Case studies

There are a number of startups in Glasgow University, all of whom are at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Some are just in the process of transforming their idea into a prototype; others are established and making their way in the world.

For more information about some of our startups see the case studies below. More will be added as interviews are completed.

MindMate

Business name: MindMate LTD
Shareholders: Susanne Mitschke, Patrick Renner, Rogelio Arellano, Gabriela Matic
Web address: www.mindmate-app.com
Company and/or twitter handles: @MindMateApp

What does the company do?

MindMate provides the fastest-growing assistance platform for people affected by dementia. Every 3 seconds a person gets diagnosed with dementia somewhere in the world and a cure is still a very long way off. This is why people need NOW an effective way to manage this condition, and this is where MindMate steps in.

  1. MindMate makes persons with dementia more independent; 
  2. It improves the caring process; and
  3. Gives family-members greater peace of mind.

We currently provide three different apps: one for the person living with dementia, one for the caregiver or family-member, and one specifically for care homes.

We officially launched MindMate in November 2015 and, as of the end of February 2016, have more than 15,000 active users. MindMate is also used by two NHS Trusts (one being Glasgow) and by several care homes in the UK.

For us, dementia is just the beginning. We aim to become the go-to platform provider for grey tech in general, as we already get a lot of feedback from people without dementia that our platform supports them just as well in their everyday life.

What inspired you to start-up?

Every one of MindMate’s four Co-Founders has a different story regarding the inspiration to start-up.

Rogelio’s grandfather lived with dementia and he saw that having dementia is a big challenge not only for the patient, but also for the family and the carers. Rogelio wants to help people by doing what he loves and use his skills in the technical field to improve the lives of many people.

People who managed to build something from nothing have inspired Gabriela to start-up. Having the independence, a dynamic team and also the related challenges to drive you to create a product that can improve peoples’ lives is what drives her.

Patrick’s inspiration to start-up lies in his motivation to build something instead of climbing the corporate career ladder. Inspired by his first hand experience as a civil servant in an care home, he wants to use his addiction to numbers to create something which can really change the lives of millions of people.

Susanne’s inspiration to start-up her own business came from other female entrepreneurs such as Sophia Amoruso, Sheryl Sandberg and Tory Burch. She never felt comfortable in the corporate world, as she felt constrained and not able to use her full skill-set. Susanne is driven by the thought of being able to improve the quality of life for people who are affected by dementia.

How did you go about starting up, did you apply for funding or did you self-fund the project? If so, where did you secure funding from?

We started MindMate at the end of March 2015 and applied to several competitions to fund our start-up costs. We received money from Enterprise Pathway Challenge, Young Innovators Challenge, Santander 60-Second Pitch and the Santander Summer Company Programme. In addition to this, Enterprise Campus also supports us.

We also participated in the famous tech start-up accelerator, ignite100, from September 2015 to December 2015, and got a small amount of funding from them as well. Due to the accelerator, we were able to meet a lot of Business Angels and Venture Capitalists, which has helped us to secure a six-figure seed investment. The lead investor for our seed round is the well-known London Angel Syndicate Potential VC, founded by serial entrepreneur Doug Scott.

Where do you get advice/support/help?

We received support from the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, from Marion Anderson, who is the Enterprise Manager at the University of Glasgow (she was super helpful in finding us an office, for example) and also Josh Sauter, the Enterprise Campus Manager who has given us great support and business advice.

Apart from them, our investor help us a lot especially with introductions, and we also have an amazing advisory board, consisting of the Ex Managing Director of Barclays Wealth (who now founded his own company), the Director of Cisco Healthcare Europe and a serial healthcare entrepreneur. They help us a lot when it comes to sales strategy & execution, forming different business models, formulating a compelling vision and getting the next steps right to achieve the vision goals.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Before we decided to name our product MindMate, we had a different name, which was not appropriate for our product. One of our biggest challenges was therefore to come up with a new name and rebrand, which was especially difficult because people already knew us by another name. We ran a series of focus groups and canvassed local opinion in order to decide on a more appropriate name and that has certainly been one of our biggest challenges so far.

