Boss of Swindon tech firm Appsbroker wants the UK to follow lead of India and Romania
Mike Conner, who set up Old Town-based Appsbroker 12 years ago, suggested more graduate apprenticeships in areas like software engineering could help trap top talent in Swindon.
The 46-year-old, whose business last year turned over £23 million, said: “It starts with the schools. Swindon’s undoubtedly got talent, but I think an awful lot of it leaves Swindon because the next steps aren’t that clear.
“We take kids from A-level and we’ve got a graduate apprenticeship, so we pay them throughout their four years. They come away with a degree of being highly relevant to our business. There needs to be more of that.”
Mr Conner’s firm, Appsbroker, builds IT applications for big business – allowing them to do everything from rendering hugely complicated film footage to banks being able to transfer huge amounts of customer information into new databases.
The bosses’ comments follow the announcement earlier this month of an ambitious new campaign to turn Swindon into Britain’s answer to Silicon Valley and attract thousands of new tech jobs to the area.
Called TechSwindon and led by group Switch on to Swindon, the campaign will shine a light on the 2,800 businesses already making digital products and improving links with the 25,000 firms across the county that rely on them.
Mr Conner called for action: “I think although Switch on to Swindon is a great show of force that there’s great vibrancy in the town, I feel we need those practical steps that actually create the skills base. It’s partly the technical colleges, the universities, but it’s also how we bring talent into Swindon.”
He compared the situation in the UK to that in Romanian city Iais, where Appsbroker has offices. The town trains thousands of IT graduates every year.
“You wouldn’t believe how far they’ve come in 25 years from [communist politician] Ceausescu’s crippling poverty to just an incredibly easy place to build businesses,” said Mr Conner. “We don’t need to compare ourselves against any other town in the UK. We need to compare ourselves against towns in other nations that are doing it better.”
APPSBROKER chief Mike Conner struck out on his own when he was fired from his tech sales job after breaking his leg on the rugby pitch.
It proved to be a good move for the ex-Bassett winger, whose leg was crushed on the try line by a Devizes loose forward.
Last year, his tech firm turned over £23m, employing 130 people in Swindon.
Mr Conner, a keen skier who lives in Cirencester with his wife and three children, says it is Appsbroker’s creativity that sets it apart.
The company works closely with Google to offer big businesses ranging from HSBC to Jaguar Land Rover different digital applications to help their businesses work better.
He points to the company’s logo, a butterfly: “Butterflies and humans share 97 per cent commonality at a chromosome level. That three per cent makes it a butterfly or a human. If you look at IT in most organisations it’s 97 per cent. We’re concentrated on the three per cent that makes you a great butterfly or a great human."
“It means you don’t win the massive contracts that help you grow faster, but there are going to be 300 organisations that will do that just as well as us. In terms of listening, understanding and agreeing on the solution and having the ability to build that solution really quickly – that’s where the three per cent is.”
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