Connection. Collaboration. Co-working. It’s a big deal these days and almost a rite of passage for many startups as they navigate the challenging world of technology and innovation.
GridAKL was placed on this earth, Wynyard Quarter to be exact, to fuel Auckland’s high tech economy. A precinct for innovation, it’s purpose-built to connect technologists, designers, digital content makers, product designers, and startups.
But how does such a space behave in a way that’s actually relatable and not just hype?
The essentials of any innovative co-working space are all there – suitably trendy décor synonymous with the Facebooks and Googles of this world, coffee cups scattered over desks, and that infectious enthusiasm that comes from those who are actually doing what they love.
However it’s the culture at GridAKL that really sets it apart. The ‘support crew’ at Grid are adept in creating an environment that’s open and, more importantly, useful. From blog posts on how to actually make those universally disliked networking events work, to regular speakers to engage and inspire, you get the feeling that everyone here lives and breathes what they do.
Can you tell us a little bit about your company? Would you call yourself a startup?
Louis, Glory League - Glory League is an industry leading sports video engagement platform, we make everyday sports players feel like they're superstars with pro game video, personal highlight reels, stats, infographics, leaderboards and more. Imagine you score a game winning shot, we make it look like it was professionally filmed, and let you relive and share the Glory of the moment! We serve mass market (everyday players) in NZ, Australia and are expanding internationally this year.
Christian, Mohiomap - Mohiomap is a Visual Analytics platform for different content management tools - currently supporting Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and Evernote. Our web-based app essentially provides a data visualisation layer for all the important information stored in any of these platforms. Our goal is to offer novel ways to interact with that information, and to allow our customers to analyse it and to gain valuable insights. We are a startup company with a global customer base - mainly North America and Europe.
How did you get to your idea for your company - was it always sitting there in the back of your mind or did you have that lightbulb moment?
Louis - I have played basketball all my life. I realised the immense value of the moments that weren't relivable. I knew that if I could automatically capture these moments, and make them entertaining (feel 'big time') then we would get very high levels of end user engagement.
Christian - Mohiomap started about 3 years ago as a spin-out company from the University of Auckland - where I did a PhD in Computer Science. During our time at the University, my co-founder and I were involved in several research projects focusing on data visualisations and their applications e.g. in the knowledge management field. We saw commercial opportunities early on, and the "lightbulb moment" for Mohiomap in its current form happened when we received a lot of extremely positive feedback from Evernote and the Evernote community when we built a first basic Evernote integration as part of a "developer challenge" that they ran.
Is this it? Have you found your calling, living the dream, dancing like no one's watching etc?
Louis - Yes, Glory League is my calling, I love playing sport. I'm inspired by the idea of working on technology that encourages people to be more active, using gamification and social media to get kids more excited about playing sport instead of pulling them away from it.
Christian - Having had the opportunity to take my research work from the University and see it through to the commercialisation has been an amazing opportunity! I would do it again any time.
How important has collaboration been along the way?
Louis - Just being around other similar companies helps you to calibrate and move faster, i.e. if more than one of the other companies are using a tool or strategy then you can get first hand feedback, and learn quicker.
Christian - Collaboration in different forms, as well as the support we've received from many collaborators has always been crucial for us. This includes collaborations early on at the University (different companies and researchers), through to investors, advisors, and several industry partners who we work with today.
What's it like working at GridAKL?
Louis - It’s a fantastic place to work, incredible people, incredible location, great visibility, modern office with all the bells and whistles. Global experts coming through all the time, and specialists in many disciplines for targeted advice.
Christian - The Grid is a really motivating environment - especially for a young startup. Being surrounded by so many other teams, who all are in a similar situation, provides the right kind of atmosphere for the team to come in every day to work on the next big thing! There isn't really much "routine" at a startup, and I feel it's the same with the Grid - there is always something new and exciting happening!
I hear you guys get together occasionally for pizza meetups - any other tidbits to make us super jealous of your day job?
Louis - A selection of 2500 Arcade games! - A good option to break up the 70 hour work week.
Christian - The event space is great - as there are always some events or meetups on... and there are many other fun things involved with being based here, anything from free ice cream when the aircon fails to do their job, to easter egg hunts, and "speed dating" events for new residents!
Check out GridAKL for yourself - the space is hosting more than 10 events as part of Techweek AKL 2016.