This week we are celebrating a fantastic milestone, Rareloop is 10!
It’s been 10 years since Founder and Director, Joe Lambert started designing and developing digital products on his dining room table! I sat down with him to reflect on the journey, what he’s most proud of, how things have changed, and what the next 10 years hold.
Ten years is big, how do you feel about Rareloop achieving this incredible milestone?
I’m super proud, it’s been quite the decade! The last year has been hard for so many, and as a result, it’s snuck up on us a bit. We’ve been so focused on how much has happened, changed, and evolved in just the last 12 months, it’s amazing to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come in ten years.
I remember at the beginning, working from the dining room table and thinking a lot about the future. What would it be like to be an established company with an office, and have a great team working on some amazing projects? It’s only really dawned on me recently, reflecting on this milestone that we’re there. No longer the start-up, the underdog, we are the established ones.
I think this probably comes from our mindset of learning and improvement. Like everything in digital, we’re always evolving, growing, changing, and adapting – so we never reach a place where we’re “done”. With more experience, there are more opportunities to improve. It’s what makes it exciting and has allowed us to be where we are today. The pandemic accelerated that too, the last year has forced us to grow and change even more. But I’m really proud of the team and what we’ve achieved.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of so many things; the team, our projects, how we’ve grown, but I’m really proud of staying true to who we are. When I started Rareloop, I wanted to design and develop digital solutions that solved real problems in elegant ways. Technology can have such a positive impact on our lives and I wanted us to champion that and be the defining thing that sets us apart from others. Looking back, I can see now that I had a vision for a digital product studio before I had the vocabulary to describe it, or the term became popularised.
Our partners and projects
We’ve worked with some incredible organisations in the past 10 years. Creating the Dry January app with Alcohol Change UK and seeing it go from strength to strength each year. Working with Tearfund for many years across their whole digital output, building ShipVisitor for Sailors Society from the ground up. And helping with John Charcol’s digital transformation are some of the highlights. It’s a real testament to the team’s hard work that so many of our clients have been with us for such a large part of the last 10 years. In a few cases, I think Adam and I have outlived many of the in-house teams!
The whole Rareloop team is brilliant. Investing in finding, nurturing, and bringing in the right people has been one of the hardest things about running a business. We’ve got a talented bunch of like-minded people who are the epitome of Rareloop, our values, and our culture. I’m so pleased that so many of the team choose to stay with us for so long. Adam was our first-ever hire and Dan has also been with us many years, both have been key to getting us where we are today. Over the past few years, we’ve been able to hire at a higher frequency and there have been a lot of new faces. With every new person, we gain a wealth of experience and skills we didn’t have before which helps shape us. Rareloop wouldn’t be where we are without the team.
From the very start, we (my wife Miche and I) believed that it was important to prioritise giving something back. We wanted our positive impact to extend beyond the work, to the communities around us. So we made it a habit to set money aside for charitable gifts. This wasn’t always easy but I’m so glad we did it, even when in the early stages money was leaner. I think if we’d left it to when we ‘thought’ it was sensible we never would have prioritised it. It’s now part of our DNA, and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to support so many local and global initiatives. From local playground renovations to baby banks, water stations in India, and reforestation projects in Mozambique.
What have you learned along the way?
Growth isn’t typically steady.
Our growth has tended to happen in step changes, rather than a continuous smooth increase. Either through an opportunity, new partner, project, or change in the situation. Often it’s planned but we’ve also had to learn to react when unexpected opportunities present themselves.
Be agile, outside of a framework.
If the last year has taught us anything about running a business, you need to be truly agile and adaptable to change. We’ve been running software projects for years using agile principles, but COVID really forced us to rethink some core organisational processes through the same lens. We were able to adapt to remote working and improve so many things at Rareloop which has put us in an even better place now as we transition back to a hybrid model.
Focus on us.
It is so easy to compare yourself to others, we all do it. But you can easily get distracted by what they are doing. Every company is different, even if we have similar service offerings and tend to go after the same work, and that’s a good thing. Being clear about what makes us different and focusing our time and energy on the things we want to do and achieve has been very enabling.
It’s not a zero-sum game.
Healthy competition is useful and important, it pushes you to be better. But ultimately, others don’t need to fail for you to succeed. We have some great partners that have helped us get to where we are now. I’m really thankful for the supportive network of agencies around us and the projects we’ve worked on together.
Work with genuine people.
It makes the journey a whole lot easier and so much more enjoyable.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the past 10 years?
Nothing in tech stays the same, everything is constantly evolving. And while we still may use many of the same programming languages, the tooling, devices and expectations of users have changed massively over time. It’s why we love what we do and what makes it exciting every day.
One of the biggest changes in terms of business is that we are now able to be much more focused on the work that we excel at. When starting out, we were able to take on a wider variety of work and try more things. We also didn’t really have the luxury to pick and choose. Now we’re more established, we’ve been able to specialise around a few key areas, and partner with other experts for services that we don’t provide. It’s a great position to be in.
With a larger team, I’m now personally able to spend more time working on the business rather than in it. And although much has changed, I definitely feel that the heart and purpose behind Rareloop have been a constant over the past ten years.
How are you celebrating?
As we’ve all been locked up for the last 18 months most of the team are taking well deserved time off at the moment. I’m also going to take a couple of weeks off to spend time with the family. When we’re all back, we’re going to get together for a BBQ to celebrate in person and invite partners and families along too. There are quite a few competitive personalities in the team so I’m sure there will be some games of sorts too! It’ll be a great way to kick start our new year.
What are your thoughts, plans and ambitions for the next 10 years?
We’re on the journey to becoming a BCorp so I’d like to get this over the line soon. It will be a huge achievement that will help formalise some of the values and practices that are part of our DNA. But 10 years feels so far away, especially at the rate that technology changes. It’s hard to know who we will be working with and what we’ll be doing then. Given the amount we’ve learnt and changed over the last ten years I’m excited to see what the next decade holds!