All Change at Saxonica

By Michael Kay on October 02, 2023 at 09:00a.m.

Today we are announcing a big change at Saxonica, but it's one that we hope no-one will notice.

Some of you may have noticed that I will be 72 in a couple of weeks, and you may have been wondering how long I intended to continue. Well, I'm still enjoying the challenge, and I'm not giving up just yet, but I have been thinking for some time about how to move the company into a position where it can thrive without me. I decided a while ago that the best approach — in the interests of the staff and the user community — was to move the ownership of the company into an Employee Ownership Trust, and this has now been effected.

What this means is that Saxonica is now owned by a Trust, which has acquired a 100% shareholding from my wife Penny and myself. The Trustees are Norm Tovey-Walsh, Sue Schreiber, and myself, and their task is to appoint directors and approve any big decisions (such as acquisitions). When making such decisions the Trust is obliged to take into consideration the best interests of the staff and the user community, including both paying customers and open-source users.

Indeed, there's a specific clause in the trust deed noting that the company's software is used to deliver open data for the wider benefit of society at large, and the Trustees are required to take this into account.

The most obvious change will be that Norm Tovey-Walsh is taking over as Chief Executive; I will remain on the board (with the title "Director of Innovation"), but Norm is now the boss. I can't think of anyone in the world who is better qualified to steer the ship.

Back at the start of 2020, before the pandemic, I was rather conscious that with several people approaching retirement age, the company was not in a good state to carry on without me; as a result any acquisition could well have led to serious discontinuity for the user community, and indeed for the future of the XML ecosystem of which we have become such a central part. Since then, with Norm joining in a senior technical role, with Ankita Mohinta taking over the marketing and commercial side so effectively, and more recently with Matt Patterson joining O'Neil Delpratt and Debbie Lockett on the development side, we now have a team that has an unmatched depth of talent. This is reflected in excellent financial results over the last couple of years. But it's also true that I know the innards of the software better than anyone, and I don't intend to walk away from my focus on providing technical support to customers, which is probably the part of the job that I enjoy the most.

Penny is taking this opportunity to retire from her role as a director and employee of the company, and this is a good opportunity to thank her for her contribution. She may not have been very visible externally, but she's done a lot of invaluable admin work behind the scenes, and has been a constant source of good advice, most particularly in helping to build a happy and productive team — especially through the pandemic.

I'm confident that through this adminstrative change, the company will retain the core values that have been central to our success: innovation, commitment to standards, outstanding technical support, honesty and integrity, admitting to our mistakes when we make them, and above all being active contributors to the thriving community without which we would not exist. I hope to remain part of that for many years to come.