New £75m equity investment fund to target growth and scaling companies in the north

Growth Capital Fund is ‘the largest ever locally managed equity fund for Northern Ireland companies’

Five people posing for a picture inside a corporate office. Three are standing behind two seated.
Whiterock’s Growth Capital Fund team: (L-R back row) Graham Ferguson, Sarah Toner, David McCurley; (seated) Jenna Mairs and Paul Millar.

Belfast-based Whiterock Finance has launched a £75 million equity investment fund for growing companies in the north.

The Growth Capital Fund has been described as the largest ever locally managed equity fund for Northern Ireland companies.

The fund manager expects to make investments of between £1m and £5m in exchange for minority shareholdings in growth and scaling companies.

The fund includes £45m from the British Business Bank through its Enterprise Capital Funds programme.

Whiterock said the remaining £30m has been sourced from private investors, including several local family offices and high net worth individuals.

The fund manager expects to invest in up to 20 companies over a five-year period, with capacity for further follow on funding as required.

Set up in 2012 Whiterock specialises in alternative funding for businesses.

Over the past decade, it has provided debt funding to more than 150 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) based in Northern Ireland.

Owned by Paul Millar, Neil McCabe, David McCurley and Rhona Barbour, it has managed £150m across four investment funds to date.

It has deployed around £120m, which Whiterock said has leveraged over £100m of further funding from other funders.

It’s now seeking to invest in companies who can demonstrate clear sales growth and routes to market in a wide range of sectors and industries, including: digital, ICT and creative; fintech and financial services; life and health sciences; agri-tech; and advanced manufacturing and engineering.

“While funding options have improved for companies, independent research has found there is still a clear equity gap in Northern Ireland when it comes to locally based private equity investors, particularly in the £1m-£5m investment range,” said Paul Millar, who serves as Whiterock’s chief executive.

“It will invest in businesses with strong management teams and a demonstrated and proven business model, which have a high growth potential.

“We want to be a strategic partner that helps companies achieve their growth ambitions, while also generating attractive returns for our investors.”

Graham Ferguson, the former CFO of Newry-based technology company First Derivatives, is set to join Whiterock as an investment director in the new fund.

Commenting on Brish Business Bank’s involvement, Ken Cooper, managing director of the lender’s Venture Solutions, said: “The British Business Bank’s Enterprise Capital Funds programme is key in helping to develop and maintain effective venture capital provision in the UK, lowering the barriers to entry for emerging fund managers.

“The programme has backed 46 funds, representing more than £2bn of finance.

“Our commitment to Whiterock builds on that success and introduces a new funding option for scaling companies in Northern Ireland.”