The Story of Tidy

Written by Craig Thomas

Craig Thomas profile image

As most good stories go... It all began with two guys in a pub

It was September 2012, Bournemouth. At the time, Dennis and I head up the user experience department at a very successful south coast digital agency. We were both happy, paid well, and were surrounded by great people. Stupid as it is, we felt something was missing. We had been chatting on and off about starting up ourselves, and were subconsciously looking for a sign.

Enter stage left, the sign. It came in the form of an event Dennis and I attended which really got the entrepreneurial juices flowing. At that moment, we knew what we had to do. So we proceeded to the nearest pub and grabbed a pint to chat about how the hell we are going to do this thing.

"Well, it has to be a user experience consultancy"

We both agreed that our passion and skills aligned with user experience and its child arts. We knew this is the direction we had to go. Pint over, business aim decided.

So far, so good we thought. The next bit was trickier. How do we make enough income doing something we loved to cover the bills? We were paid pretty well, doing this already. How do we simulate the same for ourselves? Long story short, we had no idea. We knew the ins and outs, how to cost the service and our ideal customers, but we knew a hard decision had to be made.

Tidy was born in a pub Image: Dennis and I at the London film museum enjoying a free bar

The girlfriends

We were very lucky that we had amazing partners who understood our desire to upset our comfortable lives in pursuit of being our own boss. So much so, they helped us brainstorm the company name while at a pub quiz (pubs feature a lot). We threw around some, frankly, tragic names, until...

"Should we just call it Tidy?"

Dennis had it. My first reaction, was "yeah, tidy!". Being Welsh (and from the Valley's), it's something I stereotypically muttered pretty often, so it made perfect sense as we were also looking to found the business in Wales.

The plan for Tidy was coming together nicely. I had planned, along with my now fiancée that we were to move back to Wales June 2013 after spending 6 years in Bournemouth together. It's something we always had on the cards. Both being Welsh, it was inevitable we would return to the homeland at some point. Dennis would stay in Bournemouth and we would operate the business in both areas with HQ being Cardiff. We decided to get everything in shape and launch Tidy July 2013 after I moved home.

tidy

adjective, noun and verb

Wales, UK: Used to describe something, someone or some situation that is great and/or pleasing.

Welsh guy 1: Did you hear that Glyn won the lottery?
Welsh guy 2: Yea butt, that was tidy!
Welsh guy 1: Fair play to him, proper tidy like.

We were now founders

We registered the company 15th of November 2012, and began working on a website and brand. We wanted to be unique and professional. Ideas came quickly and we teamed up with the amazing Gert van Duinen who sketched us our logo from an overly enthusiastic, and probably confusing brief. Needless to say, we thought he had done an amazing job and we jumped at the first draft with minor changes.

Tidy logo sketch by Gert van Duinen Image: Tidy logo sketch by Gert van Duinen

"After 3, say the colour you think we should be... 1... 2... 3... blue!"

Dennis and I unanimously shouted blue at the same time. At that very second, I felt for the first time that this is really going to work. We quickly put together our brand, and website and our little bits and pieces needed to run a business. The last area to agree on was how we want the company to feel.

We want an honest, ethical, playful culture

In the digital world we were spoiled by cool offices and engaging cultures. I came 7th in a FIFA tournament once, all on company time. We wanted to make sure our company felt similar, if not better than what we were used to. We sat down and decided the values we wanted were:

"Passion, Innovation, Honesty, Responsibility, Fun, and Learning"

There we loads more we wanted, but we had to cut it to a sensible number. I was previously head of culture at a digital agency and learned just how important it is to understand and communicate our culture effectively. So much so we agreed to work only with clients who shared our values, and turn away those who don't.

We also wanted to instil our ideas against hierarchies and working in a cooped up office. Everyone at the same level with the freedom to work from anywhere completely remote if so wished. We were also very fanatical about quality of our work and would sacrifice profit and quantity to ensure quality at every level.

To sum up our culture, we want it to be the heart of everything. There are no other rules.

Us at Hackference and our project Kinposer a kinect and Soundcloud hack Image: Dennis and I at Hackference Birmingham with our project Kinposer (a kinect and Soundcloud hack)

I'm back home

It's June 2013. The plan went smoothly. My fiancée and I moved back to Wales, specifically, Bridgend from our 6 year holiday in Bournemouth. The next step was to establish myself in the digital community and officially remove the veil from Tidy to allow the world to see.

