The BLE Blog

My BLE – 5 minutes with Ian Downes

In the first of our My BLE series, we catch up with Ian Downes of Start Licensing to find out what the event means to him. 

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, a UK based licensing agency. Start was set up in 2003 by Ian and now represents a range of clients including The Beano, Britvic Soft Drinks, Asterix and Jacqueline Wilson. Ian also chaired the judging panel for BLE’s License This! competition 2014.

How many years have you been attending the show?
We have been an exhibitor since 2004 – we just missed 2003 I believe – I set up Start Licensing that year after leaving Fox Kids Europe, I exhibited at the show with Fox Kids so I think I have been attending since the first BLE.

How long do you usually stay for?
As long as possible – as an exhibitor we are there throughout the show and take a lot of pride in doing a full shift – even on the last day we are having meetings when boxes are being packed around us! I think the show is an excellent opportunity for us and we try to make the most of it.

What do you remember about your first visit?
I think the over-riding impression everyone gets on their first visit to BLE is the scale of the industry and the diversity within it – that said, all the exhibitors are looking to license their Intellectual Property so whether it is Asterix or Aston Martin the process is the same. I think people are also impressed by the effort exhibitors put into the stands – it is a very visual show with some fantastic stands ..and some great freebies (apparently).

Have your needs changed in terms of what you want from the show?
As an exhibitor we are keen to present our portfolio in a professional way and BLE allows us to do this. We are keen to meet our existing licensees and to engage with retailers – I think this is a core part of the show. However, increasingly we are hoping that the show allows us to meet new business contacts both in terms of new licensees and new retailers. I think the show is a great way of doing this and we can ride on the marketing wave created by the show.

What do you love most about BLE?
I love meeting people and discussing new ideas. I try to engage with visitors as they walk by and I have found it quite rewarding to do so. I think you have to be proactive; crossed arms staring at an iPad will not get you business!

When I’m at BLE one thing I always do is…
Walk the show. Even as an exhibitor it is useful to walk around and get a feel for what is going on in the industry. I try to find some time to do this every year.

What do you do about lunch?
Miss it.

What are you on the hunt for this year?
For us, the key things are catching up with our existing partners, meeting some retail buyers and if possible some new licensees – especially ones from new business sectors. We are good at winning new business and finding innovative uses for licenses we represent; but BLE helps us to engage with companies that we wouldn’t normally reach. I think that is the added value for us.

What will make it a successful show for you this year?
I think we are looking forward to the show going well from a presentation point of view. We have a great stand contractor – BJA Design – who do a fantastic job. They are very reliable, but I am always happy when I see the stand is up and open for business. I think for me the measurement of success is a series of good productive meetings coupled with some new business – which is converted quickly to ‘real’ deals in the weeks after the show. 

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