James Moon catches up with North East born entrepreneur Dylan McKee, co-Founder of Nebula Labs in Newcastle.
For those that don’t know who you are Dylan, how would you describe yourself to the readers?
Interested, curious, and usually enthusiastic. I’m a 22 year old Newcastle University graduate, who’s always been passionate about technology. I was born in Newcastle and grew up in the region, and I love the North East and the work that is going on to make Newcastle a fantastic city for technology. I’m always curious about how technology can be applied to real life problems to solve them and improve the world – whether that be through improving lives or simply making things more efficient.
Growing up did you always want to become an entrepreneur? What was the childhood job for Dylan?
Sort of, yes, though I’d never describe it as that! I always wanted to be an inventor, and this really intensified as I taught myself to build apps when I was 13. From there, I knew I wanted to be an inventor of digital things – and that sort of spiralled into becoming an entrepreneur I guess.
How did Nebula Labs come about? What was the niche that you saw when launching Nebula Labs?
Throughout my time at university and even before my studies, I was working with a range of companies, and on a range of my own side projects, and through this I saw a real gap for a company that could rapidly prototype and build technology for startups, whilst also applying that startup mindset of agility and rapid prototyping to get to an MVP (or rather a minimum viable solution) for problems in established small businesses and SMEs, who haven’t yet embraced technology to the potential that it offers. My co-founder Nic Flynn and I got together in the pub one day and concurred that there was a real problem there, and that we could do something to solve it, and that’s how Nebula Labs came about.
How do you stay different in a very competitive market? Is that the hardest thing in your business, being unique to attract interest?
Yes there’s plenty of talented technology companies in the region, but we like to differentiate ourselves with our approach – we’re very much focused on the software engineering aspect of everything we work on – so we’re much more at home solving problems through developing bespoke algorithms and working on huge big data location problems, for example, than designing websites.
Looking back, what has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
Getting accepted on to the Newcastle University Founderships Programme – it was a real affirmation and vote of confidence from academics and experienced professionals and investors that we’re on to something, and that the Nebula Labs idea was worth pursing in to the reality that it is today. I’m also particularly delighted about some of the organisations that we’re currently in talks about working with, so watch this space!
Anything that you have had to learn the hard way when running your business that could help our readers when setting up their business?
Don’t be afraid to do business on your own terms! No matter how small you are, you should never feel pushed around or hard done by on terms, price, or timescales for projects by clients or prospective clients – after all, both sides need to see each other as partners for the relationship to truly be successful.
Where do you see Nebula Labs in 5 years time from now?
A successful North-East based software house, true to our ethos of working on startup projects as well as more enterprise undertakings to keep the work cutting-edge, up to date and interesting, and to allow myself and the rest of the team to always be learning.
What does a typical day look like for you, Dylan?
Typically, I walk in to our Campus North office at around 8:30-9am, listening to Radio 4’s Today programme on my stroll in – I think it’s always really important to stay up-to-date and reliably well informed about the world around you no matter what you do or how small your business is – we live in global times after all! From there, it’s typically a review of my inbox and calendar over a mug of Earl Grey and some fruit, and then a stand-up with the team to make sure we’re all on the same page (or should I say Slack Channel?), from there, I usually dive in to some software development work, continuing on from yesterday’s sprint, and attend regular meetings with clients and partners too.
In your spare time, what do you like getting up to?
I really enjoy going to local gigs, and taking photos of landscapes and of urban scenes – in fact I’m pretty blessed that the North East has both in abundance. I also like visiting art galleries to keep up with the latest installations – with The Baltic on the NewcastleGateshead Quayside being a personal favourite.
The best advice that you can give someone considering setting up a business?
Just do it! Honestly, just do it, or something towards it – whatever that may be – today. It’s great having an idea, but until you take some action, no matter how small, to actually try it out and test it so you know that it will or won’t work, it’ll always remain a thought.
How can our readers connect and stay up to date with Nebula Labs?
We’re most active on Twitter at @NebulaLab (https://twitter.com/nebulalab) and on our blog at https://nebulalabs.co.uk/news/, and we also post updates regularly to Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/nebulalab/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nebulalabs/).