Eight recent VCT and EIS exits

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It is the ultimate objective and final hurdle for VCT and EIS fund managers: supporting their portfolio companies all the way through to a profitable exit to realise returns. 

Below we list eight recent exits from companies backed by VCTs and EIS funds. 

Please remember, past performance is not a guide to the future. VCTs and EIS invest in young companies that can and do fail. 

Important: The information on this website is for experienced investors. It is not advice nor a research or personal recommendation to invest. If you’re unsure, please seek advice. VCT and EIS investments are high risk and you could lose the money you invest.

Read more on:

  1. Symphonic Software – Maven VCTs and Par EIS Fund
  2. Pasta Evangelists – Pembroke VCT and Guinness EIS
  3. SimplyCook – Octopus Apollo VCT
  4. Gousto – MMC Ventures EIS
  5. Bloom & Wild – MMC Ventures EIS
  6. deltaDNA – Par Equity EIS
  7. OXGENE – Mercia EIS Fund
  8. Mission Labs – Seneca EIS Portfolio Service

1. Symphonic Software – Maven VCTs and Par EIS Fund

Symphonic Software – Maven VCTsThe company 

Edinburgh Napier University spinout Symphonic Software was formed in 2014. The company has developed technology that addresses a significant issue in today’s connected world: managing compliant access to data by properly authorised users.

The software gives users visibility and control over when, how and with whom to share data. For example, it could help a bank with the decision to allow or deny customer transactions – or request further authentication – thereby decreasing the risk of fraud without unnecessarily cumbersome checks. Or it could help a healthcare institution check whether a patient had given authorisation for a hospital doctor to see medical notes held at their GP’s surgery.

Symphonic Software’s customer base today spans from banking to pharmaceuticals and FMCG, across the UK, Europe, Australia and North America.

Investment and exit

In 2014, Symphonic Software received its first investment from Par Equity, which also participated in every subsequent funding round. In March 2019, the Maven VCTs also invested. In November 2020, Symphonic Software was acquired by American software company Ping Identity. 

Par Equity achieved a blended 8.3x return across two rounds of investment for its EIS Fund, with early investors achieving as much as a 9.5x return before tax relief. 

See Par EIS Fund performance track record

Maven announced a 2.9x return after a holding period of under two years. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

See Maven VCTs performance track record

2. Pasta Evangelists – Pembroke VCT and Guinness EIS

Pasta Evangelists – Pembroke VCTThe company

Premium fresh pasta subscription service Pasta Evangelists has been one of the stars of the pandemic lockdown. 

Founded in 2017, the business sold over a million portions of pasta in 2020 and grew revenue tenfold on the year before. 

Described as “unashamedly top-end” by founding shareholder, renowned chef and restaurateur Prue Leith CBE, Pasta Evangelists sources ingredients directly from small farmers and growers across Italy, to mail-deliver exquisite, ready-to-assemble, fresh pasta dishes direct to customers’ homes nationwide. 

Customers can also purchase the products at Harrods and M&S, or through Deliveroo, Ocado and Amazon. 

Investment and exit

Pasta Evangelists’ backers included Guinness EIS (first investment in September 2018) and Pembroke VCT (investment in February 2020). In January 2021, Barilla – the world’s largest pasta producer – acquired a majority stake in Pasta Evangelists. 

Guinness EIS realised a 3.5x return on its original investment in 2018. 

See Guinness EIS performance track record

Pembroke VCT realised a return of 2.3x. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

See Pembroke VCT performance track record

3. SimplyCook – Octopus Apollo VCT

SimplyCook – Octopus Apollo VCTThe company

SimplyCook is an innovative meal kit subscription service. It puts together recipe cards, pre-portioned spices and flavour pots developed by professional chefs and posts them to customers UK-wide – helping them cook tastier meals at home.

As it leaves out fresh ingredients, SimplyCook’s kits are less perishable and expensive than competing offerings – and are a potential value proposition for supermarkets. The company has already started working with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

Since it was founded in 2014, the business has helped customers cook over 20 million recipes.

Investment and exit 

SimplyCook’s backers included Octopus Investments, which invested through Octopus Apollo VCT (first investment in December 2018). SimplyCook was acquired by Nestlé in February 2021 for an undisclosed amount (reportedly in the range of £20 million to £60 million). 

Octopus Apollo VCT held a significant stake and is expected to announce details in its next annual report due in May 2021. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

See Octopus Apollo VCT performance track record

4. Gousto – MMC Ventures EIS

Gousto – MMC Ventures EISThe company

Gousto’s co-founders Timo Boldt and James Carter presented their young business on BBC’s Dragon’s Den in 2013 – but failed to secure the dragons’ backing. One of the very first subscription-based meal-kit providers, Gousto is now the UK market leader in recipe box delivery. 

Customers sign up for weekly boxes of fresh, pre-measured, responsibly sourced ingredients for couples or families to cook varied and delicious meals quickly.

A food industry disruptor, Gousto employs machine learning to optimise production efficiency and anticipate individual customer preferences – allowing it to outpace its rivals. The company prides itself on zero food waste and reduces the use of plastics and other non-renewable materials in its packaging.

