Exiting a business is a complex and nuanced journey that encompasses strategic decision-making, emotional resilience, and a testament to an entrepreneur’s foresight. In this exit story, learn more about Adrian Sutton and his 4-year journey with Vortex, an Internet of Things (IoT) company that developed a product for air quality monitoring.

How Vortex Adapted and Succeeded
Vortex’s inception was marked by a flurry of innovation and strategic adaptation. Initially targeting the rail industry, Adrian and his team faced significant barriers, including extensive product testing requirements that hindered their progress and speed to market. Recognizing the need for a strategic pivot, they shifted their focus to air quality monitoring—a decision driven by an approach from a large industrial client coupled with Adrian’s foresight into the suitability of IoT to environmental trends and technological feasibility. This pivot was not only strategic but also timely, many major cities and in particular London was seeking to expand its air quality monitoring capabilities, presenting Vortex with the opportunity to deploy the world’s most densely deployed air quality monitoring network.

The company’s trajectory transformed when it began developing multiple partner sales channels in the Smart City and Traffic Management space. Marston Holdings was one such player and this relationship evolved rapidly from a key customer to a strategic partner. This sales channel strategy was the fruit of Vortex’s deliberate positioning and innovation, creating products that perfectly complemented Marston’s offerings. The seamless integration between their products led to discussions about a strategic acquisition, with both parties recognizing the mutual benefits of such a move.

Key Exit Factors: Strategic Fit and Growth Potential
During the exit negotiations, the alignment of strategic visions and the potential for accelerated growth through Marston’s national sales network were pivotal. Marston’s established relationships with councils across the UK provided Vortex with a competitive edge and assurance. “Their understanding of our challenges and support during this phase was crucial”, Adrian recounts.

Adrian’s experience underscores the importance of a strategic fit and mutual understanding between the acquiring and acquired parties. However, he also cautions about the unpredictable nature of post-exit changes, such as Marston’s executive team reshuffle which caught him by surprise, highlighting the need for entrepreneurs to prepare for uncertainties.

Navigating Through Pandemic Challenges
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced unprecedented challenges, delaying Vortex’s exit strategy by 12 months. Yet, by embracing agility and resilience, Vortex leveraged the heightened societal focus on air quality, driven by the pandemic, to become a “net beneficiary”. This period of adversity spurred growth and demonstrated the unforeseen opportunities that crises can present, underscoring the importance of adaptability in business.

After the pandemic, Vortex was able to pull stronger influence over exit negotiations by emphasising their positive growth during the lockdown, despite having the exit deal delayed.

Advice for Future Entrepreneurs
For those contemplating an exit, Adrian emphasizes the virtues of patience, preparedness, and building a robust operational foundation. Understanding potential buyers, market dynamics and diversifying exit opportunities are critical strategies. “Don’t carry passengers and don’t be afraid to pivot as your primary responsibility is to grow the business on behalf of your shareholders. If you grow the business and be diligent on those things, the exits tend to look after themselves,” Adrian advises.

The Role of Home Grown in Supporting Entrepreneurial Success
Throughout his journey, Adrian found a “significant support system” in Home Grown, a network that provided not just a nurturing environment for networking and investor meetings but also strategic planning resources. Home Grown’s role was instrumental in Vortex’s success, offering a testament to the power of community and support networks in the entrepreneurial journey.

“Home Grown truly lives up to its name, offering a foundation for businesses to grow and forge meaningful connections,” says Adrian, reflecting on the significance of such ecosystems in nurturing entrepreneurial success.

Adrian continues to use Home Grown for his current portfolio of interests, including sports tech, construction, and his latest venture – a bespoke pen company called Wig and Pens.


For those seeking to immerse themselves in a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem akin to Adrian’s journey, consider joining Home Grown Club. Explore exclusive events, resources, and opportunities to connect with industry leaders by reaching out to membership@homegrownclub.co.uk today.