All posts by edoardomoreni

Introducing Great Preneurs Conference 2014

When you run an online magazine, you end up thinking shall I hide behind a laptop for the next years and keep writing or go out and start connecting with the people who believe in what I believe? We ended up reflecting and thinking. In the end, we chose the second option and that’s why we are organising the First Ever Conference About Manchester Startups. “First Ever” sounds a little bit silly, but it’s true, no one has ever held an event about Manchester Startups; probably because no one has ever considered it a proper hub for entrepreneurs.

Although Manchester can’t be compared to the Valley, this ecosystem is massively growing and there are a lot of people who are building great things. For this reason, we have decided to create a one day event just about them. The aim is to reflect on what Manchester has achieved and where we can bring this city. Instead of inviting random people who will then disappear, we are inviting those who are part of this community and that are going to talk about their experiences in Manchester.

I believe it’s going to be a great event. This city is expanding and great companies such as Uber and Hassle are expanding here, because they know that after the expensive and massive London, there is Manchester. We are going to run five keynotes, three fireside chats and a demo.

The speakers will be:

  • Martin Bryant – Editor in Chief of The Next Web
  • Ben Taylor – Co – Founder of Fatsoma
  • Tim Langley – CEO & Co-Founder of CANDDi
  • Rose Lewis – Co-Founder of Collider
  • Rupert Saul – Investment Manager at AXM Venture

The Fireside Chats will feature:

  • Formisimo, which recently got into Seedcamp
  • Rormix, which closed its first seed

Growot, the winner of Startup Weekend, will be showing its recent updates to the product they will launch in May, a couple of days after the conference.

The event will take place on the 3rd of May at the new space of Techhub Manchester. We are selling tickets both for students and non, we think this event is everyone, but it’ll be great to have the presence of students that are those who should lead the next generation of entrepreneurs in Manchester.

You can BUY TICKETS here:

Interview With Matt Clifford From Entrepreneur First

I have just interviewed Matt Clifford from Entrepreneur First, an accelerator that accepts application only from GRADUATES with strong technical skills aka Computer Science students.

Matt Clifford is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Entrepreneur First, “the UK’s leading programme for aspiring tech founders”.

Can you give us the standard profile of the applicants you accept every year? Do you accept non technical people and what skills do you look for in technical applicants?

We’re looking for people who can make a big impact in a tech startup on day one. The nature of what a tech startup does means that a lot (in fact, most) of these people are going have tech skills. But there are lots of other things that are important too. A big task for a startup is gaining a very deep understanding of their customers’ needs. We’re very interested in people whose skills and experience help with that. Successful non-technical applicants tend to have impressive domain expertise or lots of skill in the techniques needed to distribute what the startup is building to customers.

Universities are looking at employability rates as a way to increase worldwide rankings and Entrepreneurship is often not considered at all. In what way do you think we should put the focus of Universities on Entrepreneurship?

Most unis have active and vibrant entrepreneurship scenes, whether that’s largely led by a university department or by a student-led society (or both). One thing outside that that we’d like to see is a greater emphasise on making and building within academic courses – that is, the combination of cutting edge academia with a drive to create actual products. There are some computer science and engineering courses from which you can graduate without ever having built anything, which seems a shame.

Why is Entrepreneur First a charity and what’s the mission behind it?

We’re not! We’re a community interest company. We don’t seek to make a profit out of our normal operating activity, but we do have an investment fund and our investors will make a profit if our startups do well. The EF team, though, is motivated by a deep sense of mission: we believe starting a startup is the most exciting career choice for the most ambitious young people and we want to make it the obvious one too.

Have you got any success stories?

Lots. We built 11 companies last year that have created millions of dollars of value. Some of the most successful ones include AdBrain (disrupting mobile advertising), Blaze (cutting-edge bike light and cycle safety products), Prizeo (YC W13), Kivo (YC S13) and many more. The current batch is just as exciting and we’ll be unveiling them to the world in March.

What’s the value of getting into an accelerator that looks at the people instead of looking at the ideas?

