SOFTWARE entrepreneur David Frame and digital strategist Andy Walton have launched a joint venture called Nine, presenting an agency centred solely around bespoke coding of end-to-end business process software.
The company, launched last month, has already brought together a crack team of programming experts and intends to service a global client list from its South Tyneside base.
The handpicked team of individuals have been brought into the new venture from Frame’s previous business software company, DEF Apps. Over the past 10 years, he has built a strong reputation within the UK software industry with an impressive portfolio of niche companies under his belt, including the public-sector software specialist DEF Software, and international substation software specialist GridSmart Software.
Nine’s new managing director Walton is an experienced board director, having held roles at Adit North, North East Regional Portal, Codeworks and Digital City. More recently, he has been a commercial director within the private-sector IT world, giving him a well-rounded experience in the industry.
Frame explains how, after a decade as a serial entrepreneur, embarking on his first joint venture is a major turning point both professionally and personally.
Q: When was the major turning point in your business journey?
My turning point came with the knowledge that I couldn’t do everything I wanted if I just flew solo into the wind, despite having a great team of employees; I needed a solid partner. I have always spearheaded every company I’ve owned, taking every decision without a board of directors or business partner. It’s often the case with entrepreneurs. But there comes a point when you might have to admit someone else can often do things better than you.
The deciding moment came as a result of sheer volume. Not only was I personally overstretching myself, but due to client demand for new software solutions, I was attempting to deliver into new areas that were unchartered territory for me.
I had known Andy Walton for many years so I know his abilities in the tech sector very well, which led us both to the natural conclusion: let’s set up a partnership to harness the volume of opportunities and let’s make our company the best software house we possibly can.
So I guess the turning point came when both my own capacity and ability hit their respective ceilings and I knew I needed a partner of real calibre to move things on to the next level. Sharing the dream meant doubling the reward, in effect.
Q. How different is it launching a new business with another co-director as opposed to by yourself, and how has this shaped this new venture?
So far it’s been very smooth ... a lot smoother than I thought it would be, to be honest.
Our vision is the same, which is critically important, but our skill-sets and functions within the business are quite different, so operationally we really don’t clash into each other a great deal. We both have a genuine trust in the other, so second-guessing Andy’s decisions, and vice versa, wouldn’t be cricket.
Q. How has the experience of running a portfolio of companies for many years changed your attitude to this latest business and its ambitions?
I’m more confident in my own abilities than I was 10 years ago, but I now have to be a lot more rigid with my time. Having four niche software companies that are all growing quickly in diverse markets means that I have to be quite strict with the division of my time and how I prioritise, which is a difficult task for me.
I’m not a particularly structured and organised type so I really have to work hard at it, but I’ve learned to let go a little more and the management teams are coming into their own right now.
What I can bring to Nine, however, is a swift and decisive form of leadership. I am confident in our collective abilities and the market demand so I guess this company is my most ambitious yet, and that galvanises the team around you.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Swallow your ego because it’s an expensive thing to hang on to. I learned very early that if one of my ideas proves to be a lemon, ditch it quickly and change course. Just because you’re the boss and you’ve pitched the concept to your team, don’t fight a losing battle just to save face.
Q: Is there any advice you could share with new entrepreneurs to help them start, grow and develop their business?
The most important things in my opinion are the basics. Assuming your product and service is of a high enough calibre, focus on your sales and where you can, sustainable and recurring revenues.
I’ve made the mistake in the past of spending too long refining, modelling and tinkering and not getting out there and meeting prospects. All of a sudden you’re six months in with no sales. So it’s sales revenue all the way for me ... without that you’ve got nothing.
Q: What is the future for Nine?
Nine is the most exciting business I’ve ever been involved in. The team we’ve built are the very best in the business, and I honestly mean that.
It’s taken three years to assemble, but we’re building a business upon world-class individuals.
The future for us is to make sure we employ that talent well and continue to work with forward- thinking clients. The sense of adventure within the business is intoxicating so, for Andy and I, we’re living the dream as they say.
We have absolutely no doubt that we will spend the next few decades continuing to build one of the best independent software and coding houses in the UK, with talent nurtured right here in the North East.
Our region’s software industry is burgeoning, and we should shout from the rooftops about it.