We tracked every startup that raised venture capital in 2011

| Beauhurst

Each year, Beauhurst revisits a cohort of British startups who raised equity finance in 2011. 2010 onwards marks the real start of the UK’s startup movement – as our data has shown, VC activity in this country over the past nine years has shown rapid year on year growth, in large part buoyed by the growth of Britain’s fast-maturing tech industry.

1545 British startups raised equity finance in 2011, providing a good sample size, and it’s now been eight years since these funding rounds. The venture capital life cycle for a young company is fluid, and prone to frequent exceptions. As we reported last year, many young companies now seem to be putting off IPOs in favour of larger late-stage private deals. However, the exit horizon for a VC investment is still generally considered somewhere in the 8 – 12 years mark. Our 2011 sample therefore falls nicely into the lower bound of a VC’s preferred time to exit.

The overall picture is mixed. 19% of these businesses have since died. This figure goes up to 21% if you include companies classed as “zombie”, i.e. those displaying passive signs that they have gone out of business. At first glance this seems to dispel the oft-quoted claim that “90% of all startups fail”. However, it’s important to remember that our sample only looks at businesses that have already raised finance, and doesn’t include the many startups that will fail before reaching their first funding round. That said, the figure still seems positive, for the VC due diligence process if nothing else.

Current stage of evolution

Going out of business isn’t the only way a startup can fail, however. These companies raised finance eight years ago, which is eight years this capital has been locked up in what are, for the most part, illiquid ventures. 12% of the companies are still in seed stage, whilst 25% are still in venture stage. Whilst there’s no guarantee some of these companies won’t exit over the next two to four years, it’s unlikely that these figures will shift significantly in that period. 

Putting these figures together, 58% of the startups that raised finance in 2011 have either gone out of business, or have so far failed to grow beyond early, pre-revenue stage. From a VC’s point of view, these non-growth businesses can largely be considered a “sunk cost”. “60% of funded startups fail to exit” puts a less positive spin on the situation.

The Successes

Acquisitions

Whilst this “failure” rate is quite high, this cohort does feature internationally successful and well-known startups. These include Skyscanner, DeepMind, Shazam and Addison Lee, all of which were acquired for sizeable sums. From this cohort, 226 companies have since been acquired (15% of the total companies); 21 for sums of or above £100m. The top five acquisitions are listed below.

Top acquisitions of companies that raised equity finance in 2011

Skyscanner
£1.4 billion
DeepMind
£400 million
NaturalMotion
£320 million
Shazam
£300 million
addison lee
£300 Million

Whilst not a huge amount has changed, there have been several large and interesting acquisitions in the 12 months since we ran our last analysis of this 2011 cohort, which can be viewed in the following table. 

Top acquisitions of 2011 cohort companies since 2018

Company Acquirer Deal Amount Date of Acquisition
NewVoiceMedia
Vonage
£264m
September 2018
Audio Network
Entertainment One
£174m
April 2019
Chargemaster
BP
£130m
June 2018
Be At One
Stonegate Pub Company
£50m
July 2018

IPOs

32 of the 1545 companies which raised equity in 2011 have gone on to IPO. That’s an IPO rate of 2% after eight years, a figure worth remembering for entrepreneurs who dream of taking their startup to the public markets. The leaderboard for the top IPOs from this cohort is displayed below:

Top IPOs by 2011 cohort companies since 2018

Company Stock Eschange IPO Amount Date of IPO
Funding Circle
LSE Mainboard
£300m
September 2018
Nucleus
AIM
£32.1m
July 2018
i-nexus
AIM
£9.2m
June 2018
Finncap
AIM
£3.75m
December 2018

Future exits?

Past successes aside, there is still a lot of return potential in this cohort for those who invested in 2011. Big hitters who are yet to exit include The Hut Group, Transferwise and BrewDog, who are all part of the UK’s billion dollar startup club.

The Hut Group, fast becoming an e-commerce giant in the health and beauty sector, was rumoured to be considering an IPO last September, amid reports of several takeover bids which valued the business at around £4b. However, their senior management team have downplayed the prospect in the past. International payment processor Transferwise (who were recently valued at $3.5b in a secondary round) also seems happy to remain private for the foreseeable future. Craft brewing giant BrewDog, on the other hand, have laid out plans to IPO in 2020, with London currently stated as the preference over the US. This will provide liquidity to customers who bought shares through their crowdfunding “equity for punks” mechanism.

Another startup from this cohort is Secret Escapes, a members club which sells heavily discounted luxury hotel and travel tickets. Their revenues have boomed from £20m in 2014 to over £70m in 2017. Operating losses are coming down, and the company has earned a place on several prestigious high-growth lists, including LinkedIn’s Top UK Startups, and the London Stock Exchange’s “1000 Companies to Inspire Britain”. Whilst perhaps not headed for an exit soon, Secret Escapes is fast becoming one of the leading startups from this 2011 club.

The Failures

A total of 296 companies which raised equity in 2011 have since gone out of business. Altogether, these companies had raised close to £1b in funding. £313m of this funding took place in 2011.

In terms of the biggest startup failures, the league table is still topped by the same startups as in our last analysis. The top five startup failures have been listed below:

Top failures of 2011 cohort companies by funding raised 

Company Sector Total Funding Date of Death
Enigma Diagnostics
Medical Devices
£82.3m
April 2017
Aquamarine Power
Cleantech
£53.7m
March 2016
Enecsys
Cleantech
£45m
January 2016
Mirics
Telecomms
£32m
April 2018
ECO Plastics
Recycling
£31.8m
November 2014

All this data comes from our platform.

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