Capita seeks small firm link-ups

Jamie Coleman (left), Paul Reid, of Sigma Seven, and Paul Birkin (right). Picture: Colin Hattersley
Jamie Coleman (left), Paul Reid, of Sigma Seven, and Paul Birkin (right). Picture: Colin Hattersley
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OUTSOURCING giant Capita is seeking more opportunities to team up with smaller technology firms after acquiring Edinburgh-based digital mapping outfit Sigma Seven.

Paul Birkin, chief technology officer at the group’s IT Enterprise Services division, told Scotland on Sunday on a visit to the CodeBase technology incubator that he was “blown away” by the quality of start-ups at the site, which Capita has sponsored since January.

Birkin added: “We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, and these guys are innovative in a different way. You sometimes go to incubators and see one good company, but the ones here are stellar and, more importantly, they know what they want to do.”

Among the start-ups that Birkin met were data analytics firm Aquila Insight, mobile software developer BitWink and internet security specialists Symphonic and ZoneFox.

However, Birkin insisted: “I’m not here to look at what’s the next big acquisition; it’s all about partnerships.

“There’s a huge opportunity to take the breadth and scale of Capita’s balance sheet along with their innovation.”

Sigma Seven, located a stone’s throw away from the Scottish Parliament, was one of four small firms bought by Capita recently for a total of £22 million. Co-founder and managing director Paul Reid said the firm, which counts utilities such as ScottishPower and Scottish Water among its clients, was now working alongside Capita’s AMT-Sybex subsidiary “but we’ll be keeping our separate identities”.

He added: “Capita acquired us to help us grow and we’ll be challenged to meet targets, but it’s a collaborative process.”

There are more than 60 firms employing about 400 staff at the CodeBase facility, which was established last year in a brutalist 11-storey
office block that once housed government agencies.

Managing director Jamie Coleman said: “Whether they end up being acquired or not, I’m looking for founding teams who are deeply passionate about the business they’re building. Moving from start-up to scale-up is the trick, and that journey is the point of CodeBase.”