Sydney-based Stefan Drury is the sole trader of Fly Digital, a consultancy and development resource for companies looking to grow their business online and via mobile.
Founded in December 2010, Fly Digital works with clients to design their online strategy, build their website or mobile app, or implement an online marketing campaign.
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After studying multimedia at university in the United Kingdom, Drury shuffled back and forth between London and Sydney for various jobs, including an eight-year stint at Amalgamated Holdings, one of Australia’s top entertainment, hospitality and leisure companies.
As head of the company’s eCommerce department, Drury was exposed to the emerging mobile market, inspiring him to start his own business. He talks to StartupSmart about the challenges of going it alone.
How is the service delivered?
It’s all online. The two streams that I focus on are mobile and just general web.
I’ve put a few simple content managed websites out for people as well. There’s no question that there’s a fair amount of web development work still out there at the moment.
But I’ll be honest – I’m really trying to shape and steer the company more into that mobile area. So if I was looking for a niche and a specialty, the web work is giving me quite a nice base at the moment, but I’m really looking to specialise in app development and mobile commerce.
How did you go about setting up the website?
I did that myself because I’m a programmer and developer by trade. I guess I’m kind of lucky in that I’m not just purely a programmer – I’ve got good technical and creative skills.
When I was building a site for myself, I used the website firstly as a marketing tool to get sales leads from clients.
Equally, it’s a good test bed so I can use it to test content management systems and log-in systems, etc, before taking them to a client.
What were your start-up costs?
It was just under $10,000 that I put in myself. That was mainly to cover hardware and equipment. I needed to set up a small Mac studio for the app development, plus a couple of peripherals like buying an iPad and a laptop to take to clients.
How did you attract clients initially?
The clients I have at the moment are through word-of-mouth and previous contacts. The other reason for setting up the company when I did was I’d really got to the point of having made quite a lot of good contacts within the industry.
After going out and setting up on my own, I fortunately was able to take quite a few of those contacts with me. Word-of-mouth and referrals have been the place where the clients have come from so far.
The thing about mobile is that everybody knows about apps and mobile sites, and they can see the stats, but a lot of people don’t really know what they should be doing.
A big, big part of what I’m doing at the moment is really that consultancy side as well as the development.
Quite often, sitting with a client who says, ‘I need an iPhone app’ means saying, ‘Are you sure? Do you actually need an iPhone app or would you be better off doing something else in the mobile space that’s actually going to generate you more revenue or open you up to more customers?’
A big part of what I have to do with this company is help educate my clients as to what their options are and then follow through with actual development for them.
How many clients do you have currently?
I’ve got six at the moment. If I were to bring someone on, I’d definitely look in the development area, so I’d probably look at bringing on a full-time developer, like a programmer, because I think that’s where the majority of the workload is going to be.
I do outsource and contract out the design and development for a lot of projects. Again, that’s been built up through some of those contacts that I’ve had over the years.
That helps me keep my overheads down in these early stages. As we grow, I think probably the first type of person I’d bring on would have to be a technical resource because that’s where the guts of the work is at the moment.
Do ever struggle wearing so many hats?
It can be difficult wearing a couple of different hats – it’s difficult going from a consultancy job with a client through to then building something for someone else.
One thing I’ve learnt about actually operating your own business is you’ve just got to be so good at managing that time effectively.
In the seven or eight months I’ve been doing this, I’ve been through a variety of different task management strategies just to see which one’s working best.
I’m really just coming back to some very simple tactics. I tell myself, today I’ve got to focus on a certain number of things and not just drown in the amount of work that’s going on.
That’s been a bit of a learning curve but I’ve got to a place where I’m quite comfortable with that now and it’s really being able to say to a client, I can deliver that but it might not be something that can delivered straight away.
What’s the biggest risk you face in the mobile market?
Because it’s very new, there’s probably not a lot of companies who are offering some of these services but definitely one of the risks is that mobile development will go down the web development path and we’ll very soon be competing with very small, agile companies who are able to produce these sorts of technologies very, very cheaply.
To try and contend that, what I’m still trying to do is really focus on clients who maybe need that consultancy side as well as the development side.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
If I could do it all over again, I might have taken on less web work and held out a bit for more mobile.
The reason I say that is that when you start a new business on your own, you kind of take every bit of work that comes to you.
I think some of that time potentially could have been invested better from my company’s point of view to maybe doing some more researching or dealing with clients on mobile. But financially, I might not be in as good a position now if I had done that.
What are your revenue projections for 2011?
The turnover prediction that we put together in the business plan for the first year, which was annualised across the year, was $150,000.
We’re actually tracking very close to it. We’re a little bit under but we’re only talking like a small amount.
How will you respond to the market as it becomes more saturated?
I actually think the app market is starting to peak a little bit anyway. With the contacts and the contractors that I have, we’re really looking at websites and apps that are independent of platforms, so not just developing an app for iPhone or an app for Android.
We’re looking at technologies like HTML5 and offline web apps where we can basically build one solution for a customer and then that solution renders differently if you’re accessing it on the web, on a BlackBerry, or a Nokia, on an iPhone, etc.
Instead of just being really, really specialised, we’ll look at more of an eCommerce strategy and then apply that across all the different channels that digital media touches.
That’s where I’d like to see a bit of a point of difference – offering mobile web rather than just ‘We’re an iPhone app house’.