Who better to review the past 5 years than the person who started it all? Founder and CEO, Gareth, looks back at the key moments from this demi-decade and shares a few of the lessons he’s learned.
Five years in business has really flown by. I sat down the other evening to write a summary for each year.
My abiding memories of this year are just about getting YellowDog started – the birth of an idea giving birth to a company. Looking back, it felt like there was a few of us scrabbling around to build our first product to get that flywheel turning.
In 2016, we began our partnership with Oracle. We were winning over early adopters with our render platform for computer generated imagery (CGI) and Oracle enabled us to deliver on our value proposition. We were given the first access, in the world, to their brand new, powerful, high performance computing at a price we could sell to customers.
This partnership gave us a great starting point and springboard: we benefited, not only from their cloud infrastructure, but also from the international awards and global PR and advertising. Thanks Oracle.
People were really starting to sit up and take notice of what we were doing in 2017. And it was in places we didn’t always expect. We won ‘Start Up of the Year’ in Bristol, which was a nice achievement and we ended up on an ITV news feature at the end of the year. There were lots of other awards – national and international. It just felt like people were starting to get interested in YellowDog.
Our CTO, Simon, and I always knew that CGI rendering would be the first application to benefit from our technology, and there would be lots of other sectors we could go and applications we could help. We had our own ideas as to what was next, but following a meeting with an ex-CTO of a couple of Tier 1 global banks, we realised we could solve really big and valuable problems for financial services institutions. It was a real light bulb moment.
So, in 2018, we started this transition, moving our centre of gravity away from working only with CGI rendering, towards the financial services industry.
In 2019, our acceleration started – across all parts of the business. We closed bigger deals on a more regular basis, our product development teams released more features and functionality more regularly, our operations team delivered more customer implementations more frequently. All great to experience.
Clearly, a lot happened in those years. Here are seven lessons I’ve learned throughout the journey that might be useful for others thinking about, or actually starting their own business – big or small.
In no particular order…
Starting a business by yourself, getting funding, getting the business going and keeping it alive, is really, really difficult. It’s amazingly rewarding, but make sure you approach with caution!
Your network is crucial. You should do your best to use your network and, more importantly, contribute to it. Give time. When people ask for your advice, give it freely. If there’s any way you can connect people, do it – it doesn’t take long.
I used to write something down, come up with a framework, and look at the evidence before reaching a decision. I’ve done things in the past where I’ve ignored my gut and gone with what seems to be the rational course of action and it hasn’t turned out as well. Today, I give my gut equal share of voice in my decision making.
I do this by cycling every day. Whatever it is, you need to find a way to release the stress. If you don’t, you could explode.
As the founder and leader, you need to say “yes we can” all the time – relentless optimism.
But at the same time, I plan for the worst. Despite the optimism, I’ve always got a “what happens if?” plan. It’s good to know what to do if things don’t work out as expected – there is always a thought-through fallback position.
Don’t underestimate how important market trust is. I was too ambitious with how long it would take to earn the position of credibility we now have, where people are willing to trust YellowDog with their core computing processing. My advice is to get references as quickly as you can – the easiest way to build trust is via word of mouth, so make sure people spread the word.
If you enjoyed this, read my next blog and get a little bit of insight into YellowDog’s next five years and what I see happening in the market.
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