Joining forces results in world’s largest employer for people with autism

OSLO, NORWAY and MÜNCHEN, GERMANY – (JUNE 14, 2023) auticon and Unicus/Specialisterren have signed an agreement under which the two companies will unite. The deal was brokered by Ferd, an Oslo-based family investment company and shareholder of both companies. The historic deal creates a global model for an auticon-majority social enterprise that addresses employment inequalities for adults on the spectrum.  

By joining forces, auticon and Unicus/Specialisterren increase their potential to create value for customers, employees and society in existing and new markets. In addition, our customers gain access to a wider range of IT services and a larger international team. At the same time, our employees can continue to grow and develop in a work environment they are used to.

The agreement includes the following:

  • Together, the two 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 principal investor in the combined company. 
  • The two companies will come together under the umbrella of auticon GmbH as the future joint holding company of the shareholders of auticon and Unicus/Specialisterren.
  • Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, CEO of Unicus Group, will join auticon CFO Markus Weber and Group CEO Kurt Schöffer on the management board of auticon GmbH. 
  • The unified company will operate in 14 countries, including Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, the United Kingdom, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland and France. 
  • The company expects to have sales of 50 million euros and more than 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. 

Unicus and Specialisterren

‍Since October 2022, Unicus has held the majority of shares in Specialisterren. The daily management of the company has remained in the hands of Specialisterren’s incumbent management. This will also be the course of business after this joining of forces with auticon. n. 

An unemployment crisis among autistic adults 

It is estimated that less than 29% of adults with autism are in meaningful or appropriate employment (Office for National Statistics, UK, 2022). Many adults with autism have cognitive qualities that make them particularly suited to careers in science, technology, engineering, creative industries and mathematics. Despite this, they face barriers such as a recruitment process that does not match their way of thinking and being, poor social awareness of autism and employers who do not know how to provide appropriate support. 

With 15 years of experience, a solid and proven track record and global presence in 14 countries, the combined company will provide high-quality IT services to clients including Business Intelligence, RPA, quality assurance in AI and testing. In the Nordic markets, practical training and consultancy on neurodiversity will additionally be offered.

On a mission to improve the lives of autistic adults

auticon and Unicus/Specialisterren are improving the lives of autistic adults through employment. According to internal surveys, both companies report significant improvements in quality of life for their employees, including increased self-confidence and income. For more information, view the most recent impact reports from Unicus, Specialisterren and auticon.  

Sjoerd van der Maaden, CEO and founder of Specialisterren says of this joining of forces, “As a result of the merger of Unicus/Specialisterren and auticon, a globally leading ‘impact-first’ company is created. We show that the combination of ICT and autism is globally relevant.”   

Kurt Schöffer, CEO of the auticon Group, says, “Imagine a company where the majority is autistic. Most could never imagine such a thing, yet we come to work every day. This merger unites two leading IT consulting companies behind a common goal: more neurodiversity.” 

Markus Weber, CFO of auticon, commented, “This deal makes auticon even more interesting for the financial market. Under the leadership of Ferd, now our largest shareholder, auticon has unlimited opportunities and guidance for further growth.”  

Unicus Founder and CEO Lars Johansson-Kjellerød commented, “Through our marriage, we are creating the world’s largest company with an autistic majority. With a 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 share the same DNA and vision to create a more inclusive world, and when we combine the long experience of Unicus/Specialisterren and auticon, I believe it is the best condition to successfully drive change and innovation and create the leading social company focused on neurodiversity. “I look forward to the future!” 

Ferd owner and chairman, Johan H. Andresen comments, “The combination of auticon and Unicus/Specialisterren represents a significant milestone for social impact investing. When Ferd began 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 high social impact and strong financial performance.    

Our journey with Unicus began 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 for the future.”  

About Specialisterren

Specialisterren is a registered Social Enterprise. The company was founded by Sjoerd van der Maaden. When he sailed around the world with his family for a year, he saw how well his son with autism developed. With the elimination of all stress factors, the boy’s talents suddenly came into their own. In 2008, this insight led to the creation of Specialisterren: an IT company specializing in providing software testing, Business Intelligence and RPA services. The company now employs more than 70 people, eighty percent of whom have a form of autism. 

By providing low-stimulus working conditions, career guidance and a permanent contract with good pay, these people can flourish and build a solid future. Many employees build solid and long careers through Specialisterren. Specialisterren provides services to Schiphol Airport, several fintech companies, the National Police and De Nederlandse Bank, among others. For more information see www.specialisterren.nl.

About auticon  

auticon is an award-winning social innovation company. As a company with an autistic majority, we are a source of talent. We integrate our technology consultants into client organizations, working as software developers, data analysts, QA engineers and more. Clients experience our outstanding autistic professionals firsthand, enabling them to expand their minds and achieve diversity goals. 

Our model improves the economic and social conditions of the autistic community by providing high-quality careers, unlocking opportunities and strengthening client organizations through actionable neurodiversity training and consulting services. Here, our employees build lifelong careers in technology, discover personal autonomy and enhanced self-esteem. 

Investors include Ferd, Autism Impact Fund, Ananda Impact Ventures, KOIS, Felix Porsche, Sir Richard Branson, Ferst Capital Partners and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. For more information, visit www.auticon.com.

About Unicus 

Unicus was founded in 2008 by Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, with the vision of a better and more inclusive world for people with autism based on the strengths of the individual. Unicus is an IT company specializing in services in Datascience, Software Development, RPA and Software Testing and today operates in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and recently in Poland, with many of the largest Nordic companies on their client list. For more information, visit www.unicus.com 

About Ferd 

Ferd is a Norwegian family business owned by the fifth and sixth generations of the Andresen family. The investment company is called Ferd (“journey”) because, in the truest sense of the word, it stands for “travel without end. Ferd’s vision – to create sustainable 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 socially innovative companies that generate measurable social impact using a sustainable business model. Ferd is a majority shareholder in Unicus and has supported the company since its founding in 2009. For more information, visit www.ferd.no/en/  

Media Contact

Anne Nuninga

+31 (0)6 82437452

ln.ne1714055171rrets1714055171ilaic1714055171eps@n1714055171enna1714055171

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