What is the future of tech?

This is probably not a question you ask yourself too often, and it’s clearly a very difficult one to answer. For instance, it’s hard to imagine that just ten years ago wearable tech was more likely to be found in a Marvel movie than strapped to your wrist, tracking your every step, but after sitting through an Avengers movie would you have predicted that’s where things were headed? And was your business ready to capitalise?

For Danny Tomalin, founder of Sheffield-based software consultancy REYT, these sorts of questions are an ongoing concern as he strives to map the future of tech and its implications for performance in the action sports, outdoor and wellbeing industries he loves. 

Hanging around on a skatepark in his hometown of Ossett, near Wakefield, his upbringing was far from a world of performance-recording tech, but he believes those formative years laid the groundwork for his successes today. 

“I grew up in, let’s just say, an environment where opportunities weren’t always rife,” says Danny. “I always found myself on the edges of society, and that’s where I found the skate park. Just chilling, hanging around, skating. Not skateboarding, but inline skating is what we did.

Danny Tomalin, Reyt
Photo credit: Hayley Gell Photography

“What it reinforced, for me, was that this is where the oddballs thrive. This is where we can be a bit different. We’re not necessarily academic, but we know how to get s**t done. It also taught me about 

resilience. If you fall down, you get back up. That’s the vibe of it. 

“I never went to university because that was never my path. I’m dyslexic, so when we’re talking about school, I was always in the bottom sets. I never let it hold me back. Dyslexia is my secret sauce. It makes me see the world differently. I’ve got a different skill set, which I use to my advantage. I’ll never have it be a hindrance. 

“One thing that I always wanted was to do more and get involved with everything that was going on. I hung around with vagabonds for years, but I always thought, I can do more than this. At school, I used to bang on the head of year’s door and ask, ‘how do I move up?’, ‘how do I do product design and art?’ – stuff the academic kids got to do. I wasn’t allowed to do those things, yet I became a product design consultant, a strategist, and a designer.”

Instead of uni, at 16 Danny landed himself a job working for a film company that worked with inmates in prisons, helping them tell their story by thinking about what they’d done, while also teaching them filming skills, storytelling structures and editing. 

“That was awesome,” says Danny. “I was working with people who I would actually see outside of a prison setting. I’m not saying I hung around with prisoners, but I was working with people who were like the people in my area, working in these environments, you see how fragile life can be and how easy it is to lose everything. It was familiar ground, whereas other people might have been scared in that situation. 

Danny Tomalin, Reyt
Photo credit: Hayley Gell Photography

“From doing that, I obviously saw changes in people, and that’s where, as a young adult, I thought, we can change our situation, we just have to decide to change.”

The change came when, because Danny was considered ‘a bit techie’, the company asked him to build them a website. For Danny, this was the path he had always wanted to go down. Absorbing everything he could and gaining qualifications along the way, at 27 he earned the chance to work for Sheffield-based tech company, Razor, as a designer with a broad skill set.

After four years excelling at Razor, such was their belief in Danny, its founders Jamie Hinton and Steve Trotter offered Danny the opportunity to set up his own business, and this was how 18 short months ago, REYT was born. 

“Jamie and Steve are incredible,” says Danny. “They care about you. They took me from someone who needed a bit of sharpening and they sharpened me way up. I saw Razor grow from a team of 8 to 50. 

“At that time, I was maybe looking for a new challenge, but never was I thinking about leaving. They just took a punt.”

It’s one thing being offered the opportunity to start a business, it’s another thing knowing what you want that company to do! For inspiration, he looked back to his days on the skatepark and his love of action and adventure sports. 

Danny Tomalin, Reyt
Photo credit: Marc Barker

Danny explains, “I already loved the profession, but I didn’t necessarily love the industry, so I had to think, where can we position ourselves? I thought back to my days on the skatepark and remembered the vibe and the camaraderie that went along with it. It’s people I can relate to. There’s no terminology barrier and I truly love it.

“We were very lucky in the fact that our first job was in rock climbing. It was a mobile application with the world’s leading rock-climbing coaching company. It’s used by the best rock climbers in the world and that really cemented that this is where we wanted to be.

“We realised the technology doesn’t always have to be big to start a conversation. People talk about AR and VR but forget that there’s a transition. Recently, we got together some of the world’s best climbers and invested our own time and resources into a free grading conversion platform, to say we’re not here just to take money out of the community. We want to give back and engage with you.”

The eGrader that Danny mentions here converts the traditional French grading of a climbing route, considering the danger involved, and converts it to the British E Grade system. Amongst the rock-climbing community, this technology has already caused a stir. 

