An interview with our founder - 5 years on
As WONDR reaches passes it's 5th year in business, our founder Dermot O'Shea shares his thoughts on what's next.
You’re now well into your fifth year, how did you get started?
Yes time does fly. In 2014 it was a busy year for me both professionally and personally. I had just got married, had a kid, bought a house and I thought to myself you know what I need to do next is set up a company, sure what else would I be doing.
I had built a good reputation and bank of work but I knew the model for the work I wanted to do was changing and I had a clear view on what it would evolve too. I had plenty of good offers abroad and in this market to build what would become WONDR within the comfort of a larger agency environment. I felt it was best to stay at home in Ireland, re-programme my skills, stay independently owned and build something from the ground up that I would be proud of.
I had contacts made from years working in branding, one of them being Oisin Hurst (now our Creative Director). We worked on the GAA rebrand together and he was keen to introduce myself to a company called PCH who’s branding he was working on. They needed a strong digital partner to help them transform their digital presence to bring their new positioning to life.
This was a very interesting project and it gave me the confidence to get the business started. This became WONDR’s first client and was a major part of the initial story that helped the company to get started. I’m still very thankful to Philip Dwyer & the PCH leadership team for putting trust in myself to work with them as they were working with Fantasy Interactive at the time and it was a good endorsement to land this project.
Do you think the digital industry has changed since you’ve started?
Yes it has evolved massively, just look at any project you’ve done that is over 2 years old and you can see how fast things can date if they’re not constantly polished and optimised. We’re still in the early days of digital, so if people think digital is fast and complicated now, wait till they see what’s coming next.
I could go on about the role of data and user research, but most people by now know this is the future already but yet struggle to apply it to their day to day. If people just started with this they’d see huge improvement in their digital brand experiences.
One other area I’ve noted is how the relationships we have with client partners is evolving. We’ve helped client teams to structure and build their teams internally so where possible they don’t need us which is kind of against the typical ‘agency’ model.
We’re always keen to keep tasks in house on the client side where possible by building design systems that work across all applications and encourage clients to keep their budget to work with ourselves on hero roadmap projects instead.
Business growth comes out of brave choices.Dermot O'Shea Founder
Your new positioning talks about clarity + bravery, why?
We like to carry out detailed discovery and definition stages that help to remove the perceived complexity from digital projects. I often tell new clients, we do the thinking up front to de-risk their project and investments as quite often digital change projects can evolve significant capital to make them happen. We’re there to make it a success.
When we looked at our positioning, we interviewed all of our key clients to help us shape and inform our approach. A common theme that kept coming back was the idea of a digital journey which they trusted us to guide them through.
Some were keen to highlight we removed the complexity to help bring them goals, experiences and results that mattered. We also took onboard the feedback that we’re very honest, open and not afraid to give people the advice they need. Anyone who’s worked with us will surely back us up on this point 🙂
We refer to this as being brave to make the right choices for the brand, not what’s right for our revenue or portfolio of work. Quite often digital projects involve cultural and organisational change where you have to make the brave choices up front on things such as brand, resourcing, technology & media to be successful. Business growth comes out of brave choices.
You describe yourselves as a Digital Product Practice. Why?
Ireland and in particular Dublin is changing all the time due to the sheer scale of international tech companies that come here, so we felt that the idea of an agency or studio belongs to the legacy of Advertising.
Their model works for them but not for us. We didn’t want clients to assume we worked to the same methodology or process as we have invested significant time in developing our ways of working.
Alot of our client work is on digital products and we operate an agile kanban methodology so we needed a description that reflected more of what we did day for day for our clients.
Which of your projects to date do you think epitomise clarity + bravery?
We recently partnered with UK brand called Pet Drugs Online. If there was ever a project that needed clarity + bravery then this was it. For us there was huge potential for this brand to disrupt the market and become the ‘boots’ of pet healthcare. We spent a great deal of time bringing clarity to their brand, UX & technology choices.
We were brave with our approach to refresh the brand and re-platform at the same time, the end results has seen a 47% year on year increase in revenue and each month they are breaking new sales records they never saw before.
You’re a company of internationalists, with talent from all over the globe. Is hiring from internationally important?
Yes we have a wide selection of languages and countries represented in the practice. It really helps to keep us open to change and the outside world as our team bring their experience to Ireland from France, Japan, Brazil, Canada, US and a far.
We’re constantly going to international events and awards to help keep touch but also to validate we’re on the right path.
Dermot O'Shea Founder
We aim to be a catalyst that sparks the next generation of digital talent in Ireland
We want to further add to Ireland’s growing reputation as world leaders in design, as we firmly believe the best work can be done from Ireland. It’s why recently we collaborated with CSSDA Website of the Year awards where the world’s best work was selected.
To be involved in this greater story is an honour but also validates WONDR’s reputation amongst our peers as being as good as any other market.
Do you have a vision for WONDR for the next 5 years?
We love eCommerce work in particular so in 5 years time it would be an ambition to be known internationally for our work in this field as I believe we’re already good as any other places doing this. Too many brands are still prisoners and passengers on their technology platforms and it’s our ambition to help people unlock this.
Finally I keep coming back to this idea you have to have pride in what you’re doing or else what’s the point. When I look back in 5 years time, I want to feel proud of the work the team has done. It’s my job to foster the culture to enable this to happen.