Business Technology

How SwiftKey secured talent from Google and Candy Crush maker King

5 min read

17 February 2015

Former deputy editor

British tech business SwiftKey has grown its team with a handful of new executive hires from companies including Google, King, and Cable and Wireless.

The London-based company’s keyboard app enables easier typing on smartphones and tablets and can now be found on 200m devices globally, while the firm has raised $20m to date.

The company has announced executive hires from the likes of Google and King, joining recent appointments from firms including Daily Mail.

Given the diversity of the appointments, Real Business was curious about exactly what skills are required to fit into the business and why now is the right time for a recruitment drive.

Ben Medlock, SwiftKey’s co-founder and CTO told us: “We look for people who are innovative, ambitious, responsible, flexible, curious and fun and these are values we explicitly discuss and champion.”

  • Michael Smith is Google’s former product manager and will enter the role of SwiftKey’s VP of consumer product management, responsible for consumer apps.
  • Colleen Hall joins from Candy Crush maker King.com where she had roles including head of insight and director or partnerships and business operations. She will enter the position of VP of growth at SwiftKey, taking charge of acquiring and securing app users.
  • Trecilla Lobo previous worked as a senior HR team member at Cable & Wireless Communications, and has become chief HR officer at SwifKey to oversea people, culture and professional development.

The new appointments follow a string of hires that took place in 2014. COO James Bromley joined from MailOnline.com where he was managing director, while Eric Collins, SwiftKey’s B2B distribution and monetisation chief, has experience including over 20 years at AOL and Nuance.

“Now’s a great time to start a career in tech – there are more and more events and training courses where you can meet people and develop useful skills. The kind of path you take will depend on the kind of role you want,” Medlock continued.

“For me, my degree and PhD were absolutely essential. That’s where I learnt about Artificial Intelligence, which underpins SwiftKey’s free keyboard apps, matured as a person and met my co-founder Jon Reynolds, but there are many other routes.

“An alternative to getting a job in tech is to create your own. That’s what Jon and I did – e saw a consumer problem that needed to be solved, which was easy typing on smartphones, started a business and created our own jobs.”

SwiftKey now has over 160 employees. Medlock explained its key challenge as a growing business is to deliver growth internally to achieve it externally, with rapid mobile adoption in emerging markets one of the ways to broaden its user base.

Medlock admitted: “Many people still aren’t aware they can upgrade their keyboard to one that’s faster, easier and more fun – for free. We’re also particularly interested in the smartphone growth visible in India and Brazil. Our product is a great fit for consumers in those countries and we’re looking forward to growing our user base there.”

Given how the recent appointments have hugely varied careers, Medlock recognised diversity is a strength.

“You need many different backgrounds, personalities and experiences to build an effective team and we find our strength in our diversity – our team speaks 33 languages between them and everyone brings a fresh perspective and set of skills,” he said.

“We definitely look for an entrepreneurial spirit, the kind of people who’ve taught themselves new things and challenged themselves.”

Google was named the top place in the UK to work by Glassdoor, commended for  a “very cool culture, amazing people, offices to die for, some of the most innovative projects anywhere on the planet.”

So how does SwiftKey compete with that type of environment?

Medlock revealed: “SwiftKey’s workplace has been recognised by prestigious awards and rankings. We have a range of workplace perks from free food in the cupboards and a team lunch together every Wednesday to a drum kit and a ping pong table in our office.

“We have subsidised sports and social activities, regular Innovation Days (our version of a hack day) and prizes to recognise people who go the extra mile. But it’s not just about freebies. It’s about solving hard problems and working on products that are used every day by millions of people – that’s what attracts most people to SwiftKey.”