Nexus Investments Backs Award Winning Health Tech Scale-Up Kafoodle

PRESS RELEASE: London, 14 February 2020.

Nexus Investments are delighted to announce an investment into the award-winning health tech scale-up Kafoodle. This investment represents Nexus Investments’ 75th round of EIS investment since 2014, totalling £12m of EIS invested capital, and is the 9th investment made by the Scale-up Fund, which was launched late 2018 ( )

Kafoodle is a fast-growing food-tech company that enables commercial kitchens, specifically in hospitals, care homes, schools and corporate catering, to manage the ever-increasing demands of dietary requirements whilst still being able to control margins. Their innovative and easy-to-use SaaS product is already used by large organisations such as OCS, The Compass Group, MHA and HC One, and are now planning to accelerate sales and grow recurring revenues with this new funding round.

Nexus strongly believes that Kafoodle answers an increasingly growing need in society. In the UK alone, there are 532,000 commercial kitchens that need to be compliant on the provision of food allergen information to consumers, and there is also heightened consumer awareness and desire for nutrition transparency. Kafoodle offers an easy and effective solution to these demands.

Furthermore, Kafoodle fits perfectly into Nexus’ Investment strategy; a company primed to scale, led by an entrepreneurial and inspiring team, and is operating at the epicentre of the 4 sectors that Nexus specialise in – Data, Digital, Education & Health. See the rest of our portfolio segmented into sectors below, and more information can be found on either of our websites: or

With this new level of funding, Nexus are looking forward to working with and watching Kafoodle grow in the many years to come.

Tarryn Gorre, CEO – Kafoodle:

“We are delighted to welcome Nexus as one of our new investors. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience of the education, healthcare and tech sectors. Securing investment from funds of the calibre of Nexus is a great endorsement of what we have achieved to date and with their support we believe Kafoodle can realise its full potential as a leading food-tech innovator.”

Are you an HNW/ Sophisticated private investor or financial adviser who wants to support some of the most exciting scale-ups in the UK, whilst mitigating your risk through EIS? If so, drop us a message!


About Nexus Investments

Nexus Investment Ventures Limited (NIVL) was founded in 2014 to focus on high-growth entrepreneur-led UK EIS investments following successful investments made by Nexus group over the past 25 years. NIVL take a nurturing approach through active involvement on the board, or advisory board of the company and through the introduction of appropriately experienced investors to help guide these businesses as they scale in the UK, and often globally. Nexus is owned by entrepreneur and financier, Harry Hyman, who in 1996 founded, and is still managing director of Primary Health Properties Plc. PHP is a FTSE-250 listed Real Estate Investment Trust with over £2.3bn AUM itself. Nexus also owns Investor Publishing and runs the International Opera Awards. He was featured in the business section of the evening standard recently.

Now with over £2.3m AUM, the Nexus Investments’ Scale-Up Fund (“the Fund”), continues its route to £10m overall, and addresses a large gap in the market by focussing on three of the most exciting areas of change in the world today, Data, Education and Health. It specifically deploys EIS investors’ capital into a portfolio of 8-10+ UK scale-ups with global ambitions.

Scale-Up Fund Doubles AUM and makes VR investment

PRESS RELEASE: London, 11 December 2019.

Nexus Investments, a division of Harry Hyman’s Nexus Group, today announces that it has doubled the AUM within its specialist Data, Education and Health EIS investment vehicle within its first year of being operational.

Now with over £2m AUM, the Nexus Investments’ Scale-Up Fund (“the Fund”) launched on 30 November 2018, continues its route to £10m overall, and addresses a large gap in the market by focussing on three of the most exciting areas of change in the world today, Data, Education and Health. It specifically deploys EIS investors’ capital into a portfolio of 8-10+ UK scale-ups with global ambitions.

