23 November 2022
Acquisitions are one way in which a business might exit the private market, as opposed to an initial public offering (IPO). Most of the UK’s largest tech acquisitions to date have involved high-growth companies operating at the established stage of evolution, such as Skyscanner, which sold for £1.40b ($1.74b). But it’s not just late-stage businesses being acquired, with many corporates seeking out M&A deals with innovative tech startups at an early stage. Here, we rank the biggest early-stage tech acquisitions of 2022.
Tech acquisitions occur when a technology business sells the majority (more than 50%) of its existing shares to another company or to a fund. Reasons for acquiring a tech company may include wanting to procure new technologies or increase market share, or looking for ways to remain competitive through economies of scale.
Between Q1 2012 and Q3 2022, a total of 1,866 high-growth UK tech companies exited via acquisition, 89% of which were to corporate acquirers. Unsurprisingly, London has been a hotspot for UK tech acquisitions—home to one in three acquired companies during this time period. Meanwhile, some of the most common tech verticals for acquisitions have been software-as-a-service or SaaS (31%), fintech (10%), life sciences (9%) and cleantech (7%).
In keeping with exit trends across the UK’s high-growth sectors, there has been a significant increase in the number of tech acquisitions taking place over the past decade (and in 2021 in particular). Traditionally, later-stage businesses have been more likely to be acquired, with 30% operating at the established stage at the time of their acquisition, 25% at the growth stage and 29% at the venture stage, compared to just 16% at the seed stage. Having said that, both 2013 and 2019 saw more seed-stage tech startups acquired than growth-stage firms.
We’ve tracked 746 acquisitions of high-growth UK companies so far this year, of which 271 were technology businesses—including 99 venture-stage companies and just 35 seed-stage startups. Using our data on these transactions, we’ve put together a ranking of the UK’s top early-stage tech acquisitions of 2022, in order of consideration paid. These 20 businesses were all operating at the seed or venture stage when they were acquired. Most notably, a large proportion of these acquisitions involved foreign acquirers operating in the life sciences space.
Acquisition date: 16/03/22
Consideration paid: £593m
EUSA Pharma develops treatments for cancer and rare diseases. The 200-person pharmaceutical company is based in Hertfordshire and has created four products since spinning out of Irish company Jazz Pharmaceuticals in 2015. These include an antibody therapy for neuroblastoma in children, an oral treatment for advanced renal cell carcinoma, an antibody for idiopathic multicentric Castleman’s disease, and a medical device to counter some side effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
In March 2022, EUSA Pharma was acquired by Italian pharmaceutical firm Recordati, for £593m—the largest venture-stage tech acquisition of the year so far. The acquisition valued EUSA Pharma at £750m. Milan-based Recordati announced that it acquired EUSA Pharma for its rare cancer drug portfolio.
Acquisition date: 09/06/22
Consideration paid: £420m
Fellow Hertfordshire-based pharmaceuticals company ReViral was also acquired this year. Headquartered in Stevenage, the venture-stage company develops drugs for combating diseases caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Ranked on SyndicateRoom’s Top 100 Britain’s Fastest-Growing Companies in 2018, its main offering is an RSV fusion small molecule inhibitor, RV521, for people with compromised immune systems.
In June 2022, ReViral was acquired by big pharma firm Pfizer, in a deal worth £420m. Pfizer purchased ReViral to gain access to its portfolio of exciting therapeutic candidates, which include sisunatovir, an oral inhibitor that prevents the fusion of the RSV virus with the host cell. Top legal advisers Clifford Chance supported Pfizer in the acquisition, while ReViral was advised by Centerview Partners, BofA Securities, and Goodwin Procter LLP.
Acquisition date: 20/09/22
Consideration paid: £356m
MiroBio develops precision medicines that are intended to treat autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. The University of Oxford spinout was founded in 2019, with the aim of treating diseases by rebalancing the immune system. It is currently working on a project to develop a new class of medications, called immune checkpoint agonists.
MiroBio was acquired in September 2022, for £356m, while operating at the venture stage. Its acquirer, US pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences, develops medicines for a range of illnesses and diseases (including cancer and HIV). Through the deal, Gilead gained access to MiroBio’s exclusive discovery platform and its full range of immune inhibitory receptor agonists.
