Sector:   Business Services  /   Tech-enabled  
Overview:  IT training academy
Investment year 2017
Status Realised 
Headquarters London

Sparta is a technology services company specialising in the provision of highly skilled technology consultants. Predominantly an early in career and graduate employer, Sparta gives individuals with a passion for technology access to free training in areas such as: software development, devops, testing, data; and business analysis. At the completion of their academy courses, trainees transition to being ‘Spartans’ and are assigned to work on projects with clients across the UK and Ireland. Sparta attracts, trains, delivers and supports business and technology professionals providing technology consulting services to more than a hundred organisations including The Home Office, ASOS, Three Mobile, Deloitte, Direct Line Group, RBS and many more.

With their in-depth knowledge of the IT sector, Key very quickly gained an understanding of our business model. They provide ongoing support at a very senior level, with extremely experienced partners working closely with the business to improve the focus of the management team.

Working with Sparta...

Investment process

The Sparta business was started in 2015 as a division of a larger software testing staffing business called Testing Circle. Our investment provided capital to the founders to both realise some of the value they had created to date as well as accelerate the transformation of the group into a technology services business. We invested £4 million in September 2017.

Growth process

Fundamental to delivering the growth plan was ensuring that the senior executing team was the right size and that roles were clearly defined. During the period that Key worked with the business, a number of senior hires were made, including an Operations Director, a Finance Director, and a Chairman.

A professionalisation and digitalisation process was needed to support the consulting business. We encouraged the business to invest heavily into an integrated enterprise system, including resource planning, time recording, billing and accounts. Once implemented this meant that at any time, we could pull up KPIs about the business and have confidence that they were accurate. The business always had that data, but before the investment in the system, it could have taken them hours of pulling spreadsheets together and reconciling.

The nature of the business’ transformation into a consultancy business also affected the salespeople. The future was much more about being a business partner to their clients and relationship management, as opposed to being largely transactional. Putting a significant investment into developing those relationship management skills meant the business could grow individual key accounts more organically, from being something where they deployed one person with a client, to deploying 30 or 40.

Significant investment was made in establishing a new head office and training centre in central London as well as a training facility in Birmingham.

Exit process

Sparta experienced a four-fold increase in EBITDA and a doubling of employee numbers during the period of our investment. The sale of Sparta to a larger private equity firm resulted in a 7x return for our investors.