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19 September 2011

A Clear Vision for Growth

Tony Williams, CEO of Power Vision outlines his experience of accessing growth finance via The North West Fund

Tony Williams Power Vision( WC/DB/TW)


Left to right 

Will Clark, Investment Director EV, Managers of The North West Fund for Venture Capital
Dean Butler, Chairman Power Vision Limited
Tony Williams, CEO Power Vision Limited

The North West Fund for Venture Capital recently made an investment of £500,000 in Cheshire-based Power Vision. Here, chief executive at Power Vision, Tony Williams, outlines his experiences of accessing growth finance via The North West Fund and of dealing with the team at EV.

What business are you in and how did it develop?

Founded in 2010, Power Vision develops specialist equipment, which applies anti-reflective coatings to spectacles lenses. The technology is aimed at optical retailers, offering a one-hour turnaround time for spectacles at the point of sale. Anti- reflective coating is growing in demand but currently optical stores have to send the lenses away to have them coated. In the USA, for example, where customers expect a fast turnaround time for spectacles, that means the retailer is missing out on the market growth opportunity.

The founders of the business, Bob Waugh, Tony Abramson and Mike Walls, were involved in this type of technology years ago and, together with a retail contact in the field, identified the opportunity to supply optical retail stores with this type of solution. The new technology will be supplied direct to the US market from Cheshire.

What did you do before Power Vision?

I have a background in running scientific instrument companies, and developed and sold another business a number of years ago. Following this, I set up a consultancy and was then approached by the founders of Power Vision to help them develop the business.

What are the plans for the business?

To fully develop the business: scale up production, create effective marketing material and a website, talk to more partners and aim to be at full production over the next 12 months. This will allow us to fuel consistent business growth, with a view to achieving an eventual exit in five years.

How did you hear of The North West Fund?

The business founders employed a company to find a venture capital partner. They talked to The North West Fund for Biomedical, who then passed our enquiry through to The North West Fund for Venture Capital.

What made you apply for funding from The North West Fund?

Our initial meetings with The North West Fund were positive and, with further discussion, we realised that they were able to fund the whole of our £500k requirement where other potential partners would have to find other investors to be able to do that with unacceptable timetable implications. We also enjoyed working with the team at EV, who run The North West Fund for Venture Capital.

Can you describe the process you went through from application to funding?

Following our first enquiry, we met with Richard Young and the team at EV to provide an executive summary of the business plan, then later a financial plan and a presentation. We then had a further meeting with the Power Vision founders at EV.

At that point, both parties started to think about who we would ask to become the chairman of the company. We got in touch with Dean Butler, formally of Vision Express, who it was agreed had excellent and relevant credentials in the market and would be an excellent sounding board for me. Following this, we had a visit from Will Clark at EV to look at the instrument and begin the due diligence process, including sourcing references for the board and from customers, an intellectual property assessment, legal and financial agreements, and an independent review by a university on the technology.

From start to finish, the process took around four months.

How would you summarise the experience of the process?

The North West Fund process was thorough and speedy in comparison to my experience of dealing with others in the funding field. The EV team went into detail in the key areas of our plan and, where they found gaps, helped and encouraged us to fill them. At its peak, the work was intense with several team members involved from both sides. This demonstrated the speed, commitment and professionalism of The North West Fund. We were quick to do as asked and it was a thorough yet entirely positive experience.

Do you have any tips for other hopeful applicants?

An obvious tip is that you need to have proof of market. You can have the best idea in the world, but without this you cannot expect anyone to invest. Also have evidence of relationships with customers and, if you don't have hard sales to point to,  have an order in writing. Even better than that would be to have a customer as a part-funder, which ensures a degree of market penetration.

Additionally, it's important to have your ducks in a row and all information to hand, including the business plan and financials. It also helps to have the right team in place and, if not, to be prepared to find the right team members to bring in the appropriate expertise for the business, possibly in conjunction with your funders.

What expectations do you have of The North West Fund?

We have responsibilities to The North West Fund and we hope that they too will listen to our issues. I would also like to think we can gain some knowledge of effective support services that other of their portfolio companies have experienced and may be able to recommend to us.

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