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A Game of Two Halves

Alumni Stories.

Dev Kumar Parmar (LLM Criminal Litigation, 2012) was so impressed by the teaching he received at The City Law School that he studied here twice! Here he tells us how he set up his own Sports Law Practice, but not before he re-established the City football team…

Can you tell me about your time at City?

So I’m twice an alumnus of City. I first came to City to do the Bar Vocational Course, 11 years ago. It was fantastic. It was a fundamental change from what I had been used to doing. We had changed from all the academic theorems, and were now taking this knowledge and applying it directly in real life scenarios.

I really enjoyed City. I was involved in quite a lot of extracurricular stuff. I was very humbled to be elected by my group to be the group representative, and then by our cohort, to be the cohort representative and then by the cohort representatives to be the representative of the student body! But one of my passions was football. I thought that it was shocking that we didn’t have a football team so I set it up. It turned out that we used to have a football team maybe 10 or 15 years back and one of the teachers still had the kit! We joined the local league in Liverpool Street and we were the ‘City Uni Bar FC’ or something along those lines.

What about the second time?

My second course was an LLM in Criminal Litigation and Sentencing. If I had to evaluate everything, pound for pound that year was probably the best year of my life. I was fortunate that three of the tutors I had on my Masters were also tutors of mine from the bar course. Also, two of my closest friends now were people that I met on that course. I probably walked away from City even happier the second time.

What happened next?

I was already working in criminal law and I wanted to move towards a particular aspect of criminal law, which is one of the reasons why I came to do the Masters. So I left City and I think the day after I handed in my dissertation, I had an interview and I got the job. I left London and moved to Chester, working in the anti-money laundering department of a large bank in the head offices. I had in mind that I wanted to develop a sports law practice and I had started to do that outside of work in the evenings.  In 2012/2013 I completely finished up with the banks and went into my sports law practice full time. And that’s what I’ve been doing now for about four or five years.

What steps did you have to take to set up own practice?

I didn’t know where to start. I had a couple of fortunate situations where, in criminal work, I represented a couple of naughty footballers. I was also invited to do some work outside of the criminal representations that I was assisting them with. I looked over a couple of contracts and I saw that there was a big gap. We were able to successfully overturn these contracts and I decided to progress within this area.  So I went on a cold calling spree. I called every club I could think of, professional and amateur, emailed everybody, and set up meetings where I could. I spent a lot of time and a lot of money on travel expenses just meeting up with people, highlighting what I could do for them and how I could assist them. To build relationships most of the work I did at the start was pro bono. I took money I had saved and put it into a year of relentless relationship building. I did that every single day, and eventually the word spreads because people are appreciative of the time that you’ve spent. Since then I’ve been blessed to be able to develop in that area and work with high profile people because of things I did for free 5 years ago.

What has been the biggest challenge?

A lot of people don’t realise that even though football is so commercialised, it isn’t as well regulated or as well structured as people might expect. Going into football where everything is so chaotic was a bit of a shock to me and I had to be agile to be able to start picking up tips on how to deal with players, how to deal with managers, what clubs do, and what processes are in place. You can’t go to a football club and deal with them the same way you would a multi-national corporation, even though sometimes the football club might be turning over more than one of these organisations. The business practice is fundamentally different and I think this was something that took me a little time to get used to.

What was the most rewarding part?

I’ve got another pro bono project that I set up with a partner of mine about three years ago. We try to assist younger players who have not had a chance to make it at a football club before. Through my international clients and relationships these lads are going off to Italy and Spain and playing the second and third divisions and developing as footballers. One of the lads has just been called up by his national team – it’s things like this which I find more rewarding. Of course it’s attractive to talk about the work I’ve done with the big stars but for me, when I got the phone call confirming that this lad was going to represent his country that probably put the biggest smile on my face.

Any advice?

Persevere, don’t give up and if you’ve got any questions, call me or email me.

It’s a challenging industry, but it’s also a beautiful industry and it’s an industry you should have a genuine interest and passion for. I feel the people that make the best sports business consultants or the best sports lawyers are not the ones that are dispassionate. I think in every other area of law, you must be dispassionate and objective. In sports, of course, you must be objective when you’re dealing with a client, but to really understand what is going through the mind of a CEO or manager at a club, or one of the footballers that you’re representing, you need to be able to have lived that sport or at the least understood it, as a fan, particularly for disciplinary / regulatory matters. You’ve got to have a passion, and I think it’s a unique industry in that respect.

Don’t be afraid to show your understanding and passion for the discipline and then persevere and work as hard as possible.

 

For more information about Dev’s practice please visit: www.parmars-sports.com

You can contact Dev directly at: contactus@parmars-sports.com

 

 

 

Nothing to Wherewolf

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

the wherewolf trioThere are two Cass alumni in the trio behind Wherewolf, a shopping assistant app for searching items you can buy nearby. Uniting with your new must-have has never been so easy! They have just made it to the final of the Institute of Directors’ YDF Den, one of only five businesses reaching this stage. We caught up with MBA alumni (2016) Dhruv Bonnerjee (DB) and Ryan D’Souza (RS) and their co-founder Manavdeep Singh (MS) to find out more.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

RS) I was a lawyer and I wanted to do an MBA to broaden my knowledge base. Cass crucially offered a one-year course, which was really important from an opportunity cost point of view.

DB) My background is in media and entrepreneurship and I had been an entrepreneur in India for the last eight years. I wanted to see the world and learn about the wider market and I came to Cass because of the one-year format and the finance-leaning specialism.

