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Case Studies

Case studies provided by the Impact Investment Advisory Group (IIAG) not only evidence the advantages of private equity involvement, but also the opportunities impact organisations represent.

The case studies below demonstrate how a significant social and/or environmental impact can be achieved alongside financial return, benefiting a variety of stakeholders.

The Gym Group case study The Gym Group
case study

Credit Kudos
Backed by Ascension Ventures, Fair by Design Fund


Estio Training

Background

Fair by Design first invested in Credit Kudos in early- 2019, with a £250k seed stage investment followed by a further £250k as part of the company’s Series A fundraise in early-2020.

Many people in the UK face difficulties when trying to get access to affordable credit. Traditional credit scoring agencies often make assumptions about an individuals’ credit worthiness, issuing low scores based on ‘thin’ credit files. As a result, many people are unfairly excluded from accessing financial products or accessing products at competitive rates.

Credit Kudos is an innovative credit referencing agency helping people access responsible finance they can afford. Founders Freddy and Matt are on mission to provide fair credit for all, harnessing the power of Open Banking.

Approach

Credit Kudos have developed a range of products designed to help providers of credit make better decisions harnessing Open Banking.

Their platform embeds Open Banking into the lending approval process, verifying transaction data on prospective borrowers directly from financial institutions. This is designed to help provide fairer credit for all, helping individuals demonstrate their true creditworthiness using real, up-to-date financial data and increase lending amongst a wider population of borrowers.

For lenders, their product is helping streamline the credit approval process, increasing lending volumes and helping lenders predict default early.

Rationale

Credit Kudos are challenging the status quo and disrupting the existing credit referencing systems by creating a new process that is radically better than the existing system.

In 2019 they teamed up with Serve and Protect Credit Union (SPCU) for Nesta’s Affordable Credit Challenge to create solutions that could benefit the broader Credit Union and community lending market.

Since inception, Credit Kudos have served 59,429 customers (cumulatively) and are currently working to understand how many of their customers would have otherwise been declined loans and what the poverty premium saving. The expected saving for individual borrowers is estimated to be £130 per annum.

The impact intent of Ascensions investment into Credit Kudos can be better understood via the five dimensions of the Impact Management Project framework:

WHO: customers seeking affordable credit including those with thin files and; suppliers and distributors of financial products

WHAT: enabling more people access affordable credit through fairer and more accurate credit referencing and; helping more lenders provide loans to more people more efficiently

HOW MUCH: global, wide-reaching

CONTRIBUTION: medium-high, high amount of inertia in financial services sector

RISK: does not provide credit to target demographic, unintended consequences – data security surrounding open banking

Estio Training
Backed by Palatine Impact Fund


Estio Training

Background

Palatine invested in Estio in September 2018, as the third deal in its impact fund.

Estio is an IT and digital apprenticeship training business serving both the SME and Apprenticeship Levy markets. The company is based in Leeds and has additional training centres in Manchester, Birmingham and London. The training hubs are located close to areas of multiple deprivation.

Apprenticeships are formal training programmes designed to gain a recognised qualification and transferable skills through a mix of on the job training and classroom learning. Increasingly apprenticeships are being seen as an alternative to going to university with the appeal of being able to work towards a qualification whilst being paid instead of leaving university with debt meaning that apprenticeships much more accessible all.

Estio provides 10 digital and one project manager course, at Level 3 (approx. ’A’ Level equivalent) and Level 4 (year one degree level). Vendor Qualifications from respected bodies such as Microsoft have been integrated into Estio’s programmes.

Approach

Within the first few months of investment Estio had opened a new, substantial training centre in Birmingham, recognised as a relatively underserved area, and developed Data Analyst and Business Analyst Apprenticeship courses in response to employer demands.

The business is scaling its training numbers rapidly, increasing from 600 apprenticeships in July 2018 to over 1000 in February 2019.