But then, I got married

I say that as if it was a surprise, and in some ways it was. There were 5 months between when I moved home, and when I was getting married. In my apparent naivety, I thought I would have enough time to do both. I was wrong, and the launch slipped back until...

Craig Thomas got married Image: My beautiful wife and I back in Wales

Finally, we officially launch

It's now April 2014. Almost 9 months late, but we finally let the world see our baby. This was our time to shine and get our teeth stuck into the digital side of Wales.

NHS hack day 2014 - Tidy Image: Our first proper event as a trading company at NHS Hack

2014

Our first trading year. We start the year super excited, and a little peeved we're delayed. Diving straight in we start shouting about who we are and why we're different. From our research, we found there were much fewer digital agencies in Wales than we were used to in Bournemouth, and fewer still who offered user experience and data science as a service. To drop some numbers, we found 45 digital agencies in all of Wales compared to 216 in Bournemouth.

"Only 4 other digital agencies offer user experience and none mention data science..."

From this point of view, and the experience we picked up in Bournemouth we thought we could take Wales by storm. Being solely focused on user experience and data science we had the competitive edge as no-one was doing what we wanted to do. We saw clients throwing money at digital agencies in Bournemouth. Surely...

But our first £100 was the hardest

It took a little while, and a few uncomfortable conclusions, but we soon realised we were a little ahead of the curve. Digital agencies were offering amazing things in Wales, but services like user experience hadn't quite become a household name.

So where do we go from here? We started chatting to local digital agencies and realised it was more of an education issue than a want or need issue. There simply wasn't a general understanding of what user experience even is.

"Well, user experience is..."

We went on a small campaign to get user experience out there, and understood. Clients started coming in, not strictly for user experience but for a little mix alongside design or development work. We did agree not to do straight up design or development work and stick to our guns, but we also had to pay bills.

We worked with some great clients during this time like Pixie, NAMDET, and Kelly Hoppen. Next, we wanted to ramp up our education campaign.

Silicon Valleys, Code Club and the big young digital push

We decided our education should start with children. To be exact, 9 to 11 and 16 to 18 year olds. Silicon Valleys idea came about as I'm a Valleys boy who wanted something a bit different, specifically a technology based career that isn't readily available in the Valleys. We want to provide an opportunity for children and young adults to pick up digital skills like coding, so they would in turn help develop Wales digitally. That was our angle at first, but the more we helped, the more I loved helping as I felt we were making a real difference.

Then I learned of Code Club. A non-profit volunteer led network of after school coding clubs working with 9 to 11 year olds in primary schools. In June 2014 I became their 6th employee part time, and National Coordinator for Wales. My responsibilities grew enormously but so did my ability to help. I was really making a difference.

Silicon Valleys project logo Code Club logo
Image: Silicon Valleys and Code Club logo's.

As my non-profit time grew, my profit time was shrinking. A balance had to be reached, and a decision has to be made.

"I'm sorry"

It's October 2014 and we've come to a very hard decision. Dennis and I are to part ways as partners. For the sake of Tidy, we both came to an arrangement that meant we could both have what we desired. It was a difficult time, but our paths were leading us different ways and the decision had to be made. I remain as sole founder to steer Tidy forward while Dennis focuses on his successful career.

This year has been one hell of a roller coaster.

Craig Code Club Techhub Swansea Image: Me giving a Code Club presentation at TechHub Swansea

2015... so far

This year I'm leading Tidy myself alongside my non-profit ambitions. To make everything work, we need a balance. For Tidy to balance I've dropped all services except user experience and data science consultancy. Which leaves us with...

The 11 club

The idea is to only have 11 clients for 12 months on our monthly agile user experience and data science package. This way we can guarantee quality with a completely manageable number. So much so I'm happy to stamp the offering with a 60 day 100% refund with no questions asked. This works well with our ethical culture as we don't want to waste your time and money with anything half-assed.

Grab a place in our first 11 Club for 2015.

And beyond

We'll update our story yearly to keep you all up-to-date with all things Tidy, but in the meantime, wonder over to our blog to see what we're up to at the moment.