Five years ago I gave my ‘The Last Time’ presentation for the Prince’s Trust at BT Tower. I ended that very speech with a set of wild predictions - like the IoT could top 1 Trillion connected ‘things’. Seemed fanciful then! But see my 8th March 17 update.
Another prediction was about how holographic TV would come to the living room. We would be able to walk around the bar at the Rovers Return in much the same way as characters in StarTrek had used their HoloDeck in the 1970s. I think I also cheekily suggested that, as usual, porn would be the most lucrative use.
Anyway, that prediction too seems to be coming true. Last week, Stephen Hawkings gave a speech to a conference in Hong Kong by way of a hologram. Or to be precise, a ‘HumaGram’ - ‘a 3D image viewable without special glasses'. This technology is being used more and more to allow people to give speeches or performances in different locations at the same time.
The Times today (Click here) gives an excellent review of the major advances made recently in holographic TV. It however makes the mistake of saying ‘the machinery is likely to be unaffordable for most consumers’. The one thing I have learned about ‘predictions’ is that if an idea is good enough, concerns over cost, size, ease of use, speed etc will all disappear as technology advances. Often sooner than we all suspect.
Posted by Richard Holway at '15:44'
Add a comment
Back in Jan I wrote Beware the Sharing Economy. I told the story of a friend who always asks his Uber drivers in London what they think. All seven of his rides that month told him they earn practically nothing, are fed up but find it difficult to get out of it. They had signed pretty onerous contracts and also taken out loans to buy the cars they use.
Since then Uber has had a one way bad PR ride with practically every news story revealing new problems at the firm and accusations against its management. We even now have rumours of secret deals between Cameron whilst PM and Uber executives - now who’d have thought that?
I know it is a long article, but I do recommend you read India’s Uber drivers feel taken for a ride in the FT today. It pretty much echoes the concerns expressed by the London Uber drivers. Huge loans to buy flashy cars. Uber slashing rates paid. Most drivers not earning the minimum wage but feel that there is no way out.
It really does feel that something is rather rotten at the heart of Uber and with its model. If the end result of ‘the sharing economy’ is that conventional businesses (like Black cabs in London) go out of business replaced by people who have to work for slave labour rates in order to repay loans whilst all the profits accrue to some US upstart that thinks it is beyond any regulation - Well, I don’t really call that progress
Posted by Richard Holway at '14:43'
The financial services industry is spending billions of pounds (and euros) on preparations for impending regulatory changes which potentially pave the way for the most radical reshaping of consumer financial services in history.
The digital revolution means that the historical stranglehold of the banks on financial services provision is both unnecessary and undesirable, and an ‘Uber of banking’ type transformation is a realistic scenario. This doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom for the established banks however; there is a bright future for those that can shift from the historic “prison” paradigm (“people can’t go anywhere else”) to become more of a “hotel” (“people choose to come here because we give a great service”).
In this latest report from our Financial Services research stream, Richard Johnson presents his analysis of the current state of PSD2 and the UK’s Open Banking initiatives. Subscribers to FinancialServicesViews can access the report here.
If you or your company do not yet subscribe to this service, please contact Deb Seth of our Client Services team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Posted by Peter Roe at '10:11'
K3 Technology Group raised the performance warning flag in January, highlighting four issues that were impacting H1 - operational reorganisation, longer sales cycles on enterprise sales, the shift to cloud consumption and lower sales due to softening market conditions. The release of H1 results (to December 31 2016) reveals the extent of the impact.
While revenue did not decline, it barely moved forward, coming in at £42.97m vs. £42.29m, while adjusted PBT was £0.3m vs. £4.72m, reflecting lower software licence sales - down from £6.88m to £4.41m with gross margin declining from 66% to 62.8% - and £2.7m in one-off reoganisation costs. Services revenue rose from £13.19m to £14.01m but the gross margin fell sharply from 34.5% to 25.8%. Recurring revenue rose from £19.73m to £21.22m with the gross margin remaining fairly static at 70.7% vs. 70%
There is a lot going on under the surface and while some of it is under K3’s control, other parts are not. For example, CEO Adalsteinn Valdimarsson told us that Microsoft’s cloud-only AX release had caused some concern among enterprise customers who were not ready to be pulled to the cloud and this has impacted K3 (with its AX-based software) in terms of delayed deals. The situation appears to be improving with delayed deals coming through, a strengthening pipeline, plus a post period contract with the British Heart Foundation, worth over £2m.
As a company heading towards the £100m revenue level, K3 is at a point of change. In his relatively short time within the company Valdimarsson has made changes to the operational structure to create a more streamlined platform and capitalise on opportunities. This includes identifying products within the portfolio that are currently associated with a particular ERP system and making them available across the portfolio for example. K3’s established strategy of putting IP to fore is being extended, with more emphasis on simplification and curating products to support targeted industry sectors. While there are still multiple aspects to the K3 operation, its recent activities point to a more unified approach which we will be exploring further.
Posted by Angela Eager at '10:01'
Interesting deal announced today by IMImobile, the cloud communications software and solutions provider. After recent success with Telenor, they are now paying £8.2m to buy Infracast, a Reading-based, 31-person business that has been successful in building business into several tier one banks.
Infracast has developed a middleware platform to provide secure and resilient management of mobile messaging in the financial services sector and for optimising messaging volumes into the MNO’s infrastructure. Banks are placing huge bets on getting their mobile communications right to improve customer engagement, reduce the risk of fraud and at the same time enable cost reductions and branch closures. The British Banking Association reported a 50% rise in banking app logins over mobile phones in their latest report, a growing rapidly proportion of customers banking through their mobile phones and a massive shift towards payments executed over mobile.
In the year to May 2016, Infracast had generated turnover of £10.4m, gross profit of £3.1m and EBITDA of £0.4m and had subsequently “enjoyed strong growth”. The IMImobile management say that the deal should be earnings enhancing in the year to March 2018. The Infracast top management will join IMImobile’s senior management team.
