Say No! S1EP3 with Harry Metcalfe & David Mann (dxw)

Show notes



Harry Metcalfe & Dave Mann run dxw. A specialist agency that only works with the government. Dxw sets out to help the public sector spend less on technology so that it can spend more on education, healthcare, policing and welfare. They have grown organically without investment and deeply care about people and improving their lives in the UK.

I was really curious to understand how dxw attracts and keeps some of the top technologists in government. Such as the former government head of research John Waterworth and Coca Rivas, who has held multiple leading transformation roles in the government.

We discuss their processes for hiring and team structures in the context of being a niche agency.

How they keep their team’s skills and knowledge up to date. The spin off products they developed as a result of their Research & Development. 

And what would have happened if they wouldn’t have said no to some of the lucrative opportunities.

Dxw have built an agency with a real purpose and with a team of 68 highly intelligent people. Harry the founder is a true reflection of their deep care and curiosity for using technology to make an impact…

Download the transcript here



Harry Metcalfe & David Mann
Founder and Managing Director of dxw 


57:13 – 57:52

Well, I guess if it’s not to try, it has to be the thing that you really care the most about because this is the thing that you’re going to be living and breathing. To run a successful business and to grow and to support your people, you have to really care about it. It can’t just be a question of say money or we could do a certain thing because it’s highly lucrative. Great, if it’s a highly lucrative thing that you love to do. It has to be something genuine that you care about. And for us, we have this kind of mission that unites us all. So you need to find your mission and unite around it.



“It remains a highlight of my career, that I managed to get myself booed by civil servants. I got up on the stage and suggested that Google was a bit better at search than direct gov, so maybe direct gov should use Google search instead of trying to do their own search. And I actually got booed.”

“Actually part of the journey for us has been agitating publicly and also working closely with the government to try and make those frameworks better.”

“It’s the ability to go back and for it to be a two way relationship and not just, “Hey you, here’s a spec go and do a thing.”

“Hold on very tight to your principles, but very loosely to your ideas.”

“If changing your principles isn’t as big a deal as a complete pivot or starting again, then your principles might not quite be deep enough.”

“And some developers are motivated by the latest shiny new tech, and there may be some kind of almost scientific interest they have in pushing technical boundaries. But a lot of developers are problem solvers and they want to solve problems that are real.”

“If we are not a profitable business, then we won’t achieve our mission.”

“You can get software built anywhere, but do you care if it works or not?”

“Operate a no blame culture”

“You need to find your mission and unite around it.”

“To run a successful business and to grow and to support your people, you have to really care about it. It’s going to be found out pretty soon if you don’t.”

“I mean, me just sat here, I’m like, I want to work for you guys now!”



First Five

Sure Start Centers

The Office Of The e-Envoy

GDS – Government Digital Services

Department Of Environment, Food And Rural Affairs DEFRA

Department For Education

Coca Rivas

John Waterworth

Silicon Milk Roundabout (big P, small p)

Horse Guards

Red Team

Penetration testing




James Bishop

Kasra Firouzyar

Daniel “DanTheAgencyMan” de la Cruz



We are the world’s best peer support community for agency owners. Find out more about The Agency Collective here