What is your next big target?

I would rather say we have many smaller targets. For the next quarter, we plan to release an Android Version of the patient’s app, as well as the caregiver’s/family-member’s version. Then, we are already in the process of translating the apps into different languages and release them in the rest of Europe and South America as well. Furthermore, we are currently preparing an impact study in cooperation with the University of Glasgow to scientifically validate the benefits of MindMate. We will publish the results then in a leading medical journal. Last, we have to grow more, faster. We set together with our investors’ targets, which we have to hit, and one of these targets is to grow, grow and grow. 

What is the best and worst thing about being a start-up?

There are so many good things about being an entrepreneur and starting your own business! One of them is definitely that you keep learning every day and that every day is different. Furthermore, you can do what you love and you have the freedom to organise your work around your needs. Also, we have all developed new skills, which we would have never developed in a corporate job.

There are no “worst things” about being an entrepreneur, but, if we have to name something, then it would be the risk of failure, which is linked to job security, which also links to the variable that you simply don’t know if the work hours everyone is investing are paying off.

What makes this idea different?

We are different, as we provide a holistic all-in-one package. Dementia is very complex, which means that you cannot just solve an individual challenge, like our competitors do. Furthermore, we put the person with dementia AS WELL as the caregiver/family-member in the centre, and not just one group or the other. 

Who would be your dream customer?

Our dream customers are people in the early stages of dementia and carers of dementia patients, who are willing to use tablets in order to help them cope with the disease. What these people have in common is a need for maintained independence, supportive advice and further information around the disease.

Our dream customer believes that dementia doesn’t mean the end of his/her life, but that our app can increase his/her personal safety, and assist in helping him/her to maintain dignity and happiness.

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?

Be resilient. The stories that you hear in the media are generally only the good parts, you don’t hear about the struggles and difficulties of businesses before they become successful. There are more pitfalls than successes, so stay resilient!


Gym Diary

Business name: Gym Diary
Shareholders: Joan Kangro, Rainar Vahtrik, Hans-Herko Lusmagi, Kaspar Puusild, Madis Valdmann
Web address: www.gymdiary.eu

What does the company do?

Gym Diary is a fitness application. First, you set your body characteristics, the muscles you want to train, the place, etc. Next, the app generates a training plan for you. After each training you get a quick summary of what you’ve achieved.

Over the long term it shows your progress with different graphs, intensity of training, muscles that you’ve trained and a calendar with what you did each day. There are pictures and detailed descriptions on how to perform each exercise, carefully selected by our physiotherapist.

What inspired you to start up?

We wanted to create a product that would add extra value to people’s lives.

How did you go about starting up and where did you secure funding from?

We covered some of the expenses ourselves and we got funding from the Santander Summer Company program.

Where did you get advice/support from?

Marion Anderson from Student Enterprise at University of Glasgow, Joan’s brother who had already started up a company of his own, the mentors from the Summer Company programme and our friends who have knowledge on the matter.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

To explain to investors how are we different from the competition and to get customer feedback.

What is your next big target?

To reach 10,000 downloads, release the new version and to start creating a revenue.

What is the best and worst thing about being a start-up?

The best is the experience that you get from it: you create something on your own, make a lot of connections and get the pleasure to work on something that is interesting for you.

The worst is that you have less studying time.

What makes this idea different?

We make the user experience better by using a new generation algorithm and by gathering all you need to be fit in one app.

Where do you see the company in a year's time?

With around 30,000 downloads, expanded and getting more and more appealing to investors. Our main drive is to continue improving.

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?

Before you start do a broad research on the market! Gather a lot of feedback from customers to see whether people are really interested in your product or not.


Streetly

Business name: Streetly Ltd
Shareholders: Robert Simmons
Web address: www.streetly.co.uk

What does the company do?

The company’s aim is to document localised, independent fashion retailers and their products, and create a user experience and community promoting localized fashion.