The Infracast deal looks to be right on the money in terms of traction with the banking sector, particularly as the company’s relationship with Telefonica had opened up business with a number of top banks. After the deal, the enlarged IMImobile will be providing services to four of the top five UK retail banks. The portfolios of the two companies also appear complementary, and as the banks increasingly explore the use of cloud to provide additional services and better user experience to their account holders, this deal looks as if it could open some more doors for IMImobile in the sector.
Posted by Peter Roe at '09:39'
Last Tuesday, I wrote a HotViews post - Google and Facebook should face up to their responsibilities. That was before the Westminster attack.
The backlash against Google, and its Youtube channel, had been gathering pace before the attack. Media companies ARE responsible for their content. Google just cannot say ‘We are a tech company and therefore have no responsibility for our content’ when it is that very content that drives users -and therefore advertisers - to their sites. I am sure Google will find it ‘inconvenient’ and ‘expensive’ to monitor its content - but that’s the fair price they have to pay. Just like the way the regulators have regulated the rest of the media which has suffered as Google and their like have sucked their very lifeblood from their advertising revenues.
Since Westminster, the focus has turned to WhatsApp and its owner Facebook. The nutter (because that is what I increasingly think he was), who perpetrated this heinous crime, communicated on the encrypted WhatApps moments before he ploughed into innocent bystanders on Westminster Bridge and went onto to murder PC Palmer. I don’t think there is any sane person alive who would argue for Facebook withholding access to that message. If they do then, sorry, I’d be all in favour of legislation to force them to do so.
As I have said before, the likes of Google and Facebook MUST face up to their responsibilities. But I think the same of Uber and Airbnb. They too should understand that they must abide by the same regulation - and taxes - that are ‘suffered’ by their more conventional competitors. There really cannot be ‘one rule for them’ - and another for ‘the rest’. That way we will all be losers.
Posted by Richard Holway at '14:10'
The National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that the Government faces a large capacity gap for people with digital skills, and that Departments are likely to have underestimated both the number of new staff required and the size of the capability gap.
The Capability in the Civil Service report says that, despite a 26% reduction in the number of civil servants since 2006, the Government is asking them to deliver an increasingly complex and technical range of tasks. When surveyed by the NAO, Departments estimated that they would need 2,000 additional staff in digital roles over the next five years. The annual cost of these staff has been estimated to be £145m using civil servants or £244m using contractors. However, the Government Digital Service (GDS) and Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) believe the number of staff required will be far greater given the number and scale of transformation projects currently underway. The NAO said that the Government’s major projects have an estimated cost of over £405bn and identified 29 of them as being transformation projects.
The NAO said that civil service capability needs were being shaped by the expectation of citizens to have more personalised and digital services, continuing budgetary restraint, and the Government’s desire for Departments to reduce their reliance on outsourcing to SITS suppliers. It goes on to say that Brexit has put further pressure on capability, with both the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for International Trade having to be staffed up.
The report warns that the Government should not assume it can address short-term capability gaps by recruiting from the private sector. It needs to do more workforce planning and speed up its training in digital skills, because progress has not kept pace with the challenges being faced. The NAO warns that the Government does not fully understand the private sector’s capacity to supply digital skills, which are it short supply, and highlights the fact that 22% of senior recruitment campaigns run by the Civil Service Commission in 2015-16 resulted in the post not being filled.
Recruiting or retaining enough staff to address the Government’s capability gap will not be an easy task. SITS suppliers are well aware of the digital skills shortage. Moreover, IR35 changes, due to take effect from next month, are likely to reduce the willingness for contractors to work in the sector. The Government will almost certainly have to scale back its transformation plans—the NAO recommends that it prioritise its projects and “It should stop work on those it is not confident it has the capability to deliver”.
Posted by Dale Peters at '21:35'
Digital Barriers plc, a provider of advanced technologies to the security and defence sectors, has had “a disappointing outturn to the year”. The company’s trading update, released just one week before its year end (31 March 2017), warns that sales and contracts expected to be secured by the end of this financial year may not be realised until the next financial year. These delays could result in a revenue shortfall of £10m compared to previous expectations.
The firm, which specialises in zero-latency streaming and analysis of secure video and intelligence over wireless networks, started the year by disposing of its struggling Services division to focus on its Solutions business (see Digital Barriers to dispose of Services business). It met expectations for H1 (see Digital Barriers: Strength in US sales) and looked like it was continuing the momentum in improving its top line. However, as the value and complexity of projects in its new business pipeline have increased, Digital Barriers has struggled to accurately predict the timing of contract awards. Chairman, Tom Black will now lead a review of its sales and engagement model in a further attempt to improve this aspect of the business.
The contracts in question, which the business still “currently expects to secure”, include its largest ever deals in the USA, Asia and the Middle East, and represent a combined value of £14.5m. If Digital Barriers fails to finalise any of these deals over the next week it will face a shorfall in revenue of £10m compared to previous forecasts.
Whilst it’s good to see Digital Barriers being able to successfully compete for increasingly significant business around the world, it still has a lot of work to do. Sales cycles have shortened, but the business clearly needs to improve it forecasting ability if it expects shareholders to stick by them. At the time of writing Digital Barrier’s share price had dropped 18% on the news.
Posted by Dale Peters at '09:35'
We’ve commented on the many predictions of automation wiping out industry jobs over the past couple of years. Now PwC is entering the debate, with claims some 30% existing UK jobs are susceptible to automation from robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) by the early 2030s. But it says in many cases the nature of jobs will change rather than disappear (see PwC).
Predictably the headlines hit the news. It’s the vision of robotic couriers delivering takeaways (Just Eat), drones dropping off parcels (Amazon), and autonomous taxis (Uber), which capture the imagination, and fear, in many people.
The report states that the areas most at risk are transportation and storage (56%), manufacturing (46%) and wholesale and retail trade (44%). We would say manufacturing has already been disrupted by automation and robots. Meanwhile, two areas where we believe there is real potential for automation – back office administration and IT – are considered areas less likely to face the threat – only 8.4% of administrative and support work and 4.1% of information and communication is going to be susceptible, according to PwC.
