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Steve Cross

Steve Cross on Building Better Business

By Steve Cross

Founder & CEO, Sprechen Ltd.

Steve has founded a software studio which takes unloved business processes, bypasses the traditional IT department stereotypes and creates powerful custom software that drives forward industries.

His business has beginnings in the natural network of a traditional Winchester coffee shop but has expanded to working across the UK and Europe over the last 11 years. A twice-recognised finalist in the Winchester Business Awards, Sprechen has been acknowledged for digital innovation and commitment to the community.

With a natural aptitude for understanding people, enriched from working across the BBC, at over 20 different radio stations, and writing in every UK national newspaper, he blurs the boundaries between technology and communication to create tools which create action.

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Can you tell us about the software you create?

My background is a blend of technology and helping people to communicate. Being able to understand a business at its very core and build innovative processes that drive profit through the use of custom software to achieve their goals.

Hiding behind the keyboard and laptop screens, it is often difficult to see the impact of building CRM systems, API connectors, online booking systems and web apps in a B2B environment. Getting on the ground at construction sites, manufacturing locations and in retail, you can directly see the benefit that your innovation is making.

The Winchester Charitable Fireworks event is a great example of a community project that has grown beyond our dreams. It’s an event that depends on donations, and cash donations at the event were decreasing year on year. We designed a new contactless cost-effective donation tool for charities in an increasingly cashless society as part of our CSR efforts. This has turned into a specialist data-driven fundraising platform that raised over £100,000 in the first year. It’s now driven conversations with the likes of Children in Need, the British Heart Foundation and the London Marathon.

What developments are on the horizon in the realm of digital technology?

We've already seen a massive impact with the Cloud, that's become a huge opportunity within digital innovation. We are now seeing the use of more and more AI technology and big data. Those things are the big industry trends that are going to become more prevalent along with the ever-increasing trend towards the Data Science driving business processes. But this huge pace is not matched by the relevant skills on offer.

We’re becoming a subscription society. The ‘digital-first’ generation growing up now and entering industry are used to paying monthly not owning things outright. We still have huge swathes of industry who are yet to adapt to this, and it gives digital organisations a huge opportunity.

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"We've already seen an impact with the Cloud, that's become a huge factor within computer science. We are now seeing the use of more and more AI technology and big data to drive business processes."

How do you stay ahead of the game of developments within your industry?

There are several different professional bodies, the British Computer Society and BIMA offer lots of opportunities to learn from what others are doing.

I read a lot of blogs to see what people are doing in places like Silicon Valley. We also have a lot of innovation in the UK, and we are more ahead than much of Western Europe. Technical innovation within countries like France and Spain outside of the capital cities is still several years behind what we have in the UK.

Talk to us about your work as a University Lecturer

I lecture a little bit at the University of Winchester in Computer Science and Digital Media Development.

The original plan was to support students and give them work opportunities in the way that many local businesses in the South gave to me when I was just 15 years old and determined to get into radio.

It’s a great network of people. I learn from the students, and the students learn from me. It’s rewarding supporting people at the start of their careers who bring in fresh ideas.

I think my favourite thing is being able to take some of those students from their first day through to the time they graduate, when they’re out in industry making a difference.

"I read a lot of blogs to see what people are doing in places like Silicon Valley. We also have a lot of innovation in the UK, we are more ahead than much of Western Europe."

Steve Cross - Founder & CEO of Sprechen Ltd.

You’re extremely passionate about supporting your local community, can you tell us about that?

Being part of, and giving back to, the local community is very important to me. I’m an active member of Round Table, the charitable organisation for young men. I have been a passionate supporter of Young Carers charities, helping out at youth clubs and providing care for young people who care for their family members.

Is there something not many people know about you?

Until recently, I owned a 1960’s converted milk-float, which I converted with friends at Winchester Round Table into a Santa Sleigh that goes around the city each year raising funds for local good causes. Yes, I often dress in the suit. Having the annual predicament of fixing a snow machine, full-size plastic reindeer and sourcing kilos of sweets is just now part of life.

Do you have any mottos that you live by?

One I do live by and have a poster of to remind myself to follow is: Do One Thing Well. Every morning when I’m getting up and either working on Sprechen, teaching, or working on products, I try to remember it.

What are three apps that you use every day?

I’m certainly an Apple fan. I’m connected all the time to everybody via Slack. I have Windy which tells me the wind conditions out on the Solent for boating. Then there’s Medium which is a blogging app for technology and innovation.