Growth creators: Power Top 50 2010

The entrepreneurs who make things happen. The investors who refuse to stand still. Meet the Business XL Power Top 50, the most influential risk takers and deal makers on the UK's growth company scene.

Business XL magazine’s annual Power Top 50 ranking identifies the leading movers and shakers among UK entrepreneurs and investors. Read on for the full list and follow the links for more information.

1. Jeremy Leggett, CEO, Solar Century (-)
This seasoned eco-warrior decided that campaigning, writing books and commentating in the national and international press on why we need a cleaner, greener planet wasn’t enough, so he decided to make a real contribution himself by setting up renewable energy venture Solar Century.

‘Many clients have got beyond the uncertainty barrier about whether the technology works and questions about whether it is good value. There are enough projects out there and installations in place for people to see that this technology works really well. It’s dead simple and good value, and that value will increase over time,’ says Leggett.

This award-winning, venture capital-backed company keeps on growing at a rate of knots and turnover is in excess of £30 million. Leggett’s vision is clear for the next five years: ‘We want to be the number one brand in building integrated solar thermal and photovoltaic technology’.

A trained geologist who turned his back on the oil industry to join Greenpeace, Leggett has become a pivotal figure between businesses and governments in the ongoing battle for a renewable revolution. ‘It’s all about how quickly we can accelerate this inevitability. There is a massive chance for visionary politicians to lead,’ he says.

2. Ben Holmes, partner, Index Ventures (-)
Keen tennis player Holmes served up an ace by overseeing the sale of gaming company Playfish to Electronic Arts for up to $400 million (£240 million) in November. ‘The investment holding period was about 14 months and I was in discussions with them for about a year and a half beforehand,’ says Holmes, who took a board seat as co-investor (Accel Partners was the other backer).

With around €800 million (£700 million) spread across two funds, Index remains the star investor on the European venture capital stage. Unlike some of its competitors, Holmes says the firm was ‘well capitalised’ going into 2009, so there was no need to slow down the pace of new investments. Sectors such as mobile and the cloud are on his radar, while he believes e-commerce companies will continue to outperform more traditional retail businesses. ‘We are in a period of pretty significant technological change,’ he says.

As for exits, Holmes is hopeful that the market for initial public offerings (IPOs) will open up ‘in the next year or so’, and that there will be other trade buyers like Electronic Arts on the prowl for smart, disruptive businesses.

3. David Hall, managing director of private equity, YFM (9)
YFM remains the most active investor in deals of up to £2 million, according to research from Bureau van Dijk and Business XL, and that is set to continue. ‘We have plenty of money to invest between 2010 and 2012, and we will be increasing our level of investment over that time,’ says Hall. Through its various vehicles, which include venture capital trusts, government-backed regional funds and the stand-alone Chandos Fund, YFM has invested in more than 250 businesses around the UK, with early-stage concerns making up about two-thirds of this number.

4. George Coelho, MD and head of venture capital, Good Energies (36)
Backed by the wealthy Brenninkmeijer family, Good Energies is a force to be reckoned with in the renewable energy space. Coelho heads the venture division in Europe and the US and oversaw more than a dozen investments last year, plus the sale of Concentrix Solar to Soitec for €55 million. ‘This is the right time for green and I could be doing a deal a month, there is so much going on,’ observes Coelho, who must be the envy of other VCs when it comes to raising funds. ‘I don’t know what we have in total as I just ask for what I need,’ he says.

5. Robin Klein, founding partner, The Accelerator Group (-)
Serial investor Robin Klein set up The Accelerator Group (TAG) with son Saul, a partner at Index Ventures. They focus almost exclusively on start-up and early-stage internet businesses, with a ‘sweet spot’ for investment of around £100,000. ‘For us, this is a real business,’ says Klein. ‘We don’t approach it like your typical angel who puts a little bit of money to work – it’s something we are dedicated to and are passionate about.’ TAG’s record speaks for itself. Its first success (‘the one that kept us in business through the first dot-bomb’, says Klein) was It’s also had interests in (sold for $280 million), Dopplr (snapped up by Nokia last year) and Agent Provocateur (bought by 3i for £60 million). The current portfolio includes movie rental star LoveFilm, consumer lending business Wonga and giant-slaying specs supplier Glasses Direct. Of 64 businesses backed by TAG in its ten-year history, four have been home runs (returns of ten times money or better), three tripled the Kleins’ investment and 15 were failures, while 42 are still active.

