07 Aug 2017 David Walsh, The Star

Handling Big Data for giant firms

Sheffield software company WANdisco could be as big as Amazon if it continues to sign global firms, according to boss David Richards.

It is working with a host of names including IBM, Volvo, as well as one of the world’s largest retailers and a large financial services firm and is experiencing 175 per cent growth in big data, as giant companies transfer vast amounts of information from their own servers to the cloud.

David Richards, CEO of WANdisco. WANdisco’s Fusion product ensures none of it is lost and there is no downtime. 

Mr Richards’ prediction comes as the company is set to break even after years of losses. And it follows a re-organisation last year after the chairman left. The company’s Sheffield office is in the Electric Works. 

Mr Richards said: “Companies are moving into the cloud on a massive scale. They no longer want to own servers because of the cost and can’t manage their own data. 

“And it’s only going to grow, by 2020 there will be three times more data than exists today. 

“We are the only company doing this. We have the chance to be one of the world’s most important technology firms.”

WANdisco has signed a $4.1m contract with the Royal Bank of Canada and is also working with HMRC, the city of Dubai and one of the “world’s biggest health care companies.” Gross margins are 100 per cent because there is no middleman, Mr Richards added. 

The organisation made headlines when it offered staff unlimited paid holiday. The average is believed to have settled down to 20 days-a-year. “There’s a weird self correcting mechanism, people don’t abuse it. If people enjoy coming to work they will come to work.” The company also has a ‘social captain’ and a ‘beer trolley’ which comes out once a week. Now it is set to offer a full year of maternity leave at full pay, depending on time served. But perks aren’t enough and it has vacancies across all its offices, including Belfast, Chengdu and San Ramon, California. 

Mr Richards believes the education system needs to be fixed. “We are asking people aged 14 to start selecting subjects. It’s far too young, people doing arts might be brilliant computer scientists. Look at the US system, they have general education until 19 or 20. “It’s very successful at breeding people who come out of university having done a degree that interests them.” 

* WANdisco or wanDISCO? Eagle-eyed pedants have seen it written both ways. Both are right: it’s caps first when writing and caps last on the the logo. 

Reinvigorated after change David Richards says a dramatic period last year was crucial. He was fired by the chairman, but then returned as boss when the chairman himself left. “It was possibly more important than anything. I got rid of some people and brought in some new ones. “It changed my perspective on many things.”