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6 February, 2020 - 10:17 By Tony Quested

Create a Cross-Channel tech tunnel, says Cambridge AI chief

The CEO of an AI technology pioneer tipped to become Cambridge’s next unicorn business is urging the UK government to open the door to fresh talent from the EU however Brexit negotiations unfold.

Vishal Chatrath, co-founder and CEO of PROWLER.io, says the UK could lose ground as a global player if it fails to heed clear signals from across the Channel.

Chatrath is speaking from strength as the company continues to build its team by recruiting around the world. But he says a lot more could be done to boost the talent pipeline and keep Cambridge and the UK in the driving seat in terms of delivering nextgen innovation and boosting the economy.

He said: “Since launching our AI startup in Cambridge in 2016 we’ve built a talented team of 27 nationalities and grown to recruit 116 employees. This diversity of thought, experience and cultural background has driven our innovation and been key to our success. 

“There is no question that the current political climate and lack of clarity over immigration policy looms large over our recruitment. We are increasingly encountering overseas candidates who are less sure now, after Brexit, that the UK is a marketplace they want to enter. 

“But I am hopeful that may change: it’s quite possible that the negotiations in the transition period in the next 11 months will result in a flexible solution when it comes to the free movement of top tech talent, which will benefit everyone. 

“Today, the UK suffers from a shortage of skills across all aspects of technology and simply doesn’t have the critical mass to be a global player on its own. 

“As a CEO and founder, I am watching current developments closely and would favour guaranteeing EU citizens’ future rights and continuing to allow free flow of talent between the UK and Europe. 

“Competition amongst tech businesses for top talent has always been fierce and it’s still a candidate-led market. Those with the right skills and experience are often inundated with emails from recruiters and companies and the best candidates don’t stay on the market for very long.

“Our challenge – and the challenge for any company in the sector, irrespective of size – is how to find the right individuals.

“Fortunately, we have a great deal going for us – a flat and enlightened management structure, a flexible working environment and above all compelling work at the cutting edge of AI. All of these are key benefits which candidates look for when they are assessing opportunities.”

How has the company managed to maintain momentum while so many others are struggling? Chatrath says: “Most of our worldwide head hunting is conducted by our in-house recruitment team. We have a diverse rollcall of talent – and that’s something we are focused on retaining as we grow.  

“Diversity is not simply about inclusivity: it makes sound business sense for us to draw from the widest possible pool of talent. 

“To reach top talent directly we use our own well-established networks, referral schemes we’ve set up ourselves and, of course, LinkedIn. We attract the best candidates due both to our work at the cutting-edge of AI and the reputation of the people on our team. 

“The culture of our business – innovative, dynamic and relaxed – is a huge draw for many top candidates who have chosen not to work for a traditional corporate. 

“In terms of remuneration, we follow market trends and offer an excellent package of benefits including a pension, share options and healthcare. Flexible working is a huge attraction and we have many staff working flexibly. 

“We also offer other perks – for example games nights and yoga – and everyone in the company takes the last Friday afternoon of the month off. We also allow staff paid leave to volunteer for a range of worthwhile charity projects. 

“Our relocation package is generous, which is why so many people have joined us from abroad. More than anything, our company – and our people –are known for being top of their game. It’s a message that’s spreading increasingly widely.”

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