Bath-based broadband provider Truespeed has received a £100m capital injection from Aviva Investors to fund the rollout of its “gigabit-capable” full-fibre network to homes and businesses across the southwest of England.

It brings the total investment made by Aviva Investors – the asset management division of insurance firm Aviva – to £175m following its £75m backing in 2017.

Founded in 2014, Truespeed is an internet service provider and also installs full-fibre infrastructure such as underground cables that connect premises to the internet.

Its engineers only set up a Truespeed network once the company has received sufficient demand in an area made by online requests.

The company says it has doubled the size of its network in the past year. It aims to establish fibre-optic connectivity to “underserved” rural areas.

In January 2021 it was selected to rollout full-fibre broadband networks in Devon and Somerset by a government-backed programme. Work on the network is expected to start this year and be completed in 2024.

Truespeed has contracts to build full-fibre infrastructure in Bath and Wells, while in December it announced the start of its network build in Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet and Street.

Its network is used by local businesses such as Yeo Valley and Thatchers Cider.

“We are delighted that our continuing relationship with Aviva Investors has provided this next tranche of investment,” said James Lowther, who was appointed Truespeed CEO last month. “This will allow us to significantly accelerate our roll-out, enabling us to connect more customers to our ultrafast, ultra-reliable full-fibre service.”

Sean McLachlan, senior director, infrastructure, at Aviva Investors, said: “Since our initial investment in 2017, Truespeed has continued to successfully deliver essential gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure to under-served locations across the South West of the UK. This second tranche of funding reflects our belief that the company and its activities not only represent a sound investment, but also create significant social benefits for local communities across the country.”

During the 2019 general election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a manifesto pledge to bring full-fibre broadband to the whole of the UK by 2025.

However, the government has since watered down its commitment to reaching 85% of the country by 2025 – a target that industry experts have also cast doubt on.

Cardiff, Wales-based medtech company Bond Digital Health has raised £1m for its data capture and management system for lateral flow tests.

The startup, which was founded in 2016, said it will use the cash to increase staff headcount and provide additional resources to sales and marketing teams.

The equity funding came from previous investors and shareholders. It includes a £350,000 capital injection from the Development Bank of Wales, a regional SME investment company owned by the Welsh government.

The rest of the capital was provided by high-net-worth individuals via investment service Wealth Club. They include Bond Digital Health’s CEO Ian Smith and its chair Wayne Harvey.

“Now that we have several international customers signed up to our platform, we need to make sure we successfully service their needs 24/7,” said Smith. “This funding will help us do that by ensuring we have the right people in the right roles.”

Bond Digital Health has created a data management platform for lateral flow tests called Transform. Lateral flow test results, such as those from Covid-19 antigen tests, can be uploaded to the app to create a dashboard with real-time data.

Bond Digital Health said it aims to raise a further £500,000 before the funding round closes at the end of January.

It follows a previous £2m equity investment in 2020, which partially came from UK and Welsh government grants.

“Ian and the team at Bond have a bright future ahead as their technology has the potential to revolutionise the management of lateral flow test result data,” said Mark Bowman, senior investment executive at Development Bank of Wales. “We are proud to continue to support the growth of the business with our equity investment from our Wales Flexible Investment Fund.”

20th December 2021 - The Sage Group plc (FTSE : SGE), the leader in accounting, financial, HR and payroll technology for small and mid-sized businesses, today announces that it has agreed to acquire Brightpearl, a cloud native multichannel retail management system for retailers and wholesalers. The acquisition of Brightpearl, in which Sage already has a 17 % minority stake, accelerates Sage’s strategy for growth, including scaling Sage Intacct, broadening the value proposition for mid-sized businesses and expanding Sage’s digital network. 

With operations in the US and the UK, Brightpearl provides a SaaS-based retail operating system, enabling real-time business insights and helping customers automate workflows to save time and money. The combination of Sage Intacct and Brightpearl will create a powerful solution for retailers and wholesalers which integrates financial management, inventory planning, sales order management, purchasing and supplier management, CRM, fulfilment, warehousing and logistics management.  

The consideration for the 83 % of Brightpearl that Sage does not already own is $299m (£225m), which will be funded from Sage’s existing cash and available liquidity.

