A proptech company which aims to be the ‘Airbnb for shared living’ has raised over £500,000 in additional funding from existing investors.

Worcester-based COHO has secured investment from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, and private investors. The funding will enable it to scale the platform, strengthen its management team and continue its rapid growth.

COHO is the only platform of its type specifically designed for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs). It allows property investors to manage their portfolio and tenants to find a house share with like-minded people.

The platform was launched in 2021 by serial entrepreneurs Vann Vogstad and Liam Cooper and inspired by Vann’s own experience of living in shared housing. In the past 12 months it has seen a ten-fold increase in annual recurring revenue.

The platform, which is now used by almost 200 landlords and lettings agents, is growing by around 20% month on month. The latest funding brings the total raised by the company to £750,000 and will help it continue its growth trajectory with the aim of raising a Series A funding round in the next 12 months.

Vann, who is the company’s CEO, said: “We set out to change the perception of co-living to make it a positive choice for people of all ages. However we recognised that what was lacking was a platform that made house sharing easier to manage for both landlords and tenants. COHO aims to fill that gap. The latest funding will allow us to continue our growth journey and establish it as the Airbnb for shared living.”

Kiran Mehta, Investment Manager at Mercia, said: “With people renting for longer, co-living is a growing trend. COHO is the only property management platform specifically designed for the sector and the rapid growth in uptake demonstrates the need for it. Vann and the team have made remarkable progress in the space of one year. We look forward to working with them to make it the clear leader in its field.”

Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “I am really pleased to see Worcestershire business, COHO, raising additional investment to support their rapid growth plans. The organisation was part of our BetaDen Technology Accelerator programme and the team have continued on their growth journey since completing the programme and it is excellent to be able to celebrate their investment success twice in the last 6 months. With this investment, the organisation will be able to expand their team and platform, both playing a key role in boosting the local economy.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is committed to backing innovative regional companies with global ambition. COHO is the perfect example given its strong performance since the first funding round from MEIF. Access to finance is a crucial aspect of helping companies such as COHO to fulfil their potential, and we encourage other Midlands tech companies to consider MEIF funding.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund 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 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

A proptech company which aims to disrupt the lettings industry has raised £750,000 to help establish itself as the leading rental platform for landlords and tenants.

lettingaproperty.com has secured investment from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, and Mercia’s EIS funds.

The funding will enable it to further enhance its technology and build its subscriber base in the run-up to a Series A investment round next year. The company, which is based in Henley-in-Arden, plans to create around 15 new jobs in the next 18 months.

lettingaproperty.com is one of the UK’s longest established online lettings companies and offers landlords a full suite of services including finding tenants, digital referencing, tenancy creation, rent protection and home emergency cover. It claims that its landlords save on average 50% compared to the cost of using a high street lettings agency.

The company was founded in 2008 by Jonathan Daines, who was previously lettings director for a high street estate agency chain, and his brother Matthew, former director of quality for Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands hotel with Kevin Neary, co-founder of games retailer GameStop Group, as Chair. As part of the deal, Matthew Farrow – the former finance director of online estate agency PurpleBricks – has been appointed as Interim Finance Director to oversee future business scaling.

lettingaproperty.com increased subscribers by 100% in 2021, raising revenue to over £1m and is on course to reach £1.6m in the current year. It now manages almost 1,500 rental properties across England, Scotland and Wales.

Jonathan Daines, the CEO, said: “Our ambitious vision started back in 2008 and is gathering real momentum, supported by this investment plus key board appointments. We are excited about our future growth potential and the opportunity to disrupt the traditional high street lettings model. We aim to make renting out your property long-term as easy as filling your holiday let on Airbnb, and become the go-to choice when renting out property.”

Stephen Windsor of Mercia added: “Jonathan has used his experience in property management to digitally enhance each step of the tenancy journey. lettingaproperty.com is one of the longest-established rental platforms and is unique in that its technology is backed by an experienced lettings team. The investment will enable the company to scale the business faster and cement its position in the market.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said: “The MEIF continues to back innovative companies looking to expand and develop within their industries. This funding will support the creation of new jobs in the region, while allowing lettingaproperty.com to invest in expanding its tech offering. Other companies looking to follow a similar growth plan are encouraged to consider MEIF funding.”   