That’s certainly not the way we see it. In our world, software robots (robotic process automation), machine learning, cognitive computing and advanced analytics - all have the potential for huge disruptive change as we discuss throughout our research at TechMarketView (see Unlocking the Intelligence - 2017 Predictions).
The Government’s recent Digital Strategy paper also pushed the debate in the right direction, to encourage industry, Government, academia and employers to come together to encourage new digital training and skills development. This is where we feel the debate needs to be had – around the question of, ‘so what are we going to do to enable growth and jobs now and in the future?’ It’s encouraging to see PwC talk about the skillsets that will be needed – ‘creative and critical thinking will be highly valued, as will emotional intelligence’.
It’s on this point where the research suggests that a higher proportion of male jobs (35%), particularly men with lower levels of education, are at higher risk of automation than female jobs (26%). It said this reflects the fact that at-risk sectors such as transportation, storage and manufacturing tend to have high proportions of men working in them. Whereas, female workers tend to work in areas requiring higher levels of social skills and education, like health and education. Does this mean women will rule the world after all?!
Posted by John O'Brien at '09:30'
Accenture’s UK rivals will no doubt be seeing and feeling it, since the consulting and outsourcing leader is pulling away at a faster clip than ever. CE Pierre Nanterme said the UK achieved double-digit growth in Q2, far outstripping the wider UK market we see growing at 2.1% this year (see UK SITS Market Trends and Forecasts).
Taking a look at the rivals tells the story – in their most recent reported periods, Capgemini achieved 4% in FY16 (see here), meanwhile, Sopra Steria saw UK revs fall 11% (see here). Only CGI achieved double-digit growth in its most recent quarter (Q1) because of a ‘favourable renegotiation’ on a contract (see here).
At the global level, Accenture’s revenues grew 6% in local currency to $8.3bn and operating income rose 5% to $1.14bn (which held the margin steady at 13.7%).
The reasons for the sharp growth in the UK are largely down to acquisitions in ‘the new’, which are helping drive new organic revenue streams. In Q2 alone Accenture completed or announced 11 acquisitions and has spent $800m ytd on deals. Again the UK is a key part of this M&A, including UK-based Focus Group Europe, a ServiceNow specialist employing 70 people. Avanade meanwhile, also acquired Microsoft digital specialist Infusion, which employs 600 people across three US sites and London.
Interestingly, France and Germany are other focus area for M&A, with deals being made in digital and interactive services (SinnerSchrader, OCTO Technology). Security remains a top priority too, acquiring US companies Endgame for the oil services business and iDefense and French security specialist Arismore).
What’s really interesting is how these acquisitions are enabling Accenture to deliver new services to its customers. It’s developed what Nanterme considers the first-ever payment system in a car for Jaguar Land Rover, which allows drivers to pay at petrol stations using an in-counter screen and app - delivering a better and more convenient customer experience. It's use cases like these in 'the new' that show the potential for new revenue generation opening up for Accenture.
Posted by John O'Brien at '09:09'
As we have commented previously, our view is that data is the new currency and Microsoft and adtech agency Publicis Groupe are providing a further proof point courtesy of a data driven partnership that will combine the data-centric Cosmos A.I. marketing technology from Publicis with Microsoft’s Azure and Cortana Intelligence Suite.
It is a digital and data marriage. Cosmos will pick up the behavioural data marketers value and constantly update individual customer identifies stored in the cloud. Using this real time data plus the application of machine intelligence techniques, the ambition is to enable marketers to create individually targeted emails and digital ads. The partnership underlines how crucial access to data sources really is, to make the most of machine intelligence techniques such as AI and machine learning. It is not enough to provide the technology, SITS suppliers have to address the (relevant) data supply too, either directly or in partnership. Digital businesses will increasingly require data services.
The partnership also highlights the encroachment of ad agencies into the SITS space (something we drew attention to back in the 2015 ESAS Supplier Landscape report). Publicis is looking to generate substantial licence revenue from the Cosmos technology product, something agencies have not traditionally done. This puts it into competition with marketing software providers and consultancies providing digital branding and assisting with digital products as part of broader digital software and services provision. With its combination of data assets and technology, Publicis has the potential to develop an edge at the front end of digital services.
Posted by Angela Eager at '09:01'
Now essentially run from New York, London-born social media management startup Conversocial has acquired Silicon Valley live chat startup HipMob. Terms were not disclosed, though TechCrunch mooted an all-stock deal.
Conversocial has undertaken a number of funding rounds since its launch in 2010, including $1.25m in 2012 (see Conversocial gets another $1m+ to get social in New York) and $4.4m in 2013 (see Octopus wraps tentacles around Conversocial). Its largest investment was in October 2015, which raised $11m in a Series A funding round led by Dawn Capital, with existing investors Octopus Ventures and Draper Esprit also in the frame. This brought total funding so far to $22m.
Onwards and upwards!
Posted by Anthony Miller at '08:50'
Just a year after its founding, London-based data analytics startup, Quantexa, has raised $3.3m in a Series A funding round led by Albion Ventures and HSBC. Quantexa targets ‘complex financial crime and data challenges within the financial services, corporate and public sectors’. The funding will be used to support Quantexa's international expansion, with new offices in Brussels, Sydney and New York opening throughout 2017.
Another startup playing to the TechMarketView ‘Unlocking the Intelligence’ theme; right place, right time!
Posted by Anthony Miller at '08:06'
Are you planning any marketing activity, or looking for new ways to promote your thought leadership and white papers? If so, why not consider placing a Sponsored Post in our UKHotViews e-newsletter? These articles, written by you, also appear on TechMarketView’s website for seven days, as well as in our Twitter feed.
UKHotViews is arguably the UK’s most respected, authoritative newsletter for informed opinion and analysis on what’s happening in the UK Software and IT Services (SITS) and Business Process Services markets.