In 2017 only 17% of IT specialists were female and their pay was 11% less on average than their male counterparts. To address the gender gap in its enrolments Estio is conducting outreach into schools, including girls’ schools, using female alumni as ambassadors as well as participating in regional ‘girls into IT’ projects. Currently, Estio report that enrolment for women on their IT apprenticeships is around 28%.

A baseline ESG review has been conducted in early 2019 from which a number of ESG opportunities have been identified, including reducing fuel consumption and associated carbon emissions by encouraging coaches to use digital methods to contact students and the adoption of a company-wide green travel plan. Further ESG business improvements are likely to follow.

Rationale

Estio is an Apprenticeship training business enabling learners to gain recognised in-work qualifications designed to lead directly to specific job roles in Information Technology. The company addresses issues such as youth unemployment and a national, growing skills gap in IT by making it easier for candidates to be successfully matched with funded industry training places, typically leading to excellent new or enhanced career prospects in the growing and sought after skill area of IT and digital technology.

Click on the button below to view the full Estio Training case study.

VIEW FULL CASE STUDY

Video Case Study

Click the play button below to view Estio's video case study.

Estio Training video case study

Fair By Design Fund
Backed by Big Society Capital


Fair By Design

Background

People living in poverty or on low incomes usually have to pay more for essential products and services than those who are better off, this is known as the poverty premium. A 2016 report by the University of Bristol revealed that the poverty premium paid by low-income families is, on average, £490 per year. For example, purchasing gas and electricity via pre-payment tariffs or buying a domestic appliance through rent-to-own schemes results in significantly higher total costs than paying by direct debit or an upfront payment. This can compound already difficult financial situations.

Big Society Capital believes the poverty premium is a solvable problem. It can be tackled through a combination of:

  • adapting regulation to protect low-income consumers;
  • influencing change at a business level;
  • building greater awareness among the general public;
  • and providing investment to challenger businesses looking at cheaper, better ways to deliver essential goods and services.

Research on UK poverty was presented to Big Society Capital by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (“JRF”) in 2017.

As an impact focused Limited Partner (LP), Big Society Capital believes in identifying difficult, entrenched societal problems and working to understand how impact investing can be part of the solution.

Over 2017, Big Society Capital and JRF worked with those interested in tackling UK poverty to co-design the concept of the Fair by Design Fund (“FBD”), an investment fund that would invest only in companies that provide solutions addressing the poverty premium.

We released a call for fund managers in order to find a General Partner (“GP”) who could be part of the solution to poverty in the UK. The call specified credible investment experience in venture investing and a passion for delivering measurable impact in the eradication of the poverty premium.

The result is a multi-agency two-pronged approach. The FBD Fund is spearheaded by Ascension Ventures (“AV”). AV has been investing in technology businesses since 2012 and its management are exited entrepreneurs with 75+ years’ experience working in tech and finance. AV has completed 85+ investments in early-stage tech businesses in rounds ranging from £100,000 to £3m. They have invested alongside some of the country’s best-known angels, VCs and corporates, in all areas of the UK. They have experience structuring deals and embedding the appropriate incentive packages and KPIs to give start-ups the best chance of performance.

The FBD Campaign is managed by a Trust called Barrow Cadbury. The Campaign work includes raising awareness, influencing policy, regulation and collaborating with corporates to the design and roll out of fairer goods and services.

The cornerstone limited partners of the fund are Big Society Capital, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Social Tech Trust. Currently at £10m, the fund is structured as a 10-year limited partnership.

Approach

The FBD Fund invests in companies seeking loans and equity funding from Seed through to Series A and beyond. The Fund invests in exceptional businesses designed to make an impact on the poverty premium. The Fund is collaborative and seeks deal-flow and co-investment opportunities from other funds, corporates, venture capitalists, venture capital funds and angel investors.

