blur Group: s-commerce For Tomorrow, or This is a Low? (Spot the musical reference!)

There’s a real trend for software firms to have cool names these days. The fashion for initials seems to have gone, and now in our field we get Coupa, Source Dogg, Market Dojo and the like. But this firm have gone further and apparently named themselves after one of my favourite rock groups – yes, today we’re featuring the somewhat confusingly named blur Group plc. (Note the lower / upper case thing going on there).

I went to see them recently in their offices in the Westbourne Studios (see picture), basically under the Westway (the motorway that runs into central London from the West) and next to a railway junction. It’s a large industrial-looking building with a central cafe / bar / table football / squishy sofas place, and small rooms off the communal area occupied by designers, film companies, software entrepreneurs and the like. I appeared to be the oldest person there by about 100 years and the only one with a jacket on for sure. “Achingly hip” is I think the expression.

And that is relevant to blur Group – this is an absolutely now, of this age, firm. What they’re doing isn’t revolutionary in its individual elements, as we’ll see, but it pulls together a number of capabilities in an interesting way and presents them to the world in an unusual, well presented and contemporary manner.

The firm floated on the London AIM stock market last October, with a market capitalisation of £20 million and already has raised a further $11m in through a second share placing in May this year. (Remember my share tipping record – this is not a recommendation in either direction).  But after a lot of interest, the market cap is now a frankly incredible £100M – for a firm whose revenues were around £2 million in 2012! This is either the next Amazon or eBay – or a firm where market excitement has got way ahead of itself.

But we’re more interested in what it does than the share price really. And their basic proposition is a cloud-based platform that allows buyers and sellers of professional services to do business together, mainly in the areas serviced by marketing and design type professionals. “s-commerce” as Philip Letts, the founder and CEO, calls it.

So putting it simply, buyers advertise their requirements, for design, media production, or maybe even accounting or legal services, and sellers can apply to do the work. So, an eMarketplace you might say? Yes, but here are elements of a broader supplier network, in that blur Group handle the payments – in fact, more than that, they act as the principal in the deal, and take a percentage of the deal value from the seller.

But in fact, they’re also acting to some extent as a procurement outsourced service provider – the assignment is not simply determined between the buyer and prospective seller. blur Group themselves consider the proposals that are received and put a short list of potential suppliers forward to the buyer, so arguably they are adding value as sourcing experts.

And finally, they are also about community building – their own staff act as “exchange managers” in sub-categories like design or innovation, and the website has resources to help build and support those communities.

So, what is it? A marketplace, a supplier network, an outsourcing provider, a professional services community? All of the above? I’m not sure yet. But it is a fascinating combination, and I’m sure we’ll feature more on the firm as they progress. And I'd love to hear from any users as well, buyers or sellers.

(You will be able to read a longer version of this article on our subscription site, Spend Maters Plus, next week).

Voices (4)

  1. Behjet:

    If you are looking for a groundbreaking way to manage long-tail spend, blur Group’s exchange is definitely worth looking into. Web based, savings potential and no additional fees!

  2. Dan:

    Sounds like the type of organisation thats very relaxed about coffee & TV

  3. Market Dojo e-Sourcing:

    Well, you occasionally find some start-ups renting office space in a large Country House in the country, whilst the rest of us have to settle for a bit of Parklife.

    On a more serious note, one thing I really like about the blur Group offering is there blur Trading real-time infographic on what is happening in their marketplace. Fantastic concept and very engaging for any casual passer-by.

  4. Adam:

    “It’s a large industrial-looking building with a central cafe / bar / table football / squishy sofas place, and small rooms off the communal area occupied by designers, film companies, software entrepreneurs and the like.”

    That seems to be very much de rigueur for new firms these days. In fact I would go so far as to say There’s No Other Way for them.

    (Editor’s note – Excellent! More Blur quips please…)

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