Description of business

EU Supply is the UK holding company of the EU Supply Group, a Sweden-based e-commerce business that has an established, market-leading, multilingual e-procurement platform for e-sourcing, e-tendering and contract management, tailored for the highly regulated European public sector market. With over US$30 million invested in developing the Group’s Complete Tender Management (“CTM™”) platform, the Directors believe the platform is one of the easiest to use and functionally advanced solutions available in the market. The platform is provided under a SaaS contract model, and is developed and maintained as a single product. The platform has been designed to be configurable online and can be quickly, easily and cheaply configured to a customer’s specific needs, delivering a bespoke solution for each customer without any additional programming. The Directors believe that this combination provides the Group with a significant advantage over its competitors.

While the Group’s customers include both private and public organisations, the Group has identified the European public sector market as the most attractive short-term target. The Manchester Agreement (2005) called for all public administrations across EU Member States to have the capability of carrying out 100 per cent. of their procurement electronically, where legally permissible, and for at least 50 per cent. of public sector tenders above the OJEU threshold value to be managed electronically by 2010. Although not all Member States succeeded in meeting this target, many countries, including the UK, introduced e-procurement solutions via framework agreements or legislation that mandated phases of tendering online.

In December 2011, the European Commission published a proposal for directives which would require, from June 2014, all public bodies or authorities that are governed by public law to ensure:

  • all of their tender notifications and documents are available electronically;
  • all Central Purchasing Bodies to manage tender submissions electronically;
  • from June 2016, all Contracting Authorities to manage tender submissions electronically;
  • streamlining of dynamic purchasing systems, e-auctions and e-catalogues; and
  • introduction of e-CERTIS, a mandatory electronic clearing-house which lists exhaustively the certificates and other proofs which Contracting Authorities may request from suppliers.

The Directors believe that the increasing legislation presents the Group with an imminent opportunity to grow, in a market with significant barriers to entry for others and which is expected to grow rapidly in the next five years.

Since 2006, the Group has invested heavily in employing specialist programmers to add functionality, legal compliance as required and security features to the CTM™ platform to ensure that the Group is ideally placed to secure new contracts with Member States and their Contracting Authorities. The platform is available in 16 different languages. Furthermore, the CTM™ platform has a modular design, which allows ease of configuration and rapid roll-out. The Directors believe the Group now has one of the leading products in its market and is looking to recruit additional salespeople and bid management employees to market aggressively to prospective clients across the Member States.

The Group continuously develops the CTM™ product and has already implemented many of the key requirements expected to be introduced as part of the proposed EU directives referred to above, for example, direct online availability of tender documents. The Group works with its larger customers to develop new modules to meet their requirements, recently adding dynamic reporting and contract life cycle planning modules. The CTM™ platform now also offers a business alert service for all of its approximately 250,000 registered supplier organisations.

The CTM™ platform today, at a glance:

  • is used by over 6,500 European public and private sector bodies in 10 Member States;
  • has National Procurement System status in three Member States (namely the UK, Ireland and Lithuania) and Norway;
  • is one of the market leaders in public sector e-procurement in Denmark and the Netherlands;
  • approximately 250,000 tenders managed on the platform since 1999; and
  • has approximately 250,000 supplier organisations currently registered on the CTM™ platform.

At the current run rate, the CTM™ platform handles more than 75,000 tenders per year, all of which are hosted on service platforms that allow customers to manage tenders end-to-end, from specification to award. More than 4,500 tenders are typically open at any one time on the platform.

To comply with regulation and other requirements in various Member States, the Group has developed a strong Information Security Management System (“ISMS”), achieving IL3 for its UK business in 2009 and ISO 27001 certification for all its business processes in 2011. The Directors believe that ISO 27001 or similar information security systems will be required soon by most public sector bodies in the EU. The Group has also participated in the PEPPOL project since its inception. PEPPOL is the European Commission’s “Pan- European Public Procurement Online” project for implementing standards and aligning business processes for electronic procurement across Europe, (www.peppol.eu). The Group has already developed support for, and piloted, several of the new standards expected to be introduced in the “pre-award” e-procurement market (for example, digital certificate validation and the use of e-catalogues). The Group has seen a number of tenders requiring adherence to PEPPOL standards, and the Directors believe that early compliance with PEPPOL requirements may give the Group a competitive advantage. The Directors consider that these requirements, accreditations and standards represent a significant barrier to entry for competitors and that the Group’s ISMS is one of its key strengths.

