The potential for the UK big data marketplace is staggering, if we can foster the talent: David Richards, WANdisco

David Richards is not, on first inspection, your typical Silicon Valley CEO, but his company’s is the kind of pure technological disruption story that has made Silicon Valley the worldclass business hub it is today.

Originally from Sheffield, Richards is the first generation of his family not to work in the steel industry. He went over to the Silicon Valley with the idea of setting up a small private equity fund to help innovative but non-business savvy startups get off the ground, but was approached by Sun Microsystems systems architect Dr Yeturu Aalad, who had spent the last five years dedicated to solving the problem of active-active replication.

Aalad claimed to have worked out a way to move beyond simple client-server computing, into the creation of richer distributed applications able to be supported by multiple databases, without distance limitations between them and with the ability to read and write bidirectionally. Immediately Richards knew they had hit upon the ‘holy grail’ of computing, scrapped the equity fund idea and, in 2005, started WANdisco instead. 

Since then the company has gone from strength to strength organically, with explosive growth coming from its IPO in 2012. We asked Richards how the company is gearing itself up for its next major opportunity – the big data movement.

Richards has seen the growth of the technology market on both sides of the pond. He believes the UK should be moving away from trying to form Silicon Valley-like startup ‘clusters’ and recognise the unique work already happening in all parts of the country.

> See also: Opposites attract: the necessary marriage of open source and enterprise software

The fundamental difference, says Richards, between Silicon Valley and London’s Tech City is that London is just not as conducive to the same kind of game changing pure technology innovations.

This is partly down to the fact that the UK education system isn’t fostering future big data talent from a young age.

> See also: Hadoop will be the operating system for the data centre, says WANdisco

In the new big data landscape, young people have a head start over industry veterans, who are having to un-learn everything they thought they knew.

But if these roadblocks can be overcome, what we’ve seen so far is just the tip of a vast iceberg of opportunities around big data that awaits UK enterprises and budding entrepreneurs.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...