Unicus all set for growth
TEXT: IRINA LEE
Ferd Social Entrepreneurs (FS) has bought an ownership stake in a social enterprise for the first time. Having followed Unicus closely for more than six years, FSE has become part-owner through a private placement.
“Unicus scores highly on all the metrics important to us. They have shown fantastic social results as well as good results financially, and also have a strong leadership team, significant growth potential, and an innovative and scalable business model”, comments Espen Daae, Business Developer at FSE.
FSE has bought an ownership stake of approximately 38%, and at the same time has gained representation on the company’s board with two members.
“I am very proud that Unicus is the first equity investment made by Ferd Social Entrepreneurs. This will strengthen our equity position and give us the additional resources we need to strengthen our focus on scalability and growth”, comments Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, founder and CEO of Unicus.
Lars Johansson-Kjellerød retains an ownership interest of slightly under 50% following the private placement, while Sverre Weisteen and Ørjan Hernes, who are both partners in the company, each own just over 6%.
The history of Unicus dates back to late autumn in 2008 when Lars Johansson-Kjellerød came up with the idea for a unique company. His idea was to employ people with Asperger syndrome as IT consultants. Unicus was founded in 2009, and its business model has proved to be sustainable. With the exception of one year, the business has been in profit.
Asperger syndrome is a form of autism that is in part characterised by a focus on detail and precision. These positive characteristics have shown themselves to be a significant advantage for people working in IT and pattern recognition. Unicus’ IT consultants generate high scores on customer satisfaction, giving the company a special competitive advantage.
In parallel with its financial results, the company is delivering increasingly large returns in terms of its social bottom line. Its employees no longer need unemployment benefit and work fulltime as IT consultants. They thus move from having not been part of the world of work to being employees who are creating value – for where they work, their customers, society as a whole and themselves.
The company currently employees 19 consultants, of whom one is a woman. It at present only operates in the Oslo area. Its next phase will see it set up a company in Sweden, where it will recruit both IT consultants and management personnel locally. Its management team will also be strengthened in Norway to facilitate expansion elsewhere in Norway too. Technological and industry clusters such as in Stavanger and Kongsberg will be important locations in future.
“It’s a company that creates ‘ordinary work for extraordinary people’! Unicus takes something that others regard as a burden or disadvantage and turns it into a competitive advantage. It really is a win-win situation. Owning a stake in Unicus gives as a unique ability to help the company, which we know well, to take the next step out into the world. This will help create positive social benefits for even more people”, comments Espen Daae, Business Developer at FSE.
A longer version of this article is available in Norwegian in the Ferd Magazine by clicking here.