Where it all started
When I started at Betfred in 2011 as the Head of Mobile Development, I had no idea that three years down the line I would be running my own business. But here we are today celebrating Degree 53’s first birthday!
In September 2011, I set up Betfred’s mobile development team in The Sharp Project, away from the rest of Betfred. The idea behind this was to create an internal agency which would be a centre of excellence for mobile development.
The team initially had six people including myself, in an office for eight, which gave us some room for growth. But within ten months there were 14 of us - which was pretty cosy - so we had to move into a bigger office. The new office was specced out to fit in 22 people.
As the team grew I realised that the services we were delivering for Betfred we could also do for other companies. I spoke to Fred (Fred Done, the owner of Betfred) and Chris (Chris Sheffield, who at the time was MD of Betfred.com) and they agreed.
I continued to grow the team and by September last year the team size had increased to 25 and I felt the time was right to leave Betfred behind and become a fully independent digital agency. We had also outgrown another office and had to move again!
Highlights of the year
We’ve won two amazing awards in our first year, the Big Chip award for ‘Best Start-Up’ and the Prolific North award for ‘Best Newcomer’.
Not only did we win Best Newcomer at the Prolific North awards but Degree 53 took over the event’s live Twitter feed projected on the walls of the venue. At the time, one of our team mates Sam was single and struggling to find the woman of his dreams. It was then that the #singlesam hashtag was born (unfortunately ladies, Sam is no longer on the market) and our mission was to find Sam a date that night. With the support of the entire room hash tagging #singlesam, not only was Sam invited up to the stage but #singlesam made its way to the number one trending tweet in Manchester! – Guerrilla marketing at its finest.
Recently, we have been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2014 E3 Business Awards for the New Business Start Up of the Year category and will be attending the awards ceremony held at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton on 18th September. It’s always humbling experience for us to be recognised and really does reinforce how far we’ve come in the space of one year. With the exceptional amount of talent in Manchester, there’s no doubt that the nominations Panel had an unenviable task in compiling the shortlist and we wish all categories best of luck on the night.
At the We Love Manchester charity Sporting Legends event this year, we sponsored the Sporting Legend from the 2000s. I thought this meant I’d be meeting Cristiano Ronaldo but it wasn’t too be as Ricky Hatton took the award. It was great for me to present the award to Ricky’s manager and we even got a retweet the day after by Ricky himself thanking us! Later that evening, at the charity auction I outbid everyone for a trip to the Tour De France grand finale, which is something I regretted when I got the bill the next day (that said I went and had a great time)!
Meeting the queen
A personal highlight for me this year was when I received an e-mail telling me that I was officially invited by the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh to a reception at Buckingham Palace for leading members of the UK Technology industry. Everyone that knows me, will know that I haven’t stopped talking about my five second spent greeting the Queen. What really opened my eyes was being surrounded by so many Manchester tech business leaders. This reinforced my view that Manchester is a leading force when it comes to the UK digital industry!
In September 2013 we had 25 people in the team and 62 desks which I expected to fill over the next two years. One year on, we have 53 permanent people on the team and are still growing to the point that we’ve had to add some more desks last week!
It’s great that we’ve been able to recruit some young passionate graduates and apprentices. For me personally, I want to give opportunities to young people in the same way that I was given the opportunity in my career and I always feel the most proud when I see one of these guys do something amazing.
This year we have grown faster than I had imagined and were now on target to deliver turnover of £3 million this year, up from £1.1 million in our first financial year.
Our fantastic clients
Over the past year, we worked closely with Microsoft and Betfred to achieve a world first by building the first ever gambling app for the Windows 8 and Windows phone 8 platforms. For Bell Internet we built iOS apps for their Bookies.com and Bookmakers.co.uk brands and are currently working on a further two projects for them. We have built the Horse Tracker app for Team FA and achieved the number three spot on the Apple App Store with the Football Acca app.
We’ve not just had success with gambling industry clients, but we’ve also been lucky enough to work with a diverse range of clients in other industries. For Fideliti, we built iOS and Android apps to provide busy parents with the ability to manage their childcare payments on the move. For Knutsford Gym, we built a responsive website to suit all devices designed to meet their premium brand positioning and seamlessly integrate with their gym registration software.
Work hard…play hard
To celebrate the great work that the team put into the business, for our annual team party I thought it would be a great idea to head up to the Lake District for a weekend of adventure. However, as it was a reward I wanted to let the team to decide and not to my surprise I was out voted and we ended up in Marbella! We partied on a boat, drank a bit too much, didn’t lose anyone and a great time was had by all.
Recently, some of the team took part in the Tough Mudder challenge – a ridiculous 12 mile obstacle course through mud somewhere in North Yorkshire. We were all really proud of the intrepid bunch, and their fantastic efforts in raising just short of £400 for the Help for Heroes charity.
It’s been a fantastic year at Degree 53, overall we have seen significant growth and the team has grown by 28 members. We have won new clients and some fantastic awards but…We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the 43,243 Yorkshire tea bags we’ve gone through this year.
We are celebrating in the office today with cakes and treats, but it doesn’t end there. The team will be heading into the city centre on the 12th September to celebrate Degree 53 style. Manchester - Be warned!