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Winter 2015

Chairman Brian Blakemore looks ahead to what’s going to be a busy 2015

Midven has long taken a pragmatic but positive approach to business, and I believe that realism will be at the heart of our activity in 2015.
With the opening salvos of the General Election campaign already being fired, there is a distinct air of uncertainty.  However, the last year has seen the UK economy continue to improve with lower unemployment, lower inflation and higher growth than expected.
So, whilst there is plenty of reason for optimism, it’s hard to escape the fragility that elections bring to business.  It’s not hard to see why.  There is an inevitable period of uncertainty in the run-up to a General Election – though locally we may think it should be “business as usual,” in reality many businesses put things like hiring on hold as we wait to see whether we are in for another coalition, perhaps including a change of leading party, or if this time we have an outright winner.
My clear thought has always been that we should not confuse election issues with economic issues.  Yes, in the long term a change of government will have an impact, but the economy is not going to change overnight because a few politicians swap roles.  None of us should allow the innovation which so many of our portfolio companies are justifiably proud to stagnate because the UK is going to the ballot box.
Midven and the companies in which we invest had a very active 2014.  We completed a significant number of investments across our three main funds – both new investments and follow-ons, and that continues apace.
A number of our portfolio companies have developed to the stage where an exit is a realistic possibility and this is one of our key areas of focus for 2015, alongside continuing the pace and scope of our investments and exploring opportunities to expand our funding base.
Entrepreneurialism will continue to flourish whatever the colour of our political leaders, but while they are under the microscope it’s the SMEs of this country that provide the beating heart of UK business – and we all need to keep our eyes on the ball.
Chancellor goes back to fund-amentals with good news statement
There was positive news for innovation and SMEs in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, with money going into schemes to support their development through future funding.
Whilst SMEs continue to be the “engine room” that helps the economy grow, there is still all too often a gap between the stage where ideas are generated and where they reach the point they are ready for funding.
It was good, therefore, to see George Osborne announce some specific measures which will directly have a positive impact on many small firms and start-ups looking to grow. 
He increased R&D tax credit for SMEs to 230 per cent and doubled Small Business Rate Relief, as well as streamlining the application process – all of it, on the face of it, good news for innovative companies.  He also announced £0.8 billion of money for major new research facilities around the country, including £61 million for the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre.
These centres act as a conduit between research and commercialisation and are therefore essentially hubs to help companies move from the research stage to taking products to market.
This is a vital move, as many of the ideas and innovations generated in these companies across the UK fail to get past the early stage because of a lack of funding.
Mr Osborne also said that SMEs will have access to an extra £500 million of lending through the EFGS loan scheme, and the additional £400 million he announced for the British Business Bank will provide some businesses with the essential capital they need to grow as well as allowing fledgling enterprises to expand.
All in all, we felt this was a good statement for enterprise and bodes well for 2015.  You can read the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in full here.

Web company has designs on growth after Midven investment 

Leamington firm Webmoco will continue to expand its product development programme following significant investment from Midven’s Exceed Fund.
The company provides web design and development, mobile application development and software and e-commerce solutions – and lists some household names amongst its clients.
The Exceed Fund will invest £680,000 over three tranches to help the company continue its product development as well as providing further growth capital. 
Webmoco combines IT expertise with an understanding of brand development – and has developed a SaaS product to provide an electronic-based reporting system across multiple platforms. The company has also developed an innovative software platform which improves, analyses and mobilises the reporting process for organisations with multiple layers of management and complex business processes.
Midven’s investment executive John Slaughter oversaw the investment process and said the company had been making “excellent progress.”

Record-breaking last 12 months for Gemba

Software company Gemba Solutions has reported record order levels in the last 12 months – and is predicting great things for 2015 too.
The company – based in Nuneaton and which has received investment from Midven - provides production management systems which increase capacity whilst cutting labour and energy costs.
Managing director Richard Oakden puts the success in part down to a strategy of partnering with clients for the long term.
“We make every effort to ensure clients get real, quantifiable benefit from our solutions and services and in turn we’re rewarded by their loyalty to us.  We’re still working with a number of the very first clients we had when we started the business in 2002,” he said.

