Business builders

The 2012 Power Top 50 ranking from Business XL magazine identifies the most innovative and influential UK entrepreneurs and investors.

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The 2012 Power Top 50 ranking from Business XL magazine identifies the most innovative and influential UK entrepreneurs and investors.

We’ve spoken to some of the best brains in Britain who are fuelling business growth. This year’s crop of significant minds includes the best of the venture capital world as well as those investors and entrepreneurs who are proving vital to the continuing success of fast-growth businesses in the UK.

Ben Holmes, Partner at Index Ventures

1. Ben Holmes
Partner, Index Ventures (▲4)

When questioned about 2011 at Index Ventures, which saw 15 exits, partner Ben Holmes is more interested in talking about the future.

‘I am very excited about investing in the mobile phone gaming market and I think there will be a Zynga-sized company or bigger built off the back of mobile,’ says the Power Top 50 stalwart, who is a classic car enthusiast in his spare time.

Building on a glittering 2010 in which Holmes saw the exit of Betfair with a placing valuation of £1.4 billion, in 2011 Holmes helped Index Ventures towards a £200 million sale of Lovefilm to and a multi-million pound investment in online music distributor SoundCloud.

Index lists 48 new investments in 2011 targeting sectors all the way from Fashion (ASOS) and mobile (Fon) to online investment services (Funding Circle).

Holmes feels the key to Index Ventures’ success is investing in innovation and cites its role in the $5.1 million (£3 million) round of 3D printing company Shapeways as evidence.

‘When we invested last year [in a 3D printing company] it was still science fiction, but it is rapidly becoming science fact. Venture capitalists must continue to invest in technology.’

Robin Klein, founding partner at The Accelerator Group

2. Robin Klein
Founding partner,
The Accelerator Group  (=2)

One of venture capital’s best-respected figures, Klein has witnessed the comings and goings of trends in early-stage investment for some three decades. As founding partner of seed investment firm The Accelerator Group and more recently a partner at Index Ventures, he has an uncanny ability to be consistently ahead of the curve, particularly in the technology sector where he makes the lion’s share of his investments.

The past year and a half has been particularly strong for Klein. He estimates that Index Seed, a dedicated pool of capital for seed deals, saw more than 1,000 businesses plans in the period and, of those, the fund made 13 investments, taking the total number in its portfolio to 34. He predicts the strong activity to continue over the next year.

In selecting his investments, Klein says he looks even more closely at companies’ actual achievements than he did a decade ago. ‘I always give high marks to a team which has done a lot with very little, as opposed to someone
who has put together the most beautiful presentation, market studies and then comes and asks for £1 million to do this,’ he says. ‘You want to see that people can actually do something and create something.’

Sam Smith, Chief executive at finnCap

3. Sam Smith
Chief executive,
finnCap (=3)

The past year has been a successful one for finnCap prompting the ebullient Smith to claim, ‘We could go two years without a deal and still have cash.’

Revenue was up 66 per cent to £12.9 million for the year ending April, and the company has taken its corporate client count to 91, with an impressive 14 acquired since April. Smith points out the recognition that the small-cap broker received from Morningstar when it was ranked as number one stockbroker on AIM as the standout achievement of the year, not to mention the four companies finnCap helped join the junior market in another quiet
year for IPOs. Looking ahead, she comments, ‘It’s going to be an ultra-competitive next six months but we are in a really good place right now.’

Jon Moulton, Managing partner at Better Capital

4. Jon Moulton
Managing partner, Better Capital  (▲15)

Acerbic and incisive as ever, Moulton is a fixture in this ranking, but slid down our scale from the lofty perch he held in 2009 as we waited to see how his move away from Alchemy Partners and towards ‘better’ investments would work out. 

In the two years since its incarnation Better Capital has committed itself to 12 turnaround investments, which Moulton says are all now profitable and have no bank debt. Better Capital recently announced the closing of its second fund, albeit slightly below target levels, but still an achievement in a tough fundraising climate. He’s also this month’s Trailblazer (see pages 14-16).