Sean Farnell, Board Director at Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), said:

“Leading innovation is one of the key pillars of CWLEP’s Strategic Reset Framework and it is important the area’s business community continues to develop and grow to attract investment and encourage cluster growth. Warwickshire businesses such as lettingaproperty.com are embracing digital technology to become leaders in their field and this new funding will play a pivotal role in their future expansion.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund 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 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

A fast-growing employee engagement platform has raised £1.5m for international expansion in an investment that is set to create 15 new jobs.

WorkBuzz has secured the funding from its existing backers Mercia and Foresight, both of which invested via the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), alongside funding from private investors.

The Milton Keynes-based company has more than doubled the size of its team since the original investment in March 2021, and now employs 35 staff, with plans to create an additional 15 jobs by the end of the year. Revenue has also more than doubled to £2m, while annual recurring revenue is continuing to grow by around eight per cent a month.

The latest funding will enable WorkBuzz to expand its sales and marketing team and ‘internationalise’ the platform, by adding new features and languages in preparation for further expansion, having already attracted a range of new clients in Australia. The company is planning a Series A fundraising in 2023.

WorkBuzz was launched in 2018 by Steven Frost who had previously run an employee engagement consultancy. It is now used by clients including Shell Energy, Premier Foods, HS2, Hovis and restaurant chain Five Guys.

The platform helps organisations to gather real-time feedback from their people, improve employee experience and build a more inclusive culture. HR managers are able to launch surveys in minutes, while algorithms help them analyse responses and highlight any areas for potential improvement.

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Steven Frost, CEO of WorkBuzz, said: “Here at WorkBuzz, we are on a mission to help organisations create cultures where every voice matters and every person can be their best. With generational talent shortages, fundamental shifts in how millions of people work and changing employee expectations, we’re excited to use the funding to amplify the difference we can make, faster.“

Stephen Windsor of Mercia added: “Organisations today not only face the challenge of managing remote workers, but also finding and retaining staff in a very tight labour market. WorkBuzz helps them to meet the challenge. With uptake of the platform growing rapidly in the UK, the latest funding round will help the company prepare to launch it on the global stage.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “The MEIF supports Midlands-based businesses with ambitions to grow their international presence , and WorkBuzz is a perfect example of this. Through the funding, companies can help to upskill the wider Midlands region by creating new jobs and expanding into new markets.”

Vicky Hlomuka, SEMLEP’s Growth Hub Manager, said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see so many businesses in our area securing the investment they need to continue to grow, innovate and diversify. WorkBuzz is a fantastic example of this, providing a highly valuable service that makes organisations not only more efficient but more inclusive and more attractive to job seekers.”

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 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

 

A fast-growing HR software platform that helps firms to manage the performance of employees in different locations has raised a further £3m from existing investors.

StaffCircle has received funding from Blackfinch Ventures and the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund. The latest investment round, which brings the total funding raised by the company to date to £5m, will allow it to enhance its platform, expand its global reach and expand its team by creating 10 new jobs.

Leicester-based StaffCircle enables companies to save time and maximise productivity by engaging employees, building a strong company culture and creating exceptional employee experiences.

The move to hybrid working has helped fuel the company’s growth. In the previous financial year to the end of March, it has almost tripled its annual revenue bringing it to over £800,000, and is on course to break through the £1m mark in the coming months.

StaffCircle has more than doubled its customer base in the last year and now offers its services to 125 organisations from different industries including the Food Standards Agency, financial services firm finnCap, housing associations and NHS bodies, with international clients in the US and Canada.

StaffCircle was founded in 2017 by serial entrepreneur Mark Seemann, based on his own experience in managing remote teams. The company uses the platform itself to manage its own growing workforce of around 45 staff, some based in Leicester and others at locations around the UK. The latest funding round will also enable it to add new features including succession planning.

