The rise of technology means it is now possible to build global business giants from the UK – if the funding community can change its mentality.
Dominic Perks and Rupert Hambro co-founded investment firm Hambro Perks in 2013 and it has gone on to back several fast-growing tech firms while adopting an extremely hands-on approach.
Perks highlighted the importance of entrepreneurs looking beyond the UK’s borders to BusinessCloud.
“The world is changing: because of technology, a business that works in one territory can often work in many. It’s a boundary-less world now,” he said.
“The UK is a brilliantly innovative nation, but all too often historically we haven’t scaled up that innovation and built large global companies.
“Typically the VC industry in Europe favours backing businesses which are revenue positive and nearing profitability – or which may even be profitable already. We like to get involved earlier.
“I would like the [UK’s investment community’s] mentality to change to be more like ours: we should think bigger and be willing to give start-ups longer to flourish. We’re backing entrepreneurs who have that ability to become global winners.
“There’s a new mentality in general in the UK that it is possible to build a global business here.”
London-based Hambro Perks invests its own capital alongside those of investors and proactively manages them, taking a seat on the board and helping founders through the tough initial stages of building a company.
Its portfolio includes Muslim dating site Muzmatch, geocoding system What3Words, used car sale platform tootle, smart energy technology company Labrador and tech-based care firm Vida.
“Muzmatch is amazing – they haven’t really done any proper marketing yet but they switched it on and it’s working in 80 countries,” said Perks.
Another is laundry and dry cleaning app Laundrapp, the idea for which came from Perks himself. It launched in London in 2015 before spreading around the UK – and has since gone global.
“The Laundrapp technology is now being licensed on three different continents,” said Perks, who is chairman of the company. “We put the founding team together (pictured above) and built up the business plan.
“When our companies internationalise, there are lessons to be learned which can then be fed back across the portfolio of companies. We’re increasingly a technology group, or conglomerate even: our overarching mission is to become the destination for the best technology entrepreneurs in the UK. That is very different to just running a fund and deploying capital.
“We go the extra mile to help founders. Start-ups need all the help they can get; they don’t just need cash. Capital rarely solves problems entirely.”
Perks says he is now seeing 40 companies a week coming through its doors looking to partner with Hambro Perks.
It is launching a new Enterprise Investment Scheme fund which will allow high-net-worth individuals to make tax-efficient investments in its firms. The aim is to raise £20m every year from this fund.
“Often the cyclical nature of venture capital fund structures means they have to sell their financial position in winning companies,” Perks concluded.
“We don’t see our companies as financial positions – we see them as our companies, and would be more inclined to hold them and even increase our stake if they are succeeding.”