The Kleins also run Seedcamp, a start-up mentoring and funding programme that has been going for three years. ‘It’s just part of our attempt to replicate what they do so brilliantly in the Valley,’ says Klein. ‘We very much see London as the hub of the European tech scene.’

6.Tim Smit, CEO, The Eden Project (-)
Courting controversy and dividing opinion, Dutch-born Tim Smit claims his Eden Project has brought £1 billion into the Cornish economy since the green tourist attraction was founded at the turn of the millennium, on top of what it spends with local suppliers. While steering clear of overt political affiliations, the former music producer believes passionately in the power of social enterprise to change communities and business, and he is one of the government’s social enterprise ambassadors (along with the likes of Big Issue founder John Bird). Not content with that, he pioneered the Sexy Green Car Show and recently entered a partnership with the government of the Maldives ‘to help it become the world’s first carbon-neutral country’.

Smit is a firm believer that ‘the overwhelming respect that is handed to the City of London is fantastically damaging’ and loathes the defeatist approach towards the UK’s manufacturing industry, advocating further government borrowing to ensure the UK becomes a world leader in low-carbon technologies.

7. Wol Kolade, managing partner, ISIS Private Equity (7)
‘There are not many people around who understand how to operate in a low-growth environment,’ says Kolade. ‘The last time we had this was from 1990 to 1996, when there was very little real growth. Actually, it was a more interesting period, because you don’t have people sucked into competing with you [so a business can gain significant market share].’

ISIS has around £650 million of funds under management and scored a respectable exit in 2009 after UnitedHealth Group, a US-quoted global health business, acquired ScriptSwitch. For Kolade, a cautious approach will be the order of the day this year: ‘We won’t go back to 2007 levels of investment for some time. The recovery will be slow and steady, rather than a sudden upswing.’

8. Anne Glover, co-founder, Amadeus Capital Partners (3)
One of a handful of female VCs, Glover is the leading light of Amadeus Capital Partners. The firm is a little more than halfway through investing its latest £162 million fund, and has started to work with portfolio companies with a view to exit. ‘We’ve seen underlying growth in all our companies except one that was focusing on financial services,’ says Glover, who adds that IPOs may be on the horizon towards the second half of this year. There’s been progress at printed electronics innovator Plastic Logic which launched its first product, the Que Reader, in Las Vegas in December, while fuel efficiency specialist GreenRoad, based on ‘Israeli technology run out of California whose main market is the UK’, has won some important contracts. Amadeus did three new deals last year, while it continues to invest from its £20 million seed fund. ‘We are staying committed to seed, which very few VC investors are,’ adds Glover.

9. Simon Cook, CEO, DFJ Esprit (5)
Under Cook’s stewardship, DFJ Esprit is steadily building its credentials as a serious player on the European venture capital stage. At the end of last year, the firm said it aims to raise €150 million for its third fund, DFJ III, while also announcing the formation of Encore Ventures, which entailed taking over the European venture portfolio of 3i in a fund sized at up to £170 million.

10. Gervais Williams, head of UK smaller companies, Gartmore (-)
A star of the small-cap scene, Williams manages the £200 million Gartmore UK and Irish Smaller Companies Fund and the £100 million Fledgling investment trust, which focuses on the minnows of the full list. Despite last year’s rally, he says valuations of smaller companies are still ‘pitiful’.

‘We’re heading into a prolonged period when economic growth will be modest and there will be little opportunity to get decent earnings growth on the Main Market,’ he says. ‘The opportunities some small companies have to expand in spite of the low rate of growth in the economy will attract further capital.’

