New! Leicester Startups Podcast: Episode #4 featuring Hamzah Malik CEO of Regent Branding

Hamzah Malik is the CEO of digital agency Regent Branding and the founder of Drench, a discount voucher app. In this episode Hamzah talks about being obsessed with CEO’s whilst his friends were idolising footballers; finding customers on train journeys; and how he manages a team dotted around the globe.

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Hamzah Malik 0:03
My name is Hamzah Malik and I’m 27 and I’m from Peterborough.

Manish Verma 0:33
And you’re from Peterborough?

Hamzah Malik 0:35

Manish Verma 0:36
This is the Leicester Startups Podcast! (laughter) Okay, so we’re making a bit of an exception for this episode. An exception for fairly exceptional person. 27 year old Hamza Malik runs his own digital marketing consultancy. He’s also launched an app and he’s written and published a novel. Okay, yes, he’s from Peterborough, but check it out. He really loves Leicester.

Hamzah Malik 1:02
I went to University here in 2010 until 2013 I studied English. I love the city. I worked there for a bit after I graduated. I love how enterprising it is and how friendly, and how there’s always possibilities and you guys are always building something new.

Manish Verma 1:16
Told you! So consider Hamzah an honorary, Leicest-arian…. If you’re from Manchester. You’re a Manc. I don’t know- I’ve heard Leicester-arian. Lester- fari! That’s a funny one. What’s what if you’re from Peterborough?

Hamzah Malik 1:33
The Peter-borean. No one wants to really put out there too much. We’ve got a passport office though!

Manish Verma 1:41
From Peterborough, to Leicester, to Australia, to North America to Japan and beyond. Hamzah has built a company with a global workforce building not one, but two startups in the process. Hi, I’m Manish Verma. And welcome To the Leicester startups podcast.

Hamzah Malik 2:08
I remember in year seven, we were doing a presentation on your favourite thing. And it was a PowerPoint presentation, right. Some kid did it on David Beckham, another kid did it on their favourite cricket team, someone else to do on a list celebrities. And I was a weird kid. And I did it on the board of directors for Sony. I looked up to them. This guy, the CEO, this guy took the stage and introduced the new PS2 to had their image and their bios and everything. And to me, it was completely natural to hold these people up as superheroes. And everyone else was like, what are you doing, who are these people? They’re not celebrities. And I was like ‘no, no, they are man!’ They they made Sony what it is. So to me, I remember seeing a keynote for these guys and they all came on stage. I didn’t understand what they were saying because they were talking about chip architecture and stuff but I was just super impressed at how confident they were and how they captivated the crowd. So I remember like, looking at all their body cues and just trying to copy them desperately, like thinking I want I want to present like this right.

Manish Verma 3:16
Their body cues? What were they doing that you could pick up on?

Hamzah Malik 3:21
So it’s stuff like when they made a big point their hands expanded when they wanted to make a salient point. And politicians still do this but they kind of put their thumb on top of the things and did a jabbing motion and I was like ‘everyone’s believing it’ and I thought if you could use words to make someone believe something to me that was closest thing to magic, because it’s like you made a thought come into their head by using some words. Like I was like that’s complete magic to me and I was I want to learn this magic. So yeah, that’s kind of when I realised and then as I got a bit older and I became a little bit more savvy I back in the day before this is before iPhone, so we had like standard brick phones and everyone was bluetoothing music to each other. And obviously we add what 32 megabytes of memory on these things. So I bought memory cards from Amazon, that was one seller selling them for 36 pence a pop. These are like four gigabyte memory cards from China or something. And I thought, great buying loads. And so I sold my iPod to pay – this is business capital- sold the iPod and bought these memory cards, I must have bought, like, only bought like 30 or 40. Right? Not a huge amount. Then I started selling them in school. So there’s two people and suddenly it’s like Hammy’s the guy you want to go to for these memory cards. So I start sending these memory cards to these people. I sold them for a fiver. So good mark up. So I was working at working out the markup. And I was like, I thought this was completely normal markup and I was like ‘well, I guess it’s all right’. And then then I started doing headphones as well. I did covers for a little bit but it was just a complete headache because the different phones and everything. Yeah. So then I kind of like sort of gently it was it was was a very light light and didn’t make loads of money. It was kind of like, ‘Oh, look, I made enough to get a cheeseburger on the way home’. And that to me was like, you know, I’m making money because I can buy cheeseburger. So that was kind of the first dip into business.

Manish Verma 5:15
When Hamzah was old enough to work, he got his first part time job at PC World. And it’s here, he was able to put into practice what he’d learned from those keynotes he’d spent hours studying online. But it was pretty tough.

Hamzah Malik 5:30
Back then it was it was quite a sort of solid sales environment you had to sell, right? That was just how it is you don’t get away with standing around all day. And I came into this environment and realised I really, really didn’t want to be bottom of the league table in the store. So like I basically looked and these guys were amazing. I remember looking at them and being like, so for example, when anyone would come in for plasma TV, the top salesperson would take them to the back with a massive plasma TV and he’d start with “so you want to know the difference with the plasma and LED”, and he he wrapped his knuckles on the glass. And I was like, why are you doing that? And he went, well, it looks cool, it makes a noise, you know, they get interested. And then they start touching it. And then they start using it and it’s the best plasma TV and most of the time, they don’t have enough money to buy it. So they’ll just buy the model below and save some money but he sold the TV. So I copied that and like, but I wasn’t like the most shrewd kid. So I was doing on all TVs, even if it’s not glass, and the managers like why are you killing the pixels and our TV?

Manish Verma 6:28
You’re just punching a TV?

Hamzah Malik 6:32
Yeah, yeah, but look, look, it’s plasma. No, that’s LED. But I realised that you know, you have to, it’s always the tiny little things. So for example, you know, I realised you learn learn to read people. So I was like someone’s got the hand in their pockets might be a little bit reserved. They need a different approach to someone that’s standing there quite with their shoulders back with you know, looking around. You learn to read people quite quickly and it was really about it wasn’t even about selling was about building a relationship, getting to the point where they have a casual trust in you and then giving your honest opinion on the product.

Manish Verma 7:03
What’s coming across is you’re just a shrewd, shrewd salesman. And that’s a bit devious, a bit Machiavellian, but actually, you’re giving your honest opinion. Yeah, actually, when it came down to it?

Hamzah Malik 7:12
Yeah, it was, it was, to me, it’s really important to be honest, because I think the truth always wins. You know, you someone will always find out the truth. And I believe in the concept of long term partnerships, right? Even if you’re not going to see this person again, if this person happens to bump into someone you might know in 20 years, it’s that one experience they had with you. And to me, as cold as it seems in business for that’s just that social currency. You know, your trust, your reputation, your honesty, your integrity. And if you you know, you can make good money by being a little bit sneaky, but you’ll damage your own brand long term. To me, it’s important, you know, even if I don’t win every time, that’s fine, as long as the relationship remains intact, I don’t like to burn bridges.

Manish Verma 7:59
So as you can tell from a young age Hamzah had a real appetite for enterprise. The psychology of the sell was something he obviously enjoyed. But despite his clear knack for it, he didn’t pursue entrepreneurship straight away. In fact, he didn’t even have to study it at uni. Instead, he chose English literature, partly because he didn’t know what he wanted to do. And partly because of a very supportive teacher, Mr. Schwartz told him that if he could grasp the English language, and everything would come easy, so off, he went to uni, to learn literature. But

Unknown Speaker 8:37
I did nearly get kicked out of uni. I wasn’t attending any lectures because I was doing i’d launched a business, right, so like, so it was it was in first year, and the recession was pretty much in full swing. So 2010 right. And I read this, this article saying there’s a lot of people that are depressed or suicidal. Because they’re losing their jobs, redundant redundancies were everywhere, right? So I thought, well, I’m good at English. You know, I’m all right at writing CVs. So I said, I’m going to make a website. And I went online, literally, this was in my bedroom late one evening, went to a domain provider put in create my CV dot co dot UK. And then I made a website the next day, which was terrible, but did the job right. And suddenly, I had my first customer, his name was John and he said, I’m going to Australia to become a swimming pool cleaner. Can you write me a CV? I said, Yeah, sure thing, john. Yeah. And he’s like, want me to pay you and I was like, no, no, you pay at the end when you see and if you’re happy right? There. Okay. That’s good. So right in the CV, send it to him. He loved it. He got a job as when he got there pretty quickly. Wow. And then he sent 15 pounds by PayPal. And then I transferred that 15 pounds into my account. And I said, Hey, that that’s like three subways, but that’s and that was my business model. How many subway says it’s gonna net me?

Manish Verma 9:55
Is it always been your profit relates to what food items you can get?!

Hamzah Malik 10:03
Back in school that was pretty much all I spent my money on. Oh, wow, I can get a pizza or a cheeseburger. And then when I went into uni, natural I was broke as a student, and I thought was the first thing you worry about when you have no money? It’s I’m going to starve right? Now naturally if I was in serious trouble, they would have helped my parents would have helped first, but I didn’t want to ask. So I thought I wonder if I can fix this myself. And I did. But it was tense at times. Because, you know, I was getting calls from clients when I was in lectures, and they were like, Hey, I can hear some kids in the background. What’s going on? Some some clients asked my age, you know, they were like, so how old are you like because you sound kinda young. And I was about 20 ish at the time. And I had made my first CV when I was about 12. Like, it was like in a class like, Oh, this is how you write a CV, right? Not real. So I used to say like you know, I’ve been in the game for nearly 10 years, right? So you’re See the results when you see them, and you don’t have to pay if you don’t like it. That’s why I never felt guilty because I was like, if they don’t like it, and if they think it’s rubbish, I don’t get paid. Yeah, but not one customer refused to pay. We had hundreds and hundreds of customers over the years. Yeah. And it did pretty well and went international and customers from Dubai, saying, hey, I want to apply to be a CEO with this company. Can you help me out? And yeah, but at that point, it was like, I had a system where when they called, I would have office ambience for the background noise on YouTube playing. And then when they called my mobile, I’d basically pick it up, put the phone to the speaker so they can hear some office ambient chit chat keyboards clacking, then three seconds later put it in say sorry with chockablock in the office today. How can I help you and in terms of merit get credit? I’m your CV consultant. And it was me and my bedroom basically, usually my boxers!

Manish Verma 11:53
You put some production value in those conversations!

