23 November 2020
YFM Equity Partners (YFM) has boosted its growing portfolio of high-growth technology businesses with an investment into award-winning marketing automation platform, Force24.
Force24 is a cloud-based marketing automation platform that allows an in-house marketing manager to deliver personalised marketing campaigns with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) integration. The platform is already trusted by a number of household brands including Michelin, Tarmac and BBC Children in Need, to deliver over 900 million marketing emails so far this year, and the business saw turnover leap by 40% from 2018 to 2019, with revenues expected to reach over £3.5m this year despite the economic impact of the global pandemic.
Led by the founders, managing director Adam Oldfield and commercial director Nick Washbourne, Force24 has grown to a 54-strong team with its headquarters in Leeds.
Adam Oldfield said: “We are immensely proud to have seen the business go from strength to strength, it is now at the next stage of its development and, to take it forward, we knew we needed to partner with an investor that has real insight into our sector.
“YFM has a proven track record of supporting fast growing businesses and we undertook our own due diligence, talking to entrepreneurs within the PE house’s investment portfolio as well as to professional advisers, all of whom were very positive. We are confident that they are the right fit for us culturally – they really understand our business and believe in our growth trajectory.”
YFM has a national portfolio of software and tech businesses, including data transformation software company Matillion in Manchester; Springboard in Milton Keynes which provides footfall data to the retail industry; and global e-learning platform Elucidat, based in Brighton.
Nick Washbourne added: “Over the last few years, Force24 has experienced fast paced growth and despite some initial customer disruption at the outset of the pandemic, we have seen a resurgence in demand as more businesses accelerate their digital transformation.
“We have already established a strong foothold in the UK with increasing numbers of marketers recognising the key differentiators of our platform. This investment will help us to strengthen our sales and marketing operation, enabling us to build our profile in the market as well as continuing to develop the platform and invest in innovation.
“Over the next three years, we plan to significantly invest in our technology to enable marketers to save even more time and deliver even better messages via a broader range of message mediums. Force24 works with small, medium and large companies in a wide spectrum of industries, across B2B and B2C markets. During 2020, we’ve seen a significant increase in customer numbers, and changes to working practices have meant brands now place even more importance on holding strong digital relationships with customers and prospects.”
Mike Clarke, Partner at YFM, will join the Force24 board following the investment. He commented: “Adam, Nick and the team have identified a gap in the market to provide a sophisticated marketing platform that delivers a high level of service and account management, at an attractive price point. With the ever-growing demand for online marketing and the company’s commitment to helping upskill and support users, the business has huge potential.
“Our portfolio experience means we are well placed to help cutting-edge tech businesses scale up, and many are experiencing a surge in demand in the current environment. Force24 has an ambitious vision for the future, including doubling the size of the team over the next 18 months, and we want to play a key role in helping it to achieve this.”
The YFM team comprised Mike Clarke, Ian Waterfield and Aaron Lowery. Jim Whittaker, Rob Umpleby and Jonny Haygarth at Grant Thornton in Leeds ran the investment process for management at Force24; and Jonathan Simms and Sarah Harrison of law firm Clarion advised management. James Foster and Sophie Davies of Shoosmiths provided legal support for YFM; Martin Athey of BHP led financial due diligence; James Bagan of Sales Forensics provided sales due diligence; Anna Cornwallis of Stratton HR provided Management due diligence and Phil Snell of James Cowper Kreston provided tax advice.
Jim Whittaker, director at Grant Thornton, which acted as lead financial advisers on the fundraising, commented: “Force24 is a best of breed marketing automation platform, and YFM’s investment will allow the company to accelerate its development roadmap and growth ambitions. It has been a pleasure to support yet another fast growing tech business in the Yorkshire region.”
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