From Sheffield son to Silicon Valley multimillionaire

David Richards

David Richards, multimillionaire chief executive of software company Wandisco, has come a long way from his humble north-of-England roots.

The 43-year-old presides over a company worth more than £298m ($491m), of which his 17% stake totals about £51m.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is in the process of building a new £2.4m home complete with its own vineyard.

His neighbours are fellow Silicon Valley technology millionaires.

It is not a bad state of affairs for the son - and grandson - of steelworkers from Sheffield.

'Long-haired yetis'

Born in 1970, Mr Richards says that from an early age he knew he didn't want to follow his father into the steel industry.

Start Quote

My first car was a C-Class Mercedes which I paid for in cash. I just thought this was the way life was meant to be”

End Quote

"I was determined to get out and manage my own future," he says.

Deciding against going to university, he took a job as a management trainee at Barclays Bank. It was an early, but rare, career mistake.

Mr Richards says: "It taught me that the one thing I definitely didn't want to do was become a manager in Barclays Bank."

Quickly realising the error of his ways, and following some advice from an old teacher, he signed up for a degree in computer science and business studies at the then Huddersfield Polytechnic.

"At first I [again] wondered what I'd done," he says, "because computer scientists seemed like long-haired yetis who never went out and never met girls. But I persevered."

Computer servers Wandisco enables large companies to maintain working computer systems

After graduating in 1992, Mr Richards wanted big city opportunities, and so he moved to London to work for Druid, a rapidly growing software consultancy.

Offered the choice between a company car and stock options, the business-minded Mr Richards wisely chose the latter.

After Druid floated on the stock market, he found himself a near-millionaire, aged just 22.

"My first car was a C-Class Mercedes which I paid for in cash," he says. "I just thought this was the way life was meant to be."

Frosty encounter

Mr Richards then decided to set up his own consultancy, offering his expertise in business software.

Start Quote

I went to see some venture capitalists... this was just what you did at the time - it was the perceived wisdom, and I was a sheep”

End Quote David Richards

"I could have gone to work for some very big companies, but I had the drive to set up my own firm instead," he says.

He found that his services were in high demand in the mid-1990s, as an ever growing number of companies installed software systems.

It was very lucrative work, but by then Mr Richards had big ambitions to move across the Atlantic.

"I wanted to get the US by hook or by crook," he says. "The internet was taking off and Silicon Valley beckoned. It was where it was all happening."

At that time Mr Richards also met his future wife, Jane, in a hotel bar in Bath. "She was a bit rude to me," he says, after a friend mistook her for a barmaid.

Despite the frosty nature of their first encounter, romance blossomed and she accompanied him to the US. They headed first to New York before settling in California.

'It was a travesty'

In 1998, and now based in Silicon Valley, Mr Richards launched a business software company called Insevo. He admits that he learnt a harsh lesson in how he funded it.

Grapes being harvested in California Grapes ripen a bit more easily in California than in South Yorkshire

"I went to see some venture capitalists and managed to raise $25m [£15m] very quickly," he says. "This was just what you did at the time - it was the perceived wisdom, and I was a sheep."

But in business, access to easy money can lead to some poor investment decisions, as the approaching dotcom crash of 2000 was to make painfully evident.

In his view, venture capitalists looking for a quick profit imposed restrictive big business practices on Insevo, a rapidly growing start-up that should have remained nimble and flexible.

Ironically, his investors turned down an offer for the company worth "tens of millions of dollars", he says, before eventually selling up a few years after the crash for a lot less.

"It was a travesty," Mr Richards says, with some bitterness still evident.

'True genius'

Mr Richards left to set up Librados - "freed men" in Spanish - with four other partners, vowing not to rely on venture capital again.

Start Quote

If an investment bank cannot trade, it can cost it $100m a minute in lost business”

End Quote David Richards

Within a year the company, which did much the same as Insevo, had 50 customers, and was then bought out for for $10m.

"We were like killers," says Mr Richards, recalling his company's rapid growth and high-energy work ethic.

Yet it was meeting a Silicon Valley-based IT expert called Yeturu Aahlad, which Mr Richards says changed his life.

