Your Finger on the Pulse of London’s Bars


Richi e Iñigo (2)
Inigo Alegria (IA) and Richard Crosfield (RC) both studied a Full-Time MBA at Cass, graduating in 2014. They have since co-founded Barzlive, a website and app that will help you get the most out of London’s vibrant bar and pub scene.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

[IA] We were both students of the Full Time MBA and I have to say it was really intense, both personally and academically. Actually, we did our thesis together on Barzlive. Doing the MBA was tough but very rewarding. I loved the group courseworks – you got to work with different people from all over the world. At the beginning it was challenging, but at the end you’d learned how to work together. It was interesting to see how leadership roles changed depending on the topic or type of coursework. During the electives period, I focused on finance, which was my background, and what I thought I wanted to do after my MBA. After the core modules I took all finance electives with a view to getting a job in London in a financial role, but it didn’t turn out that way.

[RC] I think the Iceland Consultancy Week is a clear example of a summary of the experience. It’s incredibly intense, doing the MBA squeezed in to one year rather than two, and in that week I felt more stretched than ever before. We flew into Reykjavik over the weekend, met the client and began the project on Monday, presented our results to the client’s board on Friday, before having a drink or two with colleagues, and flew back to London on the weekend. I also remember some classmates revising on the flight back for the exams we had a week later! It was actually a really cool project with a pretty important client, the National Power Company of Iceland, and working through that was the MBA in a microcosm.

[RC] We both started off doing our theses on separate topics [IA] I was covering the Spanish financial crisis [RC] and I was working on M&A of energy and infrastructure companies, which was my background, and then we decided to come up with this idea to do a business plan at the same time as a thesis, so we asked Sionade (Robinson, Associate Dean, MBA Programmes) if we could do our thesis together and she agreed for a one-off. She said she was happy to make an exception and personally took care of us. Our app is based on marketing and she is an expert in this so it was great for her to take us on board and be a true champion rather than just being laissez-faire about it.

[RC] When I started the MBA there wasn’t a football team, and yet we were part of one of the largest cohorts ever, with nearly 100 people, and lots of guys who wanted to play, so I organised two games a week and prepared a team for Cass’ (stellar) debut at Manchester Business School’s MBA Football tournament.

How did you get the idea for Barzlive?

[RC] We were four co-founders initially. One of the co-founders lived in Paris and saw a website listing which pubs were showing what football matches in France, so we thought we could do something similar for Spain. Then we started to think, should it only be for sport and should we really start up in Spain? What about all other events and promotions that go on in bars and pubs in London? Could we set up a platform for bars and pubs to post everything that’s going on at their venues?

[RC] Of those four partners, there are only two left and that’s been difficult. The most challenging thing for us with starting a company, considering we’re at a really early stage, has been building the team, and that is including the founders. Dealing with the exits of two co-founders has been pretty tough emotionally, professionally and financially. We’ve had good times in the past and I’m sure we will do in the future as well but at the moment our relationship has inevitably suffered.

[IA] After the first co-founder left, there were three stakes and with Richard and I in London, most decisions ended up being taken here and then they went over to him as completed. [RC] Because we wanted to launch in London first, all the business development and marketing was going on here. He felt left out even though the plan was to develop it for Spain as well, it was difficult for him.

How did the development go?

[IA] Initially, we outsourced to a Spanish freelance, and worked with him for a year – and that’s another tip for the future – you need a tech guy in the company! There were four of us business guys and it didn’t seem like a proper tech start-up. With the tech guy outsourced not directly involved it was difficult to get someone to jump in wholeheartedly. At the beginning though it was really all about getting a product and now we have a really good tech guy, a new partner in Spain doing all the development.

[RC] Replacing the outsourcing with a tech co-founder was a key turning point for us – he is completely involved and has played a big part since joining us in September 2015.

[AI] Before he arrived the product wasn’t really working, it had constant bugs. So we cut ties with the outsourcing and took to LinkedIn to contact hundreds of developers and managed to get this guy interested.

[RC] We had our official launch about a month ago, and before that we’d had about 10 friends beta-testing it for a couple of months giving us feedback and doing design changes before the official launch.

[RC] We have started to contact all the universities in central London, as our target customers are those who are finishing university and starting their first job here in London, especially foreign students. We started at Uni – we’re a Cass spin-off!

[RC] Now we have to go to the source of the information – the bars and pubs – and from there really do some marketing.

[IA] Students will be doing lots of study from Easter to the summer, so it’s not a good time for students. We need to go to bars and companies and get them to promote the app from the inside, which should be a win-win as we will promote them for free.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

[RC] Building the team and breaking up with the two co-founders.

[IA] One of the biggest challenges we faced was finding our brand identity. We did the logo and website before we started to communicate to the outside world (e.g through social media) and once we began to do so we realised that our image wasn’t clear. We wanted to be fun and creative but our logo and website were elegant and too serious. So we spent a week in a room doing a branding exercise based on different branding events we attended and on specialised books.