Wol Kolade, Managing partner at ISIS Private Equity

5. Wol Kolade
Managing partner,
ISIS Private Equity  (▼1)

With seven new investments, seven exits and five acquisitions for portfolio companies, 2011 was a ‘hilariously busy year for ISIS’ according to Wol Kolade.

In an environment where exits are hard to come by, ISIS made a return of 12 times money on its £12 million acquisition (back in 2006) of cycling retailer Wiggle in a staggering £180 million exit. Of its seven investments, highlights included a £42 million boost to IT infrastructure business Onyx Group and a deal with DiGiCo Europe worth £50 million. ‘Our big initiative in 2011 has been to back businesses with an export capacity as they are much more versatile investments,’ says Kolade.

ISIS finished the year strongly exiting IT services provider Quantix with an IRR of more than 30 per cent to clients of its Baronsmead VCT fund. In fact, the Baronsmead VCTs have been so successful that they’ve recently had to
raise money to replace all the cash they’ve paid out in dividends.

Simon Cook, CEO of DFJ Esprit

6.Simon Cook
DFJ Esprit  (▲8)

Last year saw ‘a lot of windows open’ for DFJ Esprit, according to Cook. The venture capital firm announced ten exits in total, including the sale of Lovefilm for €300 million (£256.5 million) and call centre company TLC for £55.9 million, the latter securing the venture capital firm a fivefold return. But he admits that activity slowed in the last quarter of the year as the euro crisis deepened. On the investments side, there were 18 new deals, representing a return to form after a ‘cautious’ 2010. DFJ Esprit raised a €100 million fund in that year and Cook says it is only just getting started deploying this capital.

The coming year could also see DFJ Esprit branch out into new territory, with Cook indicating it is looking at  launching EIS and VCT products. He believes the government’s decision to extend EIS to companies with as many as 250 employees has brought the two arms of venture investment – angel and VC firms – closer together. ‘Historically the two worlds have existed seperately,’ remarks Cook. ‘From April this could all change.’

David Hall, Managing director of private equity at YFM

7. David Hall
Managing director of private equity,
YFM (▼6)

‘Surprisingly resilient’ is how David Hall describes 2011 for YFM, with portfolio values reportedly up around 10 per cent on average across a basket of some 200 businesses.

Investment figures for the year totalled £15 million with exits of £20 million, compared to £15 million for both in 2010. The year’s biggest transaction was a realisation of retailer Go Outdoors, with YFM banking around £7 million through a sale of a third of its stake in the outdoor goods specialist to international investor 3i.

Hall is wary of 2012, however. ‘I have never seen so much uncertainty in people, which leads to caution around boardroom tables and tends to impact investment rates in some businesses,’ he says. ‘Those companies that deal directly with Europe are facing the most uncertainty just now.’

Errol Damelin, CEO of Wonga

8. Errol Damelin
CEO, Wonga (▲)

Topping the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 list of fastest-growing tech companies, short-term lender Wonga is a formidable expansion story. Since 2006 it has raised more than £100 million in venture capital, starting with a seed round of £3 million from Balderton Capital followed by a torrent of cash from investor luminaries ranging from Oak Investment Partners to TAG and the prolific Robin Klein (number 2).

At the helm is South African-born former investment banker Errol Damelin, who discovered his entrepreneurial drive in Israel but believed the UK offered more opportunities. ‘I wanted to do something on a world scale, and it felt like London was one of the places you could do that,’ he says.

Having decontaminated the image of short-term lending in the UK, he now has eyes on global expansion.

Bernard Fairman, Founder of the Foresight Group

9. Bernard Fairman
Founder, Foresight Group  (▲11)

Foresight grew its funds under management by 63 per cent in 2011 (from £260 million in 2010 to £425 million) and finalised 27 exits. Fairman’s personal highlights include the £7.5 million generated from the sale of software company App DNA to Citrix, and securing the international sale of Onyx for £1 million to Indian buyers.

