More than 1,000 brands rely on Brightpearl to transact more than £1.3bn of trade across 26 countries. The company has seen a 77% increase in year-on-year new business growth and delivered 34% revenue growth in the last 12 months alone. Brightpearl was recently voted the top SaaS company to work for in Britain, beating companies such as Microsoft, Adobe and LinkedIn.
The latest growth round for the ambitious tech firm was led by Cipio Partners, who will join existing investors MMC Ventures and Notion Capital.
“Our mission is to enable intelligent retail,” says Brightpearl CEO, Derek O’Carroll. “We’ve experienced tremendous growth over the last year because of our ability to service the need from fast-growing brands for a solution that automates their operational processes and supports real-time decision making, which is absolutely vital in today’s culture of immediacy for retailers and wholesalers.
“It’s a real credit to the Brightpearl team and the support of our customers that we have secured investment from a leading European technology investment firm. We plan to invest these funds into expanding our service and introducing machine learning capabilities to give our customers even more value when making business decisions.”
Speaking on the growth round, Roland Dennert, a Managing Partner at Cipio Partners, adds: ”A big reason why Brightpearl’s retail ERP platform is catching on fast is that it provides multichannel retailers with a step-change improvement in ERP implementation time while being on feature parity or better for the targeted market than much more complex ERP solutions.”
Russell Klein, chief development officer at BigCommerce, commenting on the growth capital, says: “What initially drew us to partner with Brightpearl is the same thing that continues to make them a valued BigCommerce partner today – a steadfast commitment to simplifying the merchant’s back-office experience. This new investment, combined with their customer-first mentality, will only strengthen the company’s ability to service BigCommerce merchants with a best-in-breed ERP solution.”
With a view to scaling the business internationally, Brightpearl has also appointed Maurice Helfgott as Chairman, the former Marks & Spencer main board director, who has built a reputation for transforming the fortunes of fashion businesses, especially online. He is the founder of Amery Capital, an investment and advisory firm with a principal focus on retail and digital consumer businesses.
As well as supporting Amery’s portfolio of companies including Oliver Sweeney, Goat, and Long Tall Sally, Helfgott is the Senior Independent Director of Moss Bros Group and NED at luxury street style brand END.Clothing. With 30 years of retail operations and industry expertise, Helfgott now makes the unique move to the technology sector by joining Brightpearl, with a focus on product innovation, building consumer and brand loyalty for its clients, and strategic operational growth.
Speaking on his appointment as Chairman, Helfgott said, “After years of intensive high-quality tech development, Brightpearl have produced an excellent and capable platform, growing rapidly under impressive leadership. The next step is introducing real-time machine learning data into the platform, so our customers are able to make more informed decisions — that’s hugely valuable in the current retail climate.
“Retail and wholesale are in a stage of transformation and reinvention and there is a huge opportunity in this sector. I know from experience that automating the back office to work efficiently is now a major priority for merchants. Brightpearl has purpose built an ERP solution that’s designed specifically for retailers and wholesalers to take back control of their business and generate significant operational gains.
“I’ve always taken good note of the maxim ‘armchair generals study strategy, professionals study logistics’. Product and marketing capability are vital to building a successful brand but efficient and effective back office capabilities are essential to building and scaling a successful business. Quality back office and ERP solutions are indispensable, especially in an increasingly fast, digital, complex operating environment. I’m really looking forward to working with Brightpearl’s customers, its stakeholders, board, and management team as we continue to develop and deploy our proven platform and accelerate Brightpearl’s international expansion, particularly in the US.”
Speaking on the appointment of Helfgott, O’Carroll adds: “We’re delighted to have Maurice join us. Brightpearl will benefit from his broad strategic and operational experience across large and smaller retail brands with international pedigree. This will prove vital as we accelerate our growth efforts and his wealth of retail experience means that we’ll be able to get even closer to our customers as we continue to develop our dedicated retail ERP platform to serve the operational needs of retailers and wholesalers.”
Airbus CEO urges trade war ceasefire, easing of COVID travel bans
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) – The head of European planemaker Airbus called on Saturday for a “ceasefire” in a transatlantic trade war over aircraft subsidies, saying tit-for-tat tariffs on planes and other goods had aggravated damage from the COVID-19 crisis.
Washington progressively imposed import duties of 15% on Airbus jets from 2019 after a prolonged dispute at the World Trade Organization, and the EU responded with matching tariffs on Boeing jets a year later. Wine, whisky and other goods are also affected.
“This dispute, which is now an old dispute, has put us in a lose-lose situation,” Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said in a radio interview.
“We have ended up in a situation where wisdom would normally dictate that we have a ceasefire and resolve this conflict,” he told France Inter.
Boeing was not immediately available for comment.
Brazil, which has waged separate battles with Canada over subsidies for smaller regional jets, on Thursday dropped its own complaint against Ottawa and called for a global peace deal between producing nations on support for aerospace.
Faury said the dispute with Boeing was particularly damaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has badly hit air travel and led to travel restrictions or border closures. He expressed particular concern about widening bans within Europe.
