Fuel Ventures EIS Fund

Aims to allot in the 2019/20 tax year – not guaranteed

This is the fourth EIS fund managed by Fuel Ventures.

The name conveys much of the spirit of the fund. It aims to back some of the UK’s fastest-growing digital businesses and propel them onwards. It was set up and is run by Mark Pearson, founder of MyVoucherCodes, the online voucher code business. Mark reportedly sold myVoucherCodes, via its parent, for £55 million in 2014. He’s since invested personally in several early-stage digital businesses and set up Fuel Ventures in 2013. Fuel’s track record over this limited period (unrealised gains) has been impressive, although past performance is not a guide to the future.

The focus for this offer is largely on ‘follow-on’ investments into e-commerce companies Fuel Ventures has backed in earlier portfolios. The fund seeks only revenue-generating businesses. 

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. Investments are for the long term. They are high risk and illiquid and can fall as well as rise in value, so you could get back less than you invest.

Read important documents and apply

Highlights

  • Focus on e-commerce businesses that whilst early stage are revenue-generating with global potential
  • Founder Mark Pearson, who set up MyVoucherCodes, invests on the same terms and provides expertise to investee companies
  • Aims to provide follow-on funding to Fuel Ventures’ more promising earlier investments
  • Good track record to date: note past performance is not a guide to the future
  • Targets five to eight investee companies with an expected six-year holding period – not guaranteed
  • Aims to be fully invested within 12 months, but potential for allotment in the 2019/20 tax year – not guaranteed
  • Minimum investment £10,000, you can apply online

The manager

Mark Pearson’s background is not that of a typical fund manager.

He left school to become a chef at 16. By 19 he had won a national catering competition and had begun working at Claridge’s restaurant, at the time under Gordon Ramsay. Three years later, Mark was running three gastropubs in south London.

In 2006, he founded online voucher code company MyVoucherCodes and subsequently sold it – as part of parent company Marcko Media – in a deal reportedly worth up to £55 million. At that point, the business had revenues of over £12 million and employed more than 120 people.

Whilst running MyVoucherCodes, Mark made personal investments into nine technology and software businesses. Fuel Ventures was born as a result of his experience with these early-stage businesses. They were run by talented founders and Mark felt he could help them scale up. Many have been successful and delivered substantial returns on investment. One example, Paddle, an e-commerce platform which helps developers distribute their software globally, has become one of the UK’s fastest-growing software businesses. The most recent funding round valued the business at £63.9 million. Mark was the first seed investor into the business in 2014 and remains a shareholder. 

Mark is supported by a team of experienced investment professionals with backgrounds in venture capital, private equity and entrepreneurship. Fuel Ventures has an independent advisory committee to provide challenge and rigour to the investment process.

Watch our latest video interview with Mark Pearson of Fuel Ventures:

Investment strategy

Fuel invests in early-stage, revenue-generating, digital e-commerce businesses that have the potential to scale globally. In particular, it seeks marketplaces, platforms, Software as a Service (SaaS) companies and e-commerce businesses. Fuel Ventures believes these businesses are attractive as they tend to be easily scalable, have low costs per unit sold, and once a product generates revenue, typically growth is limited only by market demand, not the ability of the business to supply it.

Fuel Ventures is looking to invest between the Seed and Series A rounds of funding, where Mark Pearson believes there is a funding gap. Both are highly competitive: they attract angel investors at seed stage and larger EIS providers at Series A. By looking to invest in between, where there might be less competition, Mark hopes to achieve better entry valuations for the fund, although this is not guaranteed. 

Central to the investment strategy is the active role Mark Pearson takes in helping management teams grow their businesses. Currently, most investee companies spend at least 12 months in the same offices as Fuel. 12 portfolio companies are based in the same building. This fosters a supportive and collaborative environment and allows for more engagement than could be achieved from afar with monthly or quarterly board meetings. 

Follow-on strategy

Subscriptions are expected to be spread across five to eight investments, all of which will be trading already and generating revenues. The fund will focus largely – but not exclusively – on making follow-on investments: backing what the manager views as the winners from Fuel Ventures’ earlier EIS funds.

