The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: London local, Rob Symington, Escape the City co-founder — May 4, 2014

Interview: London local, Rob Symington, Escape the City co-founder

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“Too many startups chase quick success and funding. I think ideas and teams need to gestate… It takes guts to think long-term.”

Louise Potter catches up with Rob Symington, co-founder of Escape the City.

What inspired you to create Escape the City?

I met my co-founder, Dom Jackman, when we were both working as management consultants in “the City” – London’s financial heartland. We were inspired by our own frustrations with the corporate career ladder – too much meaningless work all aimed at a one-dimensional pursuit of profit. Bored and ambitious, we wanted to spend our careers working on things that mattered to us. When we realised that we were far from the only people to feel this way, we decided to start a community for all the other people who aspired to build careers outside the corporate mainstream.

How is it positioned differently from other careers sites?

Whereas most career sites align to a sector (ie. tech) or a skillset (ie. developers), we align to an emotion – namely that feeling that life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you. We’re also a community first and a business second. Our bible is Tribes by Seth Godin. We didn’t invent this emotion, we simply chose to put a flag in the sand for anyone who feels the same way. Fortunately for us, many people do, and over 140,000 people have joined Escape the City in pursuit of careers that matter (to them and the world).

Startup life is a long way from the city. What’s been the biggest adjustment to make from leaving the corporate world?

The buck stops with you in a startup. In the corporate world you can almost always count on someone else being ultimately accountable for a problem. The other adjustment, which is a positive one, is that we’re massively more productive working in a startup. In the corporate world there was so much work for work’s sake. Now everything we do (and we do a lot of work) is directly aligned to achieving our goals.

You crowdfunded £600,000 to build Escape the City – were you happy with this approach in hindsight?

Absolutely. We had a real head vs. heart decision to make when we turned down one of London’s top VCs to raise investment from our own members. No regrets at all. Escape’s brand stands for rejecting the mainstream and doing things differently. It would have been pretty rich if we’d gone straight back to the corporate world for our funding.

If you had to pick a job that’s been featured what would it be?

I have always loved working and travelling in Africa. One of the very first jobs we listed on Escape was for a project manager to work with the Rwandan government to setup a careers service for Rwandan graduates. It’s a job I would have loved to do. Esc was still just a side-project at that point and I remember my business partner, Dom, jokingly warning me against applying for the first opportunity that came across our radars! Almost five years on and I’m glad I didn’t.

What’s the best thing about working in London?

There is so much opportunity in London. There are so many people and there is so much positive energy. We could never have launched Esc I the way that we did in a smaller city.

What other startups are doing work that you admire – and why?

I love what the guys at Maptia are building. Straight out of uni and coding their platform themselves. They have been brave enough to take the long route to build a business that they control 100% in pursuit of a big, long-term vision. They lived in Morocco for a year to keep costs down.

Too many startups chase quick success and funding. I think ideas and teams need to gestate. The great thing about the internet is that it has massively democratised entrepreneurship.However this also means that as first-time founders, we often don’t know what we’re doing in the early days, so keeping our business alive long enough to learn important lessons is really important. It takes guts to think long-term.

Who would be your perfect boss?

Seth Godin. Or Eric Cantona. They’re both artists and they’re both brave enough to be different. In a world of uniformity that can’t be underestimated. I think the best bosses find talented people who share their values and then trust them to solve difficult challenges.

Where do you escape to?

I live on a narrowboat with my fiancé and a cat called Jack who thinks he is a pirate. We don’t have a TV and we don’t have wifi. So when I’m at home I’m (for the most part) unplugged. Living as we do, constantly connected, we’re all overstimulated. I find it’s really important to be present and be still and reconnect with my immediate surroundings whenever I can.

What updates can we look for next on Escape the City?

I’m currently on the look out for a permanent venue for The Escape School in London. The Escape School is our education arm where we produce talks and courses on the subjects of unconventional careers, startups and adventure. Watch this space!

About our writer // Louise Potter is the curator of The Fetch London. She also writes things Contagious and teaches things at General Assembly. Follow her via @louisepotter_.

3 reasons to level up your programming skills — March 23, 2014

3 reasons to level up your programming skills

This is a sponsored post from our friends at General Assembly London.

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There was a time when computer nerds were seen as misfits (watch the 1984 movie ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ if you don’t believe me). These days, that characterization couldn’t be further from the truth. Programmers, computer engineers, and data scientists are hailed as leaders in the business, technology, and design communities.

