Interview With Thomas Tancredi, Co-Founder Of Dom & Tom

Interview Series 8

Tom has over 11 years of experience coordinating creative and development teams, negotiating contracts and project management. Tom is also a fervent entrepreneur, having personally invested in multiple start-up ventures in New York City, including John Brown’s Smokehouse, which was named Best BBQ in New York City in 2012.

Dom & Tom is an end-to-end digital product development studio focused on emerging technologies. From startups to enterprise solutions, the apps they produce for their clients support their strategic initiatives first and foremost through open collaboration, forward-thinking user experience, engaging design, and cross-platform development for both web and mobile.

Dom & Tom has a 4.5-star rating on Glassdoor and 100% of employees would recommend working at Dom & Tom to a friend. 

Who are your ideal clients?

Enterprise clients, or companies that aspire to be enterprise clients. We're excited to work on cutting-edge technologies, but we want to make sure that the business strategy and the go-to-market strategy are fully-developed as the product roadmap, so we spend a significant amount of time talking through business goals as much as we do with regards to product goals.

What is the biggest reason for your success so far?

Having a founder that can shoulder the executive mantle helps tremendously. We're able to get 2x the decisions made, 2x the sales coverage, and 2x the managerial oversight than other founders starting out.

Moreover, when we started the company we enlisted the help from long-time friends and family, all with extremely valuable skills that wove into the business. At the key moments in a business, when difficult decisions needed to be made, having those bedrock relationships ensured stability in the leadership and guidance of the company.

Tom's family having a good time

What were the earliest indications that this business could be successful?

iPhone is the most successful product in the history of inventions, based on the adoptions by global users. More successful that television, more successful than electricity, more successful than fire - this product spanned to over a 1 billion people in less than 6 years; all other inventions took generations and centuries for adoption. The creation of marketplaces for applications happened in less than a decade. Being at the beginning of that surge, with the ability to build for mobile applications, was drinking from the firehose. If we were going to fail, it was from growing too quickly and not building a sound infrastructure.

What position did you hire first?

Project Manager. We had so many projects going at once, and Dom was being pulled into so many technical projects, we needed someone to organize and create structure.

What is working best for your marketing right now?

Word. Of. Mouth. When you look at our client roster - Tyson Chicken, Bloomberg, - they all came from doing good work and people in the community sharing their experiences.

What is your biggest differentiator?

We speak human. Something that comes to us saying "We need a mobile application and a website" and we spend most of the conversation understanding why they think they need those things.

What is the toughest decision you've had to make in the last few months?

Letting go of a great friend and employee that was with us since the beginning of the company. D&T spends a lot of time and money training our people as a company; moreover, we offer up to $3500/year in professional development to each employee. The friend didn't want to improve his skills, and preferred doing simpler websites and projects - the kinds we did in the earlier years of the company. Unfortunately, we just aren't doing those anymore. It was a tough decision because this person helped get us to the level of success we are today, but there wasn't a place for them in the state the company is in now.

If it was possible, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

Discipline is the act of creating habits. Use the discipline you had 10 years ago to create the daily habit of exercise as a stress-release.

How did you meet your co-founders or business partners?

Dom is my twin brother, so I've known him for a while....

Favorite place to travel to?

I am a huge fan of Roman history, so traveling to Istanbul (Byzantium) for my honeymoon was an amazing and rewarding experience. Istanbul was the capital of three of the most powerful and culturally rich empires the world has ever seen. My wife and I spent days traveling through the bazaars, churches, and mosques.

What book are you most likely to give as a gift?

I don't believe in gifting business books or self-improvement books. Most of the work out there are anecdotal tales, common sense, and filled to the brim with platitudes. That said, Jim Collin's series of "Good To Great" are excellent, and they're founded in research. He and his team spend decades studying companies, trying to figure our why certain ones succeed (GM, GE, Motorola) and certain ones fail, and then even track when companies both succeed AND fail in different times of their cycles. If I had to recommend one, it's Jim Collin's How The Mighty Fall

What is your favorite small business in the town you grew up in?

Unicorn Comics - the owners have been running it since 1982. They're at the heart of the town, members of the local government, and they have fun pulp comics in the dusty bins.

Do you have a favorite freelancer you have worked with?

Micah Craig. He's a force of nature, a debonair developer, and a stone cold professional.

What is your favorite app or online tool?

Harvest is excellent for the visualizing reality of production.

What was the best event that you recently attended?

The House Theatre "Death and Harry Houdini" Oh, did you mean what Disruptive // Innovation // TechMixer flavor of the month event that I enjoyed? I don't know... I went to SXSW and I spent more time seeing comedians like Bill Burr and finding the best BBQ than trying to listen to panels about how their startups disrupting blockchains. There's a saturation in the community of events, and to find truly quality conversations one has to go back to the hobbyists communities - the people who are building drones on the weekends because they truly love to tinker; the few people at the hackathon that don't want to stop building; the designer that has 70% of a cool prototype of a game. Those are the events that I like.

Thomas Tancredi of Dom and Tom

How did you finance your business?

It's a services business - so we took a deposit upfront and then....paid the bills. 

When Dom and I quit our jobs, we left our salaries of roughly $80-$90k each. In the first year, the company made $42k total. Dom and I had to move into an apartment together in Queens, ate sandwiches from a deli across the street and hoped that we could stave off expenses until we hit critical mass.

What business would you love for someone else to start?

Whatever that person has a passion for. I don't care if it's a brewery, a law firm, or a new rocket - so long as it's something that person aches to do it every day. 

Alright, that was sort of a cop-out answer. 

Boyan Slat is doing ocean clean-up and recycling. The next step is doing sustainable ocean-farming. Given that 65% of humanity lives on the coasts, we're going to need to figure out how not to empty the oceans to feed everyone.

What advice do you have for new founders?

In all terms and definitions, as a new founder you are unqualified for the job. You've never done it before and you have no idea what it will take to do it correctly. Regardless, it is your job to do. Make sure you educate yourself and understand what you're good at and what you're not. Hint - almost no one is good at every part of the business.

Twitter: @tomtancredi

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