We’ll look back on 2016 as a year of radical change, politically, economically and socially.
Brexit, Trump, the Italian Referendum, the rise and fall of many governments (not to mention Ziggy Stardust), continuation of conflict in the Middle East, the Olympics, Panama Papers, terror attacks, natural disasters, climate change (or lack thereof, depending whether you believe in science or a madman) – and whatever else these final weeks hold in store for us. To say that 2016 was eventful would be an understatement.
This wild ride has thrown in a number of surprises, both good and bad, that have impacted us at SyndicateRoom and have definitely kept us on our feet as we continue to grow and evolve the business.
2016 was a year of expansion for us, in terms of both the team and the product offering. Three years ago there were three of us huddled in a shared office around the free biscuits and tea that we consumed with gusto. Two and a half years ago we moved into an office we thought we’d be at for at least five years.
Now, having reached 30 SyndicateRoom-ers, we’re looking to soon move into a space that will ensure we’re no longer bumping elbows as we type – and so the oxygen levels are high enough to support further growth without impacting on brain capacity.
It also marked the year of our first exit: SyndicateRoom alumni Oval Medical Technologies was bought up by US-based SMC for an undisclosed amount. Welcome to the Exit Club.
New product launches
Product launches littered 2016 with success after success. Midway through 2015 we hired Tom Hinton to lead our effort into the equity capital markets and in March we delivered our first offering, which broke down many long-perceived barriers that had kept retail investors out of IPOs and placings.
Since launch we’ve been fortunate to be a part in many capital raisings, ranging from £300m placings down to those seeking to raise less than £1m. And, while this move into the equity capital markets was exciting, it was just a small milestone towards our longer-term goal of offering retail investors unique opportunities in the space.
So, to deliver on that promise we introduced the world to The WatchList, the only curated list of growth-stage, AIM-listed companies, where retail investors create the market for a placing by expressing their binding interest in a potential opportunity.
And, while we were heavy on product development in the public market space, we were also busy with product development on the private side of things. James Sore, our Chief Investment Officer, spent much of 2015 analysing the EIS fund space and looking for flaws in the traditional approach. His research, backed by others at Intelligent Partnership and Kuber Ventures, led to the concept, and ultimately launch of, Fund Twenty8.
Fund Twenty8 is the only EIS fund that offers true diversification through industry spread and volume (Fund Twenty8 will invest in a minimum of 28 investments across various industries), and invests passively using a predetermined algorithm. It is the only EIS fund that operates in this way and, based off early investor feedback, we believe we are on to something evolutionary.
While all of the product launches have gone well and our market continues to grow, the year has not been without its challenges.
Brexit is the 800 lb gorilla in the room and all industry data, including our own, showed a slowdown in investment levels. Things in the fourth quarter of the year picked up big time and made up for some of the lost ground, but how the actual activity of leaving the EU will impact upon early-stage investing is still uncertain.
As well, our move into the public markets hit a flat spot as a result of Brexit, since the number of IPOs and placings dropped off significantly for a period of time after the vote. However, this too, and in particularly activity around the AIM market, has seen a positive fourth quarter. Long may that continue.
When 2017 kicks off I’ll look back on 2016 as a year of incredible change. We’ve developed some incredible products that will give us plenty of opportunity to optimise and grow throughout 2017.
For me, 2016 was a year of new; 2017 will be a year of perfecting.