The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: London Local, Peter Nixey — August 12, 2012

Interview: London Local, Peter Nixey

This week our Community Ambassador, Keith McGuinness interviews Peter Nixey to find out  about Pingpanel and what it means to be a digital entrepreneur.


Name: Peter Nixey
Website: Pingpanel
Twitter: @peternixey

To start with, would you mind telling us a bit about your background?

I was a physicist at university then did a couple of years research in computer vision before starting a web development company. I then founded Clickpass in 2007 which was funded by YCombinator and which I subsequently sold to 18months later. After a couple of years with Yola I took a year out to learn Rails and then started developing Pingpanel.

What do you enjoy most about being a digital entrepreneur?

You have incredible power to solve problems without any constraints. The only thing that holds you back is time and knowledge and once you’ve got those you can pretty much build whatever you want. Working in digital affords you a democratised toolset that engineers of other ages could only ever dream of. Programming attracts some awesome characters and I love working with good people, our team is awesome.

So how does Pingpanel work?

Pingpanel allows a company to integrate an “Ask an expert” Q&A section into their website. It’s skinned to look exactly like the client’s site and allows them to add a whole new service to their visitors. For companies with a natural set of experts (e.g. a marketplace) it’s also a great way to build community among their vendors, add a cool service for their users and generate a tonne of SEO.

How did you come up with the idea for Pingpanel?

After the Japanese Tsunami I was amazed that there was no authoritative reference for what was going to happen to Fukishima – would it melt down or could it explode? Even the press didn’t know and were perpetually publishing conflicting reports. I thought it would be amazing if there were a way to field your questions to a group of top nuclear physicists at a university and so went away and built Pingpanel.

What type of users are you targeting?

We’re a B2B service and are targeting companies who operate marketplaces of experts. Our first client for example is Rated People.

How does Pingpanel differ from established Q&A resources such as Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn?

We’re a tool for existing websites to add Q&A functionality. We’re not looking to build a central Q&A hub. We’re to Yahoo Answers what is to eHarmony.

How can the business community make use of Pingpanel?

It’s great for internet retailers or lead generators who have to convert hesitant consumers. Many things on the web come with what you need to know – get a camera and you can read 100 user reviews. However, if you want to find a vet or a mechanic and you’re looking through a directory of mechanics in your Sheffield it’s considerably harder.

Pingpanel is not a central directory for all mechanics but a very powerful tool for someone running such a directory to let their mechanics to answer questions about whether black smoke means the visitor needs to get to a garage immediately or only after they get back from the Lake District.

Have you got any other projects in the pipeline that you can share with us?

We’re looking at how we can make Pingpanel work inside a company as a tool for knowledge management. We’d like to help people get the right answers from the right person within a corporate environment.

How do you see the digital economy evolving over the next 5 years?

I think Dave McClure is right  when he says that the internet wants to be paid on Friday like the rest of the world. We’re going to see a continued shift towards revenue models that are subscription and transaction driven rather than ad-driven. There’s probably a backlash looming though as consumers suddenly realise they’re paying $150/month in subscription software to Dropbox, Spotify, Apple and the like. It’ll be interesting to see where the spend settles out though.

Finally, do you have any advice for fellow digital entrepreneurs?

Get exposure to other entrepreneurs who are really doing well. Having spent time in both San Francisco and London one of the biggest weaknesses of entrepreneurs here is that they don’t know enough what success looks like and so they don’t know what to expect from themselves, where to chill out and where to focus. Also understand how, even in extreme uncertainty, planning and running the numbers still make you much, much more powerful. Understand conversion rates, industry comparables, attrition rates, clickthrough rates and everything you possibly can about the dynamics of your business.

About our Ambassador: Keith McGuinness is a freelance copywriter based in South West London. Connect with him on Twitter @mcginty312

Never stop learning! A London guide to short courses and workshops — July 13, 2012

Never stop learning! A London guide to short courses and workshops

You may have left school and formal education years ago, but this week London curator, Chloe Nicholls, has put together a list of places that regularly hold short courses, adult training and workshops to ensure you never stop learning. She’s also listed some popular online education and learning websites, so you can learn new skills and, who knows, perhaps you may even become a teacher yourself one day?


General Assembly London

Recently launched in London last month, General Assembly is a global network of campuses for individuals seeking opportunity and education in technology, business, and design. You can learn anything from Management Reporting for Entrepreneurs, to Mobile Marketing and Front-End Web Development.


The School of Life

The School of Life is a cultural enterprise offering intelligent instruction on how to lead a fulfilled life. They offer classes, workshops and books on topics such as how to find a job you love, a mindfullness one-day workshop and an overnight talk with a Magnum photographer, Martin Parr. 

Got an awesome startup idea but don’t know how to code? Then join one of the tailored classes at Decoded, which is offers a one day workshop teaching anyone to code.  Code from scratch a multi-platform app in HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, the languages behind all modern web apps and sites.

