Prof. Simon Gibson, OBE is REAP chairman. His contributions to Welsh business are numerous and include helping Sir Terry Matthews grow Newbridge Networks into a multi-billion dollar brand, and founding Ubiquity Software Corporation, the winner of a prestigious European Innovator of the Year award. Now chief executive of Wesley Clover – an investment management firm that funds innovative start-ups – Simon is leading REAP to transform the ideas of Wales-based entrepreneurs into world-class products and high-growth businesses.
As a teenager, Simon Gibson’s career advisor told him to avoid the technology industry at all costs. It was a good job he didn’t listen. Simon studied and worked in the UK, the US and Canada – and it was along this international path that he met Sir Terry Matthews and took on the role of Head of Marketing at Matthews’ firm, Newbridge Networks.
“Newbridge Networks started in Chepstow above a dry cleaner’s and in Ottawa above a furniture store,” Simon says. “Ten years later it was worth ten billion dollars.” After his assignment at Newbridge Networks, he returned to Wales to launch Ubiquity Software, pioneering the SIP technology that’s now used by multi-media communication and messaging platforms around the world.
Following the sale of Ubiquity to Avaya, he teamed up with Matthews once more and launched Wesley Clover. Over two decades, the firm has funded more than 150 start-ups.
The most successful economies in the world bring together innovation and entrepreneurship. REAP is about bringing these two worlds together and creating products that can be world-class.
Around this time, he also launched the Alacrity Foundation, a Newport-based charitable organisation that’s aiming to create more home-grown technology companies by providing graduates with practical business training, software skills, mentorship from industry experts and access to start-up capital.
Now Simon has become involved with REAP so that the same kind of life-changing experiences he has been through – turning a vision into a huge commercial success for example – can become a reality for Wales-based entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
He says. “The UK is very good at innovation but we’re not so good at linking that inventiveness with entrepreneurship. Through BE THE SPARK, we want to take that great innovation and get all stakeholders to come together so that work can be effectively commercialised, then our best ideas can become great products and services that can be sold globally.”