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Aidan Dunphy 

Aidan Dunphy has worked with businesses of all sizes, ranging from bootstrapping startups to global Fortune 400 brands, in both public and private sectors and across many industries. Start Your Business caught up with Aidian to find out more about his consultancy, Samepage, and to explore the technology challenges currently facing startups.  

 Aidan, thanks for your time today. Let’s start with your background and how Samepage came about? 

 I started out as a self-taught software engineer, but soon found that technology needs a human context to realise the full value, and this became my passion. Having worked my way through the ranks to roles including Head of Product Strategy, Chief Product Officer and Chief Commercial Officer, I founded Samepage to create a place where like-minded people can work with amazing clients in the never-ending pursuit of improvement, profit and personal fulfillment. 

Tell us a bit more about what Samepage offers… 

We are dedicated to working with businesses to get the most out of technology. We sit at the interface between technical and commercial, helping teams to work together towards their common goals. We typically work with startups, small and medium-sized enterprises and public sector businesses, offering a variety of high level services based on the needs of each and every business. 

Uniquely for a boutique consultancy, Samepage has an unrivaled breadth of experience in software with world class product management expertise. From ERP to world #1 consumer apps, web, SaaS, mobile apps (iOS/Android/hybrid), AR/VR: we’ve been there, done that, got the mousemat.  

What makes Samepage different to other technology consultancies? 

We’re focused on outcomes, and we know that technology is a tool, not an end in itself. We know how to harness tech to make a real difference to our client’s efficiency, effectiveness and, most importantly, their customers. Our purpose is to help businesses create value using technology by focussing on customer outcomes. We believe that the best businesses are focussed on creating value for their customers, and therefore that their strategy should be designed around this.  

What technology challenges do you find most start-ups face? 

Often, we find it one of three things. Either they are running a rapidly growing start-up, and realise the need to bring in focused, experienced people to guide them through their current period of growth and development. Or they may have plateaued and lack the experience to plan their next move.. Or they are facing a particular phase of software development and don’t really know where to start. 

You’ve been quoted as saying that many startups are missing a trick when it comes to their digital strategy – can you elaborate?  

Many digital startup founders have a dream, an idea that they want to turn into reality. They have excellent domain knowledge. And they have lots and lots of drive and ambition. Furthermore, they are probably pretty clear on the commercial side of running a business, and may be pretty amazing at sales, too. Their knowledge of tech is good, but they know they need that CTO with the deep tech smarts to guide the product development side of the business. Then, here comes the growing team of developers and designers, and they’re off to the races. However, what they are missing is a digital strategy, built on empirical data by strategy experts who have done this many, many times before (and got the scars to prove it). A best-of-breed strategy cuts through all the noise and the opinions, and becomes the company’s North Star for years to come. 

What would your advice be to a digital startup founder who is looking to take their business to the next level? 

I would strongly recommend starting with co-creating your digital strategy with strategy experts who have been through this many times before and who, crucially, you can trust. Trust not only to help you create an excellent strategy, but also to offer constructive feedback, point out flaws in your thinking, and have the ‘hard conversations’ whenever appropriate.  

Whoever you chose, though, must bring you, as an absolute minimum; 

  • a practical, sustainable digital strategy that your entire team can get behind, and that is based on… 
  • empirical, forensic, data-driven research, and includes… 
  • a clear value proposition  
  • a sound set of priorities 
  • a solid structure, designed to support your ambitions for growth across all three time horizons, while at the same time… 
  • protecting you and your business from a predatory, investor-led takeover. 

Remember, ‘Yes-people’ have no useful role to play in digital strategy support! 

 How should a digital startup decide whether to develop products in-house or outsource them? 

Every successful business does a particular thing more effectively and attractively than its competitors. This is your secret sauce, your unfair advantage that differentiates you from others in the market and for which your customers choose you.  

If your value proposition isn’t actually software development, then you should ask yourself “Why are we trying to do it ourselves?” Hiring and managing people with specialist skills is difficult and can be risky; bad choices can hold you back, or even be fatal to your business. By leaving software product development to the professionals you can concentrate on being world-class in your expert domain, safe in the knowledge that the technical stuff is being taken care of. 

What does your typical week look like? 

Every week is different, but this week’s projects have included completing a white paper on product management in a world of agile and digital transformation, writing a business plan for a startup building an innovative analytical tool for SME hauliers, training product managers for a global manufacturer of high tech scientific instruments, planning an IT strategy workshop for a Housing Association and designing a custom development plan for a #healthtech startup. I’ve also been providing some pro-bono coaching for a young person aiming for a career in business. 

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