WORTH an estimated £200m, the North East's version of Larry Page and Sergey Brin has highlighted the money-making capability of the North East’s vibrant digital sector
GRAHAM Wylie’s rags to riches tale is a smaller-scale version of the meteoric rise of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The son of a Geordie miner may not have quite the same profile as the duo who built Google into the world’s most popular search engine giant. But his success story is no less remarkable.
In 1981 Wylie established a venture in a Newcastle printing works selling print-related and basic accounting software. During the next two decades he built Sage into a multi-million pound, global IT brand employing more than 10,000 people worldwide and selling thousands of copies of its software each year.
After retiring from Sage in 2003, Wylie could have taken his millions and ridden off into the sunset to pursue his love of horse-racing.
Instead he started Technology Services Group Ltd (TSG), an IT support provider that is predicted to generate annual revenues of up to £70m after acquiring 21 companies in five years.
Herb Kim, CEO of digital business network Codeworks, believes the sector offers ample opportunity for IT entrepreneurs to follow in Wylie’s footsteps.
“During the past six or seven years, the sector has been one of our region’s major success stories,” he says.
“We’ve seen new businesses coming on the scene at a faster rate than anywhere outside of London, while several established businesses are competing for work on the global stage.
“Reports suggest that 33% of IT spending will be generated by the SME sector, where growth is faster than average. This could benefit our region’s digital companies – Gateshead-based ITPS or Newcastle’s Zebrahosts, for example – which often provide IT services and development for smaller businesses.”
Kim believes the sector’s core value – intellectual property – cushions IT entrepreneurs from volatile market conditions and wildly fluctuating commodity prices such as oil, steel and paper. And he also says companies are not slashing their IT budgets as they have done in previous recessions.
“This time around spending on IT should hold up – with some investors predicting it will grow by 5% this year.”
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