Dr Andy Woods is CTO of Flying Fish Research, which helps companies + startups use the crowd to make smart decisions, e.g. to road test their ideas to entice investors. He is the creator of www.smartCrowd.io (a drag-and-drop crowd research app), and is also part of the Crossmodal Laboratory at Oxford University.

What is your background?  What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I started a BSc in Computer science in 1998 but changed to Psychology fairly promptly as we were not making computer games! 6 years later I had a PhD in ‘Multisensory Perception’ (Trinity College, Dublin). I then worked in several laboratories as a postdoc, followed by 5 years in R&D in the foods Industry in the Netherlands.

I quit my job to follow my wife on a career move to Switzerland. I’d been making online research software in my spare time for a number of years at this point, and, coming full circle back to computer science, I thought to turn this coding hobby into a startup.

Returning to UK, and putting a foot back into academia, I joined the Crossmodal Laboratory under Professor Charles Spence in Oxford University as head of Online Research. With several members of the lab we started up Flying Fish Research.

In my spare time, I am a keen runner, winning the Donegal Marathon in 2010. I also attend the occasional hackathon.

Taking the brave step to pursue your dreams by doing what you love, whilst roughing and toughing it up many scary learning curves.

Well, I’d developed software to let me conduct crowd powered research for academia, so we thought to use it to see if people thought there would be a market for this in business. The crowd said ‘yes’ and this proved true.

  • Ability to learn quickly and persevere with monster learning curves.
  • Use of the 80% 20% principle
  • Openness to talk with your friends, family and co-founders on the bumps and hurdles entrepreneurship throws at you.

I’m very much into my sport so being able to reset my brain at any point during the day by going on a run is wonderful. Perhaps the best thing though is the flexibility is offers my family in terms of dropping kids off a school, family members being sick and needing looking after etc. And not having a boss is a bonus.

There’s Katia Damer and Phelim Bradley who founded Prolific  here in Oxford, which is going from success to success. Both were doing full time PhDs at the time and to be able to achieve what they’ve achieved in their spare time is rather amazing.

Oddly enough I’m skyping with Phelim this afternoon! Planning on chatting about an app I’ve been thinking on.

I do not stick with the 80% 20% rule!
Not investing enough time in to getting to know my fellow startups.

We’ve done some consulting work to bootstrap Flying Fish Research. There has not been a lot of overhead really though in starting as we have the core skills we need in house.

We were lucky enough to be incubated in Oxford University Innovations, and their help, specifically Roy Azoulay’s, was indispensable.

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire?  Bad?
The support available to us has been really useful.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!):
Oxford University Innovation!

Stick with it! There are many ups and downs being a founder. And sometimes your first attempt (or 3!) don’t work out.

Get in touch

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