"I knew a true genius when I saw one," says Mr Richards.

Dr Aahlad had devised a way of replicating and synchronising multiple computer databases in real-time, so that if one server crashed the whole system could still function. The discipline is called "wide area network distributed computing".

Mr Richards and Dr Aahlad decided to team up and form a new company to offer the service.

David Richards Mr Richards has had a long and varied career in the computer world

Based in San Ramon, California, they named their business Wandisco, which is an acronym of wide area network distributed computing.

Sales grew fast, says Mr Richards, because in the era of big data "companies simply can't afford for their databases to go down".

He adds: "If an investment bank cannot trade, it can cost it $100m a minute in lost business."

Wandisco's clients include big banks, utilities, governments and retailers, with the US and China as its biggest markets.

And in 2012 the company successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market.

But despite Mr Richards' dream Californian lifestyle, he remains true to his Sheffield roots, employing 70 people in a sister head office there.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    CITY REACTION 11:15:

    John Cridland, director-general, of the Confederation of British Industry says the victory of the NO campaign "will be greeted by a collective sigh of relief across the business community." He adds "Business has always believed that the union is best for creating jobs, raising growth and improving living standards, and welcomes that the people of Scotland want to play an integral role in this internationally successful partnership."

     
  2.  
    GSK FINED $492M Via Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    Tweets: "GSK statement: "GSK sincerely apologises to the Chinese patients, doctors and hospitals. GSK deeply regrets the damage caused".

     
  3.  
    UK CREDIT RATING 11:03:

    The credit rating agency Fitch says that the prospect of Scotland winning more tax-raising powers, does not have an impact on its rating for UK debt. It argues that Scotland has a small share (10%) of the overall UK economy and there are also relatively "conservative" limits set on Scottish borrowing.

     
  4.  
    Via Twitter Victoria Fritz Business reporter, BBC News

    tweets: "Another feeding frenzy at #Alibaba launch? Grey market for shares indicates a 30% premium to the IPO price. @BizFleury there for the open"

     
  5.  
    DEVOLUTION QUESTIONS 10:44:

    The chief executive of Legal and General, Nigel Wilson, has made some punchy comments about the promised new powers for Scotland. He says it looks like a "great deal" but asks: "Why should the Scots get more public spending than the rest of us? If the Scots control almost all their own affairs, why shouldn't the other countries in the UK have the same powers?"

     
  6.  
    EUROPEAN REACTION 10:37: World Service

    Some in the financial markets are turning their attention to the possibility of a UK referendum on membership of the European Union. Michala Marcussen on Business Daily accepts "that may seem far away this morning". She also reminds us that Spain has still not resolved the Catalonia question: the region wants a vote, but Madrid is "clearly saying no".

     
  7.  
    GSK FINED $492M 10:27:

    Mark Reilly, the former China head of GSK has been give a three-year suspended sentence. He is likely to be deported from the country, according Reuters, which cites a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

     
  8.  
    GSK FINED $492M 10:18:

    GSK says the activities of its Chinese unit were a "clear breach" of GSK's governance and compliance procedures. "Reaching a conclusion in the investigation of our Chinese business is important, but this has been a deeply disappointing matter for GSK. We have and will continue to learn from this." GSK chief executive Sir Andrew Witty, says in the statement.

     
  9.  
    POUND RETREATS 10:13:
    Pound dollar

    The pound has been in retreat since about 09:00. Overnight it was trading well above $1.65 but it's now a little below $1.64. "Some devolution uncertainty will remain, distracting investors' attention from superior UK growth relative to Europe," says Adam Myers, currency strategist at Credit Agricole.

     
  10.  
    Ravi Mattu, Financial Times @ravmattu

    Ravi Mattu, Financial Times, tweets: Separatists are patient, so they will wait and try again. You get a leader who can rouse a population and the game is back on #indyref.

     
  11.  
    'NEVERENDUM' 09:58:

    The British Chambers of Commerce has reacted to the Scottish referendum result. John Longworth its director general says: "The companies I speak to are clear that this cannot simply be the first in a series of referenda, until one side or the other gets the result that it wants. Business and investment prospects across the UK would be deeply hurt by a Quebec-style 'neverendum' - a lesson that politicians must heed."