Well, if you don’t have an idea, one major value is that you simply won’t get into an accelerator focused on ideas! But (obviously) we think there’s more to it than that. In startups, people are way more important than ideas. Ideas in startups are essentially experiments; what’s really important is the quality and the character of the people doing the experiments – and that’s what we focus on at EF.

How many applications have you received for the summer internship and what do you expect from the 2014 summer interns?

Hundreds. We have two big goals for the summer programme. First, we want to give people the chance to get a taste of what working in a startup is like. Second, we want to give our startups access to amazing talent. Finding great people is almost always the number one issue facing good startups.

I know you have recently released a program exclusively for Girls (Code First: Girls), but do you think programs can solve the “ratio” problem or is that more a mindset issue, regarding the presence of women in technology, that we all have?

I think the issue is extremely complex. It’s something we spend a lot of time thinking about at EF. My co-founder Alice has written some great things about this. This is probably the best summary of our thoughts: “Tech shouldn’t be a boys club: what I’ve learned from getting more women into tech.”

From what Universities are your graduates from? It might be interesting to see the Universities that get people involved in entrepreneurship the most.

This year we had applications from students and grads from 105 different unis. I’m skeptical that the breakdown of our applicants and cohort by university is a good proxy for which universities get people most involved in entrepreneurship. We’re so focused on tech that it’s much more a reflection of where the best (and most practical) computer science departments are – and consequently of where we spend most time recruiting. I think our top three unis this year are Cambridge, Imperial and Edinburgh.

How many people are part of the Entrepreneur First team and are you recruiting?

There are six of us full time. Alice and I divide our time between helping the startups and working with our external stakeholders. Alex runs most of our programme activity. Zoe is in charge of all our work at universities, finding amazing talent. Chloe manages our relationships with startups. And Maddie runs Code First. We have a couple of internships open right now, but otherwise aren’t actively recruiting for permanent roles. That said, we’re always excited to hear from exceptional people who have something to offer.

What are the 3 most promising startups in London?

Well, obviously I want to name three EF ones, but that would mean picking favourites… So, picking from outside EF, I’d point to GoCardless (fintech), Thread (fashion) and Show My Homework (edtech) as people doing very exciting stuff. Full disclosure: I have friends at all three, so am hugely biased.

[GreatPreneurs] Matthew Stafford From Student Upstarts

I have recently reached Matthew Stafford, one of the co-founders of Student Upstarts. This is an incredibly interesting firm that invests only on graduates, postgraduates or Phd students. You can find the article here.


Matthew Stafford is a co-founder, with Christian Jakenfelds and Nick Wheeler, of StudentUpstarts. Student Upstarts invests up to £15,000 in exchange for up to 8% into student and graduate teams to start and run their own business. Matthew and Christian also co-founded UpstartsConnect – a co-working space in Kings Cross, London, and Matthew is a co-founder of 9others – a global network solving the problems of business that keep entrepreneurs up at night – all over a good meal with 9others.

The Uk university system seems to be focused on people getting jobs and graduating with an outstanding CV that can help them, so why do you bet on graduates instead of everyone, even dropouts?

Traditionally graduates have had two options – do further study or work for someone else. What Student Upstarts is about is giving them a third option – starting a startup. We think that students and recent graduates are perfectly capable of running a business and we believe it’s the perfect time to do it. We can give a bit of startup cash, some office space, an amazing network and mentoring. It’s not for everyone but we want to be part of that ‘third option’ for those students and graduates who are smart, entrepreneurial and driven to build a business.

You say that you take between 4-8%, so how does the equity you take vary?

We won’t take more than 8% because we think that’s fair for £15,000 and we want the founders to be very incentivised to build a huge business. We’re open to taking less if the team are more developed but this hasn’t happened yet.

In how many businesses have you invested till now and do you think you are going to reach your 100 companies goal by the end of 2015?

We have invested in 5 teams so far and 4 are still running. We’re going through the paperwork for our sixth and that they should have the money by the end of February. More importantly that sixth is the third in two months. Last week we interviewed seven teams and if we like them all then we’ll offer to them all – we have the vision of investing in 100 teams in the next couple of years so we’re aiming of doing 30-40 this year and more next year.