“We put it live a few weeks ago and the first day we had 10,000 users in 25 countries,” says Danny. “It got people talking. Some people liked it, some people didn’t. It got the conversation going, and we now have a platform to improve on. It wasn’t done from a commercial perspective, because there’s no revenue driver behind it, it’s about impact. 

We want to inspire. I’ve got a daughter, who’s four, and I want to inspire her generation. I want her to think she can be an Olympian, no matter where she’s from.”

Danny Tomalin, Reyt
Photo credit: Hayley Gell Photography

As well as being a driver for change, at its core, REYT is a software consultancy company, specialising in design-led product strategy, developing UX driven mobile and web applications. They leverage the power of connected devices to improve the outdoor sports they’re involved in, and Danny is at pains to point out that they don’t make websites!

Starting off in action and adventure sports, REYT has now diversified into the wellbeing sector, partnering with businesses on staff wellbeing and corporate wellbeing products. 

“Wellbeing was never a sector that we saw ourselves in. But it’s something that’s always been truly important to me,” says Danny, “and it makes sense to us, because it’s looking at how we can get more out of the things you wear on your wrists. How can we take that data and give you something that helps with your overall mental health?

“We’re also working with researchers at Sheffield Hallam University to help women in midlife do more strength and conditioning exercises to help with the menopause, which is a completely different angle, but it all falls under the inclusivity of REYT.”

They have also had the opportunity to move into mainstream sports, working alongside coaches and nutritionists to enhance what they already do. Danny explains: “They already have a proven process, so we’re not trying to change everything. We’re digitising that process for them or ironing out the flaws. 

“We went to St. George’s Park last week and spent some time with the England under 21 coaches, to look at their processes. They’re going to be using our system soon. The response we got was really good.”

Danny has worked in Sheffield for five years now and sees it as the ideal place for his business. “Sheffield is the heart of sports in this country. It’s the epicentre. We’ve got the Advanced Wellness Research centre, we’ve got the Olympic Legacy Park, where else has got that? Antony Joshua and Nicola Adams train here. We’ve got the Peaks on our doorstep. If you talk about sports in this region, Sheffield’s the place to be.

Danny Tomalin, Reyt
Photo credit: Hayley Gell Photography

“Even though I’m from Wakefield, I love Sheffield and we’re all Yorkshire, aren’t we? Yorkshire is the beating heart of the business. We’ll always come back to it. We’re trying to support everything that’s already happening here. Thinking about how we can elevate things by creating digital products that have got potential.”

Sheffield and Yorkshire, along with Danny’s ambition run through the business, even down to the name. “I racked my brain for a name,” says Danny. “I was looking through a Thesaurus, trying to find the essence of the business. Nothing was coming, and I remember chatting to one of the investors, Rob, and saying, ‘this name, it just has to be reyt’, and he said, ‘what about reyt?’

“That was it. You only ever get Danny when you meet me, and to me REYT felt like authenticity, and the little anarchist in me is going, ‘let’s get people from London saying it!’ 

“It wasn’t like we came up with a name for a localised Sheffield business, we said, here’s a name that can actually be a brand and it can take us outside of our region.”

Already a team of five, soon to become six, REYT are constantly growing, innovating and looking towards the future. But was does the future hold for REYT? Danny filled us in: “We’re moving into more of an athlete’s performance space. We want to work with governing bodies in sports and we want to work with elite sports and management teams to modernise them and move them into the future of what sport looks like. 

“We can’t do it ourselves. We don’t necessarily know the full future, so it’s about partnering with the right people and asking, ‘where do you see it going, because you live and breathe this stuff every single day?’ Let’s take badminton, for instance. What’s that going to look like in 10 years’ time? Do you have data tracking now? Yes, great. So what’s the next version?

Danny Tomalin, Reyt
Photo credit: Hayley Gell Photography

“We don’t have a suite of off the shelf products. It’s not about that. We’d rather start small, do great work, go even bigger and do even better work. 

“It’s a rollercoaster as a business. We have low days, and we have high days, but I’ll tell you what, we’d never do anything else.” 

Through those ups and downs, Danny tells us the biggest thing he’s learned is the importance of unlocking the potential in people. He said: “We’re all good at something and we employ for the talent rather than the label of the role. The challenge is unlocking people’s potential.

“It’s also about understanding that if the person guiding the ship isn’t clear, then you’re going to hit an iceberg. I’m a mountain biker. That’s my thing. There’s a saying in mountain biking, ‘see the obstacle, acknowledge it, avoid it.’ If I stare at the rock all day, I’m going to hit it.

“We’ve got to be hot on our feet. We started out wanting to do action sports, but we had to look at where the opportunities were. We’re judged by our output and our outputs are incredible; the designs look great, the clients are happy to come back to us, so it’s already been a massive success.”

To get in touch and see how REYT can help you, visit reyt.co.uk

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