Vorboss in pole position

Vorboss CEO and professional car racer Tim Creswick relishes life in the fast lane, and his winning formula strikes a balance between a drive to lead from the front and the problem solving attributes of a trackside engineer.

Vorboss didn’t start life with a destination in mind, nor a business plan. It was conceived through the methodical mindset of a conscientious employee, rather than an overt entrepreneurial quest – but Creswick’s foresight, have-a-go attitude and problem solving adaptability have always been telling factors. “My career started in the same way as most dedicated people coming out of university, with a genuine desire to add value and be paid for what I’m good at,” stated Creswick. “Nearly 20 years on a lot’s changed, but the founding ethos is similar. Today, we have close to 400 people focused on what our customers need and the value we add.”

Creswick’s systematic approach to building customer value can be traced back to the practical nature of his skills as an engineer, a computer scientist and a software developer. “I’ve always been technically minded,” he added. “The fact that I’m now in the telecoms industry is coincidental rather than planned. I’m an engineer and problem solver at heart and the ICT industry happens to be the best place to be that.”

But it would be a big mistake to assume that Creswick’s approach to business speaks of a man who is risk averse. On the contrary, he is a professional racing driver, competing in the GT World Challenge Europe with Walkenhorst Motorsport, driving the Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Therefore his will to win is perhaps greater than the fastest moving entrepreneur – and he likes to be in pole position. Creswick’s scientific approach to managing risk, which is more akin to being in the slow lane, is also a red herring to his pioneering energy and willingness to embrace uncertainty. “Any journey towards being successful is littered with all sorts of things that didn’t work out,” he added. “We’ve always been advocates of experimentation.”

With Creswick in the driving seat, Vorboss will no doubt continue to gain an advantage based on striking the right balance between pursuing strategies with known   and those with risk factors. His career pathway also requires close attention if we are to unravel whether Creswick’s journey into comms was really a chance happening or down to following his nose for solving problems.

Creswick studied engineering and computer science at Oxford and went on to build software in-house at a large law firm. “That taught me a lot and the experience encouraged me to set up my own company,” he added. “I incorporated Vorboss in January 2006 and pitched building software to small businesses in my local area of Exeter. I rented a tiny one person office, just to give me somewhere to go, and hired my first employee six months later.

I believe in providing abundant capacity. You don’t question if you’ll have enough water or electricity coming into your building. Data should be no different

“We then became a cloud company, yet didn’t call it cloud back then. But it was software delivered to a server in a data centre, rather than on-prem. Bearing in mind Amazon didn’t open its first UK data centre until 2017, we were ahead of the curve. During the 2009 financial crisis I decided to stop building software and focus on the hosting business, which was more profitable. We then relocated to London and moved down the stack from software to hosting through to connectivity. Always reacting to solve the problems we found with each area that we focused on.”

A case in point is one of  Vorboss’ biggest managed cloud hosting customers, DueDil, which used a petabyte-scale Hadoop cluster that Vorboss ran on a central London data centre. “One of the worst bottlenecks was the cable between their office and the data centre a mile away,” commented Creswick. “Solving that problem was the catalyst for us becoming a connectivity provider.”

Door opener
Another one of Vorboss’ business development accelerators was the introduction of unrestricted PIA in 2019 which opened up Openreach’s ducts and poles at scale, allowing other companies to build their own networks using the civils work that Openreach had already done. “That opened a new door for us,” added Creswick. “While access to Openreach ducting had been available before 2019, use of access was restricted. This change was a chance to shift the economics of our business.

“We took our customer base, our expertise and experience and applied those to running our own network. That’s what we set out to do in 2020, raising circa £250 million in capital and deploying a premium, high capacity fibre network to provide direct Internet access connectivity to London’s most demanding business customers.”

Creswick says that Vorboss’ primary point of difference is capacity, offering 10Gbps, 25Gbps (via channel partners) and 100Gbps. “Our target market is any business in any sector with a presence in London – and data should not be a constraint on their growth,” he added. “I believe in providing abundant capacity. You don’t question if you’ll have enough water or electricity coming into your building. Data should be no different.”