He also oversaw the acquisitions of 33 companies totalling £63 million and cites the purchase of solar energy provider Sunstroom Energy as a key achievement. ‘During 2012 Foresight intends to get a lot closer to our short-term objective of £1 billion assets under management,’ he adds.

Vin Murria, CEO at Advanced Computer Software

10. Vin Murria
CEO, Advanced Computer Software  (▲25)

With a forward order book worth £85.2 million and profits up 14 per cent to £10.4 million, AIM-listed Advanced Computer Software appears in rude health. No wonder Murria describes 2011 as a ‘truly remarkable year’.

Though she is also a partner at venture capitalist Elderstreet Investments (chaired by Business XL’s own Michael Jackson), she says ACS has been the main focus for her in the past 12 months. The company, which provides software services to the health, care and commercial sectors, has overseen five acquisitions in three years and in October signed its biggest contract yet: a £17 million deal with Northern Ireland’s health service. Another big deal for the firm was partnering with Vodafone to supply its measuring technology iNurse.

Giving something back is very important to Murria too and she generously donates her ACS salary to help further the educational opportunities of boys and girls in India.

Ralph Cox, Managing director at Blackrock

11.Ralph Cox
Managing director, Blackrock (▼9)

BlackRock still sits proud as the biggest investor in AIM-quoted companies with July research from sister publication Growth Company Investor showing that its stake in the market rose from £1.24 billion to £1.92 billion on the back of 11 new investments.

In his second year as sole manager for the £450 million Blackrock UK Smaller Companies Fund, Cox continues to favour companies with experienced management teams, with the fund heavily weighted towards the industrials
sector. In the coming year he’ll look to take advantage of the decline in equity markets that has, in his view, left many companies on very attractive valuations. To tick all his boxes, you’ll need robust cash generation, solid historic earnings and a strong balance sheet.

Charles Ind, Managing director at Bowmark Capital

12. Charles Ind
Managing director, Bowmark Capital  (▲)

In what he describes as an ‘amazing year’, Ind led Bowmark to two sizeable exits and a raft of new buy-outs and bolt-on acquisitions in 2011. New investments saw security business CSL DualCom and healthcare interest Glenside join Bowmark’s ranks while the firm also made seven new acquisitions for its Leaders Lettings business. Exits came in the form of Advanced Childcare for £28 million, achieving a 4.2 times return on investors’ money, and residential care business Kisimul in a deal worth more than £100 million. Ind sums up, ‘We’ve had a pretty amazing year given the headwinds.’ But it hasn’t been a breeze: Ind says the firm has committed a ‘huge amount of time’ to helping portfolio companies with their growth strategies.

Anne Glover, Chief executive at Amadeus

13. Anne Glover
Chief executive, Amadeus  (▼7)

It ended ‘a little jittery’, but 2011 was a solid year for Amadeus, says co-founder Anne Glover. The firm secured six notable exits and ended the year spearheading a $25 million investment in Unruly, the online advertising firm responsible for the rollerskating babies of the Evian adverts (see Deal Zone). Glover’s personal highlights include the exit of UK semiconductor company Icera, which was sold for $367 million, and the $85 million sale of  Stockholm-based Transmode, the first IPO on the Swedish exchange since 2007.

Outside the office, Glover’s endeavours switched to refurbishing her home and, going into 2012, the house seems to be in order at Amadeus.

Alex Macpherson, Managing director at Octopus Investments

14. Alex Macpherson
Managing director, Octopus Investments  (▼12)

A high point of 2011 for Octopus Investments was the £32 million exit of intruder alarm concern CSL Dualcom. Managing director Alex Macpherson also oversaw £30 million in new investments last year, an amount consistent with a bustling 2010.