The objective of the Fund is to eliminate the poverty premium by 2027. It will achieve this by focusing on four key sectors:

  • In energy, the Fund is focused primarily on electricity and gas.
  • For finance the focus is on the problem lower-income consumers have accessing money and managing everyday credit and savings.
  • Insurance looks at the problem lower-income consumers have accessing insurance, such as the lack of more basic insurance products.
  • Geo-based covers a wide variety of costs imposed due to the location of a person’s home, such as food, insurance, transport and internet access.
Rationale

Investees include:

  • Switchee, the UK’s first B2B smart thermostat and asset management platform for large social landlords. It provides technology solutions that reduce energy use and spending by tenants, in particular those living in affordable housing properties, student housing and care homes. It also provides landlords with asset management and resident care insights.
  • Wagestream, which wants to end the payday poverty cycle by giving employees, including those who are on low income, the flexibility to stream earned wages into their accounts whenever they need to. It helps employees avoid payday lenders and escape the cycle of debt.
  • Incuto, a hosted banking technology platform which is transforming Credit Unions and Community Development Finance Institutions into a community-focused challenger banks.
  • Emrgnt, which develops and operates intelligent local energy systems, delivering cost savings to building products owners and cheaper electricity and heat bills to domestic customers.
  • Kraydel, a smart connectivity platform seeking to improve the quality of life and independence of its users, tackling social isolation and supporting a proactive approach to wellbeing and enabling the provision of services that address digital exclusion.
  • Credit Kudos, is a challenger credit bureau that harnesses Open Banking data to measure creditworthiness in a fairer way, helping individuals get access to services at better rates, by fully understanding their financial situations instead of a one-dimensional credit score.
  • We are Digital tackles social isolation for elderly and vulnerable people, helping them stay independent for longer through its smart connectivity platform and ancillary digital services inaccessible to them
Impact

In 2018, FBD’s investee businesses supported 25,079 customers and the poverty premium is estimated to have been reduced by £700,246, which equates to £28 per person.

The Fund and one of the investments Wagestream were recently featured in an Economist article.

 

Farmdrop
Backed by LGT Impact Ventures UK


Farmdrop

Background

LGT Impact Ventures UK (“IVUK”) invested in Farmdrop in June 2018 as part of its strategy of investing in fast growing, for-profit companies whose product or service is impactful and scalable.

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in London, Farmdrop enables customers to order products which are sourced directly from farmers to their door in 24 hours, with 85% of home deliveries arriving in 0% emission vans powered by 100% renewable energy.

Farmdrop gives customers access to affordable, farmers’ market-quality items, while providing farmers with larger revenue share than other retailers.

Farmdrop’s mission is to disrupt the grocery industry by offering a new, fairer model to producers that favours ethical and organic production; reducing carbon and waste in supply chains; and giving consumers a platform to conveniently and affordably change their buying habits to create and catalyse change.

Approach

IVUK has an active Board role with Farmdrop, supporting operational initiatives as well as recent work around impact and the brand.

The team have also enjoyed joining delivery drivers on their routes to get a real feel for the customer experience.

The Farmdrop model benefits three primary stakeholders; producers, the environment and consumers. This model provides a platform for producers to reach a larger market and receive a higher percentage of the retail price, increasing the sustainability of their livelihoods. The model also encourages customer loyalty through producers’ profiles and stories which help build an engaged customer base.

Farmdrop allows consumers to connect with local producers, curating ethical/organic food at a lower cost than comparable alternatives. As the food can be transported from farm to fridge within 24 hours, it is fresher and better quality. The business provides viable alternatives to supermarkets at competitive prices, giving consumers agency and promoting change in competitors.

Farmdrop addresses the unsustainable way in which food is produced and consumed. This is recognised by 3 of the SDGs: 15 (Life on Land); 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); and 12 (Responsible Consumption). To help counteract the negative impacts that large-scale intensive industrial farming has on the environment, Farmdrop sources within 150 miles wherever possible and delivers within 15 miles of the hub; working with ethical suppliers whose products have reduced packaging. This in turn, reduces food miles and encourages more ethical farming. Only the items ordered get picked, thus reducing waste to a couple of baskets per day. There are currently 170 small scale, independent producers who supply Farmdrop.

