deeg Consultancy: Alun Davies
The founder of the web development consultancy on running his business from the cloud
Company name: deeg Consultancy
Founder: Alun Davies
Based: North London
Staff numbers: 2 x full time, 50+ in the Cloud
Date started: First Cloud signup was January 2010
Tell us what your business does.
We are a web development consultancy with a pioneering new methodology which we call the Consulting Cloud. We support a diverse client base with a wide range of requirements, from art studios to professional football clubs, and from photography companies to music festivals, which we meet at a competitive price by calling upon our pool of highly-talented freelance developers, known as the Cloud.
Whether our clients want us to create an iPad app, manage an e-commerce website, or develop a desktop application, we can do it, and we have access to our broad range of developers that will complete the work to the highest quality.
What were you doing before starting up?
I studied computing at Imperial College, London and got my first job as a web developer in 2003 for an online publishing company, working on, amongst other things, the Starups.co.uk website! Since then I have worked for a number of online ventures of varying sizes, both as a developer and a team manager. It was a difficult decision to take the plunge and start up a new venture, but my conviction in both my own abilities and, later the concept of the Cloud helped me decide it was the right thing to do.
What planning did you do before you started up?
I worked as a freelancer for a few years, which enabled me to get experience of working directly with clients and understanding their requirements, meeting deadlines and providing a high quality service. It also enabled me to build the beginnings of a client list, many of whom are still regular clients to this day. The progression to establishing the Cloud was a natural one, enabling me to offer my clients a wider range of services with the same high quality as they have become accustomed to.
How did you raise the money?
The consultancy is self funding, so there wasn't any need to raise money.
How have you promoted your business?
We extensively use social media to promote ourselves, including maintaining an active Twitter presence, as well as contributing to many online forums. The forums in particular have provided many interesting leads and have helped build a number of close working relationships. We are also proud sponsors of Barnet FC, which is currently the extent of our more ‘traditional' advertising approach, although we are looking at expanding this in certain focused directions in the near future.
What about staff?
We have deliberately kept staff numbers to a minimum – the intention is to keep the core of the company lightweight and agile whilst calling upon the immense depth of the Cloud when required. As such the demands made by staff are quite minimal.
What's the impact on your home life been like?
I have a very understanding wife, but I make an effort to maintain a routine and only work after a certain hour whilst at home, so that I can spend time with my family.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Building a critical mass of clients. It's a competitive industry so we've had to work hard to build our client list, but once you have worked with a few satisfied customers then it helps you to attain more work, be it through direct recommendations or by potential clients viewing your track record. Having a company approach you on the recommendation of one of your clients is a very satisfying feeling.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Probably our first long-term client, which was an online retail site suffering from malicious hacker attacks. We fortified the site to keep out any future attacks, cleaned up all traces of their presence and ensured the company was back up and trading securely. This was a major project, and laid the foundation for a long and mutually-beneficial working relationship which we still enjoy to this day.
What would you do differently?
Pick clients carefully. When you're starting out it's tempting to take on every job you get offered, but make sure there's something for you in every project you take on, even if it's a foot in the door for future work. Spending your time on a one-off project which will yield no long-term benefits, you're learning nothing, and only just breaking even is not going to help you develop.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
It may sound predictable, but pick an industry that you enjoy working in and feel passionate about. It will help sustain you through the late nights when you're ploughing through mounds of paperwork with no end in sight!
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
In five years' time I would like to be overseeing an exponentially bigger Cloud than we have at the moment, servicing a much-increased number of clients. I'm enjoying what I'm doing and the potential for expansion is almost limitless, so I've got no exit plans at the moment.