Tom Le Bree
Tom Keighley

Member Article

Thinking and doing: Bdaily meets rehabstudio

**Rehab Studios began life in Belfast around 7 years ago, making websites, banners and digital experiences for companies. The company has grown from a workforce of 10 to 75 and now have bases in London and New York.

Bdaily spoke to partner Tom Le Bree, Rehab’s strategy director, who filled us in on Rehab’s story and his understanding of the UK tech space.**

With growth in spend in digital advertising, Tom suggests there is now a growing need for the people who make and build solutions to be able spawn the ideas too.

“Advertisers now need to have a full understanding of the capabilities of the technology,” says Tom.

“It can’t always come with the best ideas, but if you have an understanding of how things are made, that can inform slightly better concepts and perform better marketing.”

Since co-founders Tim Rodgers and Jurgen Prause founded the firm, Rehab have developed client relationships with the likes of YouTube, Google and Red Bull International.

The company have a large team of coders, based in Belfast, that Tom says are among the best in the world. They’ve built their reputation on word-of-mouth, focussing on intricate bespoke projects for clients, as opposed to direct marketing or customer relationship management services.

Why base a tech company in Belfast? The team see London as home to front-end services, and strategy, while Belfast is fuelled by production.

Tom adds: “Because a lot of the company has been semi-outsourced, we have great processes for working across distances.”

Managing partner Michael Veitch joins the conversation: “Our revenue is split between large agencies - such as Saatchi and Saatchi’s, and new clients like Asos, and Lastfm, among others.

“At the same time as Rehab, we’ve launched a separate company in Robot Corp where we help invest in early stage startups across a number of different platforms, from mobile to desktop.”

“The UK technology sector has been doing very well, and certainly in the last year or so, it’s really started to pick up. It’s still some way behind the likes of Silicon Valley and those kinds of place where there is a lot of conversation going on, but I think that comes down to the types of funding, talent and money that are attracted to the American market.

“I’m of the opinion that we should be positive about what’s happening in the UK. It’s easy to say the UK does lot of things wrong, and hasn’t allowed people with ideas and small companies the room to grow; and the type of benefits that drive them to succeed. It’s still easier to do something out of the US, but it is changing quite rapidly here.”

Tom suggests that companies in Europe are actually experiencing bigger returns, as less cash in the system drives them to be more innovative in the way they build and develop their companies.

Mike adds: “The places where marketing brands and advertising are spending their money is evolving quite rapidly too. One, because of the recession and brands not having as much money; and two, because mobile and online is a place where they can reach their consumers at a lower cost.

“I think there’s only a few select brands internationally that are doing online and technology well. In some, there’s still reluctance to understand how consumers interact more actively online, and more passively while watching or experiencing above the line advertising.”

Rehab are in a space that presents an exciting, but unclear outlook for the next 5-6 years. The pace of evolution means Rehab and their contemporaries eagerly wait to see how developments with desktop and the likes of Google chrome will pan out.

Mike also points to developments in large mobile networks, and the provision of free wifi services as just one of these areas in which opportunity will arise.

The way to capitalise on these opportunities? According to Mike it is staying lean, with a moderate sized workforce, and focussing attention on emerging markets while keeping eyes on key influencers in every sector.

The pair see more challenges for startups in achieving the right funding, at the right time. They say the financial world is less sure of startups, and has had its confidence knocked by pop-technology stories such as the Facebook IPO.

Over saturation of products also poses a challenge. Users only have the appetite for so many services, and the willingness to learn new processes and systems.

Mike adds: “You can only have so many social networking sites, photo-sharing platforms, video platforms, to dating apps and so on before you start to become tired of wanting to adopt new ones.

“There’s a real need for smart innovation in areas that aren’t as immediate or sexy, and I think there’s a lot of the community that is going that way.”

Check out some of the technology week articles, including: Bdaily talks IT technology; the UK tech sector: a health check; the web-developers perspective; Bdaily talks to Care.com; the growth of the UK tech sector; flying ahead in the technology sector; technology in the security industry; does the UK technology sector measure up?; and technology to re-shape society?

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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