Mark Seemann, Founder and CEO of StaffCircle, said:

With hybrid working here to stay, companies need the right technology to manage and motivate teams in different locations. StaffCircle is helping an ever-increasing number of organisations to keep their employees connected and improve productivity. We are delighted to have continued support from our existing investors. The latest funding round will help us to build momentum and take the company to the next level.”

David Baker, Investment Manager at Mercia, said:

“StaffCircle’s focus on managing remote workers has helped to differentiate it from competitors and achieve significant growth. The company has already gained significant traction in the market, and this latest investment will take it closer to its goal of becoming the leading end-to-end provider of  employee  experience  software.”

Commenting on the follow-on investment from Blackfinch, which has previously invested £1.76 million in StaffCircle, Dr Reuben Wilcock, Head of Ventures at Blackfinch, said:

“We’re delighted to have led StaffCircle’s latest investment, and to be backing Mark’s vision for his platform, which is helping create a high-performance culture in companies around the world. We have witnessed StaffCircle’s impressive and consistent growth since we first invested in 2020 and are looking forward to supporting the team on the next phase of their journey.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said:

“The MEIF continues to support growing businesses and this latest round of funding for StaffCircle will allow the company to once again scale up and create new jobs in the area. The investment in StaffCircle is the perfect example of how the MEIF can help growing businesses in the Midlands to expand and create a positive economic impact in the region.” 

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund 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 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

A Stamford entrepreneur who aims to disrupt the dry-cleaning industry by installing automated drop-off points in shopping centres and railway stations has raised £550,000.

Vicky Whiter has secured investment from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, as part of a syndicate which also included Seedrs, members of Lincolnshire Business Angels and other angels.

Vicky developed the concept after buying Peters’ Cleaners, an established dry-cleaning business, and recognising the need to improve efficiency and provide out of hours services. Customers register online and the automated pods enable them to drop off and collect their dry cleaning at any time by simply scanning their membership card.

The company’s first two pods – at Peterborough Station and a local shopping centre – have been popular with customers and the funding will enable the business to install more pods at two other high footfall locations in the area before rolling out the concept across the UK.

As part of the deal, Stephen Harrison, who has previously worked in roles at PepsiCo, Asda and Dolland and Aitchison, has been appointed as Chairman. He is also the former finance director of Sandpiper CI, which operates franchises in the Channel Islands including Morrisons, Marks and Spencer and Costa Coffee.

Vicky, who held business development roles in Hong Kong, Singapore and London before buying Peters’ Cleaners in 2016, said: “I noticed I was unable to access dry cleaning facilities out of hours and saw a gap in the market. The pods are accessible 24/7, providing the perfect solution. They are a modern approach to a traditional service and are a great addition to our existing stores.

“The dry-cleaning landscape has massively changed over the years, particularly during the pandemic when a lot of companies went out of business. It was time for the industry to introduce new ways to provide customers with cleaning services that fit around their lifestyle. We’re delighted to be the driving force behind this change.”

Sandy Reid of Mercia added: “Dry cleaning is a sector where there has been little or no innovation in years, yet businesses have been struggling with margin erosion as costs have increased. Vicky is a driven and ambitious entrepreneur who we are pleased to back. The pods have been well received by customers and attracted interest from rail operators and shopping centres. The funding will enable her to franchise her model to expand it throughout the UK.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “The Midlands Engine Investment Fund was set up to identify gaps in small business funding and to provide support to companies with innovative new ideas that create jobs and help to level up the region. It’s good to see that using the MEIF’s funding, Peters’ Cleaners will be able to expand the business in the Midlands and across the UK.”

Pat Doody, Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Vicky’s business idea is a great example of how new technology and automation can transform the way we live our lives. The pandemic forced many businesses to reassess how they operate, and we are still feeling the effects of Covid-19 rippling through the economy.

“Entrepreneurs like Vicky are leading the way by using advanced technologies to disrupt their industry, and we’re pleased to see that she’s received significant financial support from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund. We wish her the best of luck in her new venture!”

Russell Copley of Greenborough Management and Laura Mallaburn of Lincolnshire Business Angels provided fundraising advice to the company.

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund 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 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

A West Midlands company which has developed a unique charity fundraising platform has secured £1.25m in investment to help further enhance its technology and expand its client base.

Stourbridge-based GivePenny Technologies has secured investment from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, Mercia’s EIS funds and private investors.

The GivePenny platform enables charities to create digital fundraising experiences for their supporters that  can be linked  to popular apps like Strava, Twitch, Fitbit, YouTube and Spotify. Unique features designed for charities, fundraisers and donors helps to increase user donations and engagement.     .

GivePenny was founded in 2015 by Lee Clark after an illness prevented him from taking part in a 100-mile bike ride for charity. He realised none of the time spent or miles covered during his training counted towards the donations made by his friends. The platform allows users to share data and base donations on different metrics, such as the amount of miles covered, milestones achieved, or by adding songs to playlists.

GivePenny is used by the likes of Mind, Cancer Research UK and Help for Heroes and has  raised over £3.5m in total for charities. The company’s figures show that fundraising pages that use the  app integrations raise three times more than pages that did not use the features.

Lee Clark, CEO of GivePenny, said: “Engaging the public to encourage fundraising is key for charities and GivePenny makes it easy for them to achieve this. The pandemic accelerated the move toward digital fundraising experiences and increased the need for innovation.  As big rises in the cost of living create greater need for charity services against a tougher fundraising landscape, GivePenny’s mission has never been more important. This investment will enable us to further enhance the platform and help more charities – big and small – to continue their valuable work.”

Kiran Mehta, Investment Manager at Mercia, said: “The growth in virtual fundraising events has created a gap in the market for a platform such as GivePenny. Lee and the team have created a strong product that sets itself apart from the competition in the way it integrates with other apps to increase engagement and donation size. The funding will help the team to establish GivePenny as a leader in the field.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said:“The MEIF aims to provide financial support to small and medium businesses in the Midlands to  support growth. GivePenny is a perfect example of how the MEIF supports innovative ideas with levelling up potential to contribute towards the region’s socio-economic growth.”  

Tom Westley DL, Chair of the Black Country LEP, said: “The MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund is ideal for supporting companies like GivePenny Technologies that have real capacity for growth and an opportunity to position themselves as a market leader. The Black Country LEP’s role is to support businesses, like GivePenny, in expanding and developing so that we continue to see our local and regional economy grow.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund and Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund projects are 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 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

Three University of Birmingham students who developed a software platform that cuts the time taken by teachers to mark maths and science papers have raised £800,000 to help them commercialise the system.

The funding has come from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, Mercia’s EIS funds and capital from angel investors.

Graide, as the platform is known, arose from a PhD thesis written by Robert Stanyon. He and his co-developers, Manjinder Kainth and George Bartlett, recognised the need for the system while working as teaching assistants during their post-graduate studies.

Graide is aimed at higher education institutions and can be used to mark both coursework and exam papers for ‘STEM’ subjects. It can not only assess the final answers, but also a student’s workings. The system, which incorporates artificial intelligence, learns an assessor’s marking style so they do not have to grade the same answer twice. As the assessor works through the paper, Graide automates more and more of the feedback.

The team estimates that the system can reduce grading times by an average of 89 per cent while giving students seven times as much feedback. Graide is already being piloted at six universities in the UK.

The developers set up a company to commercialise the software. 6 Bit Education is based at the Birmingham Research Park on the University of Birmingham campus. The funding will enable it to build its team, creating two new jobs, and adding new features to the platform.

As part of the investment, Mercia has introduced two EdTech specialists from its Non-executive Director Network. Andrew Doyle has been appointed as Chair while Tony Austwick joins as an adviser.  Both have significant experience in early and growth stage technology companies, and the education sector.

Manjinder Kainth, CEO of 6 Bit Education, said:

“Providing high quality feedback is essential for students, but it is time-consuming to deliver and can be plagued by inconsistencies. Graide addresses this challenge. This investment will accelerate our traction by increasing the size of our commercial team. It will also fund some exciting features on the product roadmap that could see Graide extend from science and maths departments to roll out across the whole campus.”

