Vision Direct is an online retailer of contact lenses and related eye-care products. Founded in 2008 by Michael Kraftman (CEO), the current company is the result of a series of acquisitions in the retail opticians market in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. In 2014, the business completed its third round of venture capital fundraising to acquire Vision Direct, its closest competitor. The company has since trebled in size and is now the market leader in the UK and Ireland, having also bolstered its position in the Netherlands, Spain and Italy. Now at £30 million turnover with a team of 100 people working in offices in Amsterdam (25), York (50) and London (25), Michael has successfully integrated the acquisitions into an enlarged corporate structure. Having established a solid management team and an effective marketing and finance function within the organization, Michael’s current challenge is whether to appoint a Chief Technology Officer, a function he has so far carried out himself. However, a number of questions remain: Does Michael have sufficient experience and bandwidth to oversee the technology side of an expanding business? Should he promote his current Head of IT and thus hand over greater responsibility? Finally, as an e-commerce business, should technology be treated as a strategic concern, or as something more ancillary?
TestPlant is an international software business based in London. Described typically as a “micro-national”, it is noted for its high-tech, high growth and export-orientated activity. The company is the creator of eggPlant, a range of software tools which automates the traditionally manual process of software testing and validation. Born from the acquisition of a US company based in Boulder, Colorado, TestPlant is about to embark on its second acquisition-led growth phase. Having lined up his acquisition candidates, CEO George Mackintosh faces some pressing challenges: How is he going to lead the acquisition of UK company Facilita? What difficulties might arise from taking on external financing? And has he got the right people to transform the company from a £5m turnover business to a £50m turnover business?