Exciting UK scale-up brands
The Fund has already made 8 investments ranging between £100k and £180k within the first 12 months, highlights include:

MarcoPolo Learning Inc. – Education – started in New York, now officed in Victoria. An education tech content brand with over $15m of funding behind it, it provides a PhD-designed early learning curriculum including fun games and tools for a global audience of parents to download for their 3-7 year olds to watch and learn from on tablets and phones (an antidote to endless Peppa Pig repeats on YouTube)

Everpress – Digital – officed in Shoreditch. A platform which enables creative artists, influencers, designers, musicians and brands to sell merchandise with their own designs to their social media followers by organising limited edition sales campaigns. Everpress splits campaign profits with the creators (and also “reduces waste in fashion” because of the absence of returns or unwanted merch). This year’s viral Egg campaign arranged some its merchandise through Everpress.

iPushPull – Data – based at We Work Moorgate. A real-time data-sharing software business, popular with capital markets and banks. “It doesn’t sound particularly sexy” but helps multiple users work with and edit the same piece of data concurrently and securely, using chat and other messaging services. Improves workflow.

Fundamental VR – Health/Education/Digital/Data – “flight simulators for surgeons”, giving medical personnel access to the best Virtual Reality simulations to speed up qualification of surgeons world-wide, by combining high fidelity with high function haptic (touch) experiences. Customers and investors include the Mayo Clinic. Recently completed £5m investment round.

All of the above are run from headquarters in London, UK, and make substantial sales all over the developed world. Yet are largely unheralded/unknown.

Case Study

Another stand‐out Fund investment, Medic Spot has received substantial UK local press in recent weeks, with Healthcare and the NHS at the centre of the general election, and NHS commitments made by all parties. Medic Spot has developed a digital health solution which allows doctors to perform remote examinations using equipment placed in pharmacies and operated by the patient. The kit enables GPs to listen to a patient’s heart and lungs remotely, look into their ears and throat and take their vital readings including blood pressure, oxygen levels and body temperature – all without needing to be in the same room. A national survey of patients who have used the service revealed 40 per cent would have gone to accident and emergency if they had not had the ability instead to use Medic Spot. The company has successfully rolled out to 250+ pharmacies to date and has doubled monthly revenues since Nexus’s initial investment in July 2019. The company continue to progress in the private market and have gained significant interest from NHS bodies.

Because of its skill in spotting and supporting important businesses like the ones above:

– Nexus Investments have recently been shortlisted as Best Single Sector specialist, and Best Generalist EIS Fund Manager at Investment Week’s Tax Efficiency Awards.
– Matthew O’Kane, Managing Director of Nexus Investments has been recently featured in the Sunday Times Business Section discussing his learnings from more than 20 Angel investments made since 2014.
– Alternatives Platform Wealth Club recently made their interview with Matthew their video of the week.

Why now

The next monthly subscription cut off for the Scale-Up Fund will be on 16 December 2019, and then on 31 January 2020. Fund details can be found at

The fund is available for Wealth Managers and IFAs to access for their advised clients, but also for sophisticated private investors to apply directly.
Matthew O’Kane said: “Irrespective of this Friday’s election result, we continue to see proof that tomorrow’s greatest global challenges and therefore biggest global opportunities remain in the Data, Education and Health sectors. These are resilient sectors where the UK is respected throughout the world for both innovation and expertise. “

He continued “Nexus Investments are quietly developing a really positive track-record of talent-spotting UK people and products to back in our three core areas, and producing demonstrable results for EIS investors. Having doubled its AUM in just its first year, our Scale-Up Fund should be of interest and relevance to advisors and private EIS investors alike. If the founders succeed, we will succeed, so the stories behind our portfolio should also hopefully be of interest to journalists wanting to report on what is really happening in the spaces of investment, innovation and entrepreneurship, not just in Silicon Valley, but here in London and the UK”

More details on the portfolio can be found at

Fund details can be found at

For press queries or to book our Managing Director for media comment, please do contact the Nexus Team on 0207 104 2068 or at [email protected]
Some background on Nexus

Nexus is owned by entrepreneur and financier, Harry Hyman, who in 1996 founded, and is still managing director of Primary Health Properties Plc. PHP is a FTSE-250 listed Real Estate Investment Trust with over £2.3bn AUM itself. Nexus also owns Investor Publishing and runs the International Opera Awards.
The Fund’s Independent Investment Advisory Committee members include Keith Mansfield, formerly London Chairman of PwC, and Stephen Lawrence, Chairman of Protocol Education. Together with Matthew O’Kane, the Principals and Investment Advisory Committee have invested over £450,000 in the Fund on the same terms as external investors.

