Pesky Fish: how an app for fresh fish landed investors

Ben King of Pesky Fish

As a teenager living in Japan, Ben King saw the care that was taken to keep fish fresh, says John Welsh for Forbes. “In the UK, you go to a supermarket and see fish that is sometimes two weeks old on a slab. It smells disgusting,” says King. “Why is fish treated so rubbish here when we are surrounded by 19,000 miles of coastline?” At present, fishermen’s catches are bought at auction in a port. The buyers sell to merchants before the fish finally arrives in restaurants. That can mean several days have passed before the fish reach the table.

Last year, King decided to launch Pesky Fish to reinvent the seafood supply chain to create a more sustainable industry for fish, fishermen and consumers. Meanwhile, Aiden Berry had just returned to Britain after working for two years as a logistics manager with Médecins Sans Frontières. “I really enjoy supply management and logistics,” he says. “But I got tired of working for men in suits.” So Berry decided to team up with King.

Pesky Fish provides a platform through which chefs can buy fish from specific fishermen in five English ports, avoiding the buyers and merchants. That means restaurants can get their hands on less popular and more abundant fish, such as pouting, which used to sell for 50p a kilo, but now nets the fishermen £4.50. Pesky Fish has so far raised £276,000 in seed funding, with a customer-facing app on the way. The idea, says Berry, is that “any fisherman can sell to any customer”.

Making a billion from gym kit

It’s been 35 years since Nerio Alessandri built his first piece of exercise equipment – a hack-squat machine – in his father’s garage and founded Technogym. His focus on fitness has made him a billionaire, says Tom Metcalf on Bloomberg. The company’s gleaming headquarters in Cesena, a city near the Adriatic Sea in Italy, and the town of Alessandri’s birth, reflects the world’s booming healthy-living economy. Once largely the preserve of bodybuilders in the 1980s, fitness machines are now mainstream: the industry was worth $542bn in 2015, according to the Global Wellness Institute.

Alessandri, 57, is a godfather of this new economy. His stake in Techno-gym, the shares of which have surged 46% in the past year, comprises about three-quarters of his $1.3bn fortune. Revenue for the six months to the end of June rose 8.3% from the year before, helped by strong growth in the US and China. Still, Technogym can’t afford to take a breather. There’s a constant need to innovate to justify its premium prices, and new competitors abound. Technogym’s advantage is that its products target a broad range of people, from Olympians to those who exercise occasionally. A quarter of its 40 million daily devotees use its “mywellness” platform, connecting them to their training programmes and data. Then there is Technogym’s Italian heritage. “Wellness is the lifestyle born 2,000 years ago in Italy during the Roman era,” says Alessandri. “Mens sana in corpore sano. A healthy mind in a healthy body.”

High-risk backpacking adventure pays off

Rob Wylie

“I was worried… as I was leaving the comfort of a job and it could all go wrong,” Rob Wylie, 49 (pictured), tells Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. It was 2003 and Wylie was downsizing by moving from Oakham, Rutland, to Poole. He used £125,000 from the sale of his home to start Osprey Europe, a distributor of premium backpacks. Wylie, who had been working in sales of outdoor equipment, had discovered the small Californian brand, Osprey, in 1998. “It was almost a cottage industry,” says Wylie, “but the designs were amazing.” Wylie met the founder and designer Mike Pfotenhauer, who agreed to strike up a partnership. The US company took 20% of Wylie’s venture, while Wylie held an 8% shareholding in the US firm, as well as the remaining 80% of Osprey Europe. Last year the firm made pre-tax profits of £5m on sales of £36.1m – the same year Wylie was approached by the private equity owners of the American Osprey brand with an offer to buy. After demurring, Wylie finally accepted, but remains at the firm. He can’t say how much he received but admits, “I wouldn’t have to work again if I didn’t want to”.

Software gives NHS buyers a healthy edge

Tim Ingham and Ed Bradley reckon they can help save the NHS £700m in the next few years, says Laura Onita in the Evening Standard. “Whether it’s a receptionist buying stationery… or a surgeon buying a hip replacement, they do so at a price that is specific to their hospital” — but in some instances they could be paying up to 50% over the odds, says Bradley. “There is no visibility.”

To solve that, the friends set up Reading-based Virtualstock in 2004. Their software, The Edge, allows around 90 NHS trusts to order anything from syringes to pens faster and at better prices. Suppliers list their products for a fee. Hospitals access the system for free. The business, which also sells its services to retailers, turned over £5.5m last year and revenues are expected to almost double this year. It raised £4.5m from venture-capital firm Notion Capital last year to expand, in return for a minority stake. “We’re reinvesting everything that we earn,” says Bradley.