Day in the life interview: Tom Mullen, DVELP
Last week we were lucky enough to have a quick chat with DVELP CEO and founder, Tom Mullen. The bespoke software development startup based in London’s Clerkenwell is fast making a name for itself after working with a number of disruptive startups to future-proofing big businesses – we talk tech trends, tech cities and get a glimpse into future projects!
- First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
I’m the founder and CEO of DVELP, a software development consultancy. I’m a developer by trade and I started the business in September 2015: that’s when we hired our first developer. There are now 13 of us, so we’ve grown relatively quickly in a short period of time.
We’re a team of experienced developers. We work alongside our clients as partners – shoulder to shoulder – to help build products more quickly and securely – together.
Not only do we run the build, but we help educate our clients on processes and demonstrate how to instill good practice within their own businesses; including our approach to remote working.
At the end of the process they have both a functioning product and a toolset they can lean on in future development cycles.
- What brought you to this area?
Up until about 3 years ago I was working on a proprietary software project building a reward scheme product. We came to learn product focused businesses are inherently risky and reaching critical mass can be very costly. The business petered out and I was after a new challenge.
I had both experience in running a business and a strong development background – I soon learnt this was an invaluable pairing. I started consulting for 3rd parties and quickly amassed some great clients working on very exciting projects. Things have gone from strength to strength and now we have a great team building awesome products for some of the biggest brands out there.
- What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?
I’m usually more of a night owl, but my wife and I have recently had a little boy so nowadays I get up around 7.30am for nappy changing duty!
Once my morning Dad duties are finished, I jump on my bike and make my way to the office. We kick off with stand ups, one per project. The standups are run standups internally and autonomously by the team on the project, but I try to check in with each project once a week.
The standups typically finish by 10am and I start attacking my long to-do list, which at the moment consists of a lot of business and team development.
We have a strong focus on creating a sustainable work ethic, so I try to be home by 7pm if I’m not attending an event or meetup. We know that 12 – 14 hour days lead to burnout very quickly, so we avoid them where we can – it helps us to focus and improve efficiency during the hours we spend in the office.
- What kind of projects are you currently working on?
We’re particularly excited about two FinTech focused projects we’ve been working on.
One is a mobile payment solution for developing countries. They are running out in Egypt and have a platform that allows companies to pay employees via smartphone, removing cash from their payroll. It’s a project we love working on because of its complexity not to mention the positive effect it has on society in the developing world.
We’ve also been building a marketplace platform for a VIP concierge service based in Ibiza. The marketplace approach is very popular at the moment and inline with an industry sector we are particularly focused on; FinTech.
- What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
I think the team we have been able to build in such a short period of time is my greatest achievement. In September 2015 there was just me and another guy, now there is 13 of us. It’s not 13 of us in the same office, but we span several countries and time zones and we’ve managed to build the business in a way that maintains our core beliefs and company culture.
- What is the one app you could not live without?
Barclays App, I need it to do anything that’s critically important.
- What’s the best thing about working at your company?
The thing I like the most about our work environment is our attitude. We are brave. We are ambitious about what we want to achieve and we work relentlessly to make it a reality. It makes me proud that everyone feels empowered to go out and make things happen.
- Who is your professional role model?
There’s a guy in the US called Chad Pytel. He’s the CEO of a company called Thoughtbot. He’s a friend of mine and I have a lot of respect for what he has achieved. He has done a great job of building their business and we always look to see what they are doing and see how we benchmark against them.
- What makes London a good city for technology and startups?
The infrastructure here is incredible and the speed at which things change and progress is mind blowing. The opportunity and ecosystem to make things happen is second to none – it’s utterly incredible.
- Which tech trends are you most excited about?
The big one everyone is talking about is AI. It can and inevitably will touch so many different industries and affect so many different people in lots of different ways.
It’s fairly intangible right now, varying from personal assistants to fully automated drones, but the future potential is limitless and that’s really exciting.
Something a bit closer to home in the FinTech sector is the open banking initiative – it’s going to shake up the banking industry. I’m just excited to see what happens when startups take on the big corporates!
- What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
With us being a small business one of the key things is ambition: everyone needs to be a real part of the team and want to continue to improve themselves, whilst having a positive attitude – startups can be hard at times, so being able to get up in the morning and get stuck in is key. You need to be a do-er.
Honesty is also very important; particularly in a remote team. Honesty and trust are fundamental to empowering people and promoting autonomy.
- And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Be more aggressive and ‘fail fast’. It’s very easy to sell yourself a vision and continue to chase it without being honest about the feasibility the venture. Try to distance yourself from the personal aspect and analyse your business in the cold light of day – avoid vanity metrics!
Once you are sure you are down the right track, throw everything at it, kitchen sink included!