Hamzah Malik 11:56
Details is the thing! But to be honest, like, I think what I did in uni was out of necessity and probably a little bit irregular, and that a lot of people had lives in uni, like a lot of people had more fun than I did.

Manish Verma 12:13
When did you realise that?

Hamzah Malik 12:21
Oh, I clearly remember right. Yeah, it’s so funny. Like, I was out to Tinseltown. Okay. I have some friends from from my course. There’s like, five of us are some things guys and some girls and they went, should we go out? And all that? Yeah, yeah, come let’s go read Leicester or something. And I was like, No, guys haven’t read the clubbing type anyway, but I was like no. And they’re like, oh, come on, what have you got to do? And I was like, I’ve got to fix the services page of my website. And because this doesn’t work in the user flow and the retention, the bounce rate and like, and I realised I just lost them. They’re just looking at me like, weird, right, right. And they’re like, yeah, wg this way and I went home and I was sat down typing and I was like, Oh, I thought I thought everyone knew about bounce rate was!

Manish Verma 13:17
Coming up on the Leicester startups podcast, one of the most audacious ways to make a sale i have ever heard and how Hamzah is building not one, but possibly two startups, whilst also trying to create the next Harry Potter.

But first, you know where this podcast comes from, right. Leicester Startups. It’s a community for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. If you want help with your startup, or you want to stay up to date with what’s happening in your city, visit Lester Okay, so back to our episode. Hamzah Malik is a self professed weirdo, from idolising CEOs to punching TVs. His business methods have been somewhat alternative. And these methods continued when he tried to find customers for his very first venture at university, a business where people would come to him to write their CV. It did pretty well with customers from all around the world. But how did he get these customers? Well through, let’s say, interesting methods, like this time at the train station.

Hamzah Malik 14:35
So at the station I remember platform one, I think it was was going to Peterborough opposite of that platform to was going somewhere else. I jumped onto the train platform to a few minutes before everything departed, sat down in a carriage in the quiet carriage and said, open like basically like I set an alarm on my phone to ring. It was my ringtone, and I pretended to pick it up and I said, “Hey, hey, how’s it going, man? Yeah, I’ve got a new job as you know I was in London got new job. Where is it? Yeah you know it’s in central really nice job. Yeah. And I got my CV done from create my CV. Great company by the way” And I realised that on a train everyone stops. Everyone eaves drops. So it was loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to be obnoxious. So I’m basically dropped the name three times. And after that, I thought, I don’t want to be unnatural. Put the phone down to my non existent person. And by the time I got home, I had like three people in the inbox saying, Can we have CV please? Because like, that’s at the point of most misery when you’re competing home after a long sweaty tiring day your bosses yelled at you. You know, the meeting didn’t go well. You didn’t get yourself speakers. And then someone saying I got a new job in central and it’s great and create my CV help me and it’s cheap. And people were like, cool, like, you know, let’s try it out.

Manish Verma 15:53
You did basically a live advert?

Hamzah Malik 15:54
Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. And it was very fine line because back in uni, when I wasn’t as refined I’d literally go through tescos with my trolley just yelling at the brand name.

Manish Verma 16:06
Going through Tesco create my! Just shouting it out?! You’re a mad person.

Hamzah Malik 16:12
Absolutely. 100% like you’ve got to be a bit crazy. You have to be crazy

Manish Verma 16:16
I’m dumbfounded by this because I’m really fascinated about where this comes from and your personality. I met you you’re you’re kind of a regular, smart guy. Not necessarily. I wouldn’t put you down for an extrovert at all.

Hamzah Malik 16:36
Ya know, where does come from? I think it comes from necessity because I quickly realised that whilst my character, I’ve built it over a number of years and I’ve tried to make sure that it’s one of integrity. I am naturally quite introverted, and I like to be polite and professional. Sometimes another character is needed, right? So you have a kind of like a mask. Will Smith actually, like put it really, really well. And he, weirdly enough was like a massive inspiration back in the day because I was very quiet in school, I was very unsure. Is this going to be funny if I say it, that type of thing. And then I started watching Fresh Prince. And I’m like, wow, this guy doesn’t care. And he’s so naturally charming and charismatic. And so naturally, I tried to I think many guys did this when they saw the show. Like, I tried to become a little bit more outspoken. And you see what kind of lands with the right people, what gets people smiling. And so I realised that there was a character that you can kind of control when the time is right. And then you can kind of ask that character to leave once you’re done because who when we met, like, that’s me, right? That’s just who I am. I’m kind of quiet and like, you know, I like to talk to people and find out what they’re up to. But in these moments, like that version has to sit in the backseat. And the other version has to basically take the steering wheel for a few minutes and say, This is what we’re doing and it’s before every present. as well, because I’m usually a little bit terrified, especially if it’s a big crowd. And every investment meeting, that guy has to come to the front. And you have to basically say, and now, I mean, it’s weird because they’re, they’re pretty much the same person, right? It’s not like that much of a jarring difference, but it is essentially right. I’m basically turning up the confidence turning down the judgement thing of all what do they think about me? Do they like me? And then afterwards just stabilised again? So yeah, it’s, it’s a necessity of knowing that business is run by personality.

Manish Verma 18:30
Is that to say then, it’s harder to do business for people who are reserved, do you think and quiet and naturally?

Hamzah Malik 18:37
No, I’d say that’s a really good question. Um, so with people who are naturally quiet and more reserved, they don’t have to change themselves. In my case, I really enjoyed being found for a bit. It was quite refreshing and liberating, but I know many people that are very shy, and they’re incredibly successful. So one of my business role models Is the woman who started to Canva Melanie Perkins. And I watch all her videos and podcasts and stuff. And she’s very well put together a professional woman. And she’s not sort of screaming and being all rambunctious and everything, except she runs a multibillion pound company, right? It’s amazing. It’s really about the personality and what’s required. But there are moments and even if you’re reserved, you will have to accept there are moments where you will have to take a leap and have courage, that courage is going to be needed, whether you’re introverted or extroverted. It’s the same courage, right? Because it’s scary. But if you can overcome that fear, on the other side, there is either growth or failure. Either way, you as a person, go to the next level.

Manish Verma 19:45
And Hamza could really have taken his business to the next level. He could have scaled, he could have hired other CV writers, but he got bored. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life writing CDs. So when you need ended So did the business. He instead just got into a grad scheme, the john lewis grad scheme. It should have lasted three years, but he left after 18 months. He says that the corporate hierarchy went against every fibre in his body. Bureaucracy just sucked the magic out of ideas. But during this time at John Lewis Hamzah up was building a side project, a digital marketing company. But again, he didn’t start working on it full time straight away. His mentor told him to go and work for an established company first. So he did. It was a firm in Narborough. And after learning everything he could there, he went back to Peterborough, to work at a publishing house. And over these years, he began recruiting,

Hamzah Malik 20:48
And I was getting in touch with freelancers all over the world. Right. So I was like, Who’s the best developer who’s the best designer, who’s the best brand manager project manager. So I got in touch with these people on up work and fibre and talk to people per hour. But then before long, I had a roster of like the a team. And I thought instead of calling them the a team, I’m going to call them regents, right? Because the regent is someone who looks after the throne by the king or queen is away. So the client is the king or queen. And they love being called royalty, every single one that we work with, and we’re just looking after their kingdom, which is their brand, because we absolutely love to protect and grow and sort of nurture their business. So we, you know, back then there was like nine or 10 of us, and I said, hey, I’ve got these guys. They’re freelancers. They’re great. I’ve already vetted them. They’re all over the world. You want to work with them? And they said, sure. This is the publishing house. And so we built their digital marketing department and their revenue shots up as well, which was great. And then before long region branding was at a point where, you know, it was born, it was healthy. And I started growing it independently on the side after work. And then you know, give it sort of another year, and regional branding was making more than myself So I said, Guys, it’s been great. You know, region branding is the core goal here. I want to be my own boss. So I quit.

Manish Verma 22:08
So Regent Branding was born. And his A-team was formed all over the globe, from Russia,

Unknown Speaker 22:15
Barcelona, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Australia, Pakistan, India,

Manish Verma 22:19

Hamzah Malik 22:20
And we just spoke to a team Japan to onboard in the Japanese team for the time difference. Absolutely killing me. Like it’s ridiculous.

Manish Verma 22:29
Today Regent Branding does all sorts web design, app development, games, social media, marketing, influencer marketing, and way more.

Hamzah Malik 22:38
So that’s when people pay us. It’s kind of like we’re paying you to do the best work. And my job is to essentially manage these people to make sure they’re providing that but I mean, I couldn’t be prouder of them because, you know, I I knew recently when I reached a brilliant milestone, because my team basically told me to shut up like, yeah, which was great because, well, because like before, it’d be like, I’d say, hey, We should do it this way. And they’d be like, okay, we’ll do it that way. And now, because of the current team, we’ve gotten the structure. They’re like, no, that’s terrible idea what you smoking like, No, we’ll do it this way. And I’ll push back and say, Well, why? And they’ll say, well, because of this, this and this, and there’s a new version of Chrome out and everything, and I’ll go through the reasons. And they’ll say, so kindly let us get on with it. And you know, at first I was a bit like, Hey, come on, and I meant to be the boss. And I was like, Wait a second. That is a mistake. I’m not the boss. Boss to me is quite derogatory word. I’m trying to be a leader. I’m trying to be a manager to help them. So like now I’m like, Guys, fantastic. Brilliant for justifying the idea. Go for it. Wow. Yeah. And every single region is they have to be paid above market rate. Work of region. Branding is kind of like it’s meant to be sort of an accolade. Your region verified. You’ll usually have a constant stream of work from clients all over the world will be challenging work. But yeah, you can say that you work with sort of rebranding, and before no one, no one cared. They were like, Who are you like, you know, your original Running, no one’s heard of you. But now, we’re lucky enough to get people saying, Can I do work experience with you? Can I work for free for region for a bit because I really want you on my CV, which is lovely. But it’s taken us years and years to get there. It’s been very painful, but there are plans to grow in the future. And the idea is to become a centre point of excellence for digital marketing. And by that I mean like, I want to be able to start something called the regions Academy, where young, fledgling digital marketers go, we train them up, they become Regent verified, they put it on the CV, because no one’s no one’s offering a digital marketing like badge right at the moment, right. So there are there are some official bodies doing it, but they don’t move fast enough right to realise the changes that are happening but with your region verified, you’re on a database, anyone in the world can search the database to see if you’re still verified because you have to renew your licence every year. We teach you all the latest techniques give you access to all the latest tools. All the best minds are at your disposal as well. So essentially, if you’re a region and your region verified You didn’t have to work for the company, you know, you can just you can get you can go work for Deloitte, where you can go and work for Procter and Gamble or whatever, and say, Hey, by the way, I’m region verified. And I want that to get to a point where it’s like, Oh, fantastic. So that means you’re a brilliant digital marketer. Yes, yeah. Yeah. So that that sort of quality bar,

Manish Verma 25:18
But Regent isn’t your only, only hustle, your only entrepreneurial endeavour. Drench talk to me about this.

