Just like falling dominoes, a businesses path is not indefinite. You’re able to pivot or persevere, setting your path for the future.
A decade of working as a UX & Design agency and a global pandemic combined meant the time for change is now.

The new strategy will systematically turn our own concepts into products and apps – like a traditional startup incubator, but with our own ideas and collaborations.

It’s the same design process we love, applied to a different set of design briefs. Becoming our own product owners, pivoting or persevering where needed. It’ll fill us with work regardless of whether or not we ever get to return to our studio.

So far, we’ve looked at sustainability and the environmental impact of supply chains (more at ClearChain.app). We’ve also looked at how 1-1 work within project management tools like Monday.com (see Optino.app).

The Need For A New Strategy

At the start of London’s lockdown, I took a look at the road ahead.

The short term was stable. Our clients (mainly broadcasters) were still active largely due to the nature of providing a public service in these uncertain times: things like keeping the news on-air or, making sure everyone can watch Love Island – equally important in the midst of a pandemic.

The mid-term made me feel less assured: it was a dark period of second-guessing the world post-COVID, and still not being used to living with the effects of this far-reaching and drawn-out virus. I’ll admit, the classic agency-model hasn’t worked great all the time for us. It was unpredictable and brittle. It was difficult to respond quickly to new projects coming in while, at the same time, not knowing what the future had in store.

A change in strategy was needed. One that was resilient, regardless of what the future had in store. The best way to do this was to reduce our dependence on others and become a business that was self-sufficient.

Finding the Best Fit

While thinking about how I could bring this vision to pass, I tried to minimise disruption to the team. To reassure them, I presented a transition plan that set out how we would change and ran an open Q&A to get feedback.

The team reacted well. The main concern was around security and managing our ability to earn while focused on our own products.  I explained how we’ll blend both until the Incubator can support us. 

The team were also curious about the impact on their roles. I wanted to continue growing the UX, Product Design and Technical Delivery talent, so we needed a strong strategy that would build upon the skills we already had.

Furthermore, I wanted the freedom to explore literally any brief that we found interesting enough to pursue. I didn’t want to be limited to a certain market, or fixed on a particular user group. 

Finally, we needed to do the due-diligence to make sure that we could afford to focus design and development squads on incubation products. 

We decided to assign an Incubation Budget. This is a topic in itself, but essentially we decided on an incubation budget, then forecasted the next 6 months of income. Only after meeting our financial target would we unlock embarking on the first project.

Optino: Hitting the Ground Running

3 Months after setting the strategy, something unexpected happened. A new project arrived with a healthy budget  hitting our financial targets and, by chance, we spotted an online hackathon, running on DevPost, by Monday.com. Monday were launching their app Marketplace and were seeking “apps” to launch with.

We had nothing to lose so we got our heads together to dream up the first idea. Optino was born. It’s a tool to make all work feel great and we were absolutely delighted to have won their award for best in tech! You can read all about it on Devpost.

I’m hopeful for the future and thankful for the projects that have got us here. It might be a long shot but I’ve got a feeling that the journey will be worth it.

Our agency business will continue to develop, but creating an internal Incubator will allow us to explore varied and ambitious briefs, all while following our own design process.

The new strategy paves the way for our business in the future.

If you’ve got a great idea you’d like to launch, get in touch; I’d be happy to talk things through.