Written by David Laister, and originally published by Business Live
Tech Nation spotlight falls on Lucy Blackley and her Bombyx PLM platform to streamline manufacturing
A tech entrepreneur from Hull has been named as one of the top emerging talents in her field as she prepares to scale up her ethical manufacturing support platform.
Disillusioned by the fast fashion industry she had launched her career in, Lucy Blackley brought forward Bombyx PLM, providing software to manage the entire lifecycle of products, integrating people, data, processes and business systems.
Her efforts have seen her recognised as a Tech Nation Regional Rising Star, and the only representative from the Humber, as she looks to streamline operations and enhance creativity.
“It is really exciting,” she said. “I’m absolutely ecstatic to be a regional winner.
“Bombyx has had a brilliant year engaging with brands, manufacturers, and educational institutes. After quite a few years building away at our product innovation platform, it’s such a great feeling to be recognised for what we’re doing and how we’re transforming product design and manufacturing industries. We’re levelling the playing field for brands and manufacturers of all shapes and sizes, to get on board digitally with solutions that streamline their products’ lifecycle process and enable them to scale both their brand and product ranges through the aid of digital means that have been built for product people by product people.
“With all that had been going on with the virus it is a nice bit of news. My business hasn’t been affected, but it doesn’t stop you panicking about what is going on in the world. It is nice to receive as I look to go to the next step for our business.”
Born in Hull, she went to university in Manchester, transferring to Birmingham, before heading to London.
By her mid 20s she was head of product development for European fashion e-commerce business Zalando in Berlin.
“I met a lot of interesting characters in the industry and their ethics didn’t align with mine,” she said, recalling the first turns in the path that led to her own tech platform. “I felt a little bit lost about what I was serving and I’ve witnessed a lot of horror stories.”
“I knew there needed to be some form of change, and it needed to change with company employees. Everyone channels energy at supply chains and ethics there, and it is absolutely right, but if you don’t inform your employees about how you want to act as a company people become pressured to do the work and crack on, and hitting deadlines and budget matters at all cost. The real cost is for the supply chain.
“I saw a role in the industry I wanted to change.”
Recognition for an early-stage company has shone the spotlight on her efforts from her C4DI base. Bombyx provides a product information backbone to a business. She said the platform reduces time to market, improves product quality, reduces prototyping costs, identifies potential sales opportunities and revenue contributions, maintains and sustains operational serviceability, and reduces environmental impacts at end-of-life.
“The company has been going for three years now and it is time to scale up,” she said. “I am looking at getting investors, people with the same values as me and want to change the world, not just from product lifecycle management, but in other areas of the industry, manufacturing in more detail, finance, procurement, robotics, artificial intelligence, mapping out the sustainable route, calculating emissions – there’s a lot of good to do.
“We cannot move fast enough, so I need to scale up.”
Currently she works with a team of six in India, having met through an entrepreneurial web-based match-making service where ideas were pitched and solutions offered.
“They have been with me from the start, they are so incredible at what they do, and it has been amazing. It is not an easy job, not for the faint hearted, but it is something I love and something that means so much to me. It is about helping every single person through the supply chain, and it is not just for fashion – we’re looking at other areas.”
PPE has emerged, with collaboration with Ansell at global product director level, while homeware, furniture, electronics and food and drink are all on the target list.
“A lot of industries are so traditional, I have a lot of experience in tech and clothing, but production shares so many traits – and many are working on similar things,” she said.
As more major brands express an interest – no doubt helped by UK fast fashion headlines of late – the team will grow.
“We will build up, I plan to have people in different countries as I have clients on different continents, but I also want to onshore work here. We will need a team in the UK.
“I’m definitely staying in Hull. Born here, I didn’t really like it, growing up I wanted to get out, I was going to London, heavily into the music, going to gigs, I felt there were a lot more inspiring places. Only when I came back did I see how much was going on, how many people were innovating. Now I love Hull, I never thought I would say that and the family are shocked! I’ve also met my partner here.
“It is a case of ‘so far so good’, but we need to constantly get better and improve production and services.”
The first to go to university in her family, she was part of the 2000 technology boom “when everyone got a PC and didn’t come out of their room again”.
“I got involved in online communities, realised just how far the internet goes, got involved in tech and purchasing, from CDs to MP3 and how that has continued.”
Proud to be blazing a trail for women in the industry too, she noted how 39 per cent of those remaining in the competition are female-founded.
The 33-year-old has found great support with C4DI too, with hub managing director John Connolly and chair David Keel sitting as non-executive directors.
The winner of the Tech Start-Up of the Year 2019 at the Hull and Humber Tech Awards said: “The region is THE place to be for entrepreneurs and startups, especially Hull and our Centre for Digital Innovation incubator. There’s a mass wealth of knowledge between those four walls and throughout the city itself. We have such a supportive community here!
“Bombyx has gone from strength to strength since inception, but being located here has certainly progressed us further than we could have imagined in such a short space of time. It is without a doubt through the constant support of our region’s tech community and especially the members of C4DI itself.”
Lucy is sharing her knowledge too. She has lectured in PLM at the University of Leeds, with York St Johns University looming in the new year.
Now selected in the top 55, Tech Nation – the platform for sector development – will whittle down to a final 20 businesses that will be showcased to a curated audience of investors, corporates, influencers and the wider tech ecosystem. A panel will select the final 10, to be revealed in February.
Also vying for a position are Leeds’ Beaconsoft, Hyper, Cognito Learning and Klaxon.