This week we are joined by Andrew Daniels, Managing Director at Manchester based Degree 53. Founded in 2013, they are an award-winning digital agency, specialising in mobile app and website development, UX and design and consultancy services. They offer bespoke solutions to a number of industries globally, including online gambling, sports, finance, education and retail.
1. First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
I’m the managing director at Degree 53 – a design and software development house based in Manchester. We’re a 65 strong team. We create websites, mobile apps and bespoke solutions, as well as providing consultancy services on UX and strategy to our clients. We work with a number of industries, including online gambling, retail, education, finance and sports. I’m responsible for the direction and strategy behind the company, as well as supporting the management team. I often get involved in brainstorming sessions to come up with solutions/vision for new products thanks to my experience in product development. I also make sure I speak to my employees to make them feel included and find out how they are getting on.
2. What brought you to this area?
I started building websites in the late 90s when I was still at school. Web development was just taking off and my skills enabled me to get some great experience in this area. I’ve been working in development since I was 16 and I’ve worked my way up from being a developer to managing a team to heading the mobile division at Betfred and then setting up my own company, Degree 53.
3. What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?
I usually get up at 5am and spend around 20 minutes reading The Times. I go to the gym about four times a week. I then get breakfast, answer emails and get in the office for 8am. I typically have lots of different meetings throughout the day. I also try to find some time for myself to think things over and get some work done. It varies day to day, but sometimes I can be travelling to client or partner meetings a lot. I don’t like to leave the office with unread emails, so I try to check them all before leaving, although it’s not always possible.
4. What kind of projects are you currently working on?
The majority of work that Degree 53 does is in the gambling sector. We’re currently building two end-to-end gambling platforms which are quite big projects. We’re working on a new horse racing product for a company in the US and a bingo product for another client. Outside of gaming, we’re building an app for a travel company and a game for a sporting website.
5. What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
Taking the company from day zero to where we are today. I don’t dwell on these things and I want each day to be the best day we’ve had.
6. What is the one app you could not live without?
Calendar – I have so many different things going on that I need to make sure I’m organised. The Calendar app is one of my most used ones.
7. What’s the best thing about working at your company?
The best thing about Degree 53 is the people. We have a great company culture, lots of smart people and they always keep you on your toes. Everyone has a very similar sense of humour, so it’s a fun working environment.
8. Where is the after work hangout?
We have a lot of young people and we try to organise social events as often as we can, whether they’re smaller trips to the pub or bigger nights out in Manchester. One of our favourites is a karaoke night where some of us give The Voice a run for their money.
9. Who is your professional role model?
I like to think that you can learn something from everybody. For me personally, the owner of the first company I worked for is someone I really admire and try to emulate them as a business owner.
10. What makes Manchester a good city for technology and startups?
Manchester has one of the largest student populations in the UK, it has a great culture and music scene, and it’s big enough, yet people can be closely connected. There’s a wealth of talent and a growing tech scene to support that.
11. Which tech trends are you most excited about?
I’m quite excited to see how automation will develop. Anything that can free people up to come up with new ideas and how to improve certain things is exciting.
12. What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
Smart, adaptable and with a good sense of humour.
13. And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Things are going to go wrong, so don’t be disheartened by it and embrace it. Every problem you solve is one step closer towards success.