In the 1740s Benjamin Huntsman developed a new technique for producing steel called crucible steel in his workshop in Sheffield, England. Prior to this, Sheffield produced about 200 tonnes of steel per year. Move on a hundred years, and, using Huntsman’s technique the amount had risen to over 80,000 tonnes per year – almost half of Europe’s total production. Sheffield evolved from a small town into one of Europe’s leading industrial cities and England’s 4th largest city.
Sheffield was at the heart of the industrial revolution that started in Great Britain and spread to the rest of the world.
We are truly honored today because we have been given the right to use the “Made in Sheffield” mark in conjunction with our uberSVN product. Dating back as early as 1297 the Made in Sheffield mark is awarded for high quality products made in the city.
Of course the initial intent of the mark was primarily to recognize the superior quality of the steel products made in the city. But I’m delighted that the committee recognized that we have a new industrial revolution based on tech. The first iteration was a ‘faux-revolution‘ – most of the dot-coms really weren’t doing anything sustainable or revolutionary. But the one’s that survived and prospered really are. Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer by a country mile, while Google and eBay dominate. Not so sure about the likes of Boo.com [spent $188m in 6 months and then went pop], pets.com or webvan though.
Machine-based manufacturing in the late 18th century enabled the second, more explosive part of the industrial revolution with the development of steam-powered ships, railways, and later the internal combustion engine and electrical power generation.
A similar pattern is emerging in the tech revolution. The creation of the world wide web as a pervasive network is revolutionizing almost every aspect of commerce. This revolution started in Silicon Valley and spread quickly to every corner of the globe.
One of the side effects is that smart companies realize that location alone no longer provides significant competitive advantage. Code developed in India and China is as good as code developed in Silicon Valley. We took what some perceived to be a unusual step of moving our software development center to Sheffield a couple of years ago. I think it’s very strange that so many US companies automatically locate their UK HQ in London or even Bracknell for goodness sake. The UK in general loves to sterotype and apparently people in Sheffield live like the guys in “The Full Monty”, wear flat caps and breed whippets. Do people in London spend all of their time rioting and looting shops I wonder?
The move for us paid immediate and tangible dividends. Our award-winning uberSVN product is “Made in Sheffield”. It’s terrifically successful with tens-of-thousands of downloads taking the software development tools space by storm.
Being born in Sheffield and coming from a long line of steel people this award probably means more to me than most. I am very proud to be Made in Sheffield.