RS) The year itself was fantastic. The cohort was really international with 73 of us from 38 nationalities. It was fantastic to learn alongside people with such breadth of experience. Not many of us had come from similar jobs so the cohort learning was very important. Also, Cass gave me a fantastic opportunity to travel and learn – a really entrepreneurial MBA.

RS) We were the first business school to go to Cuba, and we also went to Israel and Palestine, which was very unique. Dhruv went to China. We all spent a week in the army barracks at Sandhurst, which was a fantastic unique experience, and we also went to Iceland to try to climb up a glacier. The opportunity to travel and experience other cultures was really important to me.

DB) From the staff I spoke to before coming to Cass I got the sense that the Business School is very serious about building a start-up ecosystem. I wanted to get exposure to how UK businesses and starts ups work and Cass more than lived up to this. The finance course was great, the cohort was a fantastic mix and the staff were excellent. From the day of arrival there were events for start-ups and access to the incubator space here [at City Starters]. That led to this opportunity to form a start-up in London, which would not possible from Delhi. When I graduated I was able to get an entrepreneurial visa straight away thanks to the support from Cass and the Uni.

DB) I enjoyed fantastic support from the Cass cohort, for example with my business plan, evaluating the business model and bouncing ideas around with people from all over the world. I started to talk with Ryan about setting up a business in London and here we are – it’s a dream come true.

What did you do next?

DB) We handed our dissertation in on the last day of August and moved in to the incubator here at City Launch Lab on the 1st September! The market is here in London but the back end is in India and I’ve been developing it since the first day of my MBA.

RS) When I applied to do an MBA I planned to become an in–house lawyer or something, but the course has given me so many more opportunities. I ended up doing something completely different. I had no set ideas of what I wanted and now I’m an entrepreneur.

DB) Looking back, we’re all outsiders, we’re not from retail or fashion. MS) I’ve come from media, DB) I’ve come from digital and marketing. The MBA taught us to look at the market and be objective and how to quickly feel comfortable in a sector you’ve not been part of before through consumer trend data and numbers. RS) Looking at the data really gives you the confidence that you’re on the right path. Success is not guaranteed but we’ve had good progress so far, and raised plenty of funding.

What is WhereWolf?

DB) We call it a hyperlocal shopping assistant. It uses a shopper’s geolocation to help them discover fashion at stores around them. It’s the opposite of e-commerce, because you get to see what’s actually in a store. You can also save items to your wish list and next time you walk past the store and they have a deal on you get an alert.

What does the data say?

RS) There are four ways to shop – online only, offline only, offline to online, which is where you see something in a store but buy it online, and online to offline, which is how 84% of people buy things in fashion. You research it, then you go and find it – so you can see the quality and the fit. We tap in to that trend. With e-commerce sales the data shows that 51% sent back, either for being the wrong size or they don’t like it.

DB) Google research and Deloitte data shows that 70-75% of people who search online have the intent to buy instore, but there is no platform for visibility. And on the other side, at the end of the fashion season, around 20% of the stock is unsold yet all these items are in store and could be a match with shoppers who are in the area. The second big trend is this example graph I have which that shows a huge rise in searches for “shoes near me” for men and women. The rise has been especially large in the premium category where the price means you really want to be checking fabric, form and fit.

MS) Wherewolf focusses on fashion in the premium category. In the London market the revenue is 2% luxury, 40-42% premium and the rest value brands. Value brands are easy to buy online but a premium customer’s average basket is $500 and that’s difficult to buy online.

How did Wherewolf come about?

DB) I started it in India just before I left for my MBA. Manavdeep and I have known each other in India at CNBC and we started the concept by looking at how to let consumers know where sale is. After that we fleshed it out through speaking with consumers and brands. We learned that people want to step in to store but have no time for research. Then we did a very small experiment in India to find out if the brands would support it. In 15 days we had some big Indian designers sign up.

DB) As part of the MBA we covered consumer trends and then we spotted this opportunity. Click and collect isn’t growing anymore and London was the perfect market for our product because the retail offering is scattered all over the city.

How is Wherewolf going?

MS) The platform is available on iOs, android and mobile site and we have 50 brands live now. Recently we partnered with Harrow Council as part of the Mayor of London’s initiative to save the high street. We’re working with the team offline to support this, and Harrow Council supports us with advertising in shops and local trade magazines so that we can reach more people together.

RS) Harrow is in a business improvement district and that’s great in terms of business support. That we got in is a big deal. A quasi-government body takes a percentage of the rates from retailers and uses it for marketing and business support. It’s a really good place to be and we can scale quickly if we are successful.

DB) We now have over 2,500 users and growing by 30 new users every day. Our main growth drivers are upwardly mobile Men and Women between the ages of 25 – 35 with a 60:40 gender split. The time on site is an average of four minutes and that’s a great indicator compared to the UK e-commerce benchmark of one minute 52 seconds. We looking to scale up in the next couple of months. Our Campaign on Instagram went live two weeks ago, so we’re starting to see the pick-up now.

MS) In the course of one week we signed four brands. We were chasing this one brand and we’d met the store manager a while ago who was really excited to introduce us to the retail head. The next thing we know, the retail head was looking for a black dress to just understand the platform. She searched for one, got great results, went to the store, bought it and had already told 10 of her friends! When we went to meet her she was sold!