11. Peter Jones, investor and serial entrepreneur (-)
If you can’t forget, then at least try to forgive Jones for the string of questionable adverts he has appeared in of late. This serial entrepreneur is using his celebrity status gained on Dragons’ Den to good effect as he travels the country to promote the virtues of entrepreneurship. Education is a big issue for Jones and he’s put his money where his mouth is in setting up his National Enterprise Academy for young people. He says: ‘Becoming an entrepreneur is a lonely road as not many people will pat you on the back as you’re finding your way, so you’re doing it on your own, but it does give you the freedom of choice to enable you to make your own decisions.’

12. Jon Moulton, founder, Better Capital (1)
A spectacular falling out with colleagues saw Moulton quit Alchemy last September, the private equity firm he was instrumental in founding 13 years ago. He explains: ‘My colleagues did not want to do turnarounds and I did, and that was the crux of it.’ Rather than enjoy his dotage, Moulton resurfaced with Better Capital, which specialises in mid-market turnarounds, investing between £5 million and £30 million at a time. He demonstrated his credentials by raising £142 million on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in just eight weeks.

Moulton, who seems energised by his new role at Better Capital (he’s now also the chairman of broker FinnCap), expects plenty of turnaround opportunities over the next 24 months. ‘On balance, whoever wins the general election will carve into public expenditure. That, combined with an increase in interest rates, means that it is quite likely that the economy will be doing very poorly and will possibly be back in recession by the end of the year.’

13. Bernard Fairman, managing partner, Foresight Group (10)
Several years ago Fairman made the decision to concentrate on cleantech. It’s proving to be a wise move as the firm has grown to 30 staff, has offices in the UK, Italy and Spain, and is building up quite a war chest. The infrastructure fund aims to raise £300 million (Fairman expects £100 million in the first close), while a second solar investment fund is set to raise €250 million later this year. Foresight’s venture capital trusts (VCTs), meanwhile, remain some of best-performing funds in their class. ‘Over the last three months of the year, when VCT fundraising started with a vengeance, around £13 million was taken and we took half of the whole market within that period,’ he says.

14. Sara Murray, chief executive, Buddi (-)
Using the money from the sale of to set up Buddi four years ago, Murray has bagged a number of awards of late for her GPS tracking device company. She also sits on the governing body of the Technology Strategy Board and is currently chairing a sub-committee on entrepreneurship. Personally, she thinks more can be done to help early-stage companies: ‘Funding is a huge issue. If you ask VCs, they say it’s not about funding but that’s strictly from their point of view as the vast majority of companies don’t get backing.’

15. Patrick Reeve, managing partner, Albion Ventures (6)
Reeve and his team are enjoying life at Albion after the buy-out from Close Ventures. The team of 21 runs a portfolio of 55 companies. Says Reeve: ‘The economy has been really difficult, but what I find interesting is that the consumer, in certain sectors, has been much more resilient than I was expecting. Trading hasn’t fallen off in our pubs; health and fitness clubs continue to grow and our cinemas are full as well.’

16. Eric Archambeau, general partner, Wellington Partners (4)

Fearing the worst for 2009, Archambeau was pleasantly surprised to see companies show good traction and respectable growth. This was notable in the internet space, where Wellington now has the likes of online music service Spotify in its portfolio of 35 companies. With €750 million in funds under management, he reveals that ‘50 per cent of our resources and investment will now be in cleantech’.

17. Kate Bleasdale, executive vice-chair, Healthcare Locums (-)
As a rule, the recruitment industry suffers hard during a recession. Bleasdale has no such concerns with Healthcare Locums, which specialises in providing healthcare agency staff across the globe. The company has opened new offices in Australia, Canada and Abu Dhabi, and recently signed an agreement with South Korea to train and develop the country’s healthcare staff for international placements.

18. Jamie Constable, chief executive, RCapital (31)
Shooting to prominence with the takeover of Little Chef, turnaround firm RCapital made three new investments last year, including doorstep lender Morses Club and high-tech measurement company Plowman Craven. Constable, who enjoys racing Ferraris in his spare time, says that rather than looking for recession-proof businesses, the search is on for survivors that are still dangerously over-leveraged.

