LinkSpace: how it all started

This is a photograph of our Chief executive, Andy Beverley, when he was four and a half. “The manual he is ‘reading’”, explains his dad Steve, “is for the Technics cassette/radio/record player which is behind him on the shelf. He was standing on a kitchen stool, so he would have carried it through from the kitchen so that he could investigate this machine further. He always wanted to understand how everything worked- especially if it was electrical”.

Andy with his trusty stool, continuing his investigations throughout the house and garden…

“He really wanted to understand absolutely everything” continues mum Sarah. “He took a plug apart when he was three. He wasn’t unsupervised I might add- my dad was an engineer and always enjoyed knowing how things worked too, and the pair of them would team up and investigate things for hours”.

Dad Steve worked in the IT Department of Coventry Council, which impressed Andy. “He always wore smart clothes, and I loved going in” he says. “The server room was huge with fans and lots of whirring, it felt very exciting to me”. Steve would bring back a BBC Micro computer at the weekends. “Andy would do some programming on it – I didn’t show him how to do that by the way, but he learnt from somewhere”.

Andy with a BBC Micro computer (it was micro for 1984)

“Andy was the first of four boys” explains Sarah. “And at the time I didn’t know what other children were like. But later on I did think that he was a bit of a one-off when it came to his passion for technology”.

Andy gave out fliers for his company “Beverley Electronics”, and he would build kits that he bought from Maplin to sell, like an alarm when the bath water got too high, and a pocket torch. “He was always sending me off to Maplin with a shopping list of kits to buy, and extra bits and pieces” explains Steve.

Andy enjoying electric circuits and wires aged around 8, and with his grandad- his team-mate in projects from his first plug at 3.

“If technology could be used somewhere, Andy would use it” explains Sarah. “When he was about 11 he had a sensor pad in his doorway. If we stepped onto it, an alarm went off. There was a separate alarm if someone opened the door. He thought it was funny that he would know about any entrance. And by the way, I didn’t want to go in his room anyway. It was a tip!”

Music and the teenage years

Andy bought a Dictaphone from a jumble sale when he was 11, and used it to record music he’d play on the radio. He’d then play these tracks to friends in the school playground. And it wasn’t long before he was DJing …

Andy would listen to the charts every Sunday and record his favourite songs from the Top 40 onto a cassette, and then he built his own lights and started putting on discos in the church hall.

Andy (in a white T-shirt) hiring speakers for a disco

Andy was always the first in his friends to get the latest gadget. He bought a Psion, a personal organiser, which he used to organise his disco nights on, and then a mobile phone when he was 17- a Panasonic. “I always loved the idea of technology as a way of bringing people together and socialising”, he says. “It was all about spending more time enjoying life really- chatting and dancing and that sort of thing”.

University and a precursor to Facebook

Andy did a GNVQ in Engineering, and went on to do a degree in Computer and electronics in Salford in Manchester, which he finished with first-class honours. Whilst at university, he invented some software in 2001 that was like a precursor of facebook- featuring photos of everyone on nights out. He borrowed one of the first digital cameras from a department and used to take snaps at events, and then created his own website that was coded from scratch. People didn’t have cameras on phones back then, so photos of events were hard to come by.

Andy would upload the photos onto his website, using a wire in those days. “I knew it was popular as people would ALWAYS look at the photos the next day, I could see the numbers of visits to the website. It was great fun looking at photos the day after. And it was great fun inventing a software programme that people really enjoyed”.

The Royal Navy

After university, Andy spent the first decade of his career as an engineering officer in the Royal Navy. After 3 years, in 2007, he got the role he’d always wanted, as Head of the IT Department on HMS Illustrious, one of the Navy’s flagship aircraft carriers, and he held this role for 3 years.

HMS Illustrious was a huge 22,000 tonne floating airport, with between 600 and 1200 people on board. Aircraft would take off and land on the landing strip, and it sailed around the world.

On HMS Illustrious, Andy travelled to the United States, the Mediterranean, to the Baltic, and the Middle East. “Often you’d be in the middle of the ocean and you couldn’t see anything for miles- it was really quite something” says Andy.

But it wasn’t all relaxing and calm. As head of IT, there was always a problem to solve. “It was a real challenge, there wasn’t one room for all the computers and servers- they were all over the ship- often bolted down too because otherwise they’d be sliding about when it got stormy. There were over 1000 rooms in a ship. If you’d left a laptop somewhere a bit random you’d be unlikely to find it again. Solving problems often involved finding the relevant machine first, and we had maps to guide us”

It was important work. HMS Illustrious needed its IT system to be working well to order the huge delivery of food they’d pick up at a port before tours, and for making sure the email system was working. “If for any reason the internet went down you’d know about it. Once there was a problem with the server, and nobody could email on or off the ship for 5 days, so we worked hard to fix that” says Andy. “Satellites were not always 100% reliable too. Certainly people let us know when there was a problem, especially if they couldn’t email their families- they didn’t hold back, so we had to learn to manage stress!”

Andy found that when he took up the role, the IT requests were a bit chaotic, so he invented some software to deal with it- it was essentially a ticketing system for requests.

Post Navy and the birth of LinkSpace

Andy got a reputation in The Navy as someone who could solve tech problems that arose, and one of his superiors on HMS Illustrious called him when they’d left the Navy. They had an issue in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and he wanted to know if Andy had a solution.

The MOD needed to keep a record of events going on all over the world that were non-operational, such as training events. They stored everything in a spreadsheet but it was huge. Because it wasn’t very secure, only one man was allowed to input data, and he was emailed around the clock with everything going on worldwide. And because only he could look at it, people asked him questions constantly too- such as, “what is happening in Brazil this month?”

“This former boss of mine rang me and asked if there was software that could work for this- it needed to be able to have lots of people using it at the same time, and be very secure” explains Andy. “I spent a while investigating it- this was about 2014, but I couldn’t find anything that matched his specifications. So I spent time inventing something, and the outcome is LinkSpace. LinkSpace looks a little like a table in one of its guises, and it has many uses – one is that it can be a tool for managing data when a spreadsheet isn’t sophisticated enough”.

Andy’s former boss was pleased with the outcome, and the MOD took the software on, along with a number of other government departments too. It’s used in the Ministry of Justice and the Foreign and Commonwealth office as well as the MOD.

In early summer 2024, Andy was shortlisted for a president’s award at Tech UK. “It’s nice that the work we do here at Ctrl O has been highlighted” says Andy. “We hear about these unicorns, these success stories of companies with billions of dollars and sharp growth. But sometimes I think it’s good to hear about a micro SME (small to medium enterprise) with steady growth, a good product and a happy team. That’s what I’m interested in”.

You can read more about what LinkSpace does here and get in touch with us here.

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