[RC] The app space is so competitive, so crowded, that we had to do something bold, and that’s why we went with the space theme. We’re drawing a parallel between life on other planets and events in different pubs – the planets are like the pubs – nobody knows what’s going on in them, while you’re the astronaut who’s trying to find out!

[RC] We also really focused on our target market. We saw other competitors, such as Time Out, as being very institutional, and others as being too young and childish for our target market, so we found a gap in which to position our brand that no other app had taken.

Do you have any advice you would like to go back and give yourselves when you were starting out?

[RC] Make sure you know the motivations of the people with whom you’re going into business, and make sure the founders cover the core skills required for the start up.

[IA] Having a tech founder, definitely. In fact at the beginning we considered it and approached an MBA friend [RC] but he had a good job already and we needed someone full-time. Maybe he will join us in the future!

What’s next for you both?

[IA] The next step is to keep bootstrapping Barzlive and raise seed funding to boost Barzlive’s growth in terms of functionalities, users/customers, team and geography.

[RC] Now that we have a bunch of users, we need to get pubs signed up – users need pubs, but to get pubs signed up you need users. So we’re trying to break this vicious circle and once we’ve got some metrics or analytics and we can show the app is working we’ll be seeking investment so that we can develop many more features, not just events.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London: [RC] I spoke to my girlfriend about this one, and she said I couldn’t say Hampstead Heath, it makes me sound like a granddad, so Camden! [IA] The Troubadour – it’s a classic pub and the first place Bob Dylan played in Europe!
Favourite holiday destination: [RC] Cuba [IA] Italy!
Must-visit everyday website: [RC] BBC News [IA] Tech.London [Together] El Mundo and Barzlive!
Dream travel destination: [RC] To continue with the space theme, Mars! [IA] Australia and New Zealand
Cheese or chocolate: [In unison] Chocolate!

You can download the Barzlive app on iOS and find it soon on Android.

How to Effectively Use Recruitment Agencies

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efectively use recruitment

On Thursday 21st April 2016, we hosted our third alumni careers webinar. The topic was “How to Effectively Use Recruitment Agencies”, and focussed on the importance of building a good relationship with a recruiter.

This webinar was recorded and is now available here. Running Time 39 mins.



15 Years of Business Experience, Synthesised

Cass Business School News .

Adrian bio smallerAdrian Swinscoe is an MBA alumnus, who studied International Business and Export Management MBA from 1999 – 2001. Since graduating he has had a diverse and exciting career path that has led to the publication of his new book, “How to Wow: 68 Effortless Ways to Make Every Customer Experience Amazing”. We sat down for a chat about how he gained all the insights in the book.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I was here from 1999 – 2001 and back in the day there was an International Business and Export MBA, based over at Frobisher Crescent – we were one of the last years to be over there. It was interesting! I had been working overseas before Cass as an economist with a not-for-profit in Egypt doing advocacy for reform. I was unsure about what to do next – whether I should pursue an Economics PhD or change my focus more to business. I looked at PhDs and I had offers and scholarships but I wasn’t convinced I was ready to do five more years of studying.

I’d always been interested in business, we had a family business. I applied to Cass and they were very generous to someone who’d been working overseas and they gave me a part scholarship which was incredibly nice and generous of them! I’d come from outside the UK I had no finance and this helped me a lot.

Still, for me the MBA itself was an exercise in enterprise! I only had enough money to survive until December, and by hook or by crook, with two part time jobs I just about made it work! It was a great experience, I met fantastic people who I’m still in touch with!

The MBA was a great way to gain new knowledge and to learn new stuff about myself and other people, as well as how to work together and to build a network. I also got two jobs subsequently that were a direct result of the people I met on my MBA. The MBA was a great experience and also a really useful springboard – it filled gaps and rounded out my knowledge in a really distilled fashion.

What happened from there?

On one project we pitched ideas to Neeta Patel at the FT about online businesses, I pitched and after I got a job offer. It was supposed to be a summer job but it morphed and they didn’t want to wait until the summer. They wanted me to start there and then so I had to combine studying and working – I had to make it work! It was hard work but a good experience to manage deadlines and a high workload.

After the dotcom crash the FT decided to change direction – so I got in touch with an old classmate, James at Shell (he’s still there!) and I moved to Shell for 4-5 years doing an internal consultancy role in strategy, innovation and business development. It was interesting because I’d only ever worked on projects during the MBA with him but he know what I could deliver, and it was enough for him to recommend me, so the interview process was pretty straightforward!

The MBA also gave me the information, skills and confidence so that when things change I can cope. For example, at Shell in 2004 they changed their investment priorities and they shut down my unit. I was repurposed into an operations role but I said I wasn’t interested and decided to row my own boat!

In late 2004 I became a freelance independent consultant and over they course of the last few years I’ve gotten involved in lots of different start-ups as well as various consulting projects through with my own advisory and consultancy business.