Ever cheerful, keen kitesurfer Macpherson believes it’s a ‘fantastic time’ for entrepreneurs to be building businesses, with a job market ripe for hiring talented staff and building great teams. He adds, ‘We’re seeing a number of our portfolio companies making significant strides despite the economic environment, particularly when they’re doing something innovative in their marketplace.’ Next year, the company will look to invest some £45 million and sees telemedicine, remote diagnostics and patient care as sectors of interest.

Patrick Reeve, Managing partner at Albion Ventures

15. Patrick Reeve
Managing partner, Albion Ventures  (▼10)

Albion Ventures has a new focus on the environmental and healthcare sectors, investing some £25 million in 2011 in projects ranging from renewables to a psychiatric hospital – an investment commitment Reeve says was ‘better than
expected’. One of venture capital’s most eloquent advocates, Reeve enjoys a glass of white burgundy in his spare time and believes that the wider economy will go through some ‘serious hiccups’ this year.

‘There is a possibility of inflation raising its head as a consequence of quantitative easing, so a cautious view is prudent but equally life goes on and we just want to build businesses long term,’ he adds. The firm now runs nine VCTs.

Libby Gibson, Partner and co-founder of Piper Private Equity

16. Libby Gibson
Partner and co-founder, Piper Private Equity  (▲)

2011 saw Piper Private Equity celebrate its 25th year in the industry. It was a busy period for the firm, with  investments into footwear supplier Celtic Sheepskin and £8 million into cocktail bar chain Be@One, not to mention the exit of drinks company Bottlegreen, and £107 million raised for a new fund – twice the size of the previous.

‘We are very much looking forward to the future and we would like to make up to four investments from the fund this year if we can,’ says Gibson. She admits the consumer brand market in which Piper operates is a tough one, but is still excited by what’s to come. ‘In every recession there are always growth businesses and often it is the perfect time for expansion.’

Mark Wignall, CEO at Matrix

17. Mark Wignall
CEO, Matrix (▲31)

Wignall is surprised by the 2011 performance of his asset management company Matrix. ‘It’s been our best year by a country mile,’ he says, and the numbers bear out the statement. The firm has invested £31 million in seven companies, a figure roughly three times larger than 2010, and has also brought some £25 million back to its investors through three lucrative cash exits.

Wignall is loathe to predict the same success for 2012, however. He says, ‘The market is very fickle; we don’t know how things will turn out, but we will be properly resourced to capitalise on the market opportunities when they emerge.’ Wignall adds that the company will not be cutting back on staff and may even hire.

Bill Dobbie, CEO at Cupid

18. Bill Dobbie
CEO, Cupid  (▲)

Since listing on AIM in 2010 Cupid has undergone impressive international development, achieving its goal of generating more than half its revenues overseas. The company had £8.4 million in cash on its balance sheet in its
latest results and Dobbie oversaw a slew of acquisitions last year, including two German dating businesses for £2.5 million and

‘A year ago we were one-tenth the size of Meetic [a European dating website merged into] whereas now we have increased that to one-third,’ adds the serial tech entrepreneur who set up  premium-rate phone call company Teledata and sold it to Scottish Telecom in 1996.

Adam McConkey, Director at Henderson Global Investors

19. Adam McConkey
Director, Henderson Global Investors (▲)

Having taken over from Gervais Williams (number 22) in 2011 as head of Henderson Global Investors’ smaller companies fund, McConkey has been a constant champion of investing at the smaller end of the spectrum. He acknowledges that too many companies are competing for the attention of too little capital but says that this imbalance provides an attractive opportunity for investors. McConkey previously spent more than ten years involved with Gartmore’s investment team, a fund which was acquired by Henderson in January.

David Whileman, Partner at 3i

20. David Whileman
Partner, 3i (▲21)

The head of 3i’s UK growth capital division describes 2011 as a successful year that included investment, exits and ‘fantastic portfolio stories’. The UK portfolio includes insurance broker Hyperion, restaurant chain Giraffe and manufacturer AES Seals, which has just surpassed £100 million in revenue. Last year saw a £28 million investment for a minority stake in retailer Go Outdoors and the sale of energy service provider RBG to Stork Technical Services. Keen to hit 2012 with a running start, the energetic Whileman says his division ‘is upping the game’.