Tim helps fly the flag for start-ups at palace event......
Midven’s investor relations director Tim Grasby was amongst the crowds at an event for start-ups at St James’s Palace – organised by the Duke of York.
Tim was one of around 300 business leaders, celebrities and mentors at the Pitch@Palace event.
Entrepreneurs from start-up tech companies across the UK had the chance at the event to pitch for funding, advice and introductions.
Amongst the guests in the Dragons’ Den style event were Jonathan Ross and Princess Beatrice, who together with business people were pitched to by 15 start-ups.
Tim said: “It was a great event, and only the second time such a thing had been held at St James’s Palace.  There were a few companies there that we will be making contact with, the networking session was fun – and on top of all that I got to meet royalty!”

.....whilst John and Aanisah both gain promotion

Two members of Midven’s team have been rewarded for their efforts with promotion.

John Slaughter has been appointed Investment Executive whilst Aanisah Begg has stepped up to Junior Investment Executive. 

John joined Midven almost six years ago as an analyst, and has a degree in business economics and finance, as well as being a business mentor for the Prince’s Trust.

Aanisah has been with the team for almost three years and holds a degree in mathematics and economics.
Just A Minute with 
Dr Andy Muir
Andy heads up our
Rainbow Seed Fund, which invests in innovative companies across a UK-wide network of rapidly-expanding public sector research establishments.
Describe Midven in one sentence:
Passionate about helping businesses grow.

What makes the Oxford, Babraham, Daresbury and Norwich campuses a hotbed of enterprise? Young companies can find space, equipment, knowledgeable investors and lots of advice and support from people who have done it before.
Why did you choose Guildford as your place of work/to live?
We moved there for work many years ago and once you have children and good friends it is hard to find a reason to move away.
What do you like most/least about Guildford?
Likes: fabulous biking and walking country on the doorstep. Dislikes: traffic and the lack of independent shops.
When you’re not at work, what would we most likely find you doing?

Working out in the gym (still optimistic about my New Year resolution). Or cooking!
What I read (book).
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
What I watch (TV programme).
The Honourable Woman
What I listen to (radio programme).
The Today Programme (although missing Evan Davis greatly)
Award yourself a bit of time to sing about your company’s success
Over the past 12 months we have seen a host of companies into which our funds have invested scoop some prestigious awards.Playmob, which enables companies to raise money for charities by helping them create ‘in-game giving’ through their video games, was named the overall UK winner as the ‘one to watch’ for 2015 in the prestigious UK round of the Talent Unleashed Awards 2014, which are supported, amongst others, by Richard Branson. The innovative online food app developers Whisk came hot on their heels in second place.
Also adding awards to an ever-more creaking mantelpiece were Crowd Control HQ, which won Risk Management Product of the Year at a ceremony at London’s Mayfair.
Crowd Control’s social media risk management and compliance platform was awarded the title against stiff competition, the company having more than doubled in size over the past year and now serving more than 125 clients. They were also shortlisted for the Birmingham Post Technology Digital Business Awards 2014.
Other award winners in the portfolio over the last 12 months include Perfectus Biomed, who won the Business Growth Hub Start-Up award, as well as a Bionow award. Both recognised the progress the company had made since it was formed, as well as excellent customer service.
People may not ultimately buy from you just because you’ve won an award – you still need great product and service – but by the same token, winning can bring benefits – it has a great motivational effect on the wider team, and a sense of belonging to an organisation that is going places and cares about the people who work there.
As an investor, we have witnessed the galvanising effect that winning or being shortlisted for awards can have on the teams involved. That said, given the fact that there’s a time commitment involved (and sometimes a financial one too), it makes sense to concentrate on the awards that are most relevant to your business.
Awards can be a useful marketing tool – testimonials, logos and press releases can all be utilised on your website, on email signatures and on your letterheads. If you are going to invest time and money into awards, ensure you exploit the outcomes to the full!
And finally......

We’re not averse to the odd sartorial extreme in the Midven office – particularly when it’s all in a good cause. Once again this year we took part in the Save The Children Christmas Jumper Day.
You’re being spared the torture of seeing how it all turned out on the day (the photos are locked in a cupboard somewhere), but the good news is we managed to raise £130 (and the Government doubles that so it’s twice as nice).
If you have any suggestions for future news topics or comment pieces, or would like to know more about Midven, please get in contact using the details below.
Telephone: 0121 710 1990
Fax: 0121 710 1999
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