Interview with Marc Beavan and Matt Thornton - Founders of Cortex Technologies - an innovative Guernsey technology startup.
This piece first appeared in Business Brief in January 2019.
Int: Can we start with the obvious question - what is Cortex? Are you a tech startup
MB: Can we start by giving the standard IT answer - which is ‘it depends’! Yes, I suppose we are a startup but we don’t naturally associate with that term due to some of the preconceptions with ‘startup' and ‘unicorns' and silicon valley. We’re ultimately a tech consultancy - we have a small portfolio of great clients that we work very closely with but we’re also working on some of our own products and services.
MT: Technology creates so many opportunities for businesses to innovate which we think fall in three key areas: doing things better (e.g., re-engineering systems and business processes); doing things differently (i.e., challenging the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality); or finally, doing something new (e.g., expanding in to new products and services). These are the areas that as a business we’re looking to help with.
Int: How did it come about? What are your backgrounds?
MT: We’ve each been working in software engineering since University. We met around 8 years ago when we were consultants at a local firm. We quickly realised that we shared a vision and passion for what a modern tech company looked like so at the start of 2018 we decided to go for it. We wanted to create a business that we not only think Guernsey needs but importantly a tech company that tech people would want to work for. We’re total geeks and not ashamed of it!
MB: We’ve got an incredibly diverse range of skills and experience in the team which is fascinating since we approach and tackle problems from a range of viewpoints. One thing unites us, though – a love of technology! We’re the type of people where it’s not enough that something works – we need to know why and how!
Int: What do you mean - the business that Guernsey needs?
MB: Guernsey is fortunate to have some great technology companies but there remain some challenges. For starters, the industry is so broad and the technology changes at such a pace that it’s impossible for any single company to cover all bases and know everything about everything. We’d like to encourage a situation where all the technology companies can specialise in what they’re good at and then work collaboratively with other providers so that there can be a valuable, joined-up technology proposition for Guernsey.
MT: It’s common for people already working in technology to get lost in ‘business as usual’ - keeping the lights on takes up so much of the day job that there’s little time to keep up to date and explore new tech. We're trying to create a place where learning and experimenting with new technology is a central part of the job.
MB: Lastly, for Guernsey as a jurisdiction to capitalise on the opportunities that technology innovation presents, then it needs companies that can offer opportunities to tech people at all stages of their career to come in and learn the trade and learn from the experiences of others and continues to build a sustainable industry that augments the global appeal of Guernsey as a place to do business.
Int: What has the first year been like?
MB: For the most part, it’s been awesome. We’ve got great relationships with a couple of key clients and we’ve been kept busy helping them with some critical projects. We are lucky to have a network of friends and associates who have provided some crucial help and support along the way.
MT: The less enjoyable bits have been in some of the more mundane aspects of starting and running a business; such as finding premises, recruiting, paperwork, payroll or even just opening bank accounts; things you take for granted when you’re part of a larger organisation. But we’ve got that pretty much sorted now - we’ve got some stunning offices in the middle of town and we’ve grown the team to six people; two of whom are full time on the innovation side of things.
Int: So on that subject, what’s in store for 2019?
MB: 2019 is set to be amazing. We’ve got some big client projects either in progress or about to kick off and we’ve been having some exciting conversations with businesses who are looking to innovate in their industry and need technology partners to help them do that. This should enable us to continue to grow the team.
MT: We’re about to release our first product - it’s a service for Guernsey people that we think will not only radically change the way they approach three parts of their lives but highlight the potential of the disrupt/innovate cycle. We’ll be getting the brand out there a bit more and doing a lot more social things as well as collaborating in events to try and contribute to the technology conversations that are going on in Guernsey.
MB: And we totally forgot to do any sort of launch of Cortex – so we’ll be doing that as well!
Int: And for the future?
MB: We’re only a year old but already the future looks exciting. We’re committed to our existing clients and will support them for as long as they need us. We’ve also got a ton of ideas in the pipe which we think will appeal to techies, business and investors alike.
MT: The important thing is that we continue to build the company we envisioned - one that does great things with technology but remains aligned to its vision. Anyone that knows us already knows we don’t take ourselves too seriously - if you’re not having fun, then what’s the point?