If Cambridge technology entrepreneur Ray Anderson had listened to Microsoft founder Bill Gates he might never have launched his Cambridge UK success story, Bango.Anderson told the Cambridge Computer Lab Ring 10th anniversary dinner at Queens’ College last night that Gates was sceptical about the convergence of mobile phones and internet technology and the commercial potential.
Bango’s CEO was receiving the Ring’s Computer Product of the Year Award from chairman Andy Hopper and guest speaker David Cleevely.
Anderson said he was glad he chose to listen to Cambridge computer ace Steve Ives rather than Microsoft’s iconic co-founder.
He said it had been “a very long ride” for Bango but well worth it now the mobiles billing and analytics business had established itself globally and achieved major success in the US – all from a Cambridge UK platform.
Anderson said: “Steve Ives called me and pointed out the staggering growth in internet and mobile usage and I determined to put together a business that would harness both of those trends. Bill Gates did his best to dissuade me, along with most of Silicon Valley’s great and good.
“Today, we can count Amazon and Facebook among our global customers. And we are really thrilled with this Award.”
Resolve was also central to the inspiring success story behind the Company of the Year – Trampoline Systems which, fittingly given its name, can claim a remarkable bounceback!
Co-founder and CEO Charles Armstrong, a Cambridge alumnus, described a roller coaster ride that had spanned almost a decade.
An ethnologist and social analytics wizard, he and his business partner Craig McMillan met 20 years ago at St John’s College and picked up the association a decade later, setting up Trampoline in 2003.
The company develops software that analyses large quantities of email and other data to map relationships and subject matter across large and complex networks.
Armstrong said the company had probably arrived “10 years too early in the market” but thought they had crossed the Rubicon in 2007 when they secured £3m investment only to have the backer run out on them.
“We had negligible revenues and a large engineering team – and a void where our investment should have been,” he told guests.
Determined not to go under, the partners restructured and raised crowd funding – almost certainly among the first of its type – and “things started falling into place.”
The company produced the Tech City map that Prime Minister David Cameron so admired and have just landed another major – potentially gamechanging – piece of business. “We could also soon be working on something similar to the Tech City project in the Cambridge community,” he teased.
Trampoline follows some famous former winners of the Ring’s Company of the Year accolade. Fast growing Cambridge games company Jagex was 2007 winner, with XenSource, Linguamatics, Ubisense and RealVNC taking the title in the last four years.
As Professor Hopper explained at the preceding AGM held at the university’s computer laboratory, it was a year of anniversaries; not just the centennial of Alan Turing’s birth and the 30th anniversary of the BBC Micro.
The Ring’s own 10th anniversary fell just a year ahead of what would have been the 100th birthday of the inspirational Maurice Wilkes, who headed up the university’s computer laboratory after the war in 1945.
This year is also the 75th anniversary of the Computer Lab and Bromium, just named Business Weekly’s Startup Company of the Year, is the latest name on the laboratory’s hall of fame, which highlights 189 spin-outs; the vast majority of which have been highly successful.
Professor Hopper praised the alumni association and its tireless work in promoting Cambridge computing technology – and thanked Stephen Allott for the devotion and drive he had shown to get the initiative off the ground and help sustain its success. “We have come a long way in 10 years,” he said.
Allott is also Crown Representative for Small and Medium Enterprises and chairman of the Council of Advisers of another Cambridge computer sector great, Red Gate Software Ltd.
“The association helps graduates in the years between leaving the university and retiring from business. In December 2003 we had 233 members and today that figure is up to 707,” Professor Hopper said.
From Acorn through to Bromium, the university’s rich computer heritage could be traced. He felt that the quality of its technology and the success of so many spin-outs over the years had demonstrated the computer lab’s “innovation, entrepreneurship and impact at scale.”