We should be holding on to fast-growing tech firms

Marc Sidwell
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SILICON Valley may still hold sway, but it is good to see two tech companies with British links, Blinkx and Monitise, continuing to perform impressively on a global stage. Blinkx is a pioneer in video search, based on technology conceived at Cambridge University. Now headquartered in San Francisco and London, it measures 148m unique users in the US each month. Monitise is a British mobile banking firm with global reach, with 20m registered customers worldwide.

Such firms can grow at a rocketing pace as they scale their offering to a global market from a small base. Monitise reported six month figures yesterday for the second half of 2012, which showed revenue up 63 per cent from the first half of the year. Customers have more than tripled from 6m the year before. Transactions quadrupled year-on-year.

Still, high expectations follow such growth trajectories. These storming numbers from Monitise slightly disappointed expectations on revenue. That, and a group pre-tax loss of £24.4m, was however balanced by a boost to gross margins and a new Indonesian tie-up with BlackBerry for payments via its messaging service, helping drive the price slightly higher.

There is a danger in such success for London. Monitise has in the past weighed a Nasdaq listing as its next step from Aim. Although in November it said it would apply to move to London’s main market in 2013, homegrown Facebook game specialist King.com is considering floating on the Nasdaq, while the other tech firm in the news, cable innovator Virgin Media, had a primary Nasdaq listing, and its new owner Liberty Global is Nasdaq-listed. Now we produce fast-growing silicon superstars of our own, we need to avoid a tech listing drain, or we may get stuck in the old British trap of building something amazing that we don’t fully exploit.

Blinkx meanwhile already has a dual Aim-Nasdaq listing. As Monitise inched upwards, Blinkx shares roared up by more than a quarter yesterday as it announced a strong third quarter. The firm did well from the US election but also has clever proprietary technology in a fast-growing market and recently made some smart acquisitions. Aiming at £115m-£118m revenue for the year, it had a healthy pre-tax profit last financial year: Blinkx is one to keep an eye on.