For the year ending December 2021, Brightpearl is expected to generate revenues of $27m (£20m), representing growth of around 50 % compared to the prior year, and to achieve operating profit around the breakeven level. 

The transaction is subject to regulatory clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act in the US, and is expected to close in January 2022.  

Steve Hare, Chief Executive Officer of Sage, commented :

“Sage’s purpose is to knock down barriers so everyone can thrive. Together, Sage and Brightpearl will remove the barriers that hold back retailers and wholesalers, streamlining their systems and enabling them to focus on growth. I’m delighted to welcome Brightpearl, its management team and colleagues to Sage, and look forward to executing on our strategic priorities together and delivering accelerated growth.” 

Derek O’Carroll, Chief Executive Officer of Brightpearl, commented :

“We are thrilled to be joining Sage. Bringing our two teams together will combine the retail strength of Brightpearl and the scale, brand and financial expertise of Sage, enabling us to offer customers the most innovative financial and retail operating solutions so they can grow fearlessly, save time and deliver outstanding experiences.”

London-based insurance management system provider Genasys has secured a £12.25m investment from Frog Capital, an investor in European scaleup software.

The deal will see Frog Capital take a significant stake in Genasys, while the latter’s management team retains operational control of the business.

Genasys provides an insurance management platform on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis. Its technology includes end-to-end policy administration and claims solutions.

It is UK-based Frog Capital’s second investment in a month after it gave a £5m cash boost to Clue, a SaaS platform for managing investigations.

Jens Düing, senior partner at Frog Capital said: “The company has already created an industry-leading modular state-of-the-art platform that is gaining increasing momentum in a transforming ecosystem. The platform allows its customers a much faster time to market.”

Genasys manages gross written premium in excess of £1bn. It aims to provide “hyper-configurability” across the insurance system. The scaleup has more than 350 pre-configured products ranging from property and casualty, life, medical, and speciality.

Genasys Joint CEO, André Symes said: “Our platform and ecosystem have been widely adopted by forward-thinking insurance businesses who have bought into the need for agile, quick-to-change technology. It’s a mindset that is gathering pace across the insurance industry – personal and commercial lines, in the London market space and beyond. The potential for our business growth is enormous as we have built a proposition that has a track record of delivering solutions for those insurance companies at the early stages of their digital journeys as well as those who are a long way down the path.”

As part of the scaleup programme, the platform will expand its centres of technical excellence to ensure it can support the business while it looks at further global expansion. The company currently serves clients in 16 countries.

Genasys joint CEO Craig Oliver added: “Our centre of technology excellence is the crown-jewel of our delivery. We want to lean on the innovative and technically advanced pool of talent that is emerging from the entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa to build a truly world-class insurance platform and deliver even better services and products to help our clients provide insurance solutions that make a real difference to their clients.”

London-headquartered fashion rental marketplace HURR has raised $5.4m (£4.08m) in seed funding. The round was led by Octopus Ventures alongside participation from D4 Ventures and Ascension.

HURR, which is delivering $2.5m in annualised revenues, said it will use the fresh funds to expand its operations and develop its proprietary technology. The startup is aiming to disrupt the global women’s fashion industry, said to be worth $1.4tr.

It also wants to capitalise on the increasing consumer demand to embrace circular and sustainable fashion choices by providing rental second-hand designer clothes.

HURR was founded by Victoria Prew in 2019. Since then, it has built a hybrid business model that comprises peer-to-peer fashion rentals, direct partnerships with more than 85 exclusive fashion partners, and the recent launch of its white-label service, which powers rental for leading retailers including Selfridges Rental. HURR also wants to expand its white-label portfolio.

The fashion rental marketplace has an office in Selfridges London. Also, it announced a partnership with the global resale platform Depop, which was acquired by Etsy.

“We are also delighted to welcome Octopus Ventures, D4, and Ascension on our journey,” said Victoria Prew, CEO and founder of HURR. “Their combined expertise in circular and building exceptional customer-focused businesses will be tremendous assets as we work towards our vision of re-inventing ownership.”

