Computer Weekly UKtech50: Rising stars 2013

Computer Weekly announces the top ten people who have the potential to shape the future of the UK technology industry

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Computer Weekly has recognised ten rising stars in the IT industry as part of its annual UKtech50 awards.

The Computer Weekly UKtech50 event highlights the most influential people in the IT industry, and this year an additional ten people were identified as rising stars in the industry.

These are individuals who have shown the potential to shape the industry in the coming years; from shaking up the BBC’s attitudes to digital, to encouraging kids how to code.

The Rising Stars list was compiled in association with BCSEntrepeneurs. Chair, Paul Excell said: “World-class technology leaders and entrepreneurs are the key to sustainable growth.  BCS is delighted to support this Rising Stars award – to spotlight and celebrate vital entrepreneurial talent for today and tomorrow."

Rising Star: Dominic Campbell, founder of FutureGov

Campbell founded FutureGov in 2008. It focuses on highlighting the power of digital and social for local government to deliver better cheaper public services. 

"Expectations are too low when it comes to what good digital technology looks like and how it can transform local public services," says Campbell. "The longer local government goes on accepting "good enough", the more it gets left behind. We have a vision for what well designed and delightful to use digital public services can look like. I want FutureGov to set the standard for elegant digital technology, not just in local government but across the piece."

Rising Star: Daniel Heaf, CDO, BBC Worldwide

At only 36, Daniel Heaf is the chief digital technology officer at BBC Worldwide. With a background in investing in startups, Heaf looks far and wide for innovative companies to partner with the Beeb.

But he does not believe in “innovation for innovation’s sake”.

Heaf says he does not go about his day thinking, "how can I be more innovative?" Instead, he concentrates on how digital can make his customers’ lives better.

Investing in startups in his previous role has highlighted the potential of working with small businesses, but he uses a range of technology providers in the BBC, from startups to large suppliers.

“We don’t incorporate startups because we’re doing them a favour; we do it because they’re the right company,” says Heaf.

In conjunction with BBC’s The Lab, Heaf has secured commercial partnerships with two startups which are changing the way the BBC approaches digital.

Rising Star: Bruce Hellman, CEO and co-founder uMotif

Bruce Hellman is the CEO and co-founder of uMotif, which won first place at the Cisco Big Awards last month. The cheque of $100,000 will go towards developing uMotif as a digital health company which allows users to keep track of their health via mobile and web applications.

Hellman says people with long-term medical conditions spend 8,700 hours managing it themselves and only three hours with a clinician – the uMotif platform allows people to share their data with care professionals to improve treatments, save lives and reduce healthcare costs. 

“We’re at the stage where digital health is about to start exploding,” says Hellman, who predicts the market will hit its tipping point in the next two to four years.

Hellman says "quantified self" is a growing trend for people to track themselves in everyday life, thanks to the popularity of Fuel Band and Fit Bit. This, combined with NHS England and the government calling for open data – which makes the market more transparent – will help to precipitate the tipping point.

“All these trends are happening at the same time and we’re taking away the barriers,” he says. “But it will take a few years. There’s not going to be a Snapchat in health – it’s not going to go from zero to everyone overnight.”

One of Hellman’s goals is to get to the stage where uMotif is prescribed along with medication. He said Welldoc in the US is prescribing its platform, and he wants to get to that stage in the UK.

Rising Star: Michael Ibbitson, CIO, Gatwick Airport

Michael Ibbitson has been CIO of Gatwick Airport for less than two years, but he has already won backing from the board for a project to move its IT infrastructure in the cloud, eliminate on-site datacentres and hundreds of unnecessary applications, and refocus IT on making life easier for passengers.

Ibbitson is predicting huge savings as Gatwick stops providing employees with BlackBerry devices, and instead encourages staff to use their own smartphones and tablets.

Ibbitson – who prepared for his new job by watching each episode of the BBC’s Inside Gatwick series – is a veteran of airport IT, having worked in airports in Abu Dhabi, Mumbai and Doha.

Gatwick’s board had some initial reservations when Ibbitson presented his modernisation strategy to the board, he says. But the board members changed their minds once they saw what the cloud could do.

“By the next board meeting, every executive was using it for their board papers,” says Ibbitson. “They really got the idea and the concept.”

Between now and the end of the decade, Gatwick plans to simplify its aging IT infrastructure by moving as many services as possible into the cloud.

Rising Star: Alastair Mitchell, CEO  and co-founder, Huddle

Alastair Mitchell co-founded Huddle, the cloud-based collaboration tool for business. Since its inception in 2006, it now sees employees of over 100,000 companies using its product, along with major UK and US government customers as well as corporations including National Grid, Procter & Gamble, O2 and Everything Everywhere.

