FIVE YEARS OF BGF INVESTINGMay 2016 | News | Growth Capital Stories
Five stories from five ambitious entrepreneurs - each representing one of BGF's five years of investing. The full feature will be published in our upcoming Review magazine. If you'd like to receive a copy of the magazine, scroll down and pop in your details below.
From left: Sarah Wood (Unruly), Mark Cass (Cass Art), Fraser Smeaton (MorphCostumes), Max Dudson (Dudson), Nan Williams (Four Communications)
In December 2011, BGF invested £4m in a £15m funding round to support the growth aspirations of Unruly, a video sharing platform. In 2015, after launching new products, making strategic acquisitions and expanding to 15 offices across the world, Unruly was acquired by News Corp.
"We didn’t ever want someone to come in and tell us what to do, we wanted people to come in and support and amplify - and that’s absolutely what BGF did. As founders, we stayed in control and lead on decisions."
Sarah Wood, co-founder of Unruly
MorphCostumes is the fancy dress company behind the all-in-one, skin-tight Morphsuits phenomenon. The idea was formed by three friends and graduates of Edinburgh University. In July 2012, we invested £4.2 million to help founders bring new products to market and expand internationally.
"By 2012, we were in our early thirties with no idea about corporate governance and board meetings. BGF helped us to put in place the processes that were needed to support growth. They have lived up to what they said they were going to be: long-term and supportive."
Fraser Smeaton, co-founder of MorphCostumes
In December 2013, we backed Cass Art with a £3.2 million investment to fund the roll-out of its arts materials stores and for the development of its ecommerce platform. Since our investment, Cass has opened five new stores and now operates 11 sites in total.
"We are all independent business people who get up and spend our time thinking about how we’re going to grow our business. I could have funded my expansion plans through friends and family but I wanted access to BGF's network; to the people. This is actually the key."
Mark Cass, founder and CEO of Cass Art
Dudson is a 200 year old, eighth generation family business. Based in Stoke-on-Trent, they make ceramics for the hospitality industry. In April 2014, we invested £3m to inject fresh capital into the business, without any pressure for the company to move outside of family control.
"Investment was an area that was completely alien to us; an area that we were very nervous about as we didn’t want to lose control of the family business. Equally, we felt we needed a partner. Straightaway BGF understood this and were able to make sure that the family shareholding maintained control the business."
Max Dudson, CEO of Dudson
Four Communications is one of the UK's fastest growing independent communications agencies - and is winning awards left, right and centre. We invested £10 million in July 2015 to support the management team's acquisitive growth strategy.
"We did four acquisitions in four years, one at a time, using own money. We found out how to do it and we developed a great process. Then with BGF, we took the next step and it’s really enabled us to carry on doing what we’re doing but doing it faster. So instead of doing one acquisition a year, we did three last year."
Nan Williams, founder and CEO of Four Communications