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Midven Announces Strong Results for First MEIF Exits

Venture capital firm, Midven, part of the Future Planet Capital Group, has successfully exited Sign Solutions and Natural HR. This marks the first exits from companies supported with investment from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF). The company has made a healthy return in line with the expectations of the investment.

Since 2018, Midven has invested over £30m in ambitious growth companies in the Midlands through the MEIF, and the two exits set the precedent for future MEIF exits. The excellent results show the company’s commitment to creating a fertile environment for SMEs in the Midlands.

Natural HR joined Midven’s portfolio in 2016 with investment from the Early Advantage Fund along with support from private investors. MEIF investment followed in 2019 and 2021 when the company’s needs grew beyond the capacity of the Early Advantage Fund. During the seven-year partnership, the HR software provider saw significant growth, creating more than 50 jobs in the Birmingham region. Natural HR also grew its customer base by nearly 2,000%, now serving more than 250 customers across the UK.

Giovanni Finocchio, Investment Director at Midven, said, “Our funds are there to identify and back some of the most promising early-stage businesses within the West Midlands. We came across Natural HR when Jason and Sarah Dowzell were looking for investment, and it was clear that the company had potential. Therefore, along with our investment we introduced two angel investors who helped shape the business. Together, all the parties worked hard to make Natural HR a success and after seven years the company attracted the interest of Moorepay Limited, a member of the Zellis Group and market-leading payroll and HR software and services provider for SMBs across the UK and Ireland, who saw the value of the business and duly acquired it. A win-win for all parties”

Deaf-to-hearing language specialist Sign Solutions also received investment from the MEIF in 2019. Since the initial investment, the company has gone from strength to strength. While a portfolio company of Midven, Sign Solutions more than doubled its number of full-time employees from 17 to 36 – with a network of over 600 freelance BSL interpreters and translators. During the four-year relationship, the company also increased its revenue by 150% and is expected to reach 200% by the end of Q2 2023.

Andy Bard, Portfolio Manager at Midven, said, “We always work closely with the management teams of our portfolio. The offer which Sign Solutions got made sense for their growth plans and we helped them negotiate a deal that aligned with their vision. This is a testimony to how we work closely with other shareholders with differing objectives to negotiate and deliver a great outcome for all of the involved.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said “Since securing investment from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, both businesses have been able to realise their potential – with sign solutions creating significant new jobs and opportunities in the local area and Natural HR receiving additional angel investment alongside MEIF.  Both are great example of the impact MEIF’s equity finance option can have as a tool for growth, helping many innovative and fast growth businesses across the Midlands to grow”.

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2022 and the European Investment Bank.

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Midven team from left: Giovanni Finocchio, Daniel Gaize, Andy Bard, Tony Stott, Huw Sparkes, Surjit Kooner and Elizabeth Hobster.

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About Midven For more than 25 years, leading Birmingham-based venture capital firm Midven has been supporting Midlands SMEs, investing more than £60m into the region and raising £200m co-investment into its portfolio. Midven’s ‘more than money’ approach helps to build strong and successful companies and support businesses every step of the way. Midven continues to extend its reach to invest in the Midlands’ most ambitious entrepreneurs through its appointment to manage the £40m equity portion of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), as well as the launch of the firm’s first Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) fund. Midven was acquired by Future Planet Capital in April 2021. For more information about Midven, please visit About Future Planet Capital Future Planet Capital Limited is the impact-led venture capital firm built to back growth companies from the world’s top universities and research ecosystems. Headquartered in London, but investing globally, the firm manages over $500m for institutional investors having backed over 180 companies across geographies and stages. Future Planet Capital’s goal is to profitably solve the world’s greatest challenges in climate change, education, health, sustainable growth & security. For more information about Future Planet please visit About the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) The Midlands Engine Investment Fund will invest in Debt Finance, Small Business Loans, Proof-of-Concept and Equity Finance funds, ranging from £25,000 to £2m, specifically to help small and medium sized businesses secure the funding they need for growth and development. The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is operated by British Business Financial Services Limited, wholly owned by British Business Bank, the UK’s national economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to make finance markets for smaller businesses work more effectively, enabling those businesses to prosper, grow and build UK economic activity. The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Investment Bank, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and British Business Finance Limited, a British Business Bank group company. The MEIF covers the following LEP areas: Black Country, Coventry & Warwickshire, Greater Birmingham & Solihull, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, The Marches, and Worcestershire in the West Midlands; and Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham & Nottinghamshire (D2N2) Greater Lincolnshire, Leicester & Leicestershire, and South-East Midlands in the East and South-East Midlands. The project is receiving up to £78,550,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The programme will continue to run until the end of 2023. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit The European Investment Bank is providing £122,500,000 to support the Midlands Engine Investment Fund. This follows backing for the Northern Powerhouse in 2017 and backing for the newly launched North East Fund. For further information visit The funds in which Midlands Engine Investment Fund invests are open to businesses with material operations in or planning to open material operations in the West Midlands and East & South-East Midlands. The British Business Bank has published the Business Finance Guide (in partnership with the ICAEW, and a further 21 business and finance organisations). The guide, which impartially sets out the range finance options available to businesses and provides links to support available at a regional level, is available at About the British Business Bank The British Business Bank is the UK government’s economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to make finance markets for smaller businesses work more effectively, enabling those businesses to prosper, grow and build UK economic activity. Its remit is to design, deliver and efficiently manage UK-wide smaller business access to finance programmes for the UK government. The British Business Bank’s core programmes support nearly £8bn of finance to almost 94,800 smaller businesses. Since March 2020, the British Business Bank has also launched four new Coronavirus business loan schemes, delivering almost £73bn of finance to around 1.6m businesses. As well as increasing both supply and diversity of finance for UK smaller businesses through its programmes, the Bank works to raise awareness of the finance options available to smaller businesses. The British Business Bank Finance Hub provides independent and impartial information to businesses about their finance options, featuring short films, expert guides, checklists and articles from finance providers to help make their application a success. In light of the coronavirus pandemic and EU Exit, the Finance Hub has expanded, and it now targets a wider business audience. It continues to provide information and support for scale-up, high growth and potential high growth businesses, but now provides increased content, information, and products for businesses in survival and recovery mindsets. The Finance Hub has been redesigned and repositioned to reflect this, during this period of economic uncertainty. British Business Bank plc is a public limited company registered in England and Wales, registration number 08616013, registered office at Steel City House, West Street, Sheffield, S1 2GQ. It is a development bank wholly owned by HM Government. British Business Bank plc and its subsidiaries are not banking institutions and do not operate as such. They are not authorised or regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). A complete legal structure chart for the group can be found at

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