MS) Another time, we had this brand on the platform, so we did a demo in their store and searched for a yellow dress, and it returned the dress exactly that we were standing next to!

MS) From the meetings we’ve had with brands, retail is having a rough time, with footfall going down and rents going up. Getting by is difficult but brands don’t want to lose their physical presence. Wherewolf will increase footfall and get shoppers who are close by get to see your products and brand.

DB) It’s a big story for independent designers who can’t afford central locations. There’s market research around why people don’t shop independent and the results are usually that consumers don’t know where to go to differentiate between all the stores. In this case location becomes less important

What’s been the biggest challenge?

DB) I would say getting used to working across London and India has been very difficult. We have four staff here and eight in Delhi and a four-and-a-half hour gap with remote working is difficult to juggle. But it was surprisingly easy to get people on the board. We’ve got Valerie Dias from Visa Europe and Joe Middleton from Levi Europe, which has made the board very strong. This start up incubator really helped us from day one get up and running – one day we were in the MBA the next day we were free and doing this.

RS) One thing that sticks out for me is how hard it was to open a company bank account! We had the investment and just wanted to put it in to an account but banks were reluctant to offer an account to a start-up despite us having around £250,000, and despite being in London and having cash.

DB) I think the amount of due diligence needed was a lot because the money came from India and London. You hear so much about the different countries coming together and globalisation, but the banking system really has to catch up!

Do you have any advice to share?

RS) Talk to as many people as possible. From day one we met as many people as possible and wanted them to introduce us to two other people each. Not all our meetings were particularly helpful or relevant but it’s about who you know and this was a great way to grow that.

MS) We are really happy about our independent board advisors – people who can tell you when you’re not right and they don’t just say yes to you. Valerie and Joe mean a lot for us. RS) They are big players, very special and their back-up is very helpful.

DB) There are two things for me to really look out for: the proof of concept, and the proof of potential. Get both going ASAP! It’s a very simple framework but it also really helps that you have only these two things to work on.

Finally it’s the quick fire question round!

MS RS DB
Favourite place in London: Launch lab! Regents Park All the canals and independent coffee shops, especially St Katherine’s Docks
Favourite holiday destination: Gold coast Goa, it’s where my family is from Himalayas
Must check every-day website: gowherewolf BBC news My news aggregator Flipboard
Dream travel destination: Phi phi islands Brazil (but I’m going later this year!) Venice
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese Chocolate Cheese

Find Wherewolf at the App Store, Google Play and on their website. The final of the Institute of Directors’ YDF Den takes place on 11th September 2017.

Influential Entrepreneurs

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

Fredrik, Fredrik, Didrik Three BSc Business Studies (2013) alumni have formed Tailify, an influencer marketing company. We caught up with CEO Fredrik Segerby (FS), CMO Fredrik Martini Andersson (FA) and CPO Didrik Svendsen (DS) at their new office at Old Street’s Silicon Roundabout.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

FS) When I moved here in 2010 I didn’t know anyone and I’d never been to London. I met Fredrik and Didrik quite soon after I arrived because we were all in the same class at Cass. In a class of about 120 people there were maybe 20 Swedes and at least 25 people from the Nordic countries.

FS) I focussed my time on entrepreneurial extra-curricular activities and found the Cass Tech City Society. I’d always had interest in entrepreneurship and technology so it made sense to take over the society. It was created by Axel Katalan and when he graduated, Didrik and I took it over. Actually, when we graduated we passed it on to my brother. It’s a family thing!

FS) We all lived together during Cass and still do, it’s been six years. We have always discussed different business ideas FA) and discussed them with our professors like Wane Holland and Peter Hahn too.

FA) We actually came up with the idea for Tailify first during the exam period. I have to admit that we spent time on this when we were supposed to be studying! DS) I remember we were working at the Bloomberg terminals looking at this Tumblr that inspired us, whilst others were doing proper analysis.

You were always destined to be entrepreneurs?

FS) Yes, we all did our dissertations on topics related to start-ups and entrepreneurship. When we graduated we got together that summer and really crystallised the idea for Tailify. We’d been through a couple of ideas already but we thought that this was something we could really make something of.

FS) Fredrik and I actually went to the same high school (but in two different locations) and that’s when we started to think about entrepreneurship. Business Studies was a great course for that and Cass was a good choice in terms of the entrepreneurial community, because there are lots of societies, lectures and competitions, the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund. The course didn’t just focus on finance, which is what a lot of people want to do. It had a broad scope so we could niche into our entrepreneur field.

FA) Even after we had left, people at Cass were willing to give feedback, and do things like help with job postings to the student network.

What did you do next?

FS) In a way we went straight to Tailify but it took around six to eight months before we were really committed to it full time. Didrik actually went to work in Bangkok in the meantime!

DS) I decided I wanted a role in a tech venture in Asia, so I did some research and found that the South-East Asia economy was good. I went to Bangkok and while I was still out there Tailify started gaining traction and I thought it might be going somewhere. Six months after we graduated from Cass we all met up in Stockholm at Christmas and said “OK, let’s do it”.

FS) We decided that if we were going to really do this we have to commit to it completely, and that meant that we couldn’t be all around the world. We knew we would have to be in the same place and do it full time, so we gave it another three months and then we all moved to Stockholm.

FA) There were small signs throughout the process that we should continue. For example, we won a competition pretty early on, before we went to Stockholm, which gave us £15k in consulting services DS) and office space. FA) After that we got investment from Scandinavia’s largest seed fund. DS) So that was really good that things kept coming.