Paul Marson-Smith, Managing partner at Gresham Private Equity

21. Paul Marson-Smith
Managing partner, Gresham Private Equity  (▲)

After cutting his investment teeth at 3i, Marson-Smith decided he wanted to be backing more ‘entrepreneurial’ mid-market businesses. The move took him to Gresham Private Equity, where he oversaw an MBO of the firm in 2003 and its last fundraising in 2006 following which £350 million was committed in 28 days. As for the past year, Marson-Smith describes a ‘phenomenal’ period for the private equity house, with two new investments and 12 bolt-on deals.

While quipping that Gresham exists at the ‘unglamorous’ end of private equity, with its deals rarely making national headlines, he believes investment opportunities among growing companies are more exciting than ever.

Gervais Williams, Managing director of MAM Funds

22. Gervais Williams
Managing director, MAM Funds (▲)

AIM-listed MAM saw its share price soar by more than 13 per cent in January after the group revealed assets under management held up firmly in 2011.

Small-cap champion Williams, who moved on from Gartmore before it put itself up for sale in 2010, found time to write a book in 2011 about how credit growth and globalisation have contributed to the excessive scale of the financial sector. He remains committed to investing in growing companies within easy geographical reach,  commenting, ‘I expect more capital to be allocated back to companies we can see and touch.’

Rod Richards, Managing partner at Graphite Capital

23. Rod Richards
Managing partner, Graphite Capital (=23)

The past year saw Graphite exit its investment in shoe retailer Kurt Geiger, netting the firm a £120 million return from its initial £95 million investment, and bolster its Micheldever Tyre Services portfolio company with a number of bolt-on acquisitions. Meanwhile, the purchase of Protocol Education through existing investment Teaching Personnel has created what Rod Richards describes as the ‘largest operator in the market’. Richards says the private equity industry still has an unfairly bad reputation for simply cutting costs but adds that ‘virtually every company in our portfolio increased its profits last year’.

Edward Mott, Chief executive of Oxford Capital Partners

24. Edward Mott
Chief executive, Oxford Capital Partners (▼19)

Oxford Capital Partners completed investments in nine companies in 2011, including mobile power specialists PowerOasis, telephone recording business Compliant Phones, and diagnostics technology company Sirigen. The company, which has offices in Oxford, Switzerland and Hong Kong, has a portfolio that spans the sustainability, healthcare and communication sectors. Looking ahead, Mott comments, ‘Our goal for the future is to continue to broaden our product range, expand internationally and look for more great investments.’

Mark Watts, Managing partner at Marwyn

25. Mark Watts
Managing partner, Marwyn (▲)

Bucking stock market trends, the past year has seen Marwyn’s portfolio of listed companies grow an impressive 27 per cent in valuation. Among the standouts is Entertainment One, the media group responsible for popular children’s TV show Peppa Pig and film franchise Twilight, which saw CEO Darren Throop win Entrepreneur of the Year at the Quoted Company Awards. Each business in the portfolio has made at least one acquisition in the past year, with a lack of reliance on banks being pivotal to success, according to Watts. With a sixth addition to the Watts brood due in April, the next year proves to be just as busy for the former management consultant as the last.

Bob Holt, Chairman of Mears Group

26. Bob Holt
Chairman, Mears Group  (▼14)

It has been a tough year for housing maintenance luminary Mears, not that you could tell from its performance on London’s main market. While the group continues to exceed market expectations and predicts future growth, it was
hit hard by a recent government about-turn on new energy. But Holt, who also chairs mobile gaming specialist Mfuse and consultancy firm Green Compliance, still sees new energy as a growth area. ‘We [Mears] are going to look at
acquisitions in that space, but I am not sure where that business could be. [The sector] could definitely be significantly bigger than it is today in 12 or 18 months,’ he remarks.

