Author: Shiv Patel
Hammock has on-boarded more than 1,700 managed properties onto its platform over the last 12 months, tracking over £7 million in rent.
Hammock customers span professional landlords with large portfolios (50+ properties) as well as smaller scale landlords (1 or 2 properties). From a B2B perspective, Hammock also has letting agents and property managers and works with accountants who act as a customer acquisition funnel by recommending the service to their landlord clients.
Hammock CEO and Founder Manoj Varsani: “At a practical level, we want to save landlords time and money. As a landlord, I know too well how time-consuming and inefficient it is to manage your properties with spreadsheets, paper notes and to collate data from multiple bank accounts. As a fintech expert, I realised that landlords and letting agents often rely on archaic technology and haven’t experienced the benefits of new generation tech solutions”.
“Landlords who use Hammock get real-time notifications about all income and expenses, so rent collection and cash flow management are easier to keep an eye on,” says Varsani. “They also get the tools they need to reconcile transactions as they happen, so they always know where they stand in terms of profit and loss. This means that compiling their tax statement goes from taking hours to taking minutes. Landlords can already get our functionalities if they connect their bank accounts via open banking. In September we’ll launch our own current account, so all functionalities will be natively integrated and the whole experience will be even more seamless”.
Fuel Ventures GP, Mark Pearson: "We're very bullish about the impact of open banking on bringing value to consumers through their account data, and Hammock is a great example of this happening for landlords, who now more than ever need to be able to track the performance of their property portfolios. In our initial discussions, we were incredibly impressed by Hammocks' early product and the progress they had made with the funding they had. We're incredibly excited to be part of this latest round of investment, giving Hammock the Fuel to bring real value to the UK's 2.5m landlords."
Other MediaHammock collects £1M seed for its current account for landlords and property managers – TechCrunch
How Fuel Ventures beganFuel Ventures technically started back in 2014 when we started raising our first fund, but my investment background started several years before. I started my own business, MyVoucherCodes, back in 2006 and grew it to a team of over 100 employees before exiting in 2014. At that time, I still owned 100% of the business, however, I was an active Angel investor into some other exciting fast growth UK based companies and had written some significant tickets.
After exiting MyVoucherCodes, I decided to set up Fuel Ventures because I enjoyed working closely with my portfolio and knew that I could bring significant value to other early stage companies. Fuel Ventures positioning as a ‘seed fund’ was really born out of this awkward space in startup growth, generally referred to as ‘The Valley of Death’, which is the funding gap between early Angel investment (£50K-£300K) and Series A (£3M+). This is the point where companies have a product built, are starting to get early commercial traction but don’t yet have the resources to grow aggressively and hit a point where Series A investors are interested.
It also is generally the point where founders find that they need some of their most active support, as they still can’t hire large teams. I strongly felt that this was the point where I could add the most value to companies, whilst also getting the best deal for LP’s. We spent the whole of 2015 raising capital and made our first investment early 2016. We have doubled the fund size each year since, and now have a great fund and portfolio support team in place and have proudly invested into 35 fast growth portfolio companies.
Industries of interestOur investment remit focuses much more on UX and monetisation models than sector. Officially, we invest into: marketplaces, platforms and SaaS model businesses both B2B and B2C. This means that we can cover a wide range of different sectors which allows us to diversify our fund really well, which, as a seed fund, is important for us. The only sector we actively won’t touch is medtech, biotech and pharma mainly because of the long turn over cycles and high cash requirement. Other than that, our portfolio covers a lot of different sectors.
The ideal founder?We’re not looking for perfection, what we are looking for is a super hungry and passionate founder/founding team with sector specific experience, good early coverage of leadership, product and tech positions and the drive to disrupt their industry with an innovative product.
The current portfolioWe love talking about our portfolio. We now have 35 portfolio companies in total which cover a wide range of sectors and 5 separate funds. So, rather than genrealise, let’s dive a bit more into some of our most recent investments.
OnBuy – we completed our investment into OnBuy at the start of 2020, they are currently the UK’s fastest growing marketplace and have grown significantly during the COVID period. They have grown nearly 980% YoY and have gone on to raise a successful Series A investment in a record 4 month’s from our initial investment at a 3.9x valuation uplift for our investors. It is our fastest growing portfolio company to-date. Prior to investing, we spent a lot of time grilling the founder, Cas, on his unit economics which we thought were the area that presented the most risk for the business. His experience really shone through at that point and we’re incredibly happy with OnBuys performance.
