This one-day, invitation only conference is aimed at people running successful digital agencies.
Over course of the day you’ll hear well-known agency founders share what they’ve learned from starting, growing, and exiting their businesses. They’ll cover everything from pricing strategies, winning work, and growing company culture; to more tricky topics such as dealing with stress, managing failure, and embracing change.
The event will be hosted in a luxury private screening room designed by Tom Dixon, in the heart of London. The perfect place to spend a day working on your business rather than for your business.
Great food & drink
To keep you energised, we’ve organised an amazing selection of local food, juices, snacks and delicacies. Once the talks are over, you’ll have chance to chat to fellow agency founders over dinner and drinks—all included in the price.
Keeping it small
This event is intentionally small, so there’ll be plenty of opportunities to share your experiences with fellow founders.
- the future of agencies
- growing your company
- value pricing & consultative selling
- pitching & spec work
- company leadership
- building your own products
- exit strategies
- and more
There are no rules for running a great agency. Most agency founders find themselves making it up as they go along. Over the years we’ve found the best advice hasn’t come from books or articles, but from talking to fellow founders in a relaxed and friendly environment. We’ve tried to replicate this atmosphere at the Founders Assembly.
During the day you’ll hear stories from founders like yourself, as they discuss the challenges of growing their business, hiring the right people, finding the right clients, and dealing with the occasional problem along the way. We’ll then adjourn for dinner and drinks, allowing you to make new connections and keep the conversation going well into the evening.
Tim MalbonAgency Tales: A Talk About Hackaball9:30–10:15
Hackaball is Made by Many’s most ambitious side-product to date: a computer you can throw, and a connected toy that you can program using an iPad or iPhone. It started life as an intern project that was supposed to help Made by Many understand how to design hardware and software together. Hackaball has won a slew of awards from around the world for Made by Many, and generated amazing PR and coverage in WIRED, Fast Company, Core77, The Economist and FT, amongst others. All this has been incredible for Made by Many, who have won several new connected device projects with global clients as a result.
Tim Malbon joined the Internet in 1998 because it seemed to be the best way to redesign the world whilst also having a laugh. He's been laughing ever since. He has no actual discernible skills other than being a serial-inveigler and pathological enthusiast. This led him to user experience and product design. He's fascinated by big complex systems, pattern-spotting and participatory culture.
Tony FoggettAgency Tales10:15–11:00
Tony set up Code Computerlove in 1999 with fellow directors Louis Georgiou and Wini Tse. Under Tony’s leadership, Code has grown into a multi-million pound turnover business delivering award winning digital marketing solutions for clients including Oxfam, NUS, Hillarys, Berghaus, Brother and First TransPennine Express. The business is now recognised as one of the UK’s top full service digital agencies and a leader in its field in the North.
Blair EnnsMaster Class: The Five Constraints11:30–13:00
In this talk Win Without Pitching founder Blair Enns discusses the five constraints or restrictions he would impose upon you and your firm – if he had the magic power – that would cause your business development results to soar and your total effort and cost of sale to plummet. With every constraint you'll do a brief exercise to reimagine the implications in your firm. Each constraint builds upon the next until yours is a Win Without Pitching firm that commands the high ground in your relationships with clients and prospects and wins new business without pitching free ideas, writing lengthy proposals or otherwise sacrificing your practitioner position in the relationship.
Blair Enns is on a mission to change the way creative services are bought and sold the world over. He is the founder of Win Without Pitching, a new business development system and training program for creative entrepreneurs, and the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto. Through his speaking, writing and training program Blair has helped thousands of firms reclaim the practitioner position in their relationships with clients and prospects, and build systematic, sustainable business development programs that win higher margin work at lower costs of sale.
Dave GrayMaster Class: Surviving The Odds14:00–15:30
Only half of new companies survive the first five years. After ten years, only a third remain. And with every year, the odds of survival go down. Dave Gray’s company, XPLANE, has survived for 23 years and counting. Dave will share the most important lessons he has learned from his years of experience founding and growing, selling and buying back a successful design consultancy.
Dave Gray is the founder of XPLANE, a design consultancy that has defied the odds and survived for more than 20 years. After booms, bubbles, and busts, periods of growth and decline, international expansion, a successful sale of his company followed by a management buy-back, he is ready to share the lessons he has learned, so you don’t have to learn them all the hard way.
Giles ColborneShort Talk: Do as I say, not (exactly) as I did16:00–16:20
When your company gets to around 45 people, things change. For some, it’s a glass ceiling they never break through. For others, it’s like hitting the sound barrier, sending out shockwaves around the organisation. I’ll talk about how cxpartners grew to 60 people - and managed to deliver great work, a happy team and a profitable business along the way. I’ll share some of the tools we use to keep our culture and values on track. I’ll talk about how my role as founder has changed (several times). And I’ll talk about where we got lucky, where our plans came unstuck and what I’d do differently if I could go back and do it all again (and there’s a lot of that).
Giles Colborne co-founded cxpartners in 2004. Since then, it has grown to one of the world’s leading independent experience design consultancies working on next generation experience design and generating hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue for companies such as Marriott, eBay and AXA. His book, ‘Simple and Usable’, has sold tens of thousands of copies in Europe and North America and has been translated into Chinese and Korean. Giles is former president of the UPA, co-chair of IA Summit, and UX Awards judge. Additionally, he has worked with the British Standards Institute in developing standards for web accessibility.
Amanda McKennaShort Talk: Partner, Zone16:20–16:40
With echoes of divorce, bereavement, marriage, re-birth and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the sale of Public Zone was, for everyone involved, an emotional rollercoaster. Eight years in, a serious offer landed on the table and kicked off a chain of events that changed the agency and its founders forever. Amanda will share her personal experience of the sale – what influenced the decision to sell, the emotional impact it had on her and her colleagues, what it meant for the business in the short and long term, and the lessons she learned along the way.
Amanda McKenna is a Partner at digital agency Zone. The agency provides clients with solutions to mission critical digital challenges. With a footprint in the UK, Germany and the US, the 225-strong team works with some of the world’s biggest brands including Tesco, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Maersk and the British Red Cross. Amanda is co-founder of Public Zone, a digital agency founded in 2005 that worked exclusively with charity and not-for-profit clients. She sold Public Zone to Zone four years ago and has never looked back.
Paul BoagShort Talk: Giving Up Agency Life16:40–17:00
Building a successful agency is incredibly rewarding. But it comes with significant challenges and stress. From managing staff and keeping clients happy to keep in work rolling in while remaining profitable. In his talk ex-agency founder Paul Boag discusses life after running an agency. He will answer questions like, “how do you know when it’s time to walk away?” And “what are the pros and cons of life after the agency?” But this isn’t just a talk for those interested in leaving the agency life behind. It will inspire us all to consider what success looks like and what we want from the agencies we run.
Paul Boag successfully ran the digital agency Headscape for over 13 years. He is the author of several books including his latest, Digital Adaptation. But today he works as an independent user experience consultant. He helps not-for-profits become more user centric and make better use of digital tools. He is a prolific writer, speaker and host of the longest running web design podcast.
We operate under Chatham House Rule, so much like Vegas, anything you say at Founders Assembly stays at Founders Assembly.
This small, invitation only event is limited to 50 people and costs just £685+VAT. Everybody in attendance will have been running an agency with at least a dozen employees for 3 or more years.
While this event is invitation only, we realise there are many amazing design businesses we’re yet to connect with. So if you haven’t received a written invite, you can request one below. Simply tell us a little about your agency and we’ll let you know whether you’ve been selected in a few weeks time.