This time last week I was in the back on an Uber taxi pitching to a potential investor. UberPITCH was an incredible idea – instead of businesses chasing investors, why not bring the investors to the businesses and then find the best and help them accelerate.
Uber is one of the world’s fastest growing companies and also one of the most disruptive. It offers and on demand taxi service, with a pricing model that changes with demand and anyone can become an Uber driver. It’s controversial because it challenges established taxi licensing structures and regulation.
Being in the back of the taxi, pitching Memrica Prompt and its mission to stop the fear of forgetting was a surprisingly intimate and relaxed experience. I had my listener’s undivided attention and since I had woken up that morning with laryngitis, my voice wouldn’t have carried much further than the other side of the cab! 4000 people entered from 37 cities and 21 countries across Europe.
On Sunday I received a call to tell me I had won! I was amazed, thrilled and excited and at that point I thought I’d won the Birmingham round. It wasn’t until I understood that only 4 people were being invited to go to Berlin to met Uber’s co-founder that I really understood what I’d achieved.
During the Berlin visit the 4 companies chosen spent around an hour with Travis Kalanick. He was warm and generous with his advice, incredibly supportive and to hear his feedback on our businesses was amazingly helpful. We also were able to attend the NOAH and Start up Europe conferences.
Reflecting on the experience back in the UK it feels like it was a whirlwind of great experiences. Starting a business is tough and sometimes it feels like pushing water uphill, to have the endorsement of one the world’s most exciting entrepreneurs is extraordinary and gives a real boost to the business and its profile. Wow, what a ride!
Memrica is based in Birmingham, which has a vibrant tech community. Two artists, Ian Andrews and Sarah Fortes Mayer, have devised works based on ‘Objects of Inspiration’ and have bee working with tech businesses to have a different conversation about inspiration. This was partly a community exercise and partly a personal journey; everyone working at the Innovation Birmingham hub was encouraged to bring an object that inspired them to the campus. The artists then worked with everyone participating to create and share stories and journeys using live drawing, photography and performance.
I love this idea as Memrica has its roots in objects of inspiration. When my sister died, I really became aware that there were things around me that sparked memories about her – a vase she’d given me for my birthday made from swirling bubble blue iridescent glass or the books we’d read together as children, tatty and dis-coloured but more precious than ever. The first Memrica app made a connection between these objects and favourite digital images so you could see those memories quickly. When people asked about using it for people living with dementia, the focus of the company changed to what you see today – but I’ve always found pleasure in the idea that when you look at something you see more than its physical presence.
The idea of sharing personal inspiration with a wider community is really exciting. It means searching deeply to express why this object is so meaningful in a way that resonates with others. I’m sure new personal insights will emerge, not only through the thought process but in the act of sharing itself and receiving other’s thoughts and feedback. Self reflection and self discovery is a powerful act, often we don’t give enough time to thinking about what motivates and moves us. Thinking about our own objects of inspiration is really rewarding, because it emphasises why we are who we are.