Wilmslow in Cheshire is known for its stockbrokers and footballers rather than computer coders. But a global software business that employs more than 1,000 people has grown from an office above a Waitrose supermarket in the town.
Mobica provides outsourced software development, consultancy and testing to large technology companies in a variety of sectors. Customers include Intel, the chipmaker, IBM and Airbus, the aircraft producer.
The company has created systems that connect mobile devices to cars and TVs. It is also working on the “internet of things” that enables consumers to control appliances and other devices remotely.
Mobica exports 69 per cent of its total sales and has customers in more than 35 countries. It has won a Queen’s Award for International Trade after doubling its overseas sales over the past three years.
The company has also increased turnover by more than a third every year. “We’re hiring 30 engineers a month,” says Damian Leonard, marketing manager.
“The Queen’s Award is amazing for us. We have only been going for 12 years and every time we hit a milestone we are gobsmacked, it’s gone much faster than expected.”
Mobica was founded in 2004 by its chairman Nick Stammers, and Jon Clayton, now a director, in Mr Stammers’ home.
They focused on providing expertise to companies that did not have enough in-house capability — effectively establishing themselves as software outsourcers. Each project is bespoke and developed in partnership with the customer.
“We are solely a services business and we get paid daily,” says Mr Leonard.
In the year to December 31, 2014, Mobica made a pre-tax profit of £5m on turnover of £29m. The company has headquarters in the UK and US, and 10 offices worldwide. Early on, it chose to base engineers close to its customers in Europe rather than outsource to India or other Asian countries. It chose Warsaw for its first overseas office in 2006, and now has six in Poland.
Mr Leonard says the country was a big centre for technology. “All the best engineers come from Poland and the universities are exceptional. It is the best place to source engineers.”
Of 110 staff in Wilmslow, 70 are engineers. Most of its workforce is based overseas.
Mobica also has a research and development centre in Mexico, close to the US market.
“All our R&D offices are ‘nearshored’,” says Mr Leonard. “Customers prefer us to be in a close timezone and able to travel easily to them. They prefer to work with us because of the quality of work we do. We are not the cheapest but we are the best.”
Another key to its success is more old-fashioned: cold calling. Mr Leonard said sales staff find contact details for chief executives and chief technical officers and approach them directly.
“Not many companies do that.”
Mobica’s founders want to expand sales more quickly, and in September sold a minority stake to a private equity firm, Inflexion, to finance growth. The deal value has not been disclosed.
The business is already working with more than 10 of the world’s biggest automakers on driverless cars and computer-assisted driving, alongside work with clients in other sectors.
Mr Leonard says: “Over the next three to five years we’ll be growing to 3,000 employees.
“We are not slowing down.”