Archives for the month of: February, 2014

Our edtech dinner might well be behind us, but there were so many great businesses there that night that we want to continue sharing their stories. Next up is Alice Bonasio, PR and Communications Manager at Mendeley.

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What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?
Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that helps researchers organise their research, collaborate with others, and discover the latest research available online, Starting a research project can feel overwhelming, but Mendeley simplifies every step of the process, from search and discovery to reading and analysis. 

What were you doing before you launched your startup?
Mendeley’s co-founders were researchers themselves before they embarked on their first startup journey. They encountered the same problems and frustrations about keeping track of all their research materials and through a PhD and decided to do something about it. 

Where did you meet your co-founders?
Co-founders Victor Henning and Jan Reichelt (pictured below) met while doing an MBA at the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Koblenz, Germany, and became friends before starting a local chapter of the German Entrepreneurship Club. 

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What will 2014 bring?
Following Mendeley’s acquisition by Elsevier last year, we’ve been busier than ever, and 2014 will see the London-based team continue to expand and build all the tools and community that made us so successful in the first place. We’re also integrating with Elsevier’s tools and platforms, to offer our users a more seamless experience and more functionality for their workflow. We’re also probably going to move offices as we’re growing too big for this one! 

1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the education space?
Follow your passion, find co-founders with complementary skills different from your own, and solve a problem that you share with a lot of other people! – that’s 3 :-) 

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.
I’ll actually let a member of the community do that. Greg Laden, a biological anthropologist, once wrote in his blog that “for a researcher, Mendeley is pretty much the most fun you can have with your pants on.” You can’t really beat it when people say that about your product.

Thanks Alice for (almost) finishing off the series. Watch out for James Larbi and his startup, pre-ued next week.

BlickWe thoroughly enjoyed last night’s dinner in partnership with Fluency.io. With over 30 edtech & education startups, we practically took over the entire restaurant. We chose the Open Kitchen in Shoreditch for this dinner, as it is the training restaurant for the London City Hospitality Centre. All students prepare and serve food and drinks as part of their vocational studies, putting its learners centre stage and providing a realistic working experience to support their professional development. We thought it was a nice fit for the evening and they did a really great job.

We were treated to an interesting and inspiring talk from Bernhard Niesner, founder of busuu, a language learning community. Just a few snippets. He has grown it to 40 million users and they are now getting 40-50k new users a day!. He talked about the pro’s of bootstrapping until the point it’s right to take funding and not getting disheartened if people say “no” to funding your company. Some of the people that said “no”, went on to invest in busuu 4 years later, at a very different price! He talked about (and doesn’t recommend) the trials of relocating a team (in his case from Madrid to London) and the impact it has on the business. At that time, during their series A, the team was at 11 people. It is now at 40. He emphasised the importance of analysing the lifetime value of a customer, A/B testing and using the “grandma test” on landing pages (if your grandma can’t understand it, do it again!) With busuu, Bernhard set out to create something that could be used by millions, which he has done, but there are still plenty of untapped markets globally. More to come!

Thanks to everyone that was part of the evening and who fought off the indigestion of regular seat moves! Some photos for you to enjoy.

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You can read about our upcoming and previous #MeetandEat’s here.

Tonight’s the night! It’s our Education Startups #MeetandEat and we can’t WAIT. Here’s the very last startup spotlight for this dinner.

Ollie Capehorn is Co-Founder and COO of EduLift. Their flagship product is LinguaLift - a web app for those wishing to learn Japanese, French, Russian or Chinese.

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What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?
LinguaLift is a set of tools for motivated self-learners to introduce themselves to, and master a foreign language. When you use our E-Textbook, flashcard systems and games, we learn about how you learn, and help you get to fluency more efficiently.

What were you doing before you launched your startup?
I had just taken my A-Levels, and was preparing to represent the UK in an international Japanese-language speech contest. Although I ran a couple of websites, and was interested in how technology can help us learn I had no plans to start such a project, and was preparing to study Law at Oxford.

