How can R&D make your tech business more resilient

It is easy to accept that you are doing well and so you cease spending on R&D and striving for innovation. In the short term, this could make you more profitable because you aren’t investing so much in R&D, but in the long term this will hinder your success and progress.

Flavilla was joined by Matthew Duhig, Co-Founder of FX Digital, to talk about how R&D can make your tech business more resilient.


Briefly, tell us how your journey took where you are right now

FX Digital began as a shared passion between my business partner Tom and I. We designed and developed relatively simple “brochure” websites, while also trying to make ends meet at University. After graduating, we both found ourselves looking for work during a global recession. We took relatively low paid jobs to kickstart our careers in development and visual FX. Not long after taking these jobs, we realised that we would be able to sustain a better living for ourselves if we just pursued our work with FX Digital a little more. It took some time, but eventually we were able to go full time with the business. Moving into an office on Brick Lane, and hiring our first employee, a designer, in 2015.

The second hire we made came shortly after, and this time it was an investment in an R&D specialist. Fast forward to 2020 and that investment in R&D has helped us to expand our offering into emerging technologies, in particular Voice and Connected TV, with a team of nearly 40 incredible people generating annual revenues of over £2.5m.

My journey along the way has very much been in harmony with FX Digital. I have grown with the company, learning along the way and I am now a BIMA 100 member. I am also a Managing Director of a company that I’m immensely proud to be a part of.


What was your aha moment which led you to create FX Digital?

I don’t think we ever had one particular ‘aha’ moment, because the company has evolved organically over time. However, there are some distinct memories that stick with me from the earlier days. The first being the commitment from both me and Tom to starting the business. This was after a few beers at the local pub. The next major milestone was our decision to begin working from the Cafe at Google Campus in Moorgate. Then, about a month later committing to our first office space, which at the time we really could not afford!


What has been your biggest lesson learnt from growing FX Digital?

Growing a business comes almost entirely down to people and relationships. Most of our work did, and still does, come from the network that we have managed to continuously grow. We’ve gone from building websites for friends and families, to building digital products for global businesses. But in both instances, the size of the project is a reflection of the size of our network at that point in time. Perhaps more importantly, the amazing people that work with us at FX are so effective because of the environment we’ve created as a team and the relationships we all have with one another. Whether it’s clients or team members, it all comes down to people and relationships.


What do you wish more people knew when it comes to R&D?

It’s incredibly difficult to sustain a commitment to R&D. Whenever you pitch innovation to clients they ask for the ROI or example successes. The reality is that when working with emerging technology there’s not much evidence of success knocking about. As a result of this, almost all companies are scared of investing in innovation. Buyers of your service or technology need A LOT of convincing to put their neck on the line to back whatever R&D innovation you’re pitching into them. A lot of the time it comes down to your relationship with that buyer, and whether they share your beliefs for the innovation you’re pitching. For this reason it’s tempting to reduce R&D activities in a business, replacing them instead with fee earning activities (project work, sales, etc.).

Really the only way of creating a sustained R&D effort, is to breed a culture for R&D. Allow your team to do that hackathon. Invest some of your profits into cool things that your team are passionate about. Give your team the slack and freedom to explore innovation on their own terms. But don’t have a paddy when something they investigate blows up!


Thinking about your legacy, how do you want to be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered as someone that helped others to be happy. I’m happy when others are happy, and I understand how much of an impact an individual’s career can have on their happiness. I’m obsessed with finding out why people are unhappy, and often make it my mission to work out what makes them happy! I want FX to be a place of education, growth, and passion, but most importantly, happiness.


About the speaker

Matt started FX Digital as a website development company from his home in 2011, with his business partner Tom. 

As the business steadily grew, the easy option would have been to stick with what they knew – web design and build. 

However, this would not have been true to Matt’s personal philosophy, which was – and continues to be – a steadfast belief that investment in new technology is crucial; not only for his own business but for society as a whole.

Matt has pioneered voice technology and innovative OTT TV solutions in the UK digital scene. His achievements with FX Digital demonstrate both entrepreneurial spirit and drive for change and advancement in the emerging tech space.


Liked this article? Why not read our latest magazine issue?