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£60M Fund makes first investment

Published: 1st May 2002

Sheffield based company, Qualsys Ltd (www.qualsys.co.uk) is the first business in which specialist gap funder South Yorkshire Investment Fund has made an investment from it's Small Business Fund.
Qualsys Ltd specialise in on-line document management systems, providing implementation and consultancy services. The Qualsys system builds an intranet into the heart of an E-business system that securely links multi-sites and multi-users to managed critical documents.

The company has an impressive blue chip client list including BT, AIG (American Insurance Group - the largest insurance company in the world), Bradford Hospitals Trust and Sheffield City Council

"We are thoroughly delighted that Qualsys Ltd is our very first Small Business Fund customer. The business is very focussed and has real potential to grow - precisely the sort of business we are looking to invest in. We have been able to provide a package of finance tailored to its growth needs. This is exactly how we can fill the gaps in the market and provide opportunities for local businesses to grow," said Tony Goulbourn, Chief Executive of South Yorkshire Investment Fund (the Fund).

"We are at the second funding round and at this particular stage in our growth the Fund is a perfect partners for us. The package is just right and appropriate at this phase in our business planning. Their Money with Management scheme, which provides mentors or non-executive directors, attracted us to the Fund. We have a good level of skills in our team but we identified a specific gap that the Investment Fund will help us fill with additional skills," said Mike Pound, Managing Director of Qualsys Ltd.

The company needed funding to finance its plans to extend the scope of software it produces and to increase its marketing activity. Rather than rely on traditional funding sources, Qualsys Ltd put together a syndicated package, approaching the Fund and UK Steel Enterprise Ltd.

John McCartan, Regional Executive for UK Steel Enterprise Ltd was keen to emphasise the benefits South Yorkshire businesses are now offered; "South Yorkshire Investment Fund provides the sort of finance not usually available from conventional sources and this investment proves that a lack of funding should no longer be a barrier to growth for many small firms. UK Steel Enterprise's aim is to help South Yorkshire businesses prosper, being in partnership with the Fund is a major step forward in achieving that goal."

Throughout the business planning process, the company has received advice from its bank and chartered accountants Hawsons. "At Hawsons, we are delighted to have helped Qualsys Limited obtain support from South Yorkshire Investment Fund. We are pleased to have been involved in the first investment by the Fund and it demonstrates that the Fund does make a difference. We wish both Qualsys Limited and the Fund every success in the future," said Chris Hill, Partner at Hawsons.

Additional Information:

Mike Pound and his fellow director, Mike Bendall formed Qualsys Ltd in 1995 when they spotted a niche in the software market. Since then, the company has steadily grown to its present size, employing 10 people at Aizlewood's Mill in Sheffield. The company plans to triple turnover by 2005.

According to recent research, the document management software market is set to grow 35% annually until it reaches $4.2 billion by 2005; Qualsys Ltd has every intention of sharing in that growth.

The company takes a very innovative approach to marketing its products and services, most of which are focused on supporting Quality Management initiatives - a niche they feel they exploit well. Many of the present clients have quality standard requirements such as ISO9000; the expansion plans will allow the company to offer even more services to organizations that rely on standardized documentation management.

Instead of travelling hundreds or thousands of miles to see one of their clients Commercial Director, Robert Oakley holds web conferencing presentations at which he pulls together several clients at once. Via the use of web-conferencing, Robert talks to his clients who, thanks to innovative web software, can see his PC screen on their own PC. He can then take the client through a full presentation with no one having to leave their own office - or run up the costs of doing so.

"We believe in using the internet wherever possible and are ambitious about its use in future marketing. Our techniques allow us to sell to any global company without ever having to meet the client in the flesh," says Robert Oakley.

The company recently held a web conference that simultaneously involved one company's representatives in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Houston and London. At present one third of Qualsys Ltd's leads come through the internet - a percentage they believe will grow in the immediate future.

Research by the Institute of Directors in 1982 determined that 62.3% of company value was represented by tangible assets. Ten years later this figure had plummeted to 37.9%, reflecting the value being placed on knowledge and experience of staff.

"Our software allows employees to access information at any time, irrespective of their location. This is a major benefit to multi-site businesses or those with mobile staff. If a company wants to fully utilise the skills and knowledge of its employees, then providing quick and easy web based access to business critical information allows them to work from anywhere, saving time, money and stress; Qualsys software can make all of that possible " says Robert Oakley.

South Yorkshire Investment Fund is a £60m private/public sector business finance provider part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. It has been created to offer loans and equity deals to businesses in South Yorkshire and is a part of the Objective One programme. The Fund also has support from the SRB to assist its money with management programme.

The Fund is looking to invest in over 700 businesses, create 5,500 jobs, help start over 170 new businesses and lever in over £28million of private sector investment.

Editor's Notes

About South Yorkshire Investment Fund

South Yorkshire Investment Fund  provided seedcorn, loan and equity linked investments, ranging from £15k to £2.5m, specifically to help small and medium businesses meet the gaps in funding they need for growth and development.

Created as part of the Objective 1 programme, the Fund is a private and public sector business finance provider. The European Regional Development Fund and Yorkshire Forward are investors in the Fund.

South Yorkshire Investment Fund also provided access to Business Angel investments from the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels and Microloans through BiG Business Loan Fund and Donbac Microloan Fund.

Finance Yorkshire has now taken on responsibility for providing gap finance in Yorkshire and the Humber.

For further details please contact Suzanne Tinkler,  on 0845 649 0000.

South Yorkshire Investment Fund Ltd is a company limited by guarantee (Registered No 3936065). South Yorkshire Investment Fund comprises three sub funds, the South Yorkshire Investment Capital Fund, the South Yorkshire Investment Development Fund, which are each managed by YFM Venture Finance Limited, and the South Yorkshire Investment Small Business Fund, which is managed by Finance South Yorkshire Ltd. YFM Venture Finance Limited (Tel 0113 294 5000) and Finance South Yorkshire Ltd (Tel 01709 386 377) are each authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. South Yorkshire Investment Fund also provides a number of services, which are not regulated by The Financial Services Authority. These include the pilot Seedcorn Fund, BiG Business Loan Fund, Mentorbank and access to the Donbac Microloan Fund. BiG Business Loan Fund is managed by Donbac Ltd (company registration No. 01925556) and Key Fund Yorkshire Ltd (Tel 0114 242 8900).