Early-stage digital EIS companies that were backed by Nexus some years prior to the Fund, such as (video clips for classrooms – 2014) and (literacy app for teachers to teach writing – 2016), are already part of the changing face of education teaching world-wide.
Matthew O’Kane is available for media interviews, or comment, on topics around

a. EIS
b. tax-efficient investments
c. entrepreneurship
d. pensions
e. venture and angel investing
(similar to those he recently touched on here in an interview at BBC Parliament’s studios )


Avid readers of the Sunday Times may have spotted a familiar face in 16 June’s edition. Managing Director of Nexus Investments, Matthew O’Kane, was featured in the weekly “Q&A with an Angel Investor section.” Click the link here for some of Matt’s insights on start-ups, and types of businesses he likes to back.

Please do get in touch with Matthew O’Kane on 0207 104 2059, or Cameron Kavanagh, on 0207 104 2068 so that we can explain further.

EIS Guide Published

Nexus Investments has partnered with the Enterprise Investment Scheme Association (EISA) to provide a very useful 24-page guide to EIS & SEIS. The guide thoroughly explains the roles of EIS and SEIS, how investors can benefit and how diversification is just one of the ways to manage the perceived risks in private company investment. It also includes detailed information on recent changes, such as the introduction of “Knowledge Intensive Companies”.

The guide is available in PDF here or hard copy, please contact us and we will be delighted to send it to you.

As a reminder, the Nexus Investments’ Scale-Up Fund is Evergreen and therefore open each month for investment. It provides UK tax-paying investors with a diversified, curated portfolio of 8-10+ EIS qualifying businesses, operating in the Data, Digital, Education and Health sectors.

We are around and very happy to set up a coffee with you or your advisers to discuss further.

Please do get in touch with Matthew O’Kane on 0207 104 2059, or Cameron Kavanagh, on 0207 104 2068 so that we can explain further.

First Completion Announcement

We are delighted to announce the first tranche completion of Nexus Investments’ EIS Scale-Up Fund took place in November 2018.

Total investment to date in just 3 months has already passed the initial £1m minimum threshold, and we will now start initiating investments into the exciting pipeline of post-seed/ pre Series A opportunities we have developed in the Data, Digital, Education and Health areas, with extensive due diligence currently being undertaken on the following companies:

Digital – an energy sector solution platform; a sports gaming industry app.
Education –  an early schools video content creator; an HR workflow app for pre-schools.
Health – a hospital workflow app; a medical device to assist with innovative measurement of fluid levels in patients; a free from healthy food product with over 1000 sites of distribution

Almost all of the above rely or utilise a smart interaction with Data to provide their solutions. These are under consideration in addition to a number of the portfolio who are completing Series A or similar rounds shortly.

The Fund now opens for its 2nd tranche completion, towards its total £10m capacity.

For wealth managers, IFAs, or private investors who would like to know more about both the Fund and also Nexus Investments wider track record of growth on our £8m+ selected EIS client portfolio built since 2014, please do get in contact via email to [email protected]  or on 0207 104 2008, so that we can arrange a meeting.

Grant Thornton Investor Spotlight: Matthew O’Kane, Nexus Investments

Matt is a Chartered Accountant, formerly of Deloitte and PwC, and Managing Director of Nexus Investments, a division he helped to start in 2013 for Harry Hyman. A tax specialist, he has sourced the vast majority of NIVL’s 20 existing portfolio company clients, sitting on the Main Board or Advisory Board of a number of the UK’s most promising businesses, and advising some of our most promising entrepreneurs.

Nexus Investments have just launched their EIS Scale Up Fund for investors wishing to participate in Nexus’s next hand-picked wave of companies scaling up in the Data, Digital, Education and Health sectors.

Could you tell us a little bit more about Nexus Investments?

The Nexus Group was founded by Harry Hyman in 1994 and is entrepreneur built and led. Since late 2013, our Investments division have been part of over £40m raised and invested in 20 Portfolio Companies that we have selected, Nexus Investments having arranged £7m of this over 50 rounds from a close-knit circle of HNW and sophisticated/experienced industry investors.

A representative of Nexus acts as either advisor or often board member/advisory board member to our promising companies. Strong paper performance since then means we have now recently launched our first Scale-Up EIS Fund, to enable a wider and deeper pool of investors to invest with us. The Fund’s investments will continue to focus on the Data, Digital, Education and Health sectors. Nexus are committed to finding and supporting only the most meaningful and transformational UK businesses of tomorrow in these 4 sectors, to bring capital and expertise to scale these into leading international brands.

