MiniMonos Monkeys Launch off Cambridge Springboard
For the past three months, the MiniMonos executive team of Melissa Clark-Reynolds, Greg Montgomery, and I have been on a wild adventure in Cambridge, England.
It all started last December, when our friend Vladas Lasas sent us an email about his new venture accelerator, Springboard. "You should apply," he said. "It'll be great." So we applied. It was a bit of a lark, really -- I mean, there were more than 230 companies competing for the same ten spots. But after three months of form-filling, Skype interviews, and late-night phone calls, we were notified of the good news: we were in.
Good news on the one hand -- and terrifying on the other. Really? We had to pack up and go to England for three months? Away from our homes and our families and everything familiar? But that's the job when you're an entrepreneur: you pursue the success of the venture across oceans and continents, and you never, ever turn down an opportunity.
So off we went, along with the nine other teams that had been accepted (you can find out about each of the teams here). The program was intense; the first five weeks consisted of daily speed-networking sessions, ten 20-minute meetings per day. We met investors, entrepreneurs, government representatives, and folks from big companies like Microsoft and Amazon. We followed up, diligently, hundreds of emails and follow-on introductions and exploring of collaborative possibilities. We worked absurd hours to maintain communication with our New Zealand-based teams while pursuing our UK opportunities.
And we met some absolutely extraordinary people -- people like Sarah Turner, Rupert Cook, Lee Strafford, Juliet Tzabar, Tony Kypreos, and so many more that if we tried to name them all this post would look like we blogged the White Pages. These people guided and encouraged us as we focused our efforts on the UK market, and those efforts have produced some exciting results over the past few months. We launched TV commercials nationwide in the UK. We'll have MiniMonos prepaid gift cards available in Sainsbury's nationwide from October. And you'll definitely have to stay tuned for an awesome nationwide eco-promotion in January.
Springboard's grand finale was the Pitch Day, when the ten teams presented our companies to a standing-room only crowd at Christ's College. We saw the metamorphosis our fellow entrepreneurs had undergone, as they clearly and passionately articulated their big ideas, their value propositions, their competitive advantages. We heard from many of the people attending that Springboard had the best collection of startups they had seen at a single event. And we at MiniMonos received an excellent reaction to our own pitch.
I won't say the three months were easy. But they were extraordinarily worthwhile. And they ended on a high note: Marcos and Master Wu Li, two of the MiniMonos monkeys, managed to join us for the Pitch Day. They turned out to be more popular than we could have imagined, cuddling up to investors, going punting, and even making friends with a young passerby who happened to be carrying a monkey lunch bag!
Massive thanks for their superhuman efforts to Jon Bradford and Jess Williamson, the powerhouses who put it all together. Can't wait to see you on our next trip to Blighty!
Kaila and Tanya with Master Wu and Marcos
Sitar chilling with Master Wu
A boy with a monkey lunch bag can't believe he gets to hang out with a real monkey!
Marcos goes for a punt, much to the amazement of the others on the river.
After a long day, we said goodnight to Marcos and Master Wu.