Go Outdoors is a long story of success for investors and the final realisation of the business to JD Sports for £130m is the culmination of a poster story for early stage investing. All credit is due to YFM Equity Partners who achieved both a partial realisation in 2011 and this exit for its investors. It is also a story of success for VCT investing.
Go Outdoors founders Paul Caplan and John Graham had one store with sales of £2m when British Smaller Companies VCT plc originallyinvested, but with the financial and management support of YFM by the time of the sale the business had grown 100 fold to more than £200m of sales and over 2,000 employees.
Based in Sheffield Go Outdoors is also a story of success for the Northern Powerhouse, showing that investors wherever they are based need to keep their eyes peeled for opportunities.
The back story to one of the founders John Graham is also a lesson to where true entrepreneurs can be found. From the age of 16-28 John spent his time effectively homeless, living from hand to mouth, working on constuction sites and in forestry so he could keep fit and indulge in his passion for climbing. Working in an outdoors supplies shop which underserved its market gave him the idea to offer something better to people like him and hence Go Outdoors was born. He confessed in an interview with Virgin Money that he was not a money man and wished that he had known more about banking and investment earlier on, but equally without a background in simply using business to make a financial return appears to have contributed to the success of Go Outdoors which is known for its flat structure and non-corporate family feel. As John stated “If you’re too well-informed, there are too many reasons not to do it.”
Let’s hope that John and Paul who have now left Go Outdoors, once they have had a break, will join the world of angel investors as they will find themselves amongst friends wiith an attitude like that.
And no doubt smart investors will have already been on the phone to them to enquire what investment opportunities might be available – I happen to know that YFM is currently raising an interesting fund which many larger angels are taking very seriously indeed.