Founder of Metis Partners answers the questions
Having qualified in law, became a chartered accountant and worked in several corporate finance roles across the Scottish business world Stephen Robertson decided he wanted to be his own boss. His wife had already called him "unmanageable" so in 2003 he set up Metis Partners. The firm specialises in helping businesses assess and exploit intellectual property (IP) and intangible assets (IA). Here Robertson tells us how Metis has grown.
What do you do?
We show companies how to recognize and understand the value of intangible assets, including intellectual property, in their businesses. For example, unique processes, manufacturing or technical specifications, research and development and innovation, important know-how, intellectual property and brands.
Most companies have some or all of these but don’t realise the underlying value of them. We can then show companies how they can monetise the IA in their business.
We have used IA as security for bank borrowings, sold such assets on behalf of customers, built new revenue streams against them or helped companies develop new competitive advantage
Where did the funding come from and which organisations have supported the business?
I used credit cards to the tune of £10K. An old colleague had risen to a senior position in a US oil & gas company and he asked me to help him identify intellectual property rich acquisitions for the company. This was one of our first clients and really helped establish some early credibility and profile for the business. In addition we were one of the first consultants selected by the Scottish Intellectual Asset Centre to help businesses derive value from their intangible assets.
What is unique about what the company does?
In Scotland there are very few people doing what we are doing. Over the last seven years we have developed our IA benchmark which helps us identify IA value in businesses and show them what’s missing and how they can quickly improve their IA value linked to their strategic objectives.
We have built this benchmark using extensive research we have gathered and as a result of working with some great companies large and small, both in the UK and internationally. Furthermore we have a fantastic international network of intermediaries, advisers and buyers and brokers of IP and IA from global electronics companies down to Italian specialists.
What has been the single biggest investment?
In people and it will always be that way.
Has there been a key moment or turning point?
So many – me taking some brave pills and letting other people help me grow the business. Earlier this year we were asked to sell the MFI brand for an international restructuring firm - that was a big step for us.
Does the company have international sales or does it intend to grow internationally?
All our customers are important and our markets are international.
We have worked with US clients and more recently a German client and would like to do more and we are exploring opportunities to help universities exploit their IP in the Baltic States.
What has been the best achievement so far?
Probably not missing my kid's sports day or Christmas show since I set up my own business.
What has been the biggest hurdle which has been overcome?
We worked with a software company to help them improve the IA value and overall valuation of the business prior to exit. The business was then sold to a “friendly” purchaser and we were advised that some of our fee would be paid by the purchaser post completion. Of course after the deal was done the purchaser didn’t like the fact we had effectively cost him more money so he argued about our fee for months and it was never paid.
What will the next 12 months hold?
Exciting period of growth as we have just moved into new offices and will be hiring more specialists to help us grow the business both in the UK and internationally.
Where do you want the business to be in 10 years time?
Sold five years previously.
If you were given £1 million to invest in the company how would you use it?
Hire some more good people, open a London and US office, create an IP Fund to buy orphan IP, increase the value and then sell it for a profit and, oh yeah, buy a new coffee machine for the office.
What's the best part of running a business?
Being my own boss and making a difference to my clients and my team – I try to let the team manage certain types of work or aspects of the business because they enjoy it, not because they are best qualified to do it. I think they do a better job as a result.