The deal that opened a new chapter
On the 4th of February 2021, I embarked on one of the greatest adventures of my professional life so far.
I signed a deal with an American private equity backer, raising £75m to supercharge the growth of my business, valuing BigChange at £100m.
I won’t lie to you. I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. I consider myself a good judge of character and I knew that I respected and liked the team from Great Hill Partners. But you never really know, do you?
Here I am, a year on, looking back over a 12-month partnership and, I have to say… It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I don’t want to get sentimental – I’m not one for love letters – but I wanted to talk about the experience. Often, as entrepreneurs, you hear the horror stories and see the battle scars, but you rarely find out about happy-ever-afters.
I’m here to say that our backer, Great Hill Partners, has done absolutely everything they said they would do. They have operated with integrity. They have supported me as a founder during one of the toughest and most uncertain times in living memory. They have helped this business to scale with a speed and efficiency that I couldn’t not have dreamed of on my own. They have opened doors that would have been bolted shut.
I would like to take some credit for the success of this partnership. As entrepreneurs, you are always told: do your homework. Get to know your potential investors. Speak to other founders in their portfolio. Ask about the awards they have won. I did all of that and more. So, credit to me, I picked the right partner. But no one expected a global pandemic to throw a spanner in the works. The best investor in the world would be forgiven for being rattled by that. But not Great Hill. Instead, they increased their level of support while also helping us access a further £25m to grow the business. We could never have done a deal like that on our own. Instead of putting on the brakes, they let me do what my instincts told me to do: accelerate.
I want to do a quick shout out to the individuals who have helped make this relationship such a success. I want to thank Drew Loucks, Chris Busby, Greg Stewart, Ryan O’Malley, Pablo Ramirez – the dream team that has supported me and BigChange this year. I want to say an enormous thank you to Richard Warley, our CEO, who was introduced to me by Great Hill, and has been a tremendous asset to the business. And last but not least, I want to thank the fantastic people at KPMG, who advised on the deal. We have spent over six years with KPMG, getting to know one another, and now I can genuinely say that I have made great friends in the process.
Many business owners are slightly afraid of private equity. Some with good reason: there are firms out there that give this kind of investment a bad name. But in my experience, any company that is serious about growth, and wants autonomy and firepower simultaneously, should consider it. If we had gone public, I wouldn’t be writing this update, I’d be bogged down in bureaucracy and gagged by shareholder agreements. It’s not for me. At least, not now. Maybe when we achieve our dream of becoming a unicorn, I’ll see things differently.
The bottom line for me is this: if we had never embarked on this journey with Great Hill, we’d be in a very different place. We’d still be successful and growing, but we wouldn’t have been able to invest in people and product like we have this year, creating the foundations for an even more brilliant future for the business. And our growth would be a crawl as opposed to a sprint. So, here’s to a most excellent year, and to the years of growth and success ahead. I’m very glad I signed on that dotted line last February.