Moon Consulting meets with Gareth Williams, Founder & CEO of start-up YellowDog, to gain insight into the award-winning company that has revolutionised 3D rendering; a process that converts computer models into images and animated film. The process has been advanced by YellowDog to harness unused processing power from the cloud and the crowd, cutting down the average rendering time from 10 hours to 15 minutes.
Gareth shared his thoughts with Moon Consulting's correspondent, Will Cookson, on what has worked and what he has learnt being at the helm of YellowDog.
The pace and scale of YellowDog's achievements is impressive, from the initial spark of the idea in 2014 following a conversation about the potential untapped power within the iPhone and how that unutilised power could be harnessed. This progressed to a key meeting with a lecturer at UWE Bristol School of Animation who explained the problems associated with rendering animation. Gareth could see both the problem and the innovative technological solution.
"This idea wouldn't leave me alone and YellowDog as a company was incorporated in January 2015. We launched it in November 2015, we've now got over 700 people in 30 countries signed up, we've gone from a team of 1 (which was me) to 15 of us now and raised £1.2m in the last 18 months through crowdfunding and angel investment".
While being clear that YellowDog are still very much a 'start-up', Gareth shared his thoughts on what you need to get right to be successful. "Think of the problem that you are solving from the customers point of view, rather than creating great technology for technology's sake. What will the person that's going to spend money on it think about it, how will they use it, how will it drive some sort of benefit to them? Think outside in, not inside out"!
When asked about the company's biggest challenge, Gareth's thoughts turn to competitors, "we're competing against Google and AWS for some of the biggest studios - how do you do that as a tiny little start up? Part of that is coming back to the 'outside in' perspective. You can win against competitors by being the one that gets the problem, so rather than providing a generic solution, you demonstrate that you really understanding the pain that your customer has and having your service proposition tied to it. In Corporate businesses, they talk about clear line of sight between you and the customer, where we are you can touch them".
Our conversation soon moves onto the importance of well managed recruitment, "people are critical! Get a decent team around you. When you begin to attract, investors make sure you're not just after them for their money. Look for what else they can provide, whether its support, their expertise, their network or their ability to open up a new market." This, Will said, resonates with our findings at Moon Consulting, An increasing number of clients are asking for examples of personal networks and innovative thinking as part of the hiring process.
Gareth stressed the importance of strong governance, "the board needs to be structured to support the strategic aims of the business. The typical tenure for a Non-Exec Director is between 18 - 24 months so think what you want to achieve over that period and then find the right board members to help you achieve those objectives". Again Will concurs with Gareth, we have recently been instructed by two start-ups seeking Non Exec's with very particularly technology experience and that knowledge was most important for the company to grow.
We finish our conversation looking to the future, for Gareth it's taking their technology into different markets. "Today, it's deliberately a niche as that's best way to develop the product. 'We're now focussed on how we take this award-winning technology into new markets. We're looking at financial services and banking, telecommunications and advanced engineering".
Reflecting back on his conversation with Gareth, Will notes that he was immediately struck by Gareth's enthusiasm, drive and intelligence. Will says it's not surprising that YellowDog is lauded as one of the most successful and innovative tech start-ups in the market.