We are delighted to be celebrating our 23rd birthday this month and have decided that it’s a great time to look back and reflect on how far the business has come to date. We have kick-started the celebrations by interviewing Thomas Coles our Chairman and founder of the company, to learn more about the very beginning of Software Solved and his thoughts on where the future of the company is heading.
Software Solved (formally known as MSM Software Solved) was born just nine months after Thomas Coles had finished studying Computer Science at the University of York. At the young age of 22, he started working and quickly gained the motivation and drive to set up his own tech business. Jon Stace, our Director of Technology was in the same tutor group as Thomas and joined the business as the fifth employee just 6 months after it started.
Reflecting back to 1998, Thomas discussed the business model for Software Solved: “It hasn’t actually changed very much. When starting a business so soon after university you don’t have a lot of capital available. My father was Finance Director, he came in as an investor. We needed a business which was going to be low capital cost to start. We have been very successful and are so happy with everything we have all achieved in the last 23 years.”
We asked Thomas where the start-up office was based and who became their very first client. He said: “We originally had an office in Totnes and were there for eight years. Our very first client was Baltic Wharf Boat Yard in Totnes. We wrote some software for them to bill their clients according to the size of the boats. We have had clients that have joined us for 18 years, with the average tenure of a client being about 10 and a half years.”
He went on to discuss how the biggest change (aside from Tech advancing) was moving from Totnes to Exeter: “Clearly, we’ve grown over the years, the single biggest step-change that occurred for the business was when we relocated to the city. Breaking new ground, Software Solved has helped contribute to Exeter being named as one of the UK’s three emerging ‘tech hubs’. The team and client’s attitude towards us changed. Suddenly we were no longer a business that was in a provincial town that the client probably had not heard of, but we were a business that was in a well-known city served by decent rail service from Paddington, and that even had a motorway! This was the point when the business really took off.”
Thomas then explained how tech is fast advancing and he appreciates all that the team does to learn more and to develop together. He recalls “In the early days there was a demand for PDAs for clients to do something to help them run their business. Of course, nowadays, you would use a mobile phone, you would never go near a personal digital assistant anymore. I cannot think of any business that doesn’t need to invest in technology and doesn’t need to have the staff and expertise to manage it.”
Thomas reveals his highlights to date, aside from winning a staff ‘all you can eat’ pizza and profiterole competition on a team night out!
“There are so many highlights including being able to work with some wonderful organisations and are proud to support charities, including Save the Children, National Trust and Victim Support, completing meaningful projects to help them deliver. Winning clients against bigger competitors which provides a real sense of achievement for the team involved to writing our second piece of risk management software which saw us described by the procurement manager at the time in that organisation as ‘the world’s subject matter experts’ on the topic.”
On being asked about what makes Software Solved so unique, He said “I’d like to report what clients have said and also what the external consultancies have observed over the years. It is our people. He continued: “The fact that software developers and all members of the team value the opportunity to communicate. We are willing to expose our team to clients, we have got such good people that they can do the technical jobs really well, but equally, they create relationships too. The word that we used to have as one of our values was being personable. I think that makes a huge difference and creates longevity of relationships that we continue to enjoy with our clients.”
We finished by asking Thomas where he sees the tech and software industry heading. He said: “I would say technology is going to be ubiquitous. The combination of IP version 6 and 5G comms will mean that anything could be connected and can communicate. There is an awful lot of data and data on its own is meaningless. You have to interpret it. I think the challenge moving forward is going to be how we interpret data, so it becomes useful information or knowledge. Looking further ahead, there are going to be some ethical challenges around how we control machines. At Software Solved we will continue to deliver quality and reliable software developments for clients, which I am sure will include more mobile and data projects. Most importantly, the team remains committed and successful to what they do.”
Since 1998, the Software Solved team has delivered over 1,000 successful software development projects for some of the UK’s most innovative brands. Learn more about us here.