Where did you meet your co-founders?
This is always a funny question to answer. I met Philip, my co-founder, online. He paid for an advertisement on a website that I ran (that I soon after closed down!) for a game he was developing. I emailed him with some suggestions for the game (as I was coincidentally also a customer), and we started chatting by email. We had our first MVP months before we had even met in real life.

What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?
When we were starting out we got obsessive about trying out all of our competitor’s products, and when we came across a cool feature or service, we’d simply make our own and integrate it into our own. It meant we had dozens of pricing options, and a tonne of features we didn’t know how to support.

When we incorporated our company, we rebranded our website, and had just one pricing option, and removed around 80% of our features, just to speed up our re-launch. Both sales and customer satisfaction went up. We could focus more on what we knew best, and we gained credibility when we made suggestions to our customers about competitor’s services that they could use to complement their learning at LinguaLift.

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EduLift Co-Founders Ollie Capehorn and Philip Seyfi working in Taiwan, August 2013. 

What will 2014 bring?
The most exciting thing for us is that we now have a model that we have proven for three languages. We have a team hard at work putting the finishing touches to the Mandarin version of LinguaLift, which users have been begging us for for years. Soon after, we’ll be launching Spanish, German and Korean versions. As we treat each language we teach differently, each will present their own pedagogic challenges, and will require us to develop new games, new approaches, and new ways of presenting information. It also means hiring new staff, which we love, as it keeps us on our toes.

1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the education space?
Know that education, like health, is quite a touchy area. People will tell you that you should offer your service for free, and will have very strong views about who should have responsibility for a curriculum. On the other hand, education has become extremely commoditised: you really can put a price on university education, and customers expect value for their investment.

These big pressures have the capacity to distract. Don’t let them. Focus on making your product achieve the goal it sets out to achieve. If enough people identify with that goal, and find that your product helps them get there, then it doesn’t matter if it’s paid, and it doesn’t matter that it may not be the best, or the most polished, or even the only means they use to achieve that goal.

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.
Polyglots earn more, know more, and are sexier than those who only speak one language. Nobody really has the time for full immersion, classrooms can be frustrating and textbooks are boring. With LinguaLift, we break down the language-learning journey for you, and make sure that it’s fun along the way.

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What’s your favourite startup in the education space (not including your own)?
Although I consider that their business model isn’t in the best interests of the learner, and the quality of their product is still pretty poor for the languages I’ve tried it out for, Duolingo is getting people excited about learning languages, and that’s great. Lesser known is a Japanese start-up Lang-8, which connects language partners to each other, and provides a great system for correcting second-language journal entries. I use the service myself and recommend it to all of my users.

What’s your favourite London restaurant?
The one that has most meaning to our startup is a great Japanese restaurant called Toku on Regent Street, which we’ll often take friends and potential partners to for one of their delicious cocktails over some nibbles. However personally, I’ll never tire of going to Crème de la Crêpe in Covent Garden, which even after having lived for a year in France still impresses me with the quality of their delicious pancakes.

Thanks again to our sponsors Taylor Wessing, Rackspace & Blick Rothenberg for their continued support.

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Last night we returned to Central Working in Google Campus for dinner and networking. Sokratis gave an insightful after-dinner talk, which was followed by a lively Q&A. Sokratis talked about the importance of having passion for a project, how he works better with a co-founder and his plans for his current project, Togethera, a private social network for families to share photos and memories. He is an inspiring and honest speaker and it was tremendous to have him join a TableCrowd.

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We were joined by a great mix of startups and entrepreneurs. A snap shot of who was there -

First timer, Julie MacDonald recently founded The Daily Juggle, the working mum’s guide to staying sane and having a life. The site carries a wealth of content around careers, parenting and relationships. This is Julie’s first trip into the world of tech and startups, previously being a journalist and broadcaster. In addition to the content on the site, she provides workshops and coaching for her community.

James O’Day joined us and it was great to hear the update on his soon-to-launch project Pearlshare. The app will allow storing and sharing of “precious” recommendations with people you know and trust. You can leave your email to be notified when it goes live here.