Have you got any success story?

Well, 4 our of five still running is pretty good so far for such early stage businesses! One of the teams has raised further investment and three of the four have regular paying customers.

What’s the ratio in applicants between graduates, postgraduates and Phd students?

Of the five teams there are 3 PhDs, 6 undergraduate degrees and 2 masters.

How do you see the startup scene in London and what do you think the best three startups are?

The London scene is great and getting better – it’s really developed and matured over the last few years that I’ve been involved. There’s more investment around but it’s never easy to get this – it also shouldn’t be the focus the whole time, which it sometimes seems to be – what’s more important is selling to customers and getting cash in, something that too many entrepreneurs forget.

There are some terrific businesses around but three early stage startups that spring to mind that I admire right now are:

How do you think universities should improve the presence of Entrepreneurship in their institutions?

They should cause chaos by creating and getting involved in as many external networks as possible – too often universities look inwards and try to get the ‘perfect’ solution before acting.

They should also stop measuring/being measured by salary increases and percentages employed and start measuring the number of companies started and jobs created by their alumni.

You have organised a conference with one YCombinator partner, do you see a difference in operating between an american investor and an european one?

Yes, this is a massive question – I don’t have any experience investing in the USA but they do seem to have a greater appetite for risk and they act quicker (whether that’s a yes or a no). They also seem more accessible – I’ve had email conversations with a few well-known and prolific US investors and they’re not hidden away like many UK investors seem to be.

Fred Wilson and other american investors have said more than once that they are seriously looking at the european startups, what do you think it makes them more interesting?

Yes, the world is a small place and there are incredible opportunities for investors here as well as many other parts of the world – it takes a while to get to know they lie of the land though so don’t expect masses of activity overnight.

In what area do you invest the most?

So far with Student Upstarts it’s been e-commerce. I like the internet enabling real ‘products’ with a ‘price’ that can make some ‘profit’ to be sold in huge markets all over the world.

Interview With Hector Kolonas, Founder Of Desk&Co

I had the chance to interview Hector Kolonas a couple week ago. He attended the University of Manchester and got a degree in CS. I guess many of you might be interested in his entrepreneurial journey. The interview was firstly published here.

Hector Kolonas is the Founder of Desk&Co, a company whose aim is to give entrepreneurs and businesses the place, and the space, to grow and to succeed.

Who are you?

I’m one of those guys who’s always been drawn towards entrepreneurship somehow. My ‘first business’ was selling bespoke mothers day cards to kids at my brothers nursery school at the age of 6. When I was 13 I fell in love with how you could reach people around the world through something as simple as HTML. And it was all there for me to learn, for free, just by clicking ‘view source’ in that ‘hidden menu’. It wasn’t long before I began funding my online experiments, through providing online advice or services to businesses.

How many businesses have you founded?

I mostly build ideas into prototypes before evaluating if they’d have a chance to become sustainable businesses. By doing so I find myself with more projects and domains than I can always remember off the top of my head. I have 2 established businesses with my third, Desk&Co, on route to be spinning out into an incorporated entity at some stage in 2014. The previous two include an online magazine in Cyprus and a company that builds bespoke marketing platforms for advertising agencies.

Can you explain to us what DeskandCo is about in 140 characters?

We give entrepreneurs the place and space to grow and succeed. Affordable desks, services and products through a network of partners.

How did you come up with the idea behind DeskandCo?

When I launched my first commercial website at 17 I saw how hard it was for first-time entrepreneurs to get access to top-quality services, products and partnerships. I promised myself back then, that one day I’d be wealthy enough to help other early-stage entrepreneurs have a fighting chance. Whilst pre-emptively avoiding some emergency PR situation for clients in Cyprus after the bank freeze in March, I realised I could already start helping entrepreneurs, and the local start-up ecosystem.

The mission became crystal clear, I could help empower ecosystems one desk at a time.

