Meet the Accelerators: Helidragon Ltd

Video specialist, Allan McPhail set up Helidragon Ltd. mid-pandemic in October 2020 following a long stint as a sole trader producing video and drone aerial footage for the hospitality and tourism sectors.

Nine months later, the early-stage digital company has lots of exciting business going on and is working with ports, heavy engineering and process industries across the North East.

Allan joins us to share more about his start-up journey, his time on the DigitalCity Accelerator Programme and what’s next for Helidragon Ltd…

Photo of Allan McPhail founder of Helidragon Ltd.

Could you start off by telling us a little bit of background behind your tech start-up?

In a nutshell, we are video strategists who collaborate with our clients to demonstrate their expertise to a global audience.

Instead of thinking of our clients as customers, we consider them our partners and develop long term business relationships to help them understand the value of creative video making and what it can do for their organisation, particularly in terms of saving time and money. 
We can cater to a variety of business needs such as providing staff training, embedding company culture, positioning their brand, and demonstrating their services and expertise.

Having launched amid the global pandemic, how did you navigate Helidragon Ltd through the challenging climate?

Before launching back in October 2020, I worked producing video in hospitality for the likes of bars, tourist boards, caravan sites, you name it! I even had a provisional booking to film at Glastonbury 2020, however unfortunately this all came to a halt when Covid hit.

Determined to keep busy, I undertook an online education course in Business Mastery, and it was that course which encouraged me to take my video services to a niche market.

From that I decided to focus on the heavy engineering and industrial sector – a sector that I knew had to continue throughout the pandemic. This has been really advantageous and within this niche quite a few doors have opened.

DigitalCitys door also opened – we know talent when we see it! Could you share your main reasons for joining the Accelerator Programme?

I did work with DigitalCity back in 2008, as a fellow, so I have been aware of the project for quite some time. I have also very recently took an office in Fusion Hive and became aware of the different business support opportunities that are currently available through Teesside University, including DigitalCity.

I’m really glad that I joined the course – there’s some great mentors and we’ve learnt some really critical information to help us move the business forward.

Thats really good to hear. And how has the programme helped with accelerating Helidragon Ltd?

Although I’ve been working for many years, I’ve never really had any formal business training in terms of growing a team, business management, sales and particularly understanding your clients’ needs and pain points which is massive for us.

If we can understand our clients pain points and provide solutions, that’s a great way of growing.

We’ve already got some great relationships with some great clients such as Lianhetch, Applebridge Construction, Esh Construction and the Port of Blyth.

We don’t have to sell anything; we just have to communicate properly with them and understand their needs.

Would you say that the programme has changed your way of thinking as an entrepreneur?

Yes, definitely. As I said previously, just realising how important it is to understand your client’s needs and not assume is key.

Another thing is aligning your team. We’re a small team, there’s only two of us but we’ve completely changed how we work together – we now love a sticky note! We use them to jot down all of our ideas and get them on the board. We would never have operated like this before the programme, but such a simple technique is helping us to move the business forward.

We’re developing strategies for the business by using the techniques and methods that we’ve learnt on the programme.

So, whats next on the cards for Helidragon?

The recent move into Fusion Hive is so that we can prepare for the next stage of growth. We’re going to be taking on another person; however, we’re still deciding exactly what that role will be. Hiring the right people is so important.

We will be using our sticky board to look at the business structure and help us to identify the main gaps and key areas where we need that additional resource.

I would really like to see our service offering grow further too. Although we are video strategists, we have the skills to operate drones on the sites that we’re operating and know there are other areas that we can fulfil – such as asset inspection and mapping services. To move that forward I would like to hire in that expertise.

I can imagine that over the next 3-4 years we could grow into a company with several different departments. DigitalCity and the programme is really helping when it comes to planning the next steps for the business.