Mercia EIS Funds

From 14 to 140: the evolution of Mercia Fund Management's AGM

[Above: Mercia Fund Management's AGM in 2014 was held at the Henley-in-Arden Golf Club.]

By Dr Mark Payton, CEO Mercia Technologies PLC

As Sunday night rounded into Monday morning, you’d be forgiven for waking up, looking out of your window and sighing as you greeted another cold, wet (or snowy) week in January. Nevertheless, despite the bitter cold and - if you’re lucky enough to live in Henley-in-Arden - pouring rain, we at Mercia Fund Management have been preparing this week to put on our best corporate casual, step into the ballroom of the Ramada Warwick Hotel and celebrate our eighth Annual General Meeting.

From key representatives in our portfolio of technology start-ups, to our network of private investors and advisors, this AGM brings together people from all over the UK for an, informative and – most importantly – entertaining – evening. It is a chance to celebrate the achievements of 2015, to reward those who have supported us over the past year, and to educate about what Mercia Fund Management is and will be as we look ahead to 2016.

It certainly does promise to be a diverse and stimulating evening, with over 140 guests attending, including all 24 members of the Mercia team, alongside four keynote speakers, which this year includes the Founder of the Games Workshop franchise, Ian Livingstone. Previous year’s speakers have included Jack Lang, the Co-Founder of Raspberry Pi, and Fraser Doherty (or the “Jam Man”), Founder of SuperJam.

From humble beginnings – back in 2008, we welcomed just 14 guests to our AGM – to a steadily growing fund management business with 14 university partners and an EIS/SEIS portfolio of over 40 companies, there will certainly be a lot to shout about as we celebrate the story of Mercia and the work we continue to do in commercialising tomorrow’s technologies.

2015: A Year in Four Words

1. Balance

Last year, we made many new investments into exciting, innovative technology companies, including: Medherant, developers of an innovative patch delivery system that was recently featured in Forbes; and Intelligent Positioning, a company specialising in real-time search intelligence and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) analytics solutions for businesses. Mercia Fund Management’s portfolio has now achieved an effective balance, across both stage and sector of company. We have invested in companies from initial seed, start-up and spinout, to more developed companies that we have worked with to accelerate growth and revenue generation – the critical validation of a successful business model.

And, of course, we continue to invest across our key sectors, which include:

Digital entertainment, from PC to the talk of the town for 2016 , Virtual Reality;
The Internet of Things, or the wonderful world of talking refrigerators;
Life sciences – innovative ways of making drugs safer, relieving cost burdens to our stretched NHS, and keeping us fit and active (“new year, new me”, right? …No, me neither);
Electronics and hardware, or everything that keeps us connected;
Advanced materials and specialised manufacturing.
2. Expansion

Since the first of our investors huddled together in the Henley Golf Club on a cold January in 2008, we have seen our capital under-management increase as our network of investors and advisors has continued to grow. That means more tax-efficient SEIS & EIS money to invest in more fledgling start-ups across the Midlands, the North and Scotland. We also opened a new office in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, alongside six new university partnerships in both the North of England and Scotland, where we believe there is a wealth of untapped potential. Of course, such expansions mean our team needed to grow too, and we have had many important additions throughout the year, including:

Peter Dines, an Investment Director who joined in February to become Head of Life Sciences;
Paul Devlin, who now heads our Scottish contingent;
Dr Nicola Broughton, who now leads our Technology Transfer team, dedicated to supporting university spinouts from our partner universities and beyond, and;
Michael Anderson, our Head of all things Marketing, who will continue to make sure the world knows what we are doing here at Mercia.
3. Innovation

In the summer of 2015, we became the first fund management business to offer our investors access to two innovative online services: the Investor Portal and Virtual Share Exchange.

The Investor Portal – Communication and Transparency: Winning the EIS Association Innovation Award back in 2014, our Investor Portal was made fully available last year to all of Mercia‘s investors across both its institutional and private investor funds under management. The portal offers our investors the ability to monitor the performance of their funds, as well as facilitates access to vital documentation such as digital copies of EIS and SEIS tax certificates, PDF portfolio reports and quarterly Advisory Committee reports. All of this is packaged neatly in a visually appealing, easy-to-use dashboard.
The Virtual Share Exchange - Facilitating buyer and seller: Our industry-leading Virtual Share Exchange provides investors with the opportunity, where offers are available, for investors to sell EIS/SEIS shares, providing a degree of liquidity to an otherwise illiquid investment. The platform is also supported by a messaging system which keeps the investor updated on offer progress. We hope to continue innovating and expanding our services as we move into 2016.
4. Leading Edge (OK, so technically it’s a year in five words)

We remain confident that no other investment business does what we do, as well as we do. That is, patient investment via a unique hybrid funding model – what we like to call a Complete Capital Solution that supports technology start-ups from seed right through to growth and a potential exit, using our third party funds via Mercia Fund Management for start-ups and early stage businesses, and then funnelling through our brightest stars, which then receive direct investment from our AIM-listed Mercia Technologies PLC.

Our team of investment directors, which includes the former CEO of SEGA, Mike Hayes, provide industry leading expertise in their field, helping to not only source great investment deals, but also to help grow the businesses in which we choose to invest, by offering guidance and support. We’re also ahead of the curve, picking sectors such as content development for virtual reality ahead of other investment businesses. And we’ll continue to do so as our team expands!

So with all of that in mind, we look forward to donning our best casual, braving the cold and raising a glass to the continued success of Mercia Fund Management!
For more information on what went on at Mercia Fund Management in 2015, please visit www.merciafund.co.uk.