broadbandchoices launches TV ad campaign
BGF portfolio company broadbandchoices has launched a new TV advertising campaign featuring ‘Carlos The Caveman’ and ‘Ben’ to raise awareness of its Ofcom-accredited price comparison website.
The company, which received a £10m growth capital investment from BGF in September 2012, can save visitors to the website over £400 from their annual broadband, home phone, mobile and digital TV bill. With bundling options becoming more varied and complicated, broadbandchoices brings together tariffs from lots of different providers, and allows people to filters these options according to their preferences – so they know they’re getting the right deal. The new ads are part of the company’s plan to accelerate growth, and are being broadcast throughout the UK. Since BGF’s investment, the business has acquired mobile phone comparison site rightmobilephone.co.uk and gained traction in its European territories and the Spanish market especially.
Click here to watch Carlos and Ben demonstrate how easy it is avoid missing out on great savings by using broadbandchoices.
BGF portfolio company broadbandchoices.co.uk targets mobile market with new acquisition
22 January 2014
- Acquisition adds mobile phone comparison platform to suite of services
- Acquisition latest in a string of strategic developments over the last 18 months
- Mobile comparison service to launch in Q1 2014
broadbandchoices.co.uk, the UK’s leading Ofcom-accredited comparison site for switching broadband, phone and entertainment services, has purchased mobile phone comparison site rightmobilephone.co.uk. The purchase is the first acquisition the business has made since receiving a £10m injection of investment funding from the Business Growth Fund in October 2012.
The acquisition rounds off an eventful 18 months for broadbandchoices, which saw it commence national TV advertising; gain traction in its European territories; and swell staff numbers to more than 70 in a recruitment drive that boosted several departments in the firm including marketing, IT, senior management and finance. Having acquired rightmobilephone’s platform technology, broadbandchoices will now launch its own mobile comparison solution in a move that will bolster the company’s position in the sector.
Michael Phillips, managing director at broadbandchoices.co.uk commented:
“We already have a solid footing in broadband, phone and TV services but mobile was the missing piece of the puzzle for us. The mobile phone market represents a huge opportunity for us and we are confident that our brand campaign will give us the edge in a competitive industry.
“It was important to bring the right partner on board and rightmobilephone’s technology is a natural fit for our business that will let us rapidly launch and further develop mobile comparison services for our customers both in the UK and abroad.
“I am relishing the opportunity to grow this part of the company over 2014 and look forward to the launch of our new mobile phone comparison service this Spring.”
The founders of rightmobilephone, Neil McHugh and James Zielinski, will join the broadbandchoices team.
Jessica joined BGF in 2012 and is responsible for sourcing and completing investments. As part of her role she works with the boards of 3Sun, Camino, Flowline and Workshare.
Prior to this she worked for Goldman Sachs in their UK Coverage M&A team, providing corporate finance and M&A advisory to clients across numerous sectors including retail, industrials and TMT. Jessica started her career as a civil engineer with Atkins, specialising in transport infrastructure and geotechnical design.
Jessica holds an MSc in Finance from the London School of Economics and a BEng in Civil Engineering from University College London.
“It is both a privilege and an inspiration working alongside so many ambitious entrepreneurs and management teams. As our own business grows, we hope to work with many more through supporting them to invest in growth.”
- Giggling Squid (Board Observer)
- Flowline (Board Observer)
- 3sun Group (Board Observer)
- Thames Card Technology
- PTS Consulting Group
- Abacus e-Media
- Camino (Board Director)
- Workshare (Board Observer)
Mark joined BGF’s in March 2012 and is based in Milton Keynes. He is responsible for deal origination, execution and portfolio management.
Mark previously worked at Hermes Private Equity and HSBC Principal Investments, investing capital across a number of sectors. Prior to that Mark qualified with KPMG as a Chartered Accountant, spending nine years in KPMG’s Birmingham and London offices in audit and transaction services.
When not at work or with his young family, expect to see Mark cycling at a rate of knots across the Chilterns.
“The best thing about my role as an Investor is meeting and working with teams who have exceptional energy and vision who have built something of value, typically from scratch. It is a real privilege to have the opportunity to help those teams achieve their immediate and long-term ambitions.”
- Olive Communications (Board Director)
- Rethink Group plc
- Molecular Products Group (Board Director)
- The Consulting Consortium (Board Director)
- 3sun Group
- PTS Consulting Group (Board Director)
- Broadbandchoices.co.uk (Board Director)
Chris is skilled in developing equity solutions to meet the growth objectives of ambitious management teams, the companies they run and their shareholders.
Chris is an investment professional and non-executive director with over 15 years of experience leading growth capital, buyout and venture capital investments. His sector experience includes software, aerospace/defence, engineering, media (technology and creative services), semiconductors, telecommunications and alternative energy. Chris’s responsibilities on the BGF team include leading our regional coverage of Cambridgeshire, East Anglia and Essex.
Chris has a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and a M.A. in Physics from the University of Oxford. Prior to joining BGF, he served with The Carlyle Group for nine years, 3i Group plc and P.A. Consulting Group.
“The exciting part of my role at BGF is about understanding the short and long term objectives of owner-managers and tailoring a solution that gets them where they want to be. It’s not just about investing patient, minority capital. I find that BGF can really help in situations where there is a desire to align in figuring out corporate strategy, succession planning and shareholder transition.”
