Toby is a serial entrepreneur. He founded The Graduate Group, ChargeBox, the Oxfordshire charity Yellow Submarine and most recently Edplus. Edplus was co-founded in January 2018 by Toby Staveley and Professor Francis Brown. Their mission is to make out-of-school learning easier for parents and more fun for children. They care passionately that everyone has opportunities before and after the school bell and to this end have created an app to achieve just this. They are an Oxford University spin out and in August 2018 raised £500,000 to develop their interactive education platform and apps.
It’s dawned on me as I get older that my innate impatience is probably why I am an entrepreneur. When I encounter problems I intuitively want to find a better solution. Every now and then I decide my proposed solution is both different, and important enough, to start a business around. Edplus is my fourth start up… all of them deal with first hand difficulties I’ve encountered and want to improve.
Entrepreneurship is taking a seed of an idea to make something better and throwing everything you’ve got to make it happen. When I claim above that I’m a veteran of 4 startups this isn’t quite true. The real number is definitely in double figures. However I discount those that didn’t have legs… indeed I have had and pursued many ideas that thankfully I don’t even remember now. My means to evaluate if an idea is good enough is to get on and do it. Write the summary. Choose a logo. Draft a one page website. See if you convince yourself. Then see if you can convince others. Then try and get customers. Keep going… if you don’t fail at any of these steps you’re onto something.
Confidence – to start something which is statistically likely to fail.
Resilience – to carry on even when it looks certain to fail.
Luck – to make sure you don’t fail.
The opportunity to create something from nothing is pretty extraordinary. This includes a team and a culture as much as any kind of product or service.
I’m a huge fan of everything that Amazon has achieved. From shopping to music to hosting databases – it seems they nail everything- so much so that I wish there was more good competition. I get the two pizza rule – no team should be so big it can’t be fed by two pizzas – but how is it that you ensure that the people eating those pizzas are so brilliant at their jobs?
Too many to list. However as a general theme – there are always dark times in any startup. Accept this and recognise that solutions will emerge if you can hang on long enough.
We were fortunate to raise seed funding from Oxford Science Innovation and other angels last year. However to get to this point self-funding was involved. If you’re not prepared to lose your own money why should others be?
Being part of the Oxford University spinout network with support from OUI and OSI has been very helpful.
Oxford is a beautiful city steeped in history but it is also a hotbed of innovation and brilliant minds. Challenges are likely to be finding good office space in the centre of town. It can also be difficult to find tech staff who seem to be often drawn by the bright lights of London and other capital cities.
Obviously straight to Enterprising Oxfordshire.
It remains vital to know when to ignore advice (such as this) and go with your gut. If entrepreneurs all followed the beaten track life would be a motorway.