How big is your portfolio? And how much do you typically invest?

The existing portfolio of 20 companies have a carrying value (at 31 May 2018) for our existing investors of over £10.5m based on subsequent funding round values. Our investors historically have contributed between £50k and £500k per cohort to any one investment round, and in some cases over £1m across multiple rounds. We might expect the fund to take a similar approach in terms of deal size.

The Fund will complete in tranches until it has raised £10m from investors, with a minimum investment of just £25k to join the Fund. It is open now for the first tranche from private investors at Scale Up Fund.

What are the top three things you look at when considering a new investment?

1. Mission-driven founder teams

2. Pro-active personalities seeking to make a positive impact, who are receptive to advice

3. Smart business plans with certain beneficial macro-tail winds, and a route to profitability and an exit

Are there any companies you’d like to highlight that you’ve worked with?

All would be worthy of mention, but to pick out just the very first two we worked with, and the latest two: Perfect World  devised and brought to market the first “healthy” UK ice-cream back in 2014 (no dairy, no added sugar, lots of great taste, now vegan – very popular with diabetics etc.); boclips since 2014 have built the world’s largest video library for use in education materials (curated and searchable containing only rich and value-adding educational content such as TED Talks, Bloomberg, Getty Images, all linked to a country’s curriculum and trust-worthy in an era of fake news etc.);  Everpress since 2016 is a platform that enables influencers, charities, musicians and artists (amongst many others) to market and monetise their “brand ” with their social media followers in an authentic way, selling apparel and other products without taking on stock risk; TRUEinvivosince 2016 builds on some of the most pioneering research in the field of Medical Physics to one day reduce the duration and quantity of radiotherapy treatments required by cancer sufferers. Those are just the first two and last two, with 16 more equally compelling examples in our existing portfolio in between.

Any companies that got away that you wish you’d backed?

One always wonders. We saw a very interesting Foreign Coin-exchange business right back in 2013 when I started here, which we liked but wanted larger capitalisation than we would focus on, which we later read went on to win a Virgin Voom marketing award of £250k from Richard Branson. Having said this, I don’t know how it has performed commercially or for its investors in the time since, only that it caught his eye as it had caught ours!

What are the big red flags for you when reviewing investment propositions?

  1. Over-ambitious valuations – usually justified by saying that because last round was at £x valuation, the intervening months must mean a new valuation of £x+20%, or whatever. But have milestones been passed? Maybe the last investors overpaid.
  2. Style/presentation over substance – it is web and PowerPoint designers who are really winning from the London start-up boom! I would prefer less beautiful decks but with more evidence of execution and more “mea culpa”/acknowledgement that most plans have taken longer than expected (as always will be the case). But with proper explanation!
  3. Absence of cautious/ good business/finance/legal people around a Founder – people who can help them avoid doing deals/chasing top line growth on weak foundations. Overlong lists of advisory board / “advisors” in a deck – often from or still with blue-chip brands – but no clear description of accountability,
    or  a “chairperson”.

Our experience is appointing a chairperson is a meaningful indication that a company understands the governance that will be required if to attract later capital so as to scale.

I wish I saw more…

Business plans with a clear(er) breakdown of uses of funds, especially when a 2nd or 3rd follow-on round. Founders often expect too much of existing shareholders and don’t realise each new round is a sales process with people based on this round’s investment proposition. I also wish I met more founders who understand the benefits of a daily or weekly dashboard within their business, that they review, that shows cash, p&l, balance sheet etc., from which to make informed financial decisions. Finance is not “admin”…!

I wish I saw fewer…

Financial terminology mis-quoted – founders often champion “break even” or “cash flow positive” as concepts they expect this next investment will magically bring, without necessarily understanding this needs to be a constant state rather than a temporary event in a single month!

Re-packaging – long-standing small consultancy or service businesses are increasingly expecting SAAS valuations just for showing e.g. 5 years business history and now building a platform for their existing and new clients to (potentially) use more going forward.

Buzzwords – tech businesses putting AI or Machine Learning in their description without clearly understanding how this will work/what it will cost to offer it/ the degree of technical specialisation it will involve.