Octopus Ventures, Europe’s largest VC firm and most active early-stage investor, has previously backed circular economy startups such as Depop, OLIO, and Whirli.

Matt Chandler, consumer investor at Octopus Ventures, said: “HURR is perfectly placed to capitalise on the shift towards new models of ownership and spearhead the transition to a more climate-friendly fashion industry. By operating the critical logistics functions needed for rental, it is able to provide a full-stack rental solution to existing brands, which in turn feeds the HURR platform with amazing breadth and depth of supply. We see a huge opportunity for scale and are excited to leverage our experience working with Depop as we partner with Victoria and her team.”

London-based curated professional development platform Learnerbly has secured $10m in a Series A led by venture capital firm Beringea.

The edtech, whose platform is used by companies including Hellofresh, WeTransfer and GoCardless, said it will use the funds for product development, scaling its distributed workforce of more than 60 employees and to drive US expansion.

The startup’s technology is used by companies to offer learning and development tools to employees – a perk that has become more important as the hiring market has become more competitive for recruiters. It offers employees access to learning materials for jobs ranging from marketing, finance and sales. Its platform contains books, podcasts, courses and coaches from more than 250 providers.

Founded in 2017 by Rajeeb Dey MBE, who is also CEO of Enternships, Learnably says its platform is used by thousands of employees in over 100 organisations across more than 50 countries.

Other participants in the funding include new investors Digital Horizon Ventures, BY Venture Partners, GO Ventures and prolific marketplace venture fund FJ Labs, alongside existing investors Frontline Ventures, Triple Point, London Co-Investment Fund and UFI Ventures.

Learnerbly also secured the backing of influential angel investors including Zach Coelius of Coelius Capital; Leonard Picardo, the second employee at Deliveroo; Neil Ryland, the CRO of Peakon, Renaud Visage, the co-founder and CTO of Eventbrite; and Stephan Thoma, former global head of learning at Google.

According to Statista, the global workplace learning industry is worth over $350bn. Learnerbly says learning has traditionally been delivered top-down but since the pandemic, this has changed as employers look to retain employees during the “great resignation”.

Recent research by Beamery found that 83% of employees think companies should help with career progression, yet 44% don’t currently have access to talent acceleration programmes from their employers.

According to Rajeeb Dey MBE, founder and CEO of Learnerbly, an increasingly competitive hiring market means employers worldwide are concerned about how they recruit and retain top talent.

“Yet, many HR teams struggle to keep up with the breadth of content and pace of change required for L&D in the digital economy,” explained Dey. “Our platform provides employees with the tools to discover exceptional content from more than 250 providers and tailor their own learning plans. This means employers can easily offer access to best-in-class learning without ever needing to create their own content, manage relationships with multiple content providers, or take what we would deem a ‘one-size-fits-none’ approach to L&D.”

Maria Wagner, investment director at Beringea, said: “With the hybrid work environment, employers are under pressure to offer new ways of learning for their employees and ensure they are engaged and retained. Learnerbly offers a curated solution that serves both the needs of the employees and of HR departments in this new environment.”

World Makers (formerly Automaton Games), a Cambridge, UK-based video gaming studio, raised $3m in seed funding.

Makers Fund made the investment.

The company intends to use the funds to continue developing Deceit, as well as pursue additional new projects.

Led by James Thompson, CEO, World Makers is an independent games studio focused on building multiplayer games such as Deceit, a breakout multiplayer horror game, which has hit several major milestones to date including:

  • 13 million downloads
  • 17,000 peak concurrent users
  • 87,000+ Discord members
  • Over 53 million games played

Thompson found Automaton Games in 2015 with co-founder Jord Fox (technical director), Shivam Mistry (platform director), Oliver Hodge (design director), and Joel Mills (analytics director). 

DeepStream, a London UK-based provider of a cloud-powered procurement platform using AI, raised £5.2M in Series A funding.

The round was led by Beringea with participation from Seed X Liechtenstein, London-based Conviction VC and Portfolio Ventures. 

The company intend sto use the funds to double its workforce and further develop its AI applications.