Ideas Store

Ideas Store may look just like a library but it’s more than just books! With several locations based around East London, Ideas Store offers free courses, business help and learning opportunities.


InnerSpace is a meditation and personal development centre based in Covent Garden. As Ferris Buller once said, ‘life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ Head to InnerSpace and take in some relaxation. Join one of their meditation courses, or even explore some of their talks such as S.T.O.P. the Stress and Anxiety & Fear.

If that wasn’t enough for you, there are also some great sites revolutionising online education and creating a community of students and teachers who are eager to learn new skills and be inspired by new ideas! Check out Chloe’s recommendations below:

Skillshare – Learn anything from anyone, anywhere.

Udemy – Amazing Instructors. Teaching the World.

Khanacademy – Trying to make a world-class education available to anyone, anywhere.

Gidsy – A place where anyone can explore, organize and book unique things to do.

Any we have missed? Tell us in the comments below!

Interview: UK Local, Joanna Montgomery — June 29, 2012

Interview: UK Local, Joanna Montgomery

This week, The Fetch London curator, Chloe Nicholls, interviews Joanna Montgomery from Little Riot, a company which specialises in connecting people with technology, through design.

Joanna Montgomery, Little Riot


Twitter: @joannasaurusrex

Tell us a little about your company Little Riot and how it evolved from a research company to a design and product development agency?

I graduated in 2010 and started the company almost straight away. I knew I wanted to run my own business, and exploring the ways people communicate using technology really interested me – but when my degree project, Pillow Talk, began to receive so much publicity, I knew I needed to focus on developing it into a commercial product.

Little Riot specialises in ”connecting people with technology, through design”. What inspired you to design and develop your first product ‘Pillow Talk’?

I studied Interaction Design at university and, along the way, I began to find it frustrating that technology has become quite two-dimensional. Things that are ‘interactive’ used to be really exciting and engaging – but now they all revolve around the same things; screens, buttons, etc. I thought technology could do better, so I set out to develop a more intimate way for two people to interact – and so Pillow Talk was born.

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? 

My boyfriend of three years works on a ship which builds off-shore wind farms, so he spends over half the year at sea! It’s not really a conventional “long distance relationship” – but we do spend a lot of time apart.

Since you launched the idea of ‘Pillow Talk’ (via a very successful YouTube video campaign) have you been able to bring your product to market?

The product has been in development for about eighteen months now. We’re on the home stretch and – subject to securing a bit more funding – are on track to release Pillow Talk this year. Developing a physical, technological product is a very expensive and time-consuming process with a lot of hurdles to overcome.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in designing, developing and manufacturing a product for consumers?

Pillow Talk started out as a university project and I remember deciding I was going to turn it into a commercial product… and then looking down at my homemade prototype, with wires hanging out of it, and thinking “where do I start?!”. I had just graduated and I didn’t have a clue where to begin, so I guess the biggest challenge was coming up with a realistic game plan. I had no business experience, no product development knowledge, and was founding a company on my own. I had to build a team around me very quickly and finding the right people to support me was challenging. The last year and a half has been an incredibly steep learning curve and the reality is that every single day brings a new challenge.

What other products do you love that connect people through great technology and design?

Right now I’m a big fan of the Pebble watch which just raised a whopping $10m on crowdfunding site Kickstarter. It’s a really nice way of integrating technology within people’s lives and I suspect that is why it’s so popular. However, I would still like to see more products that have a focus on communication hit the market.

You’ve won some great awards and funding during the lead up to the launch of Pillow Talk; £25,000 development funding from the Technology Strategy Board, winning £10,000 at NACUE’s National Varsity Pitch Competition and £1000 for Shell Livewire Grand Ideas Award, do you have any tips and tricks to other entrepenuers pitching their product for funding?

I’ve been really lucky. My best advice is to just believe in your product and always be honest. If you are committed and passionate, it will show, and if you have an idea worth believing in then people will support it. Know your business inside out – a lot of people I know get the most nervous over the Q&A session that usually follows a pitch, but if you can’t answer every question you are asked, then you’re not working hard enough to understand your goals.

What’s getting you excited about startups and small business at the moment? Any great tools and sites you would like to share?

I’m a big fan of Shell LiveWIRE. They offer several £1,000 cash awards every month for 16-30yr olds. I won a Grand Ideas Award in May last year – but the support and opportunities I have received since have been far more valuable. The site also has a buzzing community where there are always people to offer advice and bounce ideas off.

You are based in Newcastle. Can you tell us London fetchers about the tech and startup scene there? Any events you recommend we should attend?