What I wish I could tell every founder…

Be prepared that you will be in a parallel world to your peers “employed” at established/mature businesses, who will likely be paid more money with more certainty – and that period will last longer than you think. BUT remember:

a) they will not have equity that could outstrip all annual earnings on an exit, even if you dilute down to just 10% at that point;

b) only you will have the feeling of some degree of choice over how you spend your time and energies each week, and get to build something;

c) even if you have not achieved a multi £m exit in 5 or 10 years’ time, your journey should be much more satisfying to look back upon when you compare notes in 25 or 30 years’ time. And remember all of your investors, however large or small, want you to succeed.

What do you see as the next industry to be disrupted?

Identifying new and growing trends is key to producing returns.  Once a trend reaches a tipping point it becomes attractive to many investors. The window of opportunity exists before a trend is obvious. There is still some considerable way to go, in my view, in integrating technology and healthy food and drink into the education system, both nationally and on a global basis.

How should a business seeking finance approach you?

We are fortunate to get a very strong deal flow through referrals from existing portfolio founders, existing co-investors, accountants, lawyers and advisers etc. who have worked with us before over the past years. The best introduction is a warm introduction through a trusted partner. Always try to get a warm introduction if possible.

Eating Your Own Cooking: Specialist Investment House Hails New Fund

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, 31 October 2018


The firm says its new Enterprise Investment Fund plays to private clients’ desire for more hands-on involvement in firms while offering a robust screening process.

In this era of crowdfunding, direct investing and other more “do-it-yourself” approaches to finding hot ideas, there is still a need to work with committed professionals who have skin in the game when it comes to making investments.

That is the argument of UK-based firm Nexus Investments, which is road-showing its EIS Scale-Up Fund, an Enterprise Investment Scheme concentrating on sourcing and backing new firms in the data privacy, health and education tech sectors. The fund is pitched at private investors, family offices and entrepreneurs. To get into the fund, investors must put in at least £25,000 ($31,932). The fund has a target total capital of £10 million. This is definitely not in the BlackRock, Vanguard or Fidelity league of investing – but it is backing businesses with the potential to one day appear on the radar of large-cap funds.

What Nexus Investments brings to the table is the promise that its team have screened and sorted through a large number of investment ideas and are willing to back them with their own money – a compelling proposition for investors, Matthew O’Kane, MD at Nexus Investments, told this publication. Chartered Accountant O’Kane, who was hired from Deloitte by Harry Hyman, owner of the Nexus Group, to head up this new division about five years ago, explains how this proposition is put into practice.

“Because we see so many deals that have come our way and we are personal investors ourselves, we can be a trusted source of perspective about sectors that we know well, valuations of early stage companies, and what makes a compelling and backable entrepreneur who can genuinely drive a brand or a business through the scaling up process, with our help” he said.

Besides O’Kane, there is a growing team of people working on the deals and liaising with investors. These include Douglas Lidgitt who joined from EY in 2017, who, along with O’Kane and Harry Hyman, sits on the investment advisory committee to the fund, which includes Alan Newman, the former finance director of the public opinion and data company YouGov, and the chairman of PwC London, Keith Mansfield.

Enterprise Investment Schemes, which carry a range of income tax and capital gains tax reliefs and are designed to steer money into young firms and start-ups by bridging the funding gap, and rewarding some risk-taking by investors, are the right kind of vehicle for the sectors Nexus wants to be in, O’Kane said.

Wealth managers face the risk that some DIY-inclined clients increasingly want to seize control over how they manage investments, via crowdfunding, or by directly backing friends or family.

As far as Nexus is concerned, sometimes those deals involve eye-watering sums of money but are done in a vacuum over what constitutes a realistic valuation or projection that the founders may have pitched, or lack an acceptable shareholder agreement or Articles of Association. Nexus Investments has carried out more than 50 rounds of EIS investment since 2014. The firm selects 20 companies out of more than 300. Nexus argues that by going via a kind of pre-vetted Alternative Investment EIS Fund, it provides a smarter approach for sophisticated investors and their wealth managers or IFAs.

