Business spreadsheet collaboration firm Synapse has secured a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Leicester after securing a total of £380,000 in grants and investment.

The firm, launched in 2012 by serial entrepreneur Brian Donnelly, has tripled in size to 18 people during the 2014/5 financial year.

The rapid growth has been aided by a £250,000 SMART Grant from Innovate UK, a £25,000 investment from Finance Birmingham and a £15,000 grant secured via a Coventry University project.

Brian said: “The three grants we secured in the 2014 financial year – together with the investment from Finance Birmingham – has enabled the team to triple in size to 18. The newly awarded Knowledge Transfer Partnership grant will enable us to carry out much more product development work during this coming 2015 financial year, alongside a team from the University of Leicester.”

Synapse’ largest clients include a high street bank and a leading Swedish furniture retailer. The firm’s growth has also been supported by loan finance from Aston Reinvestment Trust (ART), which is also based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus.

The previous business founded by Brian Donnelly relocated from the UK in order to grow in California’s ‘Silicon Valley’. Over a series of investment rounds with US venture capitalists, he raised a total of $30m, enabling the team to grow to 160 with a customer base of 70 large clients, before exiting the business and subsequently returning to the UK.

Brian Donnelly added: “I made the decision to create a new start-up in Birmingham because the wealth of companies in the region makes it easier to establish a strong customer base. In addition, recruiting a high-skilled team of software engineers and marketers is much more straightforward and inexpensive than it would be in London. Birmingham is significantly underrated as a location for tech businesses.”

Published: Business Quarter 1 April 2015