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DIGIT Deal Roundup Column | October 2021

David Paul

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DIGIT deal roundup
In the October 2021 edition of our DIGIT Deal Roundup, we have deals and investment news from firms like Burness Paull, Skyrora, AAI EmployAbility and Gigged.AI.

Funding and investment

Gigged.AI and Techstart Ventures

DIGIT deal roundup

Technology startup Gigged.AI has doubled its headcount from seven to 14 and expanded its presence after closing an over-subscribed £600,000 investment round.

Funding came from early-stage venture capital firm, Techstart Ventures, as well as a litany of angel investors including the co-founders of Aquila Insight; Edinburgh-based crypto startup Zumo’s co-founder Nick Jones and Grant Fraser; and chief executive of Glasgow-based mobile marketing agency Digitonic.

Last April, Gigged.AI was awarded a grant from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to further develop its technology.

Gigged.AI CEO Rich Wilson said: “Since our launch in July 2021, the response to our product has surpassed our expectations and confirmed there is a substantial market for our proposition at a time when how we work is changing.

“Techstart and our other prominent investors are the ideal partners to help us scale to reach a much wider audience and further develop our offering to position us at the forefront of the global talent platform industry.”

The investment money – as well as being used to increase headcount – will be used to develop Gigged.AI’s technology for future product launches, one of which will be an internal talent marketplace.

Calum Forsyth, Investor at Techstart Ventures, added: “We are delighted to back Gigged.AI and join them on their journey to revolutionise how organisations engage with top-tier freelancers.”

Want to find out more? Read the full piece here.


AAI EmployAbility

Social enterprise AAI EmployAbility has secured funding to expand a programme which helps minority ethnic women in Scotland return to work after career breaks.

The Scottish Government-funded ‘Back to Work’ scheme seeks to improve employment prospects, update skills, and increase confidence while offering access to employers and paid work placements.

Enoch Adeyemi, CEO and Co-founder of Black Professionals Scotland, said projects such as the Back to Work scheme offer crucial support for people from underrepresented backgrounds.

“The last eighteen months have been especially hard for the black community in Scotland, and Covid has affected us disproportionately with more of us now unemployed,” he said.

“Whether it is the racial abuse of black footballers or having to continually talk about racism, it has densely put a toll on our collective wellbeing,” Adeyemi added.

“Projects like this from AAI, and the backing from the Scottish Government, offer hope and crucially, access points to employment desperately needed for people from underrepresented backgrounds so they can achieve their potential in the workforce.”

Yvette McLaren, who participated in AAI EmployAbility’s previous Back to Work programme, secured a six-week placement with Edinburgh startup Float. She described the experience as an “incredible” confidence builder.

“The whole experience was incredible because it built my confidence and it felt like I wasn’t in things alone,” she commented.

“Before the programme and placement, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to work in HR, but the experience reminded me how much I loved working with people.”

Want to find out more? Read the full piece here.


Sentinel Subsea, Alba Equity and Scottish Enterprise

Aberdeen-based Sentinel Subsea secured a six-figure investment from Alba Equity and Scottish Enterprise as it continues to develop its subsea well monitoring technology.

With successful field trials already carried out, Alba Equity’s investment comes at a pivotal stage of the company’s development strengthened by the recent appointment of Ray Riddoch OBE as chairman.

Commenting on the investment, Neil Gordon, CEO, Sentinel Subsea, said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding from Alba Equity along with the support from their highly experienced syndicate members.

“We know our technology has vast benefits for the industry including large cost savings and a reduced emission footprint – this investment will allow us to continue our vital work towards eliminating risks associated with maturing infrastructure and extend the life of the subsea facilities.”

Alba Equity is an investment syndicate based in Aberdeen that focuses on high growth businesses that are developing unique and patented technologies.

The investment and expertise Alba Equity brings will support the growth and development of Sentinel Subsea which in turn, has vast benefits for the wider subsea sector.

