Pivoting in a pandemic: How Embed shifted tech gears to survive

Andy Welsh faced a new type of challenge as CTO in 2020: innovating out of scope in an entertainment season best remembered for endless uncertainty in a year that almost got cancelled.

andy welsh embed
Embed

As CTO of a self-labelled ‘small cloud-based software solutions’ company, Andy Welsh’s responsibilities covers the spectrum of product design, development, delivery, and maintenance.

He is an executive who operates on the front line, advising on practices, governance, risk management, and policy, as well issuing technology recommendations to allow Embed—which services the out-of-home entertainment sector of amusement arcades and theme parks—to achieve strategic asspirations. “On any given day, at any given time, I can be found leading a brainstorming session on the whiteboard, coding, or interfacing with one of our customers,” says Singapore-based Welsh.

In operating as a cashless business management solution provider serving the entertainment industry—spanning mobile wallets, kiosks, card readers, and POS systems—Embed has naturally been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic across Asia-Pacific. More than most, this continues to be a sector under strain.

Ranked No. 8 in the 2019 CIO50 ASEAN awards and No. 11 in 2020, Welsh is no stranger to disruption, operating in an “older sunset” industry ripe for change. “Even before 2020, uncertainty was a big shadow to manage: How do we expose ourselves with just enough risk to truly innovate?” Both before and after the pandemic, Welsh acknowledged the constant balancing act in understanding calculated risk as a technology executive: “Too little, a business risks being left behind. Too much, and you’re roadkill on the information superhighway.”

Welsh had aligned to the belief that attractions, amusements, and family entertainment were relatively immune to economic downturns—“parents will always find a way to celebrate a child’s birthday”—meaning the motivation to evolve technologically remained fairly low. But the pandemic changed that approach. “It’s unequivocal that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the industry, with the ongoing closure of venues and the new operating models that operators will need to adopt.”

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