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The University of Edinburgh

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Podcast #1 | Thoughts after Startup Grind Welcome Night

Our First Podcast

This is the first episode of what we hope will be a regular podcast series. We're expecting for these to be more of a brain-dump. It'll be thoughts, feelings, and ideas that jump into our head whenever all three of us are together:

In this episode, we give our thoughts on the entrepreneurs that we met at StartupGrind Europe Conference VIP Welcome Night. It took place on 5th June 2019, at WeWork in Moorgate, London. It was an informal night where we got to meet and chat with the freshest, up and coming, entrepreneurs in the scene. Our attitude and approach going into this event was about making new friendships, to discover what's happening with Europe's startups, and to learn what the most recurrent issues affecting entrepreneurs currently are.


This was after a long day's travel with very few hours of sleep. The energy is low but it makes for some great entertainment (we hope!).



Show Notes

Adam:

You thought the event was a bit of a 9 for you. How did you find it?


Decio:

I think it was just a lovely experience to meet like-minded people who care about growth and business, and having an impact.


In terms of the value given to SageCity, or that could possibly be there… I think there is potential to further engage with some people. But I think that the issue with that event is that everyone is looking to sell and make business and not entirely to be sold to. Even if that means us speeding up their business, allowing them to become more efficient and more effective. They still don’t want to be there to be sold to. They’re not there to invest. They’re there to be invested in.


Adam:

I found three or four people who were genuinely interested in using it and piecing it together what they had or what they’re building. It was a bit of a mixbag. To be honest, with the majority of people, it was just nice to chat to them. One thing that I found quite good was that everyone was willing to refer us to someone else, should it be of relevance. I did a lot of that when I couldn’t find someone who was directly interested.


Decio:

What about you, Tom?


Tom:

It was about a 4 out of 10. I felt that the people I was talking to were not working on revolutionary stuff. But I also felt that I wasn’t in the energetic mood to really engage and get the most out of the conversations I was having with people.


I also felt that today our exercise on talking about what the blockchain is and our little 30-second elevator pitch worked alright today. I got some good responses. Some so-so responses. But most of it should be listening and hearing out what [the entrepreneur’s] problems are instead of drilling into my thing.


Adam:

It was actually quite good for marketing research. One of the things that I asked people was, “What kind of problems are you facing within your business or industry?”. This can get us interesting insights on potential avenues that we can go down and explore and use in the future.


For me it was just a good event for like-minded people. I definitely recommend it!


Decio:

What startups today stood out for you, Tom?


Tom:

Nothing, really. There was a few nice ideas that I felt were well-intentioned. But nothing jumped out like, “Woah! That’s insane! That’s crazy!” But at the same time, when I was talking to people I didn’t get a reaction from them in the same way.


Vice-versa. The world is one big mirror...


Adam:

For me, it was really interesting. When we’re up in Edinburgh, everyone feels like they have to do something special. When I go to an event there, there’s a lot of people that when you meet them you are like, “Wow, that’s a cool idea!”. For example, we met a guy last week at an event who was building skin-thin sensor suits for sport and other stuff. That’s something you wouldn’t hear of down here [in London].

It’s not that they’re bad businesses. At the end of the day, it’s not necessarily about innovation for most startups. It’s about making money. A lot of them tonight had great and solidly tested business models but for me there wasn’t anything innovative.


There were a few people who sounded like they wanted to be innovative. And that’s why they wanted to listen to what I had to say. But it was a bit of a mix-bag. Not the usual crowd.


Decio:

Tom, do you feel like a lot of the startups and businesses that currently exist serve zero purpose to humanity or society? To advance it further? Do you feel like they’re just cluttering, or using up valuable resources? What made you not think that many of these startups were “the shit”?


Tom:

A lot of what they were talking about was, in my mind, an iterative improvement. It was a +1 or a +2 on top of what’s already there. There didn’t seem to be much talk on the overall cause or larger vision. It seemed quite tame. I felt as though that tameness will lead to an ecosystem that’s not “shooting for the stars”. There needs to be a fundamental shift on how things are done. There needs to be bolder visions going around people and the way they approach things.


Adam:

I want to retract my statement of no one being interesting because your question reminded me of a company that I was like, “Oh! That’s actually really impressive!”


Basically, they build hardware - not exactly a smartwatch but similar - or health trackers that can predict heart attacks or strokes 3 months before they happen within someone. To me, not only was that utilising data and analytics in a crazy level, but also truly making an impact or having a benefit in society and healthcare. We talked a little bit to them about storing data and securing it through the blockchain. But I don’t feel like they’re yet ready for an immediate integration. We got each other’s backs instead. We can introduce them to some companies we’ve been hanging out with up in Edinburgh.


