January 2013

Highland Team:


Cloud Contact Software Solution
aurence vividly remembers the moment he decided to back Jonathan Gale, the CEO of NewVoiceMedia, a Basingstoke-based cloud service company. The two had been introduced by Mark Farmer, an earlier investor in NewVoiceMedia, and though their first meeting hadn’t been a resounding success – it had lacked some focus and detail, Jonathan today recalls – their relationship swiftly took a turn for the better. 

Jonathan, once an avid rugby player and not afraid of being knocked around, had recently pivoted to car racing, a discipline that requires a very different skill set. Laurence admired Jonathan’s determination, resilience, and agility. If the latter could display these qualities in sport, there’s a good chance he’d excel at the helm of a company too.
And there were other reasons why NewVoiceMedia appealed to Laurence: it provided leading cloud contact centre software that integrated perfectly with Salesforce. The business was trading at $10m revenues and growing quickly. Jonathan was looking to raise a round to fund important expansion into the promising US market. 


At the time of the first meeting Highland Europe had not raised its first fund but the partners were nonetheless confident about the prospects of a first close in November 2012. Things went to plan and Jonathan and Laurence inked a deal that closed in early 2013. 


The long-term success of every business is inextricably linked to having the right people on board, and NewVoiceMedia and Highland were in agreement that a new chairperson was needed to propel the company into the future. 
Ashley Unitt, co-founder, and Dennis Fois, CEO 2018 - 2019.

Ashley Unitt, co-founder, and Dennis Fois, CEO 2018 - 2019.

Jonathan Gale, CEO 2011 - 2018.

Jonathan Gale, CEO 2011 - 2018.

Guy Dubois was identified as an unparalleled candidate, with extensive industry experience and solid leadership skills, most recently demonstrated at Cramer Systems. Guy agreed to join the team, subject to the Highland investment closing, and soon became a critical lynchpin in the partnership.


Even for sporting enthusiasts, growing a business is never plain sailing, Laurence reflects. “Over the years, I’ve come to realise that investing is a bit like rock climbing: the surface of the rock looks smooth and predictable from far away, but up close it’s obvious that it’s anything but,” he says. “The path can quickly turn jagged and treacherous, so having the right time in place is absolutely critical to surviving and, ideally, thriving.”


Board dinners were a commonly agreed-upon highlight of the Highland-NewVoiceMedia collaboration. During one particularly memorable dinner, Jonathan, the lifelong sports enthusiast, challenged the board members to compete in the Windsor Triathlon. Many joined and Laurence mastered his first cycling challenge unscathed. He had hoped that the NewVoiceMedia partnership would bring many advantages, but he never expected that it would lower his cholesterol and make him fitter. 
You can be a CEO for 10 years but to grow and develop you have to move through meaningful events and pivotal moments
— Dennis Fois, NewVoiceMedia CEO
Dennis succeeded Jonathan as CEO in early 2018. This was a new phase for NVM where the team focused on the US resulting in impressive performance. This momentum did not go unnoticed and ultimately led to the acquisition by Vonage for $350m in cash. Under the leadership of Dennis the team executed the sale of NVM and delivered a successful integration into Vonage. The exit delivered an impressive return for Highland but a sale is often a high-stakes time in a company’s history, and this was no exception. “You can be a CEO for 10 years but to grow and develop you have to move through meaningful events and pivotal moments,” Dennis explains. Laurence agrees. “It was a tense period that required a calm hand and a cool head and as a team, we proved that we had both of those.


Dennis was also straddling two continents at the time – overseeing a team of 50 in San Fran and 230 back at Basingstoke HQ, at a pivotal time for the business.


Eventually it all paid off. “NewVoiceMedia brought us so many valuable learning opportunities and we’ll cherish those for years to come,” Laurence says. “Overall we can chalk it up as a resounding success however never underestimate the challenges of a promising investment,” he says. “But never underestimate the rewards either.”
NewVoiceMedia was a great experience. Highland Europe built long lasting relationships with many of the team and board, and we continue to benefit from this post the great exit to Vonage
— Laurence Garrett, Partner
Laurence has served on the NewVoiceMedia board from 2013 until the sale to Vonage in 2018.

Vonage / NewVoiceMedia

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