Fuel Ventures Follow-on EIS Fund

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As at 30 March 2022 (9am), the Fuel Ventures Follow-on EIS Fund is now closed. 

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Fuel Ventures aims to back fast-growing digital businesses and use its first-hand operational experience to accelerate their growth. Several investments appeared in the Deloitte UK Fast 50 2021 a list of the fastest-growing private technology companies in the UK. 

Fuel Ventures was set up and is run by Mark Pearson, founder of MyVoucherCodes, the online voucher code business. Mark reportedly sold myVoucherCodes for £55 million in 2014. He’s since invested personally in several early-stage digital businesses and set up Fuel Ventures in 2013. 

The Follow-on EIS is one of two EIS funds from Fuel Ventures. It invests into companies Fuel Ventures has backed in earlier portfolios, provided they have started to generate revenue and Fuel Ventures believes are showing encouraging progress. 

Since its inception, the Follow-on EIS Fund has backed 16 companies, investing £30.3 million across 26 rounds. In 2021, it achieved its first exit, with the sale of ContentCal to Adobe. £17.6 million was returned to investors as a result, generating realised returns of 6.0x and 4.7x on Fuel Ventures’ 2019 and 2020 investments, respectively. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

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.


Highlights

  • Focus on young digital businesses that are generating revenue and have global potential
  • Founder Mark Pearson will personally invest a minimum of 5% of the total amount subscribed into the fund
  • Provides follow-on funding to earlier Fuel Ventures’ investments that show promise
  • Fuel has a good track record to date: note past performance is not a guide to the future
  • Targets more than five investee companies with an expected holding period of 10 years or more – not guaranteed
  • Aims to be fully invested in the 2021/22 tax year – not guaranteed
  • Exclusive minimum investment £20,000 (normally £50,000 for non-advised investors), 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 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 Markco 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. An early example is Paddle, now one of the UK’s fastest growing private technology companies. 

Since its inception in 2013, Fuel Ventures has raised more than £85 million and invested in over 60 companies. It runs three complementary funds: Fuel Ventures SEIS fund, which invests in very early-stage seed funding rounds, Fuel Ventures Scale-up EIS fund, which invests in early-stage companies between Seed and Series A funding rounds, and the Fuel Ventures Follow-on EIS fund, which seeks to provide follow-on funding to the strongest performing companies from previous portfolios. 

Fuel Ventures continues to expand its team, which now consists of 24 individuals, up from 11 in December 2020. The team is led by five senior team members; Mark Pearson serves as Managing Partner alongside two partners and two principals, each with backgrounds in venture capital, private equity, and entrepreneurship. 

Mark Pearson will be investing up to 5% of the total amount raised from investors for the fund. 

Fuel Ventures is the investment advisor to the fund. The investment manager is Sapphire Capital Partners LLP.

Investment strategy

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

Central to the investment strategy is the active role Mark Pearson takes. Drawing from his experience, Fuel Ventures helps investee companies build products and services people want and need, and then looks to help grow these businesses internationally, maximising the potential value for acquisition or listing opportunities. 

Follow-on strategy

Subscriptions are expected to be spread across at least five investee companies, all of which will already be trading and generating revenues. The follow-on fund will look to back the top-performing companies from Fuel Ventures’ portfolio of early-stage investee companies, providing the team believes the valuation is attractive. 

Fuel Ventures believes there are benefits to this. Firstly, it could somewhat de-risk the opportunity for investors in this fund, as these companies are more mature, generating revenues and showing signs of progression. Note, however, this is still a high-risk investment. Secondly, Fuel should have a good understanding of the business. 

The investment manager can also use its discretion to invest in new companies it believes are attractive.

Target return

The manager is targeting a return of £10 per £1 invested, net of all costs and performance fees, not guaranteed. 

Exit strategy

The fund expects to hold investments for 10 years or more (not guaranteed). 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 an extended period, not guaranteed.

Portfolio

The target portfolio for each investor will be at least five companies across marketplaces, platforms and SaaS businesses. 

The majority, if not all, will have previously received investment from Fuel, usually through its other EIS fund (Fuel Ventures Scale-up Fund) which invests at an earlier stage. Occasionally, Fuel might include new companies if it thinks they are a particularly attractive opportunity. 

This is the fifth follow-on fund to be launched by Fuel Ventures since 2013. Previous iterations have invested £30.3 million into 16 companies across 26 rounds.

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

Wombat – Fuel Ventures EISWombat – recent follow-on investment

Wombat is a curated fractional investment platform. It makes it possible for investors, particularly millennials, to invest in the world’s most valuable companies – from Amazon to Tesla and PayPal – from just £10. Instead of having to buy a full share (at a cost of several £thousands in some cases), Wombat allows its users to buy a fraction of a share. The platform also offers thematic exchange traded funds.

Wombat has grown its UK number of users from 50,000 to 200,000 in the past six months. It is currently planning expansion into Europe and raising funds to reach the 1,000,000 users milestone across Europe while developing additional key products.

Fuel Ventures initially invested £1.75 million at a £8.5 million pre-money valuation in September 2020. It provided a further £1.6 million in follow-on funding in April 2021 through the Follow-on EIS Fund. The most recent funding round valued the business at £15.2 million. Past performance is not a guide to the future. Wombat is expected to be included in the current tranche.