How did going independent work for you?

I have never been a natural risk-taker – but I’m always ready to try things. Having the knowledge and also being in an environment where you work with people who understand what you’re capable of and believe you have the ability to figure something out has helped enormously.

I’ve tried lots of things, and some have worked out and others have not, but either way, you’re learning. I’m an interested learner! Since 2009, in many ways I’ve been learning in public – I started to see that if you run your own show you can’t be a generalist, people need to know how you think, so I started to put it in writing.

I realised I learn off others and by learning out loud, writing ideas and exploring them on my blog. That’s why I started my podcast as well. I interview people who are either writing their own things or doing cool stuff at work or with their own businesses, and their stories can help others unlock things. It has really helped me learn but it has also become a network, and, as a result, has helped indirectly market me and my services.

About two and a half years ago I was approached by Forbes, who said to me… “we like what you do, can you do it for us?” i.e. come and share your stories and insights on our platform and that has been brilliant! I don’t get paid for it but it’s a great platform and adds a whole heap of credibility to the ideas and themes that I explore.

How did the book come about?

I published my first book in 2010, which was really a personal anthology of many of the things that I had been writing about. It was a good effort but completely DIY – I got some external input but it was self-published. After publishing it and then doing all the podcast interviews and then moving on to Forbes, my standards were going up and up and up – when you pay more attention that’s when you can really refine things.

Early in 2015 an American company had a good idea for a book for me to write, but in a very short timeframe. They were thinking about it, but the deal fell through. However, this lit a fire under me so I thought let’s create a proposal and then approach a handful of publishers. One of those approaches was to Pearson and they said that they really liked its focus.

At Pearson, I had a fabulous editor who really helped build, shape and develop the book. Basically, the book has allowed me to process and synthesise the last three or four years of what I’ve learned. However, what has been really surprising is that some stuff which is four years old is still pretty timely. In a funny way, it seems like I was almost ahead of the zeitgeist when I was doing some of the interviews – for example, with customer journey mapping and proactive customer service.

What’s fascinating is that when you’re in the middle of something and, possibly, at the leading edge you forget what you know, what a mountain of knowledge you have. As a result, with the book, we’ve been able to take all of these insights and organise them around a loose model (attract, engage, serve, retain, refer, communicate, motivate, lead) and produce 68 insights supported by case studies and interviews and also suggested next steps. What is clear is that no one size fits all but the book is organised in such a way that if you find a problem or issue that is relevant to you, you will also find advice and next steps. It’s a very practical and real how-to book.

In the end, I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I wrote it over three months last summer and finalised it soon thereafter. However, when the time came to send it out for endorsement I went wild and sent it to loads of people! And, the feedback has been awesome. I’ve got 29 endorsements from best-selling authors, leading entrepreneurs, Chief Execs, Senior Execs – people I really like and respect. It’s been really humbling.

I’ve been doing this sort of work for years to learn and help others but when you reach out and get that level of support it’s tremendous. I’m really excited about it all, having book published by a major publisher is a real bucket list thing for me. Not just to publish a book, but to do it with a major publisher and to create a better end product.

However, I’m only half way done – it’s written but now it’s about figuring out how to tell people about it. I don’t want to broadcast to people I don’t know, that’s not the way I work. Through this process of meeting people and writing a book and doing the interviews I’ve got plenty of people to tell and to ask – can you look? Can you do something?

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I think probably it was that I wrote the book in three months, and at the same time I was also working with my regular clients still. So, the biggest challenge was trying to stay on schedule by writing at evenings and weekends. It’s also hard getting that balance between getting into that metronomic zone cranking out the words but without losing the tone and the flow and the style, and keeping it from being bored and mundane – writing so everything snaps. It’s hard to do and sometimes you have to just step away when you’re bored and mechanically churning through. But, you also have to balance that with staying on track.

Do you have any advice you’d love to go back in time and give to yourself when you graduated from your MBA?

[Long, deep thought] Not really! The reason why is that the question almost implies regret. The interesting thing about life is, let me give you an example: I met my wife at a business event, she was subbing for her ill boss and she’s ace and if I’d done anything differently that wouldn’t have happened! For me, it’s really just about how you deal with things when they happen. My career might not be the most interesting for many, but I love it and it doesn’t feel like work. I’m at the point where I have carved that out over the years and I’m so happy to tell stories to help people figure out new ideas, and learn new stuff and meet amazing people. It’s too cool for school!

I say, just do stuff you like and enjoy. Someone I know recently moved out of corporate to start their own portfolio. Her old mentor said focus on the work and clients and customers and the rewards will follow – the value comes from enjoying and engaging with the work that you do. You work for too long not to enjoy it. This is what I’m encouraging people to do with my book, giving information, data, stories, evidence and experiences. It’s not about the big things but the small, and the things you don’t pay attention to that often make the biggest difference. So try something different and make it make sense!

