During the Varsity Pitch Competition we sat down with this years winners Ed and Harry to talk about their app, launching their own business and why they entered the competition.
Tell us about your app?
Harry: Our app is called Wyre and it’s a mobile payments app that aims to make mobile payments ridiculously simple by using bitcoin. So it’s very easy to pay nearby merchants at a touch of a button or even your friends.
Sounds awesome, so why did you decide to apply for the Varsity Pitch?
Ed: We had heard of the competition last year and we thought it looked really good and like something we really wanted to be a part of. It seems like a rapidly growing competition, particularly this year where entries were higher than ever. Great publicity and the prize money would be amazing. Plus- we’re still eligible!
You met at the University of Cambridge and graduated in 2011, but when was it that you decided to start a business?
Ed: It was only a few months ago really at a time where I’d been developing mobile games for a while and was just finishing with that and Harry was still working at Goldman Sachs and making some of his own apps. That was when we both started talking and giving advice on one and others products.
Harry: I’d been wanting to start something up for a while and was getting a bit bored in my current job. I felt particularly for this project with my financial knowledge and mine and Ed’s mobile sides, this kind of development was the perfect opportunity to bring those together.
Since it’s pretty early days, are you working in a coworking space or office at the moment?
Harry: We’re currently working at Google Campus from time-to-time but because of the nature of the app we have to be out speaking with merchants so we’ve set a target to work from different coffee shops everyday so we can see how our customers interact and what kind of things they want and expect from an app.
Ed: Yeah, generally we work from small, independent cafe’s in Shoreditch- a mobile office!
And we hear you’re trying to live just off bitcoin for all of November, is that true?
Ed: Yes, we’re living exclusively of bitcoin and specifically bitcoin with Wyre. So far it’s been both challenging because not that many places accept bitcoin but surprisingly useful. For example it’s really easy for me to pay Harry back for say a lunch or other friends. But we have had issues with topping up Oyster cards.
Harry: And I really need a haircut
Ed: Yes, we really need to find a hairdressers that accept bitcoin so Harry can get a trim!
How long do you think it will be until bitcoin is more widely used?
Ed: I think it’s rapidly growing all the time. So if you look at the last couple of years even its taken huge leaps forward with companies like Dell for example allowing you to pay for their computers online using bitcoin. In the offline space it’s only just beginning to take off, so in London there is only a handful of places that accept bitcoin, but that’s still good compared to last year where there was only one or two. Even in the next few years I think it will be a very different world.
Had you heard of NACUE before you applied for the competition?
Harry: Yes, a little.
Ed: Yes, I think I spoke at one of the first events three years ago. Me and my friend painted our faces as adverts and it got a lot of press coverage so NACUE asked us to come and speak.
Did you do any entrepreneurial activity at university? Were you in a society for example?
Ed: No, I was a little disappointed at Cambridge because it seems like all of the enterprise societies were specifically focused on biotech. Which is great, but if you’re not doing biotech it’s not that good for you. At least when I was there anyway… it may have changed now.
Finally, what was it about going it alone by starting a business that appealed to you?
Harry: I honestly think that having worked for three years at a big company it kind of gets a bit monotonous. The thing I really like about doing a startup is that everyday you’re being challenged to do something new and you don’t necessarily know what the future holds which means that there’s a lot time to stretch yourself and practice new skills that you wouldn’t in an everyday job.
Ed: It’s certainly not monotonous.
Harry and Ed were winners of our 2014 Varsity Pitch competition. There will be plenty more exciting startups at our 2015 Student Enterprise Conference in Liverpool.