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shortlist review

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tech CEO of the year award
sponsored by Oakley Advisory Limited

There are many essential ingredients required to create an outstanding tech CEO. One of the most critical is a deep, unwavering dedication to the product. CEOs should lead their organisations in being passionate about what they are selling or trying to achieve. Without passion, a tech CEO cannot convince investors that they have what it takes to grow the business or persuade customers that their product is right for them.

To stand out in the tech sector, a successful CEO needs to be a determined and motivated individual with a strong vision and flair, who is capable of inspiring all those around them. 

Some tough criteria – however our outstanding shortlist over-delivered in every aspect.
They are:


 UKT20_Finalist_Steve Cliffe_Ultraleap Ltd.png

Steve Cliffe/Ultraleap Ltd

Steve Cliffe joined Ultraleap in 2014, having spent over 30 years in the tech sector with significant exposure to global markets and experience of senior management positions and commercial roles.

Steve is known for his ‘people first’ attitude to business, developing individuals to perform at their very best. His down-to-earth and enthusiastic nature is a part of what drives the culture at Ultraleap. Steve has helped drive a series of deals over the past year and under his leadership, Ultraleap is being strongly supported by investors across the sector. Steve realised the impact the COVID pandemic would have on consumer concerns about hygiene and public interfaces, and ensured Ultraleap responded quickly to the opportunity to provide “touchless” interfaces to multiple sectors while being sensitive to the situation.


UKT20_Finalist_Adolfo Hernandez_SDL plc.png

Adolfo Hernandez/SDL plc

Adolfo joined the SDL board as CEO in 2016, swiftly laying out a three-year transformation plan, based on an overarching vision of a more integrated approach to translation and content management. Realising that the business landscape was being radically transformed by digitisation, Adolfo set out a strategy to invest in technology and automation. The successful execution of this strategy is evidenced by SDL’s current position in the market.

Adolfo oversaw implementation of the Helix transformation process and the adoption of automated, cloud-based processes is evidenced in SDL’s ability to transfer a 4,500-strong workforce to home working in just over a week in response to COVID-19. Adolfo also presides over a flourishing workplace culture at SDL, which produced exceptionally favourable results across all surveyed areas.


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Tim Steiner/Ocado Group plc

Tim is the founding Chief Executive Officer of Ocado, which he started in 2000. He abandoned a promising career as a bond trader at Goldman Sachs to set up Ocado nearly 20 years ago with two friends, Jonathan Faiman and Jason Gissing and is now one of an elite group of founders to have built a FTSE100 business from scratch. Tim has been the driving force behind Ocado’s stratospheric rise, and was instrumental in closing the M&S deal, which resulted in the group’s shares rising 103% this year. Ocado is currently valued at £19.5bn.

Tim has been quoted as saying, “The biggest risk in business is not taking enough risk. Most companies are too frightened, but if you stand still it is a certainty you are going to be extinct”, which sums up his attitude and the culture he has established at Ocado. Tim was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2016.


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Nigel Toon/Graphcore Ltd

Nigel is co-founder and CEO of Graphcore, a rapidly growing British semiconductor company that specialises in accelerators for AI and machine learning. He has a background as a technology business leader, entrepreneur and engineer, having been CEO at two successful VC-backed processor companies XMOS and Picochip.

Since founding the group in 2016, Nigel has secured over $300m in funding and generated support from some of the world’s leading venture capital firms including Sequoia Capital, Foundation Capital and Atomico, and from major corporations including BMW, Bosch, Dell, and Microsoft. Nigel was a non-executive director at Imagination Technologies until its acquisition in 2017 and is the author on three patents.

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