Par EIS Fund

The Par EIS Fund invests in technology growth companies predominantly in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England. The fund was created as an extension of the Par Syndicate, a group of c.200 experienced business angels. Those angels, now known as the Par Investor Network, contribute new deal flow, help with due diligence, provide guidance and experience to investee companies and co-invest alongside the fund. 

Par Equity focuses on what it dubs the “equity gap” – the area beyond the reach of most business angels but not large enough for private equity to be interested. It steers clear of technology companies it believes to have over-hyped valuations, favouring those with defensible intellectual property, a proven track record of sales and/or a positive response from early adopters or consumers. 

The track record has been encouraging. Since its inception in 2008, Par Equity has invested £97.6 million in 62 EIS-qualifying companies across its syndicate and EIS fund. 20 have been realised, generating exit proceeds of £125.8 million, whilst the remaining portfolio shows an unrealised value of £67.0 million (December 2021). Note, past performance is not a guide to the future.

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

Highlights

  • Seeks to invest in innovative technology companies predominantly in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England
  • Co-invests with Par Equity’s network of expert business angels 
  • Investors can expect 7–8 companies in their portfolio, but a minimum of 5, with a target holding period of 6–8 years (not guaranteed) 
  • Aims to invest in companies with £20k-200k of monthly revenues
  • Minimum investment £20,000 – you can apply online

The manager

Based in Edinburgh, Par Equity LLP (“Par” or “Par Equity”) provides intellectual and financial capital to early-stage technology companies. It made its first investment in March 2009 and launched the EIS fund in 2012, originally formed to invest alongside the Par Investor Network.

Par Equity’s investment team consists of 10 investment professionals (one chairman, five partners, three investment managers and an investment analyst). In order to make an investment decision, the five partners must unanimously agree. The members of the Par team have personally invested £5.0 million in the portfolio (September 2021), and all the Partners invest into the EIS Fund every year on identical terms to investors. This aligns their interests with those of investors.

The investment team is supported by the Par Investor Network, a group of over 200 business angels. Around half are entrepreneurs looking to invest proceeds from successful businesses and the other half are senior professionals (e.g. high-ranking lawyers and accountants). They can provide Par with additional deal flow and support with due diligence as well as funding.

Investment strategy

There are two aspects of Par’s investment strategy the manager feels gives it an edge. The first is location, and the second is the involvement of the Par Investor Network. 

Par Equity will invest across the UK. However, it believes there is an arc of opportunity from Belfast through the North West of England into Scotland. In these areas, businesses operate from lower-cost properties, employ smart people for less and are less swayed by the hype that sometimes affects businesses in the South East. Scottish-based portfolio companies also benefit from the support of the Scottish Investment Bank and Scottish Enterprise. 

The Par Investor Network provides additional support. Its members are well connected and have deep expertise in their respective fields, so are often approached by entrepreneurs operating in their sector, giving Par access to pre-screened businesses competitors might not see. The Network also brings the expertise and skills necessary to validate the technology and market opportunity, skills Par may not have in-house.

Par Equity does not invest unless angels in its Network are also investing, providing an extra layer of due diligence. Some members of the Network are also part of Par Equity’s Advisory Panel. They take an active role in investee businesses, providing ongoing support and expertise. Par Equity will typically appoint someone to the board, often an angel who has invested (this is the case for 70% of investee companies).

Target returns

The fund’s benchmark objective is a pre-tax 15% realised IRR, based on net subscriptions after applying upfront charges. The expected holding period of the fund is 6-8 years – returns and timeframes are not guaranteed. 

Exit strategy

Par Equity’s Advisory Panel has in the past helped enhance returns for investors by securing profitable exits for investee companies, as with the example of deltaDNA, detailed below. 

Whilst it is hard to put a timeframe on exits, due to the nature of the investee businesses, the expected holding period is between six and eight years – although it could be longer. Following any sale of qualifying shares in a company, the sale proceeds will be paid out to investors. This means any distributions are likely to be paid over an extended period of time, not guaranteed.

Portfolio

Investors in the Par EIS Fund can expect exposure to seven or eight underlying companies, with a minimum of five. No new investee company is expected to account for more than 25% of an investor’s portfolio. 

Companies should be revenue generating but can be pre-profit at the point of investment. Historically, 90–95% of the investments made by the EIS fund were generating monthly revenues of £20,000–£200,000 at the time of investing. Par Equity tends to participate in investment rounds of at least £0.5 million. 

The companies outlined below are historic investments made by the Par EIS Fund in its previous iterations and give a flavour of the types of companies a new investor might expect.

Artus – Par EISArtus – recent investment

The International Energy Agency estimates the energy used to power air conditioning has more than tripled since 1990 and accounted for nearly 16% of overall energy consumption in buildings in 2020. With roughly 2 billion air conditioning units in operation worldwide, the scope to cut both costs and carbon emissions is substantial.

That’s where Artus comes in. The company has developed a new air conditioning system with the potential to reduce energy usage by 89% compared to more traditional air conditioning units. The company’s plug and play unit is easy to install, uses 90% less ceiling area and is 60% shallower than fan coil air conditioners.

The technology was originally developed within design and engineering group Arup’s ventures arm, and spun out following Par’s £3 million investment in late 2021. Arup remains a major shareholder with Par’s investment expected to support global marketing and sales activity, as well as develop the product portfolio.

