How does Sheffield compare with Silicon Valley?

What if we reimagined degrees for the 21st century?

How do you feel about driving a computer with wheels?

In this week’s 5 Big Questions interview we talk to British Silicon Valley entrepreneur and technology executive DAVID RICHARDS MBE.



Twitter: @davidrichards@WANdisco

The PossibilityClub podcast - 5 Big Questions - David Richards MBE on building the cloud, tech skills and ending digital povertyKnown for:

  • Chairman, President & CEO – WANDisco
  • Trustee – The David & Jane Richards Family Foundation
  • Founder – EyUp
  • Co-Founder – LaptopsForKids
  • Non-Executive Director – TechNation
  • Former Vice President – Netmanage, Inc
  • Former Chairman & CEO – Librados, Inc
  • Former CEO – Insevo

The 5 Big Questions:

Measuring change How do you measure the impact of what you do?

Ready for anything - future proofingHow should people/businesses be preparing for the future?

Skills, talent & opportunityHow do we build the workforce we need for that future?

Embedded innovationHow do you use creativity to solve problems?

Bold connections, collaborationHow do you collaborate?

Key quotes:

“He’s probably a genius. As a summer intern at IBM they filed three patents based on his work, as an intern. That doesn’t happen every day.”

“We have probably the only usable implementation of Paxos in the world.”

“What we’d actually built a product using massive scale data and actually everybody said how come your revenues aren’t through the roof? And it was because the data sets weren’t there yet. Then along came 5G.”

“I was at a conference where Jaguar LandRover said that their passion and focus was their products and customers, but their monetisation was data.”

“The competition is going to be the power of your algorithms and the data sets that you have, which is why Tesla have been so successful. Our technology now is being used to move these colossal data sets, some as large as an exabyte, growing at fifty percent per year. So our technology turns out to be very important with the advent of 5G and we’re sat in a very good place right now.”

“The beautiful thing with our business is we’re licensing intellectual property, we’re not selling services or shipping goods. When it hits, scaling a business like ours isn’t actually complicated. It’s like that old Mousetrap game, you build it, and then you watch the ball go around. Structurally our operating margins, even on ten times current sales and revenue, the incremental cost increase would be small.”

“Social impact is critical for this business. We will not do deals with social media companies and gambling companies because they can’t be trusted.”

“My personal viewpoint is that the regulation on the gambling industry in the UK is just an absolute travesty. Why do we let these guys get away with it? And now when they’re using data science techniques they can figure out the level at which they can maximise their revenue from an individual. In the same way, the tricks that Facebook have played on us in the past are not good for society.”

“We sourced 15,000 laptops in less than six months and that had a huge positive impact on the business because the local economy and people in our locale can trust us.”

“We have to find a way as a nation to provide free, safe and secure Internet for those who need it the most. It’s not just giving them free Internet, it’s empowering the community. But the most critical thing then is that you measure the impact — independently — and publish the research. Then you can go to government and say ‘you should nationalise OpenReach because the socio-economic impact is going to be this.’ You can solve digital poverty very quickly if you adopt this strategy.”

“I’m just appalled at the UK’s education system, I have to be honest. It was designed by Victorians and the class system was very important. I think it’s indicative of a huge weakness in our economy and society.”

“The dirty little secret we have in this country, is we can’t hire fresh graduates and put them straight into our company. We have a shortage of hundreds of thousands of software engineers in the UK. But the good news is the solution is incredibly simple.”

“Philosophy is a brilliant lead-up to computing. You can do philosophy and then go on to do something else. You can have a brilliant education but you need to do the bit at the end where you train someone with the skills for a job.”

“Every one of our offices has on the wall the Einstein quote, ‘imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited whereas imagination embraces the entire world.’”

This episode was recorded in November 2022

Interviewer: Richard Freeman for always possible

Editor: CJ Thorpe-Tracey for Lo Fi Arts


Never miss another Possibility Club podcast

Access 150+ podcasts featuring a diverse range of innovators, change-makers, leaders and disruptors from across the worlds of business, culture, politics, science and education.

Norman Cook | Andy Burnham | Lemn Sissay | Charlotte Church | Michael Rosen | Jimi Famurewa | Matthew Taylor | Stella Creasy | Tim Harford