NPIF – Maven Equity Finance, part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, managed by Maven Capital Partners (“Maven”), one of the UK’s most active SME investors has invested £750,000, as part of a £1m investment round, in Airtime Rewards Ltd (“Airtime”).
Manchester based Airtime is an innovative digital customer loyalty programme which enables shoppers to be rewarded, with a unique reward currency, that can be converted into a monetary credit for their mobile phone or for additional mobile data. Airtime will use the funding to expand the business by strengthening its sales and customer services functions, as well as implement further developments to its infrastructure and market-disruptive technology platform.
Established by two serial entrepreneurs, Adam Ward and Josh Graham, Airtime’s disruptive technology solution removes the need to carry multiple loyalty cards and instead intelligently capitalises on two of the most commonly carried items – an individual’s mobile phone and their bank card. This has created a linear, and unobtrusive loyalty scheme which provides instant rewards, at no inconvenience, for the customer. Airtime effectively removes the need for multiple loyalty cards, cashback accounts or promo codes, and instead rewards customers through everyday transactions made on their debit or credit cards.
With many recognised retail chains already signed up, such as Waitrose, Missguided and Sunglass Hut, the solution rewards members every time they transact with their linked payment cards. Instead of collecting points, consumers receive a monetary credit back to their mobile account or can opt to take additional mobile phone data.
Airtime has agreements in place with all of the UK’s major mobile network operators; the company’s technology has been integrated into global payment schemes such as Visa and MasterCard. In addition, Telefonica is a strategic partner and an early investor in Airtime Rewards and has also participated in this latest investment round. Airtime’s proposition benefits all parties by providing a simple and tangible way for customers to earn rewards for purchases, while enabling retailers and mobile phone operators to capitalise on increased customer spend and frequency of visit.
There are a number of businesses that operate in the loyalty space but none of these offer a universal mobile digital currency as a reward offering. Most are simply based around a traditional loyalty card and points collection system of which have been improved via ‘wallet’ technology; however, these do not offer a unique digital currency that can be spent anywhere like Airtime. In addition, forthcoming regulations including the Open Banking and PSD2 initiatives will enable Airtime to expand its services outside of the UK with only minimal feature changes, facilitating entry to a significant new market.
Maven was appointed manager of the £57.5 million equity fund in February 2017, part of the £400 million Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, a partnership between the British Business Bank, ten Local Enterprise Partnerships in the North of England, the European Investment Bank and the European Regional Development Fund. NPIF – Maven Equity Finance is now supporting the growth aspirations of high-potential SMEs across Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Cumbria and Cheshire.
James Darlington, Investment Manager at Maven, said: “We are delighted to support Airtime in realising its growth strategy. The company’s offering is exciting and innovative – allowing users to transact and redeem their rewards easily and in a way that best suits their lifestyles. Adam and Josh have worked tirelessly, achieving a great deal of success within a short timeframe and with minimal resources. They have positioned the business well and this investment will allow them to fast track the company’s performance. We look forward to working with them to drive the business over the next few years.”
Adam Ward, CEO at Airtime, added: “2017 was a pivotal year for our business when we were able to prove that there is a clear consumer and retailer demand for our technology, giving us a solid platform for growth. It has been great to find an investor in our home city of Manchester which shares our vision and we are looking forward to working with Maven to take our business to the next stage.”
Ken Cooper, Managing Director at British Business Bank, said: “It is great to see NPIF investment supporting innovative businesses like Airtime. This funding will help them grow through developing their pioneering technology platform.
“NPIF aims to support small and medium businesses across the North and so I’d encourage other entrepreneurs with growth plans to get in touch with our fund managers and find out more.
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.
Maven Capital Partners UK LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Firm Reference Number 495929