I was a founding member of Play building the consultancy business to £multi-million revenue and growing the company to 22, with a product team of 7. We shipped 10s of innovative products for the UK’s biggest companies.
Having worked together at Mind Candy, we realised how powerful game mechanics can be in driving behaviours. Play formed on the belief that we could use our games experience to build compelling products to help people and businesses achieve their goals. The dream team was back together with Marcus Thornley (Chief Executive Officer), Dan Atherton (Chief Technology Officer) and myself (Chief Product Officer) heading up our respective skillsets.
From the beginning we had no plans to raise investment, we wanted to grow organically and profitability. This meant the first few months started off in coffee shops trying to win our first client. Fortunately, it didn’t take long with Bupa we designed, built, shipped and ran Bupa Boost as a live service. Finally earning some money we landed our first office - living the startup clique of working in a garage. We quickly expanded hiring Jez Fischer and Alun William, colleagues from the Mind Candy team.
With happy clients and lots of work coming in we quickly out-grew the garage, fortunately we found another office next door and knocked through.
From the beginning our plan was to grow the consultancy side of the business to be profitable from the offset but most importantly to help us understand the biggest problems facing businesses today. Prior to Play I had no experience working with large companies and it was fascinating to me learning the ins-and-outs of some of the largest companies in the UK.
After the successful launches of Boost and Digital Fitness we were taken by how the biggest impact was cultural, creating communities in businesses that helped individuals succeed. We thought there was an opportunity to build a platform specifically designed to empower individuals and teams by improving company culture - Totem was born.
With Totem growing quickly, and more consultancy work than we could take, we needed to expand once again to fit the team. We were lucky again finding the most beautiful offices on Bermondsey St and this time we had windows - so many windows!
On the 27th June 2018, I took the heart-wrenching decision to leave Play, and I left the UK to travel with my boyfriend, Remi. While I miss the incredible team that we built there, I’m so proud of the work we accomplished and all the incredible products Play will continue to produce.
If anything was important at Play it was culture. We wanted to build a new kind of consultancy/ agency where we could build products that make a difference - but also have fun doing it! I strongly believe in the power of small teams to achieve amazing things, my time at Play only reenforced my beliefs.
From the beginning Play was a completely product-centric business. We applied our experience on making games to build engaging products that helped people achieve their goals. I was responsible through the whole process to helping win new clients, conceiving of innovative products then designing, building and running live services.
As we refined our ways of working we devised our own variant of a Design Sprint to help kick-start products. The purpose of a Sprint 0 was to go from nothing to something - helping us understand the problem; propose and iterate on potential solutions; and define/ estimate a potential pilot to prove our idea. Our approach at Play was highly pragmatic, focusing on shipping and proving our hypothesis rather than lengthy design periods with little in-the-form of real data.
Before Play I didn’t have much experience managing people directly. As we grew the business my responsibilities also changed - shifting from doing most of the work myself, to overseeing multiple products at the same time. I was also responsible for ensuring that the whole product team had the opportunity to grow and improve their skill-sets. More so than any specific product we built, I’m proud of the team we built and the wonderful people that made it so special.
I was lucky enough to work with this bunch
"I worked with David at first Mind Candy and then at Play - where he led product across both consultancy projects and internal IP, managing a growing team that figured out how gamified digital products could change the world of work. If you know him, or read the other recommendations (especially the ones from his Play team), you'll see that he's exceptional at what he does. Listening, making connections/ seeing patterns, focusing on users, conceptualising and defining products that are like no other - he can do it all.
What's even more unique though is his humility and positivity. He's enthusiastic about life and people and learning - and how digital products can unlock human potential and happiness."
"I've worked closely with David for 6 years. In that time we have created products for many big name companies and brands. He has an amazing understanding of what makes a product engaging. Without a doubt the success of every product we have worked on, has been a direct result of his insight and input into the process.
Over the years he provided mentoring and training to his team and has left behind a product team that follow his no nonsense methodology and appetite for excellence."
"I had the pleasure of teaming up directly with him on many products and I was surprised how much I learned from him every time. Annoyingly, not that you'd expect with someone quite so professional and talented, he is also a bloody lovely guy too. Teams that work with him, respect him, his knowledge and like him in equal amounts. He impeccably gains insight about a problem and swiftly delivers a brilliant solution that not only nails all business goals, but never loses sight of the end user and their engagement.
Mid table Mario Kart player..."
"In the 10+ years I have worked in product design, I have never met anyone quite like David. He has an amazing skill at instantly understanding business and customer needs and translating them into engaging products that everyone loves! He would bring huge value to any product or customer focused company.
David makes work fun. I hope I get the pleasure of working with David again! 👍"
"I’ve had the pleasure of working with David for the past 3+ years at Play. His ability to distil complex business problems and user needs and translate them into a set of simple and understandable experiences is amazing.
One of his core strengths is articulating his vision of a particular product and getting early stakeholder buy-in and support which is key to the success of any project! I’ve personally learned so much from him over the last few years and he really helped mentor me to be a better and more well-rounded designer."
"I was in David's team, and had the opportunity to work with him for nearly a year, across several projects - his sharp personality, intelligence, and willingness were a game changer for clients, projects and myself. I learned a lot from my experience working with him and feel he helped me to be a better designer and work better with clients.
But he is way more than just a great Team Manager - David proved to be a great team player, always supporting not only people in his team but everyone at Play."
"I was immediately inspired by his ability to understand clients’ requirements and turn their ideas into intuitive and viable products. You can always count on his support and his reassuring calmness even under circumstances of mounting pressure. I’ve learned a lot from him and would be honoured to work with him again one day.
As well as his design acumen, he’s been largely responsible for the great company culture that we now enjoy here at Play and I would highly recommend him."
"David has a deep understanding across tech, design and business, allowing him to run the whole product team brilliantly, ship incredible products and be a pleasure to work with throughout. All in all, a wonderful guy!"
Play has been by far the most rewarding and challenging work of my life so far. I’m incredibly proud of the company and the culture that we’ve built. Over my 4 years at Play I’ve learned so much about running a business, working with clients, managing people, building great products and more. I look forward to following the great products Play will continue to produce 🙌.