Kiran Mehta, Investment Manager at Mercia, said:

“Manjinder and the team have done an excellent job building a product that increases staff efficiency while generating a strong sales pipeline at home and carrying out early market exploration in the US. It’s been a pleasure supporting the team to bring in this significant investment and to enhance the strategic direction of the business. I look forward to working with the enlarged 6 Bit team on the next stage of their growth journey.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said:

“The MEIF is here to support innovative businesses expand and grow. With this latest funding round, 6 bit will be able to introduce its automated marking software into more UK universities, as well as expand into overseas markets. We encourage other tech companies in the Midlands to consider MEIF funding to support their business growth plans.”

Anita Bhalla, Interim Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) said:

Seeing digital technology businesses like 6 Bit secure funding reinforces how digitisation can create solutions and efficiency in business processes. This MEIF funding will support 6 Bit in growing its team and increasing their budget as their product is rolled out to more universities across the country. Allowing businesses to unlock their potential like this is critical to GBSLEP’s mission of driving inclusive economic growth.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund and Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund projects are 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 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

Graide is an end-to-end assessment and feedback platform for STEM subjects, where you can build assignments to deliver digitally or on paper. Graide allows you to give feedback digitally or on scans, directly on the platform and gives you immediate insights into student performance.

Card Industry Professionals offer card payment solutions including POS, card terminals and online payments. Everyday CIP support thousands of businesses to process payments. Card Industry Professionals have a team of experienced and knowledgeable sales professionals, providing the latest, most secure and advanced hardware and software payments technology available.

A fast-growing card payment solutions provider aims to treble the size of its business following an £850,000 investment.

Grimsby-based Card Industry Professionals has raised the equity funding from both the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) and the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), managed by Mercia.

Founded in 2017, by award-winning young entrepreneur Ciaran Savage, Card Industry Professionals provides card terminals, point of sale and online payment solutions to thousands of merchants throughout the UK. It focuses on SMEs including retailers, hair and beauty salons and hospitality businesses, and offers a range of solutions to suit different trading volumes and requirements.

The company has doubled its revenue each year since it launched. The management team has also been bolstered by the addition of Ciaran’s mother, Lyn Savage, as operations director, and sales director John Selby, who, between them, have over 40 years’ experience in the payments industry.

Card Industry Professionals employs a 13-strong team in Grimsby and has a nationwide network of over 130 sales agents. It currently processes over £25m worth of transactions per month and aims to triple that number in the next 18 months. The funding will enable it to strengthen its board, create around 10 new jobs in Grimsby, and continue to expand its product range by incorporating the latest innovations in payments and fintech.

Ciaran Savage, founder and director, says: “This is an exciting moment for Card Industry Professionals as we continue to grow and develop. The investment will enable us to deliver our long-term plan to support and introduce many more merchants to new and emerging payments technology. As we shift to more contactless and digital payment methods, we want to make it as easy as possible for merchants to access and adapt to the new payments technologies available, feel supported with the implementation and enable merchants to provide the choice and flexibility to their customers. With this investment we can develop upon our portfolio of products, as well as expand our sales team throughout the UK and customer support teams based within our head office.”

Maurice Disasi of Mercia added: “The pandemic has accelerated the uptake of contactless payments and many smaller firms – particularly ‘cash-led’ businesses such as takeaways and hair salons – are having to adapt. Card Industry Professionals focuses on this underserved market and is ideally placed to help businesses make the transition to alternative payment methods. The funding will enable the company to stay at the forefront of technology and expand its market share.”

Sarah Newbould  at British Business Bank, said: “It’s good to see both the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and the Midlands Engine Investment Fund investing in Card Industry Professionals, providing the business with the means to expand its team, as well as develop its product and fintech offering. We encourage other businesses who are looking to grow to consider investment from the Bank’s regional funds.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and the Midlands Engine Investment fund are 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 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.