John Duncan, Alba Equity, added: “We are delighted to support Sentinel Subsea with its next stage of growth both with the investment and introduction of Ray who will bring a wealth of knowledge to the team.

“We believe the solutions that Sentinel has developed address an urgent requirement for the continual monitoring of subsea wells as well as an essential commitment to environmental integrity as the industry focuses on the energy transition.

“There is no other technology that provides asset operators the assurance that Sentinel’s system gives. We are excited to be part of the next stage of growth for the business and support the Sentinel team.”

Kerry Sharp, director of Growth Investments at Scottish Enterprise, commented: “Scottish Enterprise has supported Sentinel Subsea in a number of ways since its inception during our 2018 Grey Matters entrepreneurship programme.

“Our contribution to this latest funding round demonstrates our continued confidence in the company’s innovative technology and high-growth potential, which we believe will ensure it plays an important part in Scotland’s energy transition.”


Carron Bathrooms

A bath manufacturer has invested in new robotics technology to improve and automate its manufacturing processes after securing a £1.5m loan.

Carron Bathrooms said it will use the funding package to install six new robotic lines that will enable the business to fully automate its production.

The investment will increase the firm’s efficiencies as the spraying, trimming and packing of its products will all now be completed automatically.

The investment in robotics will help the business to meet growing demand for its products.

James McMorrine, director at Carron Bathrooms said: “We’ve seen a steady increase in demand for our products as more people look to invest in major home and bath re-modelling projects.

“By automating our production, we’ve refined and upgraded our manufacturing to incorporate more modern techniques.

“This will not only improve our efficiencies, but it will also further refine the quality of our products, whilst helping to streamline the business for the future.”


Willo

Scottish tech startup Willo announced that they have secured a £630,000 investment to scale up its business in key markets.

The firm said it aims to further grow its presence in the US after receiving the additional funding from ex-Freeserve chief operating officer Mark Danby, ex-BT talent chief Susan McRoberts, and entrepreneur and Santander global head of digital mobility solutions Jose Ignacio Puente.

The recent investment from the high-profile individuals takes the overall investment in the Glasgow-founded tech firm to more than £1m. The funding round was led by Guernsey-based early-stage tech investment firm 1818 Venture Capital, which also invested in Willo’s previous round.

The total investment of £630k has already been approved by HMRC. It will be used to develop new products, speed up Willo’s marketing and grow the 17-strong Willo team with a series of new hires.

Its current growth plans will focus on the US and Australia, where new team members have already been recruited, as well as expanding in the UK.

Euan Cameron, founder at Willo, said: “This investment comes at an exciting and crucial time for Willo as we target further expansion in key markets – including the USA and Australia – and the calibre of investor shows the faith that exists in what we are doing.

“Willo unlocks the potential to recruit in any market unbound by geographical barriers, ensuring businesses grow with the right people for part time, permanent or even project-based roles.”


Xergy Group

Digit Deal Roundup

Aberdeen-headquartered Xergy Group secured £4.25m from a Series A+ fundraiser in October to scale-up its software as a service (SaaS) work automation management software.

This Series A+ fundraiser was carried out at a pre-money valuation of £15m – a 75% uplift on the previous 2019 round.

The raise saw follow-on investment from a majority of existing investors, including an additional £1m investment from Scottish Enterprise, which has previously supported the company with a Research and Development Grant of up to £425,000 and Early Stage Growth Challenge Fund investment.

Commenting on the investment, Kerry Sharp, director of growth investments at Scottish Enterprise, said: “The growth of Xergy highlights the entrepreneurial talent and innovation within Scottish early stage businesses.

“The technology is being used globally and creating employment opportunities for energy professionals across Scotland and this new round of investment will allow the firm to reach further across new markets as well as industries and continue to help organisations remain competitive.”

James McCallum, founder and chairman at Xergy, added: “We are delighted to today be announcing the successful close of our fundraise. The last few years of developing Xergy have been incredibly enlightening, and this investment is a great result of the effort of the team.

“We are focused on developing products that are aligned with the essential need of businesses to embrace both the energy transition and digital transformation.”