Founded in London in 2016 and led by Jack Macfarlane, CEO, DeepStream provides a cloud-based procurement platform using AI to allow businesses to handle all their ‘Request For Anything’ (RFP/ RFI/ RFQs etc.) processes in one place, and improve the efficiency, accuracy and sustainability of their supply chains.

Its AI-driven supplier recommendations engine presents buyers with compatible suppliers based on criteria such as cost, efficiency or, crucially, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), helping companies to improve the sustainability of their supply chain. 

The company currently employs a team of 15 technology experts and works with over 3,500 companies, across cleantech, renewable energy, logistics, gigafactories, green steel, electric vehicles, and construction industries, including Maersk, Britishvolt and Xos Trucks. 

London-based money management fintech Plum has raised $24m (£18m) in a Series A round, bringing its total funding to date to $43m (£32.4m) and helping triple its valuation since July 2020.   

The Series A funding will enable Plum to accelerate its expansion across Europe in countries including the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium Italy, Finland, Austria, and Germany in 2022. 

The company is also planning to expand its product offerings by launching new features, including a US stock investing product from early December. Users will also get access to EU and UK stocks and crypto assets in 2022. 

The announcement comes a few weeks after raising $14m from various investors, including dmg ventures, Ventura Capital, Global Brain, Venture Friends, and 500 Startups. 

Following the $14m raise, Plum secured an additional $8m via crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. A total of 9,712 investors took part in the crowdfunding raise, which according to the company makes it the fourth most popular Crowdcube fundraise of all time in Europe. 

Victor Trokoudes, CEO & co-founder of PlumTrokoudes, said: “Crowdfunding was a key part of our early success, and we are pleased so many people want to continue to support our development and mission to provide tools to make more people financially secure.”

The funding follows Plum receiving regulatory approval to offer investment in the EU.

Founded by Victor Trokoudes (ex-Wise) and Alex Michael (ex-TicTail) in 2016, Plum is a money management platform that connects to users’ bank accounts and analyses their incomings and outgoings. 

The platform then analyses transactions and identifies regular income, rent, bills, and daily spending. 

Using this and other factors, the app calculates daily what amount it can safely put aside without affecting users’ daily life. Plum also offers different saving rules, such as Roundups, Weekly saver, and Paydays saver.

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Rapid grocery delivery company Getir is acquiring UK rival Weezy in a sign that the nascent market flush with investor cash is consolidating.

The definitive agreement will see Turkey-headquartered Getir absorb Weezy’s 700 staff and four UK fulfilment centres. The two firms did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

Both Weezy and Getir offer grocery deliveries within 15 minutes ordered via a smartphone app.

Getir launched in 2015 and expanded into London in January 2021. It has since started operating in 15 towns and cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

Getir said its acquisition of Weezy “further solidifies Getir’s long-term commitment to the UK market”.

In its most recent funding round Getir tripled its valuation to $7.6bn and has also expanded to the US.

“Teaming up with Weezy, which has quickly established itself across the UK, is an exciting opportunity and one that complements our people-first belief and business approach,” said Turancan Salur, Getir UK general manager. “We look forward to welcoming Weezy’s customers, employees and partners to the enlarged group.”

Weezy has raised a total of £19.2m in funding, with £15m of that coming in January this year. In March it expanded to Bristol, adding to its operations in London, Brighton and Manchester.

However, there were signs that Weezy was struggling financially. It reported revenue of £161,400 against losses of £676,000 in 2020 – despite the boom in home deliveries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And last week Weezy closed five of its dark stores in an attempt to stem losses, despite its co-founders telling UKTN in March that it planned to open more than 40 UK sites by the end of 2021.

Kristof Van Beveren, CEO and co-founder of Weezy, said: “We are incredibly excited to continue our journey in disrupting the skyrocketing ultrafast grocery market. Getir has an unparalleled track record of achievements and experience with an equally ambitious team.”

The rapid grocery delivery market has attracted large amounts of investor cash that has effectively subsidised discounted or free delivery for consumers.

Analysts have warned that the number of companies offering rapid delivery is unsustainable given the majority run at a loss.

Last month Berlin-based rival Gorillas raised nearly $1bn in a sign that investors still have an appetite for the rapid grocery delivery market.

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