Fuel Ventures Scale-up EIS Fund

Fuel Ventures aims to back some of the UK’s fastest-growing digital businesses and 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. 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. Mark has personally committed to investing alongside investors in the fund. 

Fuel’s track record over this period has been impressive, although past performance is not a guide to the future.

The Scale-up EIS fund is one of two EIS funds from Fuel Ventures. It seeks to make investments into early-stage digital businesses operating in three key areas: marketplaces, platforms and software as a service. The companies the manager considers most promising from the Scale-Up EIS fund may subsequently receive investment from the Fuel Ventures Follow-on EIS fund.

  • Targets 15 to 20 investee companies, but a minimum of 5, with an expected holding period of 10 years or more – not guaranteed
  • Aims to be fully invested within 12 months – not guaranteed
  • Minimum investment £20,000; you can apply online
  • Next deadline: 26 August 2022

Important: The information on this website is for experienced investors. It is not a 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: you could lose all the money you invest.

Read important documents and then apply

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 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 that helps developers distribute their software globally. Paddle is frequently ranked as one of the UK’s fastest-growing private technology companies –featuring in the Deloitte Fast 50 2021. Mark was the first seed investor in 2014 and exited the business in 2019. 

Mark Pearson and some of the wider team will be investing personally in the Scale-Up EIS fund, and have accounted for 10% of all Scale-Up EIS fund contributions to date.

Mark is supported by a team of 16 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 operates three funds: the SEIS fund, Scale-Up EIS Fund, and the Follow-on EIS Fund. They all invest in the same type of companies but at different stages in their development, although there may be some overlap between funds. 

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

Investment strategy

Fuel Ventures invests in early-stage, digital businesses 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 looks to invest between the Seed and Series A rounds of funding, where Mark Pearson believes there is a funding gap. Both stages are 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.

If successful, investee companies backed within the Fuel Ventures Scale-Up EIS fund may benefit from further investment from Fuel Ventures’ Follow-on EIS fund. Fuel Ventures raised £4.5 million for its new SEIS fund in 2021 and a further £6.2 million 2022, which may in time provide the Scale-Up EIS fund with additional deal flow. 

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

Portfolio

The target portfolio for each investor will be a minimum of five, and a target of 15–20 investee companies (marketplaces, platforms and SaaS businesses). 

Through the Scale-Up EIS Fund and its previous four iterations (Fuel Ventures EIS Portfolio 1-4), Fuel Ventures has invested £61.3 million into 57 companies across 66 funding rounds. The current portfolio is valued at £181.4 million (March 2022).

Below are previous portfolio company examples. 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. 

Peckwater brands – Fuels Scale up EIS-min.jpgPeckwater Brands – recent investment

Online takeaways were one of the big winners during the pandemic. Globally the market is estimated to be worth $151 billion, and by some estimates delivery could account for 21% of the global restaurant market by 2025.

Despite the growth, delivery groups like Deliveroo and Uber Eats have so far struggled to turn a profit. That’s one reason Peckwater Brands is targeting a different part of the delivery chain. 

The company offers branding and delivery services to existing kitchen operators, allowing them to operate online-only “ghost kitchen” franchises. Each franchise brand covers popular takeaway options from burgers to fried chicken. The wide range means the company can use market data to select the best cuisine for a particular market, with franchisees receiving support on everything from recipes to buying ingredients. To date Peckwater has fulfilled 150,000 orders, with 99.8% of orders successfully fulfilled on time and a 4-star+ average customer rating.

The Fuel Scale-Up fund first invested in the business in September 2021 alongside Pembroke VCT and crowdfunding platform Seedrs in a round that valued the business at £7.37 million. In April 2022, the company secured £15 million of new funding in a round led by SoftBank Investments, which valued the business at £65 million (post money), with the Fuel position valued at 4.5x the sum originally invested as a result. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

Volt – Fuel Ventures Scale-up EISVolt Technologies

Volt Technologies (trading as Volt.io) is building infrastructure to facilitate online real-time payments using open banking: instead of going via a payments network such as Visa or Mastercard, payments are made directly between two bank accounts. Merchants receive instant payments, have lower transaction fees and increased payment security. 

Volt.io believes account-to-account payments will soon become the new normal, whilst card-based payments will see a gradual decline. 