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

Favourite place in London: Walking across the bridges over the Thames
Favourite holiday destination: My wife maintains it was the year we stayed in a little cabin overlooking the River Dart on Dartmoor. It was really isolated, perfect.
Must-check-every day website: BBC football gossip column, then I go to Google News then I look at four daily news emails I get – The Conversation,, Dave Pell Next Draft (which is comical and topical), and The Economist daily briefing.
Dream travel destination: I’ll probably have just come back from this when this gets published, with Barack Obama no less! Well, we’re going to Havana and he’s going at the same time for his visit to Cuba.
Cheese or Chocolate? Cheese! Stinking Bishop!!

Adrian’s book How to Wow: 68 Effortless Ways to Make Every Customer Experience Amazing is out on 8th April 2016. You can order a copy here. You can also find him on LinkedIn and Twitter. Also, check out his blog and podcast series here.

Communicating Your Transferable Skills

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On Thursday 17th March 2016, we hosted our second alumni careers webinar. The topic was “Communicating your Transferable Skills”, and focussed on how to best showcase your skills.

This webinar was recorded and is now available here. Running Time 35 mins.

NOTE you may not be able to see the links as mentioned in some of the answers, please find the Prospects job profiles here and the City Careers website here.

This presentation was given by David Gilchrist. For more from him click here.

An Address Book for the Digital Age

Cass Business School News, Uncategorized , .

Tassos Papantoniou studied Shipping, Trade and Finance from 2006 – 2007 and has been juggling his day job as a yacht broker with his new venture, an app called ConnectID. He came to Cass to have a chat about this new direction.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I did Shipping Trade & Finance, and to be honest, I wasn’t as focused as I should have been but I passed all my exams in August 2007. It was quite a change from my first degree, History & Philosophy, which I studied in the USA. This has remained of great interest to me, perhaps more so than Finance, as it turns out I am more of a creative person.

The course at Cass was a year long and I lived in central London. I didn’t tend to meet up with many people from my course, but I’ve found a few of them on LinkedIn since, and I regularly see some of them through my other business that is a yacht brokerage.

What did you do next?

After I graduated I started working for Torrance, a boutique yacht brokerage. They made me a partner, and I’m still working there today. We have had a good run with selling a 120 meter project now called MARAYA, the rebuild, charter and resale of Christina O and a healthy list of other very notable sales as well as chartering super-yachts.

How did you get the idea for ConnectID?

I had the idea for ConnectID about two years ago, and about a year ago, the idea finally solidified into the form it’s in today.

It came from going to boat shows, where I would give out so many business cards, and get around two or three hundred in return – by the end of the event you can’t remember anyone and you are left with a pile of cards to administer to a digital form if they are to be of use in the future! Once I started developing the idea, it became evident from our focus groups and chatting to people that people really want to be able to keep their address book up to date, and get rid of all that clutter, like having people’s old telephone numbers. Also with all the social networks we have today, we end up having the same person in 4-5 different places (emails, mobile, Whatsaap, Facebook, LinkedIn) so the idea is to have everything in one place with ConnectiD contacts. Basically, the idea was to tidy up everyone’s address books and create the first meta network that will keep everyone up to date as details change.

So, what does the app do?

The app can tidy up your personal contacts and ensure it stays updated as well as offering a service to organisations to keep their information up to date. It’s an app for everyday users to exchange details quickly and when you have some contact information that’s changed, everyone gets updated details based on what they already hold for you. It’s quick to use, you ask for one piece of information i.e mobile or email and you can exchange all or a subset of your contact details quickly – great for use in social or business situations, rather than having to, for example, give a phone number, swap email addresses, get their personal email and then find them on Facebook etc.

It gets even more interesting once you’re attached to an organisation that uses ConnectiD, you can then also see what information they hold on you, and update it, plus you can connect and collaborate with others members of the organisation to exchange a full set of details.

You can be attached to just one organisation, or to multiple organisations, and the same way you update everyone at once from your contacts, you update the organisations on the info they have for you at the same time, so next time you move house or change your number its just one simple update and everyone you share your details with will be updated without lifting a finger.

What have the challenges been?

There were a lot! I had never done anything technical before! I started this project so its been a challenging but equally rewarding journey. I partner with a company in Greece who had developed something similar in the past, and they have been invaluable in dealing with the nuances of contacts management since they took over the development. The app is much smarter now.

The whole idea is about one place that you can update everyone and everything. One or two years from now, I envisage that when you change your address, there will be no need to call, for example, Sky, EDF etc. The dream is that this app would be capable of updating them all at once. I want to organise the worlds contact information, be the number one source for updated information with users permission and be a go to hub for all other communications – it’s not a new social network you have the original social network in the contacts in your phone already, but ConnectiD will be the first true meta-network.

If you could start again from the beginning what advice would you give yourself?