19. Marion Bernard, chief executive, NorthStar Equity Investors (40)
NorthStar may have only £100 million of funds under management but it continues to pick winners under difficult circumstances. A good example is Middlesbrough-based software start-up, which received £60,000 from NorthStar in 2008 and has gone on to attract £750,000 from investors including a number of high-profile US funds. Bernard says the purse strings may be loosened in the not too distant future as NorthStar is set to manage a new fund of around £100 million.

20. Tim Levett, executive chairman, NVM Private Equity (-)
Five exits in 12 months saw NVM generate an extra £50 million on a combined initial investment of £13.6 million. The pick of the exits was the sale of DxS to diagnostics giant Qiagen for £82 million (£47 million in cash). With 30 companies in NVM’s portfolio and £175 million of funds under management, the latest batch of deals brings the cash kitty up to £70 million. From this strong position, Levett, a keen sailor, fully expects to navigate the choppy waters of the recession through new investments and reinvesting in NVM’s own portfolio.

21. Stephen Critchlow, CEO, Ascribe (-)
Fast-growing and acquisitive, Ascribe was taken off AIM by Critchlow but plans to keep expanding and then return to the Main List when the market cap is north of £200 million. Not only has this company achieved continual growth over the past 15 years, Critchlow calls Ascribe ‘the hottest company in Lancashire’.

22. Robert Small, CEO, Miniclip (-)
Runaway success story Miniclip grew sales 54 per cent to £19.2 million last year on pre-tax profits up 98 per cent to £5.8 million. The company offers free games to more than 50 million users and all growth since it was founded nine years ago has been organic. Chief executive Small was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008, and with its first iPhone game released recently, Miniclip’s growth shows little sign of slowing. ‘We are expanding aggressively, with offices in Switzerland, London, Estonia and Miami,’ says Small.

23. David Whileman, head of UK growth capital, 3i (-)
Down-to-earth Whileman says that the firm’s ability to help companies make acquisitions is a big incentive for them to accept investment. Primarily, this is what’s driving growth in the portfolio at the moment: diagnostics services provider Labco, for one, has made 14 acquisitions in the past 12 months. ‘We tend to know which companies are up for sale before other buyers, especially internationally,’ he comments.

24. Bob Holt, chairman and CEO, Mears Group (12)
Housing maintenance luminary Mears Group just keeps on growing, with the purchase of Supporta set to take the company’s market cap well above £200 million. Holt also chairs business consultancy Green Compliance, which raised £10 million and appointed a new CEO in December as Holt paid off £900,000 of its debt from his own pocket.

25. Alex Macpherson, chief executive, Octopus Ventures (16)
The early-stage ventures team at Octopus made eight new investments and did six follow-on deals last year. Octopus has raised more than £50 million for its three Titan VCTs and, with the launch of Titan 4 in November, aims to add another £25 million to the investment pot. Macpherson was one of the partners at Katalyst Ventures, which Octopus acquired in 2007, along with its powerful private investor network.

26. Bob Morton, serial investor and chairman of Tenon Group (-)
Greyhound enthusiast Morton is perhaps best known for his chairmanship of fast-growing accountancy firm Tenon Group. He’s been a ‘big investor’ in his favoured small- and mid-cap companies over the past 18 months, but now sees fewer opportunities. ‘Everyone is saying [the recovery] won’t continue, but the market is normally a pretty good indicator and the market says it will,’ he observes, though he doesn’t rule out the prospect of further ‘volatility’ along the road.

27. Alex Snow, CEO, Evolution Group (11)
Having taken an unfashionably bearish view of economic prospects at the end of 2006, Snow says there was little choice but to be correspondingly bullish two years later. ‘If it got any worse then getting the shotgun and bolting the door would have been the only way to go,’ says the former rugby player. Though AIM broker and nomad Evolution Securities, led by CEO Andrew Umbers, now accounts for a smaller share of group revenues, Snow declares, ‘I’m still a big fan of AIM.’

28. Mark Wignall, chief executive, Matrix Private Equity Partners (45)
Matrix sat on the sidelines in the early stages of the credit crunch. ‘We couldn’t get deals to work, so we didn’t complete any,’ says chief executive Wignall. In the second half, there were three new investments, including travel agent Iglu and florist Country Baskets. Wignall is particularly pleased with the sale of school meal specialist Pasta King for a return of more than three times money over three years.

