22 September 2010


Halo, the NI Business Angel Network has recorded what is believed to be the largest ever angel investment in Northern Ireland. Sophia Search closed an £800k round of which nearly £700k was angel investment. This included an investment by the Halo EIS Fund.

In addition, an angel syndicate formed around the investment and will now continue together to look at further deals. Being formed during the dreaded Icelandic ash period, the syndicate have named themselves the Volcano Syndicate. This is a landmark for angel investing in the region as this is the first angel syndicate formed within Halo in NI.

Sophia Search has developed advanced search technology which helps businesses to internally search for quality information much more quickly and accurately. There are many applications for the technology with significant global markets. Initial products have been released that assist in researching information, cross-referencing and reducing the duplication of data.

The company was developed as a result of an R&D collaboration between the University of Ulster in the UK and the State University of St. Petersburg in Russia.

The team expects further rapid commercial adoption of the technology in the next 12-24 months.  Both IDC and Gartner have described the Information Retrieval and Text Analytics sectors as a bright spot of the IT industry.

Sophia Search’s clients are mostly US based and include IBM and Accelrys, a Scientific Informatics software and services company for life sciences, chemical and materials R&D

Dr David Patterson, CEO, said:
“We are extremely motivated and excited about the company’s future.  We now have a commercially-astute team in place and an incredibly experienced chairman. This investment gives the business the resources and breathing room to push forward with our aggressive growth plans. It will enable us to accelerate our expansion into the US market, which holds so much opportunity for us.”

In 2007, the company raised initial seed capital jointly from IUL Limited (the University of Ulster’s technology transfer division) and from Invest Northern Ireland.  In early 2009, it secured initial angel funding from local and international HALO Business Angels and attracted a commercially experienced management team.  The latest round included significant contribution from a newly formed Belfast based Angel syndicate – ‘Volcano’ .

Dr Chris Horn, Chairman, said:
“Having personally led IONA from an academic spin-out to a world class company, I look forward to mentoring an academic spin-out company with world leading technology in one of the most in-demand software sectors.”