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.”
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.”
Sjoerd van der Maaden, CEO and founder of Specialisterren: "We thank DOEN for the great collaboration and the opportunity they have given us to make a good start. We are really looking forward to the collaboration with Unicus and everything that can result from this.”