After traversing this quiet industrial estate a couple of times, I wonder if I’ve got DinoPC’s address wrong.
This little patch of Edmonton is not where I’d expect to find a specialist system builder. I ask a nearby warehouse worker for directions, and he points to a black door with no sign on it. I feel like I’m about to enter an exclusive club.
After buzzing in, I walk upstairs into a clean, modern office with a huge dinosaur claw (DinoPC’s new branding) mounted onto the wall behind the reception desk. To the left, some of the firm’s new Carnivore watercooled systems are on display, and in the corner there’s a desk with a see-through cover and a PC inside. All of this is of stark contrast to the ordinary surroundings outside; I feel like I’ve stepped into Santa’s secret grotto.
This new office is three times bigger than DinoPC’s previous one at Willesdon Junction, giving them space to expand further.
DinoPC’s owner and MD Vladimir Kuznetsov and purchasing manager Marco Della Vedova enter the room and introduce themselves, before giving me a tour of the new office. We walk into a large open room, surrounded by smaller connected offices. There’s a large training dummy in the centre of the room, with some boxing gloves next to it.
The pair invite me to throw a few punches at it, but I’m not much of a fighter, and politely decline. As we step away, I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed some kind of test!
Vladimir and I enter the large meeting room near the entrance to chat about his background and how DinoPC started out.
He says he’s originally from Ukraine, and moved to London at the age of nine.
“I originally wanted to be an archeologist – probably from watching the first Jurassic park and [being inspired by] the guy who finds things,” Vladimir smiles.
That explains the system builder’s dinosaur-theme, but what about his other passions?
“I’m into Formula One,” he tells me. “It’s about people trying to engineer in a super competitive world. You’ve got these rules and everyone is trying to come up with the best solution to win which is slightly better, that makes a huge difference, especially in F1 where a second can be the difference between winning a race.
“It’s insanely competitive, that’s what I love about it. When you follow it, you’ve got to know the ins and outs.”
There’s the obvious comparison between F1 and the performance system build market – they’re both about trying to get more out of a machine, and competing with other brands to make the fastest, better-looking and best PCs.
I’m stunned to discover Kuznetsov – who is 29 years old – started DinoPC in his early ‘20s back in April 2007. I berate him for not putting himself forward for PCR’s 30 Under 30 during that time and he laughs it off.
This is clearly a man who likes to operate in the background – he’s methodical and has a clear plan in mind for DinoPC, but doesn’t want to be in the centre of the spotlight (something I discover when I try to take a photograph of him for this article)! That’s not a bad thing, of course, and it means the staff around him are given more responsibility to make their mark within the firm.
We step out of the office and take a closer look at the three new watercooled Carnivore PCs in the main reception area. They’re the brainchild of award-winning overclocker Luke Szczawinski, who clearly has an eye for the finer details – the cable ties are meticulously lined up beside one another so everything is neat and tidy.
The range includes the £2,399 Troodon, featuring an i7 6700K CPU, 240GB/1TB SSHD and a GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB GPU, and the £4,699 Raptor with two 980 Ti cards, an i7 5930K Extreme CPU and a 480GB/2TB SSHD.
Then there’s the top-of-the- range £9,999 T.Rex, boasting an i7 5960K Extreme CPU, a whopping three GeForce GTX Titan X graphics cards and more. I can now understand why DinoPC’s slogan is ‘Engineered to the Extreme’.
All three also feature 16GB 3200Mhz DDR4, and were reviewed favourably by the likes of Custom PC magazine.
We step into Luke’s room, and it’s the polar opposite of 8Pack’s messy overclocking area at OCUK. This has to be the tidiest workshop PCR has ever seen – it’s more like an office than a workshop.
There are several speakers dotted around the room too – a custom surround sound system Luke has setup. “He’s very particular, super-organised and knows his stuff,” Vladimir says.
After walking back into the main room, and breaking the ice with Vladimir, I decide to have a go on the boxing dummy – but only for a few moments. I’m as awful as I thought I’d be, and give the boxing a rest!
There’s what appears to be a dentist chair nearby. On closer inspection, it’s actually a napping device – visitors or staff can just sit in it, lie back, close the cover around their head, listen to the music and relax. After trying it out, I take a peek into Marco and Vladimir’s office, and I can hear Mambo No.5 playing in the background. There are some Russian dolls on Vladimir’s desk.
Come lunchtime, most of the team members are in the brightly-themed kitchen, making and eating pasta together – it’s known as ‘pasta club’ to some in the industry. DinoPC has seven Italians working for the firm out of its 17 staff overall, and it’s clear the pasta club is their creation. There’s a lot of camaraderie here.
Marco says: “We all have a certain sense of humour, we’re a bit of a collection of oddballs! We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we are a serious company.”
The team are tight-knight, like a family. Marco has known Vladimir for nine years, while marketing manager Nic Carnelutti has been at the firm for nine years.
All in all, the office lets off one of the most laid-back yet professional vibes I’ve experienced. It’s very Google, and Vladimir explains why.
“We want to invest in our staff – then you get good ideas out of them, because they’re passionate about their jobs,” he says. “We want to get their creativity flowing and let them learn on the job. We don’t want them just doing database stuff or have to be told exactly what they need to do everyday.”
Marco adds: “We expect our staff to take the initiative.”
DinoPC has plans to hire apprentices and give work experience staff a chance of securing a job – and has created an attractive working environment to do so.
The company has recently revamped its website, with a focus on being more vendor- neutral and informative, with high-quality photos, videos and social media activity, to help the customer make a more informed purchasing decision. And on the new office, Vladimir wants to make it as impressive as possible.
“I put this all together – I want it to be perfect,” he says. “But I don’t want to get distracted on how it looks, we want to focus on the business – we’re really ambitious.”
To conclude the tour, we head down the stairs at the back of the office to DinoPC’s warehouse area.
Vladimir explains: “It’s not fully ready yet. We’re working on it and are ordering bits and pieces. But it’s fine for now.
“It’s not as big as other people’s warehouses, but we focus on computers, while some focus on components as well. The important thing is it’s a lot bigger than our old one – we have more space.”
On the left there are some systems being boxed up. The sleek new DinoPC claw logo discreetly placed on the side of the box is a cool touch – it seems like there’s an animal inside raring to be unleashed.
“We want to build the little things to create a positive impression of DinoPC, so that the customer can trust us,” says Vladimir. “You’ve got to differentiate yourself.”
So, what’s next for DinoPC? What are their aims and ambitions for the next few years, and how do they think the industry will change?
“Virtual reality – I think that’s the future,” says Vladimir. “We haven’t really dabbled in it but I see it growing massively. Whatever it is now, in five years time it could be 1,000 times bigger. It could be huge.
“But right now we’re focusing on what we do best – gaming PCs and custom PCs,” Vladimir says. “So we’ve got to make sure we get all the basics right, and then to expand…”
“We will probably have two sites at some point.
“It’s not easy to pack up and go, but sometimes you’ve got to take that leap of faith.”