News - an interview with the founders of 60 Innovations
As new consultancy 60 Innovations launches to clients in the UK looking for external expertise in the digital transformation & software development arena, co-founders Alex Lashford and Ian Walker sat with Consultancy.uk to set out the firm’s proverbial stall. The duo highlighted the Manchester-based firm’s entrepreneurial culture and digital-first approach as the consultancy’s major differentiating forces in a competitive market.
It may have been founded by two former Disney Streaming Services employees, but software development and digital transformation consultancy 60 Innovations is keen to prove that it is no Mickey Mouse operation. Alex Lashford and Ian Walker worked together at Cake Solutions for two and a half years before its acquisition by BAMTECHMEDIA, which was in turn purchased by Disney Streaming services. While both still speak fondly of their time with Cake Solutions, however, they quickly found that life under the Disney brand was typical of a large corporate organisation, and didn't offer the frequent opportunity of new industries that consulting does.
Commenting on what ultimately motivated the duo to move into entrepreneurship, Ian Walker enthused, “We both loved consultancy life, and I certainly had always stated from the outset of my time at Cake I would start a consultancy. My background had mostly been medium and large enterprises prior to joining Cake; I gained valuable experience in a small consultancy, which frankly only made my desire to start my own stronger. Alex has always enjoyed consultancy life as well and the move to a product company in Disney did not offer the variety we cherished. We both like varied challenges and clients to keep on learning and experiencing new domains and cultures.”
This led to the launched of 60 Innovations in October 2018. Thanks to its experienced co-founders, the firm already boasts three decades of key knowledge in its specialist fields, something which helps the Manchester-based boutique offer its clients a competitive edge in the marketplace, via a unique approach to both technology advisory and the development of software solutions and platforms.
The digital transformation consulting market is currently valued at a huge $44 billion, and is growing rapidly. As a result, the IT professional services sphere has become ever more saturated in recent years, with multiple players looking to tap into the increasingly lucrative segment. Software start-ups have similarly created considerable appetite for investment among private equity firms, prompting a further feeding frenzy in another market linked to 60Innovations’ offering.
When asked what exactly the new entity is bringing to the table, amid a crowded and competitive market, Lashford explained, “What we do is pretty simple when you say we will build software solutions for companies right across the SME spectrum and hopefully work on full-on enterprise and product solutions for large SI's and their clients. We will also offer digital transformation services covering people, process, technology strategy and vision, and really importantly culture. All areas of transformation will be covered in order to help our clients achieve a competitive advantage in their market.”
According to the firm’s founders, 60 Innovation has already built up a track record which it can leverage to get its offerings off the ground. The firm has done some work with Worldline and helped to innovate how software development projects are assessed and planned with one of their clients. At the same time, the consultancy has recently started work with a large FinTech in Manchester, in an alliance which will see 60 Innovations carry out some professional services and technical development work with the company’s in-house team.
When it comes to making an initial footprint as a new brand, many consulting firms face a choice between focusing on a sector or region in order not to overstretch. To that end, Walker said, “We will initially focus on businesses in Manchester and London, but have made many connections in New York and further afield during our time at other consultancies. In terms of sector, we believe any business will benefit from digital transformation services, and we have a serious capability to help with the technical and solution side of this service. So far, naturally, our client base has been strongly FinTech.”
Ultimately, however, the main test for the start-up remains how to differentiate its offering and stand out to new clients. Even relatively successful new consultancies admit that this can be one of the most difficult aspects of establishing a new entrepreneurial outfit. For example, Elixirr Managing Partner Stephen Newton recently confessed to Consultancy.uk that it took three years for the now rapidly growing firm to move entirely away from work sourced from his personal network, thanks to the difficulty of winning new contracts as a fresh, comparatively unknown entity.
To that end, Walker concluded that, while putting a 60 Innovations flavour in every aspect of its work is important, learning from young successful consulting brands that have come before is key to this. He expanded, “We have our own unique culture, as do most businesses, we have taken what we have learned from other successful consultancies, and made it better. We will also be a profit sharing company with our team. One thing we have seen at other consultancies is they tended to really only benefit financially a chosen few; we aim to make sure our team remains loyal through interesting varied work, and proper reward and recognition in the form of profit sharing for all employees.”
Lashford added, “In addition, something we have recently released is our scorecard system. Scorecards are not new in any way. However, ours certainly cover in some depth the key pillars of digital transformation- strategy, people, process, technology & culture. We feel it is important to offer a 'no obligation' tool that clients and their teams can use to self-assess prior to engaging with us so they can gather an idea of areas to look at and what they really mean for their business.”