From Tourism To Tech – Why Cornwall is Disrupting the Software Industry
If you have read the recent Tech Nation report you might be aware of a surprising tech cluster emerging.
Cornwall, in the South West of England, has a well-established reputation as a holiday destination. Its rugged coastline, scenic beaches, spectacular cuisine and friendly locals attract visitors from across the globe, but would we expect it to be a tech hub?
Unbeknownst to many, Cornwall has a rich history with engineering at its heart.
Tin and Copper mining were major industry in Cornwall from the Bronze Age until 1998 when South Crofty closed. The remnants of this heritage are dotted across the landscape still, with stunning engine houses and chimney stacks seen all over the county.
Richard Trevithick was a British engineer from Camborne who is famous for inventing the first high pressured steam engine.
Redruth was also home to the first ever gas street light, invented by William Murdoch.
When all this is considered it seems only logical that the county would continue to embrace its engineering heritage and become pioneers in the tech industry.
In recent years there has been a steady stream of articles referring to Cornwall as the Silicon Valley of the UK, or even Kernowfornia, however, I would be inclined to stay away from this parallel. Cornwall is offering something quite different and unique.
It is a place where the tech industry focuses on collaboration over competition and people are encouraged to take their work-life balance seriously.
Not for profit organisation Software Cornwall is working hard to bring together the many different tech organisations in the county as well as the educational institutions.
This collaboration will allow promotion of the tech sector nationally and internationally, inspiring more start-ups and drawing more business down to the county. Collaboration not competition is key, which fits in well with the typical Cornish ethos.
Truro & Redruth is also the only Tech Cluster to finish in the “Top 10 Clusters” for two years running – placing third for 2017.
Findings from the 2016 Tech Nation Report indicate significant growth to the Truro, Redruth and Camborne tech cluster.
Average turnover currently stands at 153% whilst seeing a [Digital] GVA of £31 million; an increase of 127%.
The average digital salary for the cluster was recorded at £34,367 – this figure is dramatically higher than the average non-digital salary for the same region.
91% of employees and employers interviewed locally were satisfied with the overall quality of life while 79% see potential for further growth in the tech cluster.
There were 22 tech startups during 2016/17 bringing the total number of digital jobs within the sector to 1,380.
With a cluster growth rate of 61% – technology companies are looking to attract talent from UK cities and further afield with high levels of career competition, to trade in the fast-paced lifestyle for a more easygoing and relaxed way of living.
Headforwards made the conscious decision to be based in Cornwall for a number of reasons. Both our founding directors are from here and they saw no reason why this couldn’t be a base for their new business. They both have a history in software development and wanted to set up an outsource software development company that embodies the positives of outsourcing, whilst minimising the potential risk and downfalls.
However, it wasn’t just their love of the county that made them want to set up shop here, it also made excellent business sense.
Cornwall was the first place in the UK to get Superfast Broadband and still boasts faster connectivity than areas of central London! This enables companies in Cornwall to perform well on the world’s stage.
Headforwards work with clients across the globe, and this superfast allows us to work in real time with our international clients seamlessly.
The Headforwards model is different to most outsource companies who tend to follow a more traditional agency framework that revolves around shoehorning people into roles that might not necessarily be the right fit, and having developers sat waiting on the bench pushing costs up.
We curate teams of people for a specific long term project.
They will only ever work for one client meaning they have a dedicated resource which will be empowered by knowledge retention and an established sense of team.
This disruptive model of outsourcing may seem unconventional, but the benefits are clear.
Our clients have seen the business value that working in this way brings, and continue to add and expand teams, which has enabled Headforwards to grow to a team of 100 in less than 6 years.
Recruitment is an issue that the tech sector is suffering from worldwide.
It is undeniable that there is a massive skills gap, and whilst we are working hard with the education sector to bridge that gap that doesn’t help in the short term.
Here at Headforwards, we have been fortunate to not be struggling with recruitment as much as other software companies we talk to. In fact, recruitment issues are a big driver for many companies to start outsourcing their software development.
Cornwall is obviously an enticing place to live. The lifestyle has always been attractive, but now with better connectivity, both digitally and physically – with flights to London taking less than an hour, there are no limitations to finding career success and satisfaction too. The average salaries in Cornwall are less than in London, but the cost and standard of living are arguably better.
We work hard to establish a fun company culture that revolves around people and teams, but also professional development. Monthly socials and extracurricular activities help with this, as does our Agile mindset and linear hierarchy. However, our location also plays a massive part in this too.
The thriving tech scene and friendly, inclusive community here is an attractive offering to people who may be working in secluded remote roles of busy cities.
It is also common for some software companies to have a culture of staying late and burning the midnight oil, which in reality is counter productive. Productivity drops when people work too many hours which is why it is such a positive that this culture is rarely found in Cornish tech companies. Work life balance is taken seriously and encouraged.
Let’s not forget that coding is a creative task, and stress is a major blocker of creativity.
It is hard not to be inspired in Cornwall.
Creativity literally bursts through in every village and town, which is shown by the immeasurable amount of art, theatre and innovation here.
We believe Cornwall is the place in the UK to develop software.
The county has superfast broadband, we are attracting some of the best tech talent from across the globe, there is a strong history of innovation and engineering and it’s a unique place to live and work.
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