Having built and sold one retail business, entrepreneur Scott Weavers-Wright has done the same again – this time with a tech start-up.
Weavers-Wright, who sold maternity specialist Kiddicare to Morrisons for £70m in 2011, has now offloaded Elevaate - which was named Start-Up of the Year at Retail Week Live in 2015 - to US digital promotions and analytics giant Quotient for an undisclosed sum.
Elevaate is a private marketplace supplier contribution platform – in layman’s terms, it provides the digital equivalent of suppliers’ purchase of in-store promotional space such as gondola ends. It allows brands and their agencies to better highlight their goods to customers on retailers’ websites.
Now it will be deployed by Quotient to retail customers such as Albertsons, the $60bn-turnover US grocery group that owns fascias including Safeway and Shaws.
Monetising retail websites
Weavers-Wright finds it ironic that Elevaate will now be used at such scale because, although it built up a roster of customers in the UK ranging from Iceland and Holland & Barrett to Coca-Cola and Mars, he found it difficult to scale to the size of the opportunity he saw.
He believes that reflects a lack of understanding of digital that still permeates many British retailers. Amazon, he points out, offers product sponsorship to businesses through its Fulfilment By Amazon service to increase product visibility.
“Our retailers don’t monetise their sites,” he maintains. “When you’re sitting on the other side of the table trying to convince a retailer to monetise their site in the face of Amazon doing it… why wouldn’t they? UK retailers had their heads in the ground.”
“But Quotient look after Albertsons - with the stroke of a pen Elevaate will become one of the largest platforms.”
From Stamford to SIlicon Valley
The deal is the latest example of a Californian giant snapping up a UK tech business but Elevaate was created not in the hipster’s hang-out of Silicon Roundabout but in Stamford in Lincolnshire - more famous for its fine stone buildings than for being at the cutting edge of tech.
That was, says Weavers-Wright, because he likes to “challenge the norm”.
He bought a former working men’s social club in the town and converted it into a space for his team – made up of former Kiddicare colleagues including engineers and commercial staff.
He believes its success shows that regional towns can compete effectively in the new world of technology, and that it need not all be centred in London and the big cities.
He says: “It’s not every day a Silicon Valley giant acquires a tech platform in Stamford I wanted to change the status quo. It seemed that Silicon Roundabout was Mecca, but I had managed to build Kiddicare from Peterborough.
“Stamford had been voted one of the best places to live so I thought, why don’t we have that work/life balance? Let’s buy an office and convert it into an incubator, a cool place to work.
“We continued to hire some of the best developers and they were very happy to relocate or travel to Stamford. Having had such great success here, I fully intend to continue investing in digital businesses in Stamford.”
But now that he has sold Elevaate, Weavers-Wright’s attention is also focused a little further afield.
His Haatch investment business has taken a stake in Buymie, an Irish start-up. Its app enables people to order goods – at the moment from Lidl stores in Dublin - which are picked on their behalf and delivered by a team of personal shoppers.
Lidl is promoting Buymie in its shops, and Weavers-Wright says there has been no resistance from consumers who have to pay for the service, despite shopping with a value retailer. He intends to bring Buymie to the UK next year.
While he will continue to invest in digital start-ups, Weavers-Wright also says he is “itching to get back into retail”.
He has had conversations about potential acquisitions, or “I might start something from scratch”.
It sounds as if there will be more deals to come from Weavers-Wright.