This article first appeared in Cardiff Life magazine November 2012. You can download a full colour PDF of the article with photos etc here.
A few months ago I was meeting a friend at a cafe. As I waited for him to arrive, I ordered a fresh coffee and took it over to the table to get milk. In the process of stirring my drink, I managed to knock a glass off the corner of the table, and it started to tumble towards the floor. Before I knew it, I’d managed to shoot my hand out, bend my knees, crouch, and grab the glass a few inches from the tiles, saving it from an almost certain loud and embarrassing smash. I was stunned at my own reactions and speed of movement. I couldn’t believe how quickly I’d reacted.
I looked around to see if anyone had seen it. They hadn’t. I even went so far as to look for CCTV cameras, on the off-chance my incredible feat of agility had been recorded. All I wanted to do was tell everyone about it. But not a soul had noticed, and they carried on with their conversations, magazines and laptops.
The fact was that because nobody had seen my feat, it may as well have not happened. In my head I was clearly developing superhero skills, but to everyone else I was just the boring guy in the corner, pouring milk into his coffee. My “Clark Kent moment” might as well have just happened in my own imagination.
I was in Liverpool last week and I met an Israeli entrepreneur, building his startup in Tech City, London. He was the third person in as many months who looked at me when I mentioned the Cardiff Start movement, and said “There are startups in Cardiff?”, barely disguising the incredulity in his voice. It punched home the terrible realisation that most people east of Newport genuinely do believe that Cardiff exists in some kind of entrepreneurial vacuum when it comes to creative, digital and tech startups.
I’ve mentioned the importance of visibility before, not just for individual startups, but for the community as a whole. And I’m increasingly convinced that without it, we can whoop and holler all we want, and congratulate ourselves on what we’re doing – but if you’re just preaching to the choir, it’s pretty much a pointless activity. One thing that is very clear about those cities to which developers, investors and entrepreneurs flock – they all have very visible, active and self-supporting startup communities. Our Clark Kent moments of superheroism may as well just be figments of our own imagination unless we find a way of letting the world know about them.
To this end, we’re creating a series of events to bring the startups of the city together in a way that the rest of the world knows about it. And also, crucially, we plan to take Cardiff startups outside of the city, even if it’s as simple as 20 of us jumping into a minibus and heading down the M4 to pitch to investors in the back room of a pub in London. Telling the world that Cardiff isn’t a startup vacuum is vital if we want to build the city as a vibrant entrepreneurial hub.
Another 60-second profile. This month, it’s the turn of Stephen Milburn from Trippa.
Hello! Introduce yourself in one sentence.
Well, hello to you too. I’m Stephen Milburn and I’m the founder of Trippa. I’m originally from Sunderland and moved to Cardiff about six years ago after studying Physics in Bristol. My first business was a haulage company, of all things. We sold to a national firm two years ago and then I started tinkering with mobile tech.
So, what does your startup do?
We publish travel apps to the world’s most smashing cities. Obviously, Cardiff was the first!
What makes your startup special?
In business terms, we’re pretty unique in our global reach. From such a small team, we’re able to reach all corners of the globe with our product. We’re lucky that English is the lingua franca of the App Store as it’s the only language we publish in at the moment. This hasn’t stopped our apps being downloaded all over the world and nearly 60% of our revenue comes from customers outside the UK.
What was the genesis? The eureka moment that made you realise you had to build this company?
I really wanted to go on holiday for free! Seriously though, I was in Berlin for a conference and, when I was done, I wanted to find out what the city was really about; get underneath its skin. I made list of the things I’d want to know and built an app. Trippa grew from there.
And where are you at right now?
Our Trippa Cardiff guide is now the most popular guide to Cardiff on iTunes and the download figures for our other destinations have been really encouraging. Our game-changer is to get our users to experience a destination with the people who know it most; its residents. We’re working on some pretty magical stuff with AirBnB and Hewlett Packard’s augmented reality software.
What’s the key to your growth? In other words, if someone could wave a magic wand, what would you want them to do for your business?
I’d like five talented developers delivered to the office ready to work.
Where would you like your company to be in 5 years time?
With an almost religious fervour, I want to change the way people use their mobile device to travel and discover. It won’t be easy and it won’t be for everyone right at the start. But we’ll definitely get there.
Where can we find out more?
You can visit gotrippa.com.