Decio:

You talk about them not being ready for our technology. What criteria do you look for to categorise or qualify someone as ready for our technology?


Adam:

For me, it can vary. There are two elements:

  1. They’ve not fully figured out how their product would work commercially.

  2. As a business model they’re not sure how we would feed in there because they’ve not figured that stuff out.

With the guys that I said weren’t quite ready, they were still figuring their product out commercially. If we were to apply the blockchain with them, it wouldn’t be an initial thing that they’d want. They need to get in a minimum viable product. But it would be something that enhances it later on and allows them to expand or save costs.


Decio:

Coming in to that event, what expectations did you have and coming out of it, what did you expect there to be? How did you expect things to go?


Tom:

The people we talked to were seed-round companies. Which is good, but there weren’t as many series A or series B, starting to get traction… That level of company wasn’t going about - at least the ones I spoke to!


I felt there should’ve been a more confident push for a bigger vision. But the way I approached it tonight, I was not pushing for a big vision.


Decio:

So you weren’t pushing for the big vision of SageCity… Is that because of tiredness or lack of energy?


Tom:

Since March, when I go to these events… The big vision being zero cost living, decentralised governance, and new economies… All of that is only possible if we suss out the blockchain technology. And that’s the phase we’re in just now and I have to sell that as a vision or as an idea.


Decio:

Are you feeling less energised by where we are now? Are you feeling impatience to get to that ultimate vision?


Tom:

Yeah, it’s a temporary phase.


Adam:

At SageCity, we have a grander plan beyond what we’re currently providing in the blockchain sphere. But in our essence, what we really care about is making people’s lives better, taking care of the core needs they have in their life or business. And in order for us to fully maximise that, we have to start with something. We have to start somewhere with one of those needs that we can help fulfil with our ideas and technology.


For me, one of the passions that I had that starting this company up, and one that we kept silent to the majority of people we meet - because it’s a bit out there - is zero-cost living. Basically: taking care of people’s needs so that they can focus on the big picture.


One of the concepts that influenced me a lot when we started was Universal Basic Income. There’s a bit of a stigma around that from what I see… Within politicians and even working class people… Some are opposed to UBI because they think that everyone who lives on benefits or doesn’t do anything with their life will continue to do nothing with their life. That’s maybe the beauty with a system in which everyone’s needs are taken care of.


Everyone is free to pursue what they actually want to pursue.


There’s a good chance that these people 2 to 3 months down the line of this free-living they will come to the realisation, “I’m not doing anything with my life… I have no concerns and I’m just wasting away…” and that’s when passion and inspiration suddenly take flight. Suddenly you have people who never in a million years thought they could be producing art for a living. Or thinking about going into space, or something. Suddenly it opens this opportunity for people to reignite their passion and interests in life.


Tom:

Yeah, through SageCity, for the first time, people can work on what’s important to them. They’re free to create and push their frontiers. They are visionaries, they are entrepreneurs, they’re creatives, they’re artists.


This company is here to begin that work and process and make it a reality.


Decio:

You actually mentioned space in that anecdote… Is this something you’ve been thinking about? Or is this something you just came out with? How do you see blockchain being used in space?


Adam:

Obviously there are applications. But if I’m honest, I know for a fact I don’t have the interest or the skills required to do space things.


But what we’re focused on is people living currently or future generations. If they don’t have to worry about life on Earth, they can start thinking about life outside of Earth.


I quickly realised, in my early to mid-teens that if you can’t do something revolutionary, then you need to provide a foundation for other people to do things that are revolutionary.


We’re nowhere near close to finding the meaning of life or speed-travel. But if people don’t have to worry about paying bills, maybe they can dedicate their whole lives to figuring that one out.


Tom:

We’re just giving the space and the tools for the future to be built by others. Not by us.


Decio:

By enabling them to do that, we are in some form or another, revolutionising the whole ecosystem.


Do you have any more points to add to today’s update?


Adam:

We’re not insane. We just have some ground plans that we know aren’t going to happen in 2, 5, maybe even 10 years but everything that I’m doing is working towards - and no matter how I turn away from things or give up on something - I always end up coming back to the same sentiment: You need to do something with meaning.


Decio:

One-hundred percent... Tom?


Tom:

Be sagacious. Be sagacious...


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