Starting Makeshift

At the end of December I'm leaving Sidekick to launch a new venture with Stef and Paul.

It's called Makeshift.

The past three years I've spent working at Sidekick have been the most productive and fulfilling of my career. I'm immensely proud of the work and the team we've built at Sidekick.

I'm confident that the Sidekick method of using lean startup techniques to rapidly develop socially positive new products and services for big companies is the future of digital agencies. Sidekick's got a big head start in this race, and that's amazing.

I'm leaving the studio with a world class client list (Red Bull, Unilever, Sky, Comic Relief) a very healthy pipeline, a clear phone pitch-able proposition that really resonates with clients, a great portfolio and reputation and above all an increasingly strong team across the whole product stack - strategy, design, build, management.

We're also undergoing a re-org to make the studio even more focused on the work, putting our product leads 100% in control of the business.

So why leave?!

Well, the short answer is that I think Sidekick Studios has now achieved product/market fit.

This is great news, but it means that the challenge of growth going forward is very different. The skills I've built up in the past few years are much more suited to the earliest stages of business design.

So that's why I'm doing Makeshift - because its an awesome new challenge that will ratchet me one step further into the future.

Makeshift will be a product design studio built for the digital age. Our intention is to invent, build, ship and grow a range of valuable new digital products and businesses that 'give a leg up to the little guy'. We won't have clients. And we won't have investors (yet) as my co-founder is wealthy enough to be able to fund the business himself.

Initially we'll focus on building smaller products that we want and need (as we have a lot of experience of being the 'little guy') but we've got a secret big idea behind it all that I'll share in another post.

To do this we're going to mix together everything we know about early stage business development, very agile / lean software practices, data driven digital marketing, creative campaign marketing and of course beautiful, simple, product, service and interaction design.

We've got lots of ideas about how to make the studio the most fun place to work in the world, but to start with we're going to have two very simple rules that govern everything we do - whatever your focus, if you work at Makeshift, you have to spend 100% of your time working on stuff you want to work on. None of this 20% time rubbish. But, the catch is, you're not allowed to work on anything on your own. I reckon this is going to produce something pretty unlike traditional companies. We'll see.

Whilst at Sidekick I used to talk a lot about how I wanted the studio to be like a digital version of the Eames' studio - a place that invented its own products, collaborated with others where necessary, loved technology and design in equal measure, and, vitally, was able to build everything itself. I wrote about this idea in a roundabout way for Design Week a few months ago - essentially saying that the interesting design companies aren't consultancies these days.

Anyway, this message never quite fitted in Sidekick for obvious reasons - because we are a consultancy and we don't really make our own products any more - and so I'm taking the vision with me to Makeshift.

So, there's lots more to write about what we want to do at Makeshift, how we want to do it, who we want to do it with and what products we want to build, but that's all to come. In the meantime I want to say thanks to everyone that I've had the chance to make stuff with at Sidekick. Its been a lot of fun.