David Holbrook, General partner at MTI

27. David Holbrook
General partner, MTI  (▼20)

Holbrook led three investments in 2011 using capital from the £32 million UMIP Premier Fund, including a fundraising for diabetes specialist Lein Applied Diagnostics. It may have been quieter on the exit front, although MTI did sell Myconostica, its first investment from the UMIP Premier Fund, in May.

Holbrook is excited about 2012 because the firm is set to raise money for a new fund which will involve strategic alliances with three universities. He comments, ‘Most of the real cutting-edge blue sky innovation is being done in universities and that is where we are positioning ourselves.’

Tim Levett, Executive chairman of NVM Private Equity

28. Tim Levett
Executive chairman, NVM Private Equity  (▼16)

NVM made investments of £30 million in six companies over the last 12 months, including a £6 million injection into risk consultancy company Control Risks. Other highlights for executive chairman Tim Levett include the exit of contracting business Prominex for a pleasing £18 million. Levett feels that the continued reluctance of banks to lend to entreprise will work in his favour in 2012, making businesses more liable to research equity funding as a finance option.

George Coelho, Managing director at Good Energies

29. George Coelho
Managing director, Good Energies  (▼18)

A prominent global investor in cleantech, Good Energies in 2011 closed a second round of investment with Agile Energy, a developer of large-scale power-generating projects, to the tune of $24 million (£15 million). Other investments for the firm included natural gas exploration and development company Inflection Energy. Keen blues guitarist Coelho has seen success backing big names such as Betfair and Lovefilm at previous firm Balderton Capital.

Philip Secrett, Partner at Grant Thornton

30. Philip Secrett
Partner, Grant Thornton  (▼28)

While the year started off well for AIM and smaller quoted companies, Secrett says they ‘hit a wall’ in the summer. Normally an optimist, he says it’s hard to see how things will change much for the next six months. In the past year Grant Thornton, under Secrett’s watch, has continued to be the leading adviser on AIM with just under 20 per cent of the market. His message to AIM-quoted companies is simple. ‘Businesses need to work out how they control their relationships with the market and institutional investors. The reality is that it is now harder than ever to get your voice heard.’

James Meekings, Funding Circle

31. James Meekings
Funding Circle  (▲)

A new entry for 2012, James Meekings has seen his peer-to-peer lending website Funding Circle explode in 2011, with lenders financing businesses to the tune of £18 million through his service, compared to some £3 million in 2010. He believes his service is a palatable option for both companies, which benefit from cheaper loans, and lenders, who enjoy interest rates unrivalled by conventional savings accounts. Says Meekings, ‘Businesses have
been looking for an alternative to banks for years now, and that trend is only going to accelerate in 2012.’

Entrepreneur and investor Theo Paphitis

32. Theo Paphitis
Entrepreneur and investor  (▲)

According to the Sunday Times Rich List, 53-year-old Paphitis banked £100 million from the sale of lingerie brand La Senza in July 2006. Now, he is growing a new competitor to his former company with Boux Avenue, which launched in March and already has seven outlets across the country. He describes the new venture, funded by bank debt, as ‘an internet business that just happens to have some stores’. And with 1,000 jobs expected to be created, ‘stonking’ Christmas sales and La Senza in administration, the stage could be set for market domination.

33. Nick Robertson
CEO, ASOS  (▲)

With menswear tycoon Austin Reed as his great grandfather, retail is in Nick Robertsons’s blood. The ASOS website, which attracts some 13.6 million visitors a month, had a successful 2011 with sales up 58 per cent to £324.1 million. Further international expansion is on the agenda for 2012 after international sales accounted for 43 per cent of total sales in 2011, and more than 50 per cent during the fourth quarter.

