The transaction unites two innovative social enterprises and global players in the IT industry; the deal unifies more than 465 autistic employees to become the largest autistic-majority company in the world.
auticon and Unicus have entered into an agreement under which the two companies will unite. The deal was brokered by Ferd, an Oslo-based family-owned investment company and shareholder in both companies. The historic deal establishes a global model for an autistic-majority social enterprise and ESG company, addressing the inequalities in employment for neurodivergent adults.
By joining forces, auticon and Unicus increase potential for creating value for customers, employees, and society – in existing and new markets. The combination marks an important next step for our business and social mission. Our customers will get access to a broader range of IT, software and management services and a larger team with a global footprint, while our employees can continue to grow in the same supported work environment.
- The two combined companies will become the “largest autistic-majority company in the world,” with 81% (465) of its 575 employees on the autism spectrum.
- Ferd, an investor in both companies, will become the lead impact investor in the combined company.
- The two businesses come together under the umbrella of auticon GmbH as future joint holding company of the auticon and the Unicus shareholders. Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, CEO of the Unicus group will be joining auticon CFO Markus Weber and Group CEO Kurt Schöffer in the management board of auticon GmbH.
- The unified company will operate in 14 countries, including Norway, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Germany, the United Kingdom, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, and France.
- The company expects to achieve 50M EUR revenue and 600+ employees by the end of 2023.
- Investors include Ferd, Autism Impact Fund, Ananda Impact Ventures, KOIS, Felix Porsche, Sir Richard Branson, Ferst Capital Partners, and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
“This alliance is great news for autistic individuals worldwide as it will enhance and strengthen the support they will have in developing sustainable, successful careers in STEM,” said Garth Johnson, CEO of auticon Canada. “We are looking forward to working together on exciting new initiatives in the years to come.”
A crisis of unemployment among autistic adults
It is estimated that less than 29% of autistic adults are in any form of meaningful employment (Office for National Statistics, UK, 2022). Many autistic adults possess cognitive strengths that make them particularly well-suited for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Despite this, they are faced with barriers such as an exclusionary recruitment process, poor autism awareness, and employers feeling unprepared to offer support.
With 15 years of experience and a solid track record, a global footprint of 14 countries, proprietary data, and technology platforms, the combined company will provide high-value IT services to clients, including data science, software development, cybersecurity, AI, and quality assurance and testing. Additionally, actionable neurodiversity training and advisory services will become available in Nordic markets.
On a mission to improve the lives of autistic adults
auticon and Unicus are improving the lives of autistic adults through employment. According to internal polling, both companies report significant quality of life improvements for employees, including increased self-esteem, quality of life, income, confidence, and improved well-being. To learn more, view the latest impact reports for Unicus and auticon.
auticon Group CEO Kurt Schöffer commented: “Imagine a company where the majority are autistic. Most could never conceive of such a thing, yet we come to work every day. This merger unites two high-profile IT consulting companies behind a unifying purpose – neurodiversity.”
auticon CFO Markus Weber commented: “This deal makes auticon even more interesting for the financial market. Under the guidance of Ferd, now our largest shareholder, auticon has unlimited possibilities and guidance for further growth.”
Unicus Founder and CEO Lars Johansson-Kjellerød commented: “By our marriage, we create the world’s largest autistic-majority corporation. With the focus on neurodiversity, we will continue to create unique results for our customers and an increased quality of life for our employees. The joint companies have the same DNA and vision to create a more inclusive world, and when we combine Unicus and auticon’s long experience, that is, in my opinion, the best prerequisites to successfully foster change and innovation and to create the leading Social company focusing on neurodiversity. I am looking forward to the journey ahead!”
Ferd owner and Chair, Johan H. Andresen commented: “The combination of auticon and Unicus represents a major milestone for social impact investing. When Ferd started investing in social entrepreneurs in 2007 we had a vision that it would be possible to build and scale these organizations with their innovative solutions and that they could deliver both great social impact and strong financial performance.
Our journey with Unicus started in 2009, with a small grant to fund a pilot project, followed by an investment in auticon in 2018. Now we are witnessing the emergence of a multinational social entrepreneur, one of the very first of its kind. We are very excited and proud to support the new group in its ambitious plans going forward.”
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, RPA and Software testing and today operates in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and newly started in Poland, with many of the largest Nordic companies on their customer list. For more information, see www.unicus.com.
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 in 2009. For more information, see www.ferd.no/en/.