I’m not sure I’d do anything differently if I went back to the start. I would still need to work with a strong technical team. I’d make sure they were someone who had prior experience of what I wanted to do and would iteratively build something of value for customers so I could test it in the market early.

It‘s important that whatever you do, you do it at the lowest cost possible, and you get your product out as soon as possible to get some learning and feedback from customers on it. As soon as you have a viable product, get it out there with good analytics in place and go from there. This process has taken over a year for me!

We’re in a healthy place now, but there have been a lot of ups and downs along the way. One month everything will be fantastic, the next it’s all scary looking. Believe in what you are doing and build a team that really believes in the idea, and together you’ll get there!

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Cruising down the Thames
Favourite holiday destination: Caribbean
Must-visit every day website: Reuters News, or BBC news on the TV
Dream travel destination: I’ve been to everywhere I want to go!
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate!

Download the ConnectID app for up to date contacts always, available on IOS or Android.

Alumnus Creates App For Smarter Networking

Cass Business School News, Uncategorized , .

GrahamBlogPic2Graham Evans studied for a BSc in Banking & International Finance from 1986 – 1989, a period of time which included Black Monday. He has since gone on to forge a 20-year career as an Independent Financial Advisor and has now branched out into the start-up world. We sat down for a chat.

Tell me about your Cass experience!

I studied Banking & International Finance, starting in 1986. Back then, we all lived in the halls of residence on Bunhill Row called Northampton Hall (which is the tall building on left in this image). It was a huge building with 17 or 18 floors. I was at Cass for the crash in 1987, it was very interesting being in Moorgate with all the privatisations. Students were taking their loans and investing them in the privatisation until BP failed!

The Business School was in the Barbican then – Frobisher Crescent. I was partly based up in Angel, and partly at the Barbican, which made for an eclectic mix.

I’m still in contact with around half a dozen people from my course and university in general, and they are starting to retire! I’m just starting to start-up!

Do you attend many alumni events?

Until recently, I’ve only really seen fellow alumni on a social basis – I meet pretty regularly with my City and Cass group. I recently re-engaged with the school itself through the Alumni Office. I was invited to an event to give feedback on my alumni experience, and realised the power of the alumni network.

What did you do after graduating?

I went to Lloyds Bank, but I soon got bored with being office based every day. I then decided to set myself up as an Independent Financial Advisor and I have been doing that as my day job for the past 20 years. I tend to deal primarily with high net worth clients on tax.

How did the idea for Linccup come about?

When my wife gave birth to our twins, around seven and a half years ago, I thought that my income was ok, but I could do with some capital. So I put down my golf clubs and started looking for what’s missing in the world! For example, I’m soon to launch a new website offering free will writing after finding out that 70% of UK citizens don’t have a will. It’s being launched in conjunction with solicitors, who will sort out the probate at the back end.

Then, in between travelling to Bermuda, New York and Hong Kong for business, I sat there in my New York hotel lobby looking at all the other business travellers sat around on their phones. I thought that there must be a way for people to link up and find commonality. When you travel a lot on business, you get bored with room service very quickly, and I thought how much nicer it would be to meet people. I think most people don’t want to go out to a bar by themselves to find a bit of company. On LinkedIn you have your contacts list, but you can’t see where the person is – they may have gone to the UK and you’re in New York for the week, for example.

So I saw a big opportunity to take networking from 2D on the page, and take it out in to the real world, in 3D. Attitudes to privacy and data have changed enormously over the past few years, and we have so many notifications and followers etc. it’s hard to separate the useful information.

What is Linccup exactly?

It’s a location-based networking app with a business focus. For example, if you’re in New York for the week, you could search for nearby users in your industry who are happy to meet up for a drink, or for nearby users that are Cass alumni who are happy to meet for dinner. There are lots of ways you can search for nearby people, so that you get the most out of your time. You can also set alerts to tell you when contacts are nearby so you never miss another of those fortuitous coincidental meetings.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Initially, you have the idea, but the biggest challenge is that then you need to work out what to do with it! Finding the right people to work with is key. This was my first start-up, so we went down the consultation route but if I did this again I wouldn’t use this service again. You have to believe in yourself!

If you’ve got contacts, if you’ve been to university, if you’ve worked for a couple of years, you can do it on your own and you don’t need expensive hand holding! There are always people offering to help with a business plan but you usually end up having to re-do it yourself anyway.

Then you need to get out and use your contacts. I’ve worked on this with Rob Gandee, our CEO, and I must say his help has been invaluable. I’m also very excited about the power of the alumni group, and also the other support that Cass offers alumni in their entrepreneurial endeavours.

What has been the most rewarding?

I have to say, seeing the app on the app store – taking it to that level of actuality. Success or failure then is partly down to how well we’ve done, but also down to the whims of life. It’s validating to know that I’ve had an idea and people are interested in backing it.

And finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Camden
Favourite holiday destination: Lake Maggiore
Must check everyday website:
Dream travel destination: Tokyo
Cheese or chocolate: How about chocolate cheesecake? Best of both worlds!

