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Hypo Venture Capital Headlines: Imagination Technologies’ Yassaie: ‘What we need is a        Beckham for the industry’
When Hossein Yassaie arrived in Britain in the mid-1970s, he  planned to get his degree and get out. But while the Iranian...
“We need those engineers in the UK to help create the future. If we don’t [starteducating more UK citizens] we will be for...
What about Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy, who last year managed tosell the British software company to Hewlett Packa...
He would like to see the reintroduction of “taper relief”, a scheme abolishedby the last government, which ratchets the ca...
Back in 1998, the company was ridiculed for piling investment intomobile phone graphics because people didn’t believe they...
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Hypo Venture Capital Headlines: Imagination Technologies’ Yassaie: ‘What we need is a Beckham for the industry’

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“I prefer living in the UK more than anywhere else. I like the history, I like the culture, I like the under-dog attitude,” he explains. “The UK is a good place to get things done.”
Mr Yassaie’s eyes light up as he waxes lyrical about Britain’s successes in technology and his commitment to building up Imagination’s research and development facilities in the UK – notably at its new headquarters in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire.
But there is one big problem standing in his way: those pesky overseas students who do just as Mr Yassaie planned to, by coming to Britain, getting their degrees and then taking their highly educated brains back home.
“It is very important that we are able to hire the workforce we need from within the UK and that really is a challenge. Partly because the universities don’t necessarily teach the right things, and partly because you don’t get enough home students,” he says.
“At British universities, 85pc or 90pc of the [postgraduate] students are from overseas. Only 10pc are British. That is a problem and it has to be fixed.

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Hypo Venture Capital Headlines: Imagination Technologies’ Yassaie: ‘What we need is a Beckham for the industry’

  1. 1. Hypo Venture Capital Headlines: Imagination Technologies’ Yassaie: ‘What we need is a Beckham for the industry’
  2. 2. When Hossein Yassaie arrived in Britain in the mid-1970s, he planned to get his degree and get out. But while the Iranian chief executive of Imagination Technologies might not have been born in this country, he has certainly adopted it as his home.“I prefer living in the UK more than anywhere else. I like the history, I like theculture, I like the under-dog attitude,” he explains. “The UK is a good place toget things done.”Mr Yassaie’s eyes light up as he waxes lyrical about Britain’s successes intechnology and his commitment to building up Imagination’s research anddevelopment facilities in the UK – notably at its new headquarters in KingsLangley, Hertfordshire.But there is one big problem standing in his way: those pesky overseasstudents who do just as Mr Yassaie planned to, by coming to Britain, gettingtheir degrees and then taking their highly educated brains back home.“It is very important that we are able to hire the workforce we need fromwithin the UK and that really is a challenge. Partly because the universitiesdon’t necessarily teach the right things, and partly because you don’t getenough home students,” he says.“At British universities, 85pc or 90pc of the [postgraduate] students are fromoverseas. Only 10pc are British. That is a problem and it has to be fixed.
  3. 3. “We need those engineers in the UK to help create the future. If we don’t [starteducating more UK citizens] we will be forced to set up offices elsewhere.”Imagination, which is best known for Pure digital radios and its graphicstechnology, used in Apple’s iPhone, is on a mission to recruit 200 UK staffthis year. Of those, about 100 will be new graduate positions.However, the dearth of good candidates means the company has had toexpand its research and development centres in India and Poland to help itkeep up with demand, and is hitting the acquisitions trail as a way of simplybuying up engineers.Imagination has also launched a university and school outreachprogramme, headed by Mr Yassaie’s computer science graduatedaughter, aimed at inspiring students early on.“Britain is impacting the technology industry, big time, but it’s all under thehood,” he says, referring to companies like his own, or Cambridge’s ARMHoldings, which design the chips that power the mobiles, tablets and gamesconsoles produced by the likes of Apple or Samsung.“We are not consumer brands so a lot of people don’t understand that thegear they buy has a lot of British technology inside. Part of the challenge isabout making it cool, making sure people understand what we do. What weneed is a rock star for the industry,” he says.“In the UK, people get excited by what they see – The X Factor or football.David Beckham is a big deal [in inspiring young people] but we don’t have anequivalent for British technology.”
  4. 4. What about Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy, who last year managed tosell the British software company to Hewlett Packard for a whopping $10bn(£6.3bn)?“But he sold out!” Mr Yassaie jokes.In truth, Mr Yassaie thinks it is inspiring that companies like Autonomy cancommand those sums of money, and bridles at what he claims is a Britishhabit of doing down our winners.“You go to the US and they are maybe over the top about success, but in theUK success is not communicated as a positive thing. Even somethingpositive has a sting in the tail,” he says.“I think it comes from the understated attitude [of British people]. Changingthat attitude needs everyone’s participation.”In keeping with this, he thinks Instagram, the photo app company whichFacebook snapped up last week for $1bn, is probably decent value at theprice. Never mind that it only has 13 members of staff and virtually norevenues.However, Mr Yassaie has been eager to fend off any takeover of Imagination.It looked likely a couple of years ago until Intel and Apple – two of its biggestcustomers – amassed sizable stakes. Today they control 14.5pc and 8.7pc ofthe business respectively.“It’s a signal to everyone – don’t even try and bother. I think the best thing forus is to be independent,” he says.But without the prospect of a sale in the offing, Mr Yassaie would like to findnew ways of incentivising his staff – and for the UK as a whole to encouragethe next wave of entrepreneurs.
  5. 5. He would like to see the reintroduction of “taper relief”, a scheme abolishedby the last government, which ratchets the capital gains tax on sharesdownwards, according to how long an individual has owned them.“At the moment, shares are so heavily taxed that their value as anincentive is not as strong as it should be. When people stay in a companyfor a longer number of years, they should get more out of it,” he says.“[Reintroducing the taper] would stop people leaving the UK and goingelsewhere.”Mr Yassaie has a long to-do list for the Government – and he is notstopping there – but he has faith that Messrs Cameron, Clegg andOsborne will take heed.After decades of lip service and little action, the says, the Government isfinally starting to take notice of the technology sector in this country, and itspotential for driving economic recovery.“I call a spade a spade. In my view, this Government has done a lot ofgood stuff. I am much more impressed with this one than the previousgovernment because they seem to be engaged, they listen. They’ve had ahuge recession on their plate to deal with, but once this is settled, I thinkthey should be putting these things on the agenda.”As for Imagination’s own to-do list, Mr Yassaie is firmly focused on tappingthe next big technology trend.
  6. 6. Back in 1998, the company was ridiculed for piling investment intomobile phone graphics because people didn’t believe they would everhave enough pixels to warrant any sort of sophistication. Today, theold-school Nokia handset has been toppled off its perch and Applehas become the biggest company in the world, largely thanks to itsproducts’ visual capabilities.After that, came touch screens. Mr Yassaie recalls recently watching achild reaching out to touch a television display and becomingfrustrated when the graphics wouldn’t move.“I just sat there and thought to myself, what have you done? But it’s agood thing. Children find this really easy to work with.”So what’s the next stop – the next ground-breaking technology tochange human behaviour?“Television walls”, is Mr Yassaie’s unblinking reply. The introductionof new screens with many times the current number of pixels willenable people to turn whole sides of their houses into interactivescreens, he says, perhaps with their social networking accounts “live”alongside video phones and television content all day long.To many, it might sound like a nightmare, but for Mr Yassaie it ispurely exciting.His task now is to get Britain’s school children feeling the same.

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