Paul left Oxford University and worked for over 5 years inhouse as an embedded software engineer for a specialist manufacturer. However, he was keen to explore new opportunities and decided to try setting up his own business in Cornwall. From a small flat in St Agnes to two floors in a brand new office space in Redruth and over 35 employees, Bluefruit has seen sustainable growth and success over the past 18 years. 2017 marked record growth for the company and they’re forecasting an additional 50% growth for 2018.
Caitlin Gould, Bluefruit’s Business Development Director, provides insight into what it takes to run a software business in the South West corner of the UK.
“A lot of people presume that because we’re a software business operating out of Cornwall that we’re small, or a start-up, when the reality is we’ve been firmly established here for 18 years and have an experienced and dedicated team. That doesn’t mean that we’re not constantly looking for new ways to innovate our business and our service, it just means that we know our markets and we know what we’re doing.”Caitlin Gould
As a result, Bluefruit has carved a solid reputation for delivering quality, engineer-centric software solutions for its clients. Their dedication to quality and successful, sustained growth as a business has captured the attention of a number of organisations, seeing the company featured in the latest Tech Nation report, for the 3rd year running, alongside a new American Express Global SME Pulse Report. Both feature Bluefruit as a rapidly growing business with well developed practices for delivering software and growing talent.
One of the ways Bluefruit ensures quality software solutions for their clients is through a Lean Agile approach. “Agile practices are intrinsic to the way we work; everything from how we engage with clients, to how we code, it gives the team a sense of flexibility crucial for developing innovative, industry leading software. For our clients, it also means they get regular, well-tested releases and are an active part of the software development process.”
Bluefruit have been practicing agile principals since 2007 and have been invited to speak across the globe, discussing how they use different agile tactics to achieve great results both for themselves, and for their clients. The company are active members in the Cornwall agile community and are regular speakers at the annual Agile on The Beach conference, which hosts over 400 attendees from across the creative and tech sectors around the world.
In many ways, the principle of Agile can be seen throughout Cornwall’s tech sector more broadly. There’s a focus within the business community on what can be achieved through effective collaboration over competition, employees are highly valued and the businesses allow the calibre of the work to speak for itself. As a result, Cornwall is exporting its expertise and working with clients around the world on projects ranging from creative design to embedded software development, through to virtual reality and animation.
“We’re not a big city, so it’s important that we build strong relationships with other tech companies in Cornwall. This is why we’re one of the founding members of Software Cornwall – a community group dedicated to supporting the industry and helping with everything from recruitment and training, to social events. A few of us got together and thought ‘look, let’s team up and let people know that there are career opportunities, services, a skilled supply chain, an unrivalled quality of life, all here in Cornwall – right on our doorstep”, the evolution of companies becoming friends, colleagues, and the development of a strong community, working together collaboratively has provided us all with fantastic opportunities”.
Bluefruit is currently focusing on growing its reputation for quality critical code within the highly regulated aerospace and health sectors, and is working with a number of clients across the UK in the development of next generation products and prototypes. This couldn’t be achieved without a happy and motivated workforce.
“We’ve hired 11 new people join the team in the last year. In terms of where we get our talent from, there’s not just a challenge of getting software engineers in Cornwall, it’s a global challenge. To combat this, we’ve focused on creating a working environment that people want to be in. Our offices are brand new, we’ve got a free gym and we’re always organising team activities. We’re also an incredibly flexible and relaxed place to work, which is quite different from some of the intense pressure cookers you get in places like London or Cambridge. What’s important to us is that our team feel comfortable, whether that’s bare foot in the office, or sat on a beanbag taking time to reflect, we like to joke that we have “free range” developers. For us, a happy and comfortable workforce results in far better work, and a much more productive team, which means the company does better.”
Not satisfied with just hiring the best talent, Bluefruit also actively work with Software Cornwall and Cornwall College to help train the next generation of software developers. “We run work experience weeks, week-long software training programs, and even work with Cornwall College to help deliver their Digital Academy. It’s very important to us that students in Cornwall are aware of all of the opportunities that exist within the region. With projects like Spaceport Cornwall, world class facilities like Goonhilly Earth Station, and the opportunities to work with a range of tech companies, we want to encourage local talent to stay and work at all the great companies in Cornwall. This year we’ve also taken on three talented apprentices who have been a wonderful addition to our teams.
Bluefruit is another example of a business with Cornwall’s next generation mind-set. They encourage employees to value their personal time, and make the most of their beautiful surroundings, whilst working incredibly hard to deliver world class software.
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