So pleased to have Charlotte Leuw back around the dinner table. Since the last time we saw her, she has launched a funding campaign for her startup My Car Gossip on Seedrs, you can check it out here. We first met Charlotte when she gave a tremendous pitch at The Next Women pitch competition, being by far the youngest entrant. She’s raising £30,000 on Seedrs.

Very excited to have the legendary founder of #vegtech, Chloe Nicholls at dinner! She’s currently the community manager at IDEALondon. Based in the heart of TechCity, the accelerator is supported by DC Thomas, Cisco and UCL and provides expert help and support to startups. She kindly offered a tour to any of the startups at the dinner.

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Lara Solomon is a beauty entrepreneur founding an advice business for beauty professionals and as well as Beauty Hum, a platform which aggregates hairdressers, barbers and beauticians and provides user recommendations.

Kimberley Trevett was back at the table! Founder of the Holistic Lifestyle Club, she also recently launched Buddywell, which provides services for the health and wellbeing community.

Neha Manaktala, co founder of Vizibee joined us. Her business is a mobile platform for journalists and publishers to capture, break and share short-form quality video with the audience.

We also had aspiring entrepreneurs working on undercover projects or looking for their next project, as well as a team in the medical tech space, 2 ladies taking care of anti-ageing, one guest working on a beta for the legal industry and one developing an existing business in the travel industry.

They had to literally kick us out of Google Campus, the lady prising the wine from our grips was very stern, but I think this is the sign of a good night. We met some tremendous people and hope to welcome everyone back to another TableCrowd very soon.

A few snaps from last night (not as many as there should have been, but we were distracted by the conversation and the delicious food provided by the team at Central Working).

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We’re back at dinner this evening for the Education Startups #MeetandEat - we’re bringing together over 30 startups in the education and edtech spaces, with an after dinner talk from Bernhard Niesner, founder of busuu. Can’t wait!

Our Edtech Startups #MeetandEat is tomorrow. In the lead up to the dinner, we’ve been spotlighting some of the great startups that will be joining us. Today’s spotlight is on Jim Moodie from edspire.

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What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?

edspire is a search engine for online learning resources. There has been a recent massive expansion in educational resources being made available online in a wide variety of formats. This is disrupting the traditional ways in which people are educated both academically and professionally. A major part of this change is the unbundling of the educational experience such that people are using a much greater mixture of providers and methods of learning rather than the single channel of a traditional institution. Our aim is to provide a context for these resources of variegated and unknown quality so that people use the resources that are most helpful in complementing their formal studies or professional development.

What were you doing before you launched your startup?

Since 2006 my co-founder and I were running a software development company BPM Logic, based in Shoreditch, specialising in developing complex solutions especially around publishing, e-commerce and ERP. Customers include Research Ltd, Lastminute, Moo.

Where did you meet your co-founders?

We met working at another software company around 2003 and then founded our previous company in 2006. 

What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?

Different international markets have very different attitudes and needs regarding online learning.

What will 2014 bring?

For edspire, we’re very focused on user growth and increasing the library of resources we classify. In EdTech, I think we’ll begin to look beyond the hype around MOOCs to a wider variety of online learning formats.

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1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the education space?

Step outside of traditional institutional modes of thinking and try to think about innovation in other areas that could map to education. It has so much further to go, don’t be afraid to think radically.

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.

Would you like to learn something, anything? We’ll help you to do it in the way that’s right for you.

screenshotWhat’s your favourite startup in the education space (not including your own)?

Coursera

What’s your favourite London restaurant?

Hawksmoor. The no.1 priority in our previous company was to be able to afford to hold the Christmas parties there.

You can see our Education Startups #MeetandEat on TableCrowd here.

You can read more startup spotlights here.

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Just a couple of days until our Education Startups #MeetandEat at the Open Kitchen in Shoreditch. A big thanks for Tes Macpherson, Founder of PTA Social for her spotlight interview and for telling all!

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What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?

PTAsocial provides private social networks to help school parents get to know each other and fundraise for their school. It’s easy and fun to use, and makes organising big events together a piece of cake.

What were you doing before you launched your startup?