Hamzah Malik 25:27
Yeah. drench drench is a mobile app that we’ve been working on. It’s released now on iOS and Android, and essentially, it sends you offers based on your exact location. So if you’re walking near a subway or something, your phone will pick up with a message and say you just got drenched by subway with, I don’t know any offer. They live in half price of a foot long or something. But then you’ve got to claim that drench before it dries up and disappears because each trench has a timer on it. And when it dries up, it just you can’t have the offer anymore. It’s gone.

Manish Verma 25:55
It’s kind of like gamified, this sort of voucher cloud sort of thing?

Hamzah Malik 26:00
Yeah, because I was like, I’ve got a bit of a thing about, like, trying to go against massive companies just see what happened. And you know, yeah, it’s probably not healthy. But sometimes I get my ass kicksed. And I’m not yet sure I’ve annoyed that company. But other times I’m like, Guys, you only pretending to know what you’re doing and I’m figuring out your flaws. So it’s fun because, you know, massive companies work differently. They can’t move as fast as a startup. So I was like, you know, these these apps are boring me like, all these apps where you can just get endless list of coupons. It’s just so boring. And so drench is about relevant, timely surprises based on exactly where you are. And you can get drenched with food. You can get drenched with the desert books, you can get drenched with clothes. You can get drenched if you’re at a concert and say, I know you’re your favourite. Beyonce is kind of like you know, you’re a tour and she finished as a thank you for coming out. Just for you guys in the stadium. I’m drenching everyone with my latest album or something, if you’re outside the stadium. But if we’re inside you get it same with football so

Manish Verma 27:06
because it works on a five feet,

Unknown Speaker 27:09
five metres so we’re at about five metres

Manish Verma 27:12
accurate up to five metres of that individual person. Yeah,

Hamzah Malik 27:15
Yeah, I mean we’ve got plans to sort of go and sort of like theme parks and football and you know Pogba scores a goal is the second the ball crosses the line everyone gets drenched with a drink so yeah, trenches release now it’s in Peterborough. It’s got a few thousand users.

Manish Verma 27:28
I mean, it sounds brilliant and it it does sound really fun. But it is in Peterborough only because I guess there is a lot of groundwork to do your an app like this right? You have to physically sign up businesses?

Hamzah Malik 27:43
Hundred percent. Yeah, I started this when I was back at the media, the publishers. So nine to six I’d work there and six till midnight, I’d be out knocking on doors and saying hi I made an app called trench Would you like to sign up and at this point restaurants have been approached by Just Eat, deliveroo, UberEATS and like so many others, right? And they’re, they’re tired of it. So had to refine my pitch of it because I failed quite a few times. And they were just like, go away. But now we’re getting restaurants approach us, which is lovely. And I had to, you know, back in when we started, I was writing up the contracts, getting them printed, stapling them. So I’m basically doing customer service marketing operations accounting the whole lot. So yeah, it was it wasn’t easy, but I’m glad it’s where it is. Now. It’s just in Peterborough for now. But we have got imminent plans to kind of roll out nationwide because it’s got a worldwide application, which is great thing everyone loves surprises.

Manish Verma 28:35
And if you thought drench and Regent Branding were’nt keeping him busy enough, Hamzah has written a novel. That’s right, an actual 636 page book. It’s called areas Archer and the Shadow Cloak, and it follows a boy called Areas on his quest to save his sister’s life from the evil Kasabus!

Hamzah Malik 28:59
But he’s like an anxiety ridden, very, very nervous, young boy. So mental health was basically a massive element in the book where he’s on medication. He’s very, very open about it. You know, when I looked into the type of medication to make sure it was accurate, he’s not perfect hero is nowhere near the top of Marvel superheroes. You see, this guy makes so many mistakes in the book and the stumbling and fumbling and he doesn’t know what to say at the right time. And he doesn’t have these cool one line finishes or superhero landings. He’s relatable. He’s basically like, similar to me in business. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, but I kind of fumble through and ah that’s how it works cool. The book took seven years to write. And any money he makes from it actually goes to help build a refugee birth clinic in Yemen.

Manish Verma 29:43
But it doesn’t stop with just one book. Hamzah has big plans for this and the many other sequels he’s planning.

Hamzah Malik 29:50
It’s written to be a film, you know, I really want it to become to be picked up. I mean, that that’s the idea because it’s every page is written like you’d read a script, it’s action oriented.

Manish Verma 30:02
So what does the Peter-borean doing business in Leicester have to say about the startup scene in his second city?

Hamzah Malik 30:10
I think Leicester as the city has everything in the right place. And it is at the inflection point where I think it will become known as the startup hub of the Midlands, right? But people leaving their job need a clear structure, you need to almost have a programme where employers know they’re going to lose someone. And they let them they give them the freedom to pursue this business idea, almost like a sabbatical. And hey, they might even want to fund it. And they might even want to take some equity, because they believe in their employees. And this means that the people leaving can put everything into an idea. By the same time they know they can either get a different job, go back to their job, if it doesn’t work out, hate a lot of business ideas fail, that’s fine. And they also know the community around them, that won’t let them fail in silence. And lastly, to kind of wrap up that failure needs to be spoken about more openly, right? I like the talks where it’s like, this is how it failed 100 times, and it has some really funny stories. And I’m like nodding along, because I’m like, you have made that mistake. Like, I’ve tried to cold call a VC before. Yeah, I’ve done that. Yeah, don’t ever do that. It’s a bad idea. If this culture is fostered of failing forward, you know, failing properly, in that, you fail, and it’s almost like doing a roller coaster, you don’t stop when you’re on your head, because then you just bang your head on the ground, you roll forward, and you get back up again. So forward momentum and failure and allowing a safety net to be implemented on an official basis to allow people to make that transition. I think the entrepreneurial community will grow and it will will foster you know, much better engagement and less will be known for what it is, you know, a fantastic place for startups to grow.

Manish Verma 31:49
How has it benefited you from being in the city?

Hamzah Malik 31:53
Oh, it’s fantastic, like so. So I was invited back to speak at the end of Leicester. This led to a few new clients. I’ve always and this is recent, I’ve tried to stop thinking about something of value helping me and thinking of the other way the other way around. So, me being here, in a couple of people in the crowd when they’ve heard my stories that I can you do my CV? I’m like, Yeah, sure. And they’ve got jobs from that. There are people who’ve asked for business ideas from me, there are people that have asked introductions to people that I know. And I’ve been happy to give them. So to me, helping others, like makes me feel like I’m actually contributing, right? Because the startup community, the only the best way to kill it is if everyone looks out for themselves, if everyone actually looks out for each other, and your success correlates to how well you’ve helped someone else, then you’ve basically created an entity that is unbreakable. So yeah, for me last has been really supportive and it’s always been a place I can go where ideas will be welcome and however crazy they are. People always take the time out that you know yourself as well. Like, you’ve taken the time out. You messaged me we sort something out. That to me is Leicester.

Transcribed by

New! Leicester Startups Podcast: Episode #3 featuring Jim Shields, founder of Twist and Shout Communications.

Jim Shields is the founder of the video production company Twist and Shout Communications. They specialise in making corporate videos with… a twist! In this episode Jim talks about losing his house, finding fans not customers, dealing with theft and the pivot that changed his life. Oh and there’s some exclusive news from Jim in this one too, so listen out for that!

Listen to the full episode👇

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The Leicester Startups Podcast is made possible by the Leicester & Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership who are supporting entrepreneurs through the Start-up Leicester Co-working project.

This episode is sponsored by Erskine Murray, a Leicester-based, UK top 50 independent insurance broker. Visit for more.



Jim Shields 0:22

I mean, I really found my voice. When it was about 15. I joined a theatre company by accident. Me and a friend were on our way home and we had to climb across a dangerous, dangerously high motorway bridge as a shortcut, where you shimmied down a lamppost onto the motorway, ran across the motorway, and then climb down another wall. I’d done this before but my friend hadn’t. “We can do it, just do it”. But what I hadn’t accounted for was if it was a frosty night, and the pole was frosted. And so he jumped onto the pole and shot down the pole, and there’s a kind of shoulder at the bottom of the pole that goes wider. And he hit that at like 30 mile an hour, bounced off… it broke his ankle.


Manish Verma 2:12

Jim’s mate was in theatre. And he was meant to be in a show in three weeks time.


Jim Shields 2:18

His mum hit the roof and basically said, you are gonna have to take this place. I’ve never done anything. And I did and I never looked back.


Manish Verma 2:39

Jim was hooked. Crowds applauding him at the end of the show. He became addicted to the adulation. He’d found more than a hobby. He had found a second family. Probably at the time he needed it most.


Jim Shields 2:53

I was a latchkey kid, you know my folks were out all the time. And it was rough. Actually. It was quite rough. They had no money. The electricity and water kept getting cut off. There were problems with substance abuse and alcohol and, and it was it was hard. It was hard. My mother was an alcoholic and, and that was really rough. Yeah, that was home life was really tough. And when I went to the theatre company, it was all okay again, it was all fine and I could really sort of be me and everyone took me who I was. And people liked me for me. It was an escape and and really a refuge a lot of the times well.


Manish Verma 3:26

Theatre performance and creativity would not just be a safe haven. It would help shape his life and his business.


