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‘A data science strategy is essential to competitive success’

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BairesDev CTO Lucas Hendrich discusses the importance of pushing data transformation and the next big trend after DevOps.

As chief technology officer at software development company BairesDev, Lucas Hendrich is responsible for assessing technical challenges of current projects and determining the suitable teams and approaches to solve those challenges.

Hendrich has previously worked in technical research and training for several companies in Boston and New York. He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Brandeis University and is currently working on a master’s degree in economics at George Mason University.

‘Digital transformation has become the table stakes for all competitive organisations’
– LUCAS HENDRICH

Describe your role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy. 

I lead a team of more than 1,400 expert software engineers delivering technology solutions to more than 100 clients in the US, as well as a team of solution architects whose primary responsibility is discovering the best digital solutions for our customers.

In this sense, we drive tech strategies that align with our customers’ business goals, based on a combination of highly skilled talent along with a focus on solid engineering and design-thinking mindset. We are a digital acceleration expert partner, specialised in solid end-to-end delivery of tailor-made technology solutions.

Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

We currently have several interesting product initiatives that we are developing to first increase our own internal employee engagement, and then possibly provide to a wider market.

We serve a wide range of clients, developing innovative technology solutions for start-ups, middle-market businesses and more than 10pc of Fortune 500 companies in diverse industries.

We are collaborating with clients that are accelerating their business transformation plans, others that were negatively impacted by the Covid-19 crisis and are investing on their product roadmap, and others that are adapting their business models and pivoting to offer better experiences to their customers.

So, we are also constantly seeking ways to best share our cross-technology and industry knowledge internally to generate more added value for our customers. We are actively engaging in bleeding-edge technologies to learn, prototype and lead the market, particularly in acquiring talent that align to next-generation skills.

How big is your team?

Our services include dedicated teams, an expert autonomous team capable of rapidly and efficiently delivering technology solutions and value, and IT staff augmentation to complement the talent needs to rapidly scale and boost projects.

We are more than 1,800 employees in total, and 1,400 engineers. All of our engineers are our employees and as a provider of outsourced services, we do not outsource ourselves.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

Digital transformation, or digital strategy, has become the table stakes for all competitive organisations. Some of our clients had a digital transformation plan already developed, but now they are seeking to accelerate the process. Others are digital by design and they are focusing on constant improvement and innovation.

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We are now pushing data transformation: how can digital data be transformed into business intelligence and competitive advantage? How can it be trained, learned, adapted? It is not enough to build digital assets. A data science strategy is an essential component to competitive success.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?

Technology is in the centre of the biggest changes in our lives and after Covid-19 it is more evident that there is no way back.

The way we work, we communicate and interact with others has been disrupted, and people are expecting their experiences with brands, products and services to be frictionless, contactless, seamless and consistent across channels and devices.

That is the reason why we have seen an increased demand for our services. We partner with our clients to develop the best technology solutions via dedicated teams or completing the roles they need to rapidly scale and implement their projects successfully.

Companies across all industries are still adapting to modern application architectures and in the process of discovering optimal utilisation of the cloud. This is still an important transformative trend.

DevOps, while not universally adopted as a working culture and methodology, has at least become widely recognised. The next trend is MLOps [machine learning operations], applying similar principles to the rapid deployment of data models, adapted and accelerated to maximise the best use of data to improve and evolve.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

Organisations must adopt a zero-trust strategy. This strategy considers that breaches will happen and contains them, versus banking on all-or-nothing protection behind a firewall.

Also, almost every major breach in recent years has been due to human vulnerability. Education is the best protection.

For example, we work for Thomson Reuters, developing the technologies applied to their reporting and accounting services with a strong focus on security protocols and risk avoidance.

Our professionals work on preventing data leaks, anticipating fatal issues, and making sure there is no room for errors while also inhibiting targeted attacks and focusing on building the best and most engaging user experience.

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London is the best European city for founders, Startup Genome report

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The UK capital was the only European city to make the top ten in Startup Genome’s ranking, tying with New York in second place for the second year in a row.

London is Europe’s number one start-up city, according to a recent report by Startup Genome. The research and advisory body which specialises in start-ups released its ‘Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2021’ report today (22 September).

The report identified London and New York as joint second-best cities in the world for start-ups. London was the only European location to make it into the top ten. The city is attractive to founders thanks to its educated workforce and tax incentives, the report found.

Silicon Valley in California took the top spot, unsurprisingly. This year’s global rankings were dominated by the US, with half of the top 30 ecosystems coming from this region, followed by Asia with 27pc and Europe with 17pc of the top performing ecosystems globally.

Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles alone contributed more than 70pc to the US’s total ecosystem value.