A very high proportion of the Group’s current revenues is generated from recurring annual licenses and support fees for the provision of the CTM™ platform. Many of the Group’s larger customers also require additional paid-for integrations and enhancements, which the Group has built as configurable options within the main product, retaining full ownership of any new IP developed. For most new customers, there is also an implementation programme, which includes configuration of the platform to the customer’s requirements (or inheritance of standard templates already set up), and training for users at different levels in the customer organisation. The Group also provides technical and operational support to customers and their end users.

The Group’s sales team is led by Thomas Beergrehn, Chief Executive, with one sales manager in Denmark, one in the UK, one based in Sweden, and one part time in Norway. The Group’s dedicated salesmen have strong solution sales backgrounds and proven track records. The Group also employs sales staff for bid management and telesales. The Group utilises sales and distribution partners in some Member States, such as the Netherlands, Norway and France. The Group has offices and employees in London, Stockholm, Tallinn and Roskilde and a further employee in Oslo.

History

eu-supply.com svenska AB (“Svenska AB”), the precursor to the current Group, was founded by among others, Thomas Beergrehn, the Group’s Chief Executive, in May 1999 focusing on the provision of e-auction management for contractors, builders and property developers and the public sector.

1999-2002
The original CTM™ platform was developed in-house and its first e-auction was managed in November 1999.

After demonstrating this success, Internet Capital Group Inc (“ICG”), a US-based venture capital fund made two significant investments totalling approximately £15 million, to fund the development of the CTM™ platform. Between February and April 2000, Svenska AB established local sales teams in Sweden, the UK, France and Germany and managed its first auctions in each country within three months of establishing the local sales team. Svenska AB’s strategy at this time was to capitalise on its “first mover advantage” and capture market share. To support Svenska AB’s growth, more funding was required, so a third round of marketing was initiated. However, market conditions in the first quarter of 2002 were particularly difficult for technology companies and following ICG’s decision not to invest further funds, Svenska AB went into insolvent liquidation on 14 January 2002.
In February 2002, the intellectual property and certain other assets of Svenska AB were acquired by a new group of investors and a new group structure was created under EUS Holdings Limited, managed by Thomas Beergrehn.

2002-2009
The Group’s revised strategy was to focus most of its own resources on building its intellectual property and to establish partner/franchise relationships to market the CTM™ platform, without the Group being directly exposed to sales and marketing costs.

In 2004, a number of new EU directives were introduced and the Group saw an increase in interest and requests from the public sector. The Group thus shifted its focus to larger public sector organisations and Central Purchasing Bodies in EU Member States. In 2005, the Group was awarded a significant contract by British Nuclear Fuels Limited.

During 2007, the Group was awarded national system agreements in Lithuania and Norway as the sub-contractor to local distributors who already had strong customer relationships, and hired its current salesman in Denmark. During 2007 and 2008 the Group targeted several additional Member States, which were lacking National Procurement Systems (required to comply with the Manchester Agreement), whilst also developing the CTM™ platform to ensure it complied with Danish bylaws expected to mandate e-tendering in public sector building projects. In addition, the CTM™ platform was adopted by Het NIC, one of the leading public procurement consulting firms in the Netherlands.

In 2009, the Group was awarded the e-sourcing framework for the UK public sector by Buying Solutions (since renamed Government Procurement Service) on behalf of HM Treasury and another UK national framework by Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO). Later that year, the Group fulfilled its commitments to HM Treasury by becoming IL3 certificated for its UK business. The Group was also awarded a large contract with Trafikverket (national roads and rail) in Sweden.

During the period of 2002 to 2009, the Group’s focus was on building the CTM™ platform and growing revenues with limited funding.