Is there anything that keeps you awake at night in order to work on your startups? Where do you find your motivation?

Entrepreneurs are cut of a different cloth. We love solving problems, and seeing the results turn into value down the line. I find my motivation from two main sources. Making the people that support and believe in me proud is the first. The child-like smile I get when I walk past someone who is happily using something we’ve released is a close second.

You graduated from the University of Manchester, the city where we are based. How useful was the university in helping you to achieve what you have?

To avoid going down a long list of what I disliked about how universities in the UK treat and teach entrepreneurship, I’ll instead focus on the positives. The University of Manchester gave me access to an international network of students, and the time to try new things. I’m not sure how many prototypes I launched during my ‘reading’ weeks at the uni, but being able to do so whilst being a student made it possible to fail softly without having to panic about the ‘what if it doesn’t work’ whilst building them up.

Does an entrepreneur need to be technical in order to found a tech startup?

I don’t believe that. So long as they can take the time to understand the basics. That being said, some great technology was developed by people who didn’t see the boundaries or restrictions us ‘techies’ might see. Business, thankfully isn’t all 1s and 0s, and thus neither are tech startups.

What do you think about the Manchester startup scene and how would you compare it to the Cyprus’ one?

The Mancunian startup scene is growing nicely, with some really great products and services being developed here. There’s also a lot of interesting people pushing the scene, calling for the attention of both the government and investors alike. In Cyprus the scene is very young, but I see it growing rapidly due to the unfortunate decline of the job market.

The main difference between the two markets is that in Manchester, a few startups have found actual pain-points to cure, but in Cyprus we’re still mostly developing ‘local-solution’ concepts. (of course I generalise and mean no offence to startups like Avocarrot and Funifi)

What’s the best city for startups in Europe and why?

Ignoring London, Tel Aviv and Berlin are the best places. I’m also seeing a lot of movement in Athens, Barcelona, and most recently in Copenhagen. All three are taking measures to unite and empower their local startups.

Although I’m a bit biased, I would still strongly suggest starting businesses in Manchester. With its growing amount of successful investments, ease of travel (both nationally and internationally) and affordable cost of living, it just makes sense. There’s also a great community of very talented people here.

You are currently in six countries, where are you planning to expand next? Is Europe the place to be or might the United States be a flourishing market?

We still have a lot of work to do in the cities we’re currently working on empowering, but we do have our sights on even more territories outside of Europe. Where we go next however, depends totally on where entrepreneurs need us most. We are in constant contact with our Startup Ambassadors and Local Heroes in cities we have yet to launch in. We’d love to jump across the pond and be able to empower entrepreneurs in the US market… and we probably will sooner rather than later. Anyone want to introduce us to some awesome co-working spaces? Tweet us at @deskandco!

Revision Time Has Come

Well, it had to happen. Sooner or later I had to start studying, but that day hasn’t come yet. I have finished today every single piece of coursework by submitting the last exercise of Algorithms. My next steps are to get marked in this lab and Operating Systems, then I will ( I promise) start revising from this Saturday.

As the timetable says I have got six exams in January, which means I need to study more than I studied in the first year. It’s probably going to be painful, but easy at the same time. I am good at reading stuff, but on the other hand I am not good at doing stuff, which is a “good thing” for someone who is studying Computer Science.

For those who don’t know, Christmas holidays start from this Friday (the 13th) and end on Monday the 13th of January. It’s a full month where you can relax, play video games, build your start-up or if you really want to do it, study. I’ll probably focus on the last bit, since this is my second year and what I’ll get will affect my final overall score. Since I am an MEng, this year counts for something like 12.5%, but it is still something.

As most of you should already know, the first year doesn’t count towards anything, even though you should get at least a 2:1 “if you want to get a job”.

GreatPreneurs And The Next Level

When I started blogging on my own, I would have never thought I’d find people who share my interests. That’s why I have tried to get more people involved in what I do at GreatPreneurs. From a solo blogger, we are now five people who believe in the same things and blog for fun. We are trying to bring GreatPreneurs to the next level, with good quality content. However we are still struggling to expand our user base, which is currently under the 10k visitors.

