Internet business investment case study:

An example of how Acuity Advisors worked with a Cambridge start-up company to secure initial investment to help seed the business.

Here is how we did it…

The opportunity is a new and revolutionary internet service which is set to change the way people interact online forever. Acuity Advisors helped secure vital investment to support the next phase of its development.

The business enables users to listen to everything and everyone all together, ensuring they are up to date with information that is relevant to them without having to look for updates. It works by bringing together content such as text-based SMS, emails, news feeds, status updates, wall posts, tweets and blogs and converting it to speech that can then be listened to on a PC or mobile device. Users can mix the audio with their own music to create a “radio show” that they can personalise and share online. In short, provides users with the information that is important to them in a convenient, easily digestible format.

As well as a unique vision, set out with a strong technical capability that start-ups of this kind need. An online software demonstration platform produced by the founders generated a terrific amount of positive feedback and provided the building blocks for the next step in the company’s development.

The need for investment

Taking beyond a concept meant securing investment, and that involved addressing two key business challenges:

• Putting together a clear and comprehensive investment case:

A powerful and sophisticated value proposition like needs confident handling and experienced analysis so that the strongest possible messages emerge. When conveying what was special about, it was crucial to stand out in a crowded market sector, which was where sound, insightful differentiation played its part.

• Refining and validating the business model:

Investors needed to believe that was secure and that there would be an attractive return on investment.

“The concept is powerful and revolutionary,” said Duncan Barclay, CEO of “The challenge we faced was effectively communicating our vision for the product to get the necessary investment. There was a lot of work to do both on the idea and the business model, and we felt that with a concept this good it was important to approach investment in the right way.” knew they would need to be closely involved in putting together the business plan. Recognising the challenges, they also saw they couldn’t afford to learn by trial and error. “We wanted to find an experienced organisation who could work with us, mentor us and who had the appropriate network to facilitate the investment,” explained Duncan Barclay. started to profile corporate finance houses and Acuity soon emerged as a clear leader.

The approach

Acuity’s unique mix of capability, insight and attitude matched’s needs perfectly. Their deep understanding of the internet sector meant they grasped the concept completely, and having raised investment for many clients knew exactly what they needed at this stage in their development. Acuity Advisors thoroughly examined what were proposing, providing constructive criticism where necessary, and encouraging the management team to develop and refine their ideas.

Acuity’s approach is built on a deep-seated responsiveness to clients’ individual needs, both in terms of the project as a whole and the day-to-day requirements of companies in the midst of start-up or rapid growth. For, this involved running a series of workshops to draw out the important, the compelling, and the distinctive in what Duncan Barclay and his team were offering. Acuity’s unparalleled network helped broaden and deepen the research. This gives weight to the best investment proposals and a comprehensive set of business planning and modelling tools then gave the necessary robustness to the analysis and presentation of the case.

Raising finance can be a rollercoaster but Acuity have experienced the process from the client’s perspective and know when to support, when to encourage and when to push. “The Acuity guys were great – and had a different approach to what I was expecting. Their industry experience and management consulting backgrounds really helped extract the magic and refine what is about,” said Duncan Barclay.

The result’s proposal was brought to a carefully selected audience of prospective funders through a series of productive discussions with industry investors, VCs and regional development agencies. As a result secured the funding needed to take the concept to the next level and start to fulfil its undoubted potential.

“It would have been a struggle to make the progress we have without the quality of our business plan and the superb mentoring provided by Acuity,” concluded Duncan Barclay.

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