Speaker Spotlight: Damian Kimmelman

DueDil provides business, accounting and director information on businesses registered in the UK. Started by Damian in 2009, DueDil secured $17m in series B financing in 2014 — the same year Damian won Tech City News's 'Entrepreneur of the Year Award'. Damian has kindly provided us with an insight into what drives DueDil's continued success. 

How do you retain company culture while scaling a team?  

This is a really challenging debate, not least because most people have different views on what scaling is and what culture is. I recently read a book called “Orbiting the Giant Hairball,” which says that every single person and process that joins your company is effectively a new strand of hair that adds and changes who you are. 

To me, the way you stay effective is through creating clear principles that are compelling and simple for people to wrap their heads around, and making sure you stick to those. For example, our defined goal at DueDil is to contextualise the world’s private company information. This defines what we can and cannot do - for example, we favour adding context to information, rather than collecting data for the sake of it. When you have clear goals, the rest follows; it’s when you muddy that process or try to have all-encompassing targets that things begin to break down.

How do you keep the company from becoming "political" as business functions expand?

If your directions as a company are varied, then the need to be political is created. However, if you set very strict, achievable goals, that need is dramatically reduced.

How do you help people to scale? i.e. from being a manager of a few people to managing many?

It all starts with a focus on recruitment and on hiring well. In addition, you must create a a transparent work environment where smart people can communicate and share knowledge with each other. Finally, you need to create a support network for your managers, but this needs to happen later, once you understand the issues you face as a company. Once you reach a certain level of scale, you begin to encounter things quite unique to your business, which you must work together to overcome.

How do you structure Product Management to keep building the best possible business?

Product management in every company describes a different thing; with us, it’s the creation and development and release of our product. We design product management so it is at the intersection of all departments, and we staff it with excellent communicators who have wide-ranging knowledge. Many of our product managers actually come from a data science background or have some sort of engineering and customer understanding. 

What are the toughest lessons that you have learned?

Persistence pays. 

How do you take insights from sales and marketing to iterate on the product?

For certain products, it can be really difficult to elicit the correct type of feedback. We train our sales people to ask the right questions, and we also have incredible customer development, account management and quantitative analysis teams who challenge this feedback. This in turn feeds back into our product development.

We also build the product in such a way that we understand the return on investment of what we are doing - as this is another vital feedback source.

How do you think about the role of sales teams when deploying digital business?

Sales teams are absolutely essential to navigating the complex sales processes, and are essential for any enterprise sales. Sales teams can also be excellent customer development channels if they are trained effectively. 

How do you manage your own Board so they deliver the rights sort of support for the business?

The purpose of the board is to have checks and balances on the business. We focus heavily on accurate and realistic reporting to all stakeholders, including employees, investors and the board. However, we also use our board members as sources of valuable knowledge outside of the boardroom - so we are using their expertise, as well as dealing with administrative matters.

How do you retain staff?

We’ve always had excellent staff retention in terms of the company. This comes down to employees trusting management and company leadership, continued professional growth, and management acting as enablers of the rest of the team. My purpose as the leader of the company is to remove impediments for people to succeed at their jobs, which also removes any impediments to their motivation.