ThinCats to back Steven Bartlett agency acquisition spree

Steve Bartlett

A marketing agency founded by Steven Bartlett is being backed with a debt facility by ThinCats, the alternative finance provider, and has plans to acquire agencies and marketing technology tools.

Flight Deck, formed by Dragon’s Den star Steven Bartlett and Oliver Yonchev, has a Manchester office, but is headquartered in London, and has completed the acquisition of Flight Performance (formerly Mint Performance Marketing). 

The agency has also launched an innovation arm, Flight3, and Flight Deck, a world-first tool that measures the impact social media has on stock prices.

ThinCats will provide Flight Story with “flexible capital and back their ambitious vision for the future”. 

The business has already identified another target for late 2023, and is in early discussion with further businesses, which will enhance the group’s offering, keeping clients ahead of the changing digital media landscape.

Bartlett was at the centre of a media storm earlier this year when an examination of the growth of his previous business Social Chain revealed a more modest story than the one that earned him a spot on TV’s Dragon’s Den.

London-based advertising agency, Brave Bison bought Social Chain for £7.7m.

Social Chain was founded by Bartlett and business partner Dominic McGregor in 2014, and was taken over by Lumaland, a listed German ecommerce corporate founded by Georg Kofler and Wanja Oberhofrew, which then changed its name to The Social Chain AG and is now a £178m-turnover business with 750 staff in five offices in Manchester, London, Berlin, New York and Munich.

Bartlett and McGregor stood down and left the business in August 2020.

At the time Northern tech influencer Naomi Timperley hit out at the ‘smoke and mirrors’ surrounding Social Chain and founder Steven Bartlett following the sale of the social media agency for £7.7m last month.

Speaking on the Northern Spin podcast Timperley said: “It is a problem, it’s smoke and mirrors. Yes, he’s done well. But saying publicly to people that you have sold a £600 million business is a different story.

“I think it’s a misconception and people have bought into him. It’s allowed him to do incredible things like Dragon’s Den, which is great for him.

“Steven has very cleverly built his personal brand, there’s nothing wrong with that, but people have bought into the whole $600m myth.”

The new agency has offices in London, New York, Los Angeles and Manchester, and boasts a team of 120.

Former Dentsu director Neil Gissler has joined as a Non-Executive Director to lead on the agency’s global growth strategy. 

James Osbiston, Director of Business Development at ThinCats, commented: “We’re thrilled to be backing a business that is in the vanguard of digital change. Steven and Oliver are building something special with Flight Story and we are delighted to be on this journey with them.” 

Oliver Yonchev, Co-founder and CEO of Flight Story, adds: “With our ambitions, it’s critical our funding partner not only provides capital, but understands the requirements of a marketing business and can operate with agility and flexibility. ThinCats displayed that through this process, and demonstrated a deep understanding of our business, both operationally and directionally. We’re truly thrilled to have them as a partner on our journey.”

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