Connected vehicle firm wejo eyes IPO and unicorn status
The CFO of connected vehicle firm wejo is predicting the tech company will be a unicorn in less than two years.
Earlier this year wejo was named as the ‘Fastest Growing Company of the Year’ at GP Bullhound’s Northern Tech Awards and Barry Nightingale said it was on track to do an IPO in 18 months.
The veteran joined wejo a year ago after a stellar career that has included senior roles at Monarch Airlines, Betfred and webuyanycar.com.
Speaking at the ‘How to scale up your tech business’ event sponsored by Barclays Bank, Bermans, Cowgills and Rowan Group, Nightingale said wejo's data sales were growing at a rate of 600 per cent per month and were set to hit turnover of $60m in 2020.
“Cash is pretty key for us because we’ve got to build and grow,” he told the packed audience at Eagle Labs in Manchester.
Wejo recently opened a 10,000 sq ft state-of-the-art office covering two floors in Manchester’s Enterprise City as it grows towards becoming a unicorn.
“I don’t like the words ‘next unicorn’,” admitted Nightingale. “If the world aligns, and without the seismic shifts that can derail you, we’ll be on track for IPO within 18 months. A unicorn is a billion dollar valuation so we won’t go to market without being somewhere close to that.”
wejo was founded by Richard Barlow in 2014 and provides information to a variety of end-users including insurers, local authorities and breakdown recovery services by tracking seven million connected cars.
Its software tracks traffic and uses machine learning to improve traffic and safety management operations.
Wejo says its new products – Hotspot Intelligence, Live Traffic and Traffic Intelligence – will be utilised to make this one of the most dynamic and interactive traffic intelligence portals available in the UK.
It was announced in February this year that American automotive giant General Motors (GM) had taken a 35 per cent stake in the Chester technology start-up, valuing the company at $275m (£213m).
Nightingale described the GM deal as the ‘catalyst’ for a lot of its recent success. “It turned us from innovative start-up into a real game-changer proposition. Finding that opportunity, delivering that opportunity was mission critical.”
The CFO said wejo’s recruitment of him reflected their own ambition. “My entry point is normally on a consultancy basis,” he said. “I’ve become quite keen on taking equity positions as well. That’s normally how they get me in. If it’s going the right way, it’s normally where I stay.
“My specialist subject is raising money. I’ve also got quite good at restructuring and assisting setting up businesses so they’re on the right trajectory. I don’t claim to be an entrepreneur but I work with some of the best. That gives me great insight.
“When Richard Barlow, founder and CEO of wejo, was looking to raise his Series B money, I was an obvious phone call away."
Other speakers at the ‘How to scale up your tech business’ event were Nicola Weedhall, founder of Autopaid; Nick Rhind, CEO of CTI digital; Kobi McCardle, co-founder of Dr Fertility; Richard Hayes, co-founder and CEO of Mojo; Catherine Bennett, founder and managing director of Caboodle; John Ridd, CEO of Evidd, and Steve Kelly, founder SmartKem.