I used to design software solutions for mobile telcos. I took a career break when I had kids and went back to university to take a masters in “e-business”, learning the latest tech with a view to starting a tech business. I also underwent entrepreneurship training alongside CASS MBA grads. I then started networking and attending the rich variety of events and training courses in London aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs.

Where did you meet your co-founders?

We were signed up for the same sort of startup events on Meetup.com and I tweeted him a prospective message to see if he was interested in my project, as he had the sort of skills I was looking for. We met for a coffee, discussed our shared vision and decided to get started on our MVP right away!

What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?

It’s convenient sometimes to rely on digital marketing and a few pilot customers for feedback. However it’s really important to be out there talking to real people — more and more prospects, widening your view and “keeping it real”. This is the only way have your finger on the pulse and look for signs of real commitment and a willingness to hand over money for your product or service. Once we figured this out — we realised it’s never too late to start, and got cracking!

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 15What will 2014 bring?

More customers, more evangelists, and more funds raised for schools through increased volunteering. We recently gained our first antipodean customer. That’s the power of social media – we can make a difference to kids in schools all over the world. 

1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the education space?

Get to understand the business ecosystem – read the education press, follow the right twitter chats — so you can position your product and make sure it adds real value.

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.

PTAsocial is incredibly effective at connecting your school community online and broadening your PTA’s reach. It puts parents in touch with each other without compromising privacy. More transparency and easy volunteering means everyone feels good about doing a little, and making a big difference together.

What’s your favourite startup in the education space (not including your own)?

I’m a big fan of BrainPOP – my kids absolutely love it and it’s a morning ritual over breakfast to watch the video of the day.

What’s your favourite London restaurant?

It’s been a while since I’ve been to it, but my most memorable meal in London was at Archipelago. Really different to any other restaurant I’ve come across.

PTAsocial at BETT20141

You can see our Education Startups #MeetandEat on TableCrowd here.

You can read more startup spotlights here.

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It’s time to meet Tom Hatton from ReferenceME. Tom will be at our edtech dinner next week, but for those of you that won’t be, here’s a little more about him.

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What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?

ReferenceME is Referencing, Made Easy. Scan a book or journals barcode with our app or use our web platform to create citations in seconds. 

What were you doing before you launched your startup?

I ran (and still do) T and Biscuits. T and B builds mobile software solutions and consults for companies looking to engage with Generation Y.

Where did you meet your co-founders?

Through the tech space, over a beer. 

What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?

Data is they key!

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What will 2014 bring?

With our current growth, hopefully around 500,000 users.

1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the education space?

Build platforms to host content, don’t create the content.

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.

With ReferenceME you’ll never have to worry about your referencing or research. Our platform is combining the two, bringing only the most relevant content (we know what everyone researches) and referencing it correctly. 

What’s your favourite startup in the education space (not including your own)?

Zondle – I love the way they are gamifying learning.

What’s your favourite London restaurant?

Can I say Dominos?

You can say Dominos Tom, but we will be slapping your wrist when we see you next week as well as checking out the calorie count below :)

You can also read other education spotlights here.

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It’s just wall-to-wall good news on this blog!

We are pleased to announce that Bernhard Niesner, CEO & Co-Founder of busuu, will be joining us and giving an after dinner talk with Q&A at our Education Startups #MeetandEat next week (26th Feb).

busuu is the world’s largest social network for language learning with more than 35 million users. Their goal is to revolutionise the way people learn languages via the use of technology.

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I love to constantly learn and exchange my knowledge with others. Enjoy teaching as Associate Professor at IE Business School in the area of digital marketing/ entrepreneurship and to mentor at the Telefonica Wayra accelerator. Frequently invited to speak at several international conferences about edtech and entrepreneurship such as DLD, Webit Congress, Noah Conference, SIME etc. Originally from Vienna, traveled around the world during my studies, spent last 5 years in sunny Madrid and recently moved to London in order to scale our operations“.

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Very much looking forward to hearing more from Bernhard next week.

You can view the dinner on TableCrowd here.

Thanks to our sponsors for their continued support:

Blick

We are pleased to announce that our startup dinners have a new sponsor. Blick Rothenberg are sponsoring their first dinner next week. Education Startups #MeetandEat on 26th February at The Open Kitchen, Shoreditch.

