One final achievement for Kotikan

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It’s been over a year since we sold Kotikan to FanDuel – it was an emotional journey to move on from what we had spent so many years building. And working in a team with so many great people too. I’m glad that most of my colleagues are still working at FanDuel – they even won another Webby Award this year!

But life moves on. Even after leaving FanDuel myself I couldn’t quite get my thoughts in order enough to write too much about it – and looking at my blog the only entry over that time was about the decision to leave, nothing about what we had created or what it was like to be part of the selling process. I guess it was either too recent in my mind or too separate from what I was moving on to that the opportunity to write passed me by.

Then one day Gav Dutch tells me that Kotikan has been short listed for “Sale of the Year” at the Deals & Dealmakers Awards 2016 – wow! I was blown away. It’s incredible to think that our humble company, built by many folk doing it for the first time and all of us learning as we went, has been short listed alongside business names from a completely different world. Wish us luck on the night – partly because it would be great to win but also because I’m not sure I’ll keep up in conversation!

Why do companies revert to hierarchy?

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A question that I’ve asked myself many times over the last couple of years has resurfaced in light of the recent GitHub restructuring. Why do companies resort to hierarchy? So many set out with the grand ambition of keeping a flat structure – and many manage for a long time. People are happy, they are respected, communication is good and everyone can contribute to the future of the company in meaningful ways.

But with almost predictable inevitability it is at some point decided that structure is required to make the company more efficient. Whether it’s at 50, 100 or 500 people (which is a surprising spread of company sizes), visibility decreases and communication falters in a way that seems to say “we need structure” – but why; and is it even true?

So many traditional business experts seem to consider the way that start-ups organise themselves to be cute or naive and, whilst potentially fun, doomed to failure. Is there only 1 sensible way to structure a business? Or is there something significant we should be learning from the new generation of young companies desperate to prove that it can be done another way?

From my own experiences I know that it’s easier to go with the status quo. But I can’t figure out the reason why the flat structure becomes too much hard work. If there is a clear understanding of responsibilities and an efficient communication channel why can we not have a company made of many small teams that are themselves still operating as a start-up would?

Maybe it’s just a pipe dream but I’d be interested in finding out if anyone has made it work, or understands why it fails…

2016, a whole different year

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I think this year is going to be an exciting one for me – first and foremost it’s going to mean finding a whole new bunch of fantastic people to work with. I’ve made the difficult decision to move on from FanDuel and I will be leaving behind the amazing people I’ve spent the last 5 years getting to know.

Since we sold Kotikan to FanDuel last year they’ve been very welcoming of the whole team and we have seen great collaboration with the various internal platform teams. This means cool new things for the mobile apps that we were already working on and the possibility of exciting new features that just were not possible as an external agency.

But having decided to move on where will I be? All over the place! I’ll be spending some of my time working with technology start-ups – offering advice or support in creating, growing or developing their software delivery teams. Initially I’m looking to work with Codebase and Bright Red Triangle based companies, but I’d be happy to chat to teams from other backgrounds too. I’m also going to be spending some time working on Open Source Software (such as the IDE I’ve been working on) – there are so many great things being pushed forward and I want to be part of the future of free software and the communities taking it out to industry and consumers.

Thanks so much to everyone who’s been involved in my journey at Loc8Solutions / Kotikan / FanDuel – I hope to work with you all again soon 🙂

Attaining work life balance

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Technology and start-ups are both renowed for being able to take over your life. Therefore it’s probably unsurprising that after 8 years in tech startups I’ve completely lost the concept of a balance between life and work. One thing that I began to realise is that “work” is not just that which your boss expects of you, the targets that have been set or what your company pays you for, it’s also everything that you have become obliged to maintain – that online game you wrote, some websites you host or an open source project you released but then stopped using.

Take a look at your life. How many days, evenings or even hours are you truly able to put your feet up and relax? Play a game with your family? Go for a walk or cycle in the great outdoors? Do you see your friends enough and when was the last time you just chatted to your parents?

I reflected recently and decided there was nowhere near enough time put aside for these things. It probably contributed to worse than average health too. So in an effort to bring things back into balance I’m heading into 2016 with the plan to spend more time with friends and family, seeing the countryside and generally relaxing. To that end I’m wrapping up 2015 by moving house, heading out of the city and into the countryside. Sure weekdays may still be busy and I still need to prune the list of projects I have on the go, but if I can spend the whole weekend in a different context I think it could really make a difference!

Image thanks to tech.co

Bring more talent to Edinburgh!

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Edinburgh is a beautiful city. It’s a place that strikes the balance between nature and urban activity, friendliness and business. We are lucky enough to have a combination of heritage centres, world class universities, record breaking arts festivals and substantial business support all spread out round Scotland’s leading tourist attraction. I have travelled round the world (literally), visited many countries, and I always look forward to coming home.

Business, whilst often hidden in town house buildings or behind historical facades, is booming and also varied. Edinburgh is home to HQs of worldwide banks (RBS, Standard Life), engineering hubs for huge games companies (like Rockstar), home to Scotland’s only two Unicorns (FanDuel and Skyscanner) and boasts the UK’s largest technology incubator (CodeBase).

Whether you’re a graduate, job-seeker or seasoned professional looking for the next challenge there are technology opportunities galore. You don’t have to attend too many job fairs or recruitment events to see that companies are keen to snap up more skilled people than there are currently available. In fact there is a well documented skills shortage, particularly in the technology sector – something that ScotlandIS, CodeClan and others are working hard to fix.

Another factor here is the great startup communities that exist around Edinburgh and central Scotland. A huge number of businesses are being successful in starting up and staying in business by beating the odds. Not only are these companies adding to the requirement for staff but they are also often started by ex-employees of larger companies that would have otherwise filled a gap in another company. Whilst this adds to the significant challenge of finding enough people to staff these growing companies it’s fantastic that there are opportunities to pursue whatever career path you choose. It also shows that there’s plenty of opportunity to bring your own idea to life and keep that Scottish inventive spirit alive.

So where else can we go to encourage more people to join us in Edinburgh and be part of this eclectic mix of business, technology, culture and fun? That’s exactly the question that the StartEDIN collective have set out to solve. Scotland has a history of not promoting itself widely and this group believe it’s time to change that. They want to let everyone know what opportunities are available in Edinburgh and the lifestyle improvements you could just get at the same time!

In such a beautiful city with a vibrant, growing tech sector don’t we owe it to those unaware to let them know of all the opportunities here?

(image by Kim Traynor)