“We are extremely frustrated by the barriers that restrict personal movement and it is almost impossible today to travel in Europe by plane, even domestically,” he said.
“The priority no. 1 for countries in general is to reopen frontiers and allow people to travel on the basis of tests and then eventually vaccinations.”
The comments come as businesses increase pressure on governments to reopen economies as coronavirus vaccine roll-outs gather pace across Europe.
France has defended recently introduced border restrictions, saying they will help the government avoid a new lockdown and stay in force until at least the end of February.
Germany installed border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria last Sunday, drawing protest from Austria and concerns about supply-chain disruptions.
Berlin calls the move a temporary measure of last resort.
Poland said on Saturday it had not ruled out imposing restrictions at the country’s borders with Slovakia and the Czech Republic due to rising COVID-19 cases.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
Why a predictable cold snap crippled the Texas power grid
By Tim McLaughlin and Stephanie Kelly
(Reuters) – As Texans cranked up their heaters early Monday to combat plunging temperatures, a record surge of electricity demand set off a disastrous chain reaction in the state’s power grid.
Wind turbines in the state’s northern Panhandle locked up. Natural gas plants shut down when frozen pipes and components shut off fuel flow. A South Texas nuclear reactor went dark after a five-foot section of uninsulated pipe seized up. Power outages quickly spread statewide – leaving millions shivering in their homes for days, with deadly consequences.
It could have been far worse: Before dawn on Monday, the state’s grid operator was “seconds and minutes” away from an uncontrolled blackout for its 26 million customers, its CEO has said. Such a collapse occurs when operators lose the ability to manage the crisis through rolling blackouts; in such cases, it can take weeks or months to fully restore power to customers.
Monday was one of the state’s coldest days in more than a century – but the unprecedented power crisis was hardly unpredictable after Texas had experienced a similar, though less severe, disruption during a 2011 cold snap. Still, Texas power producers failed to adequately winter-proof their systems. And the state’s grid operator underestimated its need for reserve power capacity before the crisis, then moved too slowly to tell utilities to institute rolling blackouts to protect against a grid meltdown, energy analysts, traders and economists said.
Early signs of trouble came long before the forced outages. Two days earlier, for example, the grid suddenly lost 539 megawatts (MW) of power, or enough electricity for nearly 108,000 homes, according to operational messages disclosed by the state’s primary grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
The crisis stemmed from a unique confluence of weaknesses in the state’s power system.
Texas is the only state in the continental United States with an independent and isolated grid. That allows the state to avoid federal regulation – but also severely limits its ability to draw emergency power from other grids. ERCOT also operates the only major U.S. grid that does not have a capacity market – a system that provides payments to operators to be on standby to supply power during severe weather events.
After more than 3 million ERCOT customers lost power in a February 2011 freeze, federal regulators recommended that ERCOT prepare for winter with the same urgency as it does the peak summer season. They also said that, while ERCOT’s reserve power capacity looked good on paper, it did not take into account that many generation units could get knocked offline by freezing weather.
“There were prior severe cold weather events in the Southwest in 1983, 1989, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2010,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corp staff summarized after investigating the state’s 2011 rolling blackouts. “Extensive generator failures overwhelmed ERCOT’s reserves, which eventually dropped below the level of safe operation.”
ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko did not comment in detail about the causes of the power crisis but said the grid’s leadership plans to re-evaluate the assumptions that go into its forecasts.
The freeze was easy to see coming, said Jay Apt, co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center.
“When I read that this was a black-swan event, I just have to wonder whether the folks who are saying that have been in this business long enough that they forgot everything, or just came into it,” Apt said. “People need to recognize that this sort of weather is pretty common.”
This week’s cold snap left 4.5 million ERCOT customers without power. More than 14.5 million Texans endured a related water-supply crisis as pipes froze and burst. About 65,000 customers remained without power as of Saturday afternoon, even as temperatures started to rise, according to website PowerOutage.US.
State health officials have linked more than two dozen deaths to the power crisis. Some died from hypothermia or possible carbon monoxide poisoning caused by portable generators running in basements and garages without enough ventilation. Officials say they suspect the death count will rise as more bodies are discovered.
THIN POWER RESERVE
In the central Texas city of Austin, the state capital, the minimum February temperature usually falls between 42 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 9 degrees Celsius). This past week, temperatures fell as low as 6 degrees Fahrenheit (-14 degrees Celsius).
In November, ERCOT assured that the grid was prepared to handle such a dire scenario.
“We studied a range of potential risks under both normal and extreme conditions, and believe there is sufficient generation to adequately serve our customers,” said ERCOT’s manager of resource adequacy, Pete Warnken, in a report that month.
Warnken could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
Under normal winter conditions, ERCOT forecast it would have about 16,200 MW of power reserves. But under extreme conditions, it predicted a reserve cushion of only about 1,350 MW. That assumed only 23,500 MW of generation outages. During the peak of this week’s crisis, more than 30,000 MW was forced off the grid.
Other U.S. grid operators maintain a capacity market to supply extra power in extreme conditions – paying operators on an ongoing basis, whether they produce power or not. Capacity market auctions determine, three years in advance, the price that power generators receive in exchange for being on emergency standby.