29. James Caan, investor and serial entrepreneur (-)
Smooth-talking Caan made his millions in recruitment, but now has fingers in plenty of pies as lead partner of venture capital firm Hamilton Bradshaw and as co-chair of the Department for Business’s Ethnic Minority Task Force. Of course, he’s best known as the debonair Dragon on the BBC’s long-running show for wannabe entrepreneurs. He says the show has been instrumental in encouraging people to start a business, a point that sometimes gets missed by detractors. ‘I don’t know why it is, but in Britain we have a tendency to look at all the negatives, when we should just be inspired by people doing well.’

30. Charlie Mullins, founder, Pimlico Plumbers (-)
Banks should never be trusted. The worst is yet to come in the recession. Older people should be employed more often and Sir Alan/Lord Sugar doesn’t really know much about apprenticeships. So says Charlie Mullins, who in 2009 showed that he is not only the richest plumber in Britain today, he’s also the most vociferous.

31. Peter Baines, general partner, Advent Venture Partners (-)
‘Capital efficiency is one of our underlying principles,’ says Baines. ‘We haven’t had high-burn or highly leveraged companies so we’ve been able to adapt to the changed conditions quite well.’ With funds under management of around €600 million, Advent invested last year in special effects specialist The Foundry (whose software helped conjure up the alien world in the blockbuster Avatar) and exited digital media equipment concern Snell & Wilcox as the business was sold for £120 million. Mobile internet and software-as-a-service will be key themes for this year’s investments, Baines reveals.

32. David Holbrook, general partner, MTI (-)
Healthcare specialist Holbrook sits on the boards of companies including ApaTech, a synthetic bone graft developer. ApaTech was recently ranked as Europe’s fastest-growing life sciences company by Deloitte for its sales growth over five years. MTI was recently awarded the mandate to manage a new venture fund for the North West of England, along with YFM, and continues to put its weight behind companies at the spin-out and seed stage, making it one of the longest-established firms in the UK to do so.

33. Edward Mott, CEO, Oxford Capital Partners (-)
Sailing and gardening enthusiast Ted Mott (as he is known to most) is a passionate believer in the ability of scientific and technical innovation to drive financial returns. He co-founded Oxford Capital with son David in 1999 and has backed 34 early-stage ventures since then, many of them university spin-outs, of which he says only four have failed.

34. Nick Jenkins, chairman and founder, Moonpig (-)
With sales doubled to £21 million, soaring profits and a commanding market share, personalised greetings card business Moonpig is one of the unlikely winners of the recession. Jenkins says it’s all down to the content: ‘We are constantly looking for innovations so that when customers come back, there’s always something new there.’

35. Dale Vince, founder, Ecotricity (-)
Spurning VCs and the overtures of big businesses, Vince remains committed to building up the scale of Ecotricity by offering green electricity at the same price as traditional competitors in the energy sector. ‘In ten years’ time we are looking to be the seventh-largest energy company in the UK,’ says the former new-age traveller.

36. Susan Flynn, CEO, Hermes Private Equity (-)
Hermes Private Equity, which has BT’s pension scheme as its largest investor, was recently selected to manage £50 million of the government’s UK Innovation Investment Fund (now boosted to £125 million with co-investment from Hermes’ existing clients). The focus will be squarely on cleantech, says Flynn, a founder member of the Private Equity Investors Association.

37. Fred Destin, partner, Atlas Venture (-)
Belgium-born Destin focuses on digital media and internet companies, managing investments such as secondary ticketing exchange Seatwave and online property company Zoopla. A former specialist in hybrid derivatives at Goldman Sachs, Destin is now an enthusiastic advocate of early-stage investment.

38. Ashish Patel, MD, Intel Capital (2)
The investment arm of microchip giant Intel continues to pour money into innovative companies, recently announcing seven new investments totalling $25 million and ten follow-on deals. Patel sits on the board of several of ICAP’s portfolio companies.

