Back in May we featured the startup connection site, Bizoogo. For one night a month, the team take the concepts around the site offline. This week we joined them at Google Campus for the August meetup.
Bizoogo is all about Collaborating to Create. And collaborate is just the right word. The event was all about bringing people’s skills together, knowing who was good with what and what each attendee was looking for, keen to meet others who were seeking the exact same thing. Equally, the atmosphere wasn’t too pushy nor too salesy. And as ever variety makes an event stand out – there was a good mix of those at the idea stage, starting up with their business and other, more established folks. Even more exciting was the number of people who attended, even pre-idea, looking to get involved in something to which they could turn their skills; a human resource that as any startup knows, can be essential to getting a project off the ground. At Bizoogo, it’s the individual that comes first.
I have to say I tried to avoid being physically sticky-labeled with an industry or skill for as long as I could. I was outsmarted though and actually, the labels worked well as a talking point for that first introduction but also as a kind of boast of the mass of skills that made their way around the room.
Follow the Bizoogo team on Twitter for news of where to catch them next.
How much networking have you done this week? How many invites have you turned down? How important is networking to your business?
Knowing how much time to dedicate to these events isn’t easy, neither is finding the right one… I tagged along with one of our readers, Natacha Cullinan, to her first visit to Entrepreneurs in London.
Entrepreneurs in London doesn’t take itself too seriously. Expect a laid-back, friendly and warm atmosphere. First timers are definitely welcome – almost everyone I spoke to had never been before and were keen to chat to as many people as they could. The size of the event (just over 100 people) struck the ideal balance; somewhere between small and intimate and buzzy and crowded – not cliquey at all, with familiar faces popping up every now and then as you circled the room.
This event had something that so many lack: a chance to make of it what you wanted. Whether you were after having a drink with some like-minded people or trying out that all important pitch on someone new. The organizer, Patrick Powers, couldn’t be more right when he says “some people just want to socialize”; that’s exactly what Entrepreneurs in London offers with the chance to make some great contacts in the process.
Entrepreneurs in London is held at various venues every couple of weeks. The group is run by Patrick Powers and can be found on Meetup or Facebook.
Dr Stuart Battersby is one of the founders of Chatterbox, a conversation platform set to be the ultimate marketing tool, a platform that helps businesses manage their online presence and join in with their customers’ chat about their brand. Caz Parra met with Stuart to hear all about this startup’s first steps.
The founders: Dr Matthew Purver and Dr Stuart Battersby
University is where you make the friendships that will last a lifetime, that’s what they say anyway. However, the relationship that blossomed at Queen Mary, University of London between Dr Stuart Battersby and Dr Matthew Purver gave fruit to more than just funny in-jokes and some great nights down the pub, it saw the creation of Chatterbox, a pioneering tech startup that is looking to revolutionise the way companies market their product and interact with all the customers (and potential ones) populating the big, bad world wide web.
Stuart has spent his academic career studying the intricacies of human interaction, from the broadness of body language to minutiae of the different types of nodding and what they mean. Matthew on the other hand is a computational linguist by trade who had already been developing technology to analyse conversations, including a piece of software that was part of a version of Apple’s Siri. These two very different disciplines have come together to build a platform able to take the pulse of online conversations. The idea is to help brands identify what gets people talking about them in order to help them better manage their image.
Last month, Chatterbox won a place at Telefonica’s Wayra academy, a startup accelerator program, beating out a thousand other businesses and securing funding. But the road to success is steep and full of obstacles. Dr Stuart Battersby is more than happy to share with us a little bit of his journey with Chatterbox.
“It was a very fluffy start”, recalls Stuart. “It started with conversations between me and Matt, which led into some research”. But after pinning down the idea the duo went straight to telling people about it, which Stuart now describes as a “great error”. Their enthusiasm was met by blank expressions: “Nobody had a clue what we were talking about. So we went off and hatched together a demo that just about showed enough of the concept so people could understand it so we could get to the next stage”. The “most appalling demo ever”, as Stuart lovingly describes the very first Chatterbox draft, fulfilled its mission and secured them the resources necessary to develop a beta.
With help from Queen Mary, Chatterbox came into being. Right now, the software is in testing stage. “We didn’t want to lock ourselves in some tower and develop software for two years, think that it’s the best software ever, with no bugs and the best user interface in the world but addresses no problems in the market, so we built the beta and we launched it in private beta”. Dr Battersby is a huge advocate for this approach, explaining that it “means you can make something people care about and you can fail fast, if there’s something that’s in there that people just don’t get or want, then kill it, don’t spend a whole year developing it or push it down the development list and push something else up to the top”.
At this point I ask Stuart one of the main challenges of entrepreneurship: the fear of failure, that ‘what-if-this-is-all-for-nothing?’ feeling. “Statistically it probably won’t work”, laughs Stuart, “I’ve been scared about it for quite a while sometime so i’m kinda used to the fear. Obviously, you, as the founder, have the dream and the ambition [but] you have to be slightly realistic (…) just because this venture doesn’t work doesn’t mean that the world is doomed, there will be some positives you can take from it to go do the next thing better”.
Another common ‘fear’ in the world of startups is that of someone stealing your idea. Turns out the world of tech does not rely on patent registrations, as part of the process of patenting requires a disclosure of what you’re patenting, which raises obvious problems. Stuart explains that there is a very simple solution to this very complex problem: “We have built pretty damn good algorithms that we hide away. No one ever sees what our code is, equally, with every other service we don’t see what their code is”.
So, in a time economic crisis when ‘traditional’ job prospects are scarce, is this generation startup? “The startup spring?” Stuart asks back, “I didn’t start the company because I couldn’t get a job, I actually didn’t apply to any, I just started the company…maybe down the line I’ll go and work for someone else, but at the moment I’m not because I really like doing this”.
In spite of the economic climate we are seeing more and more startups, however Stuart points out that the attitude towards startups still needs to change, especially in terms of the ability to “tolerate failure”. He explains, “There’s just a massive difference between the US and the UK. If we can adopt the idea that we can give something a go and fail at it and you know that we can pump cash into stuff and they might fail massively, then we’ll have even more startups doing even more awesome things than we do at the moment”. And that, I’m sure, can only be a good thing.