A Cambridgeshire company that develops ‘smart sensing’ technologies largely for environmental applications* has secured a six-figure sum in seed funding to launch its products on international markets.
Enterprise Europe Network has played a key role over the last four years in helping ANB Sensors’ CEO and co-founder, Nathan Lawrence, to develop his pitching skills and to connect with would-be investors.
The co-investment came from Hatch Blue, an early-stage aquaculture venture capital firm, and Namier Capital Partners representing angel investors and industry professionals.
The deal will open the door to commercial sales in the US and Canada as well as South Africa, China, Australia and Europe.
The connection with EEN and adviser Kirsten Masson dates back to 2016 and a chance meeting soon after the business was founded. Nathan recalled: "Kirsten helped to set out my business plan and develop my future business growth plans."
Kirsten then pointed him towards PitchFest, a training and showcase programme delivered by EEN for SMEs looking to raise between £100,000 and £2 million. Successful applicants are given training culminating in an opportunity to pitch directly to angels and venture capitalists.
Nathan said: "We really developed throughout the PitchFest process. Our messaging and communication skills improved. The mentoring provided by EEN was invaluable and helped us to ultimately raise the funds to achieve fast growth."
While unsuccessful at securing funding during PitchFest 2016, the experience gained helped to attract an independent angel investor who funded ANB Sensors through its research phase.
€1.1 million Horizon 2020 grant
ANB Sensors was then awarded a €1.1 million Horizon 2020 grant in 2018, the only UK-based company to achieve this. The success was a big step forward in pushing its innovations towards commercialisation.
The award also helped reinforce the company’s reputation and investors gained confidence in the technology because it had been independently validated by a panel of H2020 judges.
Nathan added: "Winning the grant allowed us to expand our team from four to nine and secured the business for two more years."
"EEN has been instrumental in supporting the development of the business over the last few years. Kirsten was always there to help with big decisions and keep the momentum going after the successful learning of PitchFest 2016."
Being accepted afterwards for PitchFest 2018 and selected to pitch to its panel of investors, provided the further traction to secure the latest seed funding.
*ANB Sensors’ self-calibrating pH sensing technology is more affordable because it does not need frequent manual calibration to maintain accuracy. Applications range from oceanographic monitoring using autonomous underwater vehicles to large-scale water networks and industrial plants.