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Searching for 'Manc' Zuckerberg

I’m a sucker for a success story. I’m the sort of person who has a #girlboss book on her bedside table and watches The Social Network as research rather than entertainment. I especially love it when those making the big time come from close to home. I’m a proud Northerner and I know we’re made of strong enough stuff to take on Silicon Valley! Last month I headed to UK Fast’s Inspire MCR event at their Hulme campus to find the next ‘Manc’ Zuckerberg!

At the event, recognisable Manchester business figures Tom Bloxham MBE  and Lawrence Jones MBE bookended a panel of four entrepreneurs. The panel were in the first throes of lust and love with their ideas and it’s that sort of infectious enthusiasm that I was hoping would rub off on me a little.

I wasn’t wrong. The first panel member to kick things off was Stephen Tucker of Bunting who explained how a malicious pay per click campaign against him caused detrimental financial losses.He’s up and running now again with ecommerce solutions to personalise content in real time based on shopper’s behaviours.

The next panel member was Jamil Khalil of Wakelet. The entrepreneur used his experience of bookmarking content online whilst at uni to form a new social channel for sharing web content. He told the audience how he left a great job at Airbus after 7 years because of a burning desire to get his idea up and running. He recruited team members online via Linkedin using share equity instead of cash, a clever and risky idea which paid off for his employees. The platform is growing quickly but currently not revenue generating. Once they have built a good customer base they will be promoting freemium features such as encrypted content. They are all about playing the long game, which in an age of instant gratification might be hard to hear. I’m a blogger in my spare (limited!) time and spend hours online so for me Wakelet is an exciting platform. I’m looking forward to seeing how Wakelet grows over the coming months.

Khalil also shared some valuable networking tips: don’t attend every networking event going! Make valuable connections. Good advice. It can be easy to get swept along in a wave of events especially in Manchester where the network is small. You only need one steadfast connection to introduce your idea to the investor of your dreams.

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The third speaker was Lee Dentith of the Now Healthcare Group. His group is providing doctor appointments on demand, think the Uber of the healthcare world. If you’re in need of an appointment but can’t make it to the doctors due to work, childcare or simply laziness you can dial up a doctor on your smartphone using video conferencing. The group has their own pharmacy provider and network of couriers so you can get treatment for your ailment within 1-4 hours!

Denith described 2016 as an ‘explosive time’ for the service as they are being approached by employers from around the world looking to minimise staff illness and leave for appointments. It’s such a beneficial offering to business in a time when everything is heading digital. I have worked in the NHS for the last decade and have often mused over the shortages that having a free health care service can pose when you’re looking for productivity and efficiency. Private healthcare is one thing, this takes it that step further.

Last but not least, was Abdul Alim from Offer Moments. His company offers personalised advertising on digital billboards based on social media activity. Alim told us the tale of how he became a ‘rags to riches and back again’ story. At 19 years old,having started his own company, he was employing 500 people and was thinking of retiring at 22. But changes in technology and the way larger companies operated undermined his business and he had to ‘move on’.

The reason why Alim was my favourite speaker was that this didn’t faze him. He put his mind to building an equally successful company. How does one come up with a groundbreaking idea? Apparently by watching a load of movies! Alim did this until he stumbled upon an  idea from Minority Report for billboards that adapted as you approached them and he set to work.

I won’t scare you with the potential creepiness of this technology but rest assured, this is the way the world is heading. You can check out more by watching this video.

Right, I must sign off, I’m going to hole myself up with movies and popcorn until my eureka moment hits!


Images courtesy of UKFast.

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