What is Tailify?

FS) It’s influencer marketing. We connect people with a lot of followers with brands to try to see if they can do a campaign together. For example, you are a blogger with one million followers who talks about fashion – why wouldn’t H&M want to work with you? You’ve got a huge audience and an authentic voice to these people FA) and you can influence their consumer purchase decisions.

FS) We act as a manager for the influencer, so we are the person in between the brand. We found that the brands really want to work with people who have that influence and the influencer really wants money, but usually they don’t have the knowledge of how to take that forward. What we do it make the interaction more professional for both sides and make it easier.

How did you come up with the idea?

DS) When we were nearing our exams and dissertation at Cass I was showed this Tumblr for men’s fashion. They were nice things, and I wanted to buy them. I saw that someone with beautiful content had now inspired me to purchase something and I began to wonder how many others are doing this too?

DS) This guy from Tumblr, he had 100K visits a month so next I wondered, are brands paying him? When we found out they weren’t we realised that in Scandinavia, 100K visits a month would make it one of the biggest fashion sites! You quickly see that when hundreds of people do this and have this influence, it’s larger than traditional magazines and other advertising portals and much more powerful. They have lots of followers but nobody helps them work with the brands so we thought let’s structure it.

FA) The influencer economy is like the Wild West at the moment, with actors, managers, agents and people who just want to make money. We are trying to bring structure and transparency. When you look at the biggest brands and most powerful influencers, you don’t know how many people there are in between them, and it can be five different parties all being paid.

FA) We thought about TV ads and we wanted to make it as easy to buy influencer marketing as you can traditional advertising. We are getting closer! Currently we have a platform where we can create and distribute campaigns and measure the results. The influencer has the app and the digital manager packages up the ready-made offer from the brand saying when to post, the hashtags you need to use and all the other details, and you get paid instantly when the brands approve your content.

What’s next for Tailify?

FS) Recently we became a global partner with L’Oréal, who are the third largest advertisers in world with 500 sub-brands. Our primary customer is digital marketing agencies and global consumer brands. So we’ve focussed on that and a few other partnerships. It’s a growing market, and influencer marketing is the fastest growing. FA) After our seed second investment we’ve grown the team, committed the platform to selected partners and are planning to introduce it to a larger part of Europe later this year.

DS) We’ve had some big learning to do too. We have been trying to push technology on the advertising world and realised that we were trying to be too optimistic. We have been very enthusiastic but realised that the ad world moves a lot slower, and it needed to mature a bit. We can now scale with an unfair advantage because we’ve got that technology ready. For example we’ve just partnered with Europe’s largest affiliate marketing company. It’s still early on but with our technical advantage we can play with companies bigger than us.

DS) If anything we were a bit too early to the market. FA) Tailify has had two stages, the first time we went out to find out and learn as much as possible and fail plenty. When we first met, our focus was too much towards the platform itself and didn’t push far enough on the sales side. When we came back to the UK we changed the focus to speaking to clients and since then we’ve grown 30% each month for the past year. DS) People are now ready to listen to us.

FA) It’s been really good to get some of the largest brands to pick us as their preferred partner for large scale influencers. Our product has been validated so we can now be really niche on what we offer – we think we have really hit the nail on the head.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

FA) We worked a lot in small teams at Cass and that helped when we started out; the hardest thing is to create a company culture where everybody feels good and is as productive as possible. It’s still an ongoing experiment. We don’t have the answers, but during the past four years the biggest lesson we’ve learnt is how to get people together and to use their skills in the right way. You have to find out who is good at what, and to really get to know your staff. We didn’t have niche interests at Cass, DS) we were generalists FA) so we can work with customers, brands, marketing, and finance. It’s very good for us to have that broad background.

DS) We’ve been fortunate enough to do everything, and to work towards doing whatever is our strength. As generalists we’ve had the opportunity to figure out what we are actually good at and sharpen those skills.

DS) Looking back at Cass, what really helped is the way we were encouraged to enter competitions and at the same time to go about our work in a really academically rigorous way. At Cass it’s all about doing really good work, which meant we always deliver quality in presentations and competitions, so we come off as trusted.

FA) When we pitched for our investor we were 22 years old and didn’t have much experience. We took a really academic approach, because we knew what investors react to. DS) I actually did my dissertation on how people get cash from venture capitalists! FA) But on the other hand when you use that approach it takes time. On our journey we have generally tried to do things fast and not be afraid to fail; the truly academic way is not to fail.

DS) Studying Business Studies at Cass they teach you to recognise the opportunity, but we know now that 99% of the time it doesn’t have to be perfect. For example, your pitch to L’Oréal has to be solid, but the rest of the time you just have to get it done. I would say that Cass doesn’t teach that part.

Do you have any advice?

DS) It’s a long list! FS) The biggest thing for me I think is don’t be afraid to fail – we learned quite quickly it’s better to fail quickly and learn than to take the time to be perfect at the start. DS) It’s a cliché but it’s true! FA) We made a lot of mistakes before we came back to London, and at that point we listed them all in Excel to learn from them. The best way to become better is to fail.

FA) I completely agree! If I’m going to spend nine, ten or 12 hours a day at a job, in the end it’s not that difficult to succeed. People read about companies like Facebook, and how 99.9% cases of start-ups fail, but I think a smart person who works hard will always succeed.