34. Stephen Welton
Chief executive, Business Growth Fund (▲)

Since its official launch in May 2011, the Business Growth Fund has set up six offices in the UK and assembled an experienced team of 50, including Marion Bernard, previously of Northstar, and ex-3i man Richard Bishop. In its first year the BGF made two investments – £4.2 million into online employee benefit provider Benefex and £4.25 million for Statesman Travel Group. When asked his goal for the future Welton says, ‘For the BGF to be here in ten years’ time generating dividends.’ Going into its first full operational year, the BGF aims to make between 30 and 40 investments annually, with the average investment at £5 million.

Rory Earley, CEO at Capital for Enterprise

35. Rory Earley
CEO, Capital for Enterprise (▼33)

In 2011 Capital for Enterprise, the government body set up to deliver business support initiatives, was part of a successful consortium bid to the Regional Growth Fund to set up a £50 million co-investment vehicle. The fund, which is able to make initial equity investments of between £100,000 and £1 million alongside syndicates of business angels, now has an investment committee in place and is already looking at deals, reports amiable CEO Rory Earley.

Peter Baines, General partner at Advent Venture Partners

36. Peter Baines
General partner, Advent Venture Partners (▼31)

Baines enjoyed four ‘significant’ exits in 2011, returning a reported average return of six times money. Investments included a £5.5 million injection in furniture and home and garden concern Worldstores and £3 million in Vitrue, which helps brands engage with social media. ‘Across the board we’ve seen continued strong growth in the e-commerce businesses, despite the dire situation,’ he says. All of the businesses Baines invests in are international as he sees the enterprises selling into the US and Asia as having more upside. He says that almost all of his portfolio businesses grew last year from 20 per cent up to 150 per cent.

‘Our job is to make sure these businesses carry on growing with the right team in place,’ adds Baines.

Eric Archambeau, General partner at Wellington Partners

37. Eric Archambeau
General partner, Wellington Partners  (▼27)

Despite a freezing economic backdrop, keen skier Archambeau says Wellington’s portfolio companies are performing well, with average annual sales growth of over 100 per cent for the past five years. The firm now has a venture capitalist in Asia who is helping the portfolio expand into the local market.

‘We think it is important to invest in  businesses that are on the fringe of the mainstream markets as these niches can be very profitable,’ he adds. Archambeau draws on extensive high tech management experience in Silicon Valley and Europe, and is widely known for his insights and experience in the social networking, data mining and electronics markets.

Hilary Devey, CEO of Pall-Ex Group

38. Hilary Devey
CEO, Pall-Ex Group  (▼29)

Lancashire-born Devey replaced James Caan as the new investor on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2011 while continuing to drive her pallet distribution company towards European expansion. Pall-Ex Romania was launched last year, the first pallet network in Eastern Europe, following the successful launches of Pall-Ex Iberia and Pall-Ex Italy. Devey, who overcame a stroke in 2008, continues to support and donate large amounts to various charities.

Jos White, Partner, Notion Capital

39. Jos White
Partner, Notion Capital  (▼36)

Entrepreneur White, who co-founded three successful businesses, declares that he very much enjoys being on the other side of the table now as a venture capitalist. His venture fund Notion Capital made one major investment in 2011, a £7 million boost for social business network Tradeshift.

It also made two big follow-on investments with a £4 million injection into virtual contact centre solutions provider NewVoiceMedia and £5 million into CRM company BrightPearl. White and the team are now focusing on raising a new fund which he says will be between $100 million and $150 million.

Marcus Stuttard, Head of AIM

40. Marcus Stuttard
Head of AIM  (▲41)

Stuttard says the year started well for AIM, with a good number of IPOs getting away. However when the summer’s problems landed the result was a ‘quiet autumn’ for the market.

Following three years as head, Stuttard points towards AIM’s engagement with policymakers as a standout achievement of the past year. ‘In the spring we saw the Budget announcing the extensions of EIS and VCT schemes which have historically been important for the finance of companies,’ he states.

