Dave Antrobus

Co-Founder of Fresh Thinking Group

Dave Antrobus is the technology director and co-founder of Fresh Thinking Group (FTG), an independent capital investment organisation that reforms distressed companies, nurtures start-ups, and develops growth strategies for healthy businesses. As the company lead for all things tech, Dave is renowned for the software solutions that he has cultivated for a wealth of FTG’s acquisitions. He is a seasoned Technology Director and project manager who employs a consultancy-led approach, advising teams on how to streamline their technological systems.

As both mentor and manager, Dave advises teams on all areas of technology and curates environments that enable developers to enhance their skills and achieve optimal outcomes.

Specialising in e-commerce and software development, Dave has created award-winning technology solutions that enable frictionless user experience and team communication. Dave is in the process of completing his certification in Scrum, a framework that enables businesses to address adaptable problems to deliver the best possible outcomes. FTG uses Scrum’s heuristic approach to smoothly manage the development queue.

Over the last decade, Dave has worked with a multitude of notable brands, including Google, Matalan, and SimplyBe. His background in user experience, new-age media, and web marketing makes him instrumental to the redevelopment of business structures for companies that FTG has acquired and invested in. FTG’s recent acquisitions include the on-demand laundry service Laundrapp, the Cuhu mobile-development app, the national logistics company GLB Transport and most recently, the digital agency, Skylab.

Where did the idea for Fresh Thinking Group come from?

We’ve always had an interest in logistics, and Caribou was born out of our original relationship with City Link many years ago. Since then we’ve grown from strength to strength to ship not only across the UK but also internationally. We work with many of the major carriers in the industry as well including Royal Mail, DPD, and Amazon Logistics.

V Software grew out of our Logistics businesses as we saw a gap in the market for a user friendly, yet powerful and flexible solution for our customers. After building the initial solution for one company, we realised that this could benefit others too so we now license the platform as a SaaS model to other companies within the sector. Our software is the brains behind our logistics and can typically save end customers around 40% off their shipping costs by intelligently routing their parcels through different networks based on their requirements.

With Inc & Co, we wanted to redefine the landscape of creative agencies by bringing together a group of companies with different strengths. This enabled us to offer an award-winning experience to clients across the board. We’re still growing as a company and continuously looking to engage with new agencies too.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I usually jump out of bed, into the shower and head straight into the office. I then catch up with our different teams through our morning standups so we’re all on the same page and everyone knows what’s happening throughout the company.

I’ll then be in and out of meetings for the day, but make sure I get a good few hours coding into the schedule as well – As Tech Director I have a lot of responsibilities but don’t want to lose touch with current coding techniques.

During the meetings I advise on different technology solutions for our internal products as well as external clients, and also coordinate between teams depending on different technology used and team strengths.

I usually finish around 7pm before heading to the gym and for a quick Nandos or pizza before bed!

How do you bring ideas to life?

My best new business/software ideas normally come to me at about 10pm when I’ve had loads of caffeine! I normally jump onto my computer to try and map it out a bit further and pull together some sort of MVP. From there I’ll brainstorm with my business partners to see if it’s a good one or not.

For any concept whether it’s internal or external, I think input from the team is key – Running an idea past the guys in Cuhu, Neon and Skylab is a great sense check, as well as hearing their input and getting their take on the idea.

What’s one trend that excites you?

At the moment I’m loving working with different front end frameworks like Vue.js and React. Our agencies work quite heavily with these frameworks but each time a new project comes along it’s exciting to see how much additional value we can bring to a project by applying these. We try and be as cutting edge as possible with these, but on client projects we can’t quite be at the bleeding edge unless the libraries we’re using are stable!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m a complete caffeine addict at the moment – Give me a bar of dark chocolate and I’ll demolish it!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Plan and forecast so you know your numbers for the business. I think this was the one fundamental thing that studying Computer Science at university was missing – Once I learned this, things ran a lot smoother and it was easier to focus on the fun things like strategy and development.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I plan like crazy and have quite a few lists that I use to prioritise things. This includes online lists through JIRA but I can’t get away from having a daily to-do list on paper too!

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Definitely investing in staff. This not only helps up skill the team but also we want to encourage people to stay with us for the long term. This ranges from code reviews and demos, through to courses and attending development conferences like Laracon.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Probably a bit over the £100 mark, but I’ve heavily upgraded my house recently so all the lights are now smart lights. Looking forward to movie night!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Ah there’s quite a few to choose from! The main ones though would be JIRA to keep on task, along with PhpStorm if I’m doing development. Slack is also our default go to for communication which saves us a lot of time instead of emails.

Key Learnings:

  • Learn how to plan & forecast as early as possible so that you can focus on strategy and development.
  • Invest in staff as much as you can for upskilling but most importantly, for staff retention.
  • Bounce your ideas off your team as much as possible – having a collaborative working environment is the best way to bring ideas to life.