What inspired you to start-up?

I worked for a variety of companies who didn’t value their employees and I didn’t have any capacity to contribute or have any control over my career’s trajectory. Last summer I left a company determined to create something of my own and not spend my life making someone else rich.

How did you go about starting up, did you apply for funding or did you self-fund the project? If so, where did you secure funding from?

I started up by self-teaching the relevant aspects of business and coding. I worked for a while on that before I got funding from Santander in the Summer Company Programme.

Where do you get advice/support/help?

Student Enterprise, meeting and discussing things with fellow entrepreneurs, and perhaps most importantly - reading the stories and advice of the most successful people in the world.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Adapting and changing my business model to find the right knish in the market.

What is your next big target?

Beta launch.

What is the best and worst thing about being a start-up?

The best: you get to be your own boss and not have to answer to anyone.

The worst: there is a lot of uncertainty as to the success of the business.

What makes this idea different?

It gives independent retailers a voice amongst the online flurry of corporate fashion activity and creates a community for independent retailers.

Where do you see the company in a year’s time?

I see the company with an active user community and around 80 boutiques.

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?

Read, read and read some more. All the most successful entrepreneurs self-educate by reading.


O'Brand Communications

Business name: O’Brand Communications Ltd
Shareholders: Gatis Gaumigs, Rafal Ciesielczuk, Francesco Vanduynslager, Marek Bialy
Web address: www.obrand.info

What does the company do?

O'Brand Communications is a tech startup that uses wireless beacon technology to allow venues to display location based data to customers. This has a plethora of potential applications. One example would be a bar or restaurant creating an integrated digital menu which customers can access via their smartphones as well as allowing the restaurant direct digital communication with their customers.

We are working passionately with the most up-to-date technology, planning to create a network of, what we call, “spotouts” around cities. These spotouts will focus on social gatherings and will engage people with a variety of interests. They will provide the ability to discover nearby activities and information, to enable people get the most out of their experience wherever they are.

What inspired you to start-up?

The main inspiration came from the desire to make a meaningful difference in the way that people discover and experience a city. From there we decided we wanted to build a platform that is cool and innovative for both businesses and users.

How did you go about starting up, did you apply for funding or did you self-fund the project? If so, where did you secure funding from?

It all started with extensive research, and then we found that we had to build on our technical knowledge and overcome a long and steep learning curve. We received a starting up grant from the Santander summer company program and this was vital in kick-starting the business. During the following year we plan to take part in multiple competitions to compete for prizes.

Where do you get advice/support/help?

We are incredibly grateful for the assistance we received on the Summer Company Programme, especially to Marion Anderson who helped substantially in moving us in the right direction. After being accepted onto the programme we got the opportunity to use an office in Round Reading Room. The highlight was meeting the Scottish County Manager of Cisco, Donald McLaughlin, who brought clarity to the values we want to see in ourselves and our company.

We would also like to thanks Sicsa workshops, especially Jill Ramsay, for having us as guests over the summer. We feel lucky to have met Josh Sueter who has provided a number of contacts and provides advice in challenging situations. We owe special thanks to our good friend and developer, Stas, whose opinion we value highly. Finally, we are indebted to the business school mentors in workshops and legal.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

There have been occasional challenges during the production of a minimum viable product. The prototype development eventually found its way through challenging implementation - tech challenges were the main hurdles. We did not lose sight of the bigger picture and what we want our product to do but we were surprised at how long it takes to get from concept to reality.

What is your next big target?

Our next big target will be a complete minimum viable product along with testing. Funding will be essential for the progression of this product and will pave the way for us to succeed with our vision.

What is the best and worst thing about being a start-up?

The best thing: everyone in the team benefits from each other’s support, and we learn to work together towards milestones and accomplishments.

The worst thing: occasionally hitting a brick wall – not knowing how to progress or what direction to progress in. At these times we tell ourselves that there is always a solution to the problem. As Nike states “impossible is nothing”.

