Thursday, 04 February 2021 13:13

Profile - Richard Edwards of Jumpstart Limited

Richard Edwards

When a business is performing four times better than you expected within only eight years, you know you’re onto a winner.

Richard Edwards set up Jumpstart with his business partners shortly after leaving the Royal Navy in 2008. The R&D tax credit specialists now have 45 staff, revenues of £4.3 million and big plans to expand beyond Scotland.

“At the start I really didn’t expect the company to get so big, so I’m delighted that it’s grown and that the market is growing too,” he told Scottish Business News. “It’s always really satisfying when you get out and speak to companies who’ve had a bad experience or been let down by other providers and then we prepare claims for them that go through. I love seeing what they can then do with that money – create new jobs, upgrade machinery, move to bigger premises… It’s also very satisfying taking jobs from the Big 4 accountancy firms and proving that a smaller company can compete at the highest levels.”

The company was self-funded but assisted with a £1000 grant from Business Gateway and, in 2014, received a large investment from the Business Growth fund for £3.4 million.

“We have about 40% of the market in Scotland and we know there is huge potential south of the border,” Richard said. “Aberdeen is also really important for us, so one of our people is based just outside the city. The downturn in the oil price has meant companies are keener than ever to save money. We started in 2008 when the economy crashed so it was an opportunity for us. When times are hard, businesses are more interested in maximizing the value from their R&D tax relief.”

Jumpstart opened its doors after Richard spent some time in Vancouver reviewing the Canadian system of R&D tax relief. Like the UK, Canada offers financial incentives to companies who solve technical problems. Jumpstart was initially very niche and provided a service many accountants didn’t actively push.

“In this area we find there’s still a big gap between accountants and their clients – accountants often need their clients to come to them with information, while their clients expect their accountant to approach them, so there’s a communication breakdown,” Richard explained. “We employ engineers who understand what the clients are doing from a technical perspective and work with them to identify their qualifying expenditure, which we then pass to the accountant. We effectively produce a pre-checked and verified bundle for the accountant, which makes their life easier.”

Finding the right staff was the biggest problem for the newly formed company, so Richard – himself trained as a software engineer – commissioned an online training system called the Jumpstart Academy. This allowed the company to hire staff quickly while also ensuring that all its technical consultants had a consistent level of knowledge.

“We found a lot of people who were working in labs were keen to find a more sociable role and get out there and talk to people,” he said. “Half of our tech team have PhDs, the rest are degree educated to a high level and experienced in the tech arena, so that when we put them together with clients they understand what they’re doing and are able to make an application that is highly accurate.”

There is now much more competition for Jumpstart in the marketplace, ranging from the cheap-and-cheerful ‘submit and hope’ approach to those like Jumpstart that use qualified engineers and believe in ‘best effort first time’.

With value for money firmly in the political spotlight, Richard is convinced HMRC will be asked to tighten its policing of the scheme in the future.

“We totally support a more robust approach from HMRC, who, at the moment are slightly vulnerable in that they don’t employ their own technical specialists and rely heavily on the information given to them by the applicants“ he said. “This can lead to misunderstandings between companies (who typically don’t have much time to read hundreds of pages of guidance) and HMRC (which often has no deep understanding of those companies’ technologies). The solution, of course, is to use a reputable consultancy that has knowledge of both technology and HMRC’s rulebook.”

Moving forward, Jumpstart’s three year plan is to open offices in London, the Midlands and the north-east of England. Richard is excited about the challenges ahead.

“I didn’t have any business experience when I set up the company, but my background in software engineering and maths gave me that raw problem solving ability which has been invaluable,” he said. “I love the freshness of running a business. The learning curve is steep in business, and every day brings a new challenge. I enjoy the freedom and the control over my own destiny.”

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