We recently meet with Toby Halloran from Pidge to talk starting up in Oxford.
What was the catalyst for your business? What gave you the idea? Both Adnan Al-Khatib MBA and myself play sport at the University. We were amazed at how ineffective the organisational tools being used were. Excel spreadsheets, google docs, doodle polls, and social media pages… essentially applications not designed for sports teams were being used, much to the frustration of all involved. We saw a unique opportunity to solve these organisational pain points for sports team captains and save us all from the chaos that is “herding cats”!
Did you have anything holding you back when it came to launching your business? Adnan was a graduate of the 2016 MBA program at Oxford and a scholar to boot with years of tech experience, successfully launching start-ups and earning awards for them. As a mature student I had consulted for various startups myself, so we both knew after significant research the potential global opportunity in front of us and that our different skill sets complimented each other. This and one too many coffees at G&Ds discussing the philosophy of great companies we admired made the choice relatively simple.
What made you choose the Thames Valley? Adnan is a graduated MBA from St. Catz and I am a current student at Regents. We piloted within the University and outer Oxford area.
How has being based in the Thames Valley helped your business? Has it created any roadblocks? The eco-system in Oxford has been central in our business. We were accepted into the Oxford University Innovation incubator early on, and then were accepted into the accelerator shortly afterwards. We are also in talks with the forthcoming Oxford Foundry to grab a desk and it’s an exciting time to be a part of this eco-system. I truly believe Oxford could become the ’silicon valley’ in Europe.
What have been the key milestones for your business? Our first key milestone was working with the Oxford University Sports Federation. They basically built our admin tools with us from the ground up and gave us key insights into what sports administrative bodies need in respect to data from their sports teams. Being accepted into the Oxford University Innovation incubator comes a close second, and the rest I’m afraid is under strict NDA, but what I can tell you is our technology has been recognised at a national level and we’re aggressively pursuing first mover status in multiple spaces in sport to claim the base of the sports eco-system.
What’s the hardest decision you’ve had to make for the business? We on-boarded a CTO, Software Developer and Lead UX / UI Design guy. They currently all work for free, are grads in Computer Science from Universities such as Cambridge (we don’t hold it against him…) and collectively have over 25 years experience. This has meant Pidge has developed an app on Android, iOS and a web app, plus analytics and dashboards for around 5K over 5 months. Music to investors ears but difficult to persuade our founding staff members. They are all established, brilliant at what they do and turned down significant corporate offers and opportunities to join us and our vision.
Where do you go for support for your business? Do you think the TV has a good support network? The OUI provides excellent support. Roy Azoulay has taken care of us from the first day I have met him, and accelerated our journey within the OUI. His acumen and knowledge is second to none in our opinion within Oxford and his own experience with Serelay, his Google funded start-up, is a great inspiration to us within the community.
What’s next for your business? What are you most excited about now within your business? Scaling. Were here to take over the sports market, we plan to be at the base of the sports ecosystem in the UK, MENA, India, Australasia and eventually the US within five years as a fully integrated platform for sports teams.
Who’s inspiring you right now? Slack has a similar story to us and we admire their company philosophy and what they’ve achieved. We’re also keen users and observers of apps like Strava, wearables like Fitbit and the digitisation of the fitness and wellbeing market for individuals. We plan to offer digitisation for team sports and that’s where we see the market headed.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? Don’t worry about the No’s!
What advice would you share with someone starting up today? Be prepared for sacrifice. Everyone in the team are experienced professionals with responsibilities and bills to pay. The key to a successful start-up is the team agreeing early on to focus on their individual roles, understand sacrifice is necessary and never lose focus on where we want to be, while working day by day to get there. Also to understand some fires, have to be left burning!
What’s the one thing you would change about the region when it comes to scaling game changing businesses? I listened recently to Reid Hoffman’s podcast “Masters of Scale” and one of the episodes is about the next Silicon Valley with Endeavour’s Linda Rottenberg. I believe Oxford has the right moving parts to be the next ‘Silicon Valley’ and therefore the TV area. ISIS Science innovation fund is one of the world’s largest, the forthcoming opening of the Foundry where Reid Hoffman has himself invested and the OUI’s proven track record of successful spin outs, as well of course as Oxford topping the global rankings this year would lead to a fair assumption this could materialise.
At Pidge we’re all about developing sports communities and Oxford, as much as it’s known for academics is also home to a massive range of sports. From Rowing and Rugby to alternative ice hockey and Quidich, it literally has every sport conceivable. At Pidge we house all sports and take the organisational pain points out of them, this creates stronger teams that achieve better results. We believe we not only create stronger teams but also digitise sporting communities, making organised sports, simple.