MMC Knowledge Intensive Approved EIS Fund

MMC Ventures has invested exclusively in technology for over 20 years. The business has a proven track record of backing some of the UK’s fastest growing private technology companies, and has a history of delivering realised returns to investors, with £83 million returned to EIS investors since 2010.

The MMC Ventures Knowledge Intensive EIS fund is a new EIS fund. The fund will follow the same investment strategy and be managed by the same team as the MMC EIS fund. The fund will seek to invest in a portfolio of 10 – 12 disruptive early stage technology investments.

The ‘KI approved fund’ structure, may offer tax-planning advantages: investors may be able to obtain relief earlier and also have the option to carry back to the 2019/20 tax year (more details below).

MMC’s investment strategy has been largely unchanged since it started. MMC believes the companies most likely to transform today’s markets — or create new ones — will do it from the inside out: improving existing technology, rebuilding tech infrastructure and using data in fundamentally new ways. These are the businesses MMC aims to identify and help to scale up. 

MMC continues to build on its track record. In 2020, three of its investee companies were listed in The Sunday Times Tech Track 100 list of the UK’s fastest growing companies, and portfolio company Gousto joined the UK’s growing ranks of technology unicorns, businesses worth in excess of $1 billion remember 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.

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Highlights

  • Knowledge Intensive Approved EIS fund investing in transformative technology businesses
  • A track record of backing high growth companies such as Gousto
  • Well-resourced investment team
  • Investors should expect a diversified portfolio of c. 10-12 companies
  • Mix of new and later-stage investments
  • Deal flow and exit options provided by MMC’s Greater London Fund (seed and pre-seed stage) and Scale-Up Fund (later stage)
  • Deadline: 30 March 2021
  • £25,000 minimum investment – you can apply online

The manager

MMC Ventures Ltd (“MMC Ventures” or “MMC”) was founded in 2000 by Bruce Macfarlane, its current managing partner, Alan Morgan, its current chairman, and Allan Cockell – hence the initials MMC. It started as a syndicate for high net worth individuals making early-stage technology investments, then launched the EIS fund in 2005. 

MMC has always exclusively invested in high-growth technology-enabled businesses.

Today MMC has $500 million under management. In addition to the EIS Fund, it manages two institutional funds: the £52 million MMC Greater London Fund, launched in May 2019, and the £100 million MMC Scale-Up Fund, launched in November 2019. 

The former is a seed and pre-seed fund backed by the Mayor of London. It invests at an earlier stage than the EIS Fund and provides potential deal flow. In the words of Bruce Macfarlane, “if you’re not in early, it can be hard to get in at a later stage”. 

The MMC Scale-Up Fund sits at the other end. It looks to invest in companies once they have grown beyond the limits of EIS investment. MMC believes this will appeal to existing MMC-backed entrepreneurs looking for later-stage funding as well as EIS investors seeking another potential route to exit.

Investment strategy

MMC invests across a variety of subsectors within technology, including fintech, digital media, digital healthcare, consumer internet (including ecommerce), as well as travel and transport. 

MMC operates a two-stage Investment Committee process when assessing new investments. The first is before terms are offered to a potential investee company to shape the due diligence focus. The second is to review the due diligence findings before investments complete. 

As well as providing capital, MMC draws on its own experience and network to assist investee companies in areas including international expansion, senior hiring, access to potential clients, corporate governance, fundraising, bank finance and exit. Its research team works closely with investee company founders to help businesses grow.

MMC targets an initial investment of £1–5 million in each investee company. MMC can support companies as they grow through further EIS funding of up to £12 million per company, or up to £20 million if it is a ‘Knowledge Intensive Company’. Beyond that, the Scale-Up fund could potentially provide support.

In our view, the MMC Ventures’ EIS and Knowledge Intensive EIS funds are strengthened by these additional mandates. 

The investment team is a mix of 12 investment professionals, and includes two of the three founding partners. The team is supported by eight advisors. The advisors include experienced venture partners and previous members of the investment team a number of which have since taken up roles within MMC investee companies after working closely with those businesses.

The investment team has a range of backgrounds, from experienced venture capital investors to younger talent from consultancies, investment banks, law firms and asset managers. 

The investment team seeks to develop a deep understanding of the technologies employed within its areas of focus, with the team publishing research on areas such as quantum computing, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. In MMC’s view, this is a key differentiator: understanding the technology and business model helps MMC make sound investment decisions and identify the highest-potential opportunities. This understanding is further enhanced by working closely with investee companies to gain first-hand experience.