The business was founded by three payment industry veterans (pictured): Tom Greenwood (ex-CEO IFX Payments), Steffen Vollert (led global expansion at payments platform Adyen), and Jordan Lawrence (ex-CEO PCN Capital, a payments recruitment specialist). Fuel Ventures initially backed the business in January 2020, investing £1 million at a £3.3 million pre-money valuation. In June 2021, the business raised $23.5 million in a round led by EQT Investors and joined by Augmentum Fintech Plc, and Fuel Ventures. The initial holding is currently valued at 10.3x investment cost. Past performance is not a guide to the future. 

ContentCal – Fuel Ventures EISContentCal - example of previous exit

ContentCal is a subscription-based online platform which helps businesses manage their social media marketing more efficiently. 

Fuel initially invested in the business in early 2020. Soon after, the company announced a £50,000 increase in annual recurring revenue, as demand for the product increased due to marketing departments working from home over the pandemic, and the management team focused on adding products to the platform and expanding its sales team in the APAC region.

ContentCal went on to raise additional funding from the Fuel Follow-On Fund, and Guinness Asset Management in 2021. In late 2021, US tech titan Adobe announced it had agreed to acquire the business for $110 million cash, a transaction that saw Fuel Scale-Up investors achieve a 7.7x realised return on the holding. Past performance is not a guide to the future.  

Admedo - example of previous failure

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 provide marketers, agencies, and publishers with greater transparency and control over programmatic advertising. Fuel Ventures invested £550,000 in December 2017. 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

Fuel Ventures Scale-EIS fund, including its previous four iterations, has invested into 57 investee companies across 66 investments (March 2022). Of these investments, five have since failed. In 2021, the fund achieved its first exit, delivering a return of 7.7x the original investment cost. Please note, past performance is not a guide to the future.

The chart below shows the average performance of the total subscribed into the funds each tax year, based on valuations as at 31 March 2022, expressed on a £100 invested basis. Please note, past performance is not a guide to the future and individual investor portfolios’ performance will deviate from the average.

Performance per £100 invested in each tax year

Source: Fuel Ventures, as at 31 March 2022. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The chart shows realised returns (where share proceeds have been returned to investors as cash) and unrealised returns (where cash has not yet been returned and the value of the investments is based on the manager’s own valuation methodology). There is no ready market for unlisted shares. The figures shown are net of all fees and do not include any income tax relief or loss relief.

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 and should only form part of a balanced portfolio. As must be expected with early-stage investments, some or even all of the companies in the portfolio could fail: the fewer the companies included in the portfolio, the higher the risk of loss if things don’t go to plan. You should not invest money you cannot afford to lose.

There is no ready market for unlisted EIS shares: they are illiquid and hard to sell and value. There will need to be an exit for you to receive a realised return on your investment. Exits are likely to take considerably longer than the three-year minimum EIS holding period; equally, an exit within three years could impact tax relief.

To claim tax relief, you will need EIS3 certificates, normally issued once shares have been allotted. This can take several months: please check the deployment timescales carefully. Tax reliefs depend on the portfolio companies maintaining their EIS-qualifying status. Remember, tax rules can change and benefits depend on circumstances.

Before you invest, please carefully read the Risks and Commitments and the offer documents to ensure you fully understand the risks. 

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. As the number of companies grows, he will not be able to provide the same level of coaching and support to all Fuel Ventures portfolio companies.

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. Fuel Ventures Scale-up EIS Fund does not apply an initial charge to investors or 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
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

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 taken MyVoucherCodes.co.uk from the ground to a reported £55 million sale. Mark is able to lend his expertise and experience where required 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 WeGift, Moteefe and Peckwater Brands. A good proportion of Fuel Ventures' investee companies have gone on to attract significant additional funding and achieved valuation uplifts from some renowned third-party investors (such as EQT and SoftBank ). Early EIS investors have seen some substantial paper gains and the portfolio has achieved its first exit. 

The Scale-Up EIS fund’s strategy, to invest in and provide support and mentorship to early-stage digital businesses and their founders, is strengthened, in our view, by the presence of Fuel Ventures’ two other S/EIS funds. The Fuel Ventures Follow-on EIS fund should be able to provide additional funding to support further development, whilst the SEIS fund may provide additional deal flow. 

This is a high-risk portfolio targeting 15–20 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 – investments. You should base your investment decision on the offer documents and ensure you have read and fully understand them before investing. The information on this webpage is a marketing communication. It is not advice or a personal or research recommendation to buy any of the investments mentioned, nor does it include any opinion as to the present or future value or price of these investments. 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
10x
Funds raised / sought
-
Minimum investment
£20,000
Deadline
26 Aug 2022 for next close
Last updated: 1 July 2022

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