Jim Shields 4:05

It all started under the stairs at my next house. He was keen on photography. And this was when I was about 14. And he was learning to develop pictures in the tray full of liquid and the red light. And you know, all of that sounds dodgy. I’m talking about under the stairs and the red light. And it’s all sounded really dodgy. But essentially, there was a moment I can pinpoint the actual moment, because I knew nothing about photography, I didn’t care. I just was a mate with him. And he would take lots of pictures. And when he developed them, he would print them under his stairs. Because that was dark. And in the red light, you could see as he put the paper and having exposed it to the negative on a thing called an in larger, he would put the paper into the liquid, the developer, and slowly as if by magic, the image would just fade up from nothing. And that was magic to me. As far as I was concerned. That was just magic. And I’m like, this is incredible. So I actually weirdly what I thought, I wanted that. That was really cool to do that. And to do that, I’m glad to take some pictures. So it was like the chore I had to get through to be able to develop. So I actually went into it by developing to start with just a couple of months. But then obviously when it comes to photography, it was brilliant and it was social, you met lots of people. It was fun, it was creative. And then the seed was sown. And it was around about the time when I was starting to get interested in theatre as well. So the photography and theatre, were two paths in my life and they sort of smushed together and then really to be a director was the only the only real pathway to encapsulate a bit of theatre and also photography.


Manish Verma 5:35

Jim applied to Harrow Polytechnique to study photography, film and TV. But before he went off, he worked for a film company in Manchester called Cine Photo. And before the summer was out, he got offered a job.


Jim Shields 5:49

And they said, Look, we’re sending the crew to Tanzania. And do you want to go but obviously, we would have to give you a full time job now. Right and I’m about to go to Harrow to study. So I like this might be the job I would have wanted at the end of the degree. So I’m going to take a gap year and take this job and see what happens. So I’ve deferred the degree. And I guess basically what I’m saying is I’m still on my gap year.


Manish Verma 6:13

You never went?


Jim Shields 6:14

I never went. I never I never really needed to because one job led to another and you know, they would, they would hire me out as a freelancer to ITV, the makers of Coronation Street. I would be a runner or a camera assistant. And my life was in production and during the day, I was filming on actual film as well. 16 millimetre. It was it was just an incredible time because they did in they specialised in industrial documentaries. So for example, Kielder dam in Northumberland, when they built that dam. It was a massive earthmoving projects. Cine Photo was the specialist in that and so we’d fly all over the world filming massive civil engineering projects and things like that. For companies like the builders like the civil engineering companies. And the budgets was huge. I remember one time being sat in the BBC, recording studios at White City, and listening to the composer for our film, play about 22 pieces of music with a full orchestra for two hours, we sat there and they played them. And we recorded them and I went along just the experience. But that was what that was the kind of world and sort of dropped into very, very fortunate.


Manish Verma 7:24

And this exposure to corporate documentaries laid the foundations for his future business, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. First of all, he worked for Cine Photo for two and a half years. Then after that he got a job at a council in Stockport as the head of audio and visual. But the work was quite dull, frankly. So that’s when the side hustle started.


Jim Shields

I shouldn’t say this, really. But I managed to kind of run a sideline business while I was working there. And so I would make films at the weekend privately for corporate clients and things like that, again, dabbling in drama because I wasn’t frightened of it. Because evenings and weekends for me I was also doing shows, I was in shows with amateur dramatic company as a hobby. My side hustle was making little films for whoever wanted it and i’d gotten involved with a couple of training companies who were going to use video and video was new, right. Still only a few years old. I was the only person in Cine Photo who knew how to edit video was I was the young guy was prepared to get my head around the technology. Okay. And that was VHS to VHS. It was grim.


Manish Verma

Did you always have a kind of an entrepreneurial flair?


Jim Shields

I did. Yeah. And I got that from a family. There was nobody in my family ever had an actual job. They were always working for themselves. My dad was a builder. My mom was sold stuff on the market. And she would put me on a market every Saturday when when I was like, as early as like 11 years old, right? We would drive to a market. She’d dump me into this market with a load of stock. I set up the stall and sold, open outcry selling. So “come on out ladies and gentlemen, come and get these wonderful gift sets for Christmas”. And I learned to be totally fearless at that point is good for confidence. I mean, the norm of somebody going to work in the morning and coming back at night just didn’t happen. Somebody was always working. They worked hard and played hard, but it was never normal.


Manish Verma

What did you learn from kind of setting up that very, very first business?


Jim Shields 9:20

Well the business was called Certain Concepts. And what I learned was really, you should know where your customers are coming from before you start a business. Because I went into we have no customers, I had no customers. What I realised was that you needed to promote yourself, and you needed to start understanding what differentiation was. So why should people come to you because why were we different? Why would you come to us now, unfortunately, I thought, well, that’ll be price because I don’t have any overhead so I can undercut everyone. But that was a mistake, because then the day we filled up and we couldn’t get any better or break out and do interesting things because we were doing the same kind of work and I needed to do every every job that came in. And we got, you know, quite good at just ordinary boring. I mean, they were dull corporate videos. When I went out to ITV I was working on Coronation Street or, or a game show in a studio and it was like. I want I want to work on stuff like that. So how do I get from this, which is like, gone, you know, to that. And that was that the seed was born there to really start the journey to to start a production company, I guess.


Manish Verma 10:27

And then did you?


Jim Shields 10:29

Well business ran out and I lost my house. Because I put my house up for collateral to buy equipment and borrow money. And it was I was only me, I didn’t have any family at the time. And I sold the house and said I need to just get a job in production. So I got a job in Leicester, right? So I just I don’t move and I thought I was going to last of like six months. I’ll get a job and I’ll get cast together. I’ll come back to Manchester and we’ll we’ll start again. Yeah, but I ended up continuing with Leicester. I always joke that you know, I ended up going to Leicester for six months and stay for like 30 years because I couldn’t get off the ring road.


Manish Verma 11:07

And just talk to me about that moment where you lost your house. That must have been significant?


Jim Shields 11:18

While I had a job at the local authority. People say if you go and work for the council you work for life that will be it and they didn’t mean it in a good way. So I got a mortgage and thought the benefit is I can now, I’m eligible for a mortgage so I bought a little terrace house. Really I put the house up as collateral for a big loan. I went to auctions and bought secondhand production equipment and put together an edit suite in my house. The house went away because the bank foreclosed on the loan, essentially.


Manish Verma 11:49

What was the job that you took in Leicester?


Jim Shields

It was as a director for video for a company called vector vision, and again, industrial films, they worked for people like Volvo, they travelled a little bit around Europe and America. It was quite good for travel and, and worked for a few years for them making these industrial documentaries again, which I knew about from Cine Photo. So it was pretty, it’s pretty cool. But it was still still very, you know, straightforward, quite prosaic, not terribly brave. In fact, it was interesting, because I just felt like people didn’t get it. And certainly, you know, my boss at the time didn’t really get it as a production company. He wanted to, and I always think the work that you do reveals something of yourself, you should do if it’s good art. And that company, there was no connection between art and what we were doing. It was a process and it was perfunctory. And it wasn’t about taking chances or being brave because it was clients money and that’s not what they wanted.


So you kind of had a clear idea of what you didn’t really want to do. What did you want to do? You talked about the game shows and Coronation Street.


Jim Shields 13:01

No, no, the theatre stuff in the evenings and weekends, which was my hobby, and I loved it. I was in a period where I was doing I was at every night rehearsal. Even even Leicester I brought up sort of hobby with me and then, and I learned a lot about watching directors direct theatre. I learned a lot about comedy and about to make a joke land. By night, I was on stage singing and dancing and trying to make people laugh, I guess. And then during the day I was I was making videos. And again, there’s these two parallel tracks always were there.


Manish Verma 13:38

After losing his company and losing his house, he found Leicester. But working as a director on industrial films, just wasn’t doing it for him. And after being headhunted for a role in Queniborough, he met his future business partner.


Jim Shields

And she and I had this idea to start a company. We called it Twist and Shout because Nicola used to be a bit of a tomboy, a bit of a street urchin. Basically, she she, she wore like a granddad shirt with no colour and a waistcoat. And we’re just sort of like poddle around the place, doing production and helping people out. And so her nickname became like Oliver Twist. And that got shortened to twist. So that was that. And then that was her nickname, and I’m quite loud. And so Twist and Shout is where that name came from. And she thought of it. Brilliant. Very good Twist and Shout was born. And then we left the company. When we left the company, there was one client who had shared their frustration with the work we were doing. And so what happened when they heard we left, they approached us and said, Look, we’d like to give you the work. And obviously I thought, Oh, that’s awkward, you know. But honestly, within within a year, a lot of clients had come with us.


Manish Verma

And the vision for twist and shout at the very start was to continue with doing those sorts of corporate videos but better?


Jim Shields 15:00

Yeah, just better just more entertaining, just more, more the kind of ideas, we wanted to make it more like TV. And it was less about the kit in the process and the equipment and the, you know. They used to use a phrase called broadcast quality. What does that mean? Well then it meant all about the equipment, you had to have broadcast editing suites and broadcast cameras, and were hugely expensive. But what we felt it meant was the ideas were broadcast quality, like, you know, you watch a TV drama and its broadcast quality of the storytelling is fantastic. Yeah. So how do we get the storytelling into corporate videos, right? We were embracing the idea of entertainment as a way of changing behaviour. So when you make films that people love to watch, and they’re learning something at the same time, they almost don’t notice it really. I mean, they know what it’s about, but they’re really laughing at the jokes and the characters and the scenarios. And that was the that was our kind of big idea. Behavioural change is possible. Your’e trying to change culture within a business. So I forget who said it, it might have been a famous guru like Edward De Bono or somebody, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. It’s something I picked up on. And if you can change culture, you can change how everybody operates and works together, they’re less protective about information, they’re more ready to share. They’re more ready to help somebody out without something in it for them. If you can get a company to work to that kind of culture. It’s fantastic. And the changes are manifest, and the business usually does well. And so we knew that there was a need for that out there in the business world. We knew we were good at creating entertainment and we just glued the two together and on that journey, it just got better and better and better.


Manish Verma 15:18

Okay, so Jim shields is the director of twist and sharp communications based at the LCB Depot demo in Leicester. He sets up His company with the premise of making corporate videos with a difference, essentially fun ones. Think about this. He made a sitcom about cyber security.