Considered a must read for anyone with ‘skin in the SITS game’, UKHotViews enjoys a high calibre readership of more than 20,000 decision makers in UK tech. It reaches a broad spectrum of companies from the largest SITS players to emerging SMEs; as well as key players from the investment community, press, government and CIOs.
Engage with our audience to get your message across
Now you can insert your article – 250 words provided by you along with images and links – into UKHotViews to reach our influential audience.
A Sponsored Post is an ideal way to advertise your latest white papers and thought leadership research as well as increasing brand awareness; attracting customers, partners or investment and promoting your upcoming events.
If you'd like further details on Sponsored Posts, or to request an advertising brochure, please contact Rebecca Johnson.
Posted by HotViews Editor at '14:19'
London-based ‘Proptech’ startup, Nested, has almost doubled the fees it charges home owners to sell their houses. Previously, Nested charged sellers 1.8% of the agreed value and kept 20% of the upside. Now they charge 3.0% and keep 30% of the upside. Nested pays out the agreed value after 90 days whether or not the property is sold, though sellers can get an advance for a further 3% fee.
Founded in 2015, Nested raised £3m in seed funding in September 2016. The startup has just raised a further £8m in a round led by existing investor, Passion Capital, along with GFC and a number of angel investors. The service is currently only available in London, for houses and flats worth up to £1m.
On the face of it, Nested has a very attractive proposition for sellers who want (or need) to sell quickly and don’t want to use High Street estate agents but also don’t want to handle the process themselves through online agencies.
But from a business model point of view, Nested is taking the risk on the sale, and (I assume) has been finding that the original rewards were not sufficient – hence the fee increase. I also assume that the additional funding will be leveraged to finance the purchase of sellers’ properties until sold. This will need keen financial management if Nested is to expand successfully – and of course profitably!
Posted by Anthony Miller at '09:49'
Ideagen is getting into the acquisition swing, announcing plans to take on another company to add further critical mass to its information management software offerings for highly regulated industries. The target is PleaseTech, whose PleaseReview product provides collaborative document review, co-authoring and redaction that will add to Ideagen’s expanding GRC capabilities.
The conditional acquisition sees Ideagen offering £10m, plus up to £2m of performance based payment. PleaseTech does not match the scale of Ideagen’s largest acquisition - the £21m (£18m net) paid for Gael in 2014 who had revenue similar to Ideagen at the time and enabled it to ramp up the overall business and its GRC activities – but PleaseTech is a bigger undertaking than the more recent Covalent and IPI acquisitions. There is a share placing to help fund the acquisition. However, Ideagen, who delivered revenue up 52% to almost £22m in its latest financial year, is gaining more acquisition experience.
PleaseTech appears to be performing well with revenue and EBITDA of £3.9m (up 45%) and £1.3m (up 72%) respectively for the year ended 31 December 2016. It is cash generative with strong recurring revenue on its own IP, which are attributes Ideagen looks for. PleaseTech also brings additional vertical market focus with a strong pharmaceutical presence among its 185 customers, complementing Ideagen’s interests in this sector and in aerospace and defence. Add the expectation that it will be earnings enhancing in the year to April 2018 and there is plenty to commend this acquisition.
Posted by Angela Eager at '09:19'
First half results (to end January) from Tracsis, the AIM-listed traffic and transport data services provider, show “satisfactory” revenue growth of 19% to £15.6m. However, that growth is being driven by its Rail Technology & Services business, which saw growth of 25% to £7.9m. In its Traffic & Data Services (TDS) business, revenue declined 4% to £7.7m. Readers might remember that an H1 trading update in February spoke of pricing pressure in the latter, which wiped 14% off share price value at the time. The day before that update was issued, shares were at 470p. Today, after an uplift of c7% (at time of writing), shares are at around the 405p mark.
The TDS business captures data via various means, including Bluetooth, WiFi signal analysis and MND (mobile network data), and the pricing pressure message has been downplayed in today’s results release from the company. Tracsis says this part of the business is now positioned for better growth and margin performance following a programme to target improvements.
Tracsis is playing in buoyant markets, and its moves to improve processes and margin in theory place it well to claw back growth in the TDS business. The company is always subject to seasonality in H2, so we do expect to see a stronger second half – not least in the TDS business. However, the Board is emphasising that the full year performance “remains subject to the timely conversion of new sales…”.
Posted by Kate Hanaghan at '09:05'
It’s some five years to the date that Philip Swinstead, then Parity chairman, announced that he was turning the veteran recruitment and project services firm into a digital media company (see Parity shoots for the (digital media) stars). A couple of months later, Parity acquired Shoreditch-based, creative 3D technology company, Inition (see Parity buys into its digital dream) and, a year after that, London-based post-production firm Golden Square Post Production. Unfortunately, this bold move didn’t pan out, and in July 2015 Parity announced it was to scale back its digital media ambitions (see Parity gets back to the knitting); a few months later, Philip Swinstead stood down.
It was left to Parity CEO Alan Rommel to refocus the business and, as we had long predicted (and indeed hoped), today finally announce the sale of Inition, which recorded a net £78k loss on revenues of £3.3m last year. Golden Square was closed down.
This is all prelude to a much more pleasing set of FY results for Parity’s continuing recruitment and consulting businesses, for which headline revenues in the year to 31st December 2016 rose by 11% to £91.8m. Most significantly, the prior year’s £2.7m operating loss was transformed into a £1.4m operating profit, turning the 2015 £3.9m net loss into a £806k net profit. The core recruitment business, Parity Professionals, drove the growth, with revenues up 11% to £86.4m; operating margins improved 20 bps to 3.1%. Consultancy Services revenues jumped 21% to £5.3m, with margins up over a point to 17%.
With Parity once again on a sounder footing, Rommel mooted acquisitions were back on the agenda. Hopefully these will henceforth be consistent with the ‘knitting’!
Posted by Anthony Miller at '08:59'
AIM-listed Sopheon is really showing progress as it refocuses its automation and business process management software around 'enterprise innovation management' (see Sopheon motoring along).
