Region: Northern Ireland
Programme: Future Fund
About to go to market with its new speech recognition technology, Belfast-based Liopa found its business plan threatened once the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Struggling to raise venture capital funding, it turned to the Future Fund, whose financing has allowed the company to maintain its business plan for 2020.
Read what it had to say in this Future Fund case study.
British Business Bank: Can you tell us what your company does?
Richard McConnell, chief operating officer of Liopa: Liopa is a spin out from the Centre for Secure Information Technologies at Queen’s University Belfast. Our core product, known as LipRead, is an accurate and easy-to-use visual speech recognition (VSR) platform focused on the speech recognition market.
The coronavirus has affected a huge number of businesses across the UK. What problems were you facing as a result of the outbreak and what made you apply to the Future Fund?
Prior to 2020, we were focused on developing LipRead, a new and unique platform that can decipher speech from lip movement. Our company is venture-capital funded and was in the process of raising finance to release products to the digital healthcare and media transcription markets when the pandemic broke out. At that time, the amount of available venture capital investment fell drastically, which threatened to severely hamper our go-to-market plans.
How long did the application process take? Did you need any support?
The process took approximately five weeks from making the initial application to receiving funding. We were supported by our lead investor during the process and also accessed the Future Fund support that British Business Bank provided.
Without access to the Future Fund, we wouldn’t have raised enough capital to fully implement our product release plans for 2020. And this would have had a significant impact on the commercial potential of our business in the future.
Richard McConnell, chief operating officer of Liopa
What advice would you give to other businesses that are applying to the Future Fund?
Accessing the scheme is very straightforward compared to other forms of business financing. The process is concise, clear and quick. Any company that’s eligible for the scheme and needs support during this difficult time shouldn’t hesitate to apply.
How has the Future Fund helped your organisation to weather the outbreak? And what might have happened if you hadn’t received the money?
Our experience with the Future Fund has been that applications are assessed quickly and on merit, irrespective of the company’s size, background, location or industry. In short, it’s a very accessible, open, fair and efficient scheme.
Future Fund support, alongside finance from our existing investors, has allowed us to continue to invest in R&D, keep our highly expert team at full strength, and move ahead with our product release plans, all without any significant impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.