- Four Communications (Board Director)
- Molecular Products Group
- 3sun Group (Board Director)
- The Exchange Lab (Board Director)
- Abacus e-Media (Board Director)
- Workshare (Board Director)
- M Squared Lasers
- Unruly Media
FUNDING SALES & MARKETING
“We call it the ‘ugly duckling syndrome’,” says Sarah Wood, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Unruly, a London-based company that is one of the world’s leaders in social video campaigns. “Businesses like ours reach a stage where they’re no longer a fluffy chick start-up, but nor have they become a Google-like beautiful swan – yet they still have to compete against both of them.”
It’s a common theme amongst successful business founders and entrepreneurs. If getting the business off the ground was difficult, making the leap to scale and global reach can be even more challenging and nerve-wracking. One of the biggest problems is that building a sales and marketing infrastructure capable of acting as a springboard for that leap requires financing and specialist expertise. Growing businesses are often short on both.
At Unruly, founded in 2006, the business had reached a critical moment by 2011. “We’d run almost 2,000 campaigns but when you hit a certain size it feels uncomfortable to start taking even bigger risks without a cash cushion on the balance sheet because there are inevitably going to be problems to overcome at some stage,” says Wood. Unruly had made a big splash in New York but was desperate to open an office in Chicago, while also needing to get a Berlin presence up and running and move into Asia. “Geographical footprint is so important when you’re dealing with Fortune 100 companies,” says Wood. “The trouble is it takes the same investment of time and money for a business like us to open new offices and subsidiaries as it does for a huge multi-national, but they have much greater resources to play with.”
To make matters worse, time was pressing. “We knew organic growth wouldn’t be quick enough,” Wood adds. “There were no market leaders in the US or Germany, so this was a real window of opportunity.”
It was at this stage Unruly began negotiations with BGF. “We considered other types of financing, including debt, but we wanted backers whose interests were aligned with our own,” Wood explains. Tim Whittard, a BGF investment director based in Birmingham, says the sort of growth capital Unruly sourced is perfect for growing companies that want to develop sales and marketing with the aim of taking the business to the next level. Such companies need new people, as well as infrastructure that may range from scalable IT platforms to physical property, but none of this spending generates an immediate guaranteed payback.
“Investment in sales and marketing is all about preparing the ground for growth but it is cash-burning and speculative – you’re just not going to be able to raise debt to support that,” Whittard argues. “In any case, even if you could fund these investments with debt, there are good reasons not to: with an equity partner, and particularly with BGF, you’ll also get commercial support, including a presence on the board, and hugely valuable access to networks of useful contacts.”
This was exactly what Richard North, chief executive of toy development company Wow! Stuff, was looking for when his business reached critical mass. “We were making good money but we were also aware there was a ceiling,” North recalls. “As an entrepreneur, you always wonder if you could do something really big, but you also have a fear of failure, and we felt we’d reached a crossroads – that if we were really going to go for it, which we had the ambition to do, we’d need help.”
Wow’s discussions with BGF were completed over the course of a few weeks early in 2012, securing a £4.8m investment in the company. North wanted the cash to fund an Asian office that would oversee local production and quality control, to fund expansion into the US and to beef up product development, but the arrangement was not simply a financial one.
“Running a business is lonely – very often you don’t even know what it is you don’t know,” North says. “With BGF, we’re in it together and I’ve come to see that as just as important as the money they’ve provided – more so really.” Not least, they have introduced an exceptional non-executive director to the company with toy industry experience at the highest level, whose networks have already helped Wow to move closer to mass market volumes.
Software business Celaton has also been in recruitment mode since securing a £2.5m equity investment from BGF in January 2013. “The difference this money has made to us is that we can invest in the right people to go for growth,” says Celaton’s chief executive, Andrew Anderson. “Good sales directors and marketing directors don’t come cheap and we’ve already made some fantastic hires.”
However, Anderson points out that development of sales and marketing requires more than just additional people. “It is also about the effort that goes into marketing and sales; BGF encouraged us to spend three months conducting some good old-fashioned market analysis that we’d simply never had the resources for in the past,” he says. “You can waste an awful lot of time and money doing the wrong things and that analysis is already providing us with some priceless intelligence.”
Anderson did at least consider other sources of finance when he realised Celaton’s growth potential was being curtailed by its lack of capital. “Our bank was very supportive, but it brought out its standard lending models and we just couldn’t get the boxes ticked,” he says.
Celaton also held talks with several other equity investors before settling on BGF. “They were only interested in a minority stake, but, also, they were prepared to work with us,” he says of the decision. “With the venture capital firms we met, we always felt we were working for them – they gave short notice of meetings, for example, and were hugely demanding about the information they wanted and then their key people wouldn’t turn up.”
In the end, it’s the relationship that matters most, says BGF’s Tim Whittard. Sales and marketing investments require patience – and while they’re waiting to see those dividends start flowing, both investor and investee have to be able to work together constructively.
“My personal checklist when I’m thinking about whether a company has investment potential starts and stops with my assessment of its management – and its CEO in particular,” Whittard says. “He or she needs to be genuinely looking for a partner rather than being solely focused on the money – the chemistry is hugely important given that we’re going to have such a long-term relationship.”