Acquisition date: 08/07/22
Consideration paid: £250m
Leeds-based cleantech startup Raw Charging installs electric vehicle (EV) charging points. It has established a network of EV charging infrastructure assets for drivers to charge their vehicles at commonly visited destinations, such as offices, recreational centres and car parks. The green technology company is currently working on a project to build a network of EV chargers for high-profile clients including Aviva, abrdn, and Greene King.
In July 2022, Raw Charging was sold to private equity firm Antin Infrastructure Partners, in the biggest seed-stage tech acquisition of the year. The £250m deal was made to accelerate Raw Charging’s pipeline delivery, with the goal of installing 10k charging points over the next three years. Raw Charging was advised by international law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and specialist green energy financial services firm Longspur Capital.
Acquisition date: 23/03/22
Consideration paid: £114m
Credit Kudos is a London-based fintech company that provides credit scores to lenders based on user spending habits, for those with a minimal credit history. Founded in 2015, its co-founders attended the Entrepreneur First accelerator programme, as well as the Capital One Growth Labs, Wayra Fair By Design and Tech Nation Fintech accelerators in the years that followed.
After numerous funding rounds with the likes of AlbionVC and Triple Point Ventures, Credit Kudos was acquired in March 2022, while operating at the venture stage. Apple purchased the company for £114m, without announcing its intent, but possible reasons for the acquisition include the development of a UK credit card, supporting its move into the buy now, pay later (BNPL) market, or to acquire top fintech talent and technology.
Acquisition date: 26/10/22
Consideration paid: £219m
DJS Antibodies carries out research into antibody discovery that can be used to treat diseases for which there are no effective treatments at this time. It makes use of its patented HEPTAD platform to facilitate the discovery of antibodies against G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and other difficult targets. The company was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Bicester, Oxfordshire.
In October 2022, US-based medical research firm AbbVie acquired venture-stage DJS Antibodies, for a sum of £219m. According to AbbVie, the acquisition was made to strengthen its immunology portfolio, increase its presence in the Oxford bioscience hub, and improve antibody research capabilities. DJS Antibodies was advised on the acquisition by Centerview Partners, Goodwin Procter LLP, and Cooley.
Acquisition date: 04/01/22
Consideration paid: £100m
Faradion developed sodium-ion battery technology for use in transport and energy storage systems. Founded in 2010, the green energy tech startup is headquartered in Sheffield. It was acquired in January 2022, having secured £9.34m worth of equity investment and £2.15m in large innovation grants.
The venture-stage company was sold to Indian firm Reliance Industries, which operates a number of businesses across the textile manufacturing, petrochemical exploration, and petroleum refining sectors. Following the £100m acquisition, Reliance Industries announced plans to use Faradion’s technology in its proposed fully-integrated energy storage gigafactory project at Jamnagar (in Western India). Canaccord Genuity and Singer Capital Markets both advised Faradion in the deal.
Acquisition date: 05/01/22
Consideration paid: £73.8m
Ad-Lib Digital develops digital marketing software which offers services such as A/B testing and integration with marketing platforms. The high-growth adtech company was founded in 2017, by former Google executives that understood the need to close the gap between creative concepts and digital media execution.
In January 2022, Ad-Lib Digital was acquired by Finnish marketing software company Smartly.io, while operating at the venture stage of its evolution. Smartly.io paid £73.8m in total, announcing that it made the acquisition as part of ambitions to expand out of the social marketing sector.
Acquisition date: 06/09/22
Consideration paid: £38.2m
Zephr describes itself as a “subscription experience platform”. The London-based SaaS company develops automation software for customer retention processes, such as identity and access management, intelligent paywalls, and user personalisation. Its focus is on helping businesses to grow their revenues, in particular online publishing and media companies. At the start of 2022, Zephr had raised £8.93m in equity investment, across three funding rounds, and was operating at the venture stage.
