Back in November 2016, the Birmingham tech scene celebrated the inaugural Silicon Canal Tech Awards at Boxxed in Digbeth. Two highly sought-after titles on the night were Birmingham’s most influential male and female in technology. The two winners on the night were entrepreneur Andrew Ward and business leader Faye Pressly. We decided to check in with the pair, six months on, to see what they’re up to and what they’ve been doing with all that influence!

Andrew WardScorchsoft (Most Influential Male in Tech 2016)

Give us an update: what’s changed since November?

Things have been moving fast since last November, my team and I have been speaking with all manner of investors whilst juggling the launch of our new business, MODL App. My first business is a web application and mobile app development company called Scorchsoft, and is still going strong. We’ve been preparing for more growth this year, and are recruiting for a new developer to join our team, with a big focus delivering new projects using the cutting-edge new frameworks such as React Native. We changed many of our project management processes in Q4 2017 too, so although our overall output across all businesses has increased, our processes have improved too, which has allowed me to take on new responsibilities by delegating old ones.

 

Which cause are you most passionate about and why?

I’m passionate about Birmingham’s tech scene! It’s inevitable that any high-growth start-up will be slowed down by cash constraints along its path to success, so it’s no surprise that most tech start-ups that make it big-time need assistance in the form of venture investment. Places that do not have tech scene simply cannot support tech start-ups in the same way as those that do. Just look at the local networks: most deals and introductions come from technology entrepreneurs from within your networks, and the best place to meet these people is at tech events taking place in the city.

Birmingham hosts lots of entrepreneurship and technology events, each of which helps to forge new relationships and opportunities. You’ve the various entrepreneurship programs such as B-Start Up, B-SEEN running out of the universities encouraging intelligent new entrepreneurs to take a different career path, and organisations such as Birmingham Future and The Chamber of Commerce encouraging professional networking, and celebrating business success.

I’m excited because business in Birmingham is booming, and initiatives such as Silicon Canal put us on target to become global technology influencers.

 

Where’s your favourite place to work remotely from and why?

I’m not a big fan of working remotely, I like a powerful desktop with dual monitors for optimal productivity. I enjoy having a team around and being able to compartmentalise work from leisure, it gives me focus.

 

What are you plans for the next six months?

The next six months are going to be great fun. Our tech start-up, MODL, has recently becoming revenue generating, and we have just been granted SEIS assurance. The next three months are focused around testing how the market is reacting to our service, adjusting our product based on feedback, and marketing it to new and existing customers in order to get even more feedback and test data. We’re optimising conversion rates, and getting solid numbers about the cost of acquisition of each paying customer, and their expected lifetime value. This activity then aligns with our fundraising goals. We’ve several investors interested providing SEED funding, so when the money lands we will be ready to spend it as effectively as possible. The first goal is to be larger than any modelling agency in the world within 3 years.

 

Faye Pressly – Vanti (Most Influential Female in Tech 2016)

Give us an update: what’s changed since November?

Since the awards in November, I’ve officially started my new role as COO for Vanti and Chair for the Silicon Canal ‘Women in Technology’ working group. New roles has equalled LOTS of new learning!!

Which cause are you most passionate about and why?

Bringing inclusion and diversity to the world of technology. Not just for the sake of it, but because it will generate stronger, more innovative and sustainable businesses and on a wider-scale, will contribute towards solving the overall tech skills gap in the UK. Unless we attract new talent into our industry, we will constantly be struggling to find, attract and retain the kind of people we need, to execute and create the highly complex, ‘never been done before’ projects and products (unless you have a LOT of money to spend). I believe that if organisations can create a culture and workplace environment that is truly safe and inclusive for people to be themselves, this is one step towards being able to attract unique talent from diverse backgrounds. This is only one aspect of many and I’m certainly still no expert, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with people who really know their stuff in this arena and have proven results of what a diverse thinking team can produce. With Birmingham being one of the most diverse cities in the UK, we have the perfect opportunity to bring this into the world of technology for our businesses here.

Where’s your favourite place to work remotely from and why?

It totally depends on the task. If I have a creative presentation to put together or a huge amount of data to read through on multiple spreadsheets, working remotely with just one screen doesn’t work for me. However, when I get into the mode of needing quiet space to concentrate on reading, reviewing documents, blog writing or idea generating, then somewhere with good coffee and a selection of cakes (such as Urban Coffee or BTP!) is by far my favourite.

What are your plans for the next six months?

For me the next six months are going to be exciting! Due to outgrowing our current office, Vanti will be moving to new premises just behind the Mailbox, which has room to support more than double the size of team we have now. We’ll be moving in less than three months so now are fully in to ‘Phase 0’; our initial work to bring the space back to life ahead of making it Birmingham’s first smart building. We’re also going to be launching our strategic plan for the next five years, along with a unique ‘personal development and progression’ plan for everyone that works at Vanti.  It isn’t like anything else we know of in the industry so we’re excited about it!

The Silicon Canal WIT group will also be finalising and executing our strategy to engage, attract and develop ‘Women in Tech’ in the Midlands. This will include several events, one of which is happening on the 12th April and the recruitment of 2 more passionate people to the team.

Finally, I’ll be working closely with my old friends at Mortimer Spinks to launch the results of this years’ Tech.17 survey (official launch is in April). This year we changed the direction and decided to focus purely on the Tech & Digital skills gap. We’ve had thousands of responses from students, parents, non-tech workers, tech workers and business leaders, and will be cross-referencing all of the data to help understand each groups perspectives and needs, and how we can use this to join the dots and REALLY collaborate together on closing the tech & digital skills gap in the UK. The results have already proven incredibly useful for our people strategy at Vanti and how we’re going to approach attracting and engaging with the best talent, so fingers crossed it will help a number of other technology businesses throughout Birmingham and the UK. All in all, a few busy months ahead but incredibly exciting!

 

It’s been great catching up with both Andy and Faye and seeing their journeys unfold. We will continue to keep an eye on their progress and achievements in the run-up to the 2017 Tech Awards and be looking to see who they might hand the baton to later this year.

Be sure to keep up to date with all things Silicon Canal via Twitter @Silicon_Canal and on Facebook.com/siliconcanalBrum

Michael Smith
Author

Michael Smith

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