Hi Paul, please can you tell us a bit about yourself.
I hold the role of CEO at Dynmark, the company responsible for Donky, the only two-way app messaging network. I was formerly part of the executive team at MessageLabs, the world’s largest cloud-based email security and data company. My attention turned to mobile messaging in 2011, and now Dynmark’s core business leads the market in SMS intelligence and analytics.
Having developed a market leading cloud platform, the graduation to network was the logical step. The new business, Donky is an Azure cloud based app messaging network, giving brands the opportunity to start rich and engaging conversations with app users.
What is Donky?
Donky was established to fill a clear gap in the market for a platform that could communicate and engage customers across all screens, devices and apps, especially with the rise of IoT.
We found that marketing teams struggle with isolated single channel solutions that hamper a fully integrated view of the customer across the entire digital estate. This is compounded by the fact that these new channels require far more technical and developer resources, meaning that new relationships need to be forged internally to deliver the solution.
What needed to be produced is a solution that motivated all stakeholders, a marketing platform that could integrate with existing solutions or be used standalone to reach and engage consumers through all apps and devices, whilst also giving the developers a platform that they could build on. It also needed to be able to identify those consumers across devices to provide complete visibility of their touch points.
This could not be achieved through point solutions. It is a challenge to inspire two distinct business functions with very different behaviours and motivations but we believe with Donky we have bridged that gap.
Donky is a network for developers, combining real-time data services and communications with marketing automation, in one platform. Donky allows developers to instantly access its network functionality via a range of integration and development tools to build and develop extensive two-way IoT, OTT and messaging services for any native or web-enabled device.
Marketers can leverage the power of the network through the marketing automation and location services platform, whilst also ensuring existing marketing systems are easily integrated. Donky is user-centric, meaning that you can identify users across your digital estate, therefore understanding who they are and how they connect, so businesses can provide consistent and engaging content across all screens, apps and devices.
And can you also tell us what OTT is?
An OTT network provides a way of identifying and brokering channels’ specific end points (devices).
The internet understands and identifies you by IP, but an OTT network understands what it is connecting to. It is a mechanism that goes beyond IP and specific users or devices. It creates data conversation.
We see that you’re just a baby startup, having only launched recently! How’s the journey been so far?
At times it has been painful, due to juggling multiple problems.
When you identify a gap in the market, people don’t always understand the gap exists until you explain it or identify the issue that you are solving. With new technology, people don’t know it exists.
You must listen to people’s feedback to develop the proposition and how you explain it.
You must keep a solid direction to maintain your product, but be nimble enough to make changes to suit the market. This leads to constant change, as a result of reacting to requirements. Make things easier to understand and you can demonstrate the problem, to prove it can be solved. We are on the curve of new tech and therefore things are moving fast; you are not always the person with the idea so it is a race. You must expect this and be aware of competitor challenges. Those companies that are unique to the market now, will not stay not unique for long.
You are in the competitive marketing straight away. Companies need to appreciate that the business needs to be built within a competitive environment, even though the competition is not always clear from the start.
How have you funded your business so far?
We have been lucky enough to have a cash generator in a sister company (Dynmark). This gives us more control as we do not have to rely on funding from external parties as much. We do however; rely on our current provider for revenue in the startup phase. Yet, I do believe that more funding does not always mean more success.
What’s the best business decision you’ve made?
Deciding that you cannot do things by yourself; therefore you need good people around you. You cannot be an expert in everything and therefore you need people to achieve things. You are not always right and therefore you need to learn from others.
Obviously it is important to maintain cash flow for development and KPIs, but if you don’t have the right people to achieve this, you cannot get there.
Make sure you have a written or mental decision making matrix as a proven formula – this can be based around the KPIs for the business, to help you stay focused on what you want to achieve.
And the worst?
Quite a few things, but we learn from our mistakes! You inevitably make bad decisions along the way. Like hiring the wrong people for a start. I have found the value in having a strong set of advisers that you can trust and listen to, so that you can make good decisions.
How do you market your business?
Directly to brands across most industries and through partners. We look to advise and educate the market, to demonstrate our innovation and knowledge within the industry.
Why did you decide to name your company ‘Donky’?
Many people ask me “why did you call it DONKY”. My stock response has traditionally been… “well, we needed a name for the new platform and I was in the shower in the morning of the decision and I thought.. DONKY!! Now I have had this conversation many times, sometimes with a look of disbelief from my audience, sometimes with acceptance.
I thought to myself that’s an amusing way to say why I made the decision but on deeper analysis of my reasoning and explanation, I realized this was a massive disservice to the people who build and support DONKY and the audience I give this explanation to. Plus, I thought as an apology to those who have misunderstood my thought process I’d actually explain “why DONKY”.
Above all I wanted a name that was easily recognisable and memorable. Since its launch everybody remembers DONKY, as you just don’t expect a tech company to be called DONKY; often people say “yes I remember DONKY, don’t know why, I just do”. I also wanted a name that was transferable between business and consumer. Building a brand is vital and it needs to resonate across your target audience as well as a wider audience.
Secondly, it allows you to create branding (logo’s, advertising, propositions) that can be incredibly diverse and imaginative. We are in an age where brand is everything, so coming up with something that gives you a clear identity is vital. You should be able to “play” with your brand. At times, it must be serious and at other times it needs to inspire humor, as humor is memorable.
So “why DONKY”? Surely this is now obvious; DONKY does the heavy lifting for you. It helps you to climb the mountain that is technology adoption today, so put your requirements on its back and let it climb the mountain for you! Let it help you conquer and discover, whilst carrying you to where you need to go, in a manner that is confident, reliable, robust and compared to the value it brings, priceless!!
It inspired me, let Donky inspire you…
Oh and lastly, why did I call it DONKY without an “E”? Well it had to be unique and not to be confused with a real Donkey. That’s also why he’s purple.
What one piece of business advice has stuck with you?
I think that the most important things about building a business are managing cash availability, having the right people and knowing when you are not the expert.
For new startups you must have strong KPIs across the business that will keep you on track and drive growth. They should also ensure you know where you are heading and what you want to achieve - the overall objective.
Any tips for other young entrepreneurs?
An idea is just that. A business is very different and requires its own actions and objectives. Understand how you need to run a business first, and then apply the idea to see if it generates the required outcome. Understand the metrics of how to make money for example, and have a clear objective in mind that you are looking to achieve.
Work back your cost, headcount and proposition to see if it will have the desired outcome. Be clear on why someone will be interested in your idea - how does it deliver true value?
What does the near-future hold for Donky?
Growth, revenue and expansion are the aim! Our market share is growing as we increase the reach of the brand and convert our current pipeline into revenue. Currently, we are expanding territories as we validate the business behind the technology.
This demonstrates that we are putting the revenue behind the tech/idea – the nuts and bolts of the business.