When we say everything that we've achieved as a business since 2004 out loud, it feels like enough to have spanned the 15 years, but somehow, it’s passed in the blink of an eye...
Where it all began
It was 2004, Facebook had only just launched in Harvard, Twitter hadn't been invented and nobody owned an iPhone. Today, it’s hard to remember a world without them.
Around the same time, there was also another company being born…
It began with two UWIC students, Liam Giles and Elwyn Davies, who were in the process of completing their degrees in Product Design.
“One of our lecturers was constantly saying, “wake up and smell the coffee", he was a big fan of entrepreneurship," explained Elwyn, "So the business started as a module in university and then we thought, let's do it!”
Unsurprisingly one of the first things they had to decide on was the name of their business. After a game of squash Elwyn and Liam were discussing different names at the pub until they settled on Spindogs.
"There is no good story!" laughed Elwyn.
This was, however, the start of the story, as Spindogs had begun in Liam's university bedroom with their first clients just family and friends. This wasn't uncommon at the time and there were many micro-companies being set up in bedrooms across Cardiff.
"There were so many micro agencies at the time because the industry hadn't established yet. You had the .com boom and there were lots of competitors working in their bedrooms," said Elwyn, "We were right in the middle of lots of companies who had the same type of capabilities."
Then they received their first lucky break.
Spindogs first client
"Our first proper client was Chase View Vets, who are still a client today. It was my landlord's daughter and we didn't really know what we were doing," confessed Liam.
"And the good thing was that they knew that!" said Elwyn, "They were patient with us, so we created the brand for them, then business cards and a leaflet and then that evolved into a website in about 6 months"
Securing this client didn't mean that the hard work was over, and they soon came across some problems.
They were using a third-party CMS Platform and quickly it became evident that having their own CMS would make their business a lot more effective.
Enter Dave Morgan…
This was when Dave Morgan stepped into Spindogs, a computer science graduate who was good friends with Claire Swindell, our now, Director of Client Services, and Elwyn.
With Dave on board, the team began seeing the benefits of having their own CMS.
Clients were amazed that they were able to have a website where they could change the text themselves. That said, it was a far cry from today's CMS as there weren’t options like bold or italics; they had to know the HTML for each change.
"I remember teaching clients how to use bold italics with underlined tags, training is much easier these days!" said Elwyn.
Their determination to give clients the best possible service was something they agreed would remain at the forefront from the outset. Dave, now Operations Director, explained how this contributed to the growth of the business.
"Any client that we did work for always had a hosting and support bundle, as we recognise the importance of looking after clients, that massively helped our growth and our client network."
Spindogs on the move
After securing their first client, they moved into free office space at GTi in Abercynon. This was specifically for people that lived outside of Cardiff or went to Glamorgan University. Liam and Elwyn managed to charm their way into the space, turning up every day hoping they would be let in!
Luckily, they did get some space in an open plan shared office, but the team decided to empty out one of the cupboards and turn it into their own personal office.
Their cupboard space didn't last long though as Spindogs was thriving and enjoying lots of new opportunities.
“I would have to mention that one of the first milestones was NFU Wales," said Dave, "That was the first substantial tender we won. That was just a crazy big project!"
They were still learning and with each new project, came even more responsibility and hard work, but nothing dampened their spirits. Their client base was also growing because of a strong networking ethic, with Liam attending plenty of events, making sure that the Spindogs name was well known, locally.
"We started to go to events like BNI and started to meet people," said Liam, "I just went to everything for four years solid. At least three or four events a week at a guess."
This dedication paid off when the company moved into their first proper office, Pascoe House, Spindogs HQ where we still are today.
Spindogs today… 15 years on
Over the last 15 years, our business has changed phenomenally, going from 2 to 54 people, 3 office moves and 2 acquisitions, going from one CMS offering to a range of solutions in different tech stacks. The breadth of our service delivery has also changed dramatically, but what has never changed is our commitment to being a business where people are proud to work and one that people are proud to work with.
This constant evolution of the online space means that as a team and as a business we are in a perpetual state of learning, inventing, fine-tuning and trying to stay one step ahead of what is next in our space. Our clients expect us to advise them on how to capitalise on any new technology and we need to understand and apply any new ideas across the team as appropriate. This is where we thrive as a team, working quickly, creatively and collaboratively together to generate work we’re proud of that also gets results. If it sounds like that makes for a busy workplace, it really does!
Everything we have achieved over the last 15 years couldn’t have been accomplished without the dedication of a fantastic team, to those who have worked at Spindogs past and present I will take this opportunity to give you a public thank you, for your commitment to delivering great work and supporting each other day in and day out. Like anything in life, it's not always easy, but it is always worth it, and any culture that we are reputed to have cultivated is driven entirely by you guys.
To our clients, thank you for your continued trust and support, we literally couldn't do this without you! We hope you agree that we take the work very seriously but feel like working together doesn't always need to feel like work and that you feel we embody the phrase 'Your Digital Best Friend'.
Here's to the next 15!