     
  12.  
    MARKET UPDATE 09:53:

    Royal Bank of Scotland continues to lead London's FTSE 100 share index higher. Shares are up 3%.

     
  13.  
    BUSINESS REACTION 09:44: World Service

    Even with the "No" vote business may still decide to move jobs south, says Scottish entrepreneur, Patrick MacDonald on Business Daily. He says London is the "natural" place to be headquartered in the UK. He reminds us that in Quebec nearly a quarter of big businesses left the region in between independence votes - including the Bank of Montreal.

     
  14.  
    GSK FINED $492M 09:33:

    Mark Reilly, the former head of GSK in China, and other so far un-named GSK executives are also expected to face prison sentences of between two to four years, according to the Chinese Xinhua press agency. GSK has yet to release a statement. We'll bring it to you as soon as the company does.

     
  15.  
    GSK FINED $492M 09:30: Breaking News
    A flag bearing the logo of GlaxoSmithKline flutters next to a Chinese national flag outside a GSK office in  Shanghai

    Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been fined $492m (£297m) by Chinese authorities in relation to bribery allegations brought against the company earlier this year. Changsha Intermediate People's Court in Hunan Province, found GSK executives guilty of "offering money or property in order to obtain improper commercial gains" and has found the company guilty of bribing non-government personnel.

     
  16.  
    BUSINESS REACTION 09:15: World Service

    Patrick MacDonald a Scottish entrepreneur, says that small and large businesses "quietly confessed" to him that they have not been sleeping at night. On Business Daily he claims that some were even prepared to make redundancies this morning, in the event on a "Yes" vote.

     
  17.  
    Via Twitter Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

    tweets: "Scotch Whisky Assoc welcomes stability: "debate has shown need for govt + business to collaborate to address long-term economic challenges""

     
  18.  
    BUSINESS REACTION 09:04: World Service

    Lord Haskins, former chairman of Northern Foods, thinks there could be "consequences" for the supermarkets that took positions supporting a "No" vote. Speaking on Business Daily, he says there is a danger they could be shunned by shoppers.

     
  19.  
    BUSINESS REACTION 08:53: World Service

    Business Daily on BBC World Service, is coming live from Edinburgh and speaks to Sir Brian Souter, founder of the Stagecoach Group of bus and rail operators and a supporter to the "Yes" campaign. He says it's "unfortunate" that business became so involved in the debate. He thinks that some business leaders who spoke out "would not dream of" telling their US customers how to vote.

     
  20.  
    CITY REACTION 08:47: BBC Radio 4

    Sir Tom Hunter, the former owner of Sports Division and Scotland's first home grown billionaire, tells the Today programme that the high turnout for the vote was "fantastic for democracy". "I think Scotland has rocked the political establishment from its roots in Westminster," he adds.

     
  21.  
    MARKET REACTION 08:34:
    Alix Stewart

    The BBC's Simon Jack is at Schroders in London's financial district. On BBC World News he speaks to market strategist, Alix Stewart. "We can go back to concentrating on the economy," she says. "It's clear rate rises will be coming," she reminds us.

     
  22.  
    LLOYDS REACTION Via Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    Tweets: "Lloyds Bank statement on Scotland more equivocal than RBS. Keeping options open on legal domicile"

     
  23.  
    DEVOLUTION 08:23: Radio 5 live

    On Radio 5 live Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors says the promised devolution of power will result in "big challenges". It should by about "enterprise and boosting competitiveness" in all regions of the UK and not "adding layers of bureaucracy".

     
  24.  
    MARKET REACTION 08:14:

    London's FTSE 100 index has opened 0.6% higher. Royal Bank of Scotland has jumped 3.3%, Lloyds Banking Group is up 2% and energy firm SSE is up 3.4%.

     
  25.  
    INTEREST RATES 08:10: Radio 5 live

    "The odds of a February rate rise should be pretty high now," says Ewen Cameron Watt, chief investment strategist at BlackRock Investment Institute on Radio 5 live. He thinks interest rates could move higher as early as November. A rate rise would have been "off the cards" for most of next year, if there had been a "Yes" vote, he says.

