Stylus

Year founded 2009
HQ Location London
Sector Media & Entertainment
Staff count 100
Turnover £10m+
After founding and selling trend-forecasting company WGSN, CEO and founder Marc Worth started again by self-funding Stylus, an innovation research and advisory firm that has scaled to reach a turnover of over £10m.
www.stylus.com
Stylus has a very high renewal rate and next year we’ll probably generate as much cash as I would have wanted to raise.

Marc Worth

Founder & CEO

Creating a profitable entrepreneurial track record

Founder and CEO Marc Worth sold his previous company WGSN in 2005 and came away with the best part of £55m. “I took a few years out, just enjoyed life, and then in 2009 I decided to do it all over again,” he says.

Stylus’ innovation research and trends content helps businesses process global consumer lifestyle, consumer product and consumer engagement insights, focused on stimulating innovation and growth.

With offices in New York and London, Stylus employs around 100 people including industry analysts, trends experts, researchers and client services staff. It also works with specialist freelancers.


Navigating the winding road to success

It would be tempting to say that Worth has the Midas touch, with success following at every step of his entrepreneurial journey. But the road to success has not been without its white-knuckle moments.

While scaling WGSN, Worth says he put everything on the line: “We were burning around £400,000 a month and my wife thought I was really reckless.”

But the company soon became cashflow-positive and Worth, along with his co-founder and brother Julian Worth, was able to buy out their investors. In 2005 the brothers sold the company to EMAP for £140m.

After about four years, he was ready to do it all again. But while writing a business plan with the view to raising start-up capital, he changed his mind about seeking investment. “I didn’t see the point of asking for venture capital because I had the cash sitting in the bank. So I decided that I might as well just fund the business myself,” he explains.

Every advertiser in a Hearst publication, whether for cars, fashion or beauty was a potential client for us.

Marc Worth, Stylus

Maintaining skin in the game

In 2009 Worth put up £10m of his own money to start Stylus. Just three years later the company was generating between £2m to £3m in annual revenues. “At the time I was definitely not looking to raise money as we were pretty much breaking even,” he says.

But this changed when media group Hearst approached Worth. The media giant owns Esquire, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health among other leading magazine brands. Its small investments division Hearst Strategic Investments wanted to back Stylus.

Worth debated the merits of accepting investment and ultimately decided they could add value. “Every advertiser in a Hearst publication, whether for cars, fashion or beauty was a potential client for us,” he says. “I thought strategically that the investment could signal real opportunity for Stylus.” Hearst acquired a 20% stake in the business.


Generating high renewable revenues

Today Worth retains majority control of the business and says that Hearst is a “very easy” investor to work with. “They know the market we are selling into, but they’re happy to leave me to it,” he says.

Stylus is growing at about 30% year on year and crucially the company’s client member renewal rate is 84%. Though delivering such positive performance, Worth still sometimes toys with the idea of raising money, but is yet to be convinced he needs to.

The one factor that would sway him would be finding a “really interesting acquisition”. That, he says, would be a good reason to seek acquisition funding.

But for now, he says: “Stylus has a very high renewal rate and next year we’ll probably generate as much cash as I would have wanted to raise.”


Key Metrics

36%/64%

Domestic/export sales

20%+

Staff headcount growth

£16m

Total capital raised

Sources of capital
Supported By

Related Stories

GapCap
Offering a fresh and flexible approach to SME finance with invoice factoring, GapCap’s scale-up journey is fuelled by a combination of private debt supply, technology and data. Read more...
Earth Immo
Founder and CEO Dan Johnson is scaling his real estate marketing business with intellectual and human capital, and despite the financial crisis denting his funding confidence he plans to raise more funds to expand into new markets. Read more...
LendInvest
LendInvest has secured a strong position in the UK property finance market after raising £760m of lending capital, and is taking on the established bank market with its technology-driven model and its increasingly diverse and cost-effective capital base. Read more...
Pjoys
Confronting the “evil twins” of anxiety and depression has been a life-changing and enriching process for Pjoys founder Michelle Morgan, as she now embarks on creating a new business more “joyfully and slowly”. Read more...
Way To Blue
Meeting the needs of its international clients from Hollywood film premieres to best-selling Christmas toys at Hamleys, integrated communications agency Way To Blue has gradually scaled its full-service offering across the globe, investing in agencies, platforms and most importantly, people. Read more...
The Clubhouse
With investment in each new location opened by The Clubhouse costing £1.5m, a key challenge for the company has been raising growth capital to bring founder Adam Blaskey’s vision to life. Read more...