Jim Shields 18:49

Within about two years we’ve made about 50 short films on cybersecurity. It was crazy it seemed to be a thing. And we had a couple of really big significant clients that we’d worked for. One of them was Barclays Bank, and there was a lovely man, Michael Stephen Bonner, who was just brilliant and knew that there was a problem that information security was a really dull subject. And we had to make it interesting. And so we picked several creative ideas and two out of the three of them, I think were comedies. But one of them caught his eye and this idea of making a series of funny videos called The Risk and it was a film within a film. It was a story about a middle manager in Barclays trying to make a video about information security, and the director is ill at the last minute and they’ve still got the shoot, all booked. So he brings in another director. And this guy is proper theatre, and he’s all “what I really want to do his movies”. And so he gets him and he’s a he’s a visionary. And, you know, for this job that didn’t really need a visionary, you know, he goes in and now what happens is we end it with a series of imagined creative approaches in this directors head which come out as film trailers, and so there are now instead of six episodes this dull thing they were going to get. Now what they’ve got is six film trailers. It was a wonderful experience. And that did really well. They took it on a sort of international speaking tour in a way they used it as a gold standard for how to engage with employees about security. The one thing they did say to me at the beginning of the whole project, and he put his neck on the line when the board and everything like that is a big gamble, because it wasn’t cheap. And he said, if we’re going to do this, for God’s sake, make it funny.


Manish Verma 20:27

Well, that was my question, actually. Because comedy is so subjective and with kind of dry subject matter. How do you hit that? Mark? Really?



Jim Shields

Well, this there’s two options. There really are two options. You can either make a very benign, ordinary boring video, and force everybody to watch. Is that the job done? Was the objective to have them all watch the video? Not really no, because the objective was to change the culture. So the objective really is to get some people go, oh, wow, that’s cool. And actually that’s quite an important issue. I need to take notice of that, and I feel this about that now. You need to engage people. And that’s and that’s a feeling to do that. How many things you know will engage every single person in the company, in the room? Not everything. In every comedy gig, somebody sat there thinking from board and other people are laughing their heads off. Or in every in every TV show, there’s going to be like maybe 80% of the population love it, but there’s 20% that don’t. But the ones the sort of 50% that really love it will now go off into the company and have conversations about security. And that was our ploy. Our ploy was to don’t be mediocre for everybody. Be amazing for a good chunk of the audience. And as long as that is a big chunk like 70% or 80%, or whatever you want most of the company to love it. Then may be one or two people who go on I’m not sure that’s appropriate. Security is way too important to make a joke about. And that’s fine. You can have the millions of PowerPoint slides that are available for you to watch. You can have that life that’s fine by us. But what we do get is almost fan behaviour engendering and companies.


Manish Verma

Okay, explain that.


Jim Shields 22:01

So with our current product line that we have called restricted intelligence, which is a sitcom about information security, we’ve had people say, call and say, listen, we’ve had some requests, you know, the music that you use in the beginning for the title sequence. Can we get that as a ringtone? Could we do that? Yeah. Or can we use the faces on mugs and on T shirts? And that’s what I call fan behaviour. Even down to the fact that even though the guy like the CEO really loves this, is there any way we could make a video with a couple other characters and him and that will go in and make a special episode just for them just really fan behaviour that is now the goal. The goal is we want fans because if you don’t have engagement, it doesn’t matter what information you shove down those channels. They’re not going to listen. Yeah, but if you’ve got engagement, people are on it.


Manish Verma 22:48

So Jim at found a method of making the seemingly mundane into memorable, watchable, shareable content. But there was a problem with his business model. Money.


Jim Shields

Most businesses that rely on your time, like production will have the problem whereby when you’re busy, you can’t spare the time to market yourself and make more work come along. It’s a classic small business problem. And we would be really busy for six months, for example, and we’d be all hands on deck and you kind of tend to say yes to everything, because you don’t know when it’s going to dry up. So you say, so you work yourself like an animal for six months, and then it kind of runs off into the wild blue, yonder, yonder, and will wilderness and you’ve got no work. And then you go, oh crap, and you go on the phones, you start emailing people again. It was real peak and trough business. It was highs and lows, it was really difficult. And we needed something to help iron out the troughs a little bit so that we had some income. And so what happened on the end of that first job, which was called the risk that’s it was for Barclays, I’d say give credit to our to our client who said, who’d been asked by other companies. This is so amazing. Can we have it? Can we like buy it or borrow it? Whatever. Now due to the relationship, the job was taken on as internal use only so it wasn’t possible they didn’t have a mechanism to sell it or anything as a bank, they’re not going to sell training videos. But what happened was Steven had said to us you should definitely maybe set up a business making these for people to licence. So you make it once you sell it many. And I was the first time I’d realised how important and passive income could be. And we did and again, borrowed money. Now I’m married with kids, and I put my house up as collateral for the first series. You’d think I’d have learned! My wife was quite nervous. She was brilliant. She came with me on that journey. But I know she was terrified of, of literally losing the house. There were months where I’ve had to pay wages on a credit card. Yeah, I had to borrow and and that’s what happened with the first series. We got some companies coming in. The story of why I did that, by the way was because we’ve gone out and found, like a consortium of companies that agreed the process and would, would buy it if we made it. So we said, what we’re asking us to do is kind of pre order it. So we want you to put in five grand each, there were 10 of them. We need 50 grand to make the whole series. The first day was really on a shoestring. About a week before about two weeks before maybe the shoot, half of our investors pulled out. And yeah, it was all booked and all ready to go. And so, okay, we’re doing this and I had to make a, what they call a come to Jesus moment and just make a decision and just say, let’s do, let’s do anyway. So in order to make sure everybody got paid, I underwrote the production by letting the bank put a charge on the house and then give us an overdraft to finish it with and that’s and that’s basically what happened. I’m happy to say there’s no longer a charge on the house. So luckily we got our money back. And a fantastic person that I had the foresight to, sort of headhunt from Volvo was a customer service manager called Jess who works with me to this day, she’s my number two. And she came on to sell because we never had a product before to sell. I didn’t have to sell the products and make films and I knew how to sell on a market. And I needed somebody who understood about customer care and customer satisfaction, because we wanted everyone to be happy. So Jess came on and she was fantastic. And it’s just grown the business over the years to what it is today.


Manish Verma

How long has that that part of the business been going?


Jim Shields

About six or seven years now. First two years weren’t It was hard to get sales going because people were still nervous at the concept of using comedy. But we timed it right because the whole growth and advent of YouTube and the idea that comedy virals were a thing, and that a lot of millennials were watching were consuming their media in these four or five minute chunks. So it was in a format that was suiting ever younger and younger workforces. And that’s what that’s what made sense, right? And that just caught that wave.


Manish Verma

The passive income then became bigger than the original business idea. It solved their cash flow problem of working for six months and then chasing work for the other six. And it became such a success that Jim was able to tell some of his biggest paying clients that he’ll stop working with them, unless they start doing more interesting, more creative stuff. It worked. They came on board. But while said solve this problem, a much bigger issue was developing behind the scenes. It was something that could have ended twist and shout. In the time that you’ve grown twist and shout.


Jim Shields 27:43

One of the biggest mistakes was trying to be friends with everybody in the company. I like to be friends with everyone in the company, but you also realise you’re a boss and you have responsibilities and you have things that you have to do sometimes that are difficult. And I was never, ever great at things like paperwork. And due diligence in terms of what can I say just keeping a tight eye on cash flow and all that kind of thing. And unfortunately, a few years ago, probably 7 years ago or so, we had somebody in the company who was stealing money of us. And the they’d been taking money for about three years, was like quite a lot of money. I just thought we were struggling because we were always struggling. But actually what happened was, we were all the profits were getting sort of filtered away. There was a really dark time in the middle of all of that when I realised that she hadn’t been paying any tax for years. So not only did I not have any money I was printed presented with a corporation tax bill, and the PAYE tax bill. And I think at the time we the triggered VAT inspection. It would couldn’t have been worse. And I just remember opening letters and thinking, you know it’s a lot of money and I didn’t have any.


Manish Verma 28:58

Is it fair to say that that could have killed the business then?


Jim Shields 29:01

Yeah. And I think a lot of businesses it would have killed as well. Yeah, definitely. After the thing with the internal fraud with an employee sort of stealing from us is one thing I realised that you needed to have really robust systems in where you, as a business owner can’t let go of the handlebars and expects it all to just look after itself.


Manish Verma 29:20

Thankfully, Jim got handle back on his business. And as much as it was boring. He’s now very much in control of the ins and outs of twist and shout. So much so in fact that well, here’s a bit of an exclusive for the Leicester startups podcast.


Jim Shields 29:36

I’m happy to say that by the time you hear this, we may well have been partnered with a much bigger company who specialises in changing security culture within businesses around the world. Fantastic company called Know Be 4.


Manish Verma 29:53

I’m gonna sound really abrupt here and rude but no for a basically buying twist and shout?


Jim Shields 29:58

Yeah. Yeah. And by the time you hear this, I’m sure will be allowed to announce it.


Manish Verma 30:06

How do you feel about that? This is a company you’ve, you know, you grown over 26 years.


Jim Shields 30:11

Until a few years ago, it never occurred to me to sell it. I just thought you will prize my cold dead fingers off the laptop at the end of it. I knew that the business was a lot of potential for growth. Definitely, we looked at looking at having a huge training empire of our own probably, you know, that’s what I thought we would we would have. But we were approached by this company and a couple of other companies as well, I’ll be honest, I hadn’t thought about it. But this company was so keen and interested and really understood what we did and what was the special sauce, you know, they understood why it worked very much so and then they wanted to licence the content office originally. And we let them have a couple of seasons because we didn’t want to cannibalise our own market. Because you could subscribe to that platform and watch it and therefore we couldn’t sell it. But, and so we were very cagey about letting them have a couple of things, you know, and then it was very popular for them. And then they were like, all right, well, we want all of it and, and then I’m like, oh I don’t know. And they went, well, we’ll just have the company then.


Manish Verma 31:22

What made you think say, yeah?


Jim Shields 31:25

I think actually, what made me say I’ve got, if you could see my back burner list, you wouldn’t believe. I have so many ideas for other things to do. And companies and I thought, I’m still young enough to do other things. So after I’ll continue to work for the company for for several years from now, but hopefully in a few years, I’ll have a bit of bandwidth to be able to try out these other new ideas for companies and things like that.


Manish Verma 31:49

Are you allowed to say how much you sold the company for now?


Jim Shields 31:52

No I can’t tell you that I am sorry. But certainly is life changing?


Manish Verma 31:59

So enough so that you can now pursue those passion projects retire if you want?


