Last week marked the launch of our 4th (!) cohort of the Alpha Programme, our 12-week long accelerator helping London’s most disruptive startups and entrepreneurs grow their businesses as they progress towards raising their crucial seed round. From building conflict-avoiding tech to developments in fitness tracking, our four teams are definitely ones to watch. We sat down with Ixy, Ginza, Wild and Pinga, to find out about their entrepreneurial journeys so far and what they’re looking to get out of our 12-week programme.
Anna Gát is the founder and CEO of Ixy, the messaging app that uses AI to help users to identify, prevent or solve conflict. Surprised at the lack of a similar resolution on the market to a problem Anna believes we all face – she went about building the fix herself. With the help of a remote team, Anna is in the process of raising an Angel round to bring Ixy to the marketplace.
Hi Anna, can you tell us a bit about Ixy and the work you’re currently doing?
“Ixy is a young startup that has a rather intricate linguistics system to tell, with good accuracy, if you have just said or read something that’s soon going to turn into a problem – and empowers you to have control over the outcome. One of the main problems at the minute is the 24/7 conversation people now engage in that can make us feel very powerless. I’ve found that people no longer say what they really think in conversations due to a fear of being ‘blocked’ or ‘unfriended’ ( and of course, some situations require this type of action) but this trend for self-censorship has the ability to alter relationships.”
Great! Tell us about Marketing and PR: is that something you’re focusing on at the moment?
“I’m primarily focused on research and talking to our users right now, but sometimes PR just takes off on its own and two major things have happened in the past few weeks. The first is I have been nominated for MIT’s ‘Tech Innovators Under 35’ award. When that email came through telling me I had been nominated I was so shocked. My instant response was thinking the email was spam!
Secondly, ‘The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation’ report written by the Future of Humanity Institute, was released last week and is pretty much the bible exploring the way in which AI can go wrong and how to prevent disaster – it’s a really genius piece of work. I started reading and part way through I came across a chapter that was so relevant for Ixy! I emailed one of the contributors whom I know and explained how relevant the section was and he then tells me Ixy is mentioned. Both of these things are strong signs that what Ixy is doing, and our mission, are valid, timely and much-needed. When you’re running a startup you’re always in a disaster-prepared mode, so good surprises like these are brilliant.”
Congratulations! Now the last question is all about Alpha – what are you looking to get out of the programme and what excites you about being based in Huckletree?
“The main thing for me is definitely the community because there are so many different startups in the space. I’m meeting a lot of new people right now which is great and it’s interesting to see how other solve problems and share knowledge. Then in terms of the programme, I’m really looking to get as much insight as possible. I will get training and support from leading industry people on how to get funding-ready. One of the main things I am looking for support with is my pitching ability.”
The second team in our new cohort is Pinga, a crowd-sourced and community focused on-demand delivery service where users can ask people near them for small tasks. We caught up with Co-Founder and COO Jack Rubin, who, along with his co-founder Mike Goulden, is looking to make it the norm for people to help each other out with day-to-day tasks.
Hi Jack, tell us about what you’re doing at Pinga…
“So, we are a new app-based platform where users can do tasks and favours for people in their community. It will show you people on the app who are in local shops or supermarkets, for example, if you need a pint of milk but can’t leave the house the app connects you to someone who can pick it up for you. It’s all community filled requests which is central to the whole concept. Sometimes people ask for things because they are just too busy or tired but sometimes it’s a real need. The example we use is a mum of three at home and she’s ran out of nappies – our app removes the stress of situations like that.”
Let’s talk about raising. What’s your plan there?
“We did an incubator at the start of 2017 where we raised £52,000. After our testing stage last year we raised another £100,000 to launch at Nottingham Uni. We are currently doing another raise of £200,000 and so far we are halfway to that target.”
That’s great! So what kind of user numbers do you have at the minute?
“The pilot launch was focused on university campuses. From that we had 2500 users out of only 10,000 possible IOS users at Nottingham Uni, which was brilliant.”
Bringing it back to the Alpha Programme, what are you most looking forward to?
“My brother Charlie is based in Huckletree with his team so that’s how I initially found out about the opportunity. The workshops are something that I’m really looking forward to. It will be great to hear from insiders and gain knowledge in so many areas to do with growing a startup. PR and Marketing is something we don’t currently do a great deal of, so that will be great to learn more about.
