which are key attributes for commercial success. We are pleased to be supporting them through the opportunities and challenges of the pandemic and into the next phase of growth.”

Maggie Rodriguez-Piza, CEO at Funding London, adds: “StoryStream has established a position as the leading Content Experience Platform provider to the Automotive Sector, with customers including Porsche, Mercedes and Vauxhall.  The loan from GLIF will help Alex and the team harness the surge in demand they are experiencing and the expansion into other sectors, will bolster their core offerings and bring a positive outlook for the year ahead.”

GLIF is a £100m initiative to help address the SME finance gap in Greater London, promoting economic growth through enterprise and an inclusive and sustainable economy. £55m of debt funding is available, via loans between £100,000 and £1m, to early-stage and established SMEs looking to scale-up and realise their growth ambitions. GLIF is financed through the European Investment Bank (EIB), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), London Waste & recycling Board (LWARB) and Funding London’s Legacies.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS). Deadline for CBILS applications has been extended to 31 January for UK businesses.