“CableCom has no lack of opportunities – the issue has been choosing the right ones. We were blown away from the very first meeting, when it was clear that here was a company with the right market, vision and leader to achieve something special. What they needed was the right investment, people and advice to make it happen.”
Andrew Garside, Livingbridge
Building on student accommodation
CableCom was already enjoying success in the student accommodation market. While others installed networks on a project basis, CableCom differentiated itself by offering universities a unique model – network installation at no cost when they took out a 7-year managed services contract.
However, as the market became increasingly commoditised, there was a risk that CableCom would be squeezed on price - it was obvious they needed to expand the offering. On top of that, founder Chris Elliott felt that he’d taken the business on a successful journey but now wanted other challenges and was looking to exit.
Rather than seeing Chris’s departure as a problem, sales director Mark Burchfield saw it as a great opportunity – a management buyout would enable Chris to leave, allow the company to access new funds, and give Mark the chance to realise his vision for a business he had an increased stake in.
Strengthening the foundations
Livingbridge had some experience in the field and we could immediately see the potential – both in the business and in backing Mark Burchfield as CableCom’s new managing director. But with much of the day-to-day management already resting on his shoulders, we needed to build the team around him. We also needed to look at how to expand the proposition.
We started by bringing in Paul Kan – previously part of the team that turned Bluetooth into a global success - as commercial director. Initially on a three-month contract, Paul’s role was to evolve the proposition.
Paul and Mark worked together and developed a fully interactive web portal that was to change the face of the business and trigger explosive growth. By creating a continuous flow of information that enabled students, the university and even accommodation owners to communicate with and support each other, student satisfaction and service efficiency increased exponentially. And rather than charge for the portal, CableCom offered it as part of an overall service package. This brilliant piece of forward thinking led to CableCom winning nearly every single contract they bid for over the course of several years.
Expanding the network even further
Having cornered the student accommodation market, Livingbridge supported CableCom in the expansion into new markets. We could see no reason why CableCom’s unique model wouldn’t work in other types of high-density accommodation. And we were proved right – in 2010 CableCom beat some of the UK's biggest telecoms providers to deliver voice, broadband and TV services to Media City, the accommodation being built around the BBC’s northern base in Salford. In 2012 Cablecom secured its first international student accommodation contract in Holland.
In 2013 Livingbridge negotiated the sale of CableCom to another private equity firm. Livingbridge’s belief in Mark Burchfield was further validated – three years later and with different private equity backers, he remains CEO of CableCom. Livingbridge has remained a minority investor in the business.
And as for Paul Kan, his three-month contract became a full-time career. He is still the commerical director of CableCom and also a shareholder.
“In an increasingly commoditised and price-driven market, we needed to evolve our product in order to grow. With the founder looking to exit, it was obvious we were looking for an MBO and there was no need to go elsewhere for funding and advice – we could see straight away that the guys at Livingbridge just got it.”
Mark Burchfield, CableCom
Livingbridge invest backing Mark Burchfield as MD in an MBO of the business. Services reach 13,000 users. Turnover is £4.8m
CableCom wins contract to deliver voice, broadband and TV services to Media City
Key contract wins mean services now reach 250,000 users
CableCom is sold to another private equity firm with Livingbridge remaining as minority investor in the business. Turnover is £17m
CableCom acquires utilities payment business Glide and internet service provider WarwickNet
Livingbridge reaches an agreement to sell the fund and investment management business of Livingbridge VC LLP, comprising the Baronsmead VCTs and the Livingbridge Equity Funds, to Gresham House plc.