     
  26.  
    LLOYDS REACTION 08:07:

    Lloyds Banking Group has made this rather nebulous statement: "Lloyds Banking Group has maintained a neutral stance in this debate as we believe the decision was to be solely a matter for the people of Scotland. The group is proud of its strong Scottish heritage and remains committed to having a significant presence in Scotland. We remain fully focused on supporting households and businesses in Scotland as well as right across the rest of the UK."

     
  27.  
    STANDARD LIFE REACTION 07:55:

    We had to call Standard Life to find out what they actually meant. The insurer told us it has "shelved plans" to move operations to London "for now". "We've no plans to move any of our operations," it adds.

     
  28.  
    STANDARD LIFE REACTION 07:54:

    Standard Life, one of the companies that threatened to partially decamp from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote, now says: "We will consider the implications of any changes for our customers and other stakeholders in our business to ensure their interests are represented and protected." It adds it is "now important that we all move forward with respect and work together constructively in the best interests of Scotland and the UK". So that's clear then.

     
  29.  
    SCOTLAND POWERS 07:42:
    Prime Minister Cameron

    Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to come up with plans for new Scottish powers on tax, spending and welfare. The government is aiming to get an agreement by November. The BBC's personal finance reporter Brian Milligan is having a closer look at what that could mean.

     
  30.  
    MARKET REACTION 07:33: BBC Radio 4

    Anne Richards, chief investment officer at Aberdeen Asset Management tells Today: "A very close vote would have been a difficult one for markets." She adds: "I think we have had a reconnection between the political establishment, business and the electorate. And it would be good to see that momentum maintained going into the general election."

     
  31.  
    HEADLINES
     
  32.  
    ALIBABA SHARE SALE 07:29:
    Alibaba

    Away from Scotland's vote, shares in Alibaba start trading in New York later today. It has raised $21.8bn (£13.2bn) in one of the biggest ever stock market debuts. It is likely to use the money to expand in the US where it has a very low profile. A survey by Reuters showed that 88% of Americans had never heard of China's biggest internet firm.

     
  33.  
    RBS STATEMENT 07:21: Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    Royal Bank of Scotland has given a statement to the BBC's business editor, Kamal Ahmed, it says: "The announcement we made about moving our registered head office to England was part of a contingency plan to ensure certainty and stability for our customers, staff and shareholders should there be a 'Yes' vote. That contingency plan is no longer required. Following the result it is business as usual for all our customers across the UK and RBS."

     
  34.  
    REFERENDUM REACTION 07:14: BBC Radio 4

    Patrick MacDonald former boss of John Menzies, tells the Today programme the debate over Scottish independence has changed the country forever. "Things will never be the same again," he says. There is now "a need to reform our 300 year old constitution" and the country also needs to work at reconciliation to "make sure businesses stay in Scotland".

     
  35.  
    RBS 07:08: BBC Radio 4

    A little more from Mike Amey on the referendum result. He tells Today: " I suspect there's a very large sigh of relief at RBS [over the result] They don't have to worry about where they were going to be based and how they were going to conduct their future business."

     
  36.  
    MARKET REACTION 07:07: BBC Radio 4

    Mike Amey, managing director and portfolio manage at bond trader PIMCO tells Today he expects the markets to open higher as a result of the Scottish referendum result. "It will be back to the data for our traders and what the Bank of England will do [on interest rates]."

     
  37.  
    MARKET REACTION 06:49: Radio 5 live

    Adam Parsons is in the City at the offices of stockbrokers IG with their chief market strategist, Brenda Kelly. She says the opening of the FTSE 100 might be quite as dramatic as some expect. That's because markets have been predicting this outcome over the last few days. However, she says, it could "break through 6930" which would be a record high.

     
  38.  
    06:42: Via Email Linda Yueh Chief business correspondent

    There are other uncertainties now for Scotland after this vote. But, for markets at least, the big uncertainty that could have lingered for a year and half over the currency and the economy is lessened and sentiment is positive as a result.

