Digital Design Labs

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Digital Design Labs's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Digital Design Labs is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP

DDL’s “Courier” handheld retail
terminal takes wager sales out
among customers at events
Digital Design Labs co-founders, Colin Jelfs
CEO (right) and Mike Hall CTO
Digital Design Labs is the product of a management buyout
of the popular horse-racing website formerly known as
GG.COM. Its chief executive officer Colin Jelfs and chief
technical officer Mike Hall rebranded and relaunched the
website business as GG.CO.UK – a risky but profitable gamble.
But what the pair really wanted was to develop innovative mobile technology and
applications to modernise the betting industry. GG.CO.UK, essentially a publishing
business, was not the right vehicle for this: hence the creation of Digital Design
Labs. Colin Jelfs describes how they took the venture forward.
Business and culture
Digital Design Labs, tasked with the development of new products and product
categories, using mobile-focused technology, aimed to forge new business
relationships within the pari-mutuel wagering sector – in other words, the tote.
We believe the tote – where, once taxes and fees are taken care of, the money bet
on an event is pooled and divided up between the punters who picked the winner
– is a more equitable form of betting and encapsulates our corporate culture.
This embraces a clear vision of the importance of mobile platforms and a belief
that our role ultimately is to solve problems for our customers. We are a company
which develops great ideas, brings them to market, and funds growth through a
pragmatic approach to business management.
In our second year of trading, our development team relocated to the Innovation
Centre at Liverpool Science Park and we were contracted to develop a
complete retail wagering system for Chester and Bangor-on-Dee racecourses.
»Co-founders: Colin Jelfs and
Mike Hall
»Established in 2015
»Based in Liverpool
»Growing portfolio of products:
Websites, web applications,
native apps
»No. of employees: 5
»Experienced management
with solid track record
»A history of innovative
Digital Design Labs
Highlighting best practice
Althoughwewere able to build on
prototype products we were already
developing, we still had to create
both fixed-position and portable retail
systems from scratch; these had to
be capable of selling and reconciling
bets at volume for one of the busiest
racecourses in the UK. After just nine
months of development, the system
was launched at Chester’s May Festival
in 2017 and performed well beyond
Alongside the retail services, we
also built a new administration and
reporting system, providing detailed
race-day information to senior
management and administrators from
any modern smartphone.
Product innovation
Over £93 billion was wagered
worldwide on thoroughbred horse
racing in 2016. Around 80 per cent of
that was through some form of tote
platform. Most of the world’s biggest
races use tote wagering primarily,
including the Kentucky Derby, the
Melbourne Cup and the Prix de l’Arc
de Triomphe.
We created our “Tote Ninja” product
– so-named for its speed and slickness
– as an empowering technical solution
for the tote industry, allowing players
to wager directly from their internet-
enabled phone, even in poor network
conditions, or with an older or low-end
device. A single-use, multi-bet voucher
purchased from a racecourse or other
licensed retailer unlocks the terminal
and releases the voucher balance for
wagering. A player can bet as much or
as often as they like, before returning
to the retailer to reconcile and cash out
their winnings.
Tote Ninja takes retail out of the
traditional sales areas and places
it among customers, using cost-
effective commodity hardware with
our retail software to provide a
more convenient and intimate sales
experience. By empowering customers
to enter their bets directly, Tote Ninja
eliminates bet transcription errors
and reduces the demand on sales and
retail staff.
The product was initially launched
in the Caribbean and is being tested
in the UK. A recent audit of our
business and products in the US by
Team discussion at
DDL’s IC1 Liverpool
Science Park offices,
Liverpool John Moores
Our role
ultimately is to
solve problems
for our
the Thoroughbred Racing Protective
Bureau has also opened the door to
the important American tote markets,
which are some of the largest and
most lucrative in the world. This
technology has also been innovating
in other markets. On the island of
Mauritius, where online betting is not
legal, but text betting is, we work
with local licensee Supertote. Here
our terminal technology is built into a
native app used offline by customers
to build even complicated exotic bets
in just a few taps and then place
them via the SMS function. The app
has revolutionised SMS betting by
providing a platform that is easy for
customers to use with a focus on
safety and compliance.
On other fronts, we have been
working with Amazon to create a
voice-based horse racing information
service for their popular Echo product,
and its brand-new counterpart the
Echo Show. Amazon’s technology
evangelists approached us in early
2018 to help develop the product,
which was initially created by
our developers as a fun learning
experiment on an exciting new
platform. The latest version of this
product was recently featured by
Amazon’s Alexa Skills Store.
The team
Behind every great company is a
dedicated and motivated team. Well
versed in the alchemy of technology,
and steeped in the culture of the
internet, our Liverpool-based design
team shares a passion for innovation,
collaboration and laser-sharp product
focus. As early adopters of new
technology, from NodeJS and NoSQL
to cloud computing and progressive
web apps, our team is quick to adopt
and adapt industry best practice,
combining Agile development with
brilliant technology to make great
products for our customers.
Liverpool is a fine tech city and
deserves to be more famous for it.
Three great universities – Liverpool
University, John Moores University
and Liverpool Hope University – have
excellent computer science faculties
and a local workforce of bright,
talented young people. But in the face
of competition from jobs in better-
known UK tech centres like London
and Manchester, keeping that talent
on Merseyside can be difficult.
We have recently unveiled Merseycode:
a monthly gathering of web
development practitioners, tech
students and enthusiasts, who gather
both to listen and contribute to a
discussion on the cutting edges of
best practice, with some of the leading
voices of the industry. Merseycode
is a nexus for developers in the
Liverpool area to network, as well as
a platform to promote the activities
of Liverpool-based tech companies
in contributing to and developing
industry best practice. Thanks go
to bet365, Manchester University’s
SpiNNaker Neurotech project and
Google’s Chrome team for their time
and enthusiasm for the project so far,
as well as to the Liverpool Science
Park for their ongoing enthusiasm
Liverpool is a
fine tech city
and deserves
to be more
famous for it
Merseycode – DDL’s
initiative to help
promote the Liverpool-
based tech community

This article was sponsored by Digital Design Labs. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister