Three years ago today marks the very first time Sean and I had our very first chat about his then start-up Ynotplast. A lot has changed since then, Sean has changed. I decided it was about time I got him back on YHP and talk about his many projects and how good the years has been to him.
Hi Sean, Long time – the last time we spoke you were doing something totally different. Now you run multiple projects concurrently?
Well it's exactly 3 years to the day since we had the last interview and during that time I have evolved and matured both as a man and as an entrepreneur. I now run a peer to peer Incubator for start-ups called ‘The Founders Hive’ which organises MVPDemo day’s events for those who aren't part of any accelerator programs, to validate their ideas and we also connect them to various investors.
In the last 8 months alone we’ve reached over 1000 people and have had well over 100 start-ups take part in our events in London, Birmingham and Cambridge. Some of those start-ups have found co-founders through our platform and others have gone on to raise funding from angel investors or joined accelerators. We also recently launched our new branch in Budapest, Hungary. We are very passionate about the eco-system and it's great to see that people have responded well to our offering so far.
That’s great! You also have a new addition, Sponsorhive – tell me about that?
Sponsorhive is a marketplace for Sponsorship; we match brands with event organisers, bringing sponsorship into the Social age. The sponsorship market hasn't changed for over 20 years and there is a great need to innovate using technology that is already available. This is a market that’s crucial to the UK economy yet it hasn't been brought into the social age.
The concept was also developed out of a specific need for us as event organisers, the biggest cost of running any event are: venue hires, food and drinks so it was logical to approach different small businesses like accountant and small law firms to meet those expenses in exchange for time to connect with our audiences and it proved successful. This led me to further my research into the industry and I was privileged along the way to connect with a very talented young developer who I had seen at one of our demo day and the rest is history.
The overall value for events in the UK is estimated at £18.8 billion, including sales at venues and spending in the wider field by delegates and organisers. The global sponsorship industry was valued at $51.1 billion in 2012, according to IEG Sponsorship Report (http://www.sponsorship.com/IEGSR/2013/01/07/2013-Sponsorship-Outlook—Sp ending-Increase-Is-Dou.aspx <http://www.sponsorship.com/IEGSR/2013/01/07/2013-Sponsorship-Outlook--S pending-Increase-Is-Dou.aspx>), and looks set to buck the worldwide financial slowdown with around 5% growth in 2013. Companies around the world are realising that the potential for brand building with event sponsorship is an elegant solution in an ever increasingly resistant market and our aim is to be the leading marketplace for sponsorship.
What was the hardest part of setting it up and how did you manage to overcome that?
To be honest, the fear of failure was the biggest hurdle and I kept the idea to myself for almost five months and it got to the point where I couldn't hold it back anymore. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that are burning to get out and I’m glad having made the decision to start it. We have made fantastic progress within the last 6 weeks and even started to secure clients, one of them is Popchips http://www.popchips.co.uk who we worked together with for an event, an occasion where we distributed over 300 bags and exposed their brand to a new audience. There is a few more in development, names that I can’t mention right now but it looks promising.
I know you’ve only just launched but how has the response been so far?
It's been nothing short of amazing, within 24 hours we had events listed with a combined value of well over £20000 which is a great validation for our Minimum Viable Product that our service is needed. This is without any marketing apart from a few links we posted across our social platforms. We were also recently featured on Betali.st and we had over 250 people sign up for our beta. Our goal is to improve the product over the next few days and get more event’s organisers and Brands, Marketing managers and agencies to use our platform.
What other projects are you also involved in?
I also have - Viable Tech Summit which is a Demo focused conference for seed stage European start-ups. European early stage funding is still fragmented and even though great hubs like London and Berlin are doing well to address that issue we still have a long way to go. Viable Tech Summit 2013 will bring together 100 of the most promising European Start-ups to demonstrate their ground-breaking technologies and establish strategic business relationships.
The aim is to empower entrepreneurs behind Europe’s most promising tech Start-up ventures, to help early-stage entrepreneurs by providing a credible launch platform, secure funding and resources, gaining international brand exposure. This is going to be a yearly event and we will host the first one in September 2013 in London. Why London, because we are lucky to be the financial hub of Europe.
We are inviting start-up teams who have bootstrapped, self-funded or angel funded and can show significant traction and have the potential for fast growth.
You seem quite passionate about the UK start-up scene, what other things do you think can be done to nurture it?
I think we need to collaborate with each other because that is the only way we will win. The UK has a very established sector of professional service providers such as Lawyers, Accountants and other key advisory services that start-ups need but they need to be accessible. There is an African proverb that says that "it takes a village to raise a child and I sincerely believe that the same theory applies when it comes to nurturing start-ups because they are the future job creators of our economy.
What’s next for Sponsorhive?
The future plans involve developing a product that will keep delighting our customers; we have more features that we are working on that will be rolled out soon to help sponsors generate a better ROI (Return on Investment). Our aim to develop a global platform for sponsorship that will level the playing field and allow small businesses and big businesses to reach various micro segments. I believe that localising sponsorship is going make it easier for local businesses to interact better and improve their bottom line by supporting their local communities and we want to be the platform that facilitates those transactions. We want to do for Sponsorship what Eventbrite has done for event’s organisers.
What are you looking to achieve with all this projects?
Our focus is Collaboration, Community and Capital; we have been approached to expand this to other parts of the country but we are still looking to secure more strategic partners to allow us to achieve that goal. We want to be the bridge between start-ups and established businesses that are looking to connect and innovate because as we have seen recently with the spectacular fall from grace of great brands such as HMV, Jessops and others there is no choice but to embrace innovation or die. Start-ups are run by the most innovative minds around so it is a privilege to be able to connect both worlds.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1. First and foremost don't be afraid to talk to people about your ideas and asking for their help
2. Know your market by doing as much research as possible and learning as many things as possible about your chosen sector
3. Build a Minimum viable product and start showing it to people to get feedback and believe me magic starts to happen, your confidence goes up. Don't be held back thinking that you need money to get started; money always follows innovation and not the other way around.
Feel free to contact me and I will see how I can help.