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From Innocent founders to US VCs — here’s who could lose millions in the Bulb collapse

Just eight months after being crowned the UK's fastest growing startup, Bulb has collapsed

By Freya Pratty

Bulb was crowned the UK’s fastest growing startup in March this year. Fast forward eight months and the company has just collapsed, the biggest casualty so far of Europe’s energy crisis.

It marks a significant fall from grace for Bulb. It was started six years ago and its founders, Hayden Wood and Amit Gudka, had become shining stars of the UK’s efforts to move to renewable energy — Boris Johnson visited the HQ in July and Wood has been working as an adviser to the government.

Amit Gudka and Hayden Wood, Bulb's cofounders
Amit Gudka and Hayden Wood

But the soaring price of natural gas left Bulb selling energy for less than it was buying it. Then, last week, delays to the approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in Germany sent prices spiking again, which Bulb said contributed to its decision to go into administration.

Bulb has never made a profit. Its losses surged from £23m in 2018 to £128m in 2019. By March 2020, the last documents filed by Bulb, the losses had narrowed to £59m.

When a company goes into administration, shareholders are the last in line to get anything back. So who stands to lose the most from the Bulb collapse?

VCs and hedge funds

Bulb’s founders, Wood and Gudka, own 48.6% of the company according to Beauhurst. The last valuation of Bulb, in October, gave their stakes a paper worth of £100m each. 

The VC that stands to lose the most is DST Global, the US-based firm founded by Russian-Israeli entrepreneur Yuri Milner. DST participated in a £60m investment round in Bulb in 2018 and the fund has a 16% stake in the business, with a paper value of £65m. When they invested, Bulb’s valuation was £350m. 

Yuri Milner, the founder of DST Capital, and his wife Julia

The other investment firm to participate in the £60m round was Magnetar, which is also American. It held a 3.8% stake in Bulb, worth £15m. 

In 2017, JamJar Investments, the investment fund set up by the founders of Innocent Drinks, put £3.9m into Bulb. At that point, the company was valued at £50m. In Bulb’s latest filings their stake was 0.98%, with a paper worth of £1.34m. 

JamJar has also backed companies like Deliveroo, Oatly and broadband startup Cuckoo, which was founded by a former adviser to Bulb.

Angel investors

A host of individual investors also had shares in Bulb — 105 of them in total, most holding stakes under 1%. It’s hard to tell exactly when and how much they put into Bulb, though the company did receive £1.2m in investment from Clearly Social Angels, an angel investment network, in 2017. 

There’s one individual whose stake is worth significantly more than the rest. Philip Sutterby owns 8.27%, a stake with a paper worth of £34m. Sutterby used to work for Mercuria Energy Group as its head of European gas trading, but left in 2016 to work for Millennium Management, the hedge fund founded by Israel Englander.

Sutterby has made several investments into renewable energy companies, including Field, a British company working on energy storage, and renewable energy provider Goto Energy, which was another casualty of the energy crisis, ceasing trading in October.

Other individuals with stakes in Bulb include German entrepreneur and investor Oliver Jung, who has also backed companies like Airbnb, Ayden, WeWork and Revolut. 

Freya Pratty is Sifted’s news reporter. She tweets from @FPratty 

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