QikServe – Par Equity EIS FundQikserve

Edinburgh-based Qikserve has developed patented digital ordering technology that allows hospitality patrons to order and pay for food and drinks without queueing at the counter. The technology is fully integrated with some of the world’s largest Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system providers, such as Oracle.

QikServe’s full product suite includes kiosk solutions, payment solutions, order-at-table and pay-at-table and, via an acquisition of a rival, order-ahead software. The latter was repurposed in response to Covid-19 to allow restaurants to continue serving their customers during lockdown with Kerbside Collection and Click & Collect. 

Par Equity has been supporting QikServe since 2014 through its EIS Fund and extensive Private Investor Network. It has invested £3.5 million to date across thirteen rounds, with the most recent being a £929,000 round that valued the business at £14.1 million in September 2020. The continued support from Par and other co-investors has helped QikServe reach global brands and bring enterprising solutions to their diverse customer base during the Covid-19 crisis. 

deltaDNA – Par EISdeltaDNA – example of previous exit

Edinburgh-based deltaDNA provides advanced data analytics to help game publishers improve and personalise the users’ experience– and maximise revenue even from free-to-play games and gambling sites through targeted adverts, marketing and in-game purchases.

Founded in 2011, the company has analysed data from over one billion unique users, helping sites identify problem gamblers and risk-assess for fraud such as money laundering and match fixing.

Par Equity made its initial investment in July 2013 and supported the business in three follow-on investment rounds. In September 2019, deltaDNA was acquired by Unity Technologies for an undisclosed sum. As part of the deal, Par Equity took some shares in Unity Technologies which in turn listed onto the New York Stock Exchange in September 2020. 

The Par EIS Fund has now fully exited its position, achieving a 17.6x return on capital, before tax relief. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

Swipii – example of previous failure

As with any early-stage investment, not all will work out as planned. Local cashback platform Swipii is one such example. Swipii allowed local restaurants, cafes and bars to offer users cash back through the app, acting as a marketing tool for small businesses.

Par initially invested in the business in January 2019 alongside Scottish Enterprise, providing further funding in 2020 and 2021 with the final round valuing the business at £6.9 million. However, the challenges of the pandemic, a protracted recovery and poor jobs market means the company fell into liquidation in late 2021.

While the company may be resurrected under new owners, Par has subsequently written off its entire investment.

Performance 

Par’s track record so far has been encouraging. Since its inception in 2008, Par Equity has invested £97.6 million in 62 EIS-qualifying companies across its syndicate and EIS fund. 20 have been realised, generating exit proceeds of £125.8 million, whilst the remaining portfolio shows an unrealised value of £67.0 million (December 2021).

The chart below shows the average performance of the total subscribed into the EIS fund each tax year, based on valuations as at 31 December 2021, expressed on a £100 invested basis. Please note, individual investor portfolios’ performance will deviate from the average.

Performance per £100 invested per tax year

Source: Par Equity, 31 December 2021. Figures are net of all fees. Past performance is no guide to future performance. These figures do not include any realised returns which would be available through loss relief. 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.

For investors who have invested for five years or more between tax years 2011/12 to 2015/16, Par Equity has delivered attractive total returns, without taking into consideration any additional EIS tax reliefs. Across the 2011/12–2015/16 tax years, for every £100 invested, on average investors will have received £265.60 of their initial investment back and have a portfolio balance of £69.40, leaving a total return of £335.00 before any tax reliefs are considered. As ever, past performance is not a guide to the future. These are average returns, individual returns will vary. Returns are weighted towards two very strong years in tax years 2011/12 and 2012/13.

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 nature of businesses in the portfolio means the first round of funding is unlikely to be the last. Future rounds may dilute existing investments. Par Equity aims to allow existing investors to participate directly in follow-on funding outside the EIS fund. 

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 3%
Wealth Club initial saving
Net initial charge through Wealth Club 3%
Annual management charge 1%
Administration charge
Dealing charge
Performance fee 20%
Investee company charges
Initial charge up to 5%
Annual charge See below
All fees and charges are stated inclusive of VAT, where applicable. 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

Par normally anticipates taking up to 12 months to fully deploy investor capital. However, it may take longer.

Our view 

The Par Equity EIS offer has several features which make the offer stand out, in our view.

The fund has a small and close-knit investment team yet, through the Investor Network, it can access a pool of c.200 experienced investors. They can provide deal flow, help with due diligence, take board seats, and actively engage with and add value to investee companies. The angels in the Investor Network co-invest alongside the fund, so their interests are aligned with those of EIS fund investors.

The fund’s focus on regions of the UK less well served by venture capital has the potential to make entry valuations more attractive. Only investing in companies where there is proof of concept and early signs of revenue may appeal to some investors as a way to mitigate risks – although this remains a high-risk investment. 

Par’s approach seems to be working: some of the earlier investments are maturing, indeed, 20 have been realised, generating exit proceeds of £125.8 million, although this is not a guide to the future. In our view, the Par EIS Fund is worthy of consideration by experienced investors looking to build or broaden their EIS portfolio.

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
Various
Target return
15% IRR
Funds raised / sought
-
Minimum investment
£20,000
Deadline
Discretionary
Last updated: 17 February 2022

News about EIS Investments. Read all