Venture capital firm, Midven, part of the Future Planet Capital Group, has successfully exited Sign Solutions and Natural HR. This marks the first exits from companies supported with investment from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF). The company has made a healthy return in line with the expectations of the investment.
Since 2018, Midven has invested over £30m in ambitious growth companies in the Midlands through the MEIF, and the two exits set the precedent for future MEIF exits. The excellent results show the company’s commitment to creating a fertile environment for SMEs in the Midlands.
Natural HR joined Midven’s portfolio in 2016 with investment from the Early Advantage Fund along with support from private investors. MEIF investment followed in 2019 and 2021 when the company’s needs grew beyond the capacity of the Early Advantage Fund. During the seven-year partnership, the HR software provider saw significant growth, creating more than 50 jobs in the Birmingham region. Natural HR also grew its customer base by nearly 2,000%, now serving more than 250 customers across the UK.
Giovanni Finocchio, Investment Director at Midven, said, “Our funds are there to identify and back some of the most promising early-stage businesses within the West Midlands. We came across Natural HR when Jason and Sarah Dowzell were looking for investment, and it was clear that the company had potential. Therefore, along with our investment we introduced two angel investors who helped shape the business. Together, all the parties worked hard to make Natural HR a success and after seven years the company attracted the interest of Moorepay Limited, a member of the Zellis Group and market-leading payroll and HR software and services provider for SMBs across the UK and Ireland, who saw the value of the business and duly acquired it. A win-win for all parties”
Deaf-to-hearing language specialist Sign Solutions also received investment from the MEIF in 2019. Since the initial investment, the company has gone from strength to strength. While a portfolio company of Midven, Sign Solutions more than doubled its number of full-time employees from 17 to 36 – with a network of over 600 freelance BSL interpreters and translators. During the four-year relationship, the company also increased its revenue by 150% and is expected to reach 200% by the end of Q2 2023.
Andy Bard, Portfolio Manager at Midven, said, “We always work closely with the management teams of our portfolio. The offer which Sign Solutions got made sense for their growth plans and we helped them negotiate a deal that aligned with their vision. This is a testimony to how we work closely with other shareholders with differing objectives to negotiate and deliver a great outcome for all of the involved.”
Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said “Since securing investment from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, both businesses have been able to realise their potential – with sign solutions creating significant new jobs and opportunities in the local area and Natural HR receiving additional angel investment alongside MEIF. Both are great examples of the impact MEIF’s equity finance option can have as a tool for growth, helping many innovative and fast growth businesses across the Midlands to grow”.
The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2022 and the European Investment Bank.