Revenues in the year ended 31 December grew 11% to $23.2m, meanwhile operating profits more than doubled to $3.3m. During the year, Sopheon secured 49 contracts vs. 42 the previous year, including 17 new customers.
Recurring revenues, a key metric in the transition to as-a-service delivery, were up 21% to $9.9m, made up maintenance, hosting and cloud services, and some initial SaaS contracts. The vast majority of Sopheon’s license revenue remains perpetual, but it is seeing growing interest in SaaS from less traditional verticals such as high-tech.
Sopheon’s Accolade software is designed to help enterprises manage all aspects of their new product development lifecycle, so that they can make smarter business decisions about which products to develop and how to bring them to market faster. The strategy is being built around the traditional global end-to-end enterprise solution, and the newer ‘out-of-the-box’ Accolade Express for quicker time to value.
Looking to 2017, there is already better visibility thanks to the increase in recurring revenues. Meanwhile there is growth recruitment and development. This should help ensure 2017 continues the good performance.
Posted by John O'Brien at '08:47'
Back office workforce optimisation provider eg Solutions has been here before: recovery after turmoil. Back in 2014 there was tumultuous change with board level shifts, departures and returns (see here and work back), and similar again in 2016 (see here). Despite the troubles, it managed a decent top line in the year to January 31 2017, with H2 making up for the disturbed H1.
As far as the numbers are concerned revenue was up 8% to £8.2m (with close to £6m of that coming through in H2) with adjusted EBITDA up 52% to £1.2m although adjusted PBT was a barely there £0.3m vs. £0.1m.
The performance improvement was due to its (new?) strategy of focusing on direct sales and distribution channels over corporate matters. In terms of execution it is working to retain and grow recurring revenue though cloud sales, retain its blue chip customer base by emphasising tangible results, expand in new sectors and territories through its financial services and outsource/BPO customers, and improve distribution via partnerships and reseller arrangements. Initial signs are promising with three partnership agreements signed in H2 and several contract wins with new and existing customers.
There is demand for workforce optimisation products as organisations look to tackle costs, drive efficiency and improve activities that support customer experience (take a look at ActiveOps – an enabler for digital transformation execution). eg Solutions’ challenge is keeping the momentum going, which includes avoiding further tumultuous change. 2016 was described as a transformational year; change is necessary and transformation can be positive but it has to be applied in the right measure.
Posted by Angela Eager at '09:55'
LSE-listed reseller, Softcat, has revealed an encouraging set of first half results, which show services outperforming H1 last year. Total revenue (of which services accounts for 15%) leapt almost 29% to £379m – all of which was organic growth. The services business, which delivers professional and managed services, did even better with 34% growth (up from 25% last year). Softcat’s investment in recruitment (which emphasised bringing on experienced consultants) has really paid off and has played an important role in supporting growth in professional services. Shares were up nearly 5% at time of writing.
There is quite a contrast between Softcat’s performance and that of the larger players targeting much larger infrastructure services deals. The company’s position as a mid-market player that has the scale to deliver nationally means competition is restricted – typically to CDW (was Kelway). However, we’d be surprised if Daisy doesn’t start to apply increasing competitive pressure too.
At the moment, Softcat’s best growing areas are around Hybrid data centre, mobility, and security. And again, unlike the larger players it’s having no trouble recruiting the respective specialists - typically from regional technology boutiques and other resellers.
As for the remainder of the year, the company is “confident of meeting its expectations...".
Posted by Kate Hanaghan at '09:42'
It’s another take on ‘healthtech’ but strictly for women. Chiaro, the London-based startup behind the Elvie app-driven kegel exerciser (look it up yourself) has raised $6m in a Series A funding round led by Octopus Ventures. AllBright, which invests in female-led businesses, was also involved.
Started in 2013 by entrepreneur Tania Boler and Jawbone founder, Alexander Asselly, Chiaro had previously raised $3m in seed funding and $1.5m in government grants, according to TechCrunch. The Elvie product is currently sold in 59 countries and is reported to have generated revenues of $1m last year.
Chiaro plans to launch a second device in 2018 in ‘an existing product category that hasn’t been innovated in for a long time’.
Posted by Anthony Miller at '09:23'
Embattled e-procurement player Cloudbuy has delivered another set of disappointing full year results following its cut backs late last year (see Cloudbuy trims, cuts pay to reduce losses).
Revenues in the year ended 31 December were down 2% to £1.7m and pre-tax losses were £4.3m vs. -£6m last time. This is simply not a sustainable position for the company, hence the decision being taken to radically reduce the cost base.
Another decision taken its to focus all its efforts on its partnership with Sopra Steria and the NHS Shared Business Service (NHS SBS), where it has a deal to provide its PHB Choices emarkeplace, to support the roll out of personal health budgets (PHBs). The aim of the PHB is to give people more choice and control over the money spent on meeting their health and wellbeing needs. It is effectively an amount of money agreed between the person and their local NHS team.
Cloudbuy has seen the first transactions made through its PHB Choices, which it is banking on becoming ‘the technology of choice for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)’. Apparently, the NHS has a target of 100,000 PHBs by 2020, which it estimates would be worth £7bn. NHS SBS meanwhile already has 100% of the NHS commissioning groups among its customer base.
There’s no doubt of the potential, but likewise, there's no mandation. The challenge for Cloudbuy is the unknown of when, indeed if, the big spend will come through.
Posted by John O'Brien at '09:13'
Eckoh, the AIM-listed provider of contact centre and secure payment solutions, has moved up a gear in the US with a US$3.7m contract for its secure payment solution with a large US telecoms provider. This is the largest won in the US, bringing the total won in the region this financial year to 9, the same as last year, but with over 5x the average contract value. This now stands at over US$900k. The financial year runs to the end of March.