Rationale

Strong favourable macro trends. Consumers are increasingly interested in food provenance and sustainability but have limited agency to vote with their wallets due to the lack of convenient, affordable alternatives.

Incumbents unable to meet demand. Traditional supermarkets are poorly placed to meet this demand having: (i) sold on price over provenance; (ii) already invested heavily in very large centralised warehousing; (iii) tolerated slow innovation cycles; and (iv) eroded consumer trust by obfuscating supply chains.

Strong producer network. The way in which Farmdrop interacts with its producers means it benefits from: (a) supplier/company co-dependency; (b) a direct network effect; and (c) a marketplace network effect, and as a result, builds barriers to entry for potential future competitors.

VIEW FULL CASE STUDY

 

HireHand
Backed by Mustard Seed


HireHand

Background

HireHand makes it easier for businesses to staff flexibly. HireHand does this via advanced matching technology that enables large companies to build internal flexible workforces and small companies to access external labour pools to fill shifts. Founded in London by a labour optimisation specialist from McKinsey, HireHand is trusted by thousands of businesses and individuals as the sustainable solution to their labour needs.

Inflexible staffing costs shift-based businesses billions each year and is the primary reason cited by their workers for leaving their jobs. Businesses want to match labour levels to what actual business activity requires and to offer work to people that fits around their own lives. They can't do this on their own, however, and turn to HireHand for support.

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, HireHand has repurposed it's technology to support charitable organisations manage volunteers to carry out essential tasks (e.g., meal delivery) in support of vulnerable populations across the UK. In these challenging and uncertain times, HireHand is helping charities manage the peaks and troughs of their volunteering needs and to efficiently utilise the overwhelming number of volunteers who want to help. Dozens of organisations ranging from national charities like Magic Breakfast to the NHS are using HireHand's advanced matching technology to manage thousands of volunteers in delivering hundreds of thousands of meals to those that need it most.

Approach

Mustard Seed is a principal investor in world-class early-stage businesses that generate compelling financial and societal returns. They believe solving the greatest of societal ills drives commercial success in the long run. HireHand's mission is to make work sustainable today and for future generations through a combination of technical and operational excellence.

Following initial investment from Mustard Seed in 2017 followed by subsequent funding rounds, HireHand has been able to build a world leading solution to help businesses staff flexibly.

The core insight that drives HireHand's solution is that prioritising the needs and preferences of workers on par or at times above those of businesses leads to the best commercial outcomes for businesses. Mustard Seed - on the basis of its aforementioned investment thesis - has HireHand in building this insight into its product and operations. Practically, HireHand's advanced matching algorithm is unique in that world in prioritising factors like getting workers the hours they state they need. And HireHand's means of distributing shifts - powered by an intelligent invite sequencing engine - is calibrated to give workers time to consider shifts as opposed to driving a "fastest finger" approach to job acceptance. This approach is why businesses realise up to a 10% reduction in labour costs and similar level of increase in staff retention combined with higher employee satisfaction.

In the context of Covid-19, the HireHand solution is helping charities achieve best in class commercial outcomes such as in excess of 97% fulfillment rate of volunteer shifts filled and drastically reducing the amount of time managers used to spend matching volunteers with shifts.

Rationale

All businesses across white and blue collar sectors are looking to staff more flexibly in response to continued cost pressures and clear preferences from workers to fit work around their life, not the other way around. Given this, the need for HireHand's sustainable flexible staffing solution is rapidly growing within and across multiple sectors. The fact that HireHand has built its technology and operating model from a functional - labour optimisation - rather than sector specific orientation places it uniquely amidst a fragmented and low tech incumbent landscape. HireHand's functional design can be seen in its rapid response to the Covid-19 crisis in which it launched and achieved significant adoption in a new sector in a span of three weeks.

