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The good growth blog: Reflections on Portfolio Day 2022
Recently, BGF hosted its annual Portfolio Day event for the leaders of businesses we back. It was an excellent day enlivened by inspirational speakers, including Ed Balls and Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5.
This year’s venue, the Science Museum, got me thinking about some of the transformational inventions made by scientists here in the UK and Ireland. If there is one thing we have been really good at as a country over the centuries, it is inventing ‘revolutionary’ things.
Contrary to popular belief, the lightbulb was not the original invention of Thomas Edison, but the result of crucial technology invented 75 years earlier by Humphry Davy. On a more macabre note, the guillotine was invented, not in France, but in West Yorkshire 500 years earlier where it was called the Halifax Gibbet. (Although, to be fair to the French, we have stolen from them the word entrepreneur!). I could also point to the World Wide Web, invented by Tim Berners-Lee, or the computer itself, attributed to Charles Babbage.
Today, as we look to modern inventions and creation, a canter through BGF’s own portfolio showcases the breadth of ingenuity and creativity in the UK and Ireland.
I’m immensely proud of the role BGF has played in so many companies’ success, and the impact BGF has made in every sector, in so many ways. But what reflects a great BGF investment? Very simply a good idea, a big market, excellent execution and a great team – enduring qualities of any successful growth business.
Another new ‘invention’, which we talked about at Portfolio Day, is the establishment of the BGF Foundation. BGF has the ambition to generate a similar impact in the world of philanthropy as we have done with investment – supporting small local charities with funding and support. More to come on that front.
As I reflect on my 12 years at the helm of BGF what are my thoughts?
I am sometimes asked why I did it. Well, because it was a golden opportunity made possible by some truly enlightened banks. BGF has been fortunate to have such strong support and I’d like to extend a very big thank you to them.
Of course, we couldn’t have done it without all the BGFers past and present who have created the largest small and mid-sized business investment platform in the UK and Ireland. Eight of the 10 first employees are still here 12 years later which says something about sticking with what you believe in.
I am delighted that in September this year, one of BGF’s early joiners Andy Gregory stepped into the role of CEO. I am currently serving as executive chair and will move to non-executive chair in January.
If there is one thing that BGF has proved in that time, it is that there is huge demand from small and mid-sized businesses for capital. It seems strange to say now, but when we set up BGF, one of the biggest risks we flagged was a potential lack of demand. Today, £3.5 billion and 500+ companies later, we have shown there was no need to worry. We have also delivered excellent returns, well ahead of the original business plan… always a good thing!
To see just how far we have come, look at the ScaleUp Index 2022, collated by the ScaleUp Institute in partnership with Beauhurst. The index shows that BGF continues to be the biggest backer of scaleups in the UK by far. The scaleup funding ecosystem has been transformed over the last decade, for the better, but as you might expect me to say, there is always more to do, especially now.
Borne out of one crisis, we now face new headwinds, not just in the UK but globally. Time then to continue to innovate, to carry on that proud tradition of invention, and, as importantly, the successful commercialisation of science and research. Whether it be expanding the knowledge transfer from our leading universities, supporting decarbonisation, or creating additional scale-up capital, we should never lose the ambition personified by the Science Museum itself, namely The Voyage to the end of Imagination. I have every confidence that BGF will continue to play its role making a positive and lasting impact for many years to come.
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