Dave Antrobus is a self-described ‘tech geek’. With a strong focus on user experience, new-age media, and web marketing, this technology director, web developer, software engineer, project manager, and entrepreneur celebrates each software program or hardware implement that hits the market. He gets excited about all things tech, and he brings his unique experience and innovation to everything and anything he works on.
Always aiming to exceed expectations, Antrobus is passionate about everything he does and spreads that excitement to the teams working with him. He effectively instills a drive for excellence and eagerness to pursue whatever lies beyond in his teammates, all the while effectively communicating with stakeholders as his team does whatever it can to ensure profits are made without giving up on practicality and efficiency.
Tell us a bit about what you do.
I’m the Technology Director and Co-founder of Fresh Thinking Group (FTG), an independent capital investment firm.. Fresh Thinking Group acquires and funds distressed companies, start-ups, and businesses looking to develop their growth strategies. Each of our acquisitions and partner companies benefit from our capital injections, R&D, and expertise. I’m responsible for plotting each company’s technical direction, advising on software solutions, and coordinating teams based on appropriate technologies and team strengths.
Over the last fourteen years, I have worked as a software engineer, developing e-commerce and technology solutions for brands like Matalan, SimplyBe, and Google. I also mentor development teams of all sizes, coaching them to improve collaborative practices. I aim to curate environments in which developers can advance their skills and achieve the best outcomes possible.
What gave you the idea for (what you do/your company)? How did it start?
The idea for Fresh Thinking Group was born out of previous enterprises that I founded with my business partner Scott Dylan. We share an interest in logistics and launched our first company Caribou many years ago. Caribou works with major industry carriers, including Royal Mail, Amazon Logistics, and DPD, to offer seamless, global delivery services.
Following the launch of Caribou, Scott and I saw a further gap in the market for customer-focused solutions in the logistics sector. We launched V Software to fill this gap. Once we built the initial solution for one company, we realised that the software would benefit others, too. We now licence the platform as a SaaS model for all companies in the logistics sector. Caribou’s rates can save customers up to 40% and the software can intelligently route parcels through the optimum delivery network, ultimately saving the customer more money.
In 2018, Scott and I channelled our experience from Caribou and V Software into the launch of Fresh Thinking and its subsidiary groups, Orb, Inc & Co, and Inc & Co Property. Our combined skills in logistics, software, investment, and business development put us in a strong position to launch an enterprise through which we could re-strategise clients’ business frameworks across various industries. Since launching FTG, we have had the satisfaction of working with some fantastic companies and landscaping their business models to achieve growth and return on investment.
With new acquisitions in the pipelines, we look forward to further expanding our portfolio of business transformations. Fresh Thinking Group is currently seeking businesses that specialise in digital, e-commerce, tech, and logistics niches who will benefit from our in-depth business guidance and funding.
What’s your favorite thing about your chosen profession?
For me, one of the best things about acquiring multiple businesses is that we can work with a wide range of experts and pour a huge amount of brain power into every idea, initiative, and business plan. My best business and software ideas usually occur to me late in the evening. Not only can I brainstorm these ideas with my business partners to decide whether there’s any value in them, but I can also seek input from our teams at Cuhu, Skylab, and Neon. Running ideas past experts from our business acquisitions offers a great sense check, and their thoughts are always invaluable.
What keys to being productive can you share with us?
Caffeine is my source of productivity – my work is powered by dark chocolate. Caffeine aside, I use JIRA to keep on task, PhpStorm to improve development productivity, and Slack for our internal communications.
I’m also completing my certification in Scrum, which is fantastic for productivity. The heuristic approach is ideal for managing development queues and allows FTG to overcome adaptable problems efficiently. I hold daily Sprint Planning Meetings and Sprint Retrospectives to ensure that our teams take feedback on board at every stage of our development processes.
Tell us one long-term goal in your career.
My main goal is to expand FTG’s and Inc & Co’s portfolios with more entrepreneurial, industry-specific businesses that offer vital support and guidance for other companies in our shared collectives. Over the last couple of years, Fresh Thinking Group and Inc & Co have already acquired and partnered with numerous companies. While FTG has grown and strengthened the mobile-development app agency Cuhu, on-demand laundry service Laundrapp, and national logistics company GLB Transport, Inc & Co has rejuvenated numerous creative agencies and firms such as Brass, Neon, Skylab, and has recently acquired the data-specialist firm MyLife Digital.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?
Over the years, I’ve come to realise the growing importance of keeping up to date with technology trends and, as a result, prioritising self-development. Technology trends are constantly evolving, so it’s important to make sure you don’t lose touch with current coding techniques. Tech Directors have a high level of responsibility and end up in lots of meetings, but finding time to keep up-to-date with software practices and certifications is essential.
For example, we’re currently stepping up our work with different front-end frameworks, such as React and Vue.js. We’ve found that we can add a huge amount of value to each of our acquisitions’ projects by applying these frameworks.
What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?
Plan, plan, plan. The software industry is incredibly fast-moving and, at times, difficult to keep up with. You can’t have too many online lists to keep organised – I recommend JIRA – but I can usually be found walking around with a notepad too!
Also, I can’t overstate the importance of investing in staff. We want to upskill our teams and encourage our employees to stay with us long-term, so we offer the best training available, from demos and code reviews to courses and development conferences like Laracon (the largest annual Laravel event).
What are your favourite things to do outside of work?
After work, I enjoy finishing the day with a session at the gym and catching up with the latest tech news before bed. I also enjoy windsurfing, 3D printing, and experimenting with Raspberry Pi microcomputers.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell myself to plan early to manage time effectively and improve productivity. This is the one skill that we didn’t cover on my Computer Science degree. Once I’d grasped how to plan projects and forecast developments, my processes became much smoother and I was able to focus on the parts of my businesses that I really enjoy, like development and strategy.
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