There has also been a major shift towards the SaaS pricing model, with 7 of the 9 contracts (and 90% of the contract value) on this basis, providing better visibility of future revenues. As Eckoh gains traction with larger customers and as it builds a good reference client base, we should expect to see continued growth in both contract numbers and average value in the US. Eckoh appears to have a very competitive proposition in this important market.
The US accounted for about a third of Eckoh’s first half revenues, and Eckoh will expect that their troubles with respect to an acquired business (PSS) are over, following the closure of its loss-making unit.
The Eckoh management will also be hoping that their business with its largest partner, Capita, are not affected by the outsourcer’s recent high-profile problems. Revenue from Capita now accounts for over 10% of the total (see Eckoh rings up another win with Capita).
Posted by Peter Roe at '08:40'
Yorkshire-based cyber security service provider and consultancy ECSC Group grew its revenue to £4.5m in the 15 month period ending 31st December 2016, with a pre-tax loss of £517k largely down to £975k of exceptional costs associated with its IPO in the same month.
Compared with its previous 12 month financial reporting period ending 30th September 2015 (£2.65m), the newly-listed AIM company saw like for like revenue growth of 35% in managed services, and 24% in consultancy. Adjusted earnings per share grew from 9.00p to 11.14p, with basic earnings per share registering a 7.72p loss.
ECSC is bullish for 2017 and has marked a course for significant expansion. It increased its headcount from 57 to 98 in the last three months alone (mainly sales and delivery staff) and opened a new facility in Leeds. Further facilities for London and Australia are planned for later in the year.
The company sees the advent of the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (and/or equivalent post-Brexit UK legislation) in 2018 as a conduit to growth as public and private sector organisations seek advice on demonstrating compliance.
But we think the bulk of its activity will come from helping hard pressed IT departments protect themselves against the growing array of cyber threats being directed against them by outsourcing much or all of the responsibility to third party managed service providers (see our Predictions 2017 – Security, Networking and Cloud report).
Hardware and software delivery could also give ECSC an edge over rival cyber security consultancy providers (product revenue hit £376k in the latest financial reporting period, up 684% from £55k in the 12 months ending September 2015). Alongside its managed services and consultancy, testing and incident response services ECSC provides firewalls, IPS/IDS, anti-virus, web.email filtering, vulnerability scanning and PCI-DSS compliant desktop solutions for example, a portfolio which opens considerable upselling opportunities.
Posted by Martin Courtney at '08:36'
Liverpool-based music licencing and royalty collection platform developer, Sentric Music, has certainly hit the right notes with the Business Growth Fund, which has invested £3m to fund the company’s expansion – including future acquisitions.
Established in 2006, Sentric Music works with more than 90,000 songwriters and represents more than 100,000 songs internationally. According to CrunchBase, Sentric had previously raised £275k back in May 2012.
Posted by Anthony Miller at '08:23'
Not a ‘challenger’ bank, but a healthtech startup, Belfast-based BrainWaveBank is developing a brainwave monitoring device and app which aims to detect early signs of dementia. BrainWaveBank recently raised over £1m in seed funding from investors including The Angel CoFund and techstart NI, Innovate UK and Invest Northern Ireland.
There’s scant information on the startup’s single-page website bar a photo of a headset contraption (see pic) with what appears to be sets of pins that rest (assumedly) on the head. The idea is that the user plays mobile games ‘for a few minutes a day’, while an app records and analyses brainwave activity. BrainWaveBank says that its platform can analyse data from many thousands of users, ‘building cognitive profiles of individuals and populations / demographic groups … providing insights and advice to the user on how their individual lifestyle factors affect their performance’.
Business model aside, many other important questions remain unanswered about the potential efficacy of BrainWaveBank’s platform, not the least of which is how the user is meant to interpret the data, and the extent to which the results are meaningful indicators of dementia onset.
There are many brainwave monitoring headsets/apps on the market already, mainly aimed at aiding meditation. BrainWaveBank has set its aspirations higher and as such shoulders a much greater burden of responsibility to ‘get it right’ in attempting to diagnose such a potentially life-shattering condition as dementia.
Posted by Anthony Miller at '08:00'
Perhaps of all the programmes that I have championed during my long association with the Prince’s Trust, Million Makers is my favourite. I think it has something to do with not really liking physical pursuits like bike riding etc.
Last week the Million Makers 16-17 Finals were held and it was a RECORD. An amazing £1.57m raised. Indeed, since we started the programme, some £8.2m has been raised by Million Makers for the Trust.
This year’s national final was ‘won’ by Dell EMC - raising an incredible £207K. Atos and Ascential received Special Commendations. VMware and CGI also received regional awards. The National winner of the Innovation Award was Admiral and the National Teamwork Award went to Wilko.
The aim now is for £10m raised by Million Makers 10th Anniversary in 2018. If you would like to be a part of his please email email@example.com .
As I said in my post last month - Call to arms - Adrian Gregory, who heads ATOS in the UK&I is now leading the Million Makers Competition. Adrian would be delighted to speak with any CEO or board member who wants know more about this. Adrian and ATOS should know - they have been major Million Makers participants for many years. Last year - See my HotViews post dated 7th March 16 - Adrian told me It's also become a great event inside Atos. Through it people can learn, grow, have fun, meet inspirational people (Young Ambassadors and Speakers), experience running a business/project (including cash collection!), gain exposure with the Atos Exec AND all for a great cause where they can see the direct positive impact’. If you would like to speak with Adrian either do this via Linkedin or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll connect you.
Note - Picture shows Deborah Meaden with this year’s winners.
Posted by Richard Holway at '17:40'
Today’s interim statement from Earthport, the cross-border payments network provider showed the positive impact of strongly rising volumes over its global network. At the top level, revenue growth was 35%, to £14.3m, gross profit advanced 30% to £10.1m and loss before taxes fell 41% to £3.3m. Cash balances fell from £14.4m to £11.4m.
Over the past several years, see here and work back, Earthport has gradually built credibility with its global client base of conservative, slow-moving and bureaucratic banks. The Earthport proposition is now much more understood and the business case for using its hub-and-spoke model, its increasing portfolio of customer-facing and compliance services and its partner relationships has become more compelling.
