Declarie Limited was formed on Valentine’s Day, but the concept for this Columbus-based digital consultancy has been developed gradually over the last seven years.
Thomas Winningham, Declarie’s principal, calls himself an IT generalist and worked in retail sales, adult education, graphic and web design, software development, systems integration and administration, open-source software, and the non-profit realm prior to launching his own business.
“The single biggest influence on me is the observing of organic, highly technical and, at the same time, surprisingly funny ways that even the most non-technical person can adapt to, and coop, an ever-changing landscape,” Winningham says.
Columbus is home to an immense resource of mobile and web designers, database engineers, software developers, and multimedia artists, he says, adding that Declarie believes its emerging market is converging and its clients are “either looking for parts of each of those or experimental products that are not easily categorized.”
Read on to learn which projects are keeping Declarie busy at the moment and what it might work on down the road, as well as who has given Winningham helpful business advice and input.
The Metropreneur: What inspired you to start Declarie?
Thomas Winningham: Our technological understanding and ability as a society is exponential, as [Ray] Kurzweil says, as we use new technology to create even better technology every minute. What was cutting edge just a year ago is now a commodity. These accelerating patterns of growth are not followed using a view that X number of years experience in a single technology equals success, but by organizations and people with an active voice within a community of practitioners. It is risky and it is full of the unknown, but in the organization of many I know, it is the norm. Some of our personal heroes are the Processing and OpenFrameworks programming language communities, JESS3, and The Barbarian Group.
[M]: What kinds of businesses can benefit from Declarie’s services?
TW: I think business is starved for research and development. It’s traditionally viewed as costly and often not productive. However, the expectations of the public are in demand of an immediacy from technology that is itself risky, nuanced, and the new frontier. Medium to large-sized commercial organizations and non-profits that wish to experiment with marketing, design, integration, and even whole products may stand to benefit from our research and extended network.
Some terms that describe our current deliverables are computational design, expert systems, and on-demand grid clusters. We’re also excited about legal engineering and spacial interfaces. These are the kinds of things that society is to understand and decide if it is the world we want to create.
[M]: What are your goals for Declarie?
TW: We’re currently working on two initiatives. We have a product called Edgy, which is an application for the Android smartphone and tablet platform which borrows from a subset of mathematics called graph theory.
Edgy is a general purpose brainstorming and concept mapping application and a starting point for describing complexity. We know of no other product that offers the same kind of simplicity and flexibility in one package. We will continue to develop it and, perhaps, a couple more mobile applications over the next year, while the varied and complex Android tablet infrastructure unfolds.
Simultaneously, we have a data visualization project, a sort of data journalism and public transparency publication, and we hope to have finished after the summer, but that is all I can probably say at the moment.
This is keeping us busy, but once we further develop the varied nature of the brand, we hope to have even more momentum going into [the fourth quarter]. We are always on the lookout, however, for special projects that may preempt our own internal efforts− if they push the envelope. We may also publish research and source code behind our work.
[M]: Now let’s discuss being a small business owner. What resources did you find helpful when you were just getting Declarie off the ground?
TW: I previously operated a consultancy both here and elsewhere in the state. Columbus has a rich and close-knit technical community that really embraces technologists of all kinds. Online communities, such as Columbus Underground and the local Twitter mesh, are rather valuable. Additionally there are designers from Columbus College of Art & Design and Ohio State who are actively participating in the market of ideas, and organizations like The Fuse Factory are challenging the public heart and imagination.
The ability to explore the local community and offer help and understanding along the way is a better way to live and operate than faceless broadcast marketing. I know there are many small business associations, non-profits, and government agencies whose resources support small business, but we’ve only dealt with the Secretary of State’s office, which is both informative and speedy for our needs. We have a luxury in this regard, as we are both global and local. For instance, sales of the Android product are currently the highest in Sweden and Japan. That being said, the creative capital present in the people and history of this town are world class, so if there is a resource, it is the town itself.
[M]: Which local people have you turned to for input or advice?
TW: Well, they might question what value they provide me personally, but only because they are modest. Alison Coleman, Sam Hoar, and Amy Youngs from The Fuse Factory, and Amy is also at Ohio State, along with Matthew Lewis with OSU Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design− all have been very encouraging of my own digital art.
In business, Jenn Deafenbaugh at Itty Bitty Studio, Walker Evans of The Metropreneur and Columbus Underground, Daniel Fox at Skreened, Dan Rockwell at Lextant and Big Kitty labs, Doug Powhida and Keegan Morrow at Roto Studio, and really just too many local technologists who I miss and don’t talk to enough who are too numerous to mention have all contributed greatly to a summation of my own self.
[M]: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner and how did you overcome it?
TW: Last year, I learned the importance of failing fast. Often in business you may gather momentum around an idea, but it isn’t always wise to ignore the options of pivoting and reassessment. In the arts, a process is often experimental and highly iterative. Something that isn’t talked about much is highly conceptualized and abstracted patterns in computer programs require decisions early on, which can taint the result and may not be evident until sometime after that decision was made. There isn’t much sense in crying over spilled milk, and instead we just continue.
[M]: What is the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?
TW: The job market is more today a free agent system and that pattern was, perhaps, the reality all along, as we should always own our own careers. To codify various efforts of exploration under a brand that speaks to a general and loose model is a welcome compliment to the highly specialized value I provide and have provided in all my endeavors.
[M]: Is there anything else we should know?
TW: We’re excited about the possibilities and we can’t wait to hear from readers. Send us a note anytime or follow us on Twitter.
To learn more about Declarie, visit Declarie.com.