“This is akin to curated services,” O’Kane continued.  “These are busy times … we have got lots of firms pitching to us for funding. Our job is to select the best opportunities and provide a diversified portfolio. We have a good understanding of what is an acceptable level of price or risk for EIS private investors when investing in an entrepreneur-led business at different stages of its development, and can therefore identify good entry points for them. Investing in early stage companies requires diversfication, and we provide access to some of the most pioneering companies in the UK that are in some cases literally trying to change the world in the fields of, for example, data privacy, radiotherapy treatment, or digital English Language teaching in overseas schools”.

The areas that the EIS fund invests in, such as personal data and education technology, or “edtech”, are very much in the public eye, as concerns about data security and privacy have been fuelled by controversies such as Facebook’s alleged misuse of private information, and by how concerns about child literacy rates are putting more pressure on schools to come up with solutions, he said.

When it comes to assembling the EIS range, Nexus argues that one of its other differentiators is the calibre of people who sit on the boards of portfolio EIS companies. As well as the investment advisory committee assembled for the Scale-Up Fund, chairpersons who sit alongside O’Kane on existing Nexus-backed companies include Mark Wood (formerly Editor in Chief of Reuters, and now Advisory Board member of PwC) and Mike Rusbridge (formerly CEO of Reed Exhibitions PLC, and currently board member of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC)).

As for its  latest Scale-Up fund, Nexus thinks it is the first UK EIS fund specifically focused on scale-up opportunities to launch since the UK government’s £2.5 billion British Patient Capital programme which was introduced last June. (The idea being that such “scale-up” funds are to help businesses expand significantly, hence the term.)

So how does the fund work and why the £10 million long-term capital target?

“We are raising the money in tranches, but putting an overall target cap on our new fund of £10 million feels the right level to refer to. We have shown over the past four years or so our ability to raise and introduce over £7 million of investment across over 50 EIS rounds, and 19 of our companies are still going strong, many growing very fast still indeed,” O’Kane said.

“The latest valuations of our portfolio suggest existing backers of those companies are sitting in a very positive position on paper, with more potentially yet to come – and that excludes any EIS tax benefits, such as the initial 30 per cent income tax relief. We believe that if we are given the opportunity to deploy up to £10 million of funds within our target timeframe of 12-24 months into businesses which we believe will perform well, we should be able to do this smartly and nimbly for our investors, without being in the position of some other EIS and particularly VCTs [venture capital trusts] who anecdotally one hears can sometimes struggle with finding suitable opportunities for the large piles of cash they are sitting on, and are often restricted by their own internal economics in terms of minimum deal sizes they will do” O’Kane said.

“Our position is supported by our historical performance and based on the deal flow we are currently sourcing. We believe 8-10+ investments are appropriate as any less would not provide sufficient diversification to reduce the risk of any one company not performing, while any more would see the amounts invested potentially fall into companies where neither sufficient fuel is provided nor value add created. We believe that investing between c.£100,000 to £1 million, if necessary on a phased basis or even as part of larger rounds, into each specific company, will provide it sufficient runaway to reach a point where it will be attractive to larger funds and institutions, ultimately enabling us to exit and obtain a return,” he continued.

“The fund will invest primarily in smaller, unquoted companies. It may also invest in companies eventually seeking a quotation on AIM. This is just one of the potential exit routes that may become available to the fund’s portfolio, as they scale with our input. Excluding tax reliefs, over a four-year period, our existing portfolio of 20 companies has (based on latest valuations as at 31 May 2018, derived from subsequent equity round prices) generated over 20 per cent IRR. Whilst unrealised as of yet, many portfolio companies are just getting started and are still within their three-year requirement EIS holding period. We have seen offers for two of our companies, and some are now valued by external investors at 5x or more compared to the first Nexus entry price. Our Key Information Document (“KID”) sets out the position the fund believes could be achieved for Fund Investors under a favourable scenario” O’Kane said.

“Nexus is a very active investor. As an early stage investor, we already sit on the boards of a number of our existing portfolio companies, and the fund intends to do the same. We provide tax, corporate finance and business strategy advice to our portfolio companies above and beyond what they may initially expect. We have been described by existing co-investors and board chair-persons as `over-indexing’ compared to many more established venture capital or private equity investment houses: putting in much more time and resources than what would be expected in relation to the size of our investments and stages of companies.”