The MMC team commits to investing in every EIS fund deal and has invested over $17 million to date. This helps align the management team’s interests with those of investors.

Knowledge-intensive approved EIS funds: how do they work?

Knowledge-intensive (or KI) approved EIS funds received the final go-ahead from the Chancellor in March 2020. Now, funds focusing on investing in knowledge-intensive companies can apply for approval from HMRC. 

Provided some conditions are met, a KI approved EIS fund allows investors to set their income tax relief against liabilities in the same tax year the fund closes or to carry back to the previous year. 

Investors are expected to receive a single EIS5 certificate (as opposed to individual EIS3 certificates for each investee company, as is the case with non-approved funds). Certificates can be issued once the fund has invested 90% of its capital, which it is required to do within 24 months of the close. 

Please note: tax rules can change and benefits depend on circumstances. To maintain KI approved status, the fund needs to comply with requirements set out by HMRC. Should the fund fail to do so, it will impact investor tax relief. 

Target return

The fund aims to return 2–3x the invested amount over a 5–8 year investment period. This is not guaranteed.

Exit strategy

The fund seeks to exit investments after a period of five to eight years. Capital will be repaid to investors as investee company shares are sold.

MMC has in the past exited via AIM IPOs and well as sales to strategic acquirers, financial buyers and secondary funds.

For example, MMC’s partial exits in 2020 (up to 27x return for Gousto, and up to 18x return for Bloom and Wild) were achieved through share sales to 3rd party investors. Past performance is not a guide to the future and exit options are not guaranteed. 

As part of its remit, the Scale-Up Fund can offer to buy equity stakes from earlier MMC investors. MMC has exited two EIS companies in this way to date, returning up to 5.5x and 6x respectively (before EIS tax reliefs) to investors who wished to sell – note investors were given the choice whether to hold or sell, which helped avoid a conflict of interest. Please note, there are no guarantees the Scale-Up Fund will be used to offer an exit route to new investments and past performance is not a guide to the future. 

Portfolio

Investors in the MMC Knowledge Intensive EIS Fund can expect exposure to 10-12 investee companies (not guaranteed) comprising new deals and more mature investments. 

The companies outlined below are historic investments made by the MMC EIS fund. The Knowledge Intensive EIS Fund is expected to follow the same investment strategy. 

Note these are previous EIS investee companies and may not form part of a new investor’s portfolio. They are outlined to give examples of the types of companies an investor might expect.

MMC snowplow analytics.jpgSnowplow Analytics

Founded in 2012, Snowplow has developed a real-time event data technology that enables businesses to track, contextualise, validate, and model customer behaviour. The business is empowering companies to make better use of their customer data. Giving businesses better control of their data allows them to enhance a wide range of functions, such as improving the customer journey, maximising marketing budget, and powering product development.

MMC Ventures first invested into the business in 2019 as the company’s first venture capital investor, leading a £4 million investment round at a £11.8 million pre-money valuation. The funding was to be used to continue to fund Snowplow’s expansion into the US and Europe.

In January 2021, the business raised a further $10 million in a funding round led by global growth technology investor Atlantic Bridge, alongside additional investment from MMC Ventures. The funding round took place at an uplift to MMC’s prior investment, although the details of the deal remain private. Today, more than 600,000 websites use Snowplow as their behavioural data management platform.

Gousto – MMC Ventures EISGousto

Gousto has created food delivery technology that offers customers a weekly box of healthy, responsibly sourced ingredients, providing everything needed in the right quantities for couples or families to cook delicious meals. The business uses automation and machine learning to route boxes in its warehouse and has developed an algorithm to predict what each customer will choose to cook for dinner, helping to reduce food waste.

This approach has enabled the business to grow rapidly and Gousto is now delivering more than 5 million meals to households every month. Demand increased significantly during the first six months of 2020 with the company surpassing the £83 million of sales reported for the whole of 2019. According to The Sunday Times Tech Track 100, Gousto is one of the UK’s fastest growing private technology companies.

MMC first invested in 2013 and has participated in multiple rounds of funding since, the most recent being over £30 million of institutional capital in April 2020.

In late 2020, Gousto joined the ranks of the UK’s increasing number of unicorns, private companies achieving a valuation in excess of $1 billion, by raising a further £25 million from exiting investors. Gousto intends to use the proceeds to triple capacity and create a further 1,000 jobs.

In 2020 MMC’s investors were given the opportunity to partially exit their investment, with investors achieving realised returns of up to 27x their original investment. Please note, this is an exceptional return and past performance is not a guide to the future.

