Reed Elsevier sells tech group back to founder

 
Oliver Smith
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BRITAIN’S fastest growing technology company MVF yesterday announced that it has bought back Approved Index, the business that its founder sold to Reed Elsevier in 2008.

Titus Sharpe sold Approved Index to the FTSE 100 firm five years ago, before using the proceeds of the sale to found MVF, which uses technology to win customers for clients including British Gas, EDF and Nestle.

MVF was recently named the fastest growing technology company in the UK by The Sunday Times, with its sales up an average of 289 per cent every year for the past three years.

Last year MVF reported revenues of £13.9m, up from £257,000 in 2010 despite the challenges of the recession and technology staff shortages.

Yesterday Sharpe told City A.M. that Approved Index is now the perfect match for MVF.

“When you look at it as a standalone it’s a nice business and it generates a good profit. When you look at it combined with MVF… the combination of the two is very exciting for us as we can push traffic into that B2B marketplace.”

The businesses will initially be run separately, Sharpe said, though there will be some overlap between the two companies.

“Currently we’re running Approved Index independently, however we are putting more marketing expertise from MVF into the operation.”

While the figures around the selling and buying back of Approved Index remain confidential due to legal reasons, Reed Elsevier said on the sale: “Approved Index had a good track record of success as it operates in the fast moving marketing services sector.

“However, Reed Business Information’s increasing focus on paid content and online data services means they were are not able to give the business the priority and investment it deserved.”

PROFILE: TITUS SHARPE

TITUS Sharpe is the chief executive and co-founder of MVF, a business named as the fastest growing technology company in the UK. With a background in computer science and artificial intelligence, Sharpe launched his first internet startup in 1998 with HR software business PeopleQ – but after 18 months he sold the business to head back into the world of academia.

Sharpe started a PhD across Oxford University, UWE and the California Institute of Technology with a Fulbright Scholarship, but quit six weeks in.

Moving back into the startup world Sharpe started one of the earliest social networks, Oxbridge Life, in 1999. It had a membership of around 20,000 in Oxford and Cambridge. Pioneering features such as its use of groups, photo streams and real names were ahead of its time – coming four years before Facebook launched – but were not enough to keep the site afloat.

Sharpe co-founded Approved Index in 2004 and over three years built it into the UK's largest B2B lead generation firm, before selling it to Reed Elsevier in 2008.

Using the proceeds Sharpe launched MVF in 2009 and grew it from strength to strength during difficult years of recession, eventually leading to yesterday’s buy back of Approved Index. When asked if he would ever return to academia, Sharpe replied, “I think I’m addicted to business now. I probably won’t ever finish my PhD now.”