In September, Zephr was acquired by US fintech firm Zuora, for £38.2m (plus an additional £5.21m earn-out consideration to shareholders, contingent on certain financial objectives being met). Zuora develops a cloud-based platform that provides businesses with on-demand subscription billing, customer analytics and payment services, such as pay-as-you-go payments. It was advised on the deal by Slaughter and May, and Fenwick & West LLP.
Acquisition date: 30/04/22
Consideration paid: £34.6m
Tictrac develops an online health and fitness platform that enables users to monitor their calorie intake and activity levels. Founded in 2010 and based in Sevenoaks, Tictrac secured four rounds of equity investment prior to its acquisition this year, worth £6.30m in growth capital.
In April 2022, Tictrac was acquired by Dialogue, a Canadian eHealth company that offers a range of virtual healthcare services to businesses and their employees. finnCap Cavendish advised on the £34.6m acquisition, which Dialogue announced formed part of its global expansion strategy, specifically to enter the UK market.
Download our in-depth report on exit trends in the UK.
Sector: Research tools
Acquisition date: 18/08/22
Consideration paid: £28.0m
Flusso develops a range of sensors that measure temperature, flow and pressure, including the smallest flow sensor in the world and the smallest air velocity sensor in the world. Founded in 2016, the company was spun-out of the University of Cambridge in 2020, and has secured investment from numerous university funds, angel networks 24Haymarket and Cambridge Angels, and several private equity and venture capital funds.
The Cambridge-based startup was operating at the venture stage when it was acquired, in August 2022. It was purchased by two undisclosed foreign investors, for a total of £28.0m. The acquiring company and private equity firm plan to establish a European footprint in Cambridge, to complement their current facilities in the US and China, and to expand their current product portfolio into flow and environmental sensing. Flusso were advised by Goodwin Procter LLP, while the acquirers were advised by Baker & McKenzie and Katten.
Acquisition date: 14/09/22
Consideration paid: £26.0m
Ducentis is an Oxford-based pharmaceutical company which develops treatments for anti-inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Founded in 2014, the company’s main focus is the fusion protein DS-234, which is highly potent and selective against the immune-regulatory receptor CD200R. This receptor is thought to be a crucial immunological checkpoint that plays a significant role in the upkeep of immune tolerance.
In September 2022, in a deal worth £26.0m in cash and shares, Ducentis was acquired by American medtech firm Arcutis Biotherapeutics. Arcutis develops a platform for dermatology drug research, aiming to create products to treat a range of conditions, including psoriasis and dermatitis. It acquired Ducentis to increase its stock of DS-234. Arcutis was advised by Covington & Burling, while Goodwin Proctor LLP advised Ducentis.
Sector: Online games
Acquisition date: 15/03/22
Consideration paid: £22.0m
Tebex hosts and monetises gaming servers for content creators. The company was founded in Nottingham in 2012, with the aim of helping gamers find additional sources of income. It also provides content creators with an end-to-end payment solution, through access to an online marketplace. Tebex ranked on the BusinessCloud 100 eCommerce Trailblazers high-growth list for two years running.
In March 2022, Israeli company Overwolf acquired Tebex for £22.0m, to help both companies expand their global reach. Overwolf develops a mobile app store for a range of online games. The acquisition was supported by numerous advisors, including Irwin Mitchell, Heligan Group, RSM Tenon, EY, and Assersons.
Acquisition date: 11/01/22
Consideration paid: £14.7m
Looop operates an online platform and mobile app that allows companies to provide their staff with business training, such as onboarding and new manager training. It boasts major brands like ASOS, Klarna, Monzo and the Financial Times as users. Founded in 2016, Looop had secured three equity fundraisings prior to this year, worth £2.19m in investment.
In January 2022, the seed-stage startup was acquired by 360Learning, for £14.7m worth of cash and shares. 360Learning is a US-based edtech company which develops a collaborative learning platform. It announced that the acquisition of Looop would help 360Learning to expand its platform.
Acquisition date: 22/02/22
Consideration paid: £14.0m
The GP Service is a Coventry-based healthtech company that has developed an online platform for booking appointments with accredited doctors, undergoing consultations, and requesting prescriptions. Users can either have medications delivered or collect them from selected pharmacies. Founded in 2014, The GP Service has since received investment from Maven Capital Partners and via equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube.
