BGF invests £500 million in Britain’s entrepreneurial businesses

Of the £500 million, £250 million was committed in the last year alone – a clear signal of the growing demand for this type of support among Britain’s entrepreneurial businesses.

Set up to fill a funding gap for Britain’s growing smaller and medium sized businesses, since 2011 BGF has invested in a diverse portfolio of nearly 100 companies including manufacturers, retailers, technology providers, restaurants and more. The milestone coincides with BGF’s strongest ever quarter; BGF invested £71 million in the first three months of 2015. The underlying demand and momentum is growing with BGF now accounting for one in three of every investment made at this end of the market.

Unlike private equity firms, BGF does not seek to control companies but is a strategic partner working alongside management as a minority investor. With deep pockets BGF is able to provide these businesses with the long-term patient capital they need to drive their ambition and unlock future potential – e.g. roll-out new sites, buy new machinery, expand into new markets, fund acquisitions and recruit new people.

At the heart of BGF’s approach is a strong regional network operating from eight offices across the UK ensuring national coverage with investment professionals close to the local business communities and the companies they support.

Stephen Welton, Chief Executive of BGF said: “BGF is proud to work with some of Britain’s most exciting and ambitious entrepreneurs. When BGF launched in 2011, smaller and mid-sized companies were largely overlooked by equity investors, access to long-term capital was scarce, and the perception was that demand was non-existent. That was completely wrong and we have seen dramatic change over the last three years. The £500m that BGF has rapidly invested would not have been provided without us. That has driven not only investment, but created thousands more jobs in our portfolio companies and unlocked tens of millions of additional debt capacity.

“BGF is operating at the very heart of the UK economy and helping to support our very own “Mittelstand”. I have no doubt that many of the great British companies of the future are already in our portfolio and we have only just begun. A new age of equity investment will drive future prosperity. BGF together with entrepreneurs across the whole of the UK is at the forefront of turning that potential into reality. The future is bright as long as entrepreneurs have the ambition to take risk and scale up their businesses; the capital is available; and the economy overall is growing driven by greater investment.”

Alongside investment BGF also provides portfolio businesses with practical and strategic support directly through the investment team and BGF’s Talent Network, comprising nearly 3,000 senior business leaders. To date, nearly 70 people from BGF’s Talent Network have been appointed by portfolio companies.

BGF portfolio businesses include:
Cass Art
Cass Art, one of the UK’s leading independent art materials retailers, is on a mission is to fill every UK town and city with artists. In December 2013 BGF invested £3.2m in the company to roll out new stores in major cities across the UK over the next five years and to develop its newly launched e-commerce platform.

Founded in 2001 by CEO Mark Cass, an avid art promoter and entrepreneur, Cass Art’s first store was on Kensington High Street. Since then the company has expanded and now has nine stores across the UK with those in Liverpool and Glasgow opening recently.

The business and brand has grown from strength to strength over the past five years and now employs over 90 staff. Cass Art attracts a wider and younger range of customers than traditional art stores by making art accessible with its high street locations, workshops and relative affordability.

TCL Group
TCL Group is a master of creating and maintaining outdoor spaces of all shapes and sizes. The BGF-backed company works with housebuilders, local authorities and heritage estates across the UK. From keeping gardens pruned to creating jaw-dropping landscapes, TCL can increase property values exponentially for property developers or private clients.

Since April 2014, TCL’s CEO, Simon Cashmore has secured more than £15m growth capital from BGF. The money is funding organic growth but it’s also allowed the company to make a number of new company acquisitions; three in the eight months since BGF’s first investment.

“I saw an opportunity to bring a ‘buy and build’ strategy to the business,” he explains. “TCL had a small range of services but I wanted to extend the portfolio. I knew clients would buy more from us because we were already doing a great job for them with the core business.”

His hunch was quickly proven right. When Cashmore took over TCL in 2007, the business turned over £5.5m. Today, it generates revenues of more than £45m, with six operating hubs across the country.

Trunki was the first Bristol based company to secure investment from BGF with the £3.92m funding the development of new products and accelerating international sales.

Trunki designs, distributes and manufactures branded, multifunctional travel products for children. The company started trading in 2006 by Rob Law when it launched its original ride-on suitcase product. Turned down by Dragons’ Den, the company sells over two million units of its suitcase worldwide and its travel products are stocked in over 2,500 stores across the UK, as well as 97 countries overseas. Rob Law, Founder and CEO of Trunki, commented: “We believe travel is about new experiences, creating memories and making every journey just as enjoyable as the destination. With BGF on board, we can deliver more products to a wider global demographic more quickly and smoothly ensuring parents and children can get set and go on any adventure.”

The company is based in Bristol where it employs 30 employees, with a further 44 employed at its factory in Plymouth.

VTL Group
Huddersfield-headquartered VTL Group develops and manufactures precision engineered components for the commercial vehicle and passenger car markets, and counts Cummins, Toyota, Renault and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) among its customers. Set up in 2001, the business has grown from a single product, single site business to a global operation.

In September 2013, VTL Group secured a £4m growth capital investment from BGF, and a further £1.5m investment in December 2014. The latest round of funding is being used for a capital investment programme ahead of commencing an eight year project to supply engine components through Ryobi UK to JLR for use in its new engine platform.

Unruly Media
Founded in 2006 by Sarah Wood, Scott Button and Matt Cooke and based in Shoreditch, Unruly is the global leader for social video distribution.

Unruly has grown to become a multi award-winning global business, distributing sponsored video content for media agencies and brands through a network of over 10,000 publisher websites, platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, influential blogs and mobile applications. The company has delivered high profile social video campaigns for global brands including T-Mobile’s Royal Wedding, Evian Roller Babies and Dove’s Beauty Sketches. Unruly has run over 10,000 advertising campaigns for 84% of Ad Age 100 brands including Unilever, EA, Adidas, T-Mobile and Coca-Cola, and delivered, tracked and audited 1.34 billion user-selected video views.

In January 2012, Unruly raised £15m from Amadeus Capital Partners, Van den Ende & Deitmers and BGF, which at the time was the largest for a private company in the social video sector. The funding was the company’s first institutional round and is being used to strengthen its European market leadership position, expand its already successful US business and establish a footprint in Asia.

Growth has been rapid and the company that started in 2006 with just three people working in the Truman Brewery now employs almost 200 people across 11 countries. The company recently announced 2014 revenues of £26.9m, a 23 per cent increase from a year earlier. It recently opened its 14th office in Dubai and number 15 in Sydney, is due to open imminently.