The central problem is the time it takes for banks to make a significant move to a new provider in such an intrinsic part of their own business. Even with (relatively) enthusiastic partner Bank of America Merrill Lynch progress has been glacial, although this speeded up recently (see Global Warming helping Earthport?). Earthport’s persistence with BoAML has added to its credibility and now the management suggest that they should soon have a major banking partner, driving significant volume, in each geographical region. Credibility and market potential have also been boosted by the approval of the Reserve Bank of India for outbound transactions
To grow volume faster and to capitalise on its market-leading position, Earthport management is actively courting major eCommerce providers, typically more tech-savvy and more nimble than the banks. However, working through the growing pipeline of customer implementations obviously adds to costs, pushing the move to cash flow breakeven further to the right as volumes take time to come through. Getting the balance right with respect to new customer acquisition will be a key test for management in 2017.
Posted by Peter Roe at '10:07'
It’s of course too early to tell if Richard Petti, the new CEO at Cambridge-based ‘Enterprise Location Intelligence’ systems supplier, Ubisense, can really get the company back on track as he only joined in December (see Ubisense locates new CEO). But the ‘slash and burn’ undertaken by executive chairman Peter Harveson after the ousting of founding CEO Richard Green in May last year (see Ubisense CEO senses it’s time to go – at last!) has at least given Petti a far better situation to start from.
Revenues are now back on the rise, up 21% to £26.5m in 2016, though still way below 2014’s £35m. Net losses have narrowed considerably from £16.6m to £5.3m, while a £9.2m gross operating cash burn in 2015 turned into a £0.3m cash enrichment, though net operating cash flow remains outbound, to the tune of £2m.
Harveson will cede executive powers during first half, but noted that they expect revenue and margin attrition as some legacy contracts reach term. However, he hopes the new focus on their software platform will help mitigate the decline.
As I have been saying every year since its IPO nearly six years ago, Ubisense really should be, quite literally, ‘right place, right time’. Let’s hope Petti can get it there.
Posted by Anthony Miller at '09:32'
Looking at its FY16 results, it’s apparent that AIM listed Accesso Technology Group has reached a point in its development where it has the products, the experience and the imagination to really scale the business up. It is its work on rethinking technology solutions for the leisure, entertainment and cultural markets (queuing, ticketing, point-of-sale and guest management) that is making a difference and enabled it to top previous strong growth (see here) with an impressive year.
In the year to December 31 2016 revenue was up 10% to $102.5m with an even better top line improvement: adjusted EBITDA up 25.7% to $19.1m while PBT rose 40% to $10.1m. At the same time net debt reduced by $6m to $3.4m. These improvements were made while continuing with an investment programme so while some costs rose, management has been careful (successfully so) to ensure they have not outstripped revenue.
Growth has been attributed to greater scale in the business, contract wins and new ideas, with good proof points evident across all three areas. New ideas include developments such as Prism, it’s a smart park wearable device that can handle queuing, payments, messaging, photography, park access and trip intelligence. It addresses practical issues but also gathers some insightful data about visitor patterns of behaviour which Accesso could put to use in all manner of ways. It could be a great example of our view that data is the new currency and of the need to Unlock the Intelligence.
Posted by Angela Eager at '09:08'
UK systems integrator and managed services provider Maintel followed up a strong H1 with an even more impressive second half of the year, growing total FY16 revenue 114% to £108m and adjusted profit before tax 52% to £11m. The company's proposed final dividend per share was up to 17.4p from 16.5p a year earlier, taking full dividend per share up 5% to 30.8p from 29.3p in FY15.
The bulk of the expansion stemmed from the £48.5m acquisition of rival Azzurri Communications completed last May, with organic growth flat at 1%. The deal gave Maintel a larger customer base and broader technology portfolio which helped grow crucial recurring revenue, particularly in network services which were up 346% yoy (from a very small base), and manged services and technology (up 62% to £64m).
Alongside cloud hosted unified communications as a service (UCaaS) propositions, Maintel has latterly tapped into what we anticipate will be keen public and private sector demand for hosted data security services in 2017. It launched its ICON Secure cloud-based security solution in October, and received PCI-DSS 3.1 accreditation for its ICON Communicate and ICON Connect cloud services in December.
Customer wins during FY16 included Derby City Council, NFU Mutual and charity Victim Support. There were also saw strong sales on the back of Maintel’s channel partnership with telephony and customer service hardware and software supplier Avaya.
Whilst we see no obvious threat to what has proved a flourishing source of new unified communications business, Avaya’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2017 and proposed US$100m acquisition by Extreme Networks could create some short-term turbulence however. Maintel's challenge this year will be to maintain momentum through organic sales of its core managed networking, cloud and mobile services though we wouldn't be surprised if further acquisitions follow.
Posted by Martin Courtney at '09:00'
So long as our Government continues to fantasise about replacing every gas and electricity meter in the land by 2020 (see Smart Meter Madness: 5m down, 43m to go), things will keep looking good for Glasgow-based utility meter installation and asset management firm, Smart Metering Systems.
Today’s results show 25% headline growth (12% organic) to £67.2m, with operating profits up 5% to £20.6m, diluted by loss-making acquisitions made this time last year. Management mooted further acquisitions.
SMS CEO, Alan Foy, noted “continued scepticism in the press and industry to (the smart meter rollout) programme completion timescales” (who could he be referring to?), but said that energy suppliers have begun placing contracts with SMS.
So long as SMS doesn’t get ahead of itself (and reality) with its investment in the rollout, then they look like they are in a very smart place.
Posted by Anthony Miller at '08:50'
Target Group, the specialist provider of software, managed services and outsourcing to the lending, investments and insurance markets has expanded its relationship with Bridging Finance Solutions. The short-term property finance provider will use Target’s new Web Portal to communicate real-time with its network of brokers and introducers, also facilitating the lending approvals process by connecting with the relevant solicitors and providing access to documentation and case notes. The end to end solution provided by the portal should reduce transaction costs and also speed the process in a competitive corner of the lending market.
