2021 Year In Review
2021 has been a remarkable year for the UK startup ecosystem. At Forward, it’s been a year of big change and growth for our fund and our team. Across our portfolio, there have been some huge wins, exciting raises and big exits. So before we get stuck into 2022, read on for our best bits from the last 12 months.
The year of decacorns for London.
2021 has been a record-shattering year for venture funding around the globe and London has been at the forefront of it. In July, CityAM reported that London doubled the number of tech businesses worth $10bn or more in the prior six months, reaching a dozen and putting London behind China and the US in global rankings.
Though many funds target these big investments, at Forward we believe that the hunt for outliers rather than just unicorns is the best route to returns for our shareholders and success for our founders. Get into it in this piece by our CEO Nic, here.
The year VC funds went for permanent capital.
If you didn’t pick up on it, this year Forward went public, opening up our investment opportunities to the world. For investors, democratising access to a private asset class is part of our core mission to help more entrepreneurs to succeed, whilst opening the upside of investing in these incredible, inspiring businesses to all. Read about it in an article our CEO Nic put together for City AM here.
We’re not alone either. Joining the ranks of Molten ventures (Draper Esprit), Augmentum, and most recently announced Sequoia Capital. Here’s the upshot: it’s not just about capital, it’s about what you do with it. Read these insights from the Economist on the bright future of VC - and how escaping the fund model enables investors to do better deals, work with companies for longer and innovate.
It’s not just money that matters.
This year, we dug into funding and the promises that investors make alongside it. Our findings?
📈 61% of early-stage founders surveyed want value-add services from their VC.
📣 92% of investors said that they provide it.
❓ The reality? 61% of founders said that they got less than they were promised.
Get a summary of the findings from Sifted discover 5 ways to avoid buyers remorse when funding via Forbes or dig into the full report. At Forward, we believe that investing expertise alongside funding can drastically improve outcomes (that’s why our studio team exists). Have a read of our CEO Nic’s views on how VC’s can become a one-stop shop for unlocking growth.
Our portfolio had some great news too.
- In March, Counting Up raised a £9.1M Series A raise.
- In May Wonderbly awarded Children's Publisher of the year at the British Book Awards (setting them up nicely for the trade-sale to follow).
- In June, we saw the wonderful Claudia Harris, CEO Makers awarded an OBE.
- In July, we saw real-time notification company Ably raise £70M in a series B as well as being featured alongside Zopa, Patch Plants and Koru Kids (all Forward portfolio companies) in Sifted top UK startup and scaleups for 2021.
- September saw Koyo close a $50M Series A and Koru Kids, Gravity Sketch and Makers female founders and leaders featured on Sky News.
- Last month, we saw Breedr close a £2m+ crowdfunding campaign (45% over their target) and Virtuoso raise a $13.3 million Series A round led by Paladin Capital. This December, Robin AI raised £2.5M seed extension round as they ready for scale.
It’s been a busy year for Forward too. Up until 28th September of this year, we made 13 investments including four into new companies that included scientific marketplace Clustermarket and logistics technology company Ryde. Forward Advances, our revenue based financing company made 63 Advances too. We saw some great exits totalling £11.7m, including included trade sales for Heights and Wonderbly, and Cazoo’s high-profile SPAC merger. The Studio Team completed some great work this year, including supporting Clustermarket to develop their proposition and helping Forward Advances to build a sophisticated fintech product and develop their growth channels.
What’s your highlight?
Enough about us, how about you? We want to know what you’ve been up to, your accomplishments, big or small over the last 11 and a half months. Get involved in the comments on Twitter.
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