We also instantly knew that Alpha, and being at Huckletree, would be an amazing opportunity to interact with the startup and tech community and meet people because that’s something we would struggle with otherwise. There is nothing quite like launching a startup so another side of it is the great advice we can get. The whole programme is an amazing opportunity for us.”
Wild offers a real solution to understanding the data and information we collect about our bodies and fitness. Founder Hélène Guillame noticed consumers were collecting massive amounts of data from their wearables and devices but failing to utilise it – so she came up with the answer to enlighten users.
Hi Helene, what’s the story on Wild?
“We believe that people should own and use the data they collect about their bodies. We all have so much information at our disposal but up until now there’s nothing being done with it. So, we have started with cyclists, swimmers and runners of all levels, who track more data than the rest of the population, to help them understand how they can improve. Firstly we help motivate them and make it easier to show up to training, secondly we help them train, sleep and eat better. The aim is to provide clear actionable health improvements based on a better understanding of your mind and body.”
As yet, you haven’t launched officially. Is there a pressing need out there for Wild?
“Definitely! We have 1,400 users across the waiting list and beta version. Now the main focus is retention and how to get those current users more engaged and excited about the work we’re doing. Annie, our head of UX and growth, is focusing on retention but also growing out customer base. Filip, our AI Engineer, makes sure we’re ready for our users and that we provide them with great insights from their data. From there, we can start to accelerate.”
Even though you’ve just joined the Alpha Programme, you’ve been a member of Huckletree West for a while! Where are your favourite spots in the space?
“I cycle to the space every day from my house in High Street Kensington so the bike park is really useful for me. But in terms of downtime, I have always wanted a place to relax, and nap, where I work. In my old job I was travelling a lot and had to resort to napping in the disabled loo at one point! So that’s why I’m very excited about the Meditation Yurt – I go there for a little meditation break every day. It’s a great way to destress and take time out.”
That’s one of our top picks, too! So now that you’re part of Team Alpha, what are you looking forward to in the Programme?
“We have been part of a similar programme in the past and I really like the structure and frameworks they provide. I work best when there methods to follow and the Alpha programme is very structures and all the sessions are highly relevant to us and what we’re doing.
The other main point would be the experts who are part of every session. It’s very unique to have a chance to speak to and spend time to people so relevant to what you’re doing so that will be great. The range of workshops will also be great because they will cover interests of all three of us working on Wild so that will be really beneficial to us.”
Thinking ahead to your next getaway? Fed up of the usual tourist hot spots? Meet Ginza, the members-only community with city guides from resident creatives and entrepreneurs. Founders Sarah Ahern and Rob Chu are passionate Londoners hailing from strategy and investment backgrounds. We caught up with Sarah for the need-to-know:
Hi Sarah! So, what’s the story on Ginza?
“We’re on a mission to build a global community of travellers and locals that makes it possible for anyone to travel like a local. We provide hotel guests with content and offers curated by local insiders specifically for their hotel. When guests use the platform, Ginza learns their preferences and provides the hotel with insights to personalise the guest experience and drive direct bookings. Our current partners include Green Rooms art hotel in London, YOTEL internationally and Caravan Restaurants.”
You mentioned your insiders (dream job!). Who are they and where can we find them?
“We have 60+, including in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Oslo, St Petersburg, Mumbai, and San Francisco. They work in art, design, fashion, tech, food, music, film, and more. The emphasis is not on working with celebrities or professional influencers, but ordinary people, who we find interesting and who are passionate about their local neighbourhood.”
What’s coming up for team Ginza over the next few months?
“Our key upcoming milestones are the launch of a curated list of bookable experiences and events on the platform and out launch in San Francisco this summer. We are also preparing to raise seed investment in the next 3 to 6 months to allow us to grow the team.”
As our newest resident globe-trotter, we have to ask: where should we be visiting this year?
“A city I think is quite underrated is Chicago. It has amazing food, art, architecture, and the best comedy and improv clubs in the world. To me, it’s like a cleaner, more chilled New York. Also, I had one of the best food experiences of my life there, at Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill.”
Finally, what are you most excited about taking away from the Alpha Programme?
“Partly the community aspect: we’re looking for people who want to be insiders on Ginza. We’re also looking to grow our networks and Huckletree is the perfect environment to do that.”
Want in on the Alpha Programme? We’re now accepting applications for Q3, 2018. Apply now!