North West Fund builds stake in software firm

Daresbury-based software company Autology World has secured a £200,000 equity investment from the North West Fund for Digital & Creative, managed by AXM Venture Capital.

The North West Fund money is part of a £330,000 finance package to support the company's expansion into the UK education publishing market. The level of equity acquired was confidential. The North West Fund has now invested £1.9m into a total of nine digital and creative businesses across the North West region since the end of 2010.

The North West Fund for Digital & Creative is one of six sector-specific funds that form the £185m North West Fund financed by the European Regional Development Fund and European Investment Bank.

Autology is an e-learning application for secondary schools and colleges, combining parent company Autonomy's contextual search software with content from educational publishers. Autology was established in 2007 and is based at the Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus.

Eric Hobson, chief executive of Autology, said: "Our subscriber base is growing rapidly, up from 25,000 in September to close to 100,000 in April. These additional funds give us the means to hit 500,000 by the year end."

David Smith, Investment Director of AXM Venture Capital, commented: "We have been delighted to see the progress made by the management team using our first round investment. Autology has a fantastic product; real momentum in the education market, and this latest round will help the company firmly establish itself as the default provider of online educational resources in the UK."

Autology originally received £375,000 from AXM alongside £285,000 from a syndicate of private investors.

The North West Fund for Digital & Creative provides finance from £50,000 to £1.5m to businesses seeking funding to support a broad range of needs from start-up and early stage development through to expansion plans for trading businesses. In return, the Fund takes an equity share in the business.

The North West Fund is a £185m evergreen investment fund established to provide debt and equity funding from £50,000 to £2m to small and medium sized enterprises based in, or relocating to, the North West of England. The North West Fund must invest its money by the end of 2015.

Between December 2010 and April 2012 the fund invested £22m in 90 businesses.

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