Following on from an article in growthbusiness.co.uk, here’s the full length version.
blur Group is a global technology company reinventing how businesses do commerce. Having been CEO of several international tech companies, including the holy grail Silicon Valley gig, I wanted to build from scratch and from an initial interest in the whole opensource movement which I started doing some R&D on in 2006, blur Group turned into reality in 2007.
Reinventing commerce meant we needed to disrupt the traditional dated way that businesses do business, bringing the e-commerce revolution in the consumer world to the business space. We call this revolution s-commerce. As well as game-changing, solid ethics and principles like ensuring meritocracy so that every service provider in the world could win business based on their strengths, not their location or size were at the forefront of our plans.
Fast forward a few years and blur Group and its s-commerce platform – the Global Services Exchange – is fulfilling its promise of reinventing commerce. Now we get 90+ new briefs a month, we’ve service providers from over 130 countries and we’ve generated $22m of briefs. Any company looking to find or deliver a service in the creative, IT, legal and accountancy fields can submit or respond to briefs online at the Exchange.
We knew that when we started blur Group we’d ruffle some feathers. There are a lot of comfortable, large, incumbent service providers out there who look at market sizes and don’t feel the need to adjust their own behavior. The long tail doesn’t interest them but our direct experience and further stories from large blue chip buyers suggest that it’s interesting the buyers. It may be that the feather ruffling has seemed like an inconvenience, but by 2020 – we expect them to have joined the new commerce model – to be blur or not to be.
So what took blur Group to the IPO decision. Having been in the tech space from the start of the commercial Internet, through the dotcom boom and now into the open world of web 2.0, I’m all too aware that a lead in a new and exciting tech space can be fleeting. So the IPO was to show that lead to the world, and provide the tools to hold on to it, get international and scale effectively – to stay in front. Of course there are other ways to do this, but blur is different. So we wanted to avoid the traditional VC route and made what seemed a brave angel (we completed one of the largest angel funding rounds in 2011) to IPO leap and listed on LSE AIM in October 2012.
I’ve always wanted blur to be a true UK global technology success story The IPO was a first step to achieve that goal. This is not a business where the goal is a quick exit and early returns. blur is going to be a long-term story, a billion dollar business by 2020 that we’re all still very much a part of.
An IPO reinforces a few things; that you want to build an independent and long-term business and your revenue model and core metrics are proven. For blur, it was about funding growth, raise the profile of blur Group on a global scale and allow us to pursue longer-term goals through technology, sales, support and marketing investment while retaining the unique character of blur.
From initially discussing the idea of IPO at the end of 2011, we started testing the sentiment with public investors and started talking to brokers. By early summer we were pre-marketing and then we took off on the road show in September.
It’s an arduous process. Don’t do it unless you have a proven model and a mature team. We are growing at an enormously fast rate and work with customers and service providers who rely heavily on our service, so we didn’t want the IPO process to become a distraction. Advice we were given early on in was to make sure that at all points, it was business as usual.
And that’s what we did – and we hit the objectives we had aimed for and raised the target amount at the right price. And then we carried on as normal, with great metrics growth in the fourth quarter.
So is listing on LSE AIM a good way to grow your business? The decision was absolutely right for blur Group. Already this year we’ve introduced a new premium subscription-based model for buyers to access the entire platform, scaled faster than ever and hit more customers around the world which we might not have been able to do previously. Our business metrics are all going in the right direction, we are attracting some incredibly talented individuals to the company and now have over 25,000 organizations using the Exchange as buyers and/or sellers.
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