Download the Linccup app from the Apple App Store – Linccup is coming soon to Android.

From Cass to Mykonos Holiday Villas

Cass Business School News , .


Nikos Iatrou (MSc Property Valuation and Law, 2006) quit his 9-5 for a real estate job with a difference – luxury holiday villas Maera Villas in Mykonos, and a sideline of cold-pressed juices. We sat down for a chat about how it all came about.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I came to Cass in 2005 to do a Masters in what was then Property Valuation and Law with George Herd. I intended to go in to commercial real estate. I really enjoyed the course, but to be honest I didn’t really know what I signed up for!

The law side was super challenging, but it was a great course – it certainly had its tricky moments! The content was very useful and I used a lot of it at work straight after; it wasn’t cheap to do but I felt it was money well spent, and I believe I’ve got a good return on my investment.

I’ve only got good memories from Cass and I still have many friends and work contacts from my time studying.

Where did you go next?

Right after finishing my degree I joined a real estate firm in the West End called Savoy Stewart, and it was really useful that I already had a good network of contacts from Cass that I could use straight away. I went with the aim of becoming a RICS Chartered Surveyor. I stayed for two years and qualified as MRICS. But I soon realised I don’t really enjoy a desk job, working 9-5 every day and that whole working format. And this is really where my story begins!

What gave you the idea for holiday villas?

As part of my final piece of coursework for the degree, I had actually done a project about the development of a holiday villa in Greece, so you can see I was already interested in things further afield.

How did you end up in Mykonos?

After qualifying as MRICS and some world travelling I decided to get into villa properties and hospitality in Greece – Greece has had a fraught time of things, but from a real estate point of view it is very interesting – I applied the principle that I learned from Cass to opportunistically find a good opportunity with potential.

I found Mykonos – I looked at others too – but here I went and looked all over seeking a builder or a developer in a difficult spot who I could buy property from to rent out.

What happened next?

I found the ideal properties and bought them and began to reconfigure them, as well as doing the marketing and promotion. Then when people started showing up I was also responsible for the hospitality side of the business. This was summer 2015.

The houses are really cool and brand new, and in the main one we did lots of additions, like a really cool secret disco built in to the rocks, and a custom-built hot tub.


I looked to improve the properties in many ways – something I learned at Cass is to find your angle and add value to your real estate investments. The summer went very well, we had quite a few bookings and everyone was astounded by the accommodation. This summer it’s looking like it will be even crazier as more people get to hear of our villas.

Do you have any other projects?

I also set up a side company in Mykonos, a small-scale cold pressed juice company. I was living in New York for a while when the craze was really taking off there – you know, green juices for health, and cold pressing to keep more nutrients. So I put two and two together and decided to try it in Mykonos. It’s both a place where healthier-minded people go for a holiday as well as somewhere where people might overindulge and want to detox the next day.

Last summer I did an official one-month pilot to see how it went, and it was pretty cool actually, and we got lots of social media buzz. We offered the juices to yoga instructors, who sent us their clients, and through this we got to some Instagram celebrities who were staying on the island and it quickly became a big deal. In the end it went on for 2 months and we didn’t do any marketing and didn’t have a point of sale, it was all very successful and we’re certainly going to launch properly this summer.

Do you have more villas in the pipeline?

Yes we are actually in the process of doing up some new ones we recently bought so we have some new villas to add to the portfolio. I’ve also been asked to take over some other properties as well. Currently there are 9 villas now, with a few more to add, all similar in that they are high-value luxury accommodation.

Do you do all this alone?

Last year I had three people working with me, all from the US actually, and it was a great experience for the whole team. We lived together for four months and they all went off after – so I’m looking to recruit people to fill their positions. If you’re interested – contact the alumni team or find me on instagram @maeravillas.

Were there any unexpected challenges or problems?

Oh yes – what to pick!

Greek bureaucracy is very difficult to plan and deal with. In the end I got support from local tax and accounting (never my strong point) specialists and also I tried to actively understand the basics.

Dealing with the villa’s clients can be tricky at times. People are very particular on holiday; we always had the attitude that we can accommodate any request – but that led to a few difficult situations with people requesting unreasonable things, like one group who wanted a full meal prepared by a top chef within an hour’s notice – we scrambled but we managed to get it done.

With the juices we had a whole other set of problems! For example, you might not always be able to get all the ingredients so you have to find the right substitutes. Fine-tuning the recipes took a long time until we were happy with the taste basics and nutritional level. And from a business point of view it was a challenge to come up with a recipe that was not unprofitable at base cost. There were tons of marketing challenges too, because we were working on a tiny shoestring budget. Getting the Instagram celebrities involved came as a result of our initiative to have brand ambassadors, who were the local yoga and pilates instructors who we gave commission to for referrals.

Also, lack of sleep! I had about three hours a night for about three months!

What one thing would you like to go back and tell yourself when you were starting out?

