From a corporate background honed at companies including Fujitsu ICL, Nokia Data and Intermec, Julie Purves then decided to forge out on her own and develop a technology offering suited to a newly-emerging sector.
For Purves, that sector was mobile – and more specifically the way in which larger organisations were adopting it to streamline services. Her business, B2M Solutions, helps businesses understand how devices are being used in the field. For companies such as parcel delivery companies, B2M Solutions helps achieve insight and improvements in terms of efficiencies.
Her knowledge of building a software company began at Fujitsu ICL where she spent over 12 years at an organisation that owned ‘huge amounts’ of UK IP and was a great place to learn, she says.
When Fujitsu ICL acquired Nokia Data due to the the Finnish company deciding to focus on phones, Purves moved to Finland for a few years to manage the integration. ‘I got a really good grounding in how to build and drive software businesses, as well as services ones. There was also a little dalliance into mobile at that stage,’ she explains.
It was while working at Intermec during the late 1990s that Purves observed a trend that would go on to define her entrepreneurial endeavours. With two key players driving mobile in terms of delivering mobile devices for industrial use, it was a partnership with Parcel Force that opened her eyes.
‘At the time it was the largest mobile project in the world. The application allowed them to schedule jobs for drivers, it was real bleeding edge stuff,’ Purves says.
‘The device was the size of a brick and had a voice on it, kind of Heath Robinson type of kit.’
At this point, Purves says she saw a market which was set to explode but also understood that to make mobile deployments successful, organisations would need intelligence on how they were being used.
Leaving the corporate world behind, and taking a small team with her, the new entrepreneur set up B2M Solutions 2002. Whether a business needs to find out if mobile devices are running out of battery or networks aren’t performing in certain areas, B2M Solutions provides intelligence analytics.
Getting to the stage the business is now at, where it has closed a new investment round involving Motorola, has not been easy going and has occurred at a much slower rate than Purves initially forecast.
‘The thing I got very wrong when we set up in 2002, was I thought maturation would happen over five or so years, when it’s actually taken ten years,’ she reveals.
‘I was very right on what needed to happen and once it did mature it was what was really needed. Hence we find ourselves now in a position where we are ideally placed to move forward.’
The business has also been very fortunate, she adds, that the investors who came in at an early stage stayed with B2M Solutions through the ‘bumpiness’.
In describing what her business does, Purves takes us through some of the customers B2M has signed up. For easyJet, and the firm’s use of mobile devices through its Project Halo, B2M helps determine in a ‘very process driven way’ how factors such as check-in and payments for excess baggage are dealt with.
The B2M Solutions dashboard allows organisations to keep tabs on devices
Building a business in a fledgling sector is one which has thrown up a few obstacles for Purves along the way. In relation to the maturing of the market, Purves says that in the early days the business was doing direct projects with a view to moving towards a channel model.
‘We now have tier one partners like BT and Motorola, and that investment has been well worth it,’ she explains. ‘But building those partnerships, especially when working with technology which is not mainstream, takes a great deal of time – I’ve kissed a lot of toads.
‘There have been times when some of the companies which had aspirations to move out of basic services weren’t as advanced in terms of an ability to make those cultural and strategic changes as I’d expected.’
Key to B2M’s future growth will be its continued expansion in the US, where it already has a presence dating back five years. The business is the process of opening offices in Atlanta, where all of its future sales and marketing will be led.
Marketing is something which Purves and her business have never really focused on before, due to a lack of resources. The timing of the new funding round, which is set to provide the financial ammunition needed to efficiently market, has been determined by a tie-in with boutique technology merchant bank Restoration Partners.
Whereas other advisors Purves and B2M had consulted took them out on a nine-month fundraising route of presenting to potential investors, Restoration has been different with its approach.
Looking back on the fundraising campaign trail trodden before, Purves says, ‘Frankly, the feedback I got there I could have got in two meetings – I was quite unimpressed without the approach.
‘Ultimately, it was a case of getting our selves prepared, doing the planning and the recognising that the market was coming to a tipping point.’
B2M has now closed an undisclosed funding round led by UK-based entrepreneur and investor Kevin Lomax. Also joining Lomax in the transaction is Motorola Solutions Venture Capital.
With a Motorola relationship already established through the company’s day-to-day endeavours, B2M is tapping into the corporate venture capital world in part due to the way in which the organisation understands what the technology business is trying to do, but also to take advantage of links to partner networks.
‘Motorola has a very large partner network, and that immediately gives us a level of access into the markets and endorsement from Motorola,’ Purves adds.
With money in the bank, Purves is now able to drive forward the sales, marketing and product development that will be pivotal to B2M making the next step.
And as for her one overarching tip for entrepreneurs: beyond making sure to be careful who you get advice from and creating a strategy that people can believe and buy in to, it all comes down to sheer dogged determination, she urges.