An up-and-coming entrepreneur says young people are behind left behind by a tech industry hungry for fresh talent.
Carl Wong is the CEO of LivingLens, an artificially intelligent video platform which helps brands such as Virgin, Netflix, Colgate and the BBC gain a deeper understanding of their customers.
The Liverpool-based firm has just made a raft of new commercial hires across its offices in New York and Toronto as it targets the huge North American market.
Wong says the “heartbeat” of the company he founded in 2013 is in Liverpool – but he is expecting great challenges ahead when it comes to attracting further talent.
“We’ve fought tooth and nail over the last few years to build a world-class engineering team in Liverpool,” he told BusinessCloud. “We’re at the cutting-edge of what we do and we’re going to begin to struggle soon to build the team out further.
“There has been access to talent so far because companies like Sony pulled out of the city a number of years ago. There is also great retention of our universities’ graduates.
“However the Liverpool tech community is growing and growing; it can only be sustained in the short-term by the legacy that was left by the likes of Sony. The talent pipeline needs fuelling.
“It’s a real challenge: young people are being left behind in terms of how difficult it is to get a job in the market. As a nation we have to think about arming our young people with workplace-ready skills – and especially coding.”
Citing industry-led education initiative Agent Academy’s 12-week courses which help prepare graduates for the workplace, he added: “We need a fundamental rethink about how to get them involved in the digital and tech industry.”
LivingLens, named as one of our ‘101 Tech Start-up Disrupters’ last year, is currently hiring data scientists and engineers for its Liverpool team as well as commercial staff for its London base.
However, more than 40 per cent of its revenue now comes from North America so it has built a seven-strong commercial team across the Atlantic.
“That’s been grown from here in the UK,” said Wong. “The reality is that North America is the largest consumer and tech market in the world by quite some way [so] we’ve hired people who know the industry deeply.
“We’ve got to aggressively grow the value of our relationships through those guys over the next year or two and add to those people as well.”
Wong backed Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s ambitions to connect the region with North America and described the industry experience of the politician’s team as “breathtaking”. Claiming that past growth strategies have not been followed through due to city politics, he said he hopes Rotheram’s wider geographical remit will allow him to turn soundbites into action.
The company has secured £2.5m of funding to date. It allows clients to get to the core of how customers feel by capturing their feedback on video and analysing it for emotion and tone of speech.
“We’re all becoming much more comfortable with filming ourselves and giving feedback on that basis,” Wong explained.
“We’ve helped our clients change the way they schedule staff rotas; the packaging on their products and the actual products themselves; the ingredients in meals, such as more sauce; and how they advertise.
“People just say more on video – when you scale that up to thousands of people, it gives a much deeper insight into why people feel the way they do.”