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Software specialist fueled for further growth

14th March 2019

A software business that counts some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies among its clients, is set for further growth with a relocation to Sunderland.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, Mark Boyle, Technical Director at Fari Consulting and Martin Lawson, director at Fari Consulting.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, Mark Boyle, Technical Director at Fari Consulting and Martin Lawson, director at Fari Consulting.

Fari Consulting, founded by engineer Martin Lawson three years ago, has grown rapidly since moving to Sunderland Software Centre in December 2018.

The company works with some of the world’s largest oil and gas operators and service contractors to produce software that streamlines engineering procedures and in turn, improves safety, increases productivity and saves money.

Lawson, who previously led a specialist software division at one of the USA’s largest engineering product and industrial equipment manufacturers, founded Fari at the height of the oil and gas crisis in February 2016 when the oil price was at its lowest at just under US$30 a barrel.

“I made the leap to launch Fari at the height of the oil and gas downturn,” Lawson said. “I left what was a well-paid job at a time when companies didn’t have the money to spend on innovation. So, as you can imagine, the first 18 months were very tough.

“That was exactly three years ago and a lot of the potential clients I was dealing with were very happy to come on board but just simply didn’t have the funding to do so. They were making all of the right noises but we saw very little action during our first year.”

The first 12 months were a struggle for Martin however, once the industry downturn began to ease, work soon started flooding in.

“I stuck with it then basically after 12 months everything started to fall in to place,” he added. “We won one major contract and then another followed immediately after. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know what we were working on and interest really started to grow.”

Initially setting up in Northumberland, Lawson bootstrapped the company himself for the first year before taking on his first two members of staff once Fari had secured its first contract. Then, as the company started to grow, he knew he’d need to make a move in order to take Fari to the next level.

Lawson continued: “Being based in Northumberland was a great starting point as there were a lot of energy companies north of the Tyne however, we knew that in order to continue growing the business we would have to move and - as we recruited our fourth member of staff - we knew it was time to look for a new, sustainable home for the business.”

Lawson began looking at potential offices in Aberdeen, Newcastle and Northumberland however, it was his home city of Sunderland which proved the most attractive proposition for the business.

“Having been born and raised in Sunderland, I know the city’s IT sector very well and I knew it had everything we needed to take Fari to the next level,” he said. “We’re located in the heart of the region, with five outstanding universities surrounding us and the transport links are excellent.

“We approached make it Sunderland – delivered by Sunderland City Council - for support, to see if there was anywhere they could recommend, and we knew we’d found our new home as soon as we stepped foot in Sunderland Software Centre, in the heart of the city centre.

“Moving into the facility was the easiest, simplest and most cost-effective thing I’ve done since launching the business. The City Council’s Business Investment Team has also provided us with lots of information on innovation funds and support and have been a great help to us.”

Fari now employs four people and its software is being implemented by clients in oil and gas fields and on rigs as far away as Africa, Asia, America and by companies closer to home.  And looking to the future, Lawson has ambitious plans for the company.

He concluded: “We have more potential projects in the pipeline, alongside some unique innovations never before seen in the industrial sector and we are hoping to double our headcount by the end of the year.

“Since launching Fari, it has been a real journey. It has had its challenges but has been by far the most satisfying and best career decision I’ve ever made. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the company.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The fact that Martin and the team chose Sunderland over more prevalent oil and gas hotspots such as Aberdeen and Northumberland is testament to just how attractive the city has become to businesses in the technology sector.

“Over the last decade, Sunderland Software Centre has spawned a whole host of fast-growing tech start-ups and we’re delighted to welcome Fari as the latest company to join the roster. We wish them the best of luck for the future and will be there to support them with their ambitious plans every step of the way.”