Deals and Acquisitions

Incremental Group and Adatis

Digital technology services provider Incremental Group has acquired data analytics business Adatis in a deal that deepens Incremental’s capabilities and reach in the data analytics market.

As an enlarged group, Incremental now has 350 employees and closed out the half-year to September 2021 with pro forma revenues of £18.5m and EBITDA of £4m.

Incremental also secured significant additional debt capacity through its new HSBC facilities, allowing the group to continue its pursuit of strategic acquisitions.

The new acquisition deepens Incremental’s end-to-end digital transformation capabilities, continuing the company’s journey to achieve revenues of £60m and 500 employees by 2023.

Neil Logan, CEO of Incremental, said: “Incremental’s purpose is to enable organisations to digitally transform. Adding robust data capability and expanding into the data analytics market is core to this.

“Acquiring a business in this space immediately strengthens the group and allows us to deliver more value to customers. I am delighted to welcome Adatis to the group.”

Sacha Tomey, Co-Founder of Adatis, added: “We are proud of the business we have built at Adatis and are excited for it to be taken to the next level with the support of Incremental.

“Adatis will benefit from the strength of Incremental to enable us to continue to scale, ensuring long-term sustainability and success.”

Want to find out more? Read the full piece here.


Current Health and Best Buy

US retail giant Best Buy announced plans to acquire Scottish medtech company Current Health in mid-October.

Current Health’s enterprise care-at-home platform enables healthcare organisations to deliver high-quality, patient-centric care at a lower cost.

The company integrates patient-reported data with data from biosensors – including their own continuous monitoring wearable device – to provide healthcare organisations with actionable, real-time insights into the patient’s condition.

Christopher McCann, CEO of Current Health, said: “Over the coming decade, significantly more healthcare can be delivered in the home. We started Current Health to make that exciting transition radically easier for healthcare providers to achieve.

“Best Buy has unparalleled physical reach, world-class supply chain logistics, and trusted support services – allowing us to provide a high-touch consumer experience, at scale. We’re excited to join with Best Buy Health to move safe and effective healthcare into the home globally,” he added.

Commenting on the deal, Deborah Di Sanzo, President of Best Buy Health, added: “The future of consumer technology is directly connected to the future of healthcare.

“We have the distinct expertise in helping customers make technology work for them directly in their homes and by combining Current Health’s remote care management platform with our existing health products and services, we can create a holistic care ecosystem that shows up for someone across all of their healthcare needs.”

Want to find out more? Read the full piece here.


Novosound

Scottish remote sensor specialist Novosound secured a series of global customer wins, with the Glasgow-based startup led by Dave Hughes converting sales in the aerospace, oil and gas, and energy sectors.

Recent contract wins include in the aerospace sector, with major industry players BAE Systems and GE Aviation.

In December 2019, Novosound, originally a spin-out from the University of the West of Scotland, secured a £3.3m investment round led by private equity investment management firm Foresight Group (via the Foresight Williams Technology EIS Fund).

Par Equity, Kelvin Capital, Gabriel Investments and Scottish Enterprise also participated in the round.

Company chairman Derek Mathieson commented: “Novosound is already gaining traction with some of the world’s largest industrial brands, and the next phase of growth for the company will centre around continuing to scale operations, raising the profile of the business across global markets, and increasing sales.”

CEO and co-founder Dave Hughes added: “The team and I are really pleased to see our work in ultrasonics converting into sales with so many international industrial groups, including in the aerospace sector, and we look forward to a series of additional corporate milestone announcements over the coming weeks and months.”

“It’s also notable that Scotland is starting to build an ecosystem in remote sensors, and we’re proud to be part of the growing Internet of Things scene here.”

In April, Novosound’s ‘Knowledge Transfer Partnership’ with the University of the West of Scotland was awarded the highest possible grade by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.


Burness Paull and Pawprint for Business

Law firm Burness Paull announced this month that it has become the first law firm to use Pawprint, rolling out Pawprint for Business firmwide.

