Andrew Dunn joined OpenCorporates as our Chief Technology Officer (CTO) late last year. He is an experienced leader of fast-growing and innovative technology companies, having been the CTO previously at Arachnys and Smarsh.
We sat down with Andrew to hear what some of the key challenges are when building a company data platform, what customers want from a tech solution and, from his experience, what makes a great technology team.
What is your role at OpenCorporates? What does it involve?
As CTO, I am primarily focused on our product and the technology behind it, but I typically get my fingers in all pies across the company. I am fortunate to come into the business with fresh eyes and to see opportunities where we can add more value to our users.
My initial focus is improving and scaling the great product we already offer. But I’m excited to implement our plans to deliver our data in even better ways to our users worldwide.
Tell us about your experience before you came to OpenCorporates?
Many of my previous roles revolved around driving technological transformation across multiple dimensions – migrating high-security applications from data-centre to public cloud, refactoring cloud applications to support new solutions, and of course, to deliver products based around the specific needs of users.
This often involved introducing new processes development, DevOps, FinOps and security processes, and reshaping and developing high-performing teams that align with a go-to-market strategy.
I’ve been fortunate enough to lead initiatives like these in startups where I was the first engineer on the ground, through to international scale-ups – where I ran a team of a hundred engineers across two continents.
Most recently, I was the CTO at Arachnys, a provider of data and technology solutions for Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) processes. This experience overseeing a product in the risk and compliance space gives me a great insight into what many of our clients need from a company data platform – as many use the data in similar ways. I have also been the interim CTO at Smarsh, a platform that provides electronic communications archiving solutions for regulated organisations.
Are there any technology challenges you’ve experienced building a global company data platform in contrast to a conventional SaaS application?
In some ways it’s similar, but our need to provide as fresh data as possible to users is the complexity here – so it’s a big data problem.
Let me explain what I mean: say a new company is incorporated – it takes a bit of a time for it to appear as data in the relevant company registry (eg Companies House in the UK), and then another bit of time for it to appear as data in OpenCorporates.
It’s my team’s job to make that second bit of time as short and frictionless as possible. Whilst it’s a simple idea, building, and more often than not: maintaining, the technology to do this for hundreds of official registries that are each a moving target is a unique challenge. Second to that is ensuring that the data maintains its integrity, is improved and that the data can be modelled into the related network that it truly is.
Many of our users deploy company data to fuel automated processes such as onboarding workflows. Presumably they have similar challenges?
Anybody looking to use company data to power an automated workflow such as onboarding, tends to ask these two questions first:
- What data do you have?
- And how up-to-date is that data?
And it’s not surprising, since to reliably automate any process you need high quality and preferably up-to-date data.
But the exciting part of working at OpenCorporates is that there are many different kinds of organisations using the data to solve challenges in innovative ways.
We’re one of the few data vendors that can offer an entire country (or region’s) worth of company data as a Bulk Data file in one go – and our customers use this as the foundation for knowledge graphs, data lakes and all kinds of solutions.
Naturally their challenges are different to those looking to automate a process though, as they have more of an Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) need when working with data in bulk.
And that’s where I want to see us go in the future: developing our platform so it gets data into the hands of our users in the way they need it – as fast as possible.
Are you seeing any trends in the ‘something-as-a-service’ technology space?
No matter what area we’re talking about, any ‘as-a-service’ solution needs to be easy to use by its customers.
But it also needs to be scalable and resilient – as any customer tying the solution to their internal processes needs to know that it will be there tomorrow and the day after.
And it almost goes without saying that any ‘as-a-service’ solution needs to have the functionality to solve its users’ business challenges better than its competition – full stop.
You can only build a great application with a great team. What are your top tips for building a truly great technology team?
I’ve worked with some fantastic tech teams in my career and the consistent thing about the best ones was that they really wanted to work alongside each other.
So first are foremost: hire not only on technical aptitude, but also team fit. You can hire the most competent people, but they need to get on well in your team to deliver great results.
It’s the team that delivers the most, not the individual typically – so it’s so important to cultivate a team with a strong sense of ‘us’ against the world. It’s easy to scale a team when everybody truly wants to show up for each other and gets a kick out of solving difficult tech challenges.
It reminds me very much of when I used to row (not professionally), but every member contributed to the boat going faster. If people didn’t turn up for training, the boat didn’t go out, and if someone wasn’t working at their optimum the boat suffered. You won together, you lost together. It’s important not to dwell for too long on what went wrong, but to look forward, understand what happened, then move forward together.
Personal growth of my team is also a core part of my philosophy and I have been very lucky to have a strong group of mentors throughout my career. Enabling my engineers to learn new skills, build their knowledge and grow with the business is essential on many dimensions.
I want any member of my team to leave better than when they arrived, with a kit bag of well-rounded skills and experiences that benefit them in the future and provide the best anecdotes and stories for years to come.
What do you like about working at OpenCorporates?
I get to stand on the shoulders of giants. Before I joined, OpenCorporates was already off to an impressive start – having built a data platform relied upon by millions every month, and having an outsized impact on the opening up of access to company data around the world.
I was impressed by our CEO, Sarah Arana-Morton, and after meeting her I became intrigued by the company and its mission. The world needs greater corporate transparency if society is to prosper, be fairer and become sustainable.
Outside of work… What do you like to do in your spare time?
I used to row, cycle and run but that has gone by the wayside somewhat since having kids! I have however just bought a Watt Bike Atom – so I’ll be trying to get those miles in.
I also enjoy reading, although I have a stack of books on my nightstand from the last two Christmases which I have still not read. Finally, I have a keen interest in motorbikes.
OpenCorporates is looking for vital new team members, from engineers (python) to pre-sales solutions engineers, to to help us promote corporate transparency for the benefit of all.
Apply now >