by Carl Howarth
On Thu, 1 June 2017

Director Carl Howarth on the story of Control F1, now part of Intercept IP Group

Can you give us a history of Control F1 to date?

"We founded the company back in 2010, starting with just a couple of us working out of our homes. As anyone with young children will no doubt relate, we quickly realised we needed to move into an office, and set up in Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. The first few years, as with many new start ups, were pretty tough, and we took on whatever work we could to keep the lights on. Fortunately we had good contacts in the industry and were building a reputation for quality work and being responsive, enabling us to get new work through word of mouth and building up a small but loyal client base.

As the company gained traction and a name for itself, we started picking up larger clients who needed more complex enterprise applications. Our staff expanded, and so did our office space. At times it felt like we were moving every other week to make room for new people! We were also spending a good proportion of our time working on asset tracking solutions, and we have now tracked everything from road vehicles, marine vessels, celebrities, criminals and even at one point Kit-Kats!

I think our biggest break from this acquisition of telematics knowledge really came with the RAC Advance platform. We'd already developed the RAC's website for them in a Content Management System, and they were aware we had a lot of telematics experience behind us. They were developing a black box system for their insurance division that would track driver behaviour and enable them to create usage based insurance, with better drivers benefitting from a discount on their annual premiums. Control F1 were engaged to develop all of the back end systems to receive, process and analyse the data provided by all of these vehicles, in a cost effective and timely manner. It was a huge project and required a large team of developers and managers working over 18 months to complete. It really gave us a name for quality work in this rapidly emerging marketplace and opened a lot more doors for us.

Last year we began leading the i-Motors project, a government funded consortium of commercial and academic concerns producing a commercially viable set of systems for connected vehicles. We're also working with large, global businesses like Johnson & Johnson (for whom I had a most interesting trip to Russia recently!), but we are also still just as happy working with small to medium enterprises that have been our bread and butter for so long too.

Finally, we've recently had a large investment into the company from Machine To Machine Solutions Ltd in exchange for a 40% stake in the company. Not only does this enable us to further expand our operations, our close relationship with M2M which has developed over the last few years also gives us access to their vast expertise in the telematics world, and of course the ability to help them bring their own projects to fruition. It's really the icing on the cake of what's been a great couple of years for the company."

What do you attribute Control F1's success to?

"I don't think any company can ever pick out any one thing, however, I would attribute a lot of the success of the company to the staff we hire and the fantastic team we've built. Early on we decided that quality was key, we never wanted to be yet another huge coding farm or outsourcing agency. We only employ senior staff at all levels with at least 5 years experience in their field. For each project we are involved in we put together the best dream team we can for that client, ensuring the best chance of success by combining the right mix of dedicated analysts, developers and managers.

Companies like ours live or die on the quality of our work, because word of mouth is so important to us. We don't hire any sales people or use any aggressive tactics to get new business. When you call our office, the people who pick up the phone are the same people who are working for you. We're certainly not perfect, but we work really hard with our clients to ensure the best outcomes for their projects. Any issues really do hit us hard, so we always endeavour to resolve them quickly and efficiently. Our long term relationships with many of our clients attest to the strength of our commitment to quality and ongoing support.

Finally, the people we've partnered up with over the years have been a huge help, we've managed to build some fantastic contacts within the industry who are happy to act as our advocates, and are always willing to give us their knowledge and support when we need it. Oh, and a little bit of luck now and then never does any harm!"

And what do you see in Control F1's future?

"We've got more fantastic patents that are currently being filed, which are really going to enrich the unique functionality and systems we can provide, especially within the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle space. The i-Motors project still has another 9 months to run, and we feel we'll be able to provide a lot of commercial functionality out of that too.

At the same time, our greenfield development teams are hard at work creating all kinds of enterprise applications, and this is certainly going to continue to expand if history is anything to go by. Likewise for our mobile application arm, and our Content Management System developers. One of our biggest issues at the moment is trying not to disappoint our customers while we keep up with their demands!"

One final question: If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering starting their own development company, what would it be?

"Find a unique selling point that stands you out from your competitors, and never, ever lose sight of it. Expect to have to work extremely hard to make a success of it. Oh, and finally, don't try working from home when you've just started a new family!"

*With effect of August 2018 Control F1 is now part of the Intercept IP group.*

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