Review: Foresight Williams Technology
The Foresight Williams Technology EIS Fund is a collaboration of Foresight Group with Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited. The offer focuses on early-stage, high-growth, technology companies.
- Investing in early-stage, high-growth technology businesses
- Combined talents of Foresight Group and Williams Grand Prix Holdings
- £10,000 minimum investment
- Minimum of 10 companies expected in the portfolio
This offer gives the opportunity to invest in early-stage high-tech companies chosen and nurtured by Foresight Group, one of the UK’s leading venture capital companies and Williams Advanced Engineering, a division of Williams Grand Prix Holdings and owner of the Williams Formula One team. The relationship between Williams and Foresight began in mid-2015.
Foresight Group manages over £2.8 billion in client assets across VCT, EIS, IHT and third party funds.
Williams Advanced Engineering (‘WAE’) was established in 2010 and is a wholly owned division of Williams Grand Prix Holdings plc. WAE provides technical innovation, engineering, testing and manufacturing services to a diverse client base in the automotive, aerospace, defence and energy sectors. It specialises in the commercial application of aerodynamics, advanced lightweight materials, hybrid power systems and electronics derived from Formula One racing to other uses.
Watch a video interview with investment manager John Holden:
Example of a recent investment
In May 2018, the Foresight Williams Technology EIS fund invested £2.1 million into Oxford Space Systems Ltd (‘OSS’), an award-winning space technology business. OSS have developed a new generation of light-weight antennae, boom systems & deployable panel systems for nanosatellites. Their designs address a number of technical challenges in the industry whilst providing significant savings in both build & launch costs. The company is well suited to the fund as its focus on lightweight materials and structural innovation is a good match for WAE’s capabilities.
WAE brings the commercial, technical and scientific expertise and Foresight adds its experience in deal structuring, mentoring and knowledge of exits.
The EIS will invest between £500,000 and £3 million per company. Companies are likely to be pre-profit, and with no revenue, typically operating in the hard tech sector (i.e. not software) as this is where Williams’ expertise lies: in designing, testing and manufacturing. WAE will only invest in companies where it can add value – this isn’t a passive portfolio where the underlying companies are left to get on with it.
Materials science is a key area as it can be applied in many different sectors i.e. new lightweight structures. Battery and energy storage are other areas of expertise as are connected with vehicles and mobility. The fund won’t include biotech, fintech or cyber security.
For every deal, the underlying company will have a master service agreement with WAE. The agreement gives access to WAE capabilities, for example, wind tunnels and aerodynamicists, design and manufacturing of products.
Companies invested in must have the potential to deliver 10x returns on exit, in the view of the investment management team. Please note, returns are not guaranteed and there are likely to be failures.
Foresight has many exits under its belt with companies that could have been suitable candidates for this fund. Please note past performance is not a guide to the future. Foresight will lead the exit strategy. It is expected that most businesses will be sold to third party trade buyers rather than floating on a stock market.
This is an earlier-stage, higher-risk EIS therefore it is quite likely there will be failures in the portfolio. Earlier-stage companies typically take longer to come to fruition therefore investors should not expect an exit within three to four years; it is quite likely the time frame will be four to eight years. Earlier-stage companies often need more than one round of funding and this could cause an investment to be diluted if new shareholders are required.
The usual risks with unquoted companies exist with this EIS offer. EIS investments are illiquid and capital is at risk. Investors should only invest money they cannot afford to lose.
Tax benefits will depend on individual circumstances and tax rules can change.
Fees & charges
|Full initial charge||5.5%|
|Annual management charge||2%|
|Annual secretarial fee||0.30%|
More detail on the charges
Despite the association with Williams, you won’t be investing in Formula One. This early-stage, high-growth, high-tech offer looks to invest in cutting edge companies that can benefit from help, expertise and nurturing from the Williams Advanced Engineering division of the Williams Racing team. Whilst it doesn’t guarantee success, WAE can add a level of expertise and technical know-how in this high risk offer.
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