OnBuy – Fuel Ventures EISOnBuy.com

OnBuy.com is a marketplace which allows customers to buy products online from several merchants in a similar manner to Amazon. It now has over 36 million products on sale from more than 10,000 retailers.   

It has recently announced revenue growth of 224% in FY 2021, after 600% growth in FY 2020. The business is now aiming to expand internationally: it currently offers delivery options for 140 countries and by June 2022 it intends to begin launching dedicated sites in individual countries. To support this plan, OnBuy raised £35 million in debt and equity funding in July 2021.  

OnBuy was first backed by Fuel Ventures through the Scale-up fund in January 2020, and the Follow-on Fund in March 2020, June 2020, and March 2021. The investments are currently valued at 14.2x, 8.3x, 3.8x and 1x investment cost respectively. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

OnBuy.com is not expected to be included in the current tranche. 

ContentCal – Fuel Ventures EISContentCal – example of previous exit

Content marketing helps companies reach and build relationships with their audience through relevant and useful articles, videos, emails and social media posts. 

However, managing a huge amount of content across different platforms and channels can be challenging and time consuming. That’s where ContentCal comes in. 

Founded in 2016, ContentCal makes content creation, planning, scheduling and posting simple across websites and social channels. Streamlining that process frees up time so marketing teams can focus on the activities that add the most value. The platform has attracted customers like the NHS, Specsavers and BMW as well as many freelancers and agencies.

Fuel initially invested £1.1 million in the business in February 2020 via an earlier iteration of the Fuel Ventures Scale-up EIS fund. Fuel has since supported the business on several occasions through its follow-on fund, investing an additional £3.4 million. In December 2021 ContentCal was acquired by Adobe for $110 million in an all-cash transaction. The exit delivered realised returns of between 4.7x to 6.0x for Follow-on Fund investors and 7.7x for investors in the earlier iteration of the Scale-up fund. In aggregate, the exit saw Fuel return £26.1 million to investors. Past performance is no guide to future performance.

Admedo – example of previous failure

As is to be expected with EIS,not all investments will work out. Admedo, one of Fuel's previous EIS-qualifying investments, is an example. 

Admedo was a technology company seeking to provide marketers, agencies, and publishers with greater transparency and control over programmatic advertising. Fuel Ventures invested £550,000 in December 2017 (the investment was not through the Fuel Ventures Follow-on EIS Fund). Fuel believes both the technology and the founder were impressive, but the route to market proved more difficult than expected. As a result, Admedo went into administration in June 2020 due to cash flow issues. Fuel Ventures backed the same founder in his subsequent venture, The Moot Group.

Performance

Since its inception in 2019, the Follow-on fund has invested £30.2 million across 26 investments into 16 companies. Of those investments, one is valued at 8.3x, two are valued at 6x, four are valued between 2-5x, and six are valued between 1-2x, 11 are valued at cost, and two are valued at 0.8x. 

In 2021, the Follow-on fund achieved its first exit, returning £17.5 million to investors from the sale of ContentCal to Adobe. The exit generated realised returns of 6.0x and 4.7x on its 2019 and 2020 investments, respectively.

The chart below shows the average performance of the total subscribed into the funds each tax year, based on valuations as at 13 January 2022, expressed on a £100 invested basis. Please note, individual investor portfolios’ performance will deviate from the average.

Performance of all Fuel Ventures EIS funds per £100 invested in each tax year

Source: Fuel Ventures, as at 13 January 2022. Performance figures are supplied by Fuel Ventures and are net of all fees, based on Fuel Ventures’ valuation methodology. Past performance is not a guide to the future. In the above examples, initial tax relief of up to 30% could also apply – remember tax rules can change and tax benefits depend on circumstances.

Performance of Fuel Ventures Follow-on EIS Fund per £100 invested in each tax year

Source: Fuel Ventures, as at 13 January 2022. 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. In the above examples, initial tax relief of up to 30% could also apply – 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, or even be prepared for all companies to fail.

Future funding rounds may dilute existing investments. 

Exit could take considerably longer than three years. Equally, should a holding be realised within three years, tax relief could be lost.

Charges

A summary of the main charges 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 2.5%
Annual charge 2%
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. However, it may take longer.

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. Fuel Ventures has shown an ability to back some of the UK’s fastest-growing digital start-ups

2021 was a successful year for Fuel Ventures. The business experienced its first exit, returning £26.1 million to investors, several portfolio companies raised further funding rounds at substantially higher valuations, and Fuel Ventures attracted more than £30 million overall from investors in 2020/21 tax year, more than in each of its previous tax years combined. 

The fund’s strategy, providing follow-on funding to some of the most promising investee companies back by Fuel Ventures’ Scale-up fund, whilst limiting the fund to a narrow opportunity set, provides two potential advantages. Firstly, Fuel Ventures will know each business well before committing investor capital, and secondly, each investee company will have already benefitted from Fuel’s engagement and expertise. 

This is a concentrated and high-risk portfolio of at least five 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.

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
-
Funds raised / sought
-
Minimum investment
-
Deadline
CLOSED
Last updated: 26 January 2022

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