“But we believe this is the right thing to do as an early stage investor. In fact, given the risks of being an early stage investor – and I make this point to anyone who has put their own money into an EIS or start-up or similar company, even for a “bit of fun” – you absolutely need to put in the extra leg work if you want to reap the benefits, or have someone on hand who can do that for you, like Nexus. Entrepreneurs and young brands meet all manner of obstacles in the years following the initial early glow of attracting backers with a shiny business plan or slide deck. Often investors are completely unaware of what is really going on.  This is one area of investing where you cannot have your cake and eat it. If you want to reap the potentially much higher returns from being an early stage investor, you need to put in the work required to support and grow. We are not here to help with the `child-birth’ of a company, we are not start-up investors. Our role is to help companies grow and mature from the toddler stage through and into its teenage years, perhaps even into young adulthood. If our chosen companies succeed, then we and our investors should succeed. That is our motto.”

As Amazon faces Vine controversy, how can retailers ensure customers trust their product reviews?

This week saw Amazon come under fire after it was accused of manipulating product reviews through its Vine programme.

Vine allows highly ranked reviewers to post opinions on new and pre-release items on the site. Participants can receive specific products for free.

This week Bloomberg reported that Amazon appeared to be trading free merchandise for reviews of its own products. Since the service is not available to other merchants, this would appear to be disadvantaging possible competitors.

The marketplace denied that it acted improperly, saying that it did not dictate which products Vine reviewers review within the programme and that they were free to select any eligible product. Amazon also said it was working to open the programme to other sellers, saying that it was only closed due to a “technical limitation.”

Whatever the ins and outs of this dispute, it does illuminate the fundamental problems online sellers face in benefitting from reviews while ensuring that they are credible to consumers.

Recent research by Feefo found that 94 percent of consumers use online reviews when looking for a product or service, but 89 percent said they were concerned about fake reviews, up from 75 percent the previous year.

James Dunworth, director at ECigaretteDirect, sums up the problem: “Any site that is running an internal review system is open to the accusation that it manipulates its reviews.”

Dunworth says that his company decided to use an external reviewing system in response to this problem.

“An external review system does not allow you to remove or edit reviews and increases consumer trust in the reviews,” he said.

Dunworth adds that this can be demonstrated to customers through the display of a recognised logo from a reputable review company. However, external reviews do require the service to be genuinely good.

“Some companies are worried about the possibility of getting poor reviews, but as long as your customer service is excellent, and you do everything you can to resolve issues for customers as speedily as you can, your overall score will be excellent.”

Joe Rohrlich, general manager for EMEA at Bazaarvoice says that review manipulation “prioritises short-term gain”.

“By providing a framework which encourages customers to try new goods and leave more content in the form of ratings, reviews, images and comments, retailers can effectively build a platform of trust not only for the brands that they are partnered with, but also the retailer itself.

“Today’s consumers are increasingly digitally savvy and for the short-term gain of increased sales, the inevitable effect is a loss of authenticity and trust in the marketplace. It’s a great example for other online retailers to note and take direction from.”

It is not just sellers themselves who are responsible for unreliable views on their pages. Matthew O’Kane, MD of Nexus Investments, which owns stakes in a number of growing retail companies including home delivery butcher Heartier, says that B2C companies must proactively search for fake reviews from another source.

“[Retailers] have to be resolute in spotting fake reviews that other competitors, customers and/or investors leave on their pages, and focus on getting these removed. This can be quite acute on Ocado where new “healthy” brands are in strong competition.

“Many of these new brands have also received crowd-funding backing and have large numbers of supporters who are keen for them to do well, and sometimes over-keen for others to do less well.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy New, director of marketing at, says that retailers and sellers must resist the temptation to remove reviews which are not to their liking.

“Ensuring the review process remain a priority within the overall customer experience is key to success, as all businesses rely on honest customer feedback, regardless of how big or small they are,” he says.

“Don’t feel tempted to delete or ignore poor reviews and product flaws; there may be underlying issues that the business needs to address and feedback is key.”

The best strategy, he says, is for retailers to “join in the conversation with their customers early on and directly.”

“By engaging with your audience first-hand you can leverage reviews to their full potential and ultimately foster long-term brand loyalty.”