Newcastle now has a great tech and start-up scene. There is a thriving community of start-ups and support networks, with regular events and after-work get-togethers. Soon to launch for its second year is Europe’s first £1m tech accelerator programme, Ignite100 which offers a 13-week mentorship programme and the opportunity to receive VC funding at the end. It all kicks off in September, so the North East will see another influx of creative start-ups and businesses [Entries for application close on 30th June 2012].

Finally what’s next for Little Riot and are you bring any other products to market?

Pillow Talk is due to launch this year. At the moment, all of our focus is on this, but we do have plans for other products in the future, so watch this space!

Looking for an alternative to Starbucks? Check out this guide to coworking spaces and private members clubs in London! — June 17, 2012

Looking for an alternative to Starbucks? Check out this guide to coworking spaces and private members clubs in London!

These days you can work from anywhere with a WiFi connection and a laptop. But if you work from home, and are looking for a change of scenery or you don’t want to meet potential new clients in your local Starbucks, here is a list of coworking and private members clubs in London.

I work from The Hospital Club below, so let me know if you want a tour and I can hook you up. Send me a tweet here.

From this list, I hope you find your new coworking sancuary! Enjoy!

Chloe Nicholls aka @ThatGirl_Chloe


The Hospital Club

A private members club which attracts creative professionals working in the media, music, events, fashion and arts industries.



Located in the heart of East London’s Silicon Roundabout, TechHub is a co-working space for entrepreneurs, startups and developers submerged in the creative and technology scene. They regularly host events and product/site launches and members can rent a desk on a monthly or yearly basis.


Google Campus

Another coworking space for techies in London, which has several floors (two for TechHub members), cafe and events space.


The Hub

With three locations in London: Kings Cross, Islington and Westminster, The Hub is a globally connected coworking, events and office space for its members.


The Cube

Located in Shoreditch, The Cube offers a place for change and innovation along with desk space, events and a community where members can share their skills and resources to launch new businesses.


Like Minds Club

Started as a space to bring together the community of the We Are Like Minds Conference, this coworking club has everything from individual work stations to mid-sized meeting rooms to a grand ballroom. Also as a member you can use the gym facilities for free!


Adam St Club

Another private members club, just off The Strand in Central London, with many well-known professional business and entrepreneurial folks who are members of this prestigious establishment.


The Brew

The Brew is has desks available in four different shared office locations including Kingsland Rd, Paul St, Leonard St and Commercial St in East London.

Club Workspace

Another co-working space which is part of a network of creative drop-in hubs, based within Dreamstake‘s business centres and services.


Shoreditch House

A private members club which includes hotel rooms and a roof top pool. Enough said!

Interview: London Local, Harry Maxwell — May 30, 2012

Interview: London Local, Harry Maxwell

This week The Fetch London curator Chloe Nicholls interviews Harry Maxwell, one of the semi-finalists of The Young Apprentice to find out about his experiences as a teenage entrepreneur and what the future holds for his online business, the Luxury Five Star Hotel Guide.

Name: Harry Maxwell

Twitter: @HarryMaxwell

At only 16, you were selected to be a contestant on The Young Apprentice last year. What was that experience like?

Pretty overwhelming really. I was always really interested and a huge fan on the show so it was incredibly exciting to be a part of it all. I enjoyed testing my abilities at the difference tasks and it was fantastic to reach the semi-final and leave having a good rapport with Lord Sugar, Karren and Nick. 

Any words of wisdom that you took from Sir Alan Sugar?

I’d have been a fool not to listen to Lord Sugar. He is after all incredibly successful. I think the main thing I learnt was the importance of having a brand and standing for something; particularly when it comes to products.

Tell us more about your business idea ‘The Luxury Five Star Hotel Guide’?

It’s a website acting as a directory for England’s 5* hotels. You can browse it, read my reviews, and ultimately book through an independently research best priced travel agent; of which I’m given 12% commission.

With plenty of other online review sites for hotels and accommodation, such as TripAdvisor, and VirtualTourist, how do you think your site will compete in an already very crowded market and what makes it different?

Our USP is that we’re the only website featuring all of England’s 5* hotels and have narrowed ourselves to just 5* hotels defining us a very clear target market.

What are some of the challenges you are facing as a teenage entrepreneur?

I don’t really think my age has hindered me actually. You know I may only be 18, but if I send an email who’s to know how old I am? The beauty of an online business!

Are there any networking events in London you would recommend?

I don’t really attend networking events. Right now I’ve got a plan and I’m following it. LinkedIn is great for making contacts in general, but I don’t attend any events and won’t be doing so until the future.

Since appearing on The Young Apprentice, what opportunities have opened up for you? What are you working on now?

I actually had the most job offers out of all the candidates. I had 5 offers of university sponsorship from FTSE companies. Right now I‘ve got internships lined up with Coutts, Credit Suisse, Ernst and Young and Citigroup. I’m also finishing my A-Levels while expanding my business and working on a secret project. Hopefully I will be studying Economics and Geography at LSE in September.

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