Make people’s lives better through technological expertise
London, September 19th, 2018
David Olsan is a brilliant photographer. Besides English, he speaks Czech (his mother tongue), German and Russian. From a tender age, he knew that working with technology was going to provide him with the creative outlet to realise his dreams. He studied computer sciences and had an MA on Applied Science, Digital Media. He is the founder and CEO of London-based agency Mars Spiders.
From its base in the heart of Clerkenwell, Mars Spiders supports organisations throughout the UK and globally. The team has a real love for innovation, technology and design.
Mars Spiders manages an array of exciting projects: from quirky campaigns to in house app developments such as iTimeApp – a practical time keeping applications for the workforce; or Kindness UK – iOS App for London based charity promoting kindness in human relationships; also large corporate sites, including working with the UK government and the HMRC.
The agency is frequently acknowledged for its startling fast, focused and thorough approach, and its CEO is no exception, having responded to our questions in record time – the same day!
Mars Spiders, or just ‘Spiders’ as David calls it, is already trusted by the large corporate organisations such as the British Library and by the ‘one man start-ups’ alike. “We aim to make people’s lives better, simpler and fun with great culture, creative campaigns and solid technological expertise,” said David.
Asked how he got started, David recalls: “I remember walking down the street and spotting an advert for a multimedia course. And I thought: multimedia, yes that’s what I would like to do. After completing BSc in Multimedia and Digital media MA my dear friend Cate Mackenzie recommended me for a short internship with a boutique agency in London. On the back of the work I produce there, I got my first job in the industry with a digital agency based in Putney. I did not last a long time as a permanent staff, and started contracting for the top digital agencies in London“.
“Being a freelancer in my line of work, in the UK; you can get better earnings. You also have far more freedom. Some contractors work for six months, and then they disappear to Asia for a year or so. Sometimes, they never return, working remotely from a place where the cost of living is lower and the climate warmer. I was doing well as a freelancer in London, and this is when I decided to start my own agency in 2014.”
What did you do before your were in this industry?
I had a real mixed bag of work experiences. I’ve done lots of ordinary jobs – wholesale manager; peephole with wider view door-to-door salesman; I even worked as a chef in a vegetarian restaurant.
As a youngster, I was also a wannabe artist. My friend and I had two exhibitions in a local gallery in Litomyšl, Czech Republic (the town where I grew up). We also had a band. My mate was the real artist, I was a dilettante, but at the time we did not have much “competition” and I think our audience enjoyed what we produced.
How did Mars Spiders manage to get involved with the UK government?
We have designed and developed new Open Web Archive Beta for the British Library and I think the success of this project led us to other public sphere projects. The government has the GDS (Government Digital Service – leading the digital transformation of the UK government) in place but even with the best processes the progress is slow and efficiency is low. Hence the government departments can only benefit from working with smaller and faster companies.
Can you describe your agency in three words?
Connect – Create – Innovate
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Reading for sure. I listen to audiobooks or recorded lectures when on the move.
I was fortunate to meet an African magic man. He had an ordinary job, cleaning our offices. He was always smiling. That caught my attention. How comes with such a dirty job he keeps in such a good state of mind. We started talking and he gave me a lot of good advice. For instance: “Every person you meet is your teacher. You can learn from every person you meet.”
Name one favourite thing and one challenging thing about your role?
The creative freedom is my favourite perk. I love running a company, so no negatives really.
How do you know that you are leading, and leading well?
At Mars Spiders we have a small team and we use lots of sub contractors. So, how do I know if I am leading well? If you work in a team of A players, as I do, they let you know pretty fast if you are missing the target.
What is your approach to motivating and developing talent within your company?
By enabling others to make decisions. By holding a space filled with openness encouraging innovation. We are also big on research.
What do you do to switch off from work?
Hiking and scrambling. Wild camping and swimming.
Are you married? Do you have children?
Yes, we have 2 kids, a girl and a boy. Previously I didn’t pay any attention to children. But my children have made me re-consider my point of view. In 2 – 3 years they learn to walk, to communicate and so many other things. If we can learn at this rate imagine what is possible!
In a world where anything is possible, what’s the single most exciting thing you would do with technology?
We would all have small affordable flying machines which will be 100% environmentally friendly.
You have a nice photography portfolio online, are you still doing that?
Photography is on the backburner at the moment. I like fashion photography, which is really demanding. You need to organise the whole team if you like to do it properly – makeup artist, hair stylist, models of course. There are only a few designers with the kind of garments I am excited about. Logistics and location scouting on the top and you have time demanding engagement. At the moment I prefer to focus my energy on growing Mars Spiders instead. Plus I have never managed to make any profit with my photos.
What drives or inspires you?
Books. Books written by other founders – Phil Knight, Felix Dennis, Richard Branson or Sam Walton. If you are busy download Derek Sivers’ interviews, they are real gems.
If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of career advice, what would it be?
This is a hard one. On one hand there is the traditional way of academia. On the other hand many of my heroes had very little schooling like for example Henry Ford.
By Geny Caloisi.
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