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Featured job: full-stack software engineer, Thread, London — March 11, 2014

Featured job: full-stack software engineer, Thread, London

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Hi! We’d like to introduce Thread – a company reinventing retail so guys can dress well without being subjected to the horrors of high street shopping, or having to trawl through millions of items online.

They do this by using a clever combination of algorithms and human stylists to give guys the perfect selection of things that will look amazing on them. Their goal is to create the new global default for how men buy clothes.

They’re live, have lots of customers who absolutely love the product, and revenues are growing very quickly. [Job application details are down below!]

Building one of the best engineering teams worldwide

One of their ancillary goals is to build one of the best engineering teams and cultures anywhere in the world. This means putting a lot of time into ensuring they only hire truly exceptional developers and creating the best working environment possible.

They’re lucky to already have a number of exceptional developers on the team which you’ll get to work alongside, learn from and no doubt teach. For example, their co-founder/CTO was formerly a lead engineer at Google, their technical architect is a core Debian developer, etc. If you want to work somewhere where you will be learning from some of the best engineers around, this role would be a good fit.

You’ll work everyday with an awesome technology stack consisting of Python, Django, Git, Debian, Redis, jQuery, Jenkins, Postgresql, Gunicorn and many other things.

They place a high value on learning and personal growth so you’ll have time to learn new technologies and attend conferences at the company’s expense. They also host a bi-monthly meetup at their offices for engineers interested in startups called Many to Many.

Beyond this, you will get the chance to demonstrate your deep technical ability by tackling some hard technical challenges including recommendation algorithms and machine learning. They release 20-30 times per week (just push to master) so your cool new features will be live on the site within moments.

Not your average software engineering role

As employee number 12 and engineer number 4, you’ll work directly with the founders and the rest of the outstanding technical, design, product and styling team in the office in Shoreditch, London to build the core features that will improve people’s wardrobes and in turn their self-confidence and happiness.

You won’t merely be handed specs: you’ll be in charge of taking ideas from the whiteboard all the way through to them being live, tracking the results, and iterating to make them better. For this reason, this role is only suitable for someone who likes being closely involved in product – what to build and how it will work as much as the technical implementation itself.

Beyond your engineering team mates, you’ll be working closely with a cross-discipline group of designers, quantitative marketers, operations and stylists. You should love the idea of the whole company working closely together to hit shared goals.

This role is especially suited to someone who wants to found their own startup one day. All our current team are future founders and they view working there as an entrepreneurial bootcamp that will give you the necessary skills and experience to launch your own company in the future.

Are you the one? You are, if you:

  • Love agile development, working independently on your own challenges, and together in a team on the bigger vision
  • Are completely fluent in at least one scripting language such as Python, Perl, PHP or Ruby and have experience with web frameworks and the MVC concept
  • Have used MySQL or PostgreSQL extensively and you know your way around Apache, nginx or other server
  • It’s a bonus if you have good JavaScript skills (we use jQuery)
  • Get excited by the idea of scaling web apps to millions of users
  • Often find yourself as the best developer in your peer group, and want to be at a place with other exceptional engineers where you can learn and grow as a person
  • Get obsessed about the problem you’re solving and don’t stop until you’ve cracked it
  • Have a thirst to learn new skills and technologies, and can pick things up easily
  • Want to have fun building lots of new features and get stuff done
  • Are full of positive energy, relish the thought of being part of a small, fast-moving team and enjoy brainstorming about new ideas

Benefits

  • Opportunity to become recognised as one of the best in your field through being a core developer for a high-profile startup
  • Relaxed, sociable work environment with lots of freedom and independence
  • Building an exciting app that millions of people will use and appreciate everyday
  • Gain first-hand experience of how to start, grow, market and raise funding for startups (perhaps useful for your own company one day)
  • Working with awesome technologies (Python/Django/jQuery/Debian/Git/Redis/Jenkins/Postgresql/Gunicorn)
  • As part of one of the top technical teams in the UK, alongside super smart people who have a lot of fun, devoid of any politics
  • With dual-widescreen monitors, a new computer of your choice and and comfy ergonomic chair
  • Free team lunches once a week (we take turns choosing), beer together as a company on Fridays, monthly company trips to fun things like comedy shows, unlimited vacation time.
  • Being part of a company where you will get to help set and shape the company culture in a big way
  • A competitive salary and a generous equity stake in the company (you’re working hard to make the company successful, so we believe you should share generously in the reward!)

A little more about Thread:

  • Backed by some of the top investors anywhere in the world, including the founders of LoveFilm, Wonga and Bebo, the former owner of Warner Music, the former head of Harrods, founding investor in Spotify, Y Combinator, and many others.
  • Founded by serial entrepreneurs who have started two successful startups which both exited.
  • They’re very deliberate and intentional about creating a high performance, warm and effective company culture. They set weekly goals together as a team, and celebrate every Friday with a fun shared treat if they all hit them. Lots of thought has gone into the working environment they’ve created – please ask them about this if you meet!
  • Lastly, they’re not just some social app hoping to go viral and make money from ads – they’re already generating real revenue which are growing very quickly.

If this sounds exciting and you’d like to have an informal chat, send an email to ben@thread.com with a few sentences about yourself, your resume and links to your Github/LinkedIn/site/etc.

Image credit: Thread.com (follow them on Twitter and Facebook)

Top 13 London Venues for Tech Events — September 22, 2013

Top 13 London Venues for Tech Events

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If you’re an event organiser looking for an interesting venue to host your next tech event, then check out our list below.

Most coworking venues have spaces to hire (you can view our guide to coworking in London here), but we wanted to highlight alternative spaces for your next conference or event.

Spaces for a conference

1. The Brewery

One of our top venues to hold a major conference is The Brewery. In the past, London Web Summit, Wired Conference and FOWA have pitched up here. With a massive auditorium that holds up to 800 people, The Brewery is an ideal venue to host a major conference. There are plenty of break out rooms too for networking and exhibition space.

2. Shoreditch Town Hall

Based in the heart of London’s Tech City, is Shoreditch Town Hall, home to Digital Shoreditch Festival for the last couple of years. There is a grand hall with a stage plus balcony seating for extra capacity. There are several rooms downstairs for workshops and ‘spill over’ areas, however the t-junction at the entrance to the stairs isn’t ideal for networking space. In lieu of this, there is a great space in the basement for an different kind of exhibition including a rabbit warren of cellar rooms; ideal for tech + design + art displays.

Spaces for an exhibition 

3. Business Design Centre

The Business Design Centre is a traditional venue for exhibitions and conferences based in Angel, Islington. It’s best known for major exhibitions such as TNT Travel Show 2013. It’s a great venue for business and entrepreneurial showcases and exhibitions.

4. The Old Truman Brewery

Situated on Brick Lane, the Truman Brewery is a huge warehouse available to be use as an exhibition and conference venue, near the centre of Silicon Roundabout. Known for the Silicon Milkroundabout Jobs Fair, it’s a great venue with plenty of space, and good for hosting exhibitions, road shows and events.

Spaces for networking drinks 

5. Shoreditch Grind

If you’re looking to hire out a venue for some networking drinks, then check out The Shoreditch Grind, a great venue on the corner of Old St Roundabout, and well known haut for Silicon Drinkabout drinks. We love that you can change up their iconic sign, to give your event a personalised touch!

The LightBar

6. The Light Bar

Another great venue to hold a networking event is upstairs in The Light Bar, complete with a lounge area and an outside balcony. It’s perfect for parties, meetings, corporate functions and presentations. It includes a fully stocked bar, DJ booth plus catering options.

Having a private screening?

7. The Hospital Club

If you are looking for a private cinema for a screening, then check out the private members club, The Hospital Club, which has a private cinema that seats approximately 50 people, complete with a popcorn maker and a catering service. It’s a very stylish venue which offers private networking areas for pre- or post-event events.

8. Rich Mix Cinema

For an alternative cinema experience, hire a screening room the independent Rich Mix Cinema in East London. There are several small cinema rooms available with adjoining function rooms for extra event space.

Looking for a room with a view?

9. Altitude360

With a panoramic view of London, Altitude360 is the perfect venue to host a conference, workshop or networking event. The venue offers theatre style conference setting, integrated and customisable audio/visual options plus in-house catering.

10. Centre Point Tower

Based in the centre of Soho, Paramount’s Centre Point Tower, has a restaurant/ bar private dining rooms plus a 360 degree viewing gallery of the city. It’s a good venue for networking events, awards and socials.

Hosting an awards or after party?

11. LSO St Luke’s

For an unusual venue to host your next awards evening, then take a look at LSO St Luke’s centre which is a renovated church. Home to the Lovie Awards for the last couple of years, it’s a unique and stylish venue, great for any event or awards ceremony.

12. Village Underground

If you’re hosting an after party, and you’re looking for oodles of space, then look no further than Village Underground, which is a renovated warehouse in the middle of Shoreditch. With a capacity of 1000 people, this is the place to throw an after party to end all after parties.