Gyana – We led Gyana’s latest round back in February of this year, they have since focussed heavily on the launch of their product Vayu, which was launched several months ago and has been a great early success. Vayu is a platform that allows no-code data science by automatically cleaning and visualising data sets. Gyana was the brainchild of Joyeeta Das and David Kell, who met at Oxford. We’re incredibly bullish about the use of no-code and low-code, especially in industries that have struggled to attract top tech talent.
Poplar – our most recent investment, Poplar was founded by David Ripert and Laurie Ainley, and came out of the Founders Factory accelerator. Poplar is a distributed marketplace for 3D and AR developers to create marketing campaigns for companies on demand. They’ve recently announced that they are one of TikTok’s first technology partners for AR Branded effects creation, as well as a Trusted Partner for Google’s 3D display advertising format, Swirl.
Our portfolio is continually growing and we’re always looking for new opportunities to invest into high growth potential businesses.
Changing with COVID-19Like everyone, we’ve been working exclusively from home over the COVID period, which is a significant change for us as we like to spend face to face time with our companies which is a key reason we’ve always pushed an all under one roof approach. However, the majority of our work can be done remotely and we’ve been able to remain an active investor, closing several deals during this time. Our portfolio is almost exclusively digital and hardware lite, so they’ve generally been able to adapt well to the disruption and we’ve even seen some strong growth from some.
Looking to the futureFor the sake of staying concise, I’ll draw on a few things that we think will affect us going forward:
Recession provides opportunity. We think that global recession in the next 12-18 months is highly likely (is already happening in some places), so a key part of our focus is investing in businesses that can thrive in such an environment. Recession doesn’t mean the world stops, it just means that habits change. Our job is to predict those changes.
Our relationship with companies and investors is likely to become more digital. As a result of COVID, a lot of our relationships have moved to online forums, and we now host a lot of our events online. We’ve found that for us, our companies and our investors that this actually works really well. We’re all busy people, and so removing travel from the mix has made events much more accessible.
The UK has some of the world’s best talent. We are an EIS investor, so we’re restricted to making investments into UK businesses or businesses with significant UK presence, and we’re fine with that. We maintain that the UK is still the number one place in Europe to build a unicorn company. Manchester was recently revealed by TechNation to be the fastest growing tech hub in Europe. Universities still rank consistently highly on global tables. We’ve made our name as a UK based investor and, we still believe that that stance is right.
Likewise, a few areas that we’re particularly bullish on right now:
Professional, distributed marketplaces/platforms – Freelance marketplaces have seen significant growth over the last 10 years, Uber, Just Eat, Deliveroo are all really good examples of this, but all of them make losses and margins remain low. Where we’re expecting to see significant growth in the next 5-10 years is the professional marketplace, where high value freelancers can connect and work with some of the worlds largest companies/ high value clients. Platforms in this space can benefit from significantly higher margins on product whilst also allowing companies/ clients to tap into a significantly wider pool of talent. We’ve made a few investments into this space, Distributed, Lifted, CG Hero & Poplar. COVID-19 has strengthened our conviction in this area as companies have been forced to witness the benefits of distributed teams.
E-Commerce – E-Commerce has seen significant growth over the COVID-19 period as people were unable to leave their houses. However, we expect that this growth will be sustained post COVID as well. Demographics that would usually have actively shunned e-commerce have now been forced to embrace it and we think it’s highly likely that those new converts are going to continue using the product. OnBuy, Thrift+ and Feel are all companies we’re backing to make a significant contribution to the growth of e-commerce.
Open Banking – The UK has led the world in Fintech for several years now, mainly because it’s been the perfect storm of strong tech talent and progressive legislation. We strongly believe that a big part of the next evolution of fintechs will be through the use of ground breaking open banking technology that will drastically change the way we interact with banks, payments and investments. We’ve made 2 key investments in this area where we expect to see high growth, Volt is a payments platform that utilises open banking to support bank to bank payments, significantly reducing the cost and increasing the speed of transactions. Hammock is creating an open banking product for landlords, a platform where they can track their properties and also their payments, whilst also accessing services like mortgage broking and insurance broking made significantly easier through Hammocks access to their payment data.
What makes Fuel different?Fuel is an entrepreneur led fund. I’ve got extensive experience in building, managing and exiting companies and other members of our team have experience working in other fast growth startups. We’ve been there, done it, and now want to pass some of that value onto new founders at their easiest stages of growth.
We are always a conviction investor. We lead rounds at seed, which is helpful in a space that is filled with co-investors, and we do so with significant tickets of £500,000-£1.5m. Likewise, our investment team is flexible and fast moving, which means that we can go from initial conversation to term sheet within a few weeks as long as we’re provided with the information we need.
We take an active role within our companies. For all investments we make, Fuel will always take an investor director position, which means we have a very active role in guiding our companies forward, supporting founders and, also, protecting investor interest.
Fuel isn’t just an investor, we’re a community of founders who support each other. Running a company can be a lonely gig, so we make a lot of effort to mitigate that where we can. We organise founder coffee events once a month and large events every quarter. We’re also currently going through the process of formalising our already active advisory network with the help of Arbolus, one of our portfolio companies. General response from our founders has been great and, even better, has encouraged more suggestions. Ultimately, we’re here to do whatever we can to make their lives easier. We invest in them because we know that, with the right support, they will create game changing businesses.
What one piece of advice would you give founders?At the early stage, having lots of goals can feel overwhelming. We always encourage our companies to come up with 3 key KPI’s for the business that we focus on until Series A. The KPI’s should be the data points that you think are the most important to grow the business (for example, number of users, WAU/MAU, downloads, churn etc). Until Series A, you should take the approach that, if any work is not directly improving the KPI’s, then it’s a waste of your time and should likely be forgotten. Until you can afford the luxury of having more specialised teams within your business, you’ll usually find that forcing yourself to focus on too many metrics means that you’ll fail on all of them.
Since their launch in November 2016, over 8 million customers have used OnBuy, and in more recent times monthly visitors and new retailers joining the marketplace have trended at over 4 million and 400 retailers respectively per month.
Having closed the Series A funding round only 5 months after Fuel’s initial investment in January 2020, OnBuy will now be able to mount an aggressive internationally expansion plan into 140 new countries, including the USA, UAE, Germany, France and Spain.
Cas Paton, the Founder of OnBuy, said: “The injection of this additional funding not only allows us to substantially grow the operational side of the business, but it gives the OnBuy team backing from phenomenal investors who can bring an array of eCommerce experience and expertise to the table, bolstering an already strong globalisation strategy.”
“2020 is a coming-of-age era for OnBuy, where we’ve seen some of the world’s largest brands and retailers come on board. By having products from the leading household names available, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Kimberly-Clark, we are driving better competition which feeds into better pricing for consumers across a huge variety of products.”
Mark Pearson, Fuel Ventures GP, commented: "In recent years the VC world has largely turned its back on marketplaces. They are notoriously hard to build and even harder to grow, given that the market is dominated by some of the largest companies in the world. However, it's clear from seeing OnBuy's unique model, their achievements to date and the impressive year-on-year growth that they have found the right formula for long-term success.
"The decision to invest in OnBuy was an easy one for Fuel Ventures: it is now on the verge of becoming a serious global player, with some of the largest retailers and brands in the industry flooding to join the world's fastest-growing marketplace.”
Other MediaOnline marketplace OnBuy set to launch globally this summer after £5m deal
OnBuy Closes Series A Funding Round
About Fuel Ventures:
- Fuel Ventures is a leading early-stage technology investor, investing in fast-growth UK and European businesses that have the potential to return between 10x and 100x.
- Entrepreneurial driven fund led by multi-exit entrepreneurs with £200m+ in exits.
- An advisory committee with over 50+ years’ experience, and exits totalling £2b+
- We now have 35 portfolio companies and after only 4 years our first fund has a 7.4X valuation uplift, validated by third-party follow-on investors.
- We screen 3500+ companies a year using our thorough due diligence processes internally, cherry picking the best 10 companies that have the potential to achieve 100x returns
- We put a director on the Board of every company we invest in and take an active and hands-on role in the management and development of each company, plus bring added extra value through our network of sector experts.
- We invest in commercially scalable technology companies, with operating gross margins between 30% - 90%
- Targeting a minimum of 10x return on investments over a 5-7 year horizon.
- Generous HMRC EIS tax benefits including 30% income tax relief, 0% capital gains tax on exit, loss relief, and inheritance tax relief for UK taxpayers.
- We invest in every fund ourselves, with a large 10% personal investment alongside our investors, this is £2,000,000 - £3,000,000 into every fund!