41. Oliver Woolley
Partner, Envestors (▼39)

Enthusiastic Woolley describes 2011 as Envestors’ best year to date. The investor network is eyeing international expansion, with offices already operating in Dubai and India to follow.

42. Patrick Bradley
CEO, Ingenious Ventures  (▲)

In 2012, keen theatre-goer Bradley is eager to complete the fundraising for Ingenious’ new £20 million vehicle. ‘Britain is punching above its weight in media and entertainment,’ he declares.

43. Jamie Constable
CEO, RCapital (▼17)

In 2012, Constable foresees a tough environment for turnaround investors such as RCapital and believes the   Olympics could result in a ‘sterile’ environment for those businesses not directly benefitting.

44. Philip Wale
Chief executive, Seymour Pierce (▲)

In his former guise Wale sat as head of equities at Seymour Pierce before taking up the reins as chief executive in March 2011, capping a rapid march to the summit of AIM’s largest broker by number of clients.

45. Sean Seton-Rogers
PROfounders Capital  (▼43)

Seton-Rogers saw a 2011 rich in deals, investing some £6 million in nine early-stage internet companies compared to the venture firm’s five investments in 2010. Interests include Sir Stelios’ EasyCar.

46. Tom Singh
Serial entrepreneur and investor (▲)

Singh started New Look with just one store in 1969 after borrowing £5,000 from his parents. The serial entrepreneur is still on the board and is an active private investor in the tech and renewables sectors.

47. Chilton Taylor
Capital markets head, Baker Tilly  (▼42)

AIM stalwart Taylor feels that the government is ‘trying hard’ with improvements to EIS and VCTs, and expects to be ‘very busy’ this year when the new, less restrictive investment limits come into force.

48. Mark Boggett
MD, Seraphim Capital (▼40)

Mark Boggett is another VC with an optimistic outlook despite the gloom. He reports M&A activity as ‘robust’ and expects to see some ‘great opportunities’ for exits at Seraphim in 2012.

49. Cyril Theret

Stock exchange operator PLUS spent 2011 establishing new business lines such as derivatives exchange and financial technology services, as well as rebranding its growth company exchange, PLUS-SX.

50. Peter Jones
Investor and serial entrepreneur (▼45)

Beneficiaries of Dragon Jones’ investments in 2011 include quirky popcorn-manufacturing trio Love Da Popcorn and children’s gift-giving website, He’s also a noted Twitter addict.

Casualties of 2011

Matt Riley
CEO, Daisy Group (▼5)

The serial acquirer is taking time out to digest past purchases (see feature, page 56)

Charles Irving
Co-founder, Pond Ventures (▼22)

It’s been a year of relative stagnation for Pond after a busy 2010.

Tim Smit
Co-founder and chief executive, The Eden Project (▼32)

The inspirational eco-warrior was squeezed out of our ranking this year despite winning a knighthood.

Uli Fricke
Former chair, European Venture Capital Association (▼37)

Keen ballroom dancer Fricke has waltzed back to her day job as co-head of VC firm Triangle.

Kristian Segerstråle
Co-founder, Playfish (▼34)

The erstwhile entrepreneurial firebrand seems to be settling into corporate life at Playfish’s acquirer Electronic Arts.

Business XL’s Power Top 50 is a completely independent ranking of investors, serial entrepreneurs and advisers to public and private growing businesses, compiled using the expertise of knowledgeable industry insiders and  statistical analysis into transaction activity.

Some of the statistics used in the compiling of The Power Top 50 originate from The AIM Guide 2011/2, the essential source of information on AIM’s 1,158 companies.

The AIM Guide and AIM research reports are available to purchase from Vitesse Media in PDF format. You can find out more about them by calling 020 7250 7039 or emailing

Contributors to The Power Top 50: Nick Britton, Todd Cardy, Aoife Hayes, Thomas Hobbs, Ben Lobel, Miles Nolan, Hunter Ruthven


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