DS) London is an ecosystem with so many accelerators and investment schemes it’s easy to get money. Large corporations have people who must try to innovate; if you have a good idea with value someone will buy it. You don’t have to be next AirBnB to get enough revenue, and certainly this path is not harder than trying to climb the ropes at one of the larger organisations.

DS) Just try something out and get feedback! At Cass you have time and long summers: the summer vacation is three and half months. You can use the summer to test out an idea – throw £500 at it and do it while you study FA) especially with the professors and great environment to help you.

DS) Reach out, the alumni network is there! Don’t think you need a summer internship, recruiters want to employ someone who has tried and failed in their spare time. People think it’s a risk but if you do it whilst you study it can be more valuable than anything else.

DS) And Tailify would love to have more Cass people on board.

Finally it’s the quick fire question round!

FS DS FA
Favourite place in London: This part of London around Cass Cass and the office! Clerkenwell
Favourite holiday destination: America The contrast to London of going home to Sweden Going home to my village in Sweden is the best way to relax
Must check every-day website: Tailify.com and Instagram, all social media actually Cass alumni! Forbes, Quora, Adweek, Tech Crunch and all social media
Dream travel destination: Manchester…ok Cuba Blackpool our South Sweden Cuba
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese Chocolate Cheese

Find out more about Tailify on their website or follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

Mapping Out The Future

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

axelThe last time we caught up with Axel was when he was working at Level 39, back in 2013. He used his connections there as a springboard and now his indoor mapping company, Pointr, are busy fending off acquisition offers. We spoke about how it all happened.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I moved here from Spain and it was a totally new environment. I did my Undergraduate degree here, BSc in Management, and for me it was a fantastic place to meet people from all around the world and really get comfortable with ambition. Everyone had plans, they were looking at places where they could innovate and build things. That’s why I started the Tech and Business Society, which is now called Cass Talks.

Back then my business friends had lots of good ideas but no technical know-how and at the same time we also knew there were tech students looking for business partners. We held events in 2009 and brought in speakers and that led to me volunteering at the London Web Summit. That was a huge start-up event where I met Eric Van Der Kleij, the CEO of Tech City (an initiative set up by the Prime Minister to turn London in to the next Silicon Valley). I pitched to him about speaking at our student society but his schedule was too busy.

What did you do next?

Two years later Eric Van Der Kleij started Level 39, Europe’s largest FinTech accelerator and I read about it in Wired Magazine. I immediately reached out to him and he invited me for a three-minute coffee with no expectations, which turned in to a four-hour chat and got me my first job! I eventually became head of the community there and I looked after 250 companies and investors.

Level 39 was the best place for anyone in start-up in FinTech – there were founders, investors and big companies like the banks to meet. It was a great place to learn and grow my network. We did over 100 events including speaking at Cass. We brought Eric and Transfer-Wise, then the leading UK start-up in Finance and now the first UK FinTech unicorn, to give a speech in the auditorium.

Through Level 39 I met amazing people including the Crown Princess of Sweden, who was on a tech tour of London co-working spaces to see how Sweden should shape its start-up tech strategy. They asked if they could have lunch on 39th Floor at Canary Wharf and could the head of community join in? So I had lunch with the princess, the prince and the Deputy Mayor; Boris Johnson had come in the day before. Another memorable event was when we had a hackathon with Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia.

Working with so many start-ups I was headhunted to join a start-up called MyCheck, a mobile payment company just launching in the UK. I was hired as the UK manager to grow the company in the UK. It was based on mobile payments. For example, in a restaurant you could pay with your phone through MyCheck without having to wait for the waiter, which is a pinch point in a dining experience. It was partnered with MasterCard and PayPal.

Through my time there I met other entrepreneurs and met my Pointr co-founder serendipitously after nine months, which was three years ago. Again, it should have been a short meeting but we knew we had to work together once we met. Strangely, he had been invited to a Friday night monopoly game and asked if I would like to come along, but I declined and we met the next day instead. Straight away we started working which led to Pointr, which I now work on full time today.

What is Pointr?

Pointr is the equivalent of Google Maps for indoors, for example in large retailers and airports. If you’re at Harrods and you download the Harrods app you can search for a restaurant or a brand on the map and it will show you the way to it. The app also collects data around who is in Harrods, what they are searching for and how they move around. We’re bringing digital analytics like they have at Google and Amazon to the offline world. These companies know what you like, but this has not been done before in physical stores.

We took part in lots of start-up accelerators to verify and develop the concept and then we submitted to the global tender for mapping the indoor locations in London Gatwick and Dubai airports. We beat competition from Siemens and lots of other start-ups. Due to that success we got 280 articles written about us!

Today, we employ 34 people with a headquarters in London, and also have an office in Istanbul and Dubai. We received seed funding two years ago but now we fund ourselves through paying clients.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

When you get together with someone in a team, and form a team, in the initial days when you are setting the norms of the business there is potential for storms, fights and quarrels. You have to go through this and learn to work together in a more efficient way. Sometimes in the early days there is no money, and lots of pressures on everyone, and even simple things like paying rent, or getting a good meal are beyond you. That goes away but at the time you’re not sure how long for, is it indefinite? For two months?

The biggest thing is getting the first paying client. We got ours around six or eight months from launch and until then we were doing odd jobs, consulting, and weekend work until we started growing. Once we got our first client, the product was half ready so we had to really build a relationship so they would allow us the time and trust to work on it and eventually get it where it was supposed to be. So there were business challenges and social challenges. We made it but it was tough!