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We first met them at Vator Splash London 2013 when we were pitching TableCrowd. Blick Rothenberg are tech and startup focused and are perfectly placed to provide support to the community. Their Tech City team works with entrepreneurs and established businesses on a daily basis. Handily they have a dedicated Tech City office near near Old Street roundabout and can support both domestic and overseas tech companies looking to set up their business in the UK and at all stages of their business’ lifecycle. They can provide tax and accounting support, whatever you need. We’ll happily introduce TableCrowd members to the right person at Blick Rothenberg or you can reach them here: techcityuk@blickrothenberg.com.

If you’re coming to our Education Startups #MeetandEat, you’ll meet Ross Fabian from their team.

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Time flies! Our education startups dinner is next week (Tuesday 26th) and we wanted to introduce our partner for the evening, Fluency.io. We met Fluency.io’s co-founder, Sinead Mac Manus whilst we were both pitching at Vator Splash in London and the rest is history!

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What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?

Fluency is a learning platform and crowd work marketplace that gets young people into work. We teach 18 to 25 year olds in-demand digital skills – and then connect them to the small businesses who need them.

What were you doing before you launched your startup?

My background is a digital coach and trainer to small businesses. For the past four years I have been working with them to overcome stresses about engaging in digital and showing them the potential that the web and social media can have for their business. But many of my clients were just too busy to implement much of my advice so I back in 2011 I saw a gap in the market for providing outsourced digital services and, with help from UnLtd and then the Nominet Trust, started training low income women in east London with these skills.

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Where did you meet your co-founder?

I met my co-founder Ian at the beginning of 2013. I was looking for a co-founder to take the idea to the next level and advertised on WorkinStartups.com. I got quite a bit of interest but Ian stood out in that he had years of experience but also wanted to create a company that could not only succeed commercially, but could also make a positive impact on the world. We jointly applied to be part of the Bethnal Green Ventures social technology incubator and were accepted in July last year.

What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?

I think like most founders looking back there are lots I would do differently! I wouldn’t have started building the bespoke learning platform right away – I would have used an existing LMS to get a minimum viable product out there and concentrate on building and testing the marketplace side of the business more.

What will 2014 bring?

Lots. We have just hired our fifth team member – a Head of Digital Learning – who is working on further developing the learning platform and making the learning sticky and fun. We are working with some great partners including The Prince’s Trust and Accenture to get unemployed young people trained up and working in digital. We are in the middle of raising our seed round of investment which will enable us to expand the development team and build out the crowd work marketplace place. By the end of 2014, our goal is to have the platform as the go-to place for a new small business to come and get all their digital needs sorted.

1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the education space?

My advice for others working in the edtech space is to solve a real problem that you have direct experience of. Too many times I see edtech platforms and solutions that I am not sure anyone really needs. I had first-hand experience of work-based learning and the small business market and knew there was two real problems to solve – it wasn’t just a hypothesis – Fluency was born out of years of research and experience.

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.

Confused by the digital space? Let Fluency turbocharge your digital presence using our young digital talent. Let us take care of promoting your business online while you get on with doing what you do best – building your awesome business.

What’s your favourite startup in the education space (not including your own)?

Hard one. There’s lots of great people doing great work. I personally love Treehouse who teach coding online. Their content is great and is taught in an easy to grasp way. They also let learners try out their new skills in a safe ‘sandbox’ way – something we emulate at Fluency. They have also been incredibly successful commercially and have not only raised significant investment to grow but started making revenue early on.

What’s your favourite London restaurant?

That’s easy! Myself and my partner Alex are huge fans of Vietnamese food. We both live and work in Shoreditch and ‘little Vietnam’ i.e. Kingsland Road is around the corner from our house. Our favourite place to grab some food is the Viet Grill – the sister restaurant of the very popular Cay Tre on Old Street. The Viet Grill has the same amazing food but it’s easy to get a seat. Try the pork belly. It’s to die for.

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Thanks to Fluency.io for their post. You can also click through to read spotlights on StepUp.io and Tutor Fair.

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