Instead, ERCOT relies on a wholesale electricity market, where free market pricing provides incentives for generators to provide daily power and to make investments to ensure reliability in peak periods, according to economists. The system relied on the theory that power plants should make high profits when energy demand and prices soar – providing them ample money to make investments in, for example, winterization. The Texas legislature restructured the state’s electric market in 1999.
Since 2010, ERCOT’s reserve margin – the buffer between generation capacity versus forecasted demand – has dropped to about 10% from about 20%. This has put pressure on generators during demand spikes, making the grid less flexible, according to North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a nonprofit regulator.
That thin margin for error set off alarms early Monday morning among energy traders and analysts as they watched a sudden drop in the electrical frequency of the Texas grid. One analyst compared it to watching the pulse of a hospital patient drop to life-threatening levels.
Too much of a drop is catastrophic because it would trigger automatic relay switches to disconnect power sources from the grid, setting off uncontrolled blackouts statewide. Dan Jones, an energy analyst at Monterey LLC, watched from his home office in Delaware as the grid’s frequency dropped quickly toward the point that would trigger the automatic shutdowns.
“If you’re not in control, and you are letting the equipment do it, that’s just chaos,” Jones said.
By Sunday afternoon about 3:15 p.m. (CST), ERCOT’s control room signaled it had run out of options to boost electric generation to match the soaring demand. Operators issued a warning that there was “no market solution” for the projected shortage, according to control room messages published by ERCOT on its website.
Adam Sinn, president of Houston-based energy trading firm Aspire Commodities, said ERCOT waited far too long to start telling utilities to cut customers’ power to guard against a grid meltdown. The problems, he said, were readily apparent several days before Monday.
“ERCOT was letting the system get weaker and weaker and weaker,” Sinn said in an interview. “I was thinking: Holy shit, what is this grid operator doing? He has to cut load.”
Sinn said he started texting his friends on Sunday night, warning them to expect widespread outages.
‘SECONDS AND MINUTES’
Early Monday morning, one of the largest sources of electricity in the state – the unit 1 reactor at the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station – stopped producing power after the small section of pipe froze in temperatures that averaged 17 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius). The grid lost access to 1,350 MW of nuclear power – enough to power about 270,000 homes – after automatic sensors detected the frozen pipe and protectively shut down the reactor, said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
About 2:30 a.m. (CST), the South Plains Electric Cooperative in Lubbock said it received a phone call from ERCOT to cut power to its customers. Inside the ERCOT control room, staff members scrambled to call utilities and cooperatives statewide to tell them to do the same, according to operational messages disclosed by the grid operator.
Three days later, ERCOT Chief Executive Bill Magness acknowledged that the grid operator had only narrowly avoided the calamity of uncontrolled blackouts.
“If we hadn’t taken action,” he said on Thursday, “it was seconds and minutes (away), given the amount of generation that was coming off the system at the same time that the demand was still going up.”
(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin and Stephanie Kelly; additional reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Simon Webb and Brian Thevenot)
UK could declare Brexit ‘water wars’ – The Telegraph
(Reuters) – Britain could restrict imports of European mineral water and several food products under retaliatory measures being considered by ministers over Brussels’ refusal to end its blockade on British shellfish, the Telegraph reported.
Senior government sources pointed to potential restrictions on the importing of mineral water and seed potatoes, the report said.
(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
Former Bank of England Governor Carney joins board of digital payments company Stripe
By Kanishka Singh (Reuters) – Mark Carney, former head of the UK and Canadian central banks, has joined the board...
Airbus CEO urges trade war ceasefire, easing of COVID travel bans
By Tim Hepher PARIS (Reuters) – The head of European planemaker Airbus called on Saturday for a “ceasefire” in a...
Why a predictable cold snap crippled the Texas power grid
By Tim McLaughlin and Stephanie Kelly (Reuters) – As Texans cranked up their heaters early Monday to combat plunging temperatures,...
UK could declare Brexit ‘water wars’ – The Telegraph
(Reuters) – Britain could restrict imports of European mineral water and several food products under retaliatory measures being considered by...
Commerzbank to lose 1.7 million clients by 2024 – Welt am Sonntag
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Commerzbank expects to lose 1.7 million customers by 2024 as part of its current restructuring, resulting in...
Bitcoin and ethereum prices ‘seem high,’ says Musk
(Reuters) – Billionaire CEO Elon Musk said on Saturday the price of bitcoin and ethereum seemed high, at a time...
Sunak to raise business tax to pay for COVID-19 support – The Sunday Times
(Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak is set to increase a tax on business to pay for an extension...
FTSE Russell to include 11 stocks from China’s STAR Market in global benchmarks
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Index provider FTSE Russell will add 11 stocks from China’s STAR Market to its global benchmarks, according...
Foxconn chairman says expects “limited impact” from chip shortage on clients
TAIPEI (Reuters) – The chairman of Apple Inc supplier Foxconn said on Saturday he expects his company and its clients...
Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin hit a fresh high in Asian trading on Saturday, extending a two-month rally that saw its...