New UK unicorn 'shows need for patient capital'
The UK has a new unicorn in the shape of software company Blue Prism after its value rose above $1bn.
Dr Mark Payton, chief executive of its first investor Mercia Fund Managers, said this highlights the value of patience on the part of investors.
Mercia first invested in Blue Prism, based in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, in 2004 through its RisingStars Growth Fund and continued to support the company right up until March 2016, when it floated on AIM with an initial market cap of £49m.
Mercia has realised 75x the fund's investment cost based on an original investment of £0.9m and continues to hold circa 2.5 per cent stake in the business.
“Mercia was the first investor in Blue Prism and we supported the company throughout. It was 12 years before it floated on AIM and a further two years before we started unwinding our position," Dr Payton told the audience at Mercia's annual Gala Dinner in Birmingham.
"During that period we had good times and bad times, but our persistence has paid off. Patience is at the heart of everything we do at Mercia.
"Currently the US dominates the world in terms of the number of unicorn companies it creates. US companies achieve much bigger valuations on flotation, because US funders invest more heavily and look to the long term rather than selling out to a trade buyer at an early stage.
"The Patient Capital Review has been a real fillip to our industry, but we need to change our approach and recognise the true value of taking a more long-term, strategic approach to supporting technology firms."
Blue Prism is a leader in robotic process automation, which enables its blue-chip clients to create a digital workforce powered by its software robots that are trained to automate routine back-office clerical tasks. The company is led by CEO Alastair Bathgate.
Julian Viggars, head of technology investments at Mercia, said: "The success of companies like Blue Prism shows that it is possible to build highly scaleable, market-leading businesses out of the UK's regions.
"Alastair and his team are the true pioneers of the Robotic Process Automation software market and the rapid global growth and adoption that is now happening.
"They are proving the real value in their platform with significant levels of new customer wins and expansion across the US, Asia Pacific and EMEA.
"Our latest realisation makes for stunning returns for our fund's patient investors- some 14 years after they first backed us."