I’d definitely arrange better accommodation for myself and my team. It was a smallish place and the lack of space and close proximity could cause a few fractious moments. Also sleeping pills!

What’s next for you?

The Villas we currently have are on a high-end scale and I want to expand and get more if the right opportunity is there. In Mykonos and Greece in general, the problems may have stabilised but they are still there so I’m working hard to find ways to safeguard against any volatility.

Also, from my experience in our summer accommodation I realised that summer-long rental properties are in short supply for seasonal workers. I’m now in negotiation for a plot of land away from the commercial areas, to develop small (2 person) units for people working in Mykonos in the summer. Again my Cass learning has come in handy here – I’ve already secured a rental guarantee from a landlord for five years, ensuring a good initial yield.

The other problem to solve, is what do I do in the winter? This winter I’m going travelling but in general I’m trying to find other stuff to do. I’m also looking at small refurbs of London properties, as I’ve got friends who have been doing that sort of thing for a while.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
What’s your favourite place in London? Hyde Park
Your favourite holiday destination? Mykonos
Your must-check-every day website? BBC Football, especially Tottenham Hotspur’s page
Your dream travel destination? I’m actually about to start doing it now – Nepal before I go back to Mykonos, get all spiritual and relaxed
Cheese or chocolate? *big sigh* I like both! Chocolate!

Check out the villas at and find Nikos on instagram @maeravillas.

Facilitating better Post Operative Care

Health Sciences News.


Research undertaken by the Kings Fund has shown that the number of hospital beds has been declining for many years in England. Over the past 26 years the number of available hospital beds in England has more than halved. This decrease is more marked in beds for people with learning disabilities, mental illness and for longer-term care of older people.

The National Audit Office has suggested that hospitals with average bed occupancy levels above 85 per cent can expect to have regular bed shortages, periodic bed crises and increased numbers of health care-acquired infections. Such shortages can compromise patient’s effective recovery and can even put lives at risk. Consequently beds in the NHS are under intense pressure more than ever.

Bed space is further challenged by poor discharge planning but more significantly by patient readmission. Patient readmission is a critical issue for all hospitals and is a major expense to the NHS. With effective management this cost can be reduced if modern systems are made available to help hospitals manage and alleviate this pressure. Such systems would need to offer managers and clinicians the ability to change current practices at scale and pace rather than being incremental and offering marginal change and savings.

For a long time, physicians and nurses have recognised the importance of recovery in a patient’s treatment cycle. By closely monitoring the quality of a patient’s recovery, staff are able to detect any developing unwellness early allowing it to be quickly and effectively handled. Alternatively, if not treated, it could eventually develop into a serious condition thus requiring a longer hospital stay or if not detected, may result in a readmission, each consequence adding further cost and burden to the NHS. Consequently, better patient outcomes allow for reduced length of stay. Decreased length of stay reduces the level of resources a hospital needs to allocate so by allowing it to effectively reduce and manage its costs by attuning its services towards all patients.

Until now, monitoring a patient’s quality of recovery has been poorly measured and evaluated. Data collection can be very haphazard, confusing to patients and staff and limited in scope. Some basic methods currently used in some hospitals are labour intensive and offer limited clinical value due to their lack of depth and range. Consequently a significant opportunity exists to develop the art of postoperative quality of recovery monitoring and evaluation as a clinical tool. This would be achieved by creating a modern patient centric system that harnesses the power of big data whose interface allows for differing language and cultures to be immediately understood. So rather than placing patient’s secondary to IT systems an opportunity exists to develop a flexible web-based solution using evidenced based comparative data to measure, evaluate and improve patient outcomes while helping to develop best clinical practice.

The solution

An international team including researchers at City University London’s School of Health Sciences have been working to address the issue of measuring and evaluating the quality of patient recovery after surgery (post-operative recovery).

Over recent years, an innovative and unique tool has been developed which has the potential to benefit all patients, doctors, hospitals and the NHS. An easy to use web-based system allows doctors, researchers and managers to monitor and evaluate a patient’s recovery from surgery. It is called PostopQRS™. (Postoperative Quality of Recovery Scale).

PostopQRS™ is at an exciting stage of its development with over 50 research clinicians having successfully used the technology in studies. PostopQRS™ currently exists in research trial mode and is not yet optimised for general launch but endorsement received to date from evaluators indicate that it could have a significant impact on monitoring and evaluating post-operative recovery. PostopQRS™ has uniquely received endorsement from two societies related to enhance patient recovery and so this helps validate City University London belief, that with the right type of support, PostopQRS™ has the ability to transform the current clinical service model to benefit both patients and the NHS.

By using a tablet or smart phone, with a minimal amount of training, hospital staff, be it a doctor, nurse or carer can evaluate a patient within 6 minutes, assessing their physical, emotional, pain and cognitive health domains. Due to PostopQRS™ ease of use, simple interface and its ability to quickly process data, readings can be taken repeatedly at predetermined times throughout the period of patient care. It can be done in person or over the phone after a patient has been discharged so offering post discharge support and monitoring.