Creswick also expects to see a significant increase in enterprise demand for more reliable, resilient connectivity, and it’ll happen ‘all of a sudden’. “The market is still at a relatively early adopter phase but that will reach a critical mass where adoption of abundant capacity becomes the mainstream norm,” he added. “Many network operators aren’t geared up for that.”

An important industry change that could hasten this development, says Creswick, is the creation of an environment where businesses can more easily identify the network that works best for them. “There are Ofcom reports on customer complaints for consumer and mobile services and multiple bodies comparing mobile coverage and average speeds,” he added. “But not in the fixed business market. Something as simple as comparing each networks’ average time to fix a fault would help businesses navigate the best choice for them. We are talking to Government and Ofcom about this. If we get that right the productivity gains would be enormous.”

Diversity and inclusion
Taking an industry lead and driving positive change echoes Creswick’s objective to put plenty of space between himself and also-rans on the track. According to Creswick, two other key factors that set Vorboss apart are the aforementioned in-house workforce (rather than relying on contractors), and his workforce being truly diverse. “More than a third of our technicians are women and we’re aiming to make that 50 per cent by 2027,” he added. “The Vorboss Training Academy is designed to give people access to the telecoms industry for the first time while equipping them with a detailed understanding of our network.

“Our policies and benefits also address the challenges that women and people from under-represented socio-economic backgrounds face in starting a career in our sector. Continued success will only come through attracting a diversity of thought and talent in the coming decades.”

If you haven’t deduced this already, Creswick is also a staunchly independent thinker unmoved by the influence of conventional thinking, therefore he is open to change on a number of levels and clear minded on how trends in the fibre space will shape up. “Consolidation is inevitable,” he stated. “But unlike many others, I don’t think this will rapidly reduce the number of operators into a small set of larger players. With the cost of capital so high by comparison to when many networks secured investment, things are going to get difficult for the networks not seeing good adoption. Merging two networks with low take up doesn’t solve that problem.

“Also, the business connectivity market is more mature than WLA/residential. In our market, channel partners and intermediaries are more familiar with navigating a multi-network landscape. When combining that with a much higher average revenue per customer, enterprise focused networks face different commercial incentives to the residential altnets.”

It is therefore vital for channel companies to understand the changing role of connectivity and the way customers are using digital services, believes Creswick. “Resellers need to strategically transform their organisations to meet changing needs over the coming years,” he urged. “Some of the most successful companies in the world have started from the premise that whatever got us here today, and whatever worked yesterday, will not continue to work tomorrow. That applies to our industry. If your best customers are also taking this approach they won’t just be looking at you to renew. They will want you to help them figure out how to continue being successful.”

Just a minute with Tim Creswick...

What talent do you wish you had?
To absorb information immediately. Wouldn’t that be incredible? In business, when I feel deficient in an area I go away and learn it. There’s a limit to that, of course. But that’s my approach and something the team also tries to adopt.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know:
I’m a professional racing driver, competing in the GT World Challenge Europe with Walkenhorst Motorsport, driving the Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

Industry wish:
For the sector to stop selling on bandwidth. It’s only a small part of the conversation.

Best advice you have been given:
Every mic is a live mic, guiding how you conduct yourself, even in private. This thought makes you do the right thing at every turn and protect your reputation at all times.

One example of something you have overcome:
Turning Vorboss into a vertically integrated network builder and service provider. People said it couldn’t be done, but we’re doing it.

Your biggest career achievement:
Success is important. But getting there in a way that you can be proud of is something that we need to always have front of mind. I’m proud that we have managed to hold on to that belief as a four person business and a 400 person company.

What could you not do without in your job?
Our office. We’re a team that loves working together. A close second is my dog, Maya. She joins all my meetings.

Top tip for resellers:
Think about how the connectivity landscape has changed and what it will look like in ten years time.


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