Jim Shields 32:04

Well, I’m bound for an earn out for a few years. And the thing is no is no hardship. I love doing what I’m doing. And we’re continuing. We’re working on Season Two right now of this big series that we made last year. I have the best job in the world. I get to work every day with people who make me laugh, and they’re fantastic people, I get to meet new people as well. I work with actors and which I adore doing and we’re generating stuff that people take notice of and it’s changing behaviours and protecting the world. I don’t really, I can’t think of- there’s no downside to that, it’s fantastic. I do want to spend more time with my kids and my family and I worry about that a little bit. But I think any entrepreneur that’s ever done anything will tell you that that’s that’s the tough balance to do. But that is I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I love it. I love what I’m doing.


Manish Verma 32:52

So massive congratulations to Jim and twist and shout. Whilst it’s not the ambition of all entrepreneurs, I’m sure, many that I speak do say that selling their businesses on is their ultimate goal. So again, congratulations. And it sounds like Jim’s got plenty to keep him busy. Every year he attends the world domination summit. Yep, that’s right, which takes place in America each year with the goal of answering the question, how do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world. Also, Jim tells me there’s a couple of new business ideas he’d like to work on. One is a sort of travel company, but for the theatre, like an exchange visit, where people would visit different theatres. And then there’s this other idea, but he’s keeping that one under wraps, but it’s an idea his daughter had. And of course, he plans to stick around in Leicester.


Jim Shields 33:45

There’s a few things about Leicester, obviously I landed here by accident, kinda because I just took a job many years ago, but having grown a business in Leicester, over the last sort of 25 years, certainly the opportunity was there for us to get spaces to operate in. And that was great, space was made available to us. There’s a lot of talent in Leicester, there’s a lot of creativity and I put it down to them the melting pot idea of Leicester. Not just the multicultural nature of it, but to strong universities. They’ve got international reputations. There’s a loads of talent. It’s within spitting distance of London, so it’s an hour and a bit on the train. But it’s the cost base is really low. It’s really great to be here. I feel like of the holy trinity of you know, Nottingham, Lester Derby sort of thing Lester sometimes gets a bad, a bad rap for not having a personality sort of thing. But I believe it does now and I think the quarter the cultural course has made a big difference to that and is attracted lots and lots of talent. So I feel like people in Leicester try harder, because they feel like they they need to and they do. So Leicester has been great for those two reasons that the spaces have been great. It’s been a cost effective to be here. And also the talent is here a lot of talent here. And that’s the main sort of reasons that have helped my business. Definitely. Yeah, yeah. And also you can you can get a really decent takeout food anytime day or night!


Manish Verma 35:25

Jim shields is the director of the award winning Twist and Shout communications. Yes, since this podcast was recorded, Jim’s team won an award for Business Communication at the can corporate media and TV awards. Congratulations. Jim is also an author. His first book three guys walk into a bar is aimed at helping creative entrepreneurs navigate their way around business. And his second book is all about the loss of intimacy in business. That’s called once more with feeling and is out in November 2019. Oh and do check out His TEDx Lester talk. It’s interesting. Thanks for listening to the Leicester startups podcast.

TEDxLeicester 2019 talks by Leicester startup founders

ICYMI, here are two local startup founders presenting at the recent TEDxLeicester Conference on 7th September 2019.

Sophie Hainsworth is the CEO & Co-Founder of multi award winning app LoyalFree.


Alex Rühl (The Drum’s 50 under 30 women in digital) is an award-winning virtual reality filmmaker and founder of CATS are not PEAS, a production studio that specialises in creating immersive experiences that impact people’s lives.

New! Leicester Startups Podcast: Episode #1 featuring James Wormington of Travamigos

We’re very pleased to announce today the very first episode of the Leicester Startups Podcast.

This monthly series aims to shine a light on talent from across Leicester and Leicestershire to inspire listeners, whatever stage of the entrepreneurial journey they are on.

In upcoming episodes we have founders discussing their successes, like securing millions of pounds of funding, to failures like losing their homes because of their business.

The very first episode is a conversation with James Wormington, the founder of the travel app Travamigos. He talks about rum, walking out of Dragon’s Den and getting fired from every job he’s had.

You can download the Leicester Startups Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, or simply clicking below.

This episode is kindly brought to you by Twist and Shout Communications, a production team that aims to entertain and inform; because they know that when people smile, they’re engaged. And it’s smiles that get shared. Visit for more.


Manish Verma  0:00

This podcast is brought to you by Leicester startups, a community for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, helping each other to succeed. Visit less the startups calm and sign up to our mailing list to keep up to date on what’s happening, learn about our supporters. And, of course, to subscribe to our podcast.


James Wormington  0:25

You know, every founder has one of those startup stories, you know, that dates back to when they’re at school, really,


Manish Verma  0:29

James Wormington is 25 years old, from Groby in Leicestershire. And from a young age, he showed signs of being a serial entrepreneur.


James Wormington  0:39

And you know, I had the standard sort of car washing round. I had a landscaping round in three villages and actually had people working for me at that time. So when I was 13, or 14, I was making probably about 300 pounds a week.


Manish Verma  0:52

Gardening, car washing, and he even made holly wreaths at one point. Then at around 17, or 18, turned to drink. No, he didn’t become an alcoholic. He actually started selling his own brand of rum. He and his friend thought that vodka had had it stay. And now rum was on the rise. His company Crest turned over 15-thousand pounds in just nine months. But then…


James Wormington  1:19

To be honest, we failed to get a sort of a direct link with the distillery. Right. It was hard for us, right? So we didn’t really we sort of came to a natural end.


Manish Verma  1:28

Now though, James doesn’t mow lawns nor is he in the booze business. He’s the founder and CEO of Travamigos, the group travel app with more than 10,000 users, and a company valuation of 1.5 million pounds. Hi, I’m Manish Verma. And welcome to the Leicester Startups Podcast.


How does a young entrepreneur and you know from a young age by the sounds of it, when you’re mowing people’s lawns or making rum? And how does someone like that fair at school?


James Wormington  2:13

Not very well at all. So I’ve got an attention deficit disorder. So it was diagnosed with me, actually, quite recently, to be fair, but I always knew that I’d sort of had it because my attention span on you know, even the simplest projects is just know, non existent. I don’t read books,because I just can’t. I’ll get to like page 50. And it’ll be like “Dave said”, and I’d be like who’s Dave? So I’ll have to read back. So school really bad. So I went, went left school and joined as a quanity surveyor with David Wilson Homes. I actually had seven jobs since I’ve left school.


Manish Verma  2:50

Seven jobs since you’ve left school and 25?!


James Wormington  2:54

So I know, they all realise this isn’t just isn’t working. So my, my career life revolved around me passing my probation because I’m a nice lad, enthusiastic. And then when they actually got into the nitty gritty, they were like, you just really can’t do this, can you? And I’m like, No.


Manish Verma  3:10

So went through seven jobs. At that point, when you’re going through those jobs, like, you just getting downhearted like what am i going to do with my life?


James Wormington  3:18

Not really, because when when I’ve when I’ve been sort of having these, these jobs, always on in the background there’s been another business. I left the sort of rum businesses aside, and then founded an app when I was 20/21. And basically, it was an app that allowed you to sort of store your social media credentials in a wallet. So if and me met for the first time we can exchange social media credentials within five minutes on a QR code rather than searching through every social media platform. It was called bunch Bunch. But basically, I offshored the development to India. And that came back what was supposed to be three months came back two and a half months later. And I went and got some consultancy on it. And they were like, if you launch Bunch, you get sued by Facebook, Instagram. Because they want people to go through their websites. And I was basically allowing a side door.


Manish Verma  4:21

And that wouldn’t have been allowed?


James Wormington  4:22

No, not at all. But that but this they’re all things to keep me excited throughout work. And even Travamigos has been a side project for two years. But we got some investment. So that was the first my first experience in sort of pre seed investment. So a guy give us 60 grand worth of development costs. But basically, it was, it was like it was it was basically a bit of a shyster, okay. And he was like, I’ll give you six thousand pounds worth of development costs, and took a percentage in the business. But we actually we actually had to pay 9000 pounds. So I had to give him nine grand, right? And then he put in his development time. And that’s how it was. But realistically, the whole project was just nine grand anywhere. I mean, you know, they always say that your first presidency is going to fail or not. And I actually do sort of believe that a little bit. If you try and go into business from nothing from nothing into business on your own, then nine times out of 10 that will be a disaster.


Manish Verma  4:44

So from the disaster of bunch, James took a hunch, or maybe not so much of a hunch. James has a unique ability to spot gaps in markets. And it was on the beaches of Brazil, that he had a thought…


James Wormington  5:53

I was walking down Copacabana Beach, drinking a 50p pints of Brahma, which was really really nice because its brewed in Rio. I was sat down and watching the sunset, and I was on my own. And I thought to myself, you know, there’s only so much posting on Instagram I can do to really make people like jealous, I suppose. But realistically, no one sort of here with me. So the only options I had were to go up to random people and be like, hey, do you want to come and sit on a beach with me. Which, which everyone’s gonna be a bit weird. I’ve get anxiety over that. And also, like download Tinder. But that’s more like a hook up style thing. And all I wanted to do was just share a few beers with a couple of mates. And so Travamigos was born basically. And that’s like I say, an app that now allows solo travellers to connect with groups of people going to the same destination. And our major, major major thing is sort of like experience shared. That’s where we hit from, but like I say, sort of no synergy between anything that I was doing before it’s just my makeup is, is one that can spot gaps in markets.


Manish Verma  6:54

That you’re on this beach, having this drink, and that she realised that you weren’t there with people. And that’s actually what you missed I guess?


James Wormington  6:56

And it made it quite an underwhelming experience. And also, I felt quite unsafe as well. Because Rio’s like quite brutal for like beach robberies. And in fact, I did get robbed in Rio. So guy came up to me, and he was just literally as plain as day just dipped his hands in my pockets in front of my face. And I was like, I was so shocked. Yeah, that I just couldn’t believe what was going on. And I looked over and he got all these like, mates with him or whatever. So I was just like, look, just take it. But I wasn’t scared or anything. I was just completely shocked. Yeah, that he was so brash, and just no care in the world. And then you think you know, those sort of things don’t happen when you’re in a group. Well, they happen a lot less.


