Venturing examples

Pret a Manger
In early 1989 Pret a Manger consisted of a tiny sandwich bar in Victoria and a deli counter in a small Fulham supermarket. It was sinking fast financially, with a balance sheet already showing a net worth of minus £100,000, when David and Andrew, (then as part of Ravensbeck Ventures), purchased 25% of the company for £2. An ill-advised foray into factory production of sandwiches was quickly reversed and the losses staunched. David and Andrew then focused on market research and new outlet revenue potential, while developing a business plan to persuade Midland Bank to part with a term loan for a new outlet at 319 High Holborn. This was immediately successful, the loan was repaid ahead of schedule, enabling a larger one to be negotiated to fund a series of new outlets. When the new sites were not forthcoming, Andrew became temporary Managing Director for six months to kick-start expansion. Pret has never looked back.

London Ventures
David joined James Orman in 1991 as a (non-Executive) Director of London Ventures General Partner. Capital had been provided by several banks, to promote new businesses in the M25 region, inspired by Prince Charles's initiative. David contributed his views on small business investment opportunities presented to the fund and also on actions needed to fully exploit those which were invested in - particularly with food businesses.

The first investment made by London Ventures, this start up Business-to Business Information Services company invited Andrew to its Board in 1996 as a non-Executive Director. Two years later he became non-Executive Charman and over the next five years the company grew to over 100 employees. Andrew resigned in 2005 after failing to secure the founders' backing for an MBO.

Right Information Systems
A final-year Physics PhD student approached us in 1993 to help him convert his software idea into a business. David acted as Marketing Director to the Neural Net software start-up which emerged, and helped founder Richard Hoptroff to rapidly develop the enterprise. Three years later the company was sold to Cognos of Canada for $8 million.

We backed web entrepreneurs Eamonn Vincent and Bill McLellan in 1998, confident that a good web business idea would emerge sooner or later, while Bill and Eamonn built websites for others to stay on the cutting edge technologically until the right opportunity appeared. The Production Base was a small, traditional agency finding work for film and TV freelancers. We merged it with Interbase, Production Base founder Moray Coulter taking equity for his business becoming web-enabled. It took a few years, but the business grew steadily to become the leading marketplace for UK freelancers, used by almost every production company, large and small to find talent. The Production base, in its new guise, was sold last year to the Daily Mail and General Trust Group for a substantial sum.

This HR and Flexible Benefits service company offers traditional HR partnership allied with web technology-supported HR services. David Nairn has taken on the role of (non-Executive) Finance Director.
At the close of 2006 we invested in this exciting company, which enables anyone to create an ad in minutes through their web browser and then despatch it at the click of a mouse to any of over 1,000 UK publications, perfectly adapted to the respective publisher's technical format and page layout. We hope to see this enterprise go global within the next three years.