Technology Pioneers: Nikola Tesla

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Nicola Tesla is one of the most influential technologists of all time, who was a true visionary and far ahead of many of his contemporaries in the field of scientific development.

Some of Tesla’s major contributions to science include:

  • Alternating Current – his inventions made AC applicable for widespread use, helping to electrify the world, making the energy grid possible. Without energy grids, the modern world would be unrecognisable compared to its current form.
  • Radio technology – in 1898, Tesla showed an invention called “teleautomaton“, which was a boat controlled by radio waves. He controlled the battery-operated boat, whilst operating the propeller and lights through the radio waves. This invention was big in three different areas: advancements in radio technology that would later be used for everything from mobile phones through to TV remote controls. Secondly, the boat was one of the earliest robots, as it was a mechanical object that could be controlled without a human physically touching it. Thirdly, the combination of robotics and radio control technology makes Tesla’s boat the great-grandfather of drones. Tesla was one of the key scientists behind the advances in wireless communications, and he would become first to transmit radio signals over long distances.
  • The Induction Motor – which is still used today in everyday products like vacuums, blow dryers, and power tools.
  • Hydroelectric power – The Niagara Falls Commission was looking for a company to build a hydroelectric plant that would harness the mighty power of the falls for years, and with Tesla’s help, built one of the very first hydroelectric power plants.
  • Neon Lamps – Tesla advanced both fluorescent and neon lighting. He saw an opportunity and experimented with running electrical particles through gases, developing four different types of lighting. At Chicago World’s Fair, Tesla had neon signs that were unique designs and written words. The idea gained popularity and now, neon lights and signs, light up major cities around the world.
  • The Tesla Coil – was a key invention that enabled Tesla to experiment with, and better understand, the nature of electricity and wireless communications.

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The UK has by far the most mature e-commerce market in Europe

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Surprisingly, the UK consumer spends much more online than their French or German counterparts, despite the UK economy being similar in size to France and considerably smaller than Germany:

The UK spends a much higher proportion of GDP on e-commerce compared to France and Germany. Perhaps more surprisingly, French consumers spend more on e-commerce than Germany.

This data provides a good illustration of how the UK internet industry is the most mature in Europe, and disproportionately large compared to other European economies.

There are no doubt many complex causes for this. Many US companies have chosen to create their headquarters out of the UK for a combination of reasons; easier cultural assimilation, and perhaps also the perception of a relatively pro-business regulatory approach compared to often more tax-heavy continental European political regimes.

Furthermore, the UK has achieved notable success in a range of subsectors – such as online retail with ASOS and Net-a-Porter achieving international success, fintech with pioneering companies like TransferWise and WorldRemit, online gambling with powerhouses like Betfair, Bet365 and PartyGaming (historically), mobile games with the likes of King having substantial UK operations, online travel (e.g. has a strong UK heritage, Skyscanner) and many other sectors.

Because the UK was one of the first internet ecosystems to emerge in Europe, this has also created some economies of scale; because there were other internet companies in London, it made hiring a CTO, or CMO or CPO much easier as there was a ready made talent pool to dip into. Try and set up a new internet business or country operation in a more emerging market, and you might well find obtaining strong talent much more difficult.

Perhaps there are also cultural elements at work here – maybe us Brits just prefer online shopping more as an experience compared to other countries, who may have more affection for physical retail.

There is a very real sense in which the French and German internet markets are relatively immature and smaller than they should be, despite notable successes such as Zalando or Leboncoin. This should create huge opportunities to take successful business models that have worked well elsewhere and extend them to those markets. French and German internet businesses looking to expand will often have to look abroad for talent, as there is often insufficient talent (particularly in functions like engineering and product) in the local market.

For us at Neon River, this means that our work is increasingly international – whether that is working with clients outside the UK – or looking to relocate candidates from abroad to mitigate for a lack of local talent in a particular market.

Negotiating a job offer

Negotiating a job offer

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Neon River’s Peter Franks on some of the key factors that influence a job offer negotiation process:

As a headhunter, I find the process of helping to negotiate a deal between hirer and candidate to be one of the most fascinating. Our role is to empathize with both parties, and sometimes to ask the difficult questions to reduce the chance of friction. We, of course, have a vested interest to complete the deal; we’ll spend a lot of time analysing the financial construct of the offer, managing expectations, and trying to create a positive experience for all parties that leads to a successful deal.

But how might a candidate best negotiate a deal with a potential employer directly?  Read More

Engineering Wars: The Hardest Search in Tech?

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Neon River’s Peter Franks explores one of the hardest assignments in executive search, finding an Engineering leader:

Ask most technology industry headhunters what the toughest assignment to execute is, and there’s a good chance they will tell you that it’s finding an Engineering leader for an internet or software company. Competition for strong technology leaders is intense because the function is responsible for building the products that enable firms to differentiate from one another. A technology company with a poor product and customer experience will not prosper long.

Whilst the intense competitive demand for the role is undoubtedly a major reason why VP Engineering or CTO searches fail, there is another major cause that is often overlooked. Too often, when the role is being defined, there isn’t enough clear thinking about priorities.

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Peter Franks Neon River, Recruiting Early Stage Companies

Recruiting for early stage companies

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Neon River’s Peter Franks on recruiting for early stage companies:

I’ve always enjoyed recruiting for early stage companies and it’s a key specialism of ours at Neon River. I suspect that most headhunters would agree that the most fun part of a headhunting process is usually when you are persuading candidates that there is a better opportunity elsewhere. This is the very core of executive search. If you can persuade the best candidates that there is a better opportunity elsewhere, then you are halfway to becoming a great headhunter. Read More

Neon River - The impact of the internet on recruitment

The impact of the internet on recruitment

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Neon River’s Peter Franks on how the internet has changed the world of executive search:

When I started in the headhunting industry in 2004, the internet was only just beginning to make an impact. The principles of good headhunting were very much in place, but candidate identification and research relied pretty much wholly on personal referrals and telephone based research. Linkedin was, of course, already up and running but few had yet seen the way in which the internet would create both opportunities and risks for the modern recruiter. Read More