There are benefits to this. Firstly, it should somewhat de-risk the opportunity for investors in this fund, as these companies are generating revenues. Secondly, Fuel should have a good understanding of the business. Note, however, the investment manager can use its discretion to invest in new companies it believes are attractive.

Target return

The manager has not specified a target return. 

Exit strategy

Fuel Ventures will provide hands-on support to investee companies to build their products and services and to help grow the business internationally. The expected holding period for investments is between three and six years (not guaranteed) but could be longer. Following any sale of qualifying shares in a company, the sale proceeds will be paid out to Investors, so any distributions from the fund are likely to be paid over a period of time, not guaranteed.

Portfolio

The target portfolio for each investor will be five to eight investments ranging from seed stage to follow-on investments in more mature businesses across differing e-commerce sectors. The focus for this EIS fund will be on ‘follow on’ investments putting further capital into companies that Fuel Ventures has previously invested in. In addition, this fund will only back revenue-generating businesses. Fuel Ventures estimate an average holding period of six years, although this is not guaranteed.

Below are portfolio company examples from previous iterations of the EIS fund. They are outlined to give a flavour of the types of companies you might expect, but are unlikely to be part of a new investor's portfolio. 

Moteefe – Fuel Ventures EISMoteefe

Moteefe is a leading social commerce platform providing digital marketers and influencers with an instant opportunity to sell customised on-demand products globally. The platform collects orders, processes payments, and handles production and logistics, offering an efficient end-to-end service for users. 

Fuel Ventures initially invested in early 2016 at a £2 million pre-money valuation and followed on in 2017 as part of a larger £2.5 million funding round, at a £7 million pre-money valuation. In 2019, as the business continued to grow, venture capital investors Baronsmead VCTs and Force Over Mass Capital participated in a £4 million funding round, at a £40 million valuation, a substantial valuation uplift on both Fuel Ventures’ initial and follow-on investments. Due to its success, the company has grown beyond the size at which the fund would invest, so investors should not expect to see this company within their portfolio.

responseiQ – Fuel Ventures EISResponse iQ

Response IQ helps businesses of all sizes increase their conversions, generate more leads, and better connect with prospective customers. It does this by converting prospective customers' call-back requests into inbound sales calls. Fuel Ventures invested in 2016 at a £1 million pre-money valuation. The business has gone on to attract three further funding rounds, the most recent of which at a pre-money valuation of £8.6 million.

HowNow – Fuel Ventures EISHowNow

HowNow is an educational content creation and management tool that allows users to design their own online course. The business was one of the earliest investments made by Fuel Ventures in late 2015 at a £0.86 million valuation. The business has gone on to raise £4.9 million and was recently valued at £6.6 million.

Exit examples

To date, Fuel Ventures has not achieved any exits, however, this is partly due to the fact it is still a relatively young portfolio. 

Performance

As Fuel Ventures is a relative newcomer to the EIS market, there is no long history of performance. However, the early track record of previous funds is encouraging, noting past performance is not a guide to the future.

As at 30 September 2019, Fuel Ventures has backed 34 investments into 24 companies, 18 of which have since received further funding at higher valuations from third-party investors.

No company backed by Fuel Ventures has failed to date, but note these are early days and due to the nature of early-stage investing, you should anticipate some failures. Indeed, prior to establishing the EIS fund, Mark Pearson personally invested in six companies, some of which failed.

Fuel Ventures’ first EIS fund launched in 2015 and made its final investments in November 2016, investing across seven portfolio companies. Today those companies have an average post-money multiple of 7.6x across the portfolio, excluding tax relief.

The second fund (Fuel Ventures EIS Fund 2) made its last investments in July 2018. As of September 2019, the 10-company portfolio had an average post-money multiple of 3.1x excluding tax relief.

The annual performance track record of Fuel Ventures across all three previous EIS funds in the relevant tax year, per £100 invested, since launch is shown below. 

