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Bill Freehling is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and Fredericksburg.com. This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Bill Freehling.
Local company helping NFL with mobile website
Much of the technology behind the National Football League’s popular mobile website was created in a home in southern Stafford County.
A tech-savvy man named David Cook lives in that Ferry Farm home. Cook is president and chief technology officer of an ambitious local startup called Deedod Inc. that is playing a role in the rapid evolution and growth of digital media.
“Deedod” is how Cook’s sister, Jordyn, used to pronounce her brother’s name when she was just learning to talk. The Deedod web domain was also available, and the name seemed fun and exuberant.
In addition to contributing the word that became the company’s name, Cook’s sister played another important role in Deedod’s formation and early growth. In California she met the man who would become both her husband and David Cook’s business partner.
That man, Matt Armstrong, was born and raised in Newport Beach, Calif., and came from a background in surfing that included professional competitions, managing surf shops and giving lessons. As he gravitated into his mid-20s, Armstrong decided it was time to get a real job, so he joined an apparel company and later a firm focused on construction and property management.
Armstrong met Jordyn Cook in 2006 and soon thereafter, her brother. At the time David Cook was working for a digital-design studio in Orange County, Calif., and feeling underappreciated. Cook had started dabbling in computers in middle school and later went on to major in computer science at the University of California, Riverside.
Armstrong and Cook quickly hit it off and stayed in touch after Cook moved to the Fredericksburg area in 2007. By then Cook had soured on California, which he considered overly materialistic. He wanted to get back to the Fredericksburg area, where he had spent much of his childhood and where most of his family lives—including brother Adam Cook, who is running for U.S. Congress this fall in the local 1st District.
Cook by then was working for himself as a freelancer and realized he could do his job from just about anywhere in the world with a computer and Internet connection. He also thought there would be opportunities to get government contracting work in the Fredericksburg area.
Cook has amassed a client list ranging from digital startups to huge international brands. In 2010 he incorporated Deedod. He built the mobile website for MySpace, and a man he worked with there later went to work for the NFL. Cook was asked to submit a proposal to build the NFL’s mobile website, which anyone with a smartphone can see by punching in NFL.com to their phone’s web browser.
By that point Cook and Armstrong had grown increasingly close, and their conversations often turned to business. They shared similar beliefs on how organizations should be run, including incentivizing valued employees to come up with new ideas, maintaining a work-life balance and staying small enough to provide highly personalized customer attention.
Armstrong and his wife moved to Stafford County in March 2011. Armstrong, who is now Deedod’s managing director and focuses on the business side, helped Cook finalize the NFL deal as he was driving across the country to his new home.
Cook and a colleague, Ben Noonan, built the NFL’s mobile site last spring and summer. It launched in July and has gotten about 800 million hits since then. Deedod continues to maintain and improve the mobile site, m.NFL.com.
The job has helped put Deedod on the map. Armstrong and Cook, who up to this point have worked from their homes, are now looking at leasing office space in downtown Fredericksburg or Spotsylvania County’s Bowman Center as they make plans to scale Deedod.
The pair like what they see in the Fredericksburg area and want to be part of its growth. It’s easier for a tech company to stand out from the crowd here than in California, and they like the area’s lack of materialism and sense of community. Cook last week received the “Geek of the Year” award from the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Innovation and Technology Council.
Deedod relies mostly on freelance computer programmers but is moving toward hiring on both the sales and tech side. Cook and Armstrong hope to build an enduring organization that can both serve outside clients and create digital-oriented products of their own under the Deedod umbrella.