£30m float will create 'force to be reckoned with'
The boss of a newly floated technology services group which raised over £5 million has outlined plans to build geographic clusters of digital transformation companies and become "a force to be reckoned with".
Neal Gandhi is co-founder and CEO of The Panoply, a group set up in 2016 with the aim of acquiring specialist technology and innovation consulting businesses across Europe.
The 51-year-old is a serial tech entrepreneur, having co-founded four companies that exited successfully with a combined value of £117 million.
He co-founded his first business, Jungle.com, at the age of 21 and later sold it to GUS for £37 million. Most recently, he founded offshore IT services provider QuickStart Global, which was listed in the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 at number 3.
The Panoply has this week listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, raising more than £5 million and effectively acquiring four businesses: Strategy and management consultancy Bene Agere in Oslo; London-based digital experience agency Manifesto Digital; IT consultancy Notbinary; and Questers, a provider of onshore and nearshore agile software development services.
"What we're looking to do is build out geographic clusters, and each will comprise between five to seven companies that solve everything in the digital transformation journey," Gandhi told BusinessCloud.
"That's everything from strategy consulting all the way through to software development, DevOps and cyber security."
Co-founder and CFO Oliver Rigby (pictured below) said the £5 million raised through the float on AIM will be used to invest in its existing four businesses as well as exploring additional acquisition opportunities.
"Listing on AIM gives us that platform to make those acquisitions more quickly and more simply," said Rigby.
"We've done four acquisitions as a private company on the promise of an IPO – which was challenging. Being a listed a company will allow us to progress discussions quicker as we look to add further businesses."
Gandhi insists it was the right time for the company to float – although both co-founders admit the journey has been an "incredibly hard" one, particularly in the face of "challenging" financial markets.
"Regardless of market conditions, clients' digital transformation journeys are underway and we want to give them the offering they're looking for," said Gandhi.
"We know that clients are looking for a digitally-native, agile company that that works with them and not for them to deliver the outcomes they really want at the right speed and for the right price."
Gandhi cites IDC figures which suggest that the EMEA market for digital transformation is expected to be worth £82 billion by 2021. He describes the opportunity as "almost open-ended".
"We just want to grab our share of that and be a force to be reckoned with," he said, adding that he also wants to prove that a company can be incredibly successful financially while still "doing good in the world".
"The world is full of companies that are simply out to make money," he said. "We have a deeper purpose than that; we're here to improve lives through technology.
"The IPO is just the start; what we now have to do is fulfil on our original vision of building a really powerful, digitally-native technology services company fit for the 21st century – that's what keeps us awake at night."