Source: Fuel Ventures, as at 30 September 2019. Performance figures are supplied by Fuel Ventures and are net of all fees, based on Fuel Ventures’ valuation methodology. Past performance is no guide to future performance. These figures do not include any realised returns (exits) as there have not been any. In the above examples, initial tax relief of up to 30% could also apply. So, for the tax year 2015/16, the total return including initial tax relief would be £543 – remember tax rules can change and tax benefits depend on circumstances..

Risks – important

This, like all investments available through Wealth Club, is only for experienced investors happy to make their own investment decisions without advice.

EIS investments are high-risk so should only form part of a balanced portfolio and you should not invest money you cannot afford to lose. They also tend to be illiquid and hard to sell and value. Before you invest, please carefully read the Risks and Commitments and the offer documents to ensure you fully understand the risks. 

Tax rules can change and benefits depend on circumstances.

The fund relies heavily on the knowledge and experience of Mark Pearson. He’s wholly committed to Fuel Ventures, but there is key-person risk.  

This EIS fund invests in early-stage businesses which are more likely to fail than larger ones. So you should expect a number of failures in the portfolio.

Charges

A summary of the main charges and savings is shown below. Some of these will be payable by the investor, whilst others by the investee companies. The investment may have additional charges and expenses: please see the provider documents, including the Key Information Document, for more details.

Investor charges
Full initial charge
Wealth Club initial saving
Net initial charge through Wealth Club
Annual management charge
Administration charge
Dealing charge
Performance fee 20%
Investee company charges
Initial charge 5.5%
Annual management charge 1.75%
Administration charge 0.25%
Monitoring fee
Performance fee
All fees and charges are stated exclusive of VAT, which may be applicable in some cases. Any fees and charges payable by the investee companies or the underlying businesses do not directly come out of your investment. However, they will effectively reduce the returns generated by investee companies and therefore impact your investment.

More detail on the charges

Timing of the offer

Fuel Ventures anticipates taking up to 12 months to fully deploy investor capital.

Potential allotment in 2019/20 – deadline 27 March 2020

Fuel Ventures has informed us it aims to allot subscriptions received before 27 March 2020 in the 2019/20 tax year. This means the investment could be eligible for carry back to 2018/19. Please note, this is not guaranteed.

Our view

In our view this is an attractive, although high risk, EIS offer run by a credible – and to date successful – entrepreneur turned investor.

Mark Pearson has a clear passion for digital businesses. He has a wealth of experience in building such companies, having previously grown MyVoucherCodes.co.uk from the ground to a £12 million revenue company, which he sold via its parent for a reported £55 million. Mark is actively involved in each portfolio company, lending his expertise and experience and will invest in the fund on the same terms as investors.

A good proportion of Fuel Ventures' investee companies (18 out of 24) have gone on to achieve valuation uplifts from third-party investors, and early EIS investors have seen substantial paper gains. However, please note, Fuel Ventures is yet to achieve an exit and return actual capital to investors; these are long-term investments and past performance is not a guide to the future. 

The fund aims to follow on many of the more promising companies from earlier Fuel Ventures portfolios. Fuel Ventures will know them well and the companies themselves will have already benefitted from Fuel’s engagement and expertise. 

This is a concentrated and high-risk portfolio of five to eight software and technology companies. The offer could appeal to experienced investors looking to complement a wider investment portfolio with exposure to early-stage digital businesses.

Read important documents and apply

Wealth Club aims to make it easier for experienced investors to find information on – and apply for – tax-efficient investments. You should base your investment decision on the provider's documents and ensure you have read and fully understand them before investing. This review is a marketing communication. It is not advice or a personal or research recommendation to buy the investment mentioned. It does not satisfy legal requirements promoting investment research independence and is thus not subject to prohibitions on dealing ahead of its dissemination.

The details

Type
Fund
Sector
Technology
Target return
Unspecified
Funds raised / sought
-
Minimum investment
£10,000
Deadline
27 Mar 2020 for allotment in 2019/20
Last updated: 24 January 2020

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