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Posted on March 9, 2020 by staff

Mobica CEO on growth plans following SmartTech Innovators success

When serial entrepreneur Simon Wilkinson received the call to join software services company Mobica, crowned No.1 in our 100 SmartTech Innovators ranking for 2020, he didn’t have to think long before saying ‘yes’.

The approach had come from private equity investors Inflexion, who were keen to strengthen the board after their investment. Not only was it a sector the father-of-three knew well but Mobica’s offices in Wilmslow were just down the road from where he lived.

“It felt the right time to step into a business I felt I could add value to because of my experience,” he tells BusinessCloud.

He joined Mobica’s board in March 2017, becoming the executive chairman and then CEO in 2018. The company has an ambitious growth strategy and Wilkinson is the man tasked with delivering it.

It’s easy to see what Inflexion saw in the entrepreneur, who has forged a reputation for creating successful venture capital-backed businesses. He admits he fell into the telecoms sector in the early days of his career but everything since has been much more deliberate.

“I used to play football with some guys who started their own business and were doing very well and I thought ‘no disrespect to these guys but I could do that’,” he recalls. “There was a lot of opportunity. Every day was a learning experience. You learnt on the job.”

100 SmartTech Innovators

In 2000 he founded Warrington-based mobile phone messaging software firm Magic4 and sold it to Openwave Systems in 2004 for £46.5m.

He was also the founder and former CEO of Myriad Group, one of the largest global independent providers of mobile handset and software services, with 900 staff and offices in 15 countries and listed on the Zurich stock exchange.

Back in 2002 his success saw him recognised as the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year for the North.

“I stepped out of full-time work for a number of years after I left Myriad Group,” he says. “I was quite happy enjoying the benefits of a couple of good exits.”

Wilkinson wasn’t completely quiet, getting involved in Manchester-based tech firm RealityMine, as both the chairman and an investor. Their technology enables the world’s leading market research organisations to monitor real consumers across multiple devices and on all major operating systems.

Today, he is an investor and NED in early stage technology companies both in the UK and the US but admits growing Mobica is a ‘24/7’ focus. It’s fair to say the company he joined three years ago has changed a lot to the one he now finds himself running, most noticeably by the new-look senior leadership team.

Wilkinson has also been credited with playing a key role in strengthening its customer footprint with a series of leading international brands including Google, Facebook, Intel, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Arm and Jaguar Land Rover.

He was joined at Mobica by Stefan Marxreiter as the chief operating officer, who is responsible for further developing the company’s software delivery capabilities globally.

One of the biggest differences for Wilkinson at Mobica compared to the rest of his career is he’s not working in a product-based business. “We don’t have any IP,” he said. “We’re not a product company but what we deliver is intellectual capital. The focus for us is to grow aggressively in the next two-three years in our core sectors and take advantage of the new technologies that are starting to be delivered in the marketplace.”

Mobica

Mobica has a long history of working with the likes of Arm and Intel, relationships that Wilkinson is determined to grow. “We want long-term relationships we can scale and continue to demonstrate that we deliver value,” he says. “We are not trying to be the lowest cost provider in the market. We are constantly trying to deliver value to our partners and be paid accordingly.”

The CEO wants to expand the number of engineers significantly to 1,500 in the next three years but he’s also made a conscious decision to scale Mobica closer to home. “Mobica is a North West business based in Wilmslow but it’s been very outward-focused in terms of its customer base in the last 10 years,” says Wilkinson. “It’s only within the last 12 months that we have started to turn to the opportunity in the North West, which is significant to me.

“That does not mean giving less attention to our international clients but the North is growing substantially. [It] has a deficit of digital talent and we can help fill the gap and allow companies to scale in the regions.”

The automobile sector is vital to Mobica, evidenced by the fact the company recently opened its first office in Germany to strengthen its relationships with the country’s leading automotive OEMs and suppliers. “We will use that to broaden our customer footprint over time into France and Italy and other significant automobile markets,” says the CEO.

Away from work Wilkinson is a keen England rugby fan, Manchester City supporter and father of three grown-up children, but admits Mobica was consuming most of his time. “Scaling a business like this is full time,” he says. “It’s 24/7. When I’m on top of things I’m more relaxed. My responsibility is to put the team together, set the agenda and support them in exiting it. There’s no point having a great executive team and doing it all yourself.”

100 SmartTech Innovators