Fund makes first investment

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The Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund (CIOSIF) has completed its first [equity] investment with a £750k equity stake in wireless Internet service provider Wildanet, through appointed fund manager The FSE Group.

The investment is being match-funded by the FSE Angel network, private investors and Crowdcube as part of a £1.5 million package. It will support Wildanet’s continued expansion across Cornwall and into Devon, targetting 12,000 new customers and creating an estimated 39 jobs over the next three years.

Wildanet, which is based at Goonhilly Earth Station, uses state of the art wireless radio technology to provide superfast broadband in hard to reach rural areas, with a guaranteed minimum speed of 30Mb/s, up to lightning-fast 1Gb/s.

Jake Berry MP, Minister for Local Growth, said: “Access to superfast broadband is vital to economic growth in our rural areas and this project will open the door to digital services for thousands of people across Cornwall. Harnessing the innovation of British business to grow prosperous communities is at the heart of this investment, and the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy.”

Ian Calvert, CEO and founder of Wildanet, which was set up in January 2017, said: “There is a real opportunity for us to radically improve connection speeds for homes and businesses across Cornwall currently experiencing low bandwidths. The funding from CIOSIF and our match funders will allow us to expedite our growth strategy and bring reliable superfast broadband to hard to reach areas.”

Ken Cooper, MD at the British Business Bank, added: “We are delighted that the fund’s first investment will not only create jobs but will also bring improved connectivity for homes and businesses, which is good news for productivity and growth. This deal is a great example of how the CIOSIF can leverage other investment to help growth-minded businesses realise their potential.”

LEP non-executive director John Acornley, who chairs the CIOSIF Advisory Board, said: “Wildanet is a young tech start-up with ambitious growth plans and has developed its own technology to plug a clear gap in the market. CIOSIF was set up to encourage entrepreneurship and tackle a shortfall in start-up, early stage and development capital in the region, so we’re delighted with this first investment and wish Wildanet every success.”

Ralph Singleton, Senior Fund Manager, FSE Group, added: “Wildanet is helping to close the digital divide in rural areas by offering households and businesses across the county access to the same digital services as other parts of the UK. With a depth of industry experience gained with major players in the telecom sector, the management team are well-positioned to exploit this opportunity while helping to drive forward the regional economy in the process.”

The £40 milion Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund provides debt and equity finance from £25k to £2 million to help growing small businesses across the region.

It has been established by the British Business Bank in partnership with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and is operated by appointed fund managers FSE Group.

CIOSIF 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. Further investment has come from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP and HM Government.