Amazon acquisition creates jobs with ‘London-esque’ wages in Wales
Richard Youle, Local Democracy Reporter
Tech jobs with “London-esque” wages have been created in Swansea thanks to online retail giant Amazon’s acquistion of a home-grown e-commerce firm.
Veeqo, which has operated from Swansea’s High Street and Wind Street, has grown the workforce by 50 to 120 with the backing of Amazon, and has just moved into premises in SA1.
The office at Technium 2, Kings Road, is what Amazon described as its first global development centre in Wales, joining three other UK development centres in London, Cambridge and Edinburgh.
Amazon UK country manager John Boumphrey, who attended the unveiling with First Minister Mark Drakeford and Veeqo founder and chief executive Matt Warren, said: “This is a vote of confidence in Swansea’s potential as a tech hub and we hope other businesses will join us.”
Software firm Veeqo makes it easier for businesses to sell online by basically taking care of their back-office needs, allowing them to focus on sales, develop new products and expand.
Mr Boumphrey said there was a clear demand for this offering, that Swansea had the skills talent necessary to fill the jobs, and that the city ticked the quality-of-life box in terms of its location and natural assets.
There are wider hopes that Swansea can grow its tech sector – the council is leading the construction of a £32 million tech office, known as 71/72 The Kingsway, at the site of the former Oceana nightclub, and further development is planned at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (UWTSD) SA1 campus.
Mr Warren, who is originally from Llanelli, attended Ysgol Dewi Sant and then did an apprenticeship at an IT company before going on to set up a luxury watch e-commerce business, which he sold.
“I wanted to get back into technology – I’m a tech geek at heart,” he said. Living in London he also had a yearning to return to Wales, and so moved back just over a decade ago and set up Veeqo.
“It was the best decision I made, for sure,” he said.
The 44-year-old, of Mumbles, said he wanted to help high-quality jobs and a “tech ecosystem” grow in the Swansea area and stymie the flow of skilled graduates to London. He managed to raise more than £5 million in capital and sold Veeqo to Amazon late last year.
Mr Warren said while young tech talent was in Swansea “in abundance”, attracting experienced workers had historically been a challenge. Amazon’s new ownership, he said, would make that easier for Veeqo.
Fifteen of the 50 recent recruits had relocated to Wales, he said, thanks in part to “London-esque” salaries offered.
Three of the first people to work at Veeqo when it launched nine years ago were still with the business. These include Jade Lundie-Wakely, who met Mr Warren while studying at UWTSD and joined as a junior designer after graduating.
Originally from Hampshire, the 31-year-old said: “I love it in Swansea, and would have stayed anyway. I now manage a team of product designers, who work with the engineers to design the software.”
Mr Boumphrey said he’d heard that Swansea University alone produced 300 to 400 computer science graduates per year.
He said: “Veeqo have got some really talented people here.”
He said Amazon, which employs more than 2,000 people in Wales, saw the new Swansea site as being a development centre for small businesses selling online, while the ones at London, Cambridge and Edinburgh respectively focused on Amazon Prime, web products including virtual assistant Alexa, and advertising services.
Businesses can start selling on Amazon from £25 a month, plus VAT, with fees varying depending on product type and service.
Mr Boumphrey thanked the Welsh Government for providing some start-up funding for Veeqo in its early days.
Mr Drakeford said governments could help by investing in their people as well as in physical and digital infrastructure, and pointed out that Wales may lose many people in their 20s but was a net importer of people in their 30s and 40s when “all the advantages of Wales became apparent”.
He said that was a pattern he was comfortable with, as long as they brought back skills and knowledge they’d picked up.
Mr Drakeford said success often bred success in the start-up sector and that the Welsh Government sought to nurture clusters, such as in cyber security in southeast Wales.
Asked his thoughts on the Blue Eden project proposed at Swansea docks, featuring electric battery manufacturing and storage facilities, a tidal energy lagoon and floating solar farm, a data storage centre, and houses and flats, the Welsh Labour leader paid tribute to the council for its hard work in working up the proposal after previous plans for a tidal lagoon were sunk by the UK Government on the grounds of cost.
He added that for renewable energy projects in general in Wales he wanted an “enabling” regulatory approach but one that did not “stand back” from safeguarding fragile environments.
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London-esque wages – Amazon? Are we sure? Amazon – London-esque wages?
Sounds unlikely. Has anyone checked this?