Do you have any advice to pass on?

Networking is my biggest advice. The majority of the things we have achieved have been because of the people who helped us. For example when we wanted to get into Ikea we went on LinkedIn and had a network of people who could introduce us in a vetted way, which isn’t something you can actually buy.

I literally spent three years post-gradation going to events and meeting founders and asking questions and you learn from those interactions. I built some very strong friendships and business relationships and in hindsight those opened so many doors. So my advice is go out and meet people everywhere. It doesn’t have to be just business networking but get away from your usual and meet people, from the bartenders to main speaker, and find a way to have that conversation.

Also, I realised when we were running the Society about the immense power a student has. You can call nearly anyone and say you’re a student at Cass and doing x, y, z. People would say it’s impossible, they won’t come, or you won’t hear back, and therefore lots of people fail to even try. But you can be bold with what you ask for. Friends have, for example, emailed random CEOs and got great results, like being invited to an internship. Your student years are the best time to try out stuff that might sound weird but it can open up so many doors.

What’s next for Pointr?

We are having to fend off multiple acquisition offers because we still see a huge potential. People are so used to taking out their phone and searching for the answer, and the indoor experience is the next logical step. For example, in the shopping mall you can give your exact location to friend, or you could go to Ikea and walk in and find the items you came to buy without getting lost.

Going forwards we have a new chairman Osman Kent, who has had multiple executive positions before. He’s a seasoned entrepreneur who we have brought in for the next wave. We want to grow to the US and hire talent there, and we want to be known as the leading company in the indoor location space.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: The Piano Works, a live piano bar in Farringdon
Favourite holiday destination: Buyuk Ada, a tiny island near Istanbul in Turkey
Must-check every day website: Tech Crunch and Eater for restaurant news from all around the world
Dream travel location: Japan
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese

Find out more about Pointr on their website, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

365 days of Greece

Alumni Stories.

Not only is Maria Repouskou (Global Migration, 2012) one of our amazing Alumni Ambassadors, she has also jointly set up a business venture that is going to transform Greece from a summer holiday hotspot to a destination for all seasons.   

Can you tell me about your time at City?

Being a student at City was an amazing experience. The academic part was very inspiring and re-shaped my way of thinking and has made me a better person. But it was the city life that was the game changer. I was drawn by meeting new people, different cultures and points of views. I made friends for life.  I opened my house and welcomed people for Greek dinners and they were more than happy to respond in the same way. I believe it was those experiences that sparked my passion for hospitality.

What happened after you graduated?

Post graduation I became an intern for a major immigration law firm in London and continued on the same career path for a year. I then decided to return to Athens, in very turbulent times. I struggled as a job-seeker and though immigration was a huge matter, there was no right use of people with in-depth knowledge on the matter. That was when I realized it was time for a career switch. I joined Alba Graduate Business School and study Tourism Management. I like to think of my academic path as a constant need to understand human mobility – the whys and the hows. After graduating a second time, I began a career in the tourism industry in Greece, a sector that is currently flourishing and still has a lot of potential.

How did your idea/business come about?

I was a travel designer back in the day, crafting luxury itineraries that entailed pretty much only Mykonos and Santorini. That was the time I met my colleagues, Tasos Mylonas and Vasilis Krassas. We all came from different backgrounds and careers. But realizing that the travel12 concept was missing from the Greek tourism landscape is what brought us together. We teamed up and put this idea into practice one step at a time. And it has been an amazing journey ever since!

We are firm believers of Greece being a 12 months a year destination and decided we wanted to spare you from the multiple open tabs and provide you with the means to shape and craft your very own experience.  We follow a wholesome approach that does not limit itself to the yearly calendar. The travel12 experience is end-to-end and seamless from the word go. We don’t just pile up things to do, building itineraries. We offer all the right dots and invite you to connect them of your own will while being there for you every step of the way. We are not after the bulk and what’s most buzzed about. We like the lesser known, the underdog, the real-deal. And we are more than sure that travellers are like days; now two are the same.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your idea/business?

Starting up! But once you’ve started the road is always upwards!

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Creating something from scratch. The whole team has put its soul into this venture. If you don’t love what you do, then nothing good can come out of it.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t be afraid to implement the idea and don’t think in a negative manner. You will be surprised by the things you believed you can’t do but you actually can.

 

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Decisions, decisions. I adore this city and picking one is really difficult. But I have to say, Columbia Flower Market always made my day!
Favourite holiday destination: Italy and especially Firenze and the broader Tuscany region.
Must check every-day website: Vanity Fair for the brilliant writing and The Man Repeller for the laughs and the amazing understanding of millennials.
Dream travel destination: Marrakesh
Cheese or chocolate: If both is not a choice then I pick cheese!

 

Don’t forget to check out travel12.gr for your next Greek adventure!

 

 

 

One for All and All for Cider

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

revenant quartetRichard Williams (Executive MBA, 2016) and three of his MBA cohort Paul Gudonis, George Foster and Lawrence Jewkes, have created Revenant Cider alongside their day jobs. We spoke to Richard to find out more:

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I actively looked for a new job when I decided to do an MBA and as it turned out, I started my EMBA and this job that I am currently in at the same time. My life changed rapidly in many ways and having multiple fresh starts at the same time was good for me. I was in a really fresh headspace and was really open to everything going on. We all do the MBA at a time of life where we’re trying to climb the career ladder, but you still have lots of drudge work to do, and you’re trying to buy a house or have babies. I actually had a baby shortly after handing in my BMP (MBA thesis).