Interactive Investor – MMC Ventures EISInteractive Investor (example of previous exit)

Interactive Investor (II) is the second-largest online investment service in the UK with £30 billion assets under administration and over 300,000 clients.

MMC first invested in Interactive Investor in 2012. In 2016 II announced the acquisition of TD Bank Group’s European direct investing business. This acquisition was financed by private equity firm JC Flowers & Co. 

Interactive Investor is one of the companies offered an exit from MMC’s new Scale-Up fund. MMC investors holding Interactive Investor were offered the choice to sell some or all their shares at a 5.5x return (before EIS tax relief) or to continue to hold the shares. 

Please note, there are no guarantees or obligations for the Scale-Up Fund to acquire future EIS investments.

Mastered (example of previous failure)

As with any EIS company, these are high-risk investments and not all will work out as planned. Mastered is an example of a failure. The business was created to serve a new generation of emerging talent from the creative industries – film, music, etc. The business delivered online and in-person tuition with feedback, coaching and content from prominent industry figures including Val Garland and Sam McKnight who have worked with celebrities including Princess Diana, Kate Moss and Lady Gaga. 

The MMC EIS Fund first invested in early 2016. The company grew well and MMC invested again in 2017. However, over the course of 2017 and 2018, the business took longer than hoped to fill enrolment targets and sign corporate sponsorship deals and needed further investment.

Ultimately, conversations with potential new investors did not result in an offer of funding or acquisition, and MMC decided not to commit further money. The board put the company into administration ensuring any customers already enrolled could finish their courses. 

Performance

The MMC Knowledge Intensive EIS Fund, launched in February 2021, and therefore does not yet have a track record. However, it shares the same investment team and investment strategy as the MMC EIS Fund.

MMC Ventures has a strong track record of delivering returns to investors. Since its inception, the MMC EIS fund has invested in 60 companies and achieved 30 exits. Fourteen exits were profitable, two were unprofitable, and 14 were written off. In total, MMC has returned £83 million to EIS investors since 2010 (December 2020). 

The chart below shows the average performance of the total subscribed into the funds each tax year, based on valuations as at 31 December 2020, expressed on a £100 invested basis. Please note, individual investor portfolios’ performance will deviate from the average.

The returns referenced are for the MMC EIS Fund.

Investors should note, MMC has calculated its net of performance by including the total management fees payable over the initial five year period upfront. This exaggerates the fees paid in the first four years of a subscription and has the effect of deflating the true performance of the MMC EIS Fund in the short term. MMC does not charge management fees beyond the fifth year of an investment. 

Source: MMC Ventures, as at 31 December 2020. Performance figures are supplied by MMC Ventures and are net of all fees, based on MMC Ventures’ valuation methodology. Past performance is no guide to future performance. In the above figures, initial tax relief of up to 30% – 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 and SEIS 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.

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.

Exits could take considerably longer than three years. 

Charges

A summary of the main charges and savings is shown below. Some of these will be payable by the investor, 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 3%
Wealth Club initial saving
Net initial charge through Wealth Club 3%
Annual management charge 2.5%
Custody fee 0.15%
Dealing charge
Performance fee 20%
Investee company charges
Initial charge
Annual management charge
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

The deadline for applications and cleared funds is 30 March 2021.

The fund closes 1 April 2021. 

Our view

2020 was a good year for the MMC portfolio. Three of its investee companies (Elder, Signal AI & Gousto) were featured within the Tech Track 100 list of the UK’s fastest growing companies, and Gousto joined the UK’s growing ranks of technology unicorns, securing a substantial partial exit in the process. Portfolio company Bloom & Wild, the flower delivery business, also secured a sizable partial exit for EIS investors: note past performance is not a guide to the future.

MMC Ventures is in our view a credible and experienced manager that has focussed on investing in technology for the last 20 years. The business has a proven track record of both backing fast growing technology start-ups, and for delivering realised returns to investors.

MMC’s two institutional funds, The Greater London Fund and the MMC Scale Up Fund further enhance the EIS offer by providing enhanced deal flow and exit opportunities (not guaranteed).

For investors looking to invest in technology via an EIS fund this year, this could be an attractive consideration. The interests of the team are aligned with those of investors. The team invests personally in every EIS deal and has committed over $17 million to date.

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
2–3x
Funds raised / sought
-
Minimum investment
£25,000
Deadline
30 Mar 2021
Last updated: 19 February 2021

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