Jake is an Oxford Launchpad-based co-founder of LabStep, a platform to help scientists automatically capture and record their research experiment steps. He and the Labstep team have raised initial seed funding, and have trialled the platform in different places across various universities.
What made you decide to develop Labstep and become an entrepreneur?
I was studying biomedical science, which required a fair amount of time in the lab, repeating experiments and becoming frustrated at having to keep detailed lab notebook recording experiments. On top of that, you have access and manage protocols and keep track of the changes in these. This was all done on paper, the software alternatives were poor and I was frustrated that there wasn’t an easier way. . . so I decided to try and create something. My co-founder was a biochemist but also very good programmer, so we set to building a program that would hopefully help other scientists facing the same problems.
So what would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Being able to balance skills and temperaments in a team, to ensure you have the right mix. Being able to get on well with lots of different people, as you never know who you may get involved with. And being flexible. Very important when the learning curve is so high!
The variety of different scenarios you are exposed to everyday. Most jobs are quite narrow in their scope, but as an entrepreneur you must always be learning new things, making decisions, doing things for your own benefit.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most?
Richard Branson is someone who I admire. He is dyslexic (as am I), and managed to overcome it and become a huge success. It shows how with enough drive and vision, anything is possible.
If you could have 5 minutes with Richard Branson, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I would want to talk to him about how he overcame his dyslexia, and how he knew his ideas would be successful. I would love to hear his advice!
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Taking a frustration, finding a solution and making it a reality. Turning something that is just an idea into something that is useful and can actually solve the problem.
As an entrepreneur you make mistakes all the time, but as long as you learn from them and don’t keep on repeating yourself you have to hope that your business will keep moving in the right direction.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxford? Bad?
Oxford has a wealth of intellectual resources at its fingertips; experts with knowledge and insight into almost everything imaginable. But it is sometimes hard to find the people you are looking for, as the university can appear fragmented and not as easy as it should be. It is also an expensive place to live, with less entrepreneurial support than places like Cambridge or London.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for information or resources in Oxford, where would you send them?
The Launchpad is a great place to work, with plenty of support and events going on. The Enterprising Oxford events calendar has so many different events listed, so it’s a great resource when looking for networking or lectures or just info sessions.
Make sure you get a team together. You will drive each other forward, be able to generate ideas and progress faster than if you had to do everything yourself.
EnSpire Oxford is a University of Oxford initiative to help connect people to the entrepreneurship resources they need, and to promote entrepreneurship across Oxfordshire.
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