Cracking the code to make dreams a reality

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Software engineer Tom Titherington has branched out on his own to satisfy his creative needs and provide products tailored to his client’s requirements. He spoke to Emily Moore

‘NOTHING is as much fun as building a product that you really care about and seeing the potential impact that it can have on customers.’

As Tom Titherington explains his decision to leave his secure employment at a software development company to focus on bringing his own dreams to fruition, his enthusiasm is contagious.

A software engineer by trade, Tom’s love of programming began when he was a teenager and stemmed, he says, from a combined love of design and problem-solving.

‘When I was about 13, I wanted to be an architect or a graphic designer because I really enjoyed that creative side,’ he explained. ‘However, I soon discovered that programming gives you even greater scope for creativity because you are not tied to any physical barriers or constraints. Having that freedom is really exciting.’

Having immersed himself in the world of coding and technology, the former Hautlieu student graduated from the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, with a degree in computer science before returning to the Island and joining C5.

‘I was part of their bursary scheme, so they supported my studies and, when I left university, I came back and worked for them full-time for a year,’ he said.

But it wasn’t long before Tom’s mind was spinning with ideas for potential start-ups.

‘I wasn’t sure what to do but I was keen to start pursuing some of these concepts and so I left C5 to focus on these projects,’ he said.

The first of those ideas was Restash, an app-based initiative in which all transactions paid for using a bank card would be logged, together with the receipts for those purchases.

‘I spent about eight months developing the technology for this but the investment required to take the product to market and secure contracts with the card networks was too great,’ explained Tom.

Undeterred, Tom returned to the world of employment, taking on a part-time position at Uniti, a platform founded by Ed Prow to connect charities, business and individuals who ‘want to make a difference in society’.

And it was this position which introduced Tom to Digital Jersey’s Tech Start-up Bootcamp, an initiative which he says has been ‘invaluable for introducing him to other like-minded entrepreneurs and for enabling him to work on his ideas full-time in a way which is financially feasible’.

Having secured his place on the bootcamp after pitching his vision for a digital ordering system for the hospitality industry, Tom is now focused on a different start-up.

‘The business I pitched to the Digital Jersey team was Crately, which was essentially a way for restaurants to place their orders quickly and easily through a digital platform,’ he said. ‘At the moment, this happens in a very analogue way and I can see tremendous potential to use technology to simplify this process, both for the chefs placing the orders and the suppliers receiving them.

‘Not only was the platform designed to facilitate orders but it contained a payment system and a host of analytics which would enable suppliers to see the most popular products, which could support their own buying models.’

Without any contacts in the hospitality industry, though, and with no background in the food and beverage market, Tom realised that Crately was only likely to succeed ‘with the backing of someone with experience and authority in that sector’.

‘Recognising my limitations in that sphere, I decided that the key to success lay in playing to my own strengths and developing a tool which I have the skills to bring to market,’ he explained.

Accordingly, Tom’s attention is now focused on Crumpet, a tool which he says will ‘allow companies to create hyper-personalised engagements and in-product experiences powered by user engagements and customer data’.

‘If, as a company, you want to engage with your customers at the right time and at scale, you can only really do that if you understand who your users are and how they are using your products,’ Tom explained. ‘You need to know more about them. Are they early adopters, for example? What subscription tier are they on? Are they on a high-value annual contract? Crumpet allows you to take all of these factors into consideration and use this information to create hyper-personal experiences.’

Aimed primarily at software-as-a-service companies in the business-to-business space, Tom says that the great advantage of Crumpet is that it draws on his strengths as a software engineer.

‘I’m a programmer, so I can build the platform and, just as importantly, I know the people I’m selling to,’ he smiled. ‘I’m selling to product teams and developers, people whose language I speak and who I know where to find. Essentially, I’m building a tool which I would use, which should give me a good idea of the features the end users need and want.’

Describing Crumpet as being ‘quite broad, with many use cases’, Tom adds that ‘anyone with an app who is focused on providing good experience and customer service’ could benefit from the tool.

‘While it’s still at the very early stages, the wire frames have now been done, and the design has been mapped out,’ he said. ‘I’ve had some feedback from a couple of people within my target market and I have now started work on the development side, configuring the database and working on the application programming interface.

‘Up until now, most of my attention has been focused on idea validation and demonstrating that there is a use case and market for the product. Now the real work starts.’

Acknowledging the support of his mentors at JT, who he described as ‘really helpful and a great sounding board’, Tom added that he had also been benefiting from their advice on how to scale the business.

‘While I want to launch Crumpet in Jersey, there are only a few companies here which would fit our ideal customer profile, so the plan is definitely to take the product outside the Island as quickly as possible,’ he explained.

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