The next step is to get more than 500 likes on the Facebook page in order to have a solid structure on the most used social network in the world. Then we will have to get more writers. Yes, we definitely need two more guys who are able to write and see where the market is leading. We don’t want to be a news site, we just want to be different.

In the future we plan to incorporate the company, set a GreatPreneurs Tv and try to push it even further. It’s all about what we want to achieve, because there is nothing that can stop us. Further what really helps us at the moment is the fact that the Manchester startup scene is growing, which gives us the opportunity to network with more Entrepreneurs and ideas.

We are all about finding crazy guys who have crazy ideas and Manchester is the place to be now.

If you think you are good writer, contact us

If you believe in what we believe, contact us.

If you want to be part of a startup, contact us.

How are my studies going? I am not sure. I am getting too involved in being the person I want to be. : )

Course Units Second Year First Semester (MEng)

Okay, I guess it’s time to talk about the course units I have chosen for this semester. For the whole year, there are 4 compulsory units which are:

  • Fundamental Of Databases
  • Software Engineering
  • Operating Systems
  • Algorithms And Imperative Programming

The general idea is that these courses should give you the basis to face a third year and give you the skills that any Computer Scientist must have. I can’t say much about the course units, because this is just Week 3, but I have already understood, which ones are going to be tricky. I will never be a hardware guy, so I am really enjoying the last unit about Algorithms, which is a two semester unit. The language used for this course is C.

The department believes we have a good knowledge of Java (taught in the first year) so you can easily face C in your second year, as a self taught. C is really interesting because after all these  years, it is at the basis of most the modern technologies that we face every day.

Further I had the possibility to choose two optional course units. These were the possible choices:

  • Logic and Modelling
  • Processor Microarchitecture
  • Machine Learning and Optimisation
  • Computer Networks

In the end I chose Computer Networks and Machine Learning. I really didn’t want to take the others because in some way, I already took them in the first year (they were compulsory) and it wasn’t funny, at all. In two weeks time, we will have the reading week, so I guess I will have more time to talk about what we are doing this year. I will be in Rome, enjoying my cat.

GreatPreneurs and Magna Ideas

Well, this is another quick update. The year hasn’t started yet, but I have already moved in. The house is terrible, cold, without a good internet connection and with a single bathroom for five people. You can find better places in your second year if you look deep. This rented house was supposed to be good because it was in Fallowfield; but I have started hating it from Day 1. I will post some pictures in the next few days here on the blog, just to show you how small my room is.

In the meantime, I have been working on Great Preneurs, the blog I founded more than a year and half ago in Italy. At the moment, we are four writers, but we aim to reach the number seven by the end of this month. We have changed the theme, chosen and new logo and rebranded the whole idea behind the site. I am really proud of what we have been working on and I hope the blog will get million of followers in the next years.

On the other hand I have decided to co-found a consulting company with a friend of mine. It’s called Magna Ideas (Great Ideas in Latin). We are available for developing applications, websites, SEO and solid platforms. We have already closed a deal with a University of Manchester society and we are building a relationship with a couple of clients, but there is still a lot to do.

Gallipoli, Creamfields and 2nd Year Approaching

As soon as I have finished my activity at the Italian Low Chamber, I went to Gallipoli, in the South Of Italy, for a week. It was my first camping experience, in one of the best places of the South. A great location for relaxing and enjoying a wonderful sea, it has become the first destination for raving and partying. Although I didn’t go for clubbing much, I have enjoyed both sides of the city during the trip.

Afterwards I moved to Uk in order to be at Creamfields, one of the best festivals in Europe. This was an Experience, with a capital E.

I am now approaching the start of the second year without remembering anything of what I have studied in the last year. However I know it is going to be a great year, not for what I have planned to study, but for the things I have planned to do.

Regarding the studying, I am obliged to get a first in any case or my parents won’t pay for my living costs anymore. 🙂

I will keep you updated about the options I have chosen and the ones I have discarded.