In this series we ask key spokespeople from across the region and from our core sectors to share their insights.
This time we catch-up with Zandra Moore, CEO of software development specialists Panintelligence.
Zandra shares her thoughts on the opportunities for technology-led businesses, both here and internationally and her advice for start-up and scale-up businesses.
How has the technology sector fared during lockdown?
Whilst there has been a huge stall for so many businesses, particularly in retail and hospitality, tech has been a big part of the solution through lockdown – helping many businesses continue to operate and communicate and enabling us all to keep being consumers.
For us it meant a narrowing of our go-to-market strategy, but as SaaS (Software as a Service) vendors accelerated their move to cloud-based systems, we’ve been focusing on a particularly high-growth sector. We’ve rebranded, refined our website and expanded our team – adding both technology and commercial specialists – which has helped us win new clients both in the UK and overseas, including the US, Holland and New Zealand.
What we’ve seen is that in the middle of a climate of change, change in technology has been much easier to accept – it became inevitable – so the move to the cloud has been much faster and its benefits more obvious.
What’s your advice for start-up and scaling businesses in your sector?
The power of networks should never be underestimated – even when that’s limited to virtual events and communication. Starting a business on your own can be isolating and you need support, advice and to be able to share your experience.
Our region has some great networks, for example No Code Labs is a great not-for-profit community which connects tech enthusiasts and you should also get involved in the investor circles – Investor Ladder is one I worked closely with during our Series A funding round and it’s focused on the science and technology sectors. I also attended PwC’s Scale programme, which was really useful.
Getting involved in networks and being visible is also extremely important in terms of your profile with would-be investors. People buy people and they will be looking closely at the founder. They want to know can they back you. Do you have the skills, the knowledge, the passion and the ambition they’re looking for.
How does Leeds fit into the growth in tech and data-based businesses in the UK?
During our Series A funding round in 2019, we spoke to 60 investors, made 20 pitches and received six offers – all from Northern-based providers.
The shift to online communications and virtual meetings has helped – remote working has kickstarted a new mindset – but the North is still struggling to attract investment from London. Leeds has some incredible innovators in the tech sphere and we need to demonstrate to investors how smart it is to fish up here – there are huge opportunities for them.
Innovation hubs such as Nexus play an important role, getting businesses and advisors together in one space and – even more importantly – connecting them with the wider tech and business support ecosystem.
Initiatives such as the BUILD project through MIT REAP (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme) which we played an active part in, are also invaluable in terms of putting Leeds City region on the map and enabling some of our most successful entrepreneurs – who have been there and done that – to inspire new and scaling businesses.
How do we compare on the international stage?
The UK can learn a great deal from the US tech sector in terms of accelerated decision-making and speed to market. They obviously have a much bigger tech community so can draw on more resources and tap into greater experience, but we have the innovators and the skills and could follow their example.
We opened our Boston office in 2019 and it’s enabled us to grow our overseas customer base at a quicker pace – some 50% of our new business wins are now with international companies.
As a founder of the Lean In network, you are well known as an advocate for women in business – what do you want to see here?
My biggest ambition is for Leeds to have the most inclusively diverse boardrooms in the country.
We have the largest Lean In circles in the UK – now with 900 members – which is dedicated to improving the quality of life and opportunities for women and girls and to achieve more equality in the workplace. There are some brilliant role models of successful female business leaders in the group, which is essential if we’re to inspire the next generation.
We need to be more visible in schools – I’m also on the board at Founders4Schools in Leeds – and encourage more girls to choose STEM subjects, something which Nexus member business Yondar is making its mission, which is great news for our sector.
Panintelligence specializes in embedded data analytics for software vendors in the cloud. Based in Leeds and with an office in Boston in the US, the company now has more than 200 software customers and has won a host of major awards including Tech Innovation of the Year at Leeds Digital Festival.
Explore more insights from our ‘the view from here’ series:
The view from here – Nick Williams, Leeds University Business School
We catch up with Nick over a virtual coffee and chat about the role he thinks entrepreneurs will play in the post-COVID recovery and what makes Leeds such a great place to start and scale a business.