 

Second Nature
Backed by Bethnal Green Ventures


Second Nature

Background

Bethnal Green Ventures (BGVs) first invested in Second Nature in 2015 when co-founders Chris and Mike were accepted onto their Tech-for-Good accelerator programme. Second Nature has since grown to reach over 15,000 users, and successfully attracting investment at Seed and Series A stage with funding rounds led by Connect and Beringea, respectfully. BGV made an initial investment of £15,000 and have participated in subsequent funding rounds with total commitments of £165,000 to date.

Former health strategy consultants, Chris and Mike founded Second Nature to help tackle the growing social issue of obesity by providing people with personalised support to make lasting lifestyle changes.

Nearly two-thirds of adults in the UK are overweight or obese, significantly increasing their risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type 2-diabetes. Many people struggle to lose and maintain a healthy weight, lacking appropriate support to make lasting change.

The financial cost attributable to people being overweight is projected to reach nearly £9.7 billion by 2050.

Approach

Second Nature helps people change their eating and exercise habits to reduce their risk of weight related chronic disease. Its 12-week weight loss programme combines behavioural science and technology, delivering tailored support at an affordable price. Second Nature helps people stay on-track beyond the initial programme through its online support network of likeminded individuals.

It was the first online habit change programme to be commissioned by the NHS and their programme can also be accessed directly by customers via its website.

Rationale

Second Nature has scaled to reach over 15,000 customers of which almost 10,000 recorded an average weight loss of 5.9kg at the 12-week mark. Their published and peer-reviewed scientific data concludes that much of this weight loss is sustained at the 6-month and 12-month mark — a key indicator of long-term, beneficial, lifestyle change.

The impact intent of BGVs investment into Second Nature can be better understood via the five dimensions of the Impact Management Project framework:

WHO: adults who are overweight or obese living with or at risk of weight related long-term health conditions; clinicians supporting patients through weight-loss.

WHAT: behaviour change app and programme to prevent or reverse Type II diabetes.

HOW MUCH: UK-wide and expanding. Reached over 15,000 customers of which almost 10,000 recorded an average weight loss of 5.9kg at the 12-week mark with significant amounts.

CONTRIBUTION: High, losing just 3% of body weight can significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing obesity related complications.

RISK: patients do not make long-term behavioural changes and do not reduce their risk of weight related diseases.

VIEW STORIES

 

The Gym Group
Backed by Bridges Fund Management


The Gym Group

Background

Bridges Fund Management launched The Gym Group (TGG) in 2007, in line with its focus on building high-growth, high-impact businesses that are helping to solve big societal challenges.

In the UK, obesity rates have almost quadrupled in the last 25 years, with over half the adult population now overweight or obese; this has led to a huge rise in associated chronic health conditions, which according to Government estimates now cost the economy c.£27bn a year.

Access to quality health and fitness facilities can help to combat these trends – but at the time, gym membership was too expensive for all but a small proportion of the population.

Bridges was convinced that a disruptive low-cost gym concept could attract a much broader demographic – which would not only be highly impactful but also create a compelling growth market opportunity.

Since no such model existed in the UK, Bridges incubated the concept in-house and teamed up with CEO John Treharne to launch TGG in 2007.

TGG proved to be a strong commercial success as well as being highly impactful.

Eight years after launch, the business listed on the London Stock Exchange with a valuation of £250m.

All told, the investment delivered a 5.2x MM and a gross IRR of 46% to Bridges’ investors.

Approach

TGG was able to attract a much broader demographic of users than traditional gyms, thanks a low monthly price point, lack of contracts or joining fees, and 24/7 access.

Bridges worked closely with John to design the business model around this price point, developing a strong membership proposition based around quality equipment, innovative use of technology and excellent site selection.

From its first site in Hounslow, Bridges and TGG worked hard to optimise the site roll-out strategy

As of January 2019, TGG operates 159 sites across the UK, with a membership base of 724,000

About two-thirds of its sites are in underserved areas, and c. one-third of its members have not been members of a health and fitness club before, demonstrating that it is meeting an unmet need.

