How a war injury in 1943 lead to a software development centre in Poland

I recently met up with the CEO of finance software maker Microgen. One of the things we talked about was outsourcing. Microgen does a lot of its development work in Poland. The story behind this is a great one.

Neil Thompson, CTO of Microgen, discusses how, following the advice of his father who was injured in WWII in Poland, he came to launch a software development centre in Poland.

By Neil Thompson

“I started a software company in Poland because my father was injured in the war. He spent six months in a hospital bed next to a polish sailor who didn’t speak English so, to avoid dying of boredom while his leg healed, he learnt Polish. He was told by the sailor that Polish people were good technically and had a strong work ethic.

In 1992, I was trying to start my second software company and could not afford English programmer’s rates. On my father’s advice, I went to Wroclaw, Poland, where they had a huge technical university as well as eight other universities in the same city. I found two graduates who helped me to recruit nine programmers and we started on our first contract writing a sales management system for ICL.  It was successful and we prospered although it was initially a hand to mouth existence.  I spent half my time in Poland and the rest, working as a salesman or doing consultancy work in Abu Dhabi to help pay the wage bills.

I was then approached by a salesman and an accountant whom I knew from a previous life and who believed there was an opening in investment banks for a ‘Rules Engine’ which could be used by business professionals to develop and control business logic.  I developed a prototype in Poland and together we started a London based company to sell and market the product; OST Business Rules.  UBS in London was our first customer. The product was a success so we went on to sell it to a number of investment banks with all the development work being carried out in Poland.

In 2002,  Microgen plc acquired our business, despite my expectation to either leave or be resigned from the company, due to always having been an entrepreneur, the company allowed me to continue to run the software house in Poland.  Supported by Microgen, we re-wrote the Rules Engine to use “In Memory” processing to achieve unrivalled levels of performance. The product Microgen Aptitude was launched in 2007.  While ‘In Memory’ processing is now in vogue, back in 2002, it was a novel architecture and enabled Microgen to realise great success in the market.

We celebrated out 20th Anniversary last year and Microgen Poland has grown to almost 100 staff. We have produced Microgen Aptitude and the Microgen Accounting Hub products, both of which have been adopted widely are used in some of the largest financial services, telecommunications and digital media companies amongst others. 

Over the last 20 years, the Polish staff have proven to be consistently loyal and innovative and we have a stable team of clever people who other companies envy and regularly try to steal.  With hindsight, the choice of Wroclaw seems prescient as it has become an important technical centre with IBM, Google, Microsoft, Credit Suisse, Philips and many other Western companies since opening offices in the area – in fact, it was all due to a war injury that happened in 1943!”

Read more about sending your IT to central and eastern Europe:

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Agile software development demand could put nearshore IT in the spotlight

Are nearshore suppliers the best low cost option for agile software development?

Vampire IT service workers that tell you as it is.

Why more businesses are nearshoring in Eastern Europe

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