Investor Views: I’m Backing Start-ups for Growth

Matthew O’Kane, Managing Director of Nexus Investments, is interviewed by Morningstar on how EIS investments fit into his portfolio

Emma Simon17 October, 2018 | 3:14PM

Private investor Matthew O'Kane

Matthew O’Kane says one of his main investment priorities is retirement, but he also wants to contribute towards his children’s university fees.

O’Kane trained as a chartered accountant and is now the managing director of Nexus Investment. So it is no surprise that he started investing young and has built up a diverse portfolio.

He says: “I have been investing in ISAs and pensions since graduating from university. My first job was at PwC where I participated in the company’s pension scheme. In the last five years I have also been investing personally into EIS [Enterprise Investment Scheme] qualifying companies.

“I believe that if you are fortunate enough to get paid a salary, you should ‘pay yourself first’ and set aside a certain percentage for your savings every month.

“I also like to invest in a business that I think will be good for the UK and help develop the next generation of successful entrepreneurs.”

O’Kane, who lives in Milton Keynes with his wife and two children, is keen to make sure his investments are tax-efficient.

“I allocate my investments based on their investment merits and also depending on the tax benefits that different products offer in any given year. Allowances and tax relief rates have been changing and being ‘tax literate’ can add extra return to an investment portfolio at no extra cost.

“I have participated in various corporate pension schemes when these were offered by my employers, but not all of them did, so I also have a SIPP. If an employer offers a pension scheme, it makes sense to seriously consider it.’

He mainly invests in funds offering exposure to defined sectors or geographies.

O’Kane says: “I like investing in growing companies and sectors, and the Far East offers many such opportunities. I am a long-term investor in the Jupiter India fund that has grown in value since I invested.

“I also hold the Schroder Managed Balanced Fund. It is a fund of funds that invests in a diversified portfolio of equities, debt and other assets and take a somewhat contrarian view to the markets. It provides balanced exposure and helps to hedge and protect me against some of my more illiquid investments.”

Jupiter India has a Bronze Rating from Morningstar. Morningstar analyst Lena Tsymbaluk says: “Despite weak recent performance over the short term we continue to like the research-intensive approach applied here.”

She points out that the manager, Avinash Vazirani, has over 20 years of experience investing in Indian equities and has run this fund since its inception in February 2008.

Tsymbaluk adds: “The manager aims to identify under-researched stocks with strong growth prospects. This approach has led the manager to favour mid- and small-cap names over benchmark heavyweights.”

She points out the fund’s long-term track record remains strong, although its three-year record has been weaker. This is mainly due to a poor 2017 and the year to date.

Schroder Managed Balanced Fund has a four-star rating from Morningstar, reflecting relatively strong performance against its peers. Over the past three years it has produced annualised returns of 7.82%, and over the past decade it has delivered annualised returns of 9.86% according to Morningstar data.

AIM Still Unpredictable

O’Kane says: “I have made some relatively successful investments in AIM-quoted companies in the past.

“But my personal experience is that the AIM market is too unpredictable and that, despite abolishing stamp duty and allowing AIM shares to be included in ISAs, it is not worth the risk.

“Having said that I do hold some diversified funds quoted on AIM, including TMT Investments (TMT) which offers exposure to a portfolio of mainly US-based tech, start-up and software companies and start-ups.”

O’Kane adds: “Investors in AIM need to be mindful that significant shareholders can sometimes engineer things to take control of a company, sometimes at a low market value. In such situations, private investors have little leverage over developments.

“I prefer to be an early investor into EIS-qualifying private companies as a direct investor. Although they are illiquid compared to an AIM-quoted company, they can offer more shareholder protection in terms of pre-emption rights and other rights.”

He has invested personally in over 15 EIS-qualifying companies. This includes a wide range of different companies, such as and Perfect World Ice Cream.

He says his work at Nexus Investments has helped him as when he joined the company in 2013 it was to spearhead their EIS division. He also invests in the company’s scale-up fund, which is open to private investors.

When it comes to his fund, ISA and SIPP holdings O’Kane invests through the Hargreaves Lansdown platform. He says: “I am increasingly paying attention to fees, both at the platform and fund level. A number of platforms are catching up with Hargreaves’s platform in terms of service, and may steal business I expect in coming years.”

When it comes to selecting funds he looks at performance as well as fees. “A well-known manager is not always the best one. So I follow closely performance over one, three and five years and since inception as well as finding out as much as I can about their investment process.”