VC legends

The Business XL and GP Bullhound Investor AllStars Awards recognised the nous, nerve and acumen of some of the key players on the UK's thriving venture capital scene.

Private equity isn’t all champagne and caviar, but it certainly does have its moments of glamour. The annual Investor AllStars Awards, held this year at London’s Park Lane Hilton, saw over 600 of Europe’s venture capital elite gather together and be acknowledged for cutting-edge deal-making over the past 12 months. During proceedings, more than £6,000 was also raised for the Prince of Wale’s trust for youth businesses.

The awards were presented by BBC newsreader Emily Maitlis and recognised achievements in a range of categories, from Jon Moulton’s Triumph over Adversity to VC Personality of the Year. Nominees included long-established global giants such as 3i as well as relative newcomers such as investors’ network Hotbed.

Venture Capital Fund of the Year

Winner: Index Ventures
Nominees: Advent Venture, Amadeus Capital, Balderton
Capital, DFJ Esprit, NewMedia SPARK, Scottish Equity Partners

Perhaps best known for its investment in Skype, sold to Ebay in 2005 for an initial consideration of US$2.6 billion (£1.3 billion), Index Ventures kept up the pace this year with the highly profitable exit of music website, which was sold to CBS for £142 million, and the successful launch of a new e350 million (£242 million) fund.

Bernard Dalle, general partner at Index, is optimistic about next year too: ‘Deal flow continues to be very strong, and we are looking to strengthen our team.’

Venture Capital Trust of the Year

Winner: Octopus Private Equity
Nominees: Beringea, Close Ventures, Electra Quoted, Matrix, YFM Group (British Smaller Companies VCT)

Octopus raised £49 million for its VCTs last year, representing 18 per cent of the total market. Chief executive Simon Rogerson attributes the popularity of the trusts to two factors.

‘First, people invest to make money, and both the Eclipse and Phoenix VCTs performed extremely well,’ says Rogerson. ‘Second – and this is one area where we are head and shoulders above others – is the level of service and communication we offer to our client base.’

Octopus will launch Titan VCTs 1 and 2 this month, which will maintain its focus on early-stage ventures.

Equity Gap Fund of the Year

Winner: North West Business Investment Scheme
Nominees: Eden Ventures, Finance Wales, IQ Capital, Midven (Advantage Growth Fund), Oxford Capital Partners, The Capital Fund

This category considered the achievements of funds set up to bridge the equity gap for early-stage ventures. The North West Business Investment Scheme, which is managed by YFM Private Equity, impressed judges with the quality and scope of its portfolio.

Private Investor Network of the Year

Winner: Hotbed Group
Nominees: Envestors, London Business Angels, MMC Ventures, Octopus Ventures

According to the judges, Hotbed stood out because of its strong team, high-quality deal flow, heavyweight backing and ability to attract good co-investors. The network was established in 2002 and last December it purchased the freehold of its new office in Kings Cross for a cool £8 million, £2.8 million of which came from its members. It makes investments of £500,000 to £5 million across a range of sectors.

International Deal of the Year
Winner: Sudbrook Associates (Safeguard)
Nominees: Nigel Weller (I-CanNano), Alps Ventures (OM Energy), Nordic Venture Partners (Player X), Wellington Partners (Zopa)

Sudbrook Associates leads investments into early-stage ventures in the life sciences sector. The judges were impressed with the firm’s ability to secure backing from public and private investors in the UK and North America for Safeguard, which develops portable technology providing rapid diagnoses of diseases or genetic defects in plants and animals. Says James Culverwell, partner at Sudbrook: ‘It was a very international deal, which is always difficult to execute, but it gives us a good shareholder base to support the business going forward.’

Exit of the Year

Winner: Eden Ventures & Kennet Venture Partners (Cramer Systems)
Nominees: 3i (Domantis), Index Ventures (, NewMedia SPARK & Beringea (Mergermarket), Bridges Ventures (Simply Switch), The Capital Fund & NewMedia SPARK (Touch Clarity)

The winners fought off close competition in this category, in particular from Index Ventures for its sale of However, the sale of software developer Cramer to customer experience specialist Amdocs for US$425 million (£208 million) was judged to be the stand-out exit due to the resolve shown by its investors in sticking with the company through peaks and troughs, culminating in ‘one of the best software deals ever done in Europe’.

VC Personality of the Year
Winner: Mark Farmer (Eden Ventures)
Nominees: Raymond Abbott (Albany Ventures), Chris Allner (Octopus Private Equity), Simon Cook (DFJ Esprit), Simon Cornwell (Amadeus Capital Partners), Frederic Court (Advent Venture Partners), Philip Newborough (Bridges Ventures), Helen Reynolds (The Capital Fund)

Mark Farmer of technology-focused VC Eden Ventures was commended for leading investments into highly sought-after businesses such as converging media specialist Apertio, software developer Ontology and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) business Truphone.

Service Provider of the Year

Winner: Kreos Capital
Nominees: Brown Rudwick, O’Melveny and Myers, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Spectrum

Venture debt provider Kreos Capital invests alongside VCs to provide additional leverage to risky early-stage businesses. It was commended for its professionalism and entrepreneurial approach to debt financing, showing no trepidation in lending where banks fear to tread.

Jon Moulton’s Triumph over Adversity Award
Winner: Paragon Group

This award recognises the achievements of a management team that has turned around a failed £200 million start-up, National Home Loans, into a FTSE 250 company with a ten per cent share of the UK’s buy-to-let market.

Outstanding Contribution Award
Winner: Danny Rimer (Index Ventures)

The second award for Index Ventures on the night, this was an acknowledgement of Rimer’s achievement in growing Index from an unknown name into one of the leading VC brands in Europe. As one judge put it: ‘Every time you look at a good deal, Danny is already there.’

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...

Related Topics