Founders Recap – Connectivity (29th November)

On 29 November we hosted Founders – Connectivity

For our last event of the year, we asked four founders from the Leeds startup community to share a story from their startup journey and for an added bonus, answer the question: “What does connectivity mean to you?”


And what better of a venue to host it at than the bridge between industry and research: University of Leeds Nexus. Before the talks got started we heard from our hosts and opened up with Chairman and Director of Nexus, Dr Martin Stow who leads the development and strategy for future activities of the scheme.


For those who don’t know, Nexus was opened in Spring of 2019. It was built to connect businesses to the university in an effort to increase cross-collaboration, drive entrepreneurs and make talent more accessible. It was a natural choice to set up in Leeds, after all, Leeds has a proven track record of commercialisation, creating over 110 companies in the last 20 years.


Our last event of 2019 took place in the shining new building at the University of Leeds – the Nexus. Fittingly to the theme of connectivity, it was built to connect businesses to the university in an effort to increase cross-collaboration, drive entrepreneurs and make talent more accessible. Naturally, the event was opened by the Chairman and Director of Nexus, Dr Martin Stow who leads the development and strategy for future activities of the scheme.


Our sponsors for the evening, CityFibre, fit perfectly with the theme and also shared a bit of their journey and making connections in Leeds. The City Manager for Leeds, Kim Johnson summarised the upcoming plans for developments in Leeds. The plans have begun on the 4th of July and are a 5-year plan aimed to be finished around 2025.


Currently, fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) is only available to less than 7% of premises across the UK. It is revered as the best in connectivity for its speed, using fibre-optic cables for every stage of the connection from the customer’s home or business to the Internet will offer significantly superior and more reliable broadband service, capable of Gigabit speeds (1,000 Mbps). They also very kindly provided us with the food and drinks to fuel the conversation before and after the talks.


Prior to the evening, we have asked the speakers to give their own personal stories on how staying connected to people affected their lives. Each has given a unique story but all have led to a similar conclusion.


Stewart Boutcher, tech and software veteran, was our first Founder to share his experiences including his latest venture, Beacon. Everything he is a part of now is due to the connections made. ‘You are the sum of the parts of those around you’, he says, and he ends his presentation with a quick summary to success:


  • Be dispensable to your team
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Don’t undervalue yourself
  • Fall and succeed with dignity
  • Maintain contacts


Next up was Louise Atkinson from CuratorSpace, a platform that allows artists to organise events and exhibitions. It is also a place to find jobs, leading to multiple fascinating relations spreading across nations. But what is CuratorSpace?



It allows users to check for collaborations and manage the commissions for events and recruit artists for exhibitions. This is only the beginning of the business and both Louise and her co-founder Philip are considering white-labelling the product as well as establishing further partnerships with other brands.
 

Our penultimate speaker was Jack from booking.com. You may remember him from a previous appearance he made last year during out panel on Failure. He has done many things during that year, namely went on a very long bike ride aiming to get through 253 miles in 24 hrs. He relates his experience there to his experience as a founder. Since in both cases, he relied strongly on his team to get him through. Thus, just like with everything in life, he gives us the 4 tips:

  1. It is not a race, just finish, have fun and don’t compare yourself to others
  2. It is a team sport, we need support when doing big challenges. 
  3. Failure isn’t a failure if you learn something from it.
  4. Everyone struggles at some point. It won’t last forever


Lastly, we heard from Ayah Alfawaris, founder of the L.O.T, a ‘Library of Things’ that allows peer to peer borrowing of goods, giving people access to things and making revenue in a sustainable way. She talked about individualism and how has social media influenced us. As a kid, she remembers neighbours coming over to watch the one TV someone had and share the experience, they would lend and borrow anything and everything.


It would reduce the overall cost of living, and getting more use out of whatever object was borrowed at the time. Consider a power drill, which on average only gets used between six and twenty minutes in its entire lifetime. Thus, her passion for sharing and sustainability has led her to create the LOT.


Where people are allowed and encouraged to share various objects. With her new approach to connecting people, she can help erase the barrier between owning and ‘having access’ to things. We already live in a society that relies on trust, we have apps like uber, couch surfing and twitter, where we talk to strangers. So why no extend it one step further and give us access to various tools.


Interested in attending one of our events? Our next is on the 13th of Feb.

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