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The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017

 

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Today, on the Queen’s birthday, I’m thrilled to share the news with the world that Creative Virtual is the winner of The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017! Receiving the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is an incredible and humbling honour for the entire Creative Virtual team as well as a wonderful recognition of the innovation we deliver to our customers every day.

The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is the UK’s most prestigious business award for British companies. It recognises UK businesses for outstanding commercial success in four categories, including Innovation. The Innovation Award has been made to Creative Virtual for V-Person™, our virtual agent technology, and V-Portal™, our knowledge management platform. We will be presented with a crystal bowl and Grant of Appointment by a Royal representative during an upcoming award ceremony, and have been invited to send two representatives from the company to a reception hosted by Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace later in the year.

When I first founded Creative Virtual in London’s East End over 13 years ago, we were very much a pioneer in our field, and I could only dream of one day leading a successful, innovative and global company being recognised in such a prestigious way. I am very proud and humbled to be leading an organisation that is receiving the most important award for a UK company.

Growing a company is a journey full of highs and lows, a path with points of celebrations (new customers, company accolades, signing partnerships) and points of difficult challenges, set-backs and hard decisions. You have your head down, busy bringing the right people into your team, building positive partnerships and striving to provide the very best product and service. It can be hard to take a step back and appreciate how far you’ve come and what you have accomplished.

Winning the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is one of those incredible points on our path when the entire company stops to say ‘WOW’ and reflect on what we have achieved together. This is an amazing accomplishment and what it’s all about – our innovative technology is defining the industry and the Queen is recognising us for it!

This is a win not only for Creative Virtual but for all our customers and partners as well. Our collaborations with them have helped shape our technology and given us the opportunities to implement solutions in new, innovative and ground-breaking ways. My thanks to them for being on this path with us.

On a personal note, I have to admit that not even in my wildest dreams did I ever expect my company to be in a position to be honoured in this way – and I certainly never imagined that I’d be off to the Palace to meet the Queen! I am grateful to the Queen for acknowledging Creative Virtual’s innovation and the amazing work she does to inspire British entrepreneurs like myself to take our companies global. Her Majesty has always been, and continues to be, a great ambassador and strong advocate for British companies.

I feel incredibly humbled and have been reflecting on Creative Virtual’s path over the years since we first received news of our win. My reminiscing took me back to those very early days of starting the company with very little financial resources and then being fortunate enough to land one of the UK’s largest banks as our very first customer – and they are still a customer today! After distributing another virtual agent product for the first several years the company traded, we made the bold decision to begin development of our own natural language virtual agent technology, V-Person, in 2007. Even during the early phases of development, we knew we wanted to do more than build our own version of the product we had been distributing. Through the combination of the experiences of our own team, input and feedback from our customers and partners, and our predictions for the future of the industry, we outlined the specifications for a truly unique and innovative tool. We officially introduced V-Portal to the market in October 2012. During this time we also embarked on the beginning of our global expansion, and we’re still adding new offices and partners around the world today. We have grown the company organically without any external funding and have also self-funded all of the development work as well as built up our own R&D team over time. This has helped create a company culture based on innovation, teamwork and ownership of which we are very proud. This has given us the control to plan for the long term – and deliver our vision – without the short-term financial pressures external funding inevitably brings.

The Queen's Awards for EnterpriseIt’s a real honour to lead a company that is truly defining a new technology space; and this is made possible through the quirky, fun and dedicated people that make up the Creative Virtual team. Congratulations to every member of our team and thank you for the role each of you have played in getting Creative Virtual to where we are today! This award is an important milestone that is going to help shape the company’s future, and certainly calls for a global celebration! I look forward to celebrating with you throughout the British Summertime and over the coming years. Drinks on me! (Well, maybe just for the three days of summer we get here in the UK. . .!). My celebrations will have to be a bit limited over the next couple of days as I’m running in the London Marathon on Sunday!

I’m also taking the liberty of getting a bit sentimental and saying a big thank you to my family and friends: without their support over the years none of this would have been possible. Thank you so much! 

Check out our official press release to learn more about the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise and why Creative Virtual was selected to receive this humbling honour.

The Wharf Innovation in Business Awards: Local Boy Makes it Big!

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Back in July we received the exciting news that Creative Virtual had been shortlisted for The Wharf Innovation in Business Awards, a new awards programme celebrating the hard work and ingenuity of companies in Canary Wharf, in the category of Medium-to-Large Business. On my walk back to our offices after my interview with the judges, I was reminiscing about the Wharf, growing up on the Isle of Dogs and starting the company here nearly thirteen years ago. It all made me feel like my own ‘hometown kid does good’ story!

Last week Liam, our Head of Sales in the UK, donned his tux (a little reluctantly!) and joined me for the glittering black tie dinner and awards ceremony at the Radisson Blu Edwardian New Providence Wharf. We were hopeful as we sipped our champagne and snapped a selfie, but not truly expecting to win. I was on the edge of my seat as Levi Roots (of Reggae Raggae Sauce fame) began to announce the winner of our category by first reading the glowing words from the judges and then revealing the company name – We Won!!

“Creative Virtual may be the most successful Canary Wharf company you’ve never heard of. This giant was in the tech business almost before the sector existed but its years of research and development mean it is now superbly placed to take advantage of cutting edge customer expectations and experiences.”

The timing of this awards ceremony and our win is especially meaningful to me. I had just arrived back that morning from a couple of days in New York meeting with some of our US team, and I fly out of London to Australia, which is a hot market for us right now, next week for meetings and a visit with the team there. Growing Creative Virtual into a global company is exciting and a great accomplishment for the all the people who work at Creative Virtual, and there’s no better feeling than coming home to win a local award. I’m extremely proud of keeping the company headquartered here and growing it from our base in Canary Wharf.

The Wharf Innovation in Business AwardsThe market for our smart customer engagement solutions has been exploding as of late, and it’s nice to have this emerging area and technology honoured in this way. It’s important for organisations who are working hard to make their mark while helping to define a new sector to be recognised by with this type of award. I thank the judges for taking the time to understand what it is that we do at Creative Virtual and for being brave enough to recognise our industry-changing technology and its growth potential in the future, despite it being a new area.

But the true hero in this story isn’t the technology, it’s the people. I don’t want to sound too soppy, but Creative Virtual is where it is today because of the hard work and dedication of our team. They are the ones that have put in the years of research and development, built great relationships with our customers and brought innovative ideas to our solutions. While I hope I have provided the guidance to make it all happen, an award like this really underlines the importance of having great people working for your company.

Winning The Wharf Innovation in Business Awards is an amazing achievement for Creative Virtual as well as for me personally. After accepting the award, Liam and I celebrated until the wee hours of the morning – my jetlag and his missed bedtime long forgotten! Liam even commented that he had never seen me that happy before. I was so thrilled with our win that I slept with our award that night and had to pinch myself in the morning to make sure it hadn’t been a dream. It was exciting to share the award with the team in the Canary Wharf office and send photos to those working remotely and in our other offices. I’ve been spending the weekend and this week showing it off to my family and friends! They all know The Wharf newspaper, so I’m sure they are picturing the same headline as me as they admire the award: Local Boy Makes it Big!

My thanks to The Wharf, the judges and all of the award sponsors for honouring us as your Medium-to-Large Business and for putting on a fabulous dinner and ceremony. But more importantly, this East End boy thanks all of Creative Virtual’s employees, customers and partners around the globe. Without you, this win wouldn’t have been possible.

I hope you’ll take a look at our photo album and read our official announcement about Creative Virtual’s big win.

Medium-to-Large Business winner