Fuel Ventures completes $2m investment into StrategyBoxFuel Ventures are excited to announce the completion of a $2m investment into StrategyBox, a marketing analytics platform that helps users understand the underlying marketing activities that best drive sales. StrategyBox, with its headquarters in Vancouver and further offices in London, marks Fuel’s first official investment into a Canadian company.
StrategyBox’s customer journey mapping tools make it simple for companies across various different sectors including retail, financial service and technology, to gain deeper insight into how marketing activities drive sales.
Mark Pearson, General Partner of Fuel Ventures: “Our team sees StrategyBox as the future of marketing reporting. They show a company the journey a customer takes from first touch to sale. Then provide AI-powered recommendations on what content, ads and activities most effectively drive a customer forward in the buying process. It’s a game changer, and we couldn’t be more excited to dive-in with our support.”
Aaron Vidas, StrategyBox CEO: “I started the company to do what should be easy today, but isn’t: understanding how marketing activities drive revenue. Today we’re saving our customers 1000’s of hours annually automating marketing reporting and driving millions in additional revenue with our recommendations. Fuel’s resources allow us to bring those valuable tools to more companies at a time when more sales can be the difference between life and death for a business.”
As an early and growth stage investor in leading technology businesses, Fuel’s track record has been acknowledged by Deloitte who have named two earlier investments (Paddle and Moteefe) as the fastest growing Software and E-Commerce companies in the UK. On the back of some of these successes, Fuel are now expanding their reach by investing in key technology hubs globally.
Are you an investor who would like to find out more about Fuel Ventures? Please click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other MediaStrategyBox Announces $2M in Seed Financing to Make Customer Journey Mapping Simple With AI.
This investment has completed following Distributed’s pioneering partnership with Capita was completed in April 2020, with Distributed supporting Capita’s digital transformation and accelerating the adoption of distributed teams across Capita’s network of enterprise clients.
Through their underlying platform, Distributed allow companies to work with fully managed, globally dispersed software development teams. Distributed’s unique positioning has helped companies deliver their digital roadmap without the uncertainty of attracting new full-time developers remotely, saving both time and importantly money.
Callum Adamson, CEO of Distributed: "This new round of funding lets us get more businesses working with Distributed teams, which is not only essential as we battle through the COVID-19 pandemic, but will also provide anti-fragile software delivery solutions for them as we emerge from this economic shockwave."
Mark Pearson, GP at Fuel Ventures: “The follow-on investment into Distributed is Fuel Ventures doubling down into a company that we see as having the potential to severely disrupt the current market. With the recent recalibration of the global workforce, Distributed’s unique positioning is already bearing fruit and we are excited to continue to work together with the team on their journey from here on out”.
Further Press Coverage: On-demand software teams startup Distributed raises a further £2.5m in funding from Fuel Ventures.
Poplar facilitate on-request formation of premium AR and 3D content to cater for the growing interest for personalised AR concepts, and impressively, have delivered over 120 campaigns to brands such as L’Oréal, Disney, Nestle and Speedo. Furthermore, Poplar’s industry leading expertise and carefully curated community approach has allowed them to develop into one of TikTok’s first technology partners for AR Branded effects creation, as well as a Trusted Partner for Google’s 3D display advertising format, Swirl.
The investment into Poplar follows a trend that we believe is starting to become more and more evident, as the world’s workforce becomes increasingly flexible and remote (which in itself has been magnified by the recent pandemic). Following the explosion of lower-skill gig economy platforms such as Airbnb and Uber, we are confident that the next area of substantial growth will be in platforms that provide highly skilled and specialised workers an opportunity to sell their services. Poplar’s platform sits perfectly within this concept and with the expected growth of the AR and 3D markets over the next few years, is a welcome addition to our growing portfolio.
Mark Pearson, Founder and Managing Partner at Fuel Ventures: “Augmented reality has been on the rise but now, as a result of the pandemic lockdown, is its time to shine. I believe it represents the future of commerce – from being able to see a car in 3D without being in a showroom to trying on clothes in virtual changing rooms. Poplar sees the future of content creation in this medium and I am excited we are on board to help Poplar’s journey to making AR technology more accessible, as the technology grows further in popularity.”
Poplar raises $2.1m to address growing appetite for AR
UK startup Poplar scores $2.1 million to capitalise on AR momentum
Augmented reality on the rise as Poplar raises $2.1 million
AR platform Poplar raises $2.1m
London-based Poplar raises around €2 million to make AR and 3D experiences
Poplar nets $2.1m funding as AR demand climbs amid lockdown