2010-2013
During 2010 and 2011, the Group continued to focus on sales in the UK, Denmark and via partners in the Netherlands. The Group also concluded sales partner contracts with Tradecom and Central-e for the Portuguese market in light of new laws mandating tendering in the public sector. It was not possible to obtain the necessary local accreditations with CEGER in time for the 2009 bid process in Portugal, but a new national framework agreement was opened for competition in 2012.

In 2011 the Group secured ISO 27001 certification for all business processes in anticipation of increased information security requirements across the EU. This was specifically required under the contract with HM Treasury. As well as security, many customers were seen to require tender management and contract management in combination and the Group responded to these requirements by significantly enhancing its contract management module.

During April 2012, following the European Commission’s announcement of the proposed directives, the Group decided to plan for an IPO to raise equity capital to allow the business to exploit the window of opportunity expected to occur as Contracting Authorities prepared for the introduction of the proposed EU directives.

In May 2012, the Group entered into a contract to perform piloting, configuration and adaptation of its platform for a pan-European organisation. Following tender evaluations and several demonstrations to different user groups, the Group was selected as the preferred solution.

During the third quarter of 2012, having just been awarded the Irish national tender management system contract, the Group received preferred bidder indications on two new contracts. In order to be prepared to deliver more than one significant contract at any one time, the Group decided to strengthen its development team immediately. The Group raised £1.8 million during 2012 and 2013, mainly through the issue of convertible loan notes, and hired additional development staff and a project manager, who was later appointed as COO. The Group developed the required functionality for the Irish contract and additional features required to compete for the additional tenders.

In July 2013, the Group was successfully awarded the Doffin contract, which has an initial term of seven years (with options for extensions for up to five more years) and is expected to contribute £0.4 million of revenue per annum, starting in January 2014. Doffin is the Norwegian government’s platform for the mandatory publication of notices of public contracts, and for economic operators to search and view contract notices of interest. The Group is now delivering the enhancements required for Doffin ahead of the system launch in December 2013. The enhancements include services for receipt of contract notices from external platforms, instant “as you type” full-text search, notice templates and other enhancements, all of which are expected to strengthen the Group’s competitive position in the EU. The Group is building these enhancements in a modular manner to allow Contracting Authorities to, subject to applicable legislation, procure and simply turn “on” additional modules when required to comply with the pending EU directives.

Sales and Marketing Strategy

The Group’s sales and marketing strategy is based on qualitative analysis of the market opportunity:

  • Existing presence or cost of establishing a presence in a new market;
  • Opportunity to rapidly access customers, for example whether a national framework or new legislation mandating e-tendering is expected imminently; and
  • Focus on prioritised sub-sectors in established markets, where word of mouth and customer references provides the Group a competitive advantage to quickly win additional contracts.

Each sales opportunity is evaluated constantly throughout the process in order to ensure that the incremental investment of time (for both direct sales and indirect sales support) is expected to be sufficiently profitable. The Group is particularly careful to avoid costly tenders, leads from unqualified sales organisations into new territories and invitations to perform demonstrations to less mature, low value prospects in very competitive markets

The Group prefers to sell “what we have”, but makes an internal business case for opportunities where some software development or integration may be required to win the deal and deliver the solution.

Partnerships
The Group utilises distributor relationships primarily for lead generation, but also as business operators where it is confident that the partner will dedicate sufficient focus to e-procurement and the promotion of the CTM™ platform. The Group also utilises distributor relationships in markets where the Group does not have its own sales presence, or where this is required to meet mandatory requirements, for example, a local presence. The Group works with different types of partners in different sub-sectors.

Stakeholders

The Group relies on a number of stakeholders for long term success. These can be divided into internal and external stakeholders where the internal are the resources employed by the company. The external stakeholders are (but not limited to) customers, suppliers of services, goods and consultants, regulatory bodies, advisors, shareholders and competitors. The Group seeks to, on a regular basis, reach out to the most important stakeholders for input on how to improve the service offering, to be aligned with current and upcoming legislation, and to explore new business opportunities.

An annual survey amongst the employees is conducted and multiple workshops and free development days per year are undertaken to encourage improvements on the service offering and the business environment. Discussions with suppliers is essential for keeping the technical platform up to date and customers are invited to collaborative workshops over and beyond the normal feedback received from our customer support team and account managers.