On a boat?

13. HMS President 

If you’e throwing a networking event, then check out the HMS President, and host your party on a boat. With a massive ballroom, complete with a stage and decorative fairy lights, this is an excellent venue to host a party with a difference.

This list has been inspired by @Joshr’s crowd sourced list of London Tech Friendly Event Venues.

Subscribe to The Fetch’s weekly email digest for the best events happening in London via thefetch.com.

Image credit: Top: Shoreditch Town Hall, middle: The Light Bar

Hello Louise – our London curator — September 1, 2013

Hello Louise – our London curator

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It’s a cliché, but when Samuel Johnson said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, he was on to something. London has everything – and everyone.

After Chloe Nicholls launched us in London town 18 months ago, we were wondering who would be amazing enough to pick up where she left off. So, I couldn’t be happier to welcome Louise Potter as our new curator in London. She’ll be kicking us off on our first Fetch back in September after the summer break. Louise must not sleep! By day, she’s a strategist at agency Inferno and in the evenings she’s a teaching assistant at General Assemb.ly. She’s also a graduate of Google’s Squared program. Yes, it’s ironic and that’s a pic of Louise in Berlin above. Check out our welcome interview with her below:

How did you end up where you are today? 

I read history at university and, after I worked out that everything I’d spent the past four years learning was just stuff that had already happened, I decided to always focus my future attention on the things that still yet to happen. It means I spend most days thinking about innovation and tech; during my day job working in an advertising agency and by night, when I work after hours as a teaching assistant at General Assembly. I was also lucky enough to spend three months on secondment at Google’s Squared program. Life’s better when it’s filled with the unknown – it leaves more room for surprises.

Why did you want to get involved with The Fetch? 

Because it’s brilliant! I’m an avid reader of The Fetch, and so the chance to get involved was incredibly exciting. I love the fusion of tech, creativity and business, especially because I think they’re the three most exciting areas in London at the moment. Plus, it always manages to shock me with how much happens around the city every week. I’m a magpie of this kind of stuff, so I see being able to help curate it is an opportunity to make use of all those shiny, stored things – and to find out about some brilliant new ones, too.

What things excite you about our community right now? 

How interested and enthusiastic everyone seems to be about what we’re doing – it’s infectious. A reader recently compared missing The Fetch to missing a dose of crack. You know you’re doing something right when you’re being compared to a highly-addictive, highly-illegal drug.

What events do you recommend in LDN?

I love the eclectic mix of the Lost Lectures. They’re always such a strange mix of speakers, but when paired with beautiful, unusual locations it really works. It’s Nice That have started hosting ‘Nicer Tuesday’, which are similarly great – the subject matter has ranged from failure to erotica so far, and it looks like there’s plenty more obscurity yet to come. On more tech subject matters, there’s a raft of brilliant events coming out of all of the incubators that have popped up around the city recently – my favourites right now are probably Wayra and Level 39. Oh and The School of Life is perpetually magnificent, too.

What’s your favourite thing about your city? 

That it’s a million different cities in one. Every street you walk down is different from the next – foods, smells, architecture, shops, people. It’s a cliché, but when Samuel Johnson said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, he was on to something. London has everything – and everyone.

What’s unique about London?

The attitude of Londoners. They’re unlike any other species – in the UK or indeed the world. They moan about the city all of the time, but nobody else is allowed to say a bad word about it. There’s a unique mixture of sarcasm, lager and eccentric dress that everyone who lives here seems to possess.

Where can we find you in LDN? 

I’ve worked in Covent Garden for the past three years, so I’m usually to be found around there and Soho. The choice of restaurants and cafes is wonderful and completely overwhelming in the best possible way – I’m addicted to Monmouth CoffeeSalt and Polpo at the moment. I’m also in love with the Southbank. No matter how long you’ve lived in London, it always makes you feel like a tourist.

How can we connect with you? 

I’m quite digitally-promiscuous, so there’s a plenty of different places. I’m most active on Twitter, but I can also be found on InstagramLinkedInFlickr and pulling together a ramshackle blog every now and again, called Other Plans, as well.

If you didn’t live in London, where would you be? 

I lived in Toronto for a summer a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it – the magical panorama of the city that you get from Toronto Island is unlike anything else. But the winters are far too cold – so I’d probably choose Melbourne. It’s an amazing maze of a city; the culture, dim sum and quality of life there rivals anywhere else in the world. [It’s also the original home of The Fetch!]

You can also follow Louise and The