Bridging Finance Solutions first adopted Target Group’s Bluechip lending platform in mid-2015, see here. Since then the Wirral-based company has more than doubled turnover and is expecting rapid growth in the current year.
The Web Portal further enhances Target Group’s portfolio of platform-based solutions for the complex lending markets and enables easier access across a dispersed network of intermediaries. Target Group was acquired last year by Tech Mahindra to provide an additional cutting edge into the Financial Services market (see our detailed report here) and has recently expanded its reach with the acquisition of Commercial First, a commercial mortgage provider.
Posted by Peter Roe at '08:18'
Google is getting all kinds of bad press and an increasing number of cancelled or suspended advertising contracts in the UK. As you have no doubt read, big UK advertisers like M&S, HSBC, RBS, McDonalds, L’Oreal, BBC, O2, Audi etc are pretty annoyed that not only are their ads appearing on Youtube alongside some pretty dubious content but their advertising pounds are being passed to the makers of those videos which can sometimes be terror groups and other equally distasteful organisations.
The issue is both complex and important and centres around Google’s argument that it is ‘just’ a technology company and is therefore not really responsible for its content - none of which it originates. But advertisers have moved huge budgets from the likes of ITV and News Corp - both of which we would all class as media companies and, whatever one’s view, take their content seriously - to Google (and Facebook and other platforms who, like Google, have scant regard for taking any responsibility for their content)
Censoring everything that appears on Youtube (or Facebook) is, of course, a massive task. Although some of it might be automated it will probably require those companies to increase their investment in people censors considerably. Media companies face tighter and tighter regulation. Tech companies do not. Hence Google and Facebook’s strong arguments that they are not in the ‘media’ game. But that defence seems to weaken by the day.
As so much of our entertainment now comes via these social media channels, it is about time that these companies faced up to their responsibilities - however much it costs.
Posted by Richard Holway at '07:00'
The UK public sector ICT landscape is undergoing a transformation driven by many factors, including the pressure to deliver more for less, the commitment to making public services better and simpler for the UK citizen, and the introduction of innovative policies and standards, such as the Technology Code of Practice, to support government’s digital transformation. This has also been accelerated further by many significant legacy contracts coming to an end and a drive to consider new models for the delivery of ICT.
But the UK public sector has very specific requirements when it comes to security, assurance, connectivity and commercial governance and meeting these requirements can be challenging. So if you want to make the most of this opportunity you need to partner with an expert.
When it comes to the public sector, we know what your customers want and we understand the environment in which they operate. But don’t just take our word for it.
The UKCloud Awards have recently named us “Best Cloud Service Provider” as well as “Best G-Cloud provider” so we really know our market! Our success speaks for itself - UKCloud partners are 3x more likely to achieve sales through the G-Cloud framework, than other suppliers!
So what are you waiting for? Join our 240+ partner community and benefit from a whole host of technical, marketing and sales support.
To find out more visit our website or email email@example.com
Posted by UKCloud at '00:00'
We're really looking forward to seeing so many of you for drinks at the OXO Tower a week on Wednesday. As avid HotViews readers will know by now, TechMarketView is celebrating the fact that more than 100 innovative UK tech SMEs have now taken part in our ‘Little British Battler’ (or LBB) Programme with a drinks reception at OXO2 in London on 29 March in association with Oracle NetSuite.
The attendee list already includes more than 150 leaders from the UK tech sector, with our LBBs, our clients and other friends of TechMarketView well represented. It promises to be a fantastic evening of informal networking over drinks and canapes.
It’s an invitation only event and spaces are limited, however we've made available just 25 tickets for sale on a first come, first served basis for £250+VAT each. There are just a few of these tickets left so if you'd like to claim one please click here without delay to book via tx2events, who are managing the event for us.
The details of the event are as follows:
When: Wednesday 29 March, 6.30pm-9pm (approx.)
Where: OXO2, Level Two, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London, SE19PH
Dress: Business attire
Attendees will also receive a free copy of our LBB100 Report which is being launched on the evening.
Posted by HotViews Editor at '10:03'
TechMarketView’s 2017 research theme centres on how the torrents of data generated in our connected world can be used to drive more nimble, customer-aware and successful businesses.
Recently we have seen two interesting steps forward in the application of sophisticated analytics, or “artificial intelligence” in the increasingly competitive market of lending to individuals and to smaller businesses. Established players are looking for new ways to accelerate their antiquated systems and to improve the quality of their review process to reduce default risks, without missing attractive lending opportunities.
An article on Artificial Intelligence in the Sunday Times mentioned AcuteIQ, a US-based company which now provides insight to companies like Barclays on the financial and corporate health of American small businesses. The level of lending to small businesses is reportedly less of a concern, following significant desk-thumping by both UK and US Governments, but the ability of companies to access additional cash reasonably quickly and cheaply is still a major issue.
In the consumer lending market, Experian has announced a joint venture with Finicity, a Utah-based company, to provide additional information about a consumer’s assets, income and (consequently) ability to re-pay a loan, from multiple sources such as utilities, rental agreements, etc. Here the goal is to significantly reduce the lead time of granting a loan or a mortgage and to enable an established lender to compete with new providers.
These are two (US-based) examples of “Unlocking the Intelligence” and of how both established financial services providers and the larger IT Services providers are relying on Fintech companies to inject innovation and pace into their service offerings. The issue of emerging competition and the role of Fintech were highlighted as major Market Shaping Trends in our latest Financial Services: Market Trends and Forecast report.
Posted by Peter Roe at '09:58'
© TechMarketView LLP 2007-2017: Unauthorised reproduction prohibited see full Terms and Conditions.
T 01252 781545
Website Terms & Conditions
The TechMarketView name and logo are registered trademarks of TechMarketView LLP
® | © Copyright TechMarketView 2007- 2017
You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of this (and other sites) may not work as a result.