Alex is a DPhil Student in International Development at Pembroke College. Alex co-founded Lanterne with Yohan Iddawela, a PhD Student at the London School of Economics.
Lanterne is an online platform which enables NGOs, charities, businesses and individuals to make informed decisions about their safety in conflict zones. Whereas Google Maps shows the quickest route from A to B, Lanterne will show the user the safest routes possible. Our vision is zero international worker casualties in conflict zones.
I was an analyst at the Australian Department of Defence for several years, focusing on Afghanistan, where I deployed several times. Yohan also lived and worked in Afghanistan, and we both saw first-hand how our friends, colleagues and locals’ lives were constantly at risk. We decided to pursue our entrepreneurship journey to address this situation – in other words, we believe this product will save people’s lives.
For me, entrepreneurship is the process of recognizing that things could be done better than is currently the case, identifying a creative solution and implementing it!
Once we understood how recent advances in machine learning had been applied to similar domains with considerable success, we decided our idea was worth pursuing.
Communication – both to the team and to investors, advisors and customers.
Strategy – deciding what path to take, what goals are most important and how to spend your time.
Perseverance – it takes a lot of effort and time, particularly when you are trying something new.
I’ve been able to meet and work with some amazing people on a project that I co-designed – its incredibly rewarding and creative, unlike any other work I have done before!
I’m hugely inspired by humanitarian and development workers who are willing go to dangerous places for years to improve people’s lives.
What can I do to help?
I have occasionally been too cautious, which risks slowing down progress. Lesson learned: make well-considered decisions as quickly as possible.
We began by boot-strapping, but we have now won two competitions with funding. We won the Oxford Foundry All Innovate competition award for Best Postgraduate Idea and the London School of Economics Generate competition. We are also receiving grant funding through the Big Data Corridor.
The Big Data Corridor grant is really helping – it is a sector-specific grant that provides innovation support to small businesses.
There are plenty of other startups that you can bounce ideas off, as well a lot of smart people that are willing to help.
I’d send them to the Oxford Foundry, there are numerous events which are helpful for entrepreneurs that are just getting started.
Go for it. It will likely be harder than you imagined, but also incredibly rewarding as well.