Blue 8 provides real-time location management software to the emergency services. When we met Ian Williamson, the former CEO of Blue 8 Technologies, he wanted to lead a buy-out, but like many managers in the same position he had no experience of the private equity world. Ian commented, “When you go into an MBO, in all likelihood you’re doing it for the first time and you don’t know what you don’t know. We were looking to work with an investor that understood us, that would participate and try and add some value and not just treat us as a financial transaction. And importantly, we were looking for an organisation where the cultural and people fit was strong.” When Ian met with Livingbridge he felt that we really understood the opportunity, and in March 2001 a buy-out was completed.
We were impressed by Livingbridge’s sector knowledge and contacts. These not only helped during the deal process but added value as we approached exit.
Former Chief Executive, Blue 8
- The business plan foresaw two main areas of growth: building on the existing geographic information software and services core business and a new venture, applying the firm’s market leading “last mile” solutions to the logistics and home delivery markets.
- To help Ian and the team manage the growth, Livingbridge introduced Ralph Kanter to the management team as chairman. According to Mark Turner from Livingbridge, “Management were very keen to work out exactly what he was going to bring. Once they had recognised it, however, Ralph brought independence and a wealth of experience of just the situation that Blue 8’s management were in. The board dynamic gelled pretty quickly.”
- It was agreed that the home delivery venture was falling short of expectations, and there was more value to be gained from focussing on the core public sector business. “Often businesses keep slogging away at things,” says Ian. “Someone external can look at it objectively and ask harsh questions, helping you make those difficult decisions far more easily and far more quickly.”
- The board’s strategic focus helped the company realise the value of its existing product, Compass, a simple address getting programme. The product was used by most police forces and was a reasonable revenue generator, but it had the potentially to act as a gateway to other information systems used by the emergency services.
- Livingbridge invested in March 2001, and by December 2002, turnover had increased 15%. In 2003 the business was acquired by Northgate Information Solutions. Mark Turner commented at exit, “We supported an outstanding management team who developed the business following the original buy-out and successfully positioned the business as a leading public-sector software provider in an attractive niche.”