Listing on the Alternative Investment Market

Having listed on the Alternative Investment Market and raised £4 million, blur Group CEO and founder Philip Letts explains why the IPO was the best move he’s ever made

After being CEO of several international tech companies, including the holy grail Silicon Valley gig, I wanted to build from scratch.

Based on initial interest in the whole open source movement and some research and development in 2006, blur Group become a reality in 2007.

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 behaviour.

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.

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 in order to stay in front.

Of course there are other ways to do this, but blur is different. We wanted to avoid the traditional venture capital route and made what seemed a brave angel financing (we completed one of the largest angel funding rounds in 2011) to IPO leap and listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market in October 2012.

I’ve always wanted blur to be a true UK global technology success story and the IPO was a first step to achieve that goal. This is not a business where the target 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, raising the profile of blur Group on a global scale and allowing us to pursue longer-term goals through technology, sales, support and marketing investment while retaining the unique character of blur.

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From initially discussing the idea of IPO at the end of 2011, we began 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 a good 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. 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.


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