by Rebecca Merrett

CIO-CMO dynamic duo: Jacob Dudzinski and Mats Johnson on starting a business together

Mar 27, 20155 mins
Collaboration SoftwareInnovationSmall and Medium Business

Nothing brings a CIO and CMO together more than them going off on their own and starting up a business. That’s what ex-CIO Jacob Dudzinski and ex-CMO Mats Johnson have done with their startup, Wifi Control.

It all started when both Dudzinski and Johnson crossed paths at the same workplace, assisting with another startup business in data migration.

“We very quickly found that we had a very similar or compatible style of working. We discussed the frustrations that Mats was having, and I knew that I could bring some of my CIO and enterprise experience to bear in architecting the solution.

“So we started discussing it over lunch and in the afternoons after work, and just found that we wanted to work together,” says Dudzinski.

Wifi Control – which Dudzinski and Johnson started working on about six months ago and will launch soon – is a solution for parents to control all the different devices and platforms their kids are using. It allows parents to filter apps and content that is age appropriate for their kids, as well force devices to switch off.

It was borne out of Johnson’s frustration of not being able to get his 12-year old son to part with his devices at home when it came to important family time.

“At dinner time, in particular, I said, ‘Come on Thomas, it’s dinner time,’ and he would say, ‘Just 15 more minutes.’ These 15 more minutes were never 15 minutes. I spoke to a lot of parents and every single parent had the same problem,” Johnson said.

“So I thought there’s got to be a simple, technical solution that I can just buy off the shelf and all problems go away. I started looking into this and I found nothing that ticked all the boxes that I was looking for.”

After searching high and low and not finding exactly what he needed, Johnson decided to build it himself and brought on board a couple of developers. Unfortunately, he hit a wall and it wasn’t being built the way he envisioned it.

After going through a rough start in developing his idea, technology wise, Johnson asked Dudzinski for his thoughts and that’s when the CMO and CIO became a dynamic duo on their own.

Dudzinski and Johnson know it’s the skills they both bring to the table, which complement each other, and the fact they come from different backgrounds or disciplines that has led them down a promising path of success.

“My skills complement Mats and Mats’ skills complement mine. There is an overlap in the way that we think through issues and business questions. There’s overlap in some of our general business management skills and commercial skills, but we bring different prior knowledge of business areas together,” says Dudzinski.

“In a startup you need to drive growth, so marketing is very important, commercial aspects of the business are very important, structuring your product is important. An in our case it’s very technology driven, so it’s also very important to bring that sort of enterprise approach to a problem that parents are facing with.”

Johnson says even though he relies on Dudzinski’s expertise when it comes to the technology side of the startup, he is involved in every single decision with Dudzinski explaining why he needs to take a certain direction in solving a problem in layman’s terms.

“We have very open communication, which I think is the key to any relationship, especially when you have a lot of balls in the air.”

“If you don’t communicate – whether in a startup or an established organisation – you end up with either a product that doesn’t take the reality of the technical decisions into mind, or product that is technically great but completely unmarketable,” Dudzinski adds.

Dudzinski says that both he and Johnson have a thorough understanding of each other’s roles due to their experience. Dudzinski has been involved in plenty of commercial and product decisions in his former roles in IT, as well as Johnson who has been involved in helping make technical decisions in technology.

Johnson says it’s not a bad thing if CIOs and CMOs are pulling at two different angles when delivering on a product or an initiative, as long as there’s continual, open discussion about it.

“Jacob and I have been in many discussions about the benefit of adding additional features at the early stages versus saving time. There’s no simple answer to that because every single issue needs to be weighed up and evaluated. We’ve spent a lot of time debating that back and forth.

“I’m pushing to get maximum features and Jacob is saying realistically we are going to waste a lot of time at this stage, we are much better off pushing these out in version 2.

“I am pushing for having all the bells and whistles in version 1, which you obviously aim for, but realistically it’s not going to be that way. Jacob is saying let’s get minimum viable up and running. But we have found a good compromise.”

Dudzinski says that it’s a good thing CIOs and CMOs think so different as they make sure technology or an innovation is not so skewed to a particular point of view.

“You don’t drive innovation by just creating better technologies in isolation of the market that you are trying to work with. And you don’t create new markets in isolation of technology that can innovate in that market.

“So bringing together the thinking of those two previously disparate worlds allows you to create really good product market fit that hopefully is also innovative to take a particular industry or organisation forward.”