Paris made the top 20, coming in at number 12. The Amsterdam-Delta region followed in thirteenth place. Dublin improved its rank from the previous year’s report, coming in at number 36 this time.

Beijing, Boston, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, Shanghai, Seattle and Stockholm also made the top ten best start-up cities.

The global start-up economy is currently worth more than $3.8trn in ecosystem value. There are 79 ecosystems generating over $4bn in value, which is more than double the number identified in 2017. This time last year, 91 ecosystems had achieved unicorn status.

Also in 2020, Startup Genome published a report indicating its concerns over the future of the start-ups ecosystem during Covid-19. The report suggested that 42pc of start-ups were in what it called ‘the red zone,’ meaning they had three months or fewer runway ahead of them.

Several countries  including the UK, France and Germany introduced special support packages for start-ups. Irish non-profit Scale Ireland also introduced a similar start-up scheme for Irish companies.

“Entrepreneurs, policymakers, and community leaders in Europe have been working hard to build inclusive innovation ecosystems that are engines of economic growth and job creation for all,” commented JF Gauthier, founder and CEO of Startup Genome on the report’s release.

“The Global Startup Ecosystem Report is the foundation of knowledge where we, as a global network, come together to identify what policies actually produce economic impact and in what context,” Gauthier added.

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Facebook oversight board to review system that exempts elite users | Facebook

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Facebook’s semi-independent oversight board says it will review the company’s “XCheck” system, an internal program that has exempted high-profile users from some or all of its rules.

The decision follows an investigation by the Wall Street Journal that revealed that reviews of posts by well-known users such as celebrities, politicians and journalists are steered into the separate system.

Under the program, some users are “whitelisted”, or not subject to enforcement action, while others are allowed to post material that violates Facebook rules pending content reviews that often do not take place. The Xcheck system, for example, allowed Brazilian footballer Neymar to post nude pictures of a woman who had accused him of rape, according to the report.

Users were identified for additional scrutiny based on criteria such as being “newsworthy”, “influential or popular” or “PR risky”, the Wall Street Journal found. By 2020 there were 5.8 million users on the XCheck list, according to the newspaper.

The oversight board said Tuesday that it expects to have a briefing with Facebook on the system and “will be reporting what we hear from this” as part of a report it will publish in October.

The board may also make other recommendations, although Facebook is not bound to follow these.

The Journal’s report, the board said, has drawn “renewed attention to the seemingly inconsistent way that the company makes decisions, and why greater transparency and independent oversight of Facebook matters so much for users”.

Facebook told the Journal in response to its investigation that the system “was designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding”. The company added that criticism of it was “fair” and that it was working to fix it.

A representative for Facebook declined to comment to the Associated Press on the oversight board’s decision.

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Philippines imposes 12 per cent digital services tax • The Register

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The Philippines has become the latest nation to impose a digital services tax.

Such taxes require the likes of Netflix and Spotify to pay local sales taxes even though their services are delivered – legally, notionally, and physically – from beyond local jurisdiction.

The Philippines has chosen a rate of 12 per cent, mirroring local value added taxes.

“We have now clarified that digital services and the goods and services traded through digital service providers should generally be subject to VAT. This is just a matter of common tax sense,” said Joey Salceda, a member of the Philippines’ House of Representatives and a backer of the change to the nation’s tax code.

Salceda tied the change to post-pandemic economic recovery.

“If brick and mortar establishments, which are the hardest-hit by the pandemic, have to pay VAT, the giants of e-commerce shouldn’t be exempt,” he said.

However, local companies that are already exempt from VAT by virtue of low turnover won’t be caught by the extension of the tax into the virtual realm.

Salceda’s amendments are designed to catch content streamers, but also online software sales – including mobile apps – plus SaaS and hosted software. The Philippines’ News Agency’s report on the amendment’s passage into law even mentions firewalls as subject to VAT.

The Philippines is not alone in introducing a digital services tax to raise more revenue after the COVID-19 pandemic hurt government revenue – Indonesia used the same logic in 2020 .

But the taxes are controversial because they are seen as a unilateral response to the wider issue of multinational companies picking the jurisdictions in which they’ll pay tax – a practice that erodes national tax bases. The G7 group of nations, and the OECD, think that collaborations that shift tax liabilities to nations where goods and services are acquired and consumed are the most appropriate response, and that harmonising global tax laws to make big tech pay up wherever they do business is a better plan than digital services taxes.

The USA has backed that view of digital services taxes, by announcing it will impose tariffson nations that introduce them – but is yet to enact that plan.

Meanwhile, the process of creating a global approach to multinational tax shenanigans is taking years to agree and implement.

But The Philippines wants more cash in its coffers – and to demonstrate that local businesses aren’t being disadvantaged – ASAP. ®

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