We first met Martin in the summer of 1999 when we sat down to discuss funding for a pioneering and revolutionary transport system of the future. Martin Lowson, a former NASA scientist who had worked on the Apollo moon landings, had developed a prototype sensor controlled, on –demand driverless taxi, named the ULTra System.
From a funding perspective the business was at the concept stage and too early for VC investment. However, we advised Martin what needed to be in place to make it an attractive investment proposition. He left our offices with more of a spring in his stride than when he had arrived, and we were later to learn that Professor Martin Lowson likes nothing more than to succeed against all the odds. We didn’t hear from him again for four years, when we had a call from him saying, remember me, I took your advice and the business has made substantial progress, we’ve:
- Spun out of Bristol University
- Raised over £10m in funds from the European Union, DTI awards and other grants
- Obtained seed investment from NESTA
- Built and deplored a test track in Cardiff over a one mile circuit
- Tendered for major civil and commercial contracts in the UK and overseas
- Developed the management team with the appointment of Chris Cook, former Chief Designer at Westland Helicopters and Trevor Smallwood, former founder and Chairman of First Group
The progress had been astounding; we met a few days later. At this meeting we talked in depth about the business and the potential for funding, and we told him that despite the fact that funding for this sort of project was still exceedingly tough, we would be delighted to work with him.
Over the following weeks and months we worked together to shape the corporate finance strategy ensuring that we gave it the best possible chance of success in the hurly burly of the funding markets.
Crucial to this process was:
- the focus and positioning of the business
- emphasis on its prospective customers
- its channels to market
- the weight of funds to be raised and an early view across the investing spectrum as to where the likely investors could be secured.
In April 2005 we closed a strategic funding round of £1m which comprised a mix of funds from private investors, incumbent shareholders and an institutional funder investing private client funds. This provided the company with added fire power and resource in advance of the main round. The main round was closed six months later in September 2005 when BAA Plc invested £7.5m in return for a 25% equity stake
BAA Plc was actively seeking a solution to its Heathrow transit links and ATS’s ULTra System was selected to provide a service link from the car parks to the terminal areas. On the successful deployment of the pilot, ATS will have the opportunity to locate its transit system throughout Heathrow – potentially £200m worth of business.