The company joins investment company abrdn, the Net Zero Technology Centre, and the Peter Vardy Motor Group in becoming a “Pawprint Pioneer” and becomes the first company specialising in law to sign up to take the lead in tackling climate change.

With almost 200 colleagues regularly using the app already, the firm says it is currently undertaking its first Kick Off Sprint Challenge, aiming to carry out activities saving an equivalent of one tonne of carbon over the two-week sprint period.

Peter Lawson, Chair at Burness Paull, said: “Climate change and how to tackle it has become a key focus across every industry and more and more of our client work has an ESG element.

“As a firm we are committed to embedding ESG even more into our culture and DNA, and continually looking at how we can improve our environmental performance. We believe partnering with Pawprint will really help us amplify our commitment and efforts.

“Using the Pawprint app gives everyone at the firm the opportunity to get involved and make a difference, providing a way for us all to lead a more sustainable life and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Christian Arno, founder and Pawprint CEO added: “COP26 is really focusing everyone’s attention on climate change and we are seeing businesses and organisations across all industries stepping up to find ways to reduce their emissions.

“Having Burness Paull as the first legal firm using Pawprint for Business is a really exciting moment for us as we believe Pawprint for Business can reduce emissions across every industry.”


Skyrora and SaxaVord spaceport

Edinburgh-based space tech firm Skyrora signed a multi-launch deal in October with the SaxaVord spaceport on the Shetland Islands in a step closer to its Skyrora XL rocket launch in 2022 last month.

The agreement will build on the development of the Scottish space sector in recent years, creating more jobs in an industry that has grown 12% year-on-year while the UK as a whole has grown 3%.

Additionally, the move brings the supply chain of the sector all within Scotland, providing huge environmental benefits by addressing the sustainability and administrative issues around exporting to different launch sites across Europe.

Once operational, the SaxaVord spaceport is expected to create 140 jobs locally, with an additional 70 jobs across Shetland.

Commenting on the deal, Volodymyr Levykin, Skyrora’s founder and CEO, said: “We have made no secret of our ambition to be the first company to launch from UK soil so it’s really exciting to agree to this multi-launch deal with SaxaVord.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of space innovation in the UK, deploying our assets and helping to unlock exciting opportunities as part of the new space economy.

“The UK is a world leader in space technology, and this latest move brings us another crucial step closer to offering a significant space service from our own soil.”

Frank Strang, CEO of Saxavord Spaceport, said: “As we look forward to launches from Unst next year, this is yet another exciting development and we look forward to working with the Skyrora team to help them meet their goal of delivering their XL rocket into orbit.

“The SaxaVord Spaceport location and the can-do attitude of our team mean we are perfectly placed to support Skyrora’s endeavours.”

Want to find out more? Read the full piece here.


The Borders Distillery

The Borders Distillery became the first official distillery listed on the WelcoMe platform in October.

‘WelcoMe’ is a web-based customer-service tool to support accessible customer experiences and enhance staff training. The platform puts disabled people “in the driving seat” of their customer-service experiences. Users build and share an accessibility profile, their specific needs when visiting a WelcoMe venue, and arrival information.

Venues that use the platform receive real time training and clear guidance on how to interact with customers directly related to their needs, disabilities or conditions they disclose.

Kirsten Blackburn, Head of Marketing at The Borders Distillery said: “The entire Borders Distillery team is once again ready to welcome tourists to our innovative distillery.

“From step free access to built-in lifts, our 200-year-old building has open arms to anyone who wants to discover the wonders of distilling.

“This partnership with WelcoMe has come at the perfect time, as our distillers get back into the swing of showcasing the treasures of our Scottish Borders spirit. We are honoured to be listed as the first in the Scotch Whisky industry to feature on the platform.”

Andrew Nairn, Distillery Manager at The Borders, sits on the Scotch Whisky Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, added: “True diversity and inclusion is a core value of our distillery.

“The opportunity to showcase that in real and practical ways are tremendously important to us.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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