by Evelyn White
We’ve had an influx of new members and wanted to take this opportunity to introduce the Walmer Group. The company provides SMEs with R&D tax consultancy services helping companies claim tax relief and providing guidance, along with their R&D advanced lending product they’re about to launch. The growing team recently re-located to Hammersmith and Fulham from a neighbouring borough. R&D tax relief is provided to companies that qualify to claim a corporation tax (CT) reduction or cash injection for certain qualifying expenditures, according to HMRC.
I caught up with founders, James Campbell and Hannad Hussein to talk about how they help small business owners maximise the benefit of tax relief and their journey thus far. With James’ background in sales and fundraising and Hannad’s experience with software development, there is the perfect combination of skills to provide R&D tax consultancy in Walmer Group.
James started his career working for an investment platform in his native Australia. In this role, he collaborated with a lot of start-ups on their capital raising. They used to hold around 30 investor events annually in Australia, Asia, and the UK and found they were great opportunities to bring people within the startup and investor communities together.
Walmer has co-hosted one event already in 2022: ‘In May this year, we were joined with corporate partners, industry participants, and experts and ran one event with a friend of mine who runs an angel network based around deep tech and venture building’, James explains. ‘We’re keen to start holding events toward the end of the year once the summer period finishes and business picks up a bit again.’
After having an influx of new members, Walmer Group has expressed a shared interest in running networking events and we’re keen to collaborate in the future. As James expressed, ‘they’re such a great chance to connect with people, give your own clients exposure, and network in a friendly, informal setting to open up opportunities.’
‘Supporting innovative companies by unlocking capital to fund their business growth'
What kinds of services does Walmer Group offer?
James: Our main service at the moment is R&D tax relief consultancy. We’re also about to launch an R&D advanced lending product that will allow us to advance a company’s R&D claim so that the client receives the benefit within days rather than the weeks or months that it usually takes for HMRC to pay back the benefit. We also do some innovation grant applications for companies, whilst also providing investor introductions. This isn’t a core part of our business at the moment, but it's certainly something we’re looking into expanding on in the future.
Our long-term goal is to be a one-stop shop for innovation funding where we can ultimately service clients through all the different forms of innovation funding that is available to them. At the moment, the majority of our clients are SMEs, though we just signed a client last week with £58 million in turnover.
When and why did you decide to start the business together?
James: The first 18 months of starting the business has been focused on solidifying our position in the market and making sure we have the right foundations. We’ve started working with larger companies, but we mainly work with SMEs. The idea behind starting the business was about building up a company that could service SMEs on their funding journey.
Hannad: Some companies I would speak with had brilliant ideas and innovative products but once I looked into the founder's projects I found that they didn’t have the right people to talk to regarding R&D tax relief. After meeting James in early 2020, we saw this gap in the market and thought we could bring our backgrounds and experience in tech, consultancy, and sales together to form a holistic R&D tax consultancy business.
Are both of your professional backgrounds in R&D?
James: I come from a sales and business background having worked for a private investment platform for five years in Australia. I’ve also worked with and within technology companies in the UK for the last five years, along with consultancy work for an angel network. I started to notice a lack of understanding within companies regarding what they were eligible for from an innovation funding perspective. We worked with companies that had been operating for five or six years and they’d never claimed R&D tax relief, meaning they’d left hundreds of thousands of pounds on the table that was available to them.
Hannad: Coming from a tech and consultancy background, I’ve always been involved with innovative companies having done a lot of consultancy for tech companies, especially in the R&D tax area. I found that companies must be spending money in order to get it back via R&D tax. I was working for one of the biggest R&D tax providers in Europe, but I decided to leave in pursuit of a more holistic approach to R&D consultancy and technical innovation. Then I ventured into software development as well as continuing with R&D consultancy which allowed me to see how start-ups worked. I’ve worked with around 500-600 different companies and helped save over £10 million in tax reliefs.
‘Our long-term goal is to be a one-stop shop for innovation funding where we can ultimately service clients through all the different forms of R&D relief that are available to them.’
Would you say that working in start-ups has helped you set up your own business?
James: Absolutely. Although I will say that even after working for startups for ten years, as a small business, we’ve still made every mistake in the book. That's only something you learn through the experience of running your own small business which has been a big learning curve for us. You can only learn so much from working with a startup until you’re running one yourself and then you learn from your own mistakes.
What are the main industries you work with?
James: Many of our clients are in the software development, IT, and tech industries, so it’s been a core focus of ours to accommodate them. We also work with companies in other sectors such as the industrial, manufacturing, biotech, and hardware spheres. Although software and IT are our core skill-set we are sector agnostic. We are able to work with anyone who is eligible under the R&D scheme from a consultancy basis.
What are your plans for Walmer Group in the future?
James: Currently we’re working with UK-based companies, but we do have long-term plans to expand our model and build it overseas. Around 50-60 countries currently have an R&D scheme around the globe, with a lot of emerging economies also beginning to develop these schemes. We’re looking to expand to other parts of the country firstly - we’ve been considering Bristol as well as up north. There’s lots of innovation happening in places like Scotland, Manchester, the North East and Leeds at the moment, so in the next 18-24 months the idea is to set up offices regionally.
However, we want to ensure that our foundations are all in place before we start to scale instead of trying to grow too quickly. It's important to us to make sure we have a solid base in the London office before expanding elsewhere.
Hannad: We want to deploy more innovation in our own company so we’ve been looking at building various software solutions and platforms to help digitalise existing consultancy processes. We find that a lot of the work we currently do is manual, but there are ways of streamlining processes to make the user experience more seamless. In order to partner with other niche sectors, we require the help of software intelligence so we can find new clients to make it easy for them to find funding opportunities.
What advice would you give to someone starting a similar business?
James: We’ve bootstrapped the business, meaning we haven’t taken on any external investment, so from that perspective, we like to make sure we’re growing sustainably as a small business. I would advise small businesses that if you decide to bootstrap, don’t try to grow too fast in the first year: make sure that you have a sustainable, functioning base before attempting to scale. If you’re raising external investment, then growth becomes a lot more important and there’s an added pressure to make things work.
I’d also say to make sure you have the right documentation in place regarding contracts and shareholder agreements. Also, you should be in the best place possible to help advise your clients. Thirdly, make sure you have the right advisors. If you can find people who can be your advisors to your business or to you personally, then it makes a huge difference and can bring so much wisdom to the company. They can mean the difference between not only survival, but success in running your business.
Hannad: I would say to invest in your own knowledge and expertise. You are the expert as a consultant so make sure you know what you’re talking about. I would also advise not to turn down opportunities. If someone says they have an idea and asks whether you can help then just say yes and figure out the rest afterward. Opportunities are hard to come by, especially when you’re on your own and just starting off. If you can invest in yourself and surround yourself with the right team you’ll be able to make it work.
To find out more about Walmer Group, visit their website at https://walmergroup.com/