Fuel Ventures Follow-on EIS Fund
Fuel Ventures aims to back some of the UK’s fastest-growing digital businesses and to use its first-hand operational experience to mentor and accelerate the growth of its investee companies.
Fuel Ventures was set up and is run by Mark Pearson, founder of MyVoucherCodes, the online voucher code business. Mark reportedly sold myVoucherCodes, via its parent company, 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 Follow-on EIS is one of two EIS funds from Fuel Ventures. It seeks to invest into companies Fuel Ventures has previously backed in earlier portfolios and which it believes are showing encouraging progress. It will only back revenue-generating businesses.
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- 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 by investors into the fund
- Provides follow-on funding to Fuel Ventures’ earlier investments that show promise
- Fuel has a good track record to date: note past performance is not a guide to the future
- Targets five to eight investee companies with an expected holding period of 10 years or more – not guaranteed
- Aims to be fully invested within 12 months – not guaranteed
- Exclusive minimum investment £10,000 (normally £25,000 for non-advised investors), you can apply online
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 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. One example is Paddle, an ecommerce platform which helps developers distribute their software globally. Paddle ranked twelfth in the 2020 Sunday Times Sage Tech Track 100, which ranks Britain’s 100 private tech companies with the fastest-growing sales, having reported average three-year sales growth of 159.62%. Mark was the first seed investor into the business in 2014 and remains a shareholder.
Mark is supported by a team of nine experienced investment professionals with backgrounds in venture capital, private equity and entrepreneurship. Fuel Ventures has an independent advisory committee to add challenge and rigour to the investment process.
Fuel Ventures is the investment advisor to the fund. The investment manager is Sapphire Capital Partners LLP.
Watch our latest video interview with Mark Pearson of Fuel Ventures:
Fuel invests in early-stage, revenue-generating, digital businesses that it believes have the potential to scale globally. In particular, 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 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 stages 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. Drawing from Mark’s 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.
Subscriptions are expected to be spread across five to eight investments, all of which will be trading already 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.
There are benefits to this. Firstly, it should somewhat de-risk the opportunity for investors in this fund, as these companies are 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.
The manager is targeting a return of £10 per £1 invested, net of all costs and performance fees, not guaranteed.
The fund expects to hold investments ten 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 a period of time, not guaranteed.
The target portfolio for each investor will be at least five companies across marketplaces, platforms and SaaS businesses.
The majority of them 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 it is investing in for the first time if it thinks it’s a particularly attractive opportunity.
Below are portfolio company examples 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 are unlikely to be part of a new investor's portfolio.
OnBuy.com is a marketplace which allows customers to buy products online from a number of merchants in a similar manner to Amazon. OnBuy claims to be the fastest-growing marketplace in the world. It reported almost 1.5 million users in the week commencing 1 November 2020.
It has recently announced revenue growth of 600% in FY 2020 for a second consecutive year. To support this growth, in the summer of 2020 OnBuy raised £5 million and recently trebled its workforce to 50 full-time staff, with plans to open a new Manchester office expected to create at least 100 jobs in the next two years.
The business is now embarking on an international scale-up: it aims to be into over 140 countries by 2023 and drive 50x growth within four years. The business is seeking to achieve sales of £2 billion by 2024. Please note, these are forecasts and not guaranteed.
OnBuy was first backed by Fuel Ventures through the Scale-up fund in January 2020, and the Follow-on fund in March 2020 and June 2020.
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.
Founded in 2014, Moteefe currently serves over 10,000 retailers worldwide, from indie sellers to high street brands.
Now the UK’s fourth fastest-growing tech company according to Deloitte, Moteefe saw 150% growth in the first half of 2020 (online retail is arguably a sector benefitting from Covid-19).
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 its most recent round, Moteefe raised £8.5 million at a £55.3 million pre-money valuation – a substantial uplift on both Fuel Ventures’ initial and follow-on investments. Past performance is not a guide to the future. Due to its success, the company has grown beyond the size at which the fund would invest, so investors should not expect to see Moteefe within their portfolio.
Examples of previous exits and failures
To date, Fuel Ventures has not achieved any positive exits, however, this is partly due to the fact it is still a relatively young portfolio.
As is to be expected with EIS, due to the high-risk nature of early-stage investing, some investments will not work out and failures tend to come before successes. Admedo is an example of a previous failure.
Admedo was a technology company seeking to bring greater transparency and control to programmatic advertising. Its proprietary Demand Side Platform (DSP) was developed to provide marketers, agencies, and publishers with a straightforward and customisable way to benefit from the technology. Fuel Ventures invested £550,000 in December 2017. Admedo went into administration in June 2020 as a result of cash flow issues.
As at September 2020, Fuel Ventures has made 52 investments into 38 companies, 23 of which have since received further funding at higher valuations from third-party investors.
Fuel Ventures’ first EIS fund launched in 2015 and made its final investments in November 2016, investing across seven portfolio companies. Today the fund has an unrealised return multiple of 5.6x across the portfolio, before tax relief (November 2020).
The second fund (Fuel Ventures EIS Fund 2) made its last investments in July 2018. The 10-company portfolio had an unrealised return multiple of 3.2x excluding tax relief (November 2020).
The performance track record of Fuel Ventures across all of its EIS funds (Scale-up Fund and Follow-On Fund) since launch is shown below. The chart shows the latest valuation as at 28 October 2020, had you invested £100 in each tax year.
Source: Fuel Ventures, as at 9 November 2020. 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 £518.27 – remember tax rules can change and tax benefits depend on circumstances.
Source: Fuel Ventures, as at 9 November 2020. 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 2018/19, the total return including initial tax relief would be £164.16 – 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.
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.
|Full initial charge||—|
|Wealth Club initial saving||—|
|Net initial charge through Wealth Club||—||Annual management charge||—|
|Performance fee||20%||Investee company charges|
|Initial charge||4.5%||Annual charge||2%|
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.
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 £12 million revenue, which he sold via its parent company for a reported £55 million. Mark is actively involved in each portfolio business, lending his expertise and experience and will invest in the fund on the same terms as investors.
Fuel Ventures has shown an ability to back some of the UK’s fastest-growing digital startups, such as Moteefe and OnBuy. A good proportion of Fuel Ventures' investee companies (23 out of 38) 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 a successful exit and return capital to investors; these are long-term investments and past performance is not a guide to the future.
The fund’s strategy, to provide 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 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.
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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.
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