Technology entrepreneur John Thompson awarded Honorary Doctorate Degree
Aberystwyth University Chancellor, the Rt Hon. the Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd with John Thompson, who received an Honorary Doctorate Degree
20 July 2018
Technology entrepreneur John Thompson has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree by Aberystwyth University as part of this year’s Graduation celebrations.
John Thompson graduated in Computer Science from Aberystwyth in 1992, and started his career in technical research working for the UK Ministry of Defence.
In 2001, he co-founded Commerce Decisions Ltd where as CEO he worked closely with his brother Ian (an Aberystwyth Business Studies graduate) to create software that supported global customers undertaking complex procurement projects. The software has been used on 12,000 projects worth a combined £265bn.
John sold the company to QinetiQ plc in October 2008 in a deal worth £12m.
In 2012 he created UserReplay Limited; a technology to assist website owners to understand and resolve issues causing frustration to consumers.
He is now chairman and advisor to a number of early entrepreneurial technology companies.
John Thompson was presented by Professor Qiang Shen, Director of the Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science at Aberystwyth University on Thursday 19 July 2018. The full presentation is available below, in the language in which it was delivered.
Presentation of John Thompson by Professor Qiang Shen:
Ganghellor, Is-Ganghellor, darpar raddedigion, gyfeillion. Pleser o’r mwyaf yw cyflwyno John Thompson am radd Doethur er Anrhydedd, Prifysgol Aberystwyth.
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, prospective graduates and supporters. It is an honour and a privilege to present John Thompson for an Honorary Doctorate Degree at Aberystwyth University.
John is a leading player in the software industry, with strong connections to Aberystwyth, coming to study in the Department of Computer Science in 1989. He recalls being given 4 megabytes of storage per student to last for 3 years, and I doubt the department’s graduands sitting here today would have been impressed had we given them a similar allocation. But back in the early nineties, 4 megabytes represented a huge amount of storage for an undergraduate used to dealing in just kilobytes.
John graduated with the top 1st for his class of 1992 and went on to do four years research into Requirements Engineering for Software and Systems for the Ministry of Defence.
In 2001 John co-founded Commerce Decisions Ltd and working with his brother Ian Thompson - himself an Aberystwyth alumnus - built a software company that supported customers in 12,000 complex procurement projects, with a combined value of $350bn. Clients included London 2012, the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Australian Government. Indeed, the first University to become a customer of the software was Aberystwyth, after the software was adopted by the Welsh Government in 2006. According to John, this was sheer coincidence but it may reflect the fact that Aber is an innovative University and an early adopter of new technologies. John eventually sold the company to QinetiQ plc in a deal worth £12m in 2008, and was delighted to learn that the executive put in to run the company by QinetiQ was also an Aberystwyth alumnus.
In 2012 John started his second business project - User Replay Limited. UserReplay is a technology for improving eCommerce sites by enabling website owners to understand and resolve issues causing frustration to consumers.
In 2015 John commenced investigating Machine Learning techniques which could potentially bring a step change to the field of eCommerce analytics, and returned to Aberystwyth to discuss ideas with Prof Chris Price, Dr Richard Jensen and myself. This resulted in a successful joint Aberystwyth/UserReplay project, funded by InnovateUK, which led to a new UserReplay software system that is now used by leading global eCommerce companies throughout the USA and Europe.
In January this year John stepped down after 17 years in CEO positions to start a portfolio career with multiple business interests. He is now a non-executive Chairman at two software companies with multi-million pound turnovers, retained as an advisor to a number of London based tech start-ups, and by a leading UK Venture Capital company.
John has made a substantial and important contribution to society. His efforts have created over one hundred jobs, and the software he created at Commerce Decisions has added value to major Government projects with total budgets of $350bn around the world. John always says his Computer Science degree from Aberystwyth was pivotal in helping develop his business career.
Aber has always been very important to John and he has enjoyed returning to the Department to speak as a guest lecturer on a number of occasions over the last 26 years, and we look forward to further inspiring visits in the future.
It is not only John who has strong connections to Aberystwyth. His son Joe is currently studying for a degree in Computer Science and we believe that this is the first father/son combination for the Department. His daughter Susie will be coming to Aber this September to study International Politics. Both John’s sister (Susie) and brother (Ian) are Aber Alumni, with Susie graduating from the History department in 1998 and Ian from the Business School in 2001.
The connections of John’s extended family with Aber are just as strong. Both John’s brother-in-laws are also graduates of the Computer Science department – and his sister-in-law graduated in Law in 2000. John’s family is indeed steeped in Aber’s history.
Ganghellor, mae’n bleser gen i gyflwyno John Thompson i chi am radd Doethur er Anrhydedd.
Chancellor, it is my absolute pleasure to present John Thompson to you for an Honorary Doctorate Degree.
Aberystwyth University Honours 2018
Nine individuals are being honoured by Aberystwyth University during the 2018 graduation ceremonies, which take place at the University’s Arts Centre from Tuesday 17 July until Friday 20 July.
Six Honorary Fellowships are being presented to individuals who have, or have had a connection with Aberystwyth or Wales, and who have made an outstanding contribution to their chosen field.
One Honorary Doctorate is being presented; recognising an individual who has been outstandingly successful in their field, or who has a long record of renowned research and publication.
Two Honorary Bachelor degrees are being presented. These are presented to individuals who are members of Aberystwyth University staff without an entry-level degree in recognition of long-service, contribution and dedication to the Institution; and members of the local community who have made a significant contribution to Aberystwyth and the area.
Honorary Fellowships are being presented to:
- Professor Ann Sumner - art historian, exhibition curator and museum director
- Bonamy Grimes MBE - web entrepreneur and co-founder of flight price comparison website Skyyscanner
- Euryn Ogwen Williams - broadcaster and seminal figure in Welsh media
- John Dawes OBE - former international rugby union player and coach
- Professor Menna Elfyn - award-winning poet and playwright
- His Honour Judge Milwyn Jarman QC - leading judge.
Author and scholar the late Professor Meic Stephens was presented with an Honorary Fellowship of Aberystwyth University on Thursday 3 May 2018 at a special ceremony in Cardiff. Sadly, Professor Stephens died on Tuesday 3 July 2018.
- John Thompson - technology entrepreneur and software designer.
Honorary Bachelor Degrees:
- Eric Harries - retired Station Manager of Aberystwyth Fire Station, who organised and led 50 humanitarian missions to Eastern Europe to help the innocent victims of war.
- Sue Jones-Davies – actor, singer, town councillor and former Mayor of Aberystwyth.
Left to right: University Chancellor Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, John Thompson, University Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure