Nimbus plots to crack America

Ian Gotts, chief executive of UK business process management software vendor Nimbus Partners, is moving to the USA. Visas permitting, he and his family are relocating to Silicon Valley, from where he will spearhead a campaign to expand the company’s US sales.

With business IT budgets still on the mend even in the US, some might wonder why the CEO of a small, 12-year old software company has chosen this of all years to launch a bid to break America. But while it might have taken more than a decade to get going, Gotts says he is now anticipating the kind of revenue growth more commonly associated with a Californian start-up.

In its most recent financial quarter, the privately held company’s revenues grew by 50% year-on-year to around £5 million. That was in spite of the fact that the hosted, subscription-based version of Nimbus’s Control product now accounts for around 95% of new customers, meaning that much of its new revenue is deferred over a number of years.

Gotts attributes this in part to the growing adoption of process-oriented methodologies for managing business operations, such as Six Sigma and Lean. “Companies are definitely seeing that a process-driven approach to operations is a way forward, and while those methodologies started out in manufacturing, they are now being adopted in other industries too.”

However, the Control product is not a business process management tool in the sense most familiar to an enterprise IT audience. For application infrastructure vendors such as Software AG or Oracle, BPM is something that enterprise architects use to direct the flow of work – often after it has been automated – within systems.

Control, on the other hand, is designed to help employees learn and understand the business processes in which they participate. When members of staff need to find out how to perform a certain function, the system will provide them with the appropriate documentation (as informed by their job roles) and instructions in the form of a storyboard. “Think of it as the intersection of BPM, content management and e-learning,” says Gotts.

Nimbus’s customers include Nestlé, Carphone Warehouse and HSBC. Typically, Gotts says, it is the people in charge of operations or business transformation that engage the company, and the hosted offering makes it possible to do so without the involvement of the IT department. But, he adds, the most successful clients are those who integrate the tool into the employees’ everyday applications, which does require some IT input.

Gotts believes that for the first time in Nimbus’s history, companies are actively seeking the functionality that Control provides: “We have spent the past 12 years trying to educate the market that what we do is a good idea. But in the last year, companies have started to say, ‘Yes, we’re already thinking about that.’” This, Gotts claims, will translate into “stellar growth” in the coming year: “We’ll be seeing the sort of growth that you see in software companies who are there in the market at just the right time. For us, that right time is now.”

Whether or not this confidence proves to be justified, it certainly explains the ambition to crack America. But why is it necessary, in an age of hyper-connectivity, for the chief executive to relocate to Silicon Valley? The primary reason, Gotts says, is to be close to existing and potential customers (Nimbus already derives around 15% of its revenues from the US). “Our US clients want to see a level of commitment to the country,” he says. “From their perspective, if a supplier has only a sales office in the US, there’s always a chance that they might retreat back when times are tough. But my moving over shows a real commitment to that market.”

Gotts’s choice to move to the nexus of the global IT industry suggests that it is not just customers he is after, however. Being in Silicon Valley, he says, will allow him and his chief operating officer, who is also relocating, “to be around our peers, where we can learn and grow partnerships”.

Another advantage of the Valley, of course, is the relative abundance of capital. “When companies get into the extreme levels of growth that I could see us getting into, access to the investment capital [they need] is easier in Silicon Valley,” Gotts explains. “In the UK, investment is like pocket money: ‘Here’s half a million pounds, make sure you spend it wisely.’ Venture capitalists in the US take a more expansive view.”

“But we’re not chasing the money,” Gotts insists. “We’re going there because of the clients.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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