     
  39.  
    06:33: Louise Cooper, CooperCity market blog

    "So it's up up and away this morning, the question is how far does it [the pound] go before reality sets back in and other political fears begin to dominate: The rows in Westminster over devolution max which has been promised. The General Election and the UK referendum on EU membership. Party conferences season resumes next week so there will be plenty of headlines to be written about the next set of political risks."

     
  40.  
    CITY REACTION 06:27:

    The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Fiona Woolf has welcomed the outcome of the Scottish referendum. "The proposed enhanced devolution that Scotland will experience while remaining in the UK will enable its national spirit to thrive while our entwined economies and business communities prosper together," the Lord Mayor said.

     
  41.  
    YES CAMPAIGN CONCEDES 06:23: BBC Radio 4
    Scottish first minister Alex Slamond

    Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond has hailed 1.6 million votes for independence. He concedes that "we now know there is going to be a majority for the "No" campaign". Scotland has, by majority at this stage, voted not to become an independent country," he adds. He expects devolution promises to be honoured with "rapid force".

     
  42.  
    ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND Via Email Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    With No confirmed as the winner in the referendum, we can expect the Royal Bank of Scotland to say there is now no need to move domicile to London. The bank had prepared for a "Yes" vote by saying last week that it would move its headquarters from Edinburgh. I wouldn't be surprised if Ross McEwan, the chief executive, re-iterated the bank's commitment to Scotland. I am sure RBS's executives are relieved that the upheaval of independence will now not happen.

     
  43.  
    POUND STRENGTHENS 06:12:

    A decisive win for the No campaign could lead to big spike in the Pound. Jeremy Cook, economist at World First says. The obvious risk to the currency markets was a Yes, and that would have caused a big sell off. Now the markets will go back to concentrating on the fundamentals of the UK economy," he adds.

     
  44.  
    SCOTLAND INVESTMENT 06:01:

    Simon Walker, director general of business group the Institute of Directors has given an interview to the BBC. He says he thinks the government will now give the green light to investment projects that had been previously held up because of the uncertainty caused by the independence referendum. He adds the ending of that uncertainty will be positive for business.

     
  45.  
    POUND STRENGTHENS 05:54:
    pound versus dollar

    This chart shows the pound against the dollar over the last month. You can see it dipped to a low of $1.6071 on 10 September. That was after a poll in the Sunday Times showed a lead for the "No" campaign. It is now trading at $1.65. That's a move of 5 cents which is pretty big over two weeks.

     
  46.  
    MARKET UPDATE 05:47: BBC Radio 4

    Asian markets are up nearly 2% overnight BBC business correspondent Linda Yueh, tells Today. The market indications are that the FTSE 100 will open 0.7% higher. That's not exactly a surge but it is a positive reaction.

     
  47.  
    BANK OF ENGLAND 05:42: BBC Radio 4

    Justin Rowlatt is down at the Bank of England for BBC Radio 4's Today programme: He says the lights are on and staff are busy working inside. Although perhaps not quite as frantically as if Scotland was looking on course to vote Yes in the referendum. Bank governor Mark Carney cut short a meeting to fly home overnight. "He may have had a wasted trip," Justin says.

     
  48.  
    POUND STRENGTHENS 05:36:
    Pound dollar

    This chart shows how the pound has faired against the dollar since the polls closed in Scotland on Thursday evening. As you can see it's strengthened from a low of $1.63 to above $1.65, that's its highest point since the start of the month. In currency market terms it's also a huge move in a short space of time.

     
  49.  
    05:30: Ben Morris Business Reporter

    The pound has bounded higher overnight in reaction to the Scotland vote. More reaction through the morning. Stay with us.

     
  50.  
    05:30: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning folks. It looks like - with 26 of 32 local authorities now having declared the result of their ballots- that the No campaign is on course to win the Scottish independence referendum. We'll bring you all the reaction from the financial markets and the business community as it comes in. As always if you want to get in touch you can email us at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or tweet us @bbcbusiness.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • A screenshot from Goat SimulatorClick Watch

    The goat simulator which started as a joke but became a surprising hit, plus other technology news

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.