The data collected can be used to:

  • Objectively assess how a patient recovers from surgery using evidenced based data
  • Analyse trends from groups of patients enabling the manipulation of ‘big data’ to identify best practice, trends and outcomes and comparing hospitals in their delivery of patient treatment interventions.
  • Help improve recovery from surgery for elderly and high risk patients
  • Evaluate a patients physiological, emotional and cognitive health after surgery as well as their medical condition
  • Evaluate techniques and conditions to support doctors as they plan post-operative and discharge care

Benefits of PostopQRS™

PostopQRS™ will have immense benefits to patients:

  • A patient being monitored by PostopQRS™ will know that their care is being regularly monitored on multiple levels, not just the medical outcome of their surgery. The system allows doctors to monitor post-surgery anxiety, sickness, cognition and many other important factors. At the moment these are not monitored in a way that demonstrates if one area impacts on another.
  • They will benefit from an early warning system, if they are not recovering then the system will quickly flag this to their doctor.
  • The patient will know that they are receiving the best intervention, structured in the best way for their particular problem.
  • Allows for a fundamental shift towards care that is co-ordinated around the full range of a patient’s needs (rather than care based around a single disease).

PostopQRS™ will have a considerable impact on the NHS:

  • The system will save doctors time, improve their abilities to monitor their patients and improve care levels. They will be able to review and monitor all their patients remotely and in real time.
  • The system will allow hospitals to know how different doctors are performing against their peers, they will know what interventions work best for which medical condition and help guide resource allocation (for each medical condition) and investment decisions.
  • The system will allow the NHS to compare hospitals with each other, guide their investment decisions based on data and will be able to direct resources for the biggest benefit to patients.
  • It allows for a more integrated care system as the tool fosters a new level of patient centred care and allows for a genuine patient partnership in their recovery.
  • Data collected will help managers decide on how services are commissioned and paid for and will allow them to compare how improvements in care are delivered across hospitals, regions and nationally within the NHS.

PostopQRS™ will provide an outstanding research tool to enable healthcare professionals to make major improvements to the quality of patient care:

  • to identify what can be done to stop patients developing chronic pain after surgery
  • to understand what long term harm may result from anaesthesia, particular following repeated anaesthetics
  • to learn what outcomes should be used to measure the success of anaesthesia and peri-operative care
  • to improve recovery from surgery for elderly and high risk patients
  • to assess for which patients does regional anaesthesia give better outcomes than general anaesthesia
  • to enhance recovery programmes measuring short and long-term outcomes
  • to help improve communication between teams looking after patients throughout their surgical journey

The future of PostopQRS™

With the exception of corporate charitable support from a major healthcare company, this project has been self-funded by the institutions represented by the international team managing the project. More development is required before PostopQRS™ can be fully launched as a self sustainable model. The objective is that it will be run as a self-funded system by clinicians and managers from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other bodies paying a subscription to access the tools processing and reporting abilities which will help to guide investment, spending, future research and best practice across the UK and internationally.

There is already considerable interest from NHS hospitals, private healthcare providers and international health systems who would benefit from implementing the technology. As the lead research partner, City University London is keen to launch this system which is very much aligned to the School of Health Sciences Allied Health Care agenda.

Support required

The University aims to secure at least £150,000 for key parts of the project which are currently preventing the team from developing a sustainable, patient focused business. This includes:

  • Funding for the salary of a Project Manager to take this exciting system to the stage where it can be launched as a self-sustaining enterprise
  • Upgrading the features and mobile functionality of the website to be customer friendly so that patients will be encouraged to use the system
  • Formalising and producing the supporting and commercial infrastructure to allow for self-sustaining operations
  • Securing ISO certification, subcontractors and IP to ensure the project can become a viable enterprise


Measuring and evaluating the quality of patient recovery is the focus of PostopQRS™. The tool can quickly alert clinicians and carers if patient’s recovery is becoming compromised. Rather than providing fragmented information about a patient treatment (or series of patients) PostopQRS™ proactively passes on the full picture of recovery rather than pockets of ad hoc information to carers and clinicians. Accordingly, the system provides a more holistic picture of a patient’s journey through recovery so providing a more integrated doctor/patient care pathway.

We expect that PostopQRS™, as a tool, will make a significant difference for all surgical patients and improve communication between surgical and non-surgical teams looking after patients throughout their surgical journey.

This innovative system is designed to measure and evaluate the outcomes for patients after surgery having the potential to benefit patients from six years old and upwards. Currently there is nothing that can deliver such comprehensive support to patients, doctors, and the NHS and drug providers so completion of the development programme will allow PostopQRS™ to become self-sustainable so it can be promoted to a wider audience.

For more information please contact David Street by email on or call on 0207 040 5556.

Image credit © Flickr user daveynin