Yes, it was the sixth Noah show in London on Thursday and Friday last week. The poet may have referred to them as “brokers roaring like beasts on the floor of the borse”, but seeing Europe’s investment bankers, VCs and PE funds filling three floors of Old Billingsgate (surely over 2000 this year) was a joyous sight. These people clearly love Noah, and the way they tolerate two days of constant bombardment is testimony to this: they eat and drink and meet and… roar at each other all day long and go to the Noah party at night, but from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm they absorb some 200 presentations on three stages in a positive orgy of claim, comparison, analysis and counter-argument. Presiding over this like a genial Godfather is Marco Rodzynek, and having attended these shows since the first in 2009 in the Hilton, Park Lane – only 100 or so people but the catering was excellent – I feel, from a TMT perspective, that it was almost worth Lehmann going down to get this show started in the sector.

Of course, much has changed. Huge global volumes of devices and users have altered the meaning of our early definitions of proof of concept and usage as a measure of success. You can now have sector and geography specific plays that command larger audiences than the global marketplace in 2009. NOAH covers Europe, with a strong flavour of the stand-out start-up cities – London, Berlin and Barcelona, as well as a useful input from the influential Israeli industry. There is also a NOAH event now in Berlin and I shall hope to cover that in 2016. These events are simply the best way I know of touching the pulsating heart of innovation in Europe, at all the stages covered from start-up to near-mature businesses looking for the next investor. Because there is always a next investment stage, and NOAH, as leading advisers in the sector, are crucially aware of the work-in-progress aspect.

I could generalize about innovation for the rest of this blog, but it may be best to give you a flavour from some extracts from my notes. Bear in mind that these come from a few hours on one day on one stage: I would hesitate before trying your patience with the full output!


Inquisitr Every service vendor now has a news service, from Google to Facebook Notify. This is a response to these new ways of presenting breaking news. Requirements – speed, luck and authority!…..
Mubi Quality -based video streaming. Began on PlayStation in 2007. Now in a JV with Sony delivering quality movies to PlayStation. Founder says it took 149,000 nights to become an overnight success!….
TeamViewer. Fremium model in which private viewers go free and corporate viewers (now integrated into Outlook) pay. Remote support software aimed at remote access, monitoring and sharing services. 1 billion installations, 20 million online at any one time, 200m corporate customers, 300 million accounts, 30 languages. Customer range – from a hospital group sharing images to an artist mounting a global exhibition of his work….
Pipedrive (a NOAH investment) CRM for SMEs. “aimed at the salesman and built for mobile use”. “42% of CRM software is never used” Gartner. Developed for people who never had CRM before. Estonia, and now US….
Scyti Barcelona-based global supplier of election software. 42 countries Online voting platform with 24 solutions ranging from registration to results tallying. Security is key element. Market worth $500m Has done 4 rounds of VC investment, raised $100m last time…
Deezer streaming music 6 m customers. 35 m tracks. Subscription model. Big business in cars. Some ads but subs is future 2007. Collects 240 m data points from customers daily. Sends lyrics. Download is dying, discs are dying…
SimilarWeb. Visitors and performance of every web service. Rank. Like Nielsen for websites .Not downloads but usage. Alexa but better and global. Multi source data…
Statista. Largest market research portal 20 m Rev 35% margin. Market research bigger usage than Nielsen, lpsos. Info graphics is marketing device….
Mall of Africa. ECommerce goods for aspirational markets. Address verification. 300 m middle class internet users on mobile. Amongst 1.2 bn people. Nigeria and Kenya as hubs… MoovIT, 90min. Israel
(soccer, user created)….
Badoo Largest dating social media? 270m registered users generating 40m messages a month. Transition from web to mobile. Founded 2007, profitable 2009…

Just a flavour, but also i hope an indication of why this is so fascinating, and why the wide differences between different styles of venturing , and widely different results in different geographies makes this important, not just for investors, but for everyone of us as creators of network – based services of some sort or another.

The news that Thomson Reuters announced today that it was “exploring strategic options”, as the dreadful euphemism for selling has it, for its Science and Intellectual Property businesses gives new meaning to another hoary old industry expression, “waiting for the other shoe to drop”! In this instance the other shoe has been hovering for about a decade, and might have happened at any point after the Reuters acquisition. Later, the move might well have followed the sale of Thomson Health to PE (now Truven). The logic of the Thomson Reuters merger, after all, was concentrating on the markets, corporate, and legal concerns of global corporates and their advisers. While IP had a sort of logic, in that patent activity is a measure of value, it seemed more important to build out into areas that bridge financial and legal – compliance, governance, regulatory – rather than fully absorb IP into the mix. So IP stayed with Science and now the pair are on the block. Meanwhile a new business has grown between the merging entities, worth some $600 m pa in revenues. And other investment areas of opportunity are emerging, so the parent company can reasonably say it wants to concentrate its investments on its core concerns. As it could have done ten years ago.

So just what is being offered for sale? In the firtst place two very different businesses, but together they form a $1 bn revenue block, with an Ebitda of 32% (some 10% of the parent’s margins). The bit that is being sold is slightly more profitable than the group to which it belonged. But many bidders and advisers will see it as two businesses. On the one hand, IP is the market leader in patent information, with a slew of services that run from instant updating through to the fully analysed and technically abstracted Derwent World Patent Index. IP Manager was one of the first convincing “solutions” to manage workflow effectively – in this case for in-house patent counsel. On the Science side, alongside a raft of article preparation and management systems, lies Web of Science: the market has looked to this division for the market standard in assessing the importance of articles and their journals to users and peers. The ISI index, acquired by Thomson, remains vitally important to global science research by its definition and measurement of “impact” through citations. The service which incorporates this. Web of Science, is still key to assessment and management of scientific research – and the grants that enable it.

In recent years both sections have attracted, partly as a factor of their success, a great deal more competitive attention. Gone now, for example, are the days when Thomson’s citation indexing totally ruled the roost when it came to measuring the success or otherwise of universities holding grants for science research. This is the age of altmetrics, and we can not only measure more things than citations but analyse the multiplicity of factors more effectively. Elsevier entered the market with SciVal, for example, and there is a feeling now that rapid progress is being made in developing new styles of analysis. Has Thomson Science kept up? Could it be a platform for a new “services to science and research” business at some future point in different hands? In patents, CPA offers a guide to valuations , and also an indication that there is competition in depth, not least from state owned national and international patent offices. Yet Thomson’s offerings would be at the top of the market, both in terms of data held and revenue generated.

Will these high value entities sell separately or together? We may now have at last reached the point where they are more valuable apart. There had been a tacit assumption that the long delay in divesting them was in part about making them more separate as businesses since it is hard to think of a strategic buyer ideally suited to buy both. Taken together they will fetch over $3.6 bn, a big reach for sector trade buyers as well as those private equity players actively interested in this area. There will be some competition considerations as well, in that it may be hard for RELX to buy Science, though other major STM players would have less difficulty, and for some it may suggest a way of diversifying away from a pure reliance on increasingly tough journals only markets. This would have been an ideal buy for Springer before Nature, or Bertelsmann while they were looking at B2B: they seem from this months deals to have decided that education is a better bet. One thing is certain about this divestment, however: where buyers are looking for data-based businesses with a high emphasis on analytics and solutions which add real value to the workloads of users through productivity gain, cost saving and compliance certainty – these two outfits have it in spades!

But what does all this activity mean? For one thing, it suggests that portfolio may have had its day. The sale of the FT and the Economist at Pearson, the divestment of part of Datamonitor at Informa, the trimming down of Penton, the divestment of non-event assets at UBM – all these and many more point to a determination to shed non-core assets in order to put investment heft behind growth in what are seen as more strategically important areas.This is in part a digital effect – networks create full service needs and solutions and tend to duopoly. This is also part of a cycle, and there can be no doubt that portfolio will be back one day, but in the meanwhile there can be little doubt that investors like “slim down to grow bigger”, as long as you slim by getting the right price for the assets. Which means that the real question for Thomson is – did they leave it too late?

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