Manish Verma  7:42

And so just explain them for someone who’s never downloaded the app before, and will then after this, what should they expect to find and what they will be able to do with it?


James Wormington  7:53

So when a user first downloads Travamigos, they’re presented with the sort of trending destinations. So along the top will be destinations based on live app search data. So someone creates a trip in India, for example, or Thailand. And they’ll appear, number one is the trend, it’s like hot at the moment. And then the users can either dive into one of those countries or do like a search so they can search for, you know, dates, trip type, destination, and just be presented with a couple of user generated groups. Or if they don’t see what they’re looking for, they can create a group of their own. This group can be shared on social media or, you know, the other app users can sort of join them along their way. Okay. But it’s basically sort of an app that facilitates that meeting it with you before you go, just to feel you know, safer, have a bit of a cheaper experience, and overall, make it a bit more social.


Manish Verma  8:44

Let’s go back then you’re on the beach, you’ve had this great idea. How did you get from there to where you are now, which is a really, if you don’t mind me saying as well, I download it, it’s really very good looking, really well functioning app. How do get from that idea in  your head to where you are today?


James Wormington  9:04

The the number one thing that I was so pleased myself that I did was extensive, extensive market research. Now the market research process took about six months. So 2015, six months, that took us into 2016. And then we need to get the right team together. Okay, so the co founding team is literally the most important thing you’ll ever do. So like I said before, we don’t want to try and go on ventures on my own, they never work. But when you sort of have a really close knit team, they do. So that finding the right people took again, probably another four to six months.


Manish Verma  9:43

Who are they? Who are these people that you and what did you need?


James Wormington  9:47

Yeah, so we needed it at some tech experience, we needed some design experience. And I also needed someone to manage the commercial partners. And obviously, we partner with Skyscanner, Hostel world, Amazon and people like that. So we needed someone said to manage that side. Because when  my brain clouds, that’s when the ideas stop. So I needed the freedom to move it. So when I found a techie, really good, the guy named Steve Radford, and he’s built apps before, he’s built an app of his own. So he really knew what he was talking about on the iOS side. And Paul McKay is just amazing. With a design, you can see our sort of sexy it looks. And then actually my dad, who’s 30 years in marketing and sales came on he was like, “look, I really, really like the idea really like where it’s going”. So it’s kind of as for as a co founding team. And we work really well together.


Manish Verma  10:38

You’ve got your dad working with you. Yeah. What’s that like?


James Wormington  10:40

It was really good. Actually, I like I think when you work with family, it’s difficult because you have to like, sort of live with them. And this their respect thing as my dad, and you know, that sort of stuff. But it’s good, because we can sort of like, Oh, I’m only saying cut the bullshit a little bit. And it’s like, you don’t have to be polite. You can just say, look, this is rubbish rather than having to around the bush. Yeah. So that’s, that’s worked well, actually.


Manish Verma  11:04

And you’ve got these three of the members of staff and then yourself, then how are you affording this?


James Wormington  11:09

So at the moment, we all work on equity in the business. So basically, we we don’t pay ourselves a huge salary. And we just our sort of unique goal is to basically make the equity more valuable. So we just secured 150,000 pound investment. So that was two weeks ago, we got the money in the bank for that. And that was at 1.5 million pound valuation, which is fantastic, really. So everyone’s, you know, really inspired and motivated by the fact that the company sort of like, you know, 9/10 months old, and it’s worth it already. So they sort of work for low costs.


Manish Verma  11:48

What’s the process been like to try to even recruit people to find funding?


James Wormington  11:53

Yeah, absolutely. So the problem that every startups got on the hand is, you know, you will not make revenue for the first probably a year or two years. But people put in their cash flows, that they can make revenue on day one, it just doesn’t happen. It really doesn’t happen. Unless you’ve got like a product business that it’s like an overnight success or something like that. But the guarantee to be a little where there’s no money coming in, and you’ve got expensive overheads to pay for, you know. I put 60 grand in   myself, wow. So that was basically an accumulation of credit cards, loans, and all of that sort of stuff. But yeah, I bought I bought 60,000 in to start this business. And literally, about a month ago, it was all gone. Right. So that’s how quickly it can burn through.


Manish Verma  12:33

When you put 60 grand and loans, credit cards and stuff when you’re even applying those, you know, making those applications for those loans. Those credit cards, are you thinking ‘this is a lot of money, I’ve got to pay back eventually’. How scary is that?


James Wormington  12:49

I’m not too scared. I don’t really get too scared about that. Because it’s like, if he’s not gonna kill me, then then I’m going to do it. With with cash. You know, I’ve never been very good at money management. I’ve always been a huge risk taker. And literally my motto is, you know, I will pay off when it when I get the money. And it’s not a case of if it’s a case of sort of when, and that’s the mindset that I’m in at the moment.


Manish Verma  13:40

Let’s recap where we are. James Warmington from Groby has gone from selling rum to tech. His first startup didn’t quite start up. But his second Travamigos, an app idea conceived in Brazil in 2015 launches in Leicester, in 2018. It’s all about making travelling more social. But I’ll let James explain.


James Wormington  14:19

Yeah, so the initial idea was the sort of the group travel buddy thing. So basically, travel buddy apps on the market at the moment are just want to one, so they it’s basically a Tinder with a rebrand. So basically, what we decided to do was put them in a group and our goal was to become the best travel buddy app.  And now we’ve got more active users than any other travel buddy app on the market the minute while we sort of smash those goals in the first like six months, and that was almost like a three year plan for us. We have about 10 and a half thousand active and just over 1000, user generated groups.


Manish Verma  14:59

And these are from all over the world?


James Wormington  15:02

We got downloads from five continents. So yeah, just, we really, really concentrated our marketing in the UK. So the sort of foreign downloads have just been sort of word of mouth on our Instagram page and stuff like that. Well, yeah. So we, but we’re moving global sort of back in the next year.


Manish Verma  15:19

That’s since 2018. Since you launched about a year ago. What’s that, like? From having this from this idea in your head, on a beach to having 10,000 people using your your app? What’s that like?


James Wormington  15:31

It’s, it’s, it’s good. When I must admit, it was the first group that was formed. I was like, wow, this is this is amazing. I can’t believe you’re actually using my app. That’s something I could never even imagine. But now it’s sort of like, you know, that’s a bit, it’s a bit sort of dimmed down the excitement. And it’s not on to the next thing.


Manish Verma  15:47

But what I find really interesting is the the, you mentioned it to try and make travelling a bit more social and this idea that you can chat beforehand. That’s a really, that’s a really interesting innovation that you added, I guess that nobody, no one else had.


James Wormington  16:01

Yeah, so the group system is we were the first one guys to do that. I imagined that they’ll probably be some some ones that come along. And so to stay ahead of our competition with that, that’s why we’re sort of going deeper with the tech. We’ve got exclusive partnership signed with Skyscanner and Hostel World. And we’re working towards getting Airbnb involved. We’re expanding from where we work, where where we are now.


Manish Verma  16:22

And when you say partnership with Skyscanner and Hostel World, what what does that partnership involve? How does that what does it look like?


James Wormington  16:28

Yeah, so both the both of those guys helped us get some early traction. And so we did some joint marketing with them. They also really helped us like our feet on the ground. So they’ve sent some guys over to have a look at the business model. Skyscanner, for example, doing a mentorship programme open in Edinburgh minute, which they’ve accepted me onto, which is great. So it’s just like a helping hand really from some industry giants.


Manish Verma  16:54

How do you even knock on the door of industry giants?


James Wormington  16:58

Yeah, it was crazy. So it was done through LinkedIn. So I just got a few few Connexions on LinkedIn. Leah, her name was she was the partnership manager at the time for Skyscanner. I basically just dropped her and I was like, I was like, look, can I please buy your coffee, I’ve got something really exciting to share, and went up to their offices. And literally within the first sort of 10 minutes of me being there, they were like, we love it. We absolutely love it. So this, this is more talking about the growth of .Travamigos. This is what we wanted to get them involved with. And they were like, yeah, we just fully support and believe in your plans. They there like Skyscanner never put their brand to any startup because it’s too risky. Yeah. But for you guys, you know, we can make an exception because we don’t want you to go anywhere else. And that was that was special. Yeah, that really was special to us.


Manish Verma  17:43

So how was James been able to afford all of this? Well, as you’ve had bank loans and credit cards, some small grants here and there, and then applications to innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, because travelling egos is pioneering artificial intelligence and machine learning, they’re able to apply for hundreds of thousands of pounds. But they’re not stopping there. James recently pitched his idea. In the most infamous arena, you can in the UK Dragon’s Den…


James Wormington  18:15

I naively went up to Dragon’s Den thinking that it was just going to be a conversation that would have with investors. So I’ve had conversations with investors in different countries for the past sort of like six months now and teeing them for the big round opening. And I was sort of going to get, you know, maybe maybe a dragon on board as well. But sort of went in there. And I was thinking, Oh, yeah, brilliant, you know, it’s just going to be lucky, like a chat like I normally have with an investor. But instead, it was like them trying to make a TV show. So they basically like very sort of belittling and patronise me, and I was not really given a chance to speak, they were just looking for a bite so that they could make good TV. And so I just looked at them. And I was like, look, I’m not wasting my time anymore. I’ll leave you to it in like, mid film, picked my laptop up, just walked out.


Manish Verma  18:57

No way. Yeah. And you you like, what were their reactions?


James Wormington  19:02

They were shocked. Really, Deborah Meadon was like, that’s the first time that’s ever happened ever. So the first time in sort of seven years. My mom was like, trust that to be you! Because I’m quite like, yeah, if someone’s not showing me respect, like, I’ll just leave


Manish Verma  19:17

Watching the show, they do they do needle you and obviously we see the final edit. But actually, is it quite hostile from quite early on?


James Wormington  19:28

Yes. They get you in their early doors. And it’s not very pleasant experience. When you walk in there, you know, you’re not actually into the den. You know, it’s not like smiles and nice to meet you. It’s very much sort of, you know, stern faces, which is intimidating, you know, especially for a young lad, it is intimidating, or a young girl. But ya know, it was it was a bit of a bit of a sad experience for me, because I was hoping that someone could would come out of it.


Manish Verma  19:53

And I’ve been told to ask you a storey from Sophie Hainsworth, who’s a mentor of yours, but it’s another funding story where you have to fly off to a different country.