Overall my time at Cass was very positive. The School itself has a different feel to it to other business schools. It was a lot more relaxed and less competitive and I really enjoyed that. There are world class professors teaching there, lecturers like Gianvito Lanzolla and Peter Fleming, those guys are world-renowned and it was exciting to sit and listen to them. It was a real honour to be part of a University with that calibre of staff.

A lot of people say you learn more from your cohort than your coursework and that’s very true. I looked at different Universities where the cohort size is 7-10 people but I’m incredibly glad I didn’t choose one like that. You get so much from the people you learn with, especially the soft skills. In the lectures you learn the theory and formula, and then with your cohort you learn how to implement those in a way that makes sense. With a large cohort of 30-40 people I worked with a number of different people through the year and that was very valuable.

You met your Revenant co-founders at Cass?

Yes, we were put together for our first group and we connected instantly and were inseparable from that moment on. We got quite a bad reputation for being too inseparable! With the four of us behind Revenant the friendship from day one was something I had not expected. It truly changed my life in terms of experience, direction and possibilities.

How did Revenant happen?

We are all really in to craft beer and I do a lot of brewing at home. I’m a coffee guy so I’m into flavours and tasting. One day we sat at the back of one of our lectures discussing the rest of our lives. Once we started talking brewing it snowballed and we realised the beer market opportunities were still there but it was getting harder and harder. Cider seemed like it had interesting opportunities and possibilities to do something cool.

All four of us still have full-time jobs. I’m a coffee trader at the moment with Falcon Coffee. We have a weekly call and use WhatsApp to discuss the day-to-day. We also meet once a month to talk things through but really it’s a lot of weekends, and a lot of stock in my garage. Everything else is outsourced so the launch was done with as little overhead as possible. We found a cider maker and we’re using their equipment and producing it on their premises. We spoke to a number of different cider makers and we had a clear idea of what we wanted so it was a case of ensuring that they could source the raw ingredients and process them in the way that we wanted it done.

When did Revenant launch?

We finished the EMBA in March 2016 and then we launched Revenant in December 2016. It was a very soft rollout. Once we had the first batch of stock for sale we started speaking to people we knew and would quietly sell cases to people who were interested. That’s still our approach; we haven’t had a big party or big media. The reason is to make sure the brand is properly represented in the right way and in the right places. We need to make sure that early adopters interact in the right spaces and come across the right way, so we’re going to continue to expand like this – slow and steady and managed.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Finances! We’re all still reeling from the MBA debt and managing the cash flow has been the hardest. It’s really tricky. It also took a while to get the look and feel of our brand sorted out but everything else we’ve come across so far has been really positive. There have been a few issues with getting payments in, but that’s just regular business stuff. Finance is definitely the hardest.

Do you have any advice to pass on?

Something I did notice during my MBA was around the people who really thrived versus people who didn’t. The four of us went in to the MBA looking at is as an opportunity to do as many different things and to learn as much as possible. But in contrast, the people who came in with specific end goal such as a promotion, they seemed to struggle more. There seemed to be a difference in their approach and in their motivation that made the day-to-day drudge much harder for them. I found these people to be more stressed, not get as good marks and were more specific about what they wanted to learn.

With an open mind, you flourish. If you’re going to do an MBA you have to want to do it, you can’t just turn up and coast through it. Those people get weeded out and don’t finish. You also need a good support mechanism; my wife ran my life for me throughout, so the whole household has to be on board, and you all give up something to get through it. Once you’re through it it’s amazing, definitely a life changing experience for the better.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Victoria Park
Favourite holiday destination: Morocco
Must check every-day website: The Economist
Dream travel destination: So many! I’d say Peru
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate

You can find out more about Revenant Cider on the website and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Court is in Recess

Alumni Stories.

Katy Martley (Criminal Litigation, 2012) crossed continents to attain the qualification that would lead to her career as a Crown Prosecutor, and now she’s taking a break! Read Katy’s story to find out why she adjourned her legal career.

So you moved from New Zealand to study at City, what was that like?

I was a Government Prosecutor and wanted to move into jury trial work in serious crime and I knew that a masters degree would assist with that goal.  I googled ‘masters and criminal litigation’ and City popped up. I had been looking for something more local but the course at City was absolutely perfect so I moved to London with my three-year-old daughter while my husband took a contract in Australia to pay the bills. But City made it so easy for me. The administrators were so helpful and once I arrived everyone was really welcoming and really amazing.

I knuckled down and studied a lot – I was there to do a job. I went to the library a lot. I more or less stayed in the Law School, everything I needed was there. And I loved being enveloped by the buzz of the legal world around us. I was at campus two days per week and had to do all of my actual study work there or in the evenings after my daughter had gone to bed. It was quite a juggle and I would write my dissertation after dinner. But the tutors and lecturers were so supportive and really flexible.

What happened after City?

I returned to my job in New Zealand as they had been holding it open for me. I actually received a promotion as a result of my masters. I had another baby, another girl. Then I got a job as a crown prosecutor and now I’m having a career break from law to do full-time philanthropy work and volunteering.

What prompted the change?

As a crown prosecutor I was seeing a lot of youth who were offending but I couldn’t affect change because I was constrained by the system. I wanted to make a real difference and so I had to remove myself from the system. Now I volunteer with Te Aranui Youth Trust, working with primary school aged children and at risk youth, and Good Neighbour Trust which has a food rescue service and redistributes seven tonnes of food per week to over 50 different charities.

