The CEO of UKFast has set his sights on worldwide expansion as the UK hosting firm considers a stock market flotation.

Lawrence Jones MBE, founded the Manchester tech firm alongside his wife, managing director Gail Jones, in 1999 and has grown it into a £47 million turnover business.

Despite doubling in size in recent years and expanding its workforce to 325, Jones sees an IPO as a potential catalyst to expand its presence in London – and from there, the world.

“If you really believe in your brand and want to take it to the next level, there comes a time where you need to go out and raise money,” he told BusinessCloud.

“There is a huge opportunity for us right now: Amazon’s AWS [cloud offering] has been challenged by Microsoft Azure and, while those two are scrapping, we can come in below the radar.

“While it’s not 100 per cent that we’re going to do it, floating on the London Stock Exchange would allow us to build things faster.

“If we're up against these huge corporations we need to be going faster than them. But you can’t do that unless you expand and add major capability.”

UKFast, which fully owns and operates five data centres in Manchester, has appointed global investment bank GCA Altium to review its strategic options, with a potential float seen as a 'prime option'.

→ READ MORE: UKFAST LAUNCHES NEW PUBLIC CLOUD BUSINESS

UKFast

Plans to build a world-class campus at its already impressive Manchester base (pictured above) could even be replicated in the capital, according to Jones, who has developed a separate arm of the business to carry out its construction work, UKFast Space.

“If we were to replicate what we have here in London, it would really raise our profile,” he said of the modern design of its workspace. “It works incredibly well for us and sets us apart as something a little bit different.

“From there we can expand into Europe, and then who knows… if we do a flotation, there's no reason why can't set our sights on becoming one of the biggest cloud companies in the world.”

He added: “I believe we have the best customer service on the planet. AWS and Azure don’t have the ability to support customers like we do.

“But this could give us the chance to expand in other areas… with a big war chest, we could go out and get more programmers and devops and expand the API functionality we have – allowing us to build more software to help our customers grow.”

UKFast achieved 18 per cent organic growth in 2017, a year in which it acquired public sector cloud and security specialists Secure-IA, which has deep public sector and government credentials.

In recent times it has also taken over cyber security firm Secarma and invested in many other businesses such as eCommerce platform Mercarto.

“S-IA gave us more customers – and high-profile customers such as the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence – and revenue, but more importantly, it allowed us to improve how we served those types of customers,” said Jones.

“There are many technology businesses out there that have extraordinary capabilities, which we could plug straight in and supply to our clients… if we IPO, we could also [for example] buy a software company to bolster our devops team.”

In a marketplace where many technology companies are struggling to attract talent, Jones is open about the challenge of keeping his top-performing staff and being seen as a valuable partner to start-up founders such as Mercarto founder Sean Brown.

“If I don’t create opportunities for world-class people that want to grow to the next level I'll lose them – and I'm not prepared to do that,” he said. “I'm prepared to push my own boundaries to build this business.”

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