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Dawson Andrews

an independent digital product firm

Monday 01 January 1900

Why we opened an outpost in Sydney in 2017.

Cameron Stewart, 
Director of Strategy, Dawson Andrews, 
Oct '17 | 5 Min Read

Posing the question ‘where next?’ to a team like Dawson Andrews is a dangerous game to play. We each seem to have our own cultural interests with the adventure destination list getting more eclectic every year. Our interest in global markets and the borderless nature of our service makes it a tempting question we seem to ask regularly. When Cam came to us in 2016 with an idea to move to Sydney were skeptical, to say the least.

We work on a remote autonomous setup but this was a whole other ballgame. Regardless of the doubts, we listened, and now we find ourselves one man down in Belfast and with a new office on George St in Sydney.

Week one - Cam and Katy at the SOH.

Our home market is the UK. We’re a startup. A bootstrapped one. Two years in we decide to take on another market, y’know just a close one. 10,500 miles away. WTF.

In a strategic review of the company we went all Christopher Columbus and decided it was time to expand our global footprint. We launched an attack Sydney to dominate APAC, gobbling up market share from Hong Kong and Singapore along the way. Cameron (strategically chosen to lead the Dawson Andrew’s Navy Guard) would take on the East and leave Andrew to tackle the West en route to World Domination.

Just kidding.

We’ve considering wrapping a strategic story around our Australian experiment, however, a good story is a true story and the bottom line is - the Sydney move didn’t make a huge ton of business sense but we did it anyway.

Dawson Andrews from its inception was designed as a vehicle for us to see the world and do things we otherwise weren’t able to do. Andrew (logical one) knew that someday the plan was that Cameron would go on his merry way and take on the brunt of the travel, whilst he would take the helm and steer the mothership from back home.

This ‘plan’ however, ended up happening about seven years premature.

“We had nearly two full years before the Sydney move would happen. We purposed that we would be fully prepared. We would have a game-plan at the ready and even get out there for a number of trips pre August 2017 and get the lay of the land……none of which happened. It’s safe to say we’ve gone from desiring a ‘strategy’ to ‘winging it’.
We said we’d give it a year. At the time of writing, we’re 6 months in and whilst we’ve already had success it’s hard to know what metric or ‘gate’ needs to be surpassed in order to commit for longer. We’re at a crossroads now. If we’re calling our rogue agent home, we’ve gotta do it now and if we keep him out in the field we’ve got to put more resources to work. It’s a catch 22 and if anyone has been here before…please call me”.
—Andrew Fulton, February 2018

Remote working - Manly Beach (It isn’t the only perk of the job).

August 6th 2017 (Leaving Day-Eve)

One final look of ‘are we sure this isn’t going to tank our business?’, met with a resounding ‘er not really but feck it’ and it was time to say a teary goodbye.

August 7th - Leaving Day

Three years and 160,000 air miles saw Cam and Katy make their way in style to a land down under with the full First Class Virgin Atlantic experience.

First stop - Hong Kong.

Riddled with technical expats with more cash than they knew what to do with, we saw our first real account of flown-in talent. A city too big to care for such an insignificant community seemed to find itself thriving amongst Hong Kong culture. The eclectic no-shits-given attitude seems to suit European Millennials as they immerse themselves in Vertical Flow Galleries drinking ‘white man’s cooling tea’ (Chinese translation for beer) wearing $1000 basketball kicks. The high-held reputation of European product engineering was surprising given Hong Kong’s head start in digital. We were told the further East we go, the higher a demand we’ll see…

Searching for ‘white man’s cooling tea’ - Hong Kong.

To Sydney so…

All the strategic research done up to now (jack all) lead us to set up in the suburb of Manly. Having not even seen the city, Cam and Katy had a flat in Manly signed within 48 hours of landing.

A 16 minute ferry into the CBD, and a 30 metre walk to the beach, and one-mile walk to the hospital (Katy’s work + shark attack contingency)… dreams do come true.

G’Day Mate - We’ve Arrived…What Now?

Having enjoyed the WeWork New York community we sought out their new venture in Sydney. Located on the 13th floor of 333 George Street you would do well to find a better location (not to mention the balcony view). The economic pace was evident and the need for digital unavoidable (bar mobile banking - Sydney are quite possibly world leaders in this field) with handfuls of technical talent coming through the office every day for interviews.

Within days we felt we had a community we could hardly keep up with… Taine Moufarrige, Executive Director with huge plans for Servcorp. Adam Achterstraat at Scentre Group - this guy will run the country one day. Paul Armstrong at Sitback - we were lucky enough to meet the guy who knows everyone in our first week. Jack and Michael at Vectr. Samantha Bell who introduced us to Melbourne, founder of DO Lectures Australia. Andrew Clarke and Cash rewards - about the only business excited at Amazon’s arrival. Ky Kocur at ProCore/BroCore teaching us what culture is all about. Reuben So, redefining Australia’s parking experience. Lawrence Goldstone at The Difference/PwC. Sourabh Chatterjee, Head of Technology at Bajaj Allianz. Kiel Van Daal at Digilante. Jack Grant at Hayes. The list continues to grow…

We Work George St.

Working remotely from Manly beach.

“That’s the dream”

The daily expectation; surfing, running the beach and swimming on breaks, avocado on toast, Bundaberg, sunshine 24/7. The reality; The above - it does happen most days and yes, it is a dream. What we didn’t anticipate: Timezones consuming our mornings and evenings most days of the week. Skype, Hangouts and Slack all failing until we found a saving grace - Zoom and a dedicated fiber line. A 6-8 hour stretch of isolation that doesn’t bode too well for social-butterfly Cam. Mid-day heat - Irishmen aren’t made for >30°.

It’s been difficult having Cam away - we miss his intangibles. Without really being there though, would we have really been able to see the potential Sydney (and the wider APAC) holds?

We’re six months into our APAC experiment. Business is booming in Europe and Cam’s focus has largely been placed on supporting the team there. We have a strong team capable of scaling fast, highly adapted to working across time zones. We could focus all our efforts on Europe for a year and revisit APAC later, we could spread our bets and grow out a team around the momentum we’ve developed in Sydney.

These are tough decisions we have little experience in making. These next few years will be pivotal and we want to be able to look back and say we were wise in the calls we made.

In the meantime, we’ll keep paddling frantically for whatever waves come our way.

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This article is part of a series exploring the DA journey. If you’d like to stay updated;

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