This year I’m also involved in a big annual fundraiser and will be organising a ladies’ luncheon, with a celebrity chef from New Zealand, for 300 women!

Volunteering is amazing and very rewarding. It also means I have the flexibility to spend more time with my children and family, attending sports and school events.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Making the decision to leave law for a bit. I have worked for over a decade, all for the purpose of my career and deciding ‘am I really going to let this go?’ was the single hardest decision I’ve had to make.

What has been the most rewarding?

Realising that my knowledge, skills and talents are transferable. That has allowed me to let go of law for a while.

Any advice?

With regards to higher education, don’t think about it, just apply to do it. Don’t think too much about the end gain, just think about the knowledge and skills you will acquire that will be helpful no matter which career path you take.

And if you’re thinking about a career change – trust your instincts.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: The Old Bailey
Favourite holiday destination: Vanuata
Must check every day website: stuff.co.nz
Dream holiday destination: Venice
Cheese or chocolate: cheese

Being a professional mentor at City

Alumni Stories.

Tony (left) with mentee Tom (right)

Anthony (Tony) Rimoldi graduated from Civil Engineering in 1980, but for the past eight years he has volunteered his time to mentor the next generation of graduates. Here he talks about his experience as a professional mentor at City.

I graduated from City (Civil Engineering) in 1980 and since then I have enjoyed a successful career in my chosen subject. I worked initially in local government, Greater London Council, where I became Chartered. I then spent time as an engineer in Doha. After returning from the Middle East I joined Concrete Repairs Ltd. That was in 1983. Since then I have enjoyed a challenging and interesting career with the company, leading my team through a management buyout in 2006. I remain at the head of the company and continue to lead a growing group of smaller companies, all related to construction and engineering. As you might imagine that period was very busy for me. However, the founders of the business in 1954 were both civil engineers and I wished to maintain that tradition. So the senior staff in the company are nearly all civil engineers.

About nine or ten years ago I recall an email from the professional mentoring team at City asking for new recruits. I think that email arrived at just about the right time. My own experience in both management and civil engineering was varied and quite lengthy. I felt that some of my experience may be of use to undergraduates from City. In short I felt that I could give “something back” and that my advice may be of use to others. So the email was my encouragement and I joined the scheme.

I found the initial experience of mentoring quite challenging because it was all new to me. What was an absolute eye opener was trying to understand the goals, ambitions and career paths of 20-year-old undergraduates in the second decade of this century. It is completely different to the experience of 30 years previously. Their understanding of the industry, personal and family pressures, diversity issues were all new to me. And of course very exciting. Some of my mentees have been so bright they should be mentoring me. But I have seen a change in them all. If all I do is to give them a push in the right direction and help to build their confidence then I think I have achieved something. I really enjoy just chatting to them and hearing their opinions on current affairs. It is valuable to me to understand the thoughts of people 40 years younger than I am.  I have been able to provide summer placements for most of my mentees and they have all performed brilliantly. I am so happy learning of their progress after graduating and seeing their careers blossom.

As we move in our careers we need to think about succession. The greatest achievement is to employ youngsters, support them and encourage their careers. Mentoring allows this to happen and if only one thing that is said by me has an impact and is remembered by the mentee then it is all worth it.

For more information about City’s Professional Mentoring Scheme please visit: city.ac.uk/careers/recruiters/get-involved-on-campus/mentoring 

Compassion for Fashion

Alumni Stories.

Ayesha Mustafa (MA Transnational Media & Society, 2007)  moved from Dubai to study at City. Since graduating she has worked for Netsol Technology and PepsiCo. But now she is the director of her own business, Fashion ComPassion…

Where did the idea for Fashion ComPassion come from? 

Since a young age I wanted to have my own business and a business with a social mission. I was always interested in the business side of fashion and experienced first-hand how fashion was created. Fashion touches all areas of our lives but the artisans making it didn’t get a fair wage, so I wanted to create a company that would be a change maker to address this issue.

How did you set up Fashion ComPassion? 

Fashion ComPassion is my passion, a combination of my two biggest interests: fashion and giving back to others – which stems from my upbringing, especially with the great work my father has been doing for women and education. However the catalyst for setting up Fashion ComPassion goes back to when I was 16 and an intern at the Garmeen Bank in Dhaka where I witnessed first-hand how giving opportunities to women has a monumental impact not only on them but their communities and the economy at large. I knew I wanted to do something in my own way that created an impact and gave women a voice and made them independent. I conducted a lot of research on ethical fashion businesses and organizations and realized that there was a gap in the market. There were many small ethical fashion brands in various countries but they didn’t have a strong platform to promote them to a global audience.

So how do you help these brands reach a global audience?

We are now a marketplace providing small and emerging sustainable brands a platform to connect to new audiences. We do this by helping them with marketing and PR, but also supporting them via digital marketing, social media etc. We help organize events and pops up and explore collaborations for brands. We are connectors between the brand and the end customer.

What has been the biggest challenge in setting up Fashion ComPassion?

Finding funding to scale it.

What has been the most rewarding experience? 

Helping small sustainable brands grow and reach a global market.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Believe in yourself, work hard and don’t take no for an answer.

Ayesha is offering all customers 10% off their first order at Fashion ComPassion – why not check out the wide range of accessories and designers now.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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