Investment and exit 

Gousto received early support from MMC Ventures, which first invested in 2013 and has since participated in multiple funding rounds. In late 2020, Gousto became a ‘unicorn’, having achieved a valuation of over $1 billion. MMC’s investors were given the opportunity to partially exit their investment, achieving realised returns of up to 27x their original investment. Past performance is not a guide to the future. Whilst it was a holding in the MMC Ventures EIS fund, it is also the kind of business sought by the new MMC Knowledge Intensive Approved EIS fund.

Gousto is also the largest holding in Hargreave Hale AIM VCT

See MMC Ventures EIS performance track record

5. Bloom & Wild – MMC Ventures EIS

Bloom & Wild - MMC venturesThe company

Founded in 2013, Bloom & Wild pioneered ‘letterbox flowers’ – fresh flowers packaged to be delivered unblemished through your letterbox. 

Underpinning the business’ lovely floral gifting proposition are sophisticated predictive analytics and technology to deliver a fresher, less-travelled bouquet.

Bloom & Wild is now the fastest-growing flower business – and one of the fastest-growing tech companies – in Europe. It also partners with Sainsbury’s to provide premium bouquets in selected superstores.

Operating across the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and Austria, in 2020 Bloom & Wild delivered over 4 million orders – more it had in all previous years combined.

Investment and exit

Bloom & Wild received early support from MMC Ventures, which first invested in July 2015 (at a valuation of less than £10 million) and supported the business through two further funding rounds in 2017 and 2018. In 2020, the business announced a £75 million institutional funding round which valued the business at in excess of £350 million. MMC investors were given the opportunity to partially exit their investment, achieving realised returns of up to 18x their original investment. See above for more details about MMC Ventures EIS performance track record. Past performance is not a guide to the future. 

Whilst it was a holding in the MMC Ventures EIS fund, it is also the kind of business sought by the new MMC Knowledge Intensive Approved EIS fund.

6. deltaDNA – Par Equity EIS

deltaDNA – Par EISThe company

Edinburgh-based deltaDNA provides advanced data analytics to help game publishers improve and personalise the users’ experience – and maximise revenue even from free-to-play games and gambling sites through targeted adverts, marketing and in-game purchases.

Founded in 2011, the company has analysed data from over one billion unique users, helping sites identify problem gamblers and risk-assess for fraud such as money laundering and match fixing.

Investment and exit

deltaDNA’s backers include Par Equity, which made its initial investment in July 2013 and supported the business in three follow-on investment rounds. In September 2019, deltaDNA was acquired by Unity Technologies for an undisclosed sum. As part of the deal, Par Equity took some shares in Unity Technologies which in turn listed onto the New York Stock Exchange in September 2020. The Par EIS Fund returns stand at 18.4x money before tax relief, of which 20% is still to be paid as deferred consideration. See top of this page for more details about Par EIS Fund performance track record. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

7. OXGENE – Mercia EIS Fund

Oxgene – Mercia EISThe company

Leader in synthetic biology, OXGENE™ provides DNA expertise and advanced platform technologies to laboratories discovering antibodies and pioneering cell and gene therapies.

Now a £multimillion revenue business, OXGENE (the trading name of Oxford Genetics Ltd) started on a shoestring in 2011, with borrowed lab bench space and second-hand equipment. 

“The vision of the business was to build DNA like we use Lego, in pre-made blocks that were pre-designed to fit and work together so that making new pieces of DNA could be done in fewer steps”, founder Dr Ryan Cawood explains.

The company has now ranked 19 in the Sunday Times Tech Track 100, and doubled sales three years running – hitting £6 million in revenue in 2020.

Investment and exit

OXGENE’s backers include Mercia, which first invested through its EIS fund in July 2013, and followed-on several times, through five of its EIS funds in total. In March 2021, OXGENE was sold to WuXi AppTec, a global leader in the provision of R&D and manufacturing services to the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device sectors. The sale has generated returns of between 13x and 20x investment cost for the five Mercia EIS funds. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

Prior to the exit, Hargreave Hale AIM VCT (now fully subscribed) also held a £5.4 million stake in the business. 

See Mercia EIS Fund performance track record

8. Mission Labs – Seneca EIS Portfolio Service

Mission Labs – Seneca EIS

The company

Founded in 2016, Mission Labs is effectively the corporate banner for a portfolio of innovative cloud-based services to help businesses manage the relationship with their customers more effectively, reducing hardware needs and costs, as well as increasing automation and use of artificial intelligence. Whilst now common practice, in 2016 the trend towards remote working had just started and was gathering momentum. The two founders believed that whilst many business-critical functions such as accounting had already moved to the cloud, communication technology lagged behind, hence the idea for Mission Labs.

Its first service, CircleLoop, was a cloud-based business phone system. Mission Labs has since expanded its portfolio – with the addition of SmartAgent, a Contact Centre agent application, and SmartPCI, a digital payments solution for enterprise contact centre operators. 

Today the Lancashire-based company has 90 employees and its technology is used by thousands of businesses around the world, including FTSE 100 companies and the UK's largest government departments.

Investment and exit

Mission Labs received investment from Seneca, which was first introduced to the company in 2017 and, having tracked early growth from the side lines, invested £1 million in March 2018 through the Seneca EIS Portfolio Service. In March 2021, it was announced that Mission Labs has been acquired by listed communications software group Gamma in a deal potentially worth £46 million, helping Seneca achieve a 4.2x return on its original investment. Past performance is not a guide to the future. 

See Seneca EIS Portfolio Service performance track record

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