39. Jonathan Kestenbaum, CEO, NESTA (46)
Once chief of staff to Apax founder Sir Ronald Cohen, who remains ‘the single most significant influence on my career’, Kestenbaum led the call last year for a new £1 billion fund for innovation. The government delivered, after a fashion, with the UK Innovation Investment Fund.

40. Rory Earley, CEO, Capital for Enterprise (-)
With a wealth of private equity and venture capital experience on his CV, as well as many years as a government adviser, Earley was a natural choice to head Capital for Enterprise, the organisation set up by the government to deliver its business support initiatives.

41. Marcus Stuttard, head of AIM (-)
‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ is a saying that tends to be heard from football pundits about strikers. It may also be appropriate to describe the performance of AIM during the recession. There may have been a drought of new issues and primary fundraisings, but secondary fundraisings broke the £4 billion mark last year, demonstrating the strength of the exchange.

42. Roger Parry, chairman, Media Square (-)
Former journalist and once CEO of outdoor advertising giant Clear Channel, Parry is steadily turning around the fortunes of marketing company Media Square. He is also involved in ‘two quite large debt restructuring projects’ for private equity portfolio companies, as well as being non-executive chairman of polling organisation YouGov.

43. Brent Hoberman, investor (-)
Gamekeeper turned poacher, Hoberman is using the vast experience gained from to identify great tech ventures for the future with PROfounders Capital.

44. Andy Brough, fund manager, Schroders (-)
Never short of an opinion, be it on football or macroeconomics, Brough has built up a strong reputation over the years by backing winning companies in the mid-cap space.

45. Simon Brickles, CEO, PLUS Markets Group (32)
Setting up a new stock exchange was never going to be an easy task, but ex-barrister Brickles is determined to make PLUS the natural home for growth companies trying to raise funds.

46. Mark Boggett, MD, Seraphim Capital (-)
Early-stage champion Boggett leads all the investments of Seraphim Capital, the first of the government’s enterprise capital funds, and is also a director at YFM.

47. Oliver Woolley, partner, Envestors (-)
Plenty of colourful terms have been used to describe the past 12 months. Woolley opts for ‘stonking’, noting that business angel network Envestors made 22 investments last year.

48. Jonathan Davis, financial adviser (-)
Buoyed by the house price crash, which he predicted, professional doomsayer Davis now makes regular media appearances (including on this website) to forecast crashing shares, plummeting property prices and diving currencies.

49. Peter Cullum, executive chairman, Towergate (13)
Rather than revel in the fortunes earned from insurance, Cullum is using his billions to develop future entrepreneurs at his beloved Cass Business School and back charities around the world.

50. Shilpa Shetty, private investor (-)
Bollywood beauty Shetty rose to UK fame on Celebrity Big Brother, but the investment made by her and fiancé Raj Kundra in Britain-based Indian food specialist V8 Gourmet has boosted her business kudos.

Casualties of 2009

Tim Campbell, Bright Ideas Trust (47)
We’re still waiting for some really bright ideas from the ex-Apprentice winner

Alki David, CEO, FilmOn (50)
The Greek billionaire’s venture is under pressure from market leader LoveFilm

Christina Domecq, CEO, Spinvox (37)
Undermined by its own spin, Spinvox lost money for its investors

John Dodd, Artemis (21)
The firm’s UK smaller companies fund has slipped down the performance rankings

Richard Feigen, formerly MD of Seymour Pierce (14)
From top AIM adviser to missing person, Feigen has vanished from the firm’s website


Business XL’s Power Top 50 is a completely independent ranking of investors, serial entrepreneurs and advisers to public and private growing businesses, compiled using the expertise of knowledgeable industry insiders and statistical analysis into transaction activity.

Some of the statistics used in the compiling of The Power Top 50 originate from the following sources:

The AIM Guide 2009/10
The essential information on AIM’s 1,360 companies

AIM in Review 2010
The most comprehensive investigation ever undertaken into London’s junior market

Contributors to The Power Top 50: Marc Barber, Nick Britton

Nick Britton

Nick Britton

Nick was the Managing Editor for when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

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