We saw standout performances from our top 15 investments through new rounds and strong revenue growth.
Through 2021, Ventures invested £8.8m in 21 high-potential businesses: 6 new investments and 15 follow-on investments.
Advances increased originations by 13.5x in 2021, helping more digital SMEs to grow through marketing and inventory funding.
On 19th July 2021, Forward Partners successfully listed on the London Stock Exchange. As CEO and Founding Partner, this was the realisation of a long-held vision, and the culmination of nearly three years of planning to move to the next stage of growth for our business, democratise access to venture investments and, ultimately, support even more of the UK’s best tech founders.
2021 was a remarkable year for us, for venture capital and for European tech. London broke away from the pack as Europe’s leading tech hub, receiving record levels of investment and becoming an even stronger magnet for great entrepreneurs, startups, investors and technical talent. For Forward, these market conditions encouraged strong performance from many companies within our portfolio and an increase in high quality deal flow.
At Forward, we believe that entrepreneurs will solve the world's problems
In 2022, however, we face a different situation, with conflict in Europe and high inflation. Share prices of listed technology companies have fallen as a result and we are now starting to see that feed through into private company valuations. In this report, we detail these contrasting stories.
We look back at a strong 2021, whilst outlining our pragmatic approach to 2022. Longer term, we remain confident in the underlying strength of our model and our ambition remains focused upon building and nurturing a world-class portfolio and creating value by investing our capital and expertise into high-potential technology companies.
I’d like to thank our shareholders for their continued support, as we work with early-stage founders to help realise their visions, fuel innovation – and build long-term shareholder value.
Key indicators for the period 1st January — 31st December 2021.
Weighted average revenue growth of our top 15 holdings
In 2021, the UK attracted more venture capital than any other country in Europe - and more than Germany and France combined. UK-based technology companies raised an all-time high of $37.7b, and UK investment grew 2.5x from 2020 – 15% faster than the global average of 2x.
With a record $9.9bn raised in new funds in 2021 ready to be deployed, early-stage venture-backed businesses have strong prospects of accessing further growth capital.
In 2022, geopolitical tensions, conflict in Ukraine and rising interest rates has caused uncertainty in markets. At Forward, we’ve seen that rounds are still closing, but often taking longer to close than last year. We continue to closely monitor how funds are being deployed across the ecosystem and how that may affect our portfolio.
Source: London & Partners / Dealroom: The year London tech reached new heights Report (2022)
In 2021 we focused on three key priorities for the Group:
We drive Venture Portfolio Value growth by investing our capital and expertise into high- potential technology companies. We aim to invest in between four and eight new startups each year, while deploying further growth capital into companies in which we already hold equity and know well.
We offer founders capital that’s more flexible and supportive through Forward Advances and our Studio.
As opportunities to deploy capital accelerate, we will strengthen core functions so we can take advantage of these opportunities, manage a growing portfolio of investments and continue to deliver great returns.
Studio team customer satisfaction (CSAT) score describes the average rating provided by Studio team customers on a scale of 1 (very unsatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied).
Employee happiness is defined as the percentage of employees who state in monthly surveys that working at Forward makes them happy.
Deal flow ethnic diversity describes the ethnicity split of all deals that reach the ‘first meeting’ stage of our Ventures investment process.
Deal flow gender diversity describes the gender split of all deals that reach the ‘first meeting’ stage of our Ventures investment process.
Through our successful submission to AIM in July 2021
[£4.3m] new investments and [£4.5m] follow-ons. A maturing portfolio demonstrating more latter-stage investment potential
Further demonstrating a maturing portfolio, we saw exits from Heights and Wonderbly
Studio team delivers impact and high level of satisfaction to portfolio companies
We’re creating a performance driven culture and a thriving, happy team. Figures for Q4 2021
We continue to improve diversity in our deal flow to level the playing field for all founders. Figures for deal flow in Q4 2021.
Our Ventures team undertook an extensive market study as a prelude to evolving the sector focus of our investment strategy. We assessed a wide range of emerging opportunities and new operating models within the UK technology landscape. Web3 was prioritised against a robust set of assessment criteria and the team agreed that this will become an additional area of focus for us in 2022 and beyond.
Web3 is a vision of the internet owned by its builders, users, and creators. There’s been a huge increase in investment in the sector: VCs deployed more than $30bn globally into crypto startups in 2021. And early-adopter consumers are starting to move. There were 2.4 million daily users of decentralised applications (dapps) in Q1 of this year, and we’re already seeing the emergence of NFTs both as digital goods and personas.
We believe we're in the foothills of what is potentially the biggest technological innovation since the advent of the internet. Now is the right time to jump in to Web3, learn all we can, and find and foster those founders building it.
In an age when capital has become a commodity, venture has to work harder for founders.
The one-size-fits-all approach no longer cuts it. And as the number of founders increases, so too do the circumstances in which they need funding.
Equity-based capital is still the lifeblood for fast-growing businesses – and remains our bread and butter – but it’s not right for every founder, business and circumstance. What's more, the funding needs of businesses are increasingly nonlinear. So other routes of capital are needed to allow both venture and non-venture backed businesses, and a diverse group of founders, to flourish.
In our mission to help every founder to achieve their potential, the key is the support we offer. Capital for a changing world has to be founder focused. And that's not only how they get the money but what extra value comes with it.
Brendan Maginnis is the CEO and co-founder at Sourcery, a real-time refactoring tool for developers. In 2021, they closed a $1.75 million seed funding round, led by Forward Partners alongside Runa Capital, Techstars, Angel Invest, CapitalX, Acequia Capital, and other private angel investors.
Launched in 2018, Sourcery has eliminated more than 4.9 billion hours a year that developers waste dealing with poor quality code, by automatically reviewing and improving (refactoring) the code in real-time. Their technology reads code a developer is working with, understands how it functions, and suggests cleaner, improved versions to replace it.
In 2021, Clustermarket made a bold move away from an original equipment and resource sharing marketplace to focusing on the development of a cloud-based SaaS platform for laboratory management. This successful pivot meant that the company quickly moved from industry challenger to an authoritative voice trusted by tens of thousands of researchers across the world.
The team approached the Forward studio to support them to build a brand ready for scale, suited to their new position as a respected and recognised solution for the sector.