TGG has around 200 full-time employees – almost half of whom come from underserved areas – and it contracts with more than 550 self-employed personal trainers. It has focused on generating employment opportunities for the unemployed or those with low formal qualifications.

TGG has also introduced a Green Policy to minimise its negative effects on the environment. Every gym has sensor-controlled lighting, showers, WCs and wash basins; over 70% of the gym equipment is energy-efficient; and the joining process is totally paperless.

Rationale

The impact of Bridges’ investment in the Gym Group can be better understood via the five dimensions of the Impact Management Project framework:

VIEW FRAMEWORK

Since its investment in TGG, Bridges has gone on to apply the lessons learned from TGG to similar low-cost gym businesses in Europe (Viva Gym/Fitness Hut) and North America (Impact Fitness), further broadening access to affordable high-quality fitness facilities.

In total, Bridges’ capital has now backed around 250 low cost gym locations across 5 countries, serving over 1 million members.

Video Case Study

Click the play button below to view The Gym Group's video case study.

The Gym Group video case study

 

Winnow
Backed by Mustard Seed


Winnow

Background

Food waste is the defining problem of our generation. Globally ⅓ of all food from farm to fork never gets eaten and if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses after the USA and China. Food waste costs the global economy around $1 Trillion in lost output, around 1.5% of global GDP.

Winnow estimates that food waste costs the global hospitality sector around $100 Billion every year (approx $30k per kitchen). For an industry built on wafer-thin margins, this simply isn’t sustainable.

Food is wasted in kitchens not because chefs are lazy or want to throw away food, but because they lack the necessary tools to quickly and accurately record the food being thrown away. Without visibility into what is being wasted, chefs make forecasting errors overproducing by 5%-15% (in some rare cases up to 20%) of all the food they purchase.

Winnow develops cutting-edge digital tools to help chefs run more profitable, sustainable kitchens. Launched in a single staff restaurant in 2013, Winnow is trusted today by thousands of chefs in over 35 countries where food waste is consistently cut in half.

Approach

Mustard Seed is a principal investor in world-class early-stage businesses that generate compelling financial and societal returns. They believe solving the greatest of societal ills drives commercial success in the long run.

Following initial investment at the seed round in 2014 followed by subsequent funding rounds, Winnow has been able to build a world leading solution to solve for food waste in the hospitality sector.

Most recently Winnow has launched a groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) product, Winnow Vision. Winnow Vision is a new tool which will allow kitchens to automatically track food waste. It uses computer vision (a form of AI) to help chefs easily pinpoint waste, cut costs and save time.

The system takes photos of wasted food as it's thrown away and, using the images, the machine trains itself to recognise what has been thrown in the bin. Winnow’s test systems have reached and surpassed human levels of accuracy in identifying wasted foods.

Winnow is trusted today by thousands of chefs in over 40 countries where food waste is consistently cut in half. Together we are saving over 23 million meals a year from the bin, the equivalent of more than $30 million in food cost savings for our clients.

Rationale

Monitoring food waste is essential in the fight against hunger. 1.3 billion tons of food that is produced on our planet never gets eaten. The environmental cost of producing all that food is also staggering - if food waste was a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses after America and China.

Although the scale of the problem is enormous, it also presents a huge opportunity for businesses to recover value and become more efficient. Winnow does this by quantifying waste reductions using data collected by its users. To date we demonstrated significant impact:

  • Food waste cut in half in hundreds of kitchens
  • 4,750 tons of food per year saved from landfill
  • 23 million meals saved per year
  • Over 36,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions saved per year - the equivalent of taking over 7,500 cars of the road for a year
Video Case Study

Click the play button below to view Winnow's video case study.

Winnow video case study

 

Further information

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT THE BVCA

 +44 (0)20 7492 0400

 bvca@bvca.co.uk