IN CONVERSATION WITH OLIVER WYNCOLL | PARTNER, BRIDGES FUND MANAGEMENT

As part of the Roofspace launch at Brand Potential recently, we facilitated an informal Q&A session with 3 market disruptors. In the first of a series of extracts from these conversations, we captured some of the thoughts from Oliver Wyncoll at Bridges Fund Management on how he looks for growth opportunities from a private equity perspective.

 

BIOG: Oliver Wyncoll | Partner, Bridges Fund Management

Oliver has extensive experience in the consumer sector, as both a lender and an equity investor to SMEs, and is focussed on identifying high growth sub-sectors and entrepreneurial businesses, in which Bridges can invest. Recent investments include 9bar and Vegetarian Express.

 

Oliver, in your role at Bridges Fund Management, and prior to that, you have invested in lots of brands – often household names that we all know about such as Dorset Cereals, Barts Spices;  and more recently Vegetarian Express and 9bar. Obviously, you’re looking for rapid growth through a 3-5 year ownership cycle, so what do you look for initially when you’re investing?

Always the management team. It starts with passion, belief, somebody who’s got a vision, probably wants to disrupt and do something different. Someone that’s got an idea to do something differently within the category, probably a rule breaker who doesn’t stick to normal codes.

The second thing would be a large addressable market, so not just a niche business where even if you win, the prize is quite small; rather that if you win you can go a long way with the idea.

 

But how do you find that opportunity? Because I suspect a lot of people here are thinking: that sounds great but how do I work out how to tap into that large addressable market? That seems to be the holy grail of all brand builders.

Through lots and lots of research. At Bridges, we try and start with issues and challenges. In my former firm, we just looked at interesting businesses, but now we start with global challenges.

For example, how are we going to feed the world by 2040 when the population is going to be 12 billion, not 8 –  it probably isn’t going to be though beef cows because there isn’t enough grass, there isn’t enough fields, there isn’t enough grains. So it’s probably going to be plant based. Hence our investment in Vegetarian Express.

So, we think about these big global challenges and try and identify a solution that’s going to match that challenge. We then set out to find the most investable brand – that’s a whole courtship process of working out who’s the most charismatic, the most disruptive, the most unruly individual you can find to attack that market. As well as it being a brand that has an essence that can be stretched into innovation.

 

What do you think makes the perfect mix of people in a team – not thinking about skills but the mindsets – what do you think the perfect growth team looks like for a brand?

We hire a lot of people in these companies that we invest in; because growing companies need more people and very often there at this broad C-Suite sort of level and you nearly always hire to function, when you’ve hired four people to function you then need a team and actually it’s not easy to hire to fit the needs of a team. It’s a jigsaw, you need complimentary people, you don’t want the same people, you want completely conflicting personalities. You need a creative, you need a completer finisher, you need the disparate parts that gel together. Growing a brand calls for healthy debate and some risk taking. Doing the same thing and working with the same people as everyone else gives you the same results as everyone else!

 

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