Graham Duncan, founder and CEO of Edinburgh-based IT and telecoms provider Glen Group is no stranger to public markets.
His previous business, Atlantic Telecom, spent in the order of £350 million and once enjoyed a market value of circa £1.1 billion. Alas, when the markets turned, not even Duncan’s famed visions for the future could prevent its collapse. With its confidence dwindling (it is expensive to build a telecoms network) and debts piling high (the result of an ill-fated German acquisition), the company eventually folded in 2001.
‘I was devastated when Atlantic went into administration – for myself, my family and the creditors. But I love the public markets – and you have to put up with its mood swings. With Glen Group, I’ve catapulted myself right into the front line’ enthuses Duncan.
Valued at £1.75 million, Glen raised £750,000 (all from private investors) and Duncan intends to use the money to grow as rapidly as possible. It completed an acquisition last year, and the company is in preparations to open its first office outside Scotland.
In the early days, the business relied heavily on selling pre-paid phone cards, but these ‘mucky minutes’, as Duncan puts it, are no longer core to Glen. Instead he has identified more robust revenue streams. One is a mobile business-to-business service, which he compares to Carphone Warehouse, ‘except we only do businesses and we don’t have any shops!’ The other is one-stop-shop IT service for SMEs.
Customer numbers are, at present, ‘in the hundreds rather than the thousands’, and a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service is in the trial stages and has therefore yet to attract users. It’s not as grandiose as his Atlantic, but he reckons he might just get it right this time.