A Yorkshire entrepreneur plans to create up to 90 jobs over the next five years after gaining support from seven investors for his latest technology-based business venture.
Martin Port has secured backing from major business players including Mark Adlestone, the chairman of Beaverbrooks, as he develops BigChange, a company which will help transport firms to eliminate paperwork and operate more efficiently.
BigChange, which is a mobile workforce technology company, today announced that it had raised more than £300,000 to help fund new product development and its international growth plans.
Much of the cash raised is to be invested in research and development.
The company plans to develop new systems for analysing business productivity and commercial vehicle data, as well as devising new versions of its mobile workforce productivity applications for the Android BigChange mobile computer.
It will also enable BigChange to expand the size of its international sales force.
The company, which has grown to 16 people in less than a year since its launch, intends to add a further 10 sales staff over the next year to accelerate its expansion in the UK and mainland Europe.
Chief executive Mr Port said: “BigChange is expanding rapidly. Almost 100 organisations already use our revolutionary JobWatch system, enabling them to achieve higher levels of customer service, improve the environmental performance of their commercial vehicle fleets, and maximise billable time by ensuring processes are as efficient as possible.
“Raising these funds, especially in the current climate, is a terrific achievement.”
Seven new private investors have taken an interest in BigChange. Apart from Mr Adlestone, they include Nick Rendell, formerly chief executive of Siemens VDO Trading; Frederic Dupeyron, formerly chief executive of Masternaut SA owner Hub Telecom, who now leads the French government’s Digital Economy programme; and Martin Lee, former financial director of Crown Eyeglass.
Mr Lee said: “I decided to invest in BigChange because I saw that there was a great opportunity to be involved at an early stage in a group which has an excellent product. It is focused on customer service and is led by someone who has a proven track record in the fields of telematics and mobile resource management.”
Mr Port has more than 15 years’ experience in the telematics sector. He founded Leeds-based vehicle tracking firm Masternaut in 2002, growing the business to a turnover of more than £22m, before exiting in 2011 after its £100m merger with an industry rival backed by a US private equity giant, Francisco Partners.
Mr Port founded BigChange Mobile in October 2011 as a distributor of mobile computers across Europe, and later developed the applications side of the business, BigChange Apps. Both come under the BigChange umbrella.
The service operates through applications that run on the BigChange mobile computer, manufactured by Israeli firm Micronet.
Mr Port, who holds the European rights to Micronet, said the BigChange system, known as JobWatch, “eradicates paper and improves organisations’ customer service and quality, business productivity and manages driver and vehicle risk management”.
In May, BigChange forecast sales of £1.1m with a loss of around £223,000 this financial year. It said it expected to reach sales of £6.2m in 2014 with earnings of £525,000. By 2016, the company forecasts sales of £16.4m, with £1.9m of earnings.
Commenting on his plans for the development of BigChange, Mr Port said yesterday: “We’re investing in some new product features to give us a big leap in the market.
“We’re looking to increase the number of sales people we have in the UK and Europe. This cash will help us to grow even faster.”
Mr Port and his wife Amanda own 63 per cent of BigChange, while commercial director Andrew Scully and head of research and development Johann Levy have got a five per cent share each.
Earlier this year, Mr Port said he had planned to raise cash through crowdcube, the online equity crowdfunding platform.
Yesterday, Mr Port confirmed that none of the £300,000 investment had come via crowdcube; it was all private money.
Within five years, he said he hoped BigChange would achieve a turnover of between £20m and £30m and have between 80 and 90 employees in Leeds.
BigChange’s customers already including transport, catering, logistics and window cleaning companies.
Nigel Hoyle at Leeds law firm Blacks advised Mr Port in connection with the fundraising.