Dutch Specialisterren attracts investment from Unicus and Ferd Social Enterpreneurs

News overview

Strategic impact investor takes over from Dutch impact investor DOEN Participaties

Utrecht/Oslo, September 30, 2021 – The Dutch Specialisterren and the Norwegian Unicus, both IT service providers and social enterprises focused on helping people with a form of autism succeed in the job market, are going to collaborate extensively going forward. With the support of Norwegian impact investor Ferd, Unicus is taking over the interest of Dutch impact investor DOEN Participaties, which has been investing in Specialisterren since the very beginning.

Both Specialisterren and Unicus see the unique qualities of people with autism and combine delivering high-quality IT services with solving a social challenge. By joining forces, the range of services will be expanded and even more people with autism will get a permanent job.

“The services of Unicus and Specialisterren complement each other perfectly. As a result of this transaction, both companies will soon be specialized in software testing, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Business Intelligence and data science,” says Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, CEO and founder of Unicus. “It is a valuable addition for our customers and (future) employees because the combined customer base and the expansion of the service offering creates even more jobs for people with autism.”

Long-term process
DOEN Participaties, the largest Dutch impact investor in sustainable and social startups, has been involved with Specialisterren since the very beginning in 2010. A grant and loan were converted into an equity interest in 2017. Partly thanks to DOEN, Specialisterren now has 63 employees, 50 of whom have autism. To ensure that the mission, vision and business operations of Unicus and Specialisterren matched in all areas, all parties involved took ample time to get to know each other.

Both Specialisterren and Unicus are pleased with the patience shown by the impact investors DOEN and Ferd.

DOEN was happy to contribute to the growth in the first phase. We are therefore proud that we can hand over the baton to FERD, an investor that is just as impact-driven as we are," says Idriss Nor, Director Impact Investments at DOEN Participaties. “We are therefore confident that this social enterprise will have a bright future thanks to this European collaboration”.

Ferd has been impressed with the very collaborative process between all parties involved, allowing us to complete a landmark cross-border transaction between two social enterprises in the middle of a pandemic. We are really looking forward to supporting these two great companies on their ambitious impact journey ahead”, says Espen Daae, Investment Chief – Social Investments at Ferd.

Unique exit from social enterprise
For DOEN Participaties this is the second positive exit this year and also one from a social enterprise. Nor: “Our exit from Specialisterren shows that it is possible to grow social enterprises stably and sell them with positive returns, we hope to inspire more investors to get into social enterprises and do so across borders within Europe.”

About Specialisterren
Specialisterren was founded by Sjoerd van der Maaden. When he sailed around the world with his family for a year, he saw how well his son with autism was developing. By removing all the stress factors, the boy's talents suddenly came into their own. This insight led to the creation of Specialisterren in 2010: an IT company specialized in providing software and RPA services. The company now employs 63 people and a minimum of eighty percent of its turnover is realized by working with people with autism. By offering autism friendly working conditions, career guidance and a permanent contract, the employees can flourish and build a solid future. Specialisterren offers employees with autism a steady job, with an above modal salary. A considerable number of employees have a long standing career with Specialisterren. Specialisterren provides services to Schiphol airport, multiple Fintech companies, national Dutch police IT and De Nederlandse Bank, among others. For more information, see www.specialisterren.nl

About Unicus
Unicus was founded in 2008 by Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, with the vision of a better and more inclusive world for people with autism built on the individual`s strengths. Unicus is an IT company specialized in services within Datascience, Software development, Quality Assurance and Software testing and today operates in Norway, Sweden and Finland, with many of the largest Nordic companies on their customer list. For more information, see www.unicus.com

About FERD
Ferd is a Norwegian family-owned investment company owned by the fifth and sixth generations of the Andresen family. The investment company is called Ferd (‘journey’) because, in the true sense of the word, it represents ‘travel without an end’. The Ferd vision – to create enduring value and leave clear footprints – articulates a firm commitment to creating value that is not just financial. Ferd is an active, long-term investor in social innovative enterprises that generate measurable social impact using a sustainable business model. Ferd is the majority shareholder in Unicus, and has been a supporter of the company since inception. For more information, see www.ferd.no/en/

About DOEN Participations
DOEN Participaties has been investing in innovative, sustainable and social start-ups for more than 25 years. DOEN Participaties has the ambition to make the world greener and more social. That is why impact is central to all investments. DOEN Participaties invests in the early phase of companies and dares to take risks. DOEN Participaties is fully owned and managed by the DOEN Foundation. The DOEN Foundation was set up by the National Postcode Lottery to support innovative initiatives.