After freelancing on and off for more than a decade, Royd Brayshay founded NewRedo as a vehicle to run his consultancy business. Here he explains why he thinks agile working is such an important part of tech and why Leeds is such a fantastic place to adopt such a working culture.
Tell us about your business.
NewRedo started out as a consultancy business that I did on my own as a freelancer. I’d been freelancing for around 15 years – on and off – and I needed a company to work through.
That grew when my business partner and I teamed up and now we build bespoke software and web applications for a range of businesses as well as do some consulting and workshops in the area of lean/agile methods. Most of our clients are in the mid-market space or are new ventures, so we work with a lot of entrepreneurial people who are trying to grow their business. Building software helps them to extend their point of difference, so I spend a lot of time talking to people about where they could best invest in custom software to get the best return.
Software that has been around a lot time has already passed a number of tests and proved it has real value, though the technology it’s built with may be out of fashion. We work with a lot of clients who own software that embodies their working practice through being developed over a long time. Nurturing that and steering it in the right direction adds to the value in a really low risk way.
We also work with clients who are forming a start up or they’re a mid-market company that wants to take a new direction and we help them with product development strategy and tactics using the latest and greatest things. Everything we do is about being really easy to engage and commercially low risk, so we strive to deliver bespoke software quickly and often. That allows them to find their audience and once you’ve done that you can build off it and get the revenue you need to grow.
What inspired you to start it up?
Before I started NewRedo, I’d spent about four years working in the north-east as a software architect for Sage and I decided, as the kids were getting towards school age, I wanted to be somewhere else. My partner and I have both got family in the south, so we decided to move back down to Yorkshire where we’d lived previously and be closer to family.
The plan was that I’d pick a company with a sensible name and go back to doing freelance consultancy work with a view to potentially expanding it beyond just me. So I chose the name a little more carefully. My experience building products had made me a real advocate of lean, agile ways of working, and NewRedo had those connotations. We either do new stuff or redo older things in a better way, in other words we are always iterating to delivery, which reduces risk and cost.
Why does tech interest you / How did you get into tech in general?
I’ve always been interested in making things. For my Computer Science A-level, I built a program on a Commodore PET, which was a very early desktop computer. I remember asking for a BBC Model B for Christmas. They were really bad at producing them so I don’t think it actually arrived until July, but I spent a lot of time messing around with it, writing games and copying code from magazines.
When I finally started looking for a job, I naturally fell into getting some kind of IT job. I worked for various businesses, initially on IBM mainframe computers and Unix, but then I made the change to building desktop software and Windows, and now the market is mostly web and mobile development.
Times have changed and I’ve got a photo of me somewhere of me stood next to an IBM tape drive, holding a tape in my hand. I’ve been around quite a long time and I’ve thought about changing careers but the whole lean/agile movement saved me from that. It kind of leads on to the community stuff I’m involved in, but I’ve worked in a range of teams and companies.
I’ve been part of businesses where the entire software development cycle has been decomposed until its component parts and spread across teams and departments. So everyone is just a link in that chain, and that took a lot of the joy out of it for me. It was quite possible to be busy all day and have absolutely no idea – in terms of stakeholders or commercially – whether you’d been successful. All you ever knew was that you’d built some features and they didn’t look like they had bugs.
When I first started in the workplace, I wondered whether I was just really naive because I wanted to have some say in how the software I was building was being used. I found the whole process really frustrating and was doing programs that I thought were a massive waste of time. But through a bit of serendipity, I stumbled across agile way of doing things and I was part of teams which adopted these things fairly early on. This was a bit of an epiphany for me as this had the potential to really change a teams involvement and it reinvigorated my enthusiasm for building software. When NewRedo builds something for a client we’re genuinly interested in the commercial outcome for them not just us.
What does Leeds have to offer, as a city, to tech businesses?
More than anything else, building good technology requires good people who are open-minded, creative, and technically astute. Those are mobile people who want to live and be part of a great city, in a great location, with a great lifestyle. So more than anything else, the fact that we are in a county with three National Parks, in striking distance of the coastline and two more National Parks, and culturally we’ve got great arts and heritage, make a difference. I think these are the things that attract people and make them stick around.
Along with the right employers that we’ve got here, and the right starting conditions for new businesses. Leeds really has the fuel to start a fire. I don’t think enough is played about the lifestyle differences of working in Yorkshire compared to the south-east. I grew up in Wiltshire and commercially my business would probably do better there, but I’m here because of the lifestyle differences. I like the north and I like Yorkshire, and I want my kids to be somewhere where those lifestyle opportunities are available. I think that is something that a lot of the south has trouble competing with Yorkshire on, and those are terms we can win on. Nowadays, running a tech business doesn’t need to be embedded in a capital city.
What are you excited about for the tech and digital scene in Leeds?
A number of large employers moving to Leeds has meant there’s been an influx of talented engineers, and product developers and other tech people. What I think would be really good for the city is if some of these professionals became entrepreneurs and become involved in new ventures.
To do that, they need inspiration. It’s a risk and reward equation. Working for a good employer, with a good salary is a really nice place to be. Having someone leave that is a big risk, but the potential rewards are great. If you can see other people around you doing things, it’s really positive and inspiring for others.
From my perspective, FutureLabs starting is a brilliant thing for the tech scene. It amplifies what’s going on as much as anything. If version 2 gets going, it will provide inspiration and be a signal that there are people outside the tech development community that are backing change. I think when people see that happening, it will be a big inspiration.
What advice would you give for people looking to start up a business in this sector?
Building software is expensive, even if you’re an engineer and can lock yourself away. Getting to the point where you’ve got the right product can be a big journey, and that’s only part of it. My advice is to go freelance and get some money in the bank, and then get up one morning and decide to do it.
Of course, it’s important to get yourself in the right position, but you do have to say ‘right, this morning I’m going to put my socks on and find work for myself’. I can almost remember the exact day I made that decision and I think you just have to take the plunge. If you don’t, it’s hard to focus on it and you really do need that.
Favourite Yorkshire eatery/bar?
I’ve got too fairly young kids and never go out, but I live in Harrogate and there are a lot of nice places around there. Van Zella is really nice or – at the other end of the spectrum – Graveley’s Fish and Chip shop.
What tech do you use?
I have an iPhone 6 but I’ve got a Lenova laptop that runs Ubuntu and I tend to use a lot of open-source tools. I’ve given up on a lot of commercial software so I’ve spent a lot of time in getting to know open-source tools.
Top 3 films?
The Big Blue, which is two guys who smash the free diving record, and probably Touching the Void, and Exit Through the Gift Shop.
What do you drive?
A ten-year-old Toyota. I’m kind of all or nothing when it comes to cars. I raced karts in my youth and I’d like a really fast car but I can’t justify one so I don’t really care what I drive.
Perfect Sunday Breakfast?
A fry up in a really good climbers cafe. I like getting out at the weekends, I love sailing and climbing and we quite often meet on a Sunday morning for breakfast before we go off.