Connecting with Bill Sobel

Philip Letts likes to say he is "reinventing how businesses do commerce." He's CEO of UK-based blur Group — an "s-commerce company," as he explains it. In this case, the "s" stands for business services. The company developed a platform for buying business services.

Letts said his company's Global Services Exchange uses its proprietary platform to help about 45,000 business users in 145 countries buy, sell and deliver core business services and take advantage of Software-as-a-Transaction to pay for these projects.

The company was founded in 2006 and the Global Services Exchange was formally launched in January 2010. Back then, Letts said, just around three projects per month were submitted. Now, nearly 300 projects start on the Exchange each month.

Customers include Danone, Broadridge, Exceed, HCA, Momentive, Red Commerce, the Financial Times, Berlitz, Butlins, GE Healthcare and Tyco.

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Switching Things Up


Sobel: You say blur Group is "reinventing how businesses do commerce." What exactly do you mean?

Letts: When we say "reinventing how businesses do commerce" we refer to the way in which business services are procured. Until recently, it hadn’t changed for hundreds of years! But now, thanks to cloud based technologies, companies can brief thousands of global experts and ensure that their projects are delivered to the highest standard, regardless of the size or location of the customer briefing or the company pitching its expertise.

Sobel: Tell us a little about your professional journey and your path to CEO of blur Group.

Letts: I was coached since childhood to become part of the family business. My great, great grandfather is familiar to many as the creator of Letts diary, the world’s first commercial diary. Consequently, I always knew I wanted to start my own company. However, I was also fascinated by technology, something entirely unrelated and disruptive to the publishing ecosystem.

My first business was CMI, an online publishing company. Following CMI, I moved on to become the CEO of various tech startups, including Corechange, Beenz, Tradaq and Surfkitchen. Now there are more than 70 of us at our new headquarters in Exeter in Devon, England, with another 30 or so in our London, Dallas and Southern California offices. We're one of the fastest growing technology companies in the world, with operations in 145 countries.

Sobel: Where did you get the idea for blur Group? Who is your target market?

Letts: As a former CEO of a B2B exchange, I understood the dynamics of bringing together the demand-and supply-side of such a business model. After initial interest in the open source movement, I started doing some R&D and in 2007, blur Group came into existence. As such, our target market is businesses looking to buy business services online. We built our platform to be scalable to appeal to all companies from micro- and small businesses to enterprise-level customers.

Sobel: What makes blur Group different?