James Wormington  20:02

Yeah. This is the world of investment that we’re in. So basically, there was a lot of foreign investors that show interest in Travamigos. They wanted to, you know, expand their portfolio internationally. So basically, we, we had a guy from Zurich flyover. And he was really keen in the business. We  still speak to him now. And then some guy put another offer on the table. That was 300,000 pounds pound loan, basically. And she was doing like debt finance and that sort of thing. So we went over to, to Valencia to meet this guy. So I was on the plane. And when I landed and got signal I had lot for missed calls from him. And he was like, are you still come in blah, blah said yeah, I’ve just landed on the tarmac. I’ll see you soon sort of thing. When I was going through airport security around me again. And he was like, all right, like, why am I gonna recognise you? And I said, I’ve got beige trousers on and a white shirt. And my dad’s wearing a suit. And he says, Oh, so you come with someone else? I says yeah. He says you’ve you’ve bought someone else? He kept repeating himself at least like three or four times. I was like, yeah, like my dad’s my business partner. Like we’re coming together. And he put the phone down and blocks my number. So I was going to Valencia to meet this guy who has now turned out not to be an investor, but to be some sort of creepy dude. And then it was really weird in the news, because some holidaymakers and ,  they go over to Valencia to view some property. And this guy said to me was like I deal in property and all that sort of stuff. And these couple were held kidnap in one of these properties, and they tracked the emails from the guy to an internet cafe in Valencia. That is like the worst case scenario that could have happened.


Manish Verma  21:47

This is like a case of grooming online!


James Wormington  21:52

That’s it! Because because the guy flew over from Zurich to me is the time before. Yeah, it was just like, I was like, Oh, this is just sort of course. And yeah.


Manish Verma  21:59

And that brings me my next question. I guess like, what, what things do you think you’ve, what mistakes have you made?


James Wormington  22:05

To be honest, I think the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in sort of businesses is, you know, not having a direct relationship with the people that are actually doing the work. So I made that mistake on two occasions, actually, Once bitten and twice bitten! Ok. So when I when I was talking about the sort of rum, I didn’t have a good relationship with it with a distillery. And when I was talking about Bunch, you know that the tech guys were in India (You don’t know them). No, absolutely not. So luckily, I’ve learned from those mistakes, but the tech team in house, and that’s sort of like learning from those mistakes in the best way possible. But definitely, that was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. Yeah, you cannot do things on your own despite how much you think you probably can. You know, you can’t. And you know, with it with a good team behind you, you you will go far. So like I say two mistakes, never ever offshore you development, and never try and do everything on your own.


Manish Verma  22:56

I get I’m getting this theme from talking to about collaboration. And also being with other people. Travamigos, essentially, is an app where you can meet other people and do you know, create fantastic memories go abroad, whatever. And it’s this idea of being with other people. And one of your biggest business lessons, again, is actually surround yourself with other people.


James Wormington  23:19

Yeah, absolutely. Like, I’m happy to walk into the boardroom and be the dumbest person in there. That’s how I like to work. I’m not, you know, ignorant in the sense that I know better than the guy who’s actually doing it like I’m not, so having that relationship and understanding between the team is fantastic.


Manish Verma  23:37

And you’ve got links in Leicester. Just explain kind of will relationships with various other organisations?


James Wormington  23:43

Yeah, so Leicester’s sort of our grassroots really. I was born in Leicester, and it’s a fantastic story for Leicester, this sort of startup. So we’re really keen to sort of keep that going. We’ve got partnerships with all the universities in Leicester. We work with creative agency called Arch. We work with Cocoon with the development guys. We’re really keen to keep sort of everything in Leicester. The only problem with staying in Leicester is there’s not enough grant funding for us. It’s not that they don’t support startups, you know, England as a as a country. Whereas Edinburgh do. They pay up to 70% of all r&d costs. Which is, which is a considerable saving, really, so we’re hoping to get a tech team set up there, but then still, sort of keep our blue colours.


Manish Verma  24:26

What does Leicester, what  does it need to kind of have more people like you?


James Wormington  24:30

I think that Leicester would really benefit from like a collaborative working space. You know, Weworks in London are fantastic, because it allows everyone sort of come together in a cluster. I think it was like the TechCrunch said there was 267 startup births last year, which is fantastic in the in the tech scene, but the only problem is, you know, Leicester loses a lot to London. So I think the Midlands as a whole need to really sort of grab hold of these investors and be like, look, these are the startups that are coming through. So sort yourselves out sort of thing, so that we don’t go down to London because it is so tempting, because the money’s there.


Manish Verma  25:09

Thank you so much to James from Travamigos, and good luck to the whole team. Not that they need it. A recent 1.5 million pound valuation, three more members of staff coming on board by the end of 2019. And they’re forecasting a team of 29 by the end of 2021.


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Free Cake Friday, 31st May

Join University of Leicester’s Innovation Hub team at their next ‘Free Cake Friday’ networking event. Free Cake Fridays provide an excellent opportunity to network with the innovation team, enterprising academics from the University of Leicester, amazing local companies, recent graduate start-ups and regional business & innovation support organisations in a friendly and informal environment….and there’ll also be cake! You’re welcome to drop in anytime between 10am and 4pm.

Founders-Only Round Table, 25th April (NEW VENUE)

founders round tableEver feel like you’re running your startup from inside an echo chamber? Would you value the thoughts and insight of other local entrepreneurs who can scrutinise you and your business from outside your bubble? If so then our round table events are a great way to quickly give you objective clarity or a helpful nudge. Think of it like having your own personal board of directors! You’ll get a turn to share what you’re working on, what problems you’re face and what you’ve learned recently. The other group participants will ask you probing questions to help you decide what business actions you’ll take before the next meetup.

NEW VENUE: University of Leicester Innovation Hub, 128 Regent Road, Leicester, LE1 7PA

Please note: this event is for active startup founders only. Sorry employees, freelancers, consultants and agency people but this event is not for you unless you’ve got a potentially scalable startup side project on the go.



If you can’t make this event but are interested in taking part the future round table meetups, please email



Job Vacancy: Leicester Coworking Space Project Manager

(reposted from

About the role
This is an exciting new opportunity for a passionate and entrepreneurial project manager who is keen to bring about Leicester’s first flexible co-working space to support the entrepreneurial community therein. including entrepreneurs, new start-ups, existing businesses, freelancers, remote employees, academics, students and graduates.

You will also facilitate partnership and collaboration between the entrepreneurial community and with the partner organisations to enable projects to tackle social, environmental and economic challenges and opportunities.

You will lead and develop alongside local partners to bring into place an engaging start-up support programme with a co-working space in Leicester. With particular focus on the development of a deliverable business plan for a sustainable city centre based co-working space. This will include the formation of a consortium comprised of relevant stakeholders and individuals; the development of a governance structure for the space a fully costed business model , business support programme; a marketing and promotions plan.

About you
To succeed in this role, you will bring project management and leadership experience to drive the delivery of a connected entrepreneur community and co-working facility.

You will also be a strong relationship manager with relevant experience in creating new business and funding opportunities, and have experience of operations and implementation of strategy working together with stakeholders and partners.
Additional information
This is a full-time, fixed-term role until 30 September 2020.

Informal enquiries regarding this opportunity are welcome, and should be made to Rajinder Bhuhi, Business Manager at or 0116 229 7697.

We anticipate that interviews will take place on 31 August 2018.

In return for your hard work, we offer a working environment that is committed to inclusivity, through promoting equality and valuing diversity. We offer a competitive salary package with excellent pension scheme, a generous annual leave allowance and an online portal that offers a range of lifestyle benefits and discounts. Located close to Leicester city centre, our award winning campus benefits from a wide range of cafes, a fully equipped sports centre and nursery facilities. Further information regarding our extensive range of staff benefits is available here.


Free Startup Mentoring, 14th May at LCB Depot

Tech startup founders David Chan and Ben Ravilious will be bookable all day for free casual mentoring or other startup-related chat in the cafe at LCB Depot on Rutland Street in the city centre. Get advice, share an idea, ask questions, get introductions.


ben raviliousBen Ravilious is a co-founder of audience polling startup ParticiPoll as well as a co-director of web and app development agency Ultimateweb which specialises in working with startups. Ben can help with web and app development, startup idea validation, how to position your startup, content marketing, software-as-a-service (Saas) products, pricing, community building.



David Chan is founder of cybersecurity startup Aroclave as well as the Entrepreneur in Residence at CyLon Accelerator.  David founded his first tech startup while still an undergraduate at Imperial College and has co-founded/worked at multiple startups in the UK and Silicon Valley doing CRM, eCommerce and Cybersecurity. David advises/mentors students and several early stage startups and can talk about a wide range of topics.


Slots will be up to 30 mins long and will follow David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto principles. We won’t try to boss you, sell you anything or steal your idea and you might end up mentoring us!


Email if you have any questions.

(hat tip to Brad Feld for the Random Days idea)

Free Startup Mentoring, Mon 26th Feb at University of Leicester

On Monday 26th February, tech startup founders David Chan and Ben Ravilious will be available all day for free casual mentoring or other startup-related chat at University of Leicester’s Innovation Hub, 7 Salisbury Road. Get advice, share an idea, ask questions, get introductions.


ben raviliousBen Ravilious is a co-founder of audience polling startup ParticiPoll as well as a co-director of web and app development agency Ultimateweb which specialises in working with startups. Ben can help with web and app development, startup idea validation, how to position your startup, content marketing, software-as-a-service (Saas) products, pricing, community building.



David Chan is founder of cybersecurity startup Aroclave as well as the Entrepreneur in Residence at CyLon Accelerator.  David founded his first tech startup while still an undergraduate at Imperial College and has co-founded/worked at multiple startups in the UK and Silicon Valley doing CRM, eCommerce and Cybersecurity. David advises/mentors students and several early stage startups and can talk about a wide range of topics.


Slots will be up to 30 mins long and will follow David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto principles. We won’t try to boss you, sell you anything or steal your idea and you might end up mentoring us!

Email if you have any questions.

(hat tip to Brad Feld for the Random Days idea)

Business Networking Event at Colab Loughborough, 12th July

colabWe are a community where start ups, young entrepreneurs, creative geniuses, freelancers, and techies work & meet to co-work, co-share, co-create, and collaborate. Come along to our regular networking events and workshops to share your business experience and make new connections, which could become the key to your business.