In February 2022, The GP Service was acquired by Israeli firm Kanabo for £14.0m. Kanabo develops and sells a range of medical cannabis products. The company announced that its acquisition of The GP Service would enable it to become one of the first digital and legally compliant providers in Europe of Kanabo’s products and wellness CBD services (following regulatory approval). Corporate broker Peterhouse Capital advised Kanabo on the deal.
Acquisition date: 04/04/22
Consideration paid: £12.2m
Plasma App develops technology used to alter materials during the manufacturing process. Founded in 2014 and based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, the company’s manufacturing platform tech enables high-speed coating of any solid material on any kind of substrate. It has already been awarded five Innovate UK grants, worth nearly £600k in funding, adding to its £405k in equity investment.
In April 2022, Canadian nanotechnology firm META (formerly Metamaterial Technologies) acquired Plasma App at the venture stage, for £12.2m. META develops a range of smart materials, specialising in computational electromagnetics and nanofabrication. It plans to use Plasma App’s technology in the metallization phase of its roll-to-roll manufacturing process, to boost line speed and annual capacity.
Acquisition date: 24/02/22
Consideration paid: £10.8m
Overwatch Research develops tracking and workflow automation software for laboratories carrying out in vivo research, to reduce data log errors. The Belfast-based healthtech company secured two rounds of equity investment prior to its acquisition, amounting to £2.69m, from funds including Techstart Ventures, Frontline and Halo.
The business was acquired by US firm Benchling in February 2022, while operating at the venture stage. Benchling also develops healthtech software, designed for data management and collaboration in the life sciences R&D sector. Its acquisition of Overwatch, which was reported to be worth £10.8m, will help to accelerate Benchling’s work in the biotech sector.
Sector: Consumer electronics hardware
Acquisition date: 29/04/22
Consideration paid: £8.00m
Mobi Market provides a range of services relating to the resale of second-hand mobile devices, including buying, stock valuation, and white label sales services. Founded in 2016, the company was a 20% scaleup and operating at the venture stage of evolution at the start of this year.
In April 2022, Mobi Market was acquired by another high-growth UK company, Twig. The fintech company operates as a banking app, allowing users to convert personal items into credit. It acquired Mobi Market for £8.00m, with Devonshires Solicitors and Rawlinson & Hunter advising Twig on the deal. With a focus on Gen Z and millennial customers, Twig made the acquisition to reinforce its circular economy payments proposition.
Sector: Clinical diagnostics
Acquisition date: 21/01/22
Consideration paid: £5.25m
Psyros Diagnostics develops in vitro diagnostic (IVD) medical devices, and offers assay and IVD development consultancy services. The company’s technology allows disease-indicating molecules, in incredibly low concentrations, to be measured in as little as 10 minutes. Founded in 2018, Psyros Diagnostics has already received numerous innovation grants and attended The Reactor Programme life sciences accelerator last year.
In January 2022, Swedish firm Prolight Diagnostics acquired the Kent-based startup, for £5.25m. Prolight develops point of care (POC) tests which give patients easy and quick access to medical diagnostic results. It acquired Psyros Diagnostics to gain access to the company’s ground-breaking POC technology, following a rise in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prolight was advised by Excello Law throughout the transaction.
Acquisition date: 20/01/22
Consideration paid: £4.00m
Edenbridge Healthcare develops software for the healthcare industry, designed to analyse data and trends for enhanced primary care services. Founded in 2013, more than 1k GP practices and healthcare organisations already use its software. The Yorkshire-based company also secured two unannounced equity deals (so-called stealth rounds) prior to its acquisition, totalling £140k.
In January 2022, the venture-stage business was acquired by EMIS Group, for a total of £4.00m. Edenbridge Healthcare was the group’s third acquisition of a high-growth UK company to date—the others being Pinbellcom (in 2015) and Dovetail Lab (in 2018). EMIS Group is headquartered in Leeds and develops a range of software systems for the healthcare industry. EMIS announced that this latest purchase was aimed at improving its capacity to support primary care during COVID recovery.
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