Chris Keeling & Nicky Hoyland, Digital Balance: Startup Q&ALast Updated: July 1, 2020
Chris Keeling and Nicky Hoyland’s technical problem-solving abilities were hailed by the companies they worked for to such an extent that they set up their own firm, Digital Balance, which they have grown rapidly, and organically, to work with some of the biggest firms in the UK. Nicky and Chris spoke to us about their startup story to date.
NICKY Hoyland and Chris Keeling were both employed at the leading British digital communications EE when they realised that their passion for addressing technical problems could be put to use in other businesses requiring that same assistance.
Problem-solvers, fuelled by a belief that user engagement with online systems and learning can be beautiful, Nicky’s and Chris’s solution is the aptly named Digital Balance. They truly love what they do, and their business, established just over three years ago in June 2013, has grown in direct proportion to the demands of its customer base and new projects.
Providing web design and development, e-learning and consultancy, Digital Balance has worked with some of the largest UK business, including Santander, Genesis, Expedia and EE. The business model of the startup is based on a per-day rather than per-project charge, which enables them to grow in line with their clients.
The model has been remarkably successful. The firm’s staff has more than tripled from three to 10; turnover has doubled, and continued growth is forecast for the rest of the year, as the firm capitalises on the connections and leads the co-founders have made during their careers to date.
Nicky and Chris recently took some time to answer our questions about their Digital Balance startup story so far.
1. What does your company do?
Chris: At Digital Balance we provide web applications to enterprise level talent and development teams, specialising in bespoke solutions for systems, programmes and elearning. Some of the services we provide include: mentoring management solutions; appraisal systems; digital graduate programmes; gridding systems; bespoke learning management systems; communications portals; and mLearning and learning modules.
Nicky: Our team is a bunch of hardworking, clever, creative and downright fantastic geeks. Collectively, we have over 55 years of experience and we apply our knowledge carefully and creatively to every project. We work with some equally amazing people too! From large corporates to small independents, they all have something in common: a problem in need of a solution.
2. What was the ‘Eureka!’ moment?
Chris: Nicky and myself were working together on a project for EE, we both worked really well together, and lots of departments within EE were contacting us for advice on digital solutions. We were also being asked to talk to other businesses like the BBC and Grants Whiskey. At this point we realised that we could do quite well by starting our own company.
3. What were you doing before starting?
Nicky: I worked as the ‘learning technologies manager’ for EE overseeing all technological deliveries for the learning and development department across all business areas. Chris was working as a contractor for EE at the time as a systems and learning specialist, and before that he’d been a technical director, production manager and web developer.
4. How were you funded?
Chris: Quite simply, we weren’t—we managed to get a small project management job and have grown the business from there.
5. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs starting their own company?
Chris: Only do it if you love it. For us work life balance was important, and enjoying your work life really helps here. We simply wanted to be able to work together on projects we enjoyed. In terms of advice on making decisions, do what feels right, and don’t keep replaying mistakes. If you can change it, do it; if you learn from it, great.
Nicky: What I would advise is to be strong and confident, and be organised, prioritising and dealing with things one at a time.
6. What do you never leave the house without?
Chris: My iPhone 6s, not that I actually use the phone part that much—clearly, I’m not that original here, but it means I can check all our apps/systems etc on the go.
Nicky: I always take my iPhone and insulin. I take the phone for all of the same reasons as Chris, and insulin because I’m Type 1 diabetic.