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Why FT Group is investing £30m in new media and information companies

FT becomes strategic investor in growing media companies.

By Bron Maher

FT Ventures, the recently-announced venture arm of the Financial Times Group, is planning to make £30m in strategic “initial deployments” of capital, it has said.

Alexandra Calinikos, the corporate development and strategy director at the FT, told Press Gazette the business is looking to invest sums of between £500,000 and £5m in a range of promising information companies.

Calinikos emphasised that the FT Group was approaching FT Ventures as a strategic investor.

“It’s important for us that we’re not just seen as a financial VC [venture capital firm],” she said. “Obviously, the financial metrics are a key requirement for any investor, but alongside that there needs to be some sort of strategic link or goal for our group.”

All the businesses in which FT Ventures invests, she said, would be “linked to information, intelligence, media – it could be data, it could be content. We don’t want to limit it too much, but there is that fundamental link with our industry…

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“The purpose of it is to help the FT Group innovate and grow, to help small businesses do that alongside us.”

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FT Group, which is privately-owned by Japan-based Nikkei, grew revenue by 5% to £458m in 2022 and reported operating profit down 7% to £29m.

‘You can get cash from anywhere, but there’s certain things you can’t get from anywhere’

Calinikos said the establishment of FT Ventures was “a logical next step in our corporate development strategy… we’ve been thinking about it for quite some time”.

The FT has made investments in media brands before, for example Sifted, a news site targeted at young European start-up founders, and B2B website The Business of Fashion.

But Calinikos said these investments have tended to be made on a case-by-case basis and “never under a portfolio view”.

“Several of those happened and we thought – you know, what we really need to do is formalise this into a portfolio-based venture vehicle, just because it was clear there was an appetite there.”

The first investment made under the FT Ventures branding was in Charter, a “future of work media and research company”.

However Calinikos said FT Ventures was interested in businesses “across the media spectrum”, beyond just news outlets, and in particular was looking at “the technologies that power the industry”.

“Obviously, we want to support really interesting news businesses,” Calinikos said, “but that isn’t the purpose of FT Ventures…

“We’re not going out to go and find every single kind of news business and kind of incubate those. That isn’t the purpose.

“We’re looking a bit broader across the entire information landscape, which is not just news – it’s business intelligence, it’s data… it’s more of a ‘how do you inform the world about something important, and what technology makes that more effective?’”

Although the cash was a useful enticement, Calinikos said FT Ventures was “quite flexible in our investment approach. We can invest cash, we can also invest FT services”.

Those include the services of the publisher’s consulting arm FT Strategies as well as possible promotion across the FT’s platforms.

“I think the advantage, obviously, is you can get cash from anywhere, but there’s certain things you can’t get from anywhere – and I think that’s an advantage for these businesses”, Calinikos said.

What sort of business does FT want to invest in?

So for any upstart media businesses hoping to attract FT money, what qualities is FT Ventures looking for in its investments?

Calinikos said the FT has to have “confidence in the management team: are they credible? Do they really believe in what they’re doing? Do they have experience in executing upon it? 

“The Charter management team does have that. That is a very important thing for us.”

Other green flags included “businesses with a global mindset”, a high level of credibility, and “do they have a clear mission and understanding of what it is they’re trying to solve as a problem?”

With Charter, she said, “it’s very topical – the future of work affects everybody”.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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