Before Huddle, Mitchell set up two separate application service providers (ASPs), which failed to become successful businesses.

“In those days everyone ran their own kit – little clouds. In one of the ASPs I set up, the box we owned and ran, that sat in the corner of the office, cost more than the whole of Huddle's first year of operation,” says Mitchell.

He says the multi-tenancy and elasticity of the cloud makes it a far cry from the ASP model. 

“There is a big difference between cloud and ASP, and collaboration is one of those markets where the true cloud is ideal - cloud revolutionises it,” he says.

But there remains a lot of confusion: “Many corporations still think the cloud is another datacentre where they stick things,” he says.

Today, Huddle has four offices in the US and is about to set up operations in Australia, which, according to CEO Alastair Mitchell, is “a jumping-off point for the south-east Asia market”.

The company’s rapid growth is the result of both the cloud and collaboration becoming investment priorities for CIOs. It has reported 100% growth in revenues in its latest results.

Rising Star: Belinda Parmar, founder of Little Miss Geek, and CEO of Lady Geek

Belinda and her team have been consulting corporate clients on how to transform the way they sell to women in retail, advertising, social media and web content. Little Miss Geek is the not-for-profit arm of the business, which inspires young women to become technology pioneers.

At an industry roundtable, Parmar said that 40% more females leave the industry after 10 years compared with their male counterparts.

Parmar said the gender divide in technology starts from a young age, in the different ways in which parents and schools treat girls compared with boys.

“Little Miss Geek is predestined to think that technology is not for her,” she says.

Rising Star: Kathryn Parsons, co-founder, Decoded (code in a day)

Kathryn is the co-founder of Decoded which teaches people to code in a day. Alumni of Decoded include Talk Talk, Guardian Media Group, Accenture, Google and eBay.

Parsons says: “We’ve had a 50/50 gender split on training at Decoded, but the difference is that the females say they are going to fail. The men do not.”

But Parsons also says when first tackling how to code, women immediately don’t feel like they have the ability to do it. She believes this is down to an image problem in the commercial and technology world.

She says there are not enough women in senior positions in technology to act as role models and mentors, to encourage more woman to be ambitious in technology when they are outnumbered by men.

Rising Star: Alastair Paterson, CEO and co-founder Digital Shadows

Paterson is the CEO and co-founder of the cyber-threat monitoring service that helps customers – including some of the world’s largest banks – to prevent cyber attacks and data leaking from their organisations.

The two-year-old startup has won innovation awards recognition from Cisco, SWIFT, Accenture and Gartner. The company was one of the first to move into the Canary Wharf Group's Level 39 financial technology incubator.

“We’ve doubled the size of our team this year and we’re just closing our first venture capital round. So we have big plans for the next year,” says Paterson.

Challenges that Digital Shadows has faced over the past year revolve around money and financing. “Raising money is difficult because it’s time-consuming. It’s a danger if you get distracted raising money,” he says.

“I think the challenges we face are similar to other startups – you don’t have a lot of time and you’ve got to learn where to focus.

“It’s about engaging with customers, and it is about what you do that they particularly like.”

He says there is a problem with the visa system in the UK, as it is difficult to hire talent from abroad. “Hiring really high-calibre tech people is incredibly difficult. There’s a lot of competition and not enough good people,” he says.

Paterson says it is crucial the UK attracts the best and brightest people from around the world to solve this issue. “Anything the government can do to make that easier – at the moment it’s not easy enough – would make a big difference to us and a lot of companies, and help London become the tech hub it really should be,” he says.

Rising Star: Russ Shaw, Tech London advocates

Shaw is founder of Tech London Advocates, a private-sector-led coalition of expert individuals from the technology sector and broader community, who have been brought together to champion London as a world-class hub for technology and digital businesses. It strives to support London's technology startups and high-growth businesses in finding new investment, new talent and continued success.

Shaw is also an angel and venture investor and non-executive director of a number of high-growth businesses, including Dialog, a publicly traded semiconductor company; AIM-listed Cupid PLC; and Unwire, a Danish, venture-backed mobile commerce business. He is also a limited partner in Ariadne Capital’s ACE Fund and an investor in and advisor to Amazing Media Group. He is also a board member of the Tech City Advisory Group.

Previously, Russ was the chairman of the Marketing Group of Great Britain; and was vice-president and general manager at Skype, responsible for Skype’s mobile apps as well as carrier and OEM relationships. He left when Skype was sold to Microsoft.

Rising Star: Clare Sutcliffe, CEO and co-founder, Code Club

Clare Sutcliffe has brought computing to primary schools without dumbing it down, capturing the creativity of the computing medium, negotiating to bring major stakeholders such as ARM and Google on board, as well as harnessing the energy of individual volunteers through an open and social approach.

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