Ex-City professional one step ahead of the cloud

Philip Salter
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FROM growing up in the Rossendale valley – the once beating heart of the industrial revolution – Piers Linney is now a man with many strings to his bow: law, accounting, banking, media, finance and entrepreneurship. Now he has his head in cloud computing – a technological revolution with the scalability to turn over billions.

His career path from a Lancashire mill town to co-founder – with Simon Newton – of Outsourcery has taken many twists and turns. He has constantly reinvented himself: first from solicitor at SJ Berwin, to investment banker at Barclays de Zoete Wedd, then Credit Suisse. He left banking when the internet was taking off, building a record label and internet radio station. Following this he became the chief executive of a corporate finance boutique, and then a partner in an alternative investment fund providing structured debt and equity financing to small cap public companies.

Despite his corporate career Linney had entrepreneurial aspirations: “When I was a young trainee solicitor what interested me were the entrepreneurs.” When dealing with small venture capital private equity funds at SJ Berwin he found the work of the management teams was more interesting than the legal side: “I was much more interested in the deals than writing them up – that’s when I looked around and realised I’m not going to be a lawyer in twenty years.”

In April 2007, as a partner in a small venture capital fund, Linney and his co-founder (and now co-CEO) took over a Manchester-based business providing mobile phone services to small companies, through a buy-in management buyout (Bimbo).

This would become Outsourcery, but first they “went in and took the business to pieces – atom by atom.” Instead of flipping the company, they invested in it, acquiring a small professional services firm, some infrastructure from Cable and Wireless, and building a hosting company. In March 2011 they sold the mobile business and recapitalised as a cloud business: “Most companies build infrastructure, sit on it for three to five years and then think about rebuilding it; we scrapped it after 12 months.”

This willingness to adapt is key. Linney repeated three words regularly throughout our meeting: “Then I realised”. It neatly sums up his entrepreneurial attitude – always learning, always changing. Linney admits he didn’t really know what investment banking was until his second year as a trainee lawyer; so he bought a book called Investment Banking, read it, and became an investment banker.

Linney is animated about cloud technology: “I grew up making mainland calls – now my Dad is speaking with me off the coast of Hawaii.” However, because cloud is “infinitely scalable” Outsourcery will need to raise finance. Eventually he thinks “it makes sense in cloud to go public” because it offers people the assuredness that you are going to be around.

Just when I thought the interview was coming to its conclusion, Linney whipped a laptop out of his bag and started communicating with his colleagues across the UK. Newton was soon interrupted, as were various members of staff – each clearly used to Linney showing off the impressive capabilities of unified communications.

Job title: Co-CEO

Turnover: £10m+

Number of staff: 135

Age: 41

Lives: Camden, London

Studied: Accounting and Law, University of Manchester

Drinking: Caipirinha

Reading: Various news sources

Talents: Downhill mountain biking

Favourite business book: The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google, by Nicholas Carr

Motto: “Just get on with it.”

First ambition: To go into space (is booked on a Virgin Galactic space flight)