What makes this idea different?

The aim of the platform to revolutionise the way we interact with venues that we attend every day or want to visit. We want to answer the questions that everyone asks themselves: "What is happening around me?", "What will I do?", "Where will I go?"

Who would be your dream customer?

There are so many that we would like to be associated with. Red Bull would probably be number one.

Where do you see the company in a year’s time?

Disrupting the marketing industry – hearing clients’ success stories about using our platform. "Have you heard about this app? It’s incredible.”

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?

Pursue the dream, no matter how weird it sounds. Be curious and find new Ways and find new ways creative. Self-confidence is essential in pursuing goals and making success of them. Well planned work and strategy will always pay off.


HiHomeAway Ltd

Business name: HiHomeAway Ltd
Founder and CEO: Jiaqi Xue (Angel)
Web address: www.hihomeaway.com
Facebook: Wechat: Hiha_appHiHomeAway

What does the company do?

HiHomeAway Ltd is a registered Scottish technology company, based in Glasgow, aimed at building mobile solutions for overseas Chinese students, tourists and businesses etc.

The HiHA app is the first product from the company and it is a mobile application with a core focus on enabling Chinese travellers to enjoy travelling by providing Chinese focused in-app services. These services enable the user to find and connect with other Chinese travellers near them while simultaneously helping them connect with their new society, thus making them feel at home even when they are outside their home country - China. Present features in the HiHA app include but are not limited to: Chinese Services, Meetups, Eating Guides, Sightseeing Guides, Shopping Guides, Smart Taxi Hailing and upcoming local events near the user's geo location.

What inspired you to start-up?

Chinese people in the UK account for the highest number of tourists, the tourists spending the most on goods and services and the largest number of international students studying at UK Universities, thus making significant contributions to British economy. I was an international student in the UK and I remember how intimidating it was for me when I left all of my family and friends for the first time. During my studies, I saw that many people thought that the Chinese were very close and only wanted to associate with other Chinese people which breaks my heart because I know how Chinese people try so hard to get immersed in British culture. However, because of the language barrier and cultural differences, most of us find it harder to engage when we are in a foreign country. There are so many apps and websites helping people find information when they go travelling but none of them specifically made for us overseas Chinese. This is where the HiHA idea starts. I want to build something beautiful to help connect Chinese people outside China to their new local environment.

How did you go about starting up, did you apply for funding or did you self-fund the project? If so, where did you secure funding from?

I started up with two of my friends and we did all of the design, coding and management in house and we contributed some funds to kick off the project. For the first nine months we bootstrapped and now we are looking for external funding and financial support.

Where do you get advice/support/help?

Marion Anderson, who is the Enterprise Manager at the University of Glasgow, has been providing me with good advice and support. Student Enterprise provides a lot of networking and business guidance. Networking brings me a lot of valuable connections from whom I've learnt a lot. Apart from that, like minded entrepreneurs and various online resources have all provided me with valuable help. I have also received a lot of support and encouragement from AccelerateHer, Converge Challenge and Uber in a form of idea validation and the environment to polish my business idea.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Dealing with things I don’t know. Tech is a fast growing industry so I ask myself questions such as How long can the business can last before a new competing technology comes up? How profitable will the business be? What do the users really want? So many unknowns sometimes bring discouragement.

What is the best and worst thing about being a start-up?

Being an entrepreneur is a process of understanding who you really are and what you really want to do. You don’t realise how fast you will be able to grow or how much you will be able to achieve until you have actually done it.

I don’t really think there is anything I could say was the worst thing about being a start-up. For most people, uncertainties are what they would consider worst but then again, nothing is really certain other than death.

What makes this idea different?

Very simple – we are the first mobile app to connect the world’s largest group of outbound tourists, students and businesses no matter where they are outside of China.

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?

Running a business takes time and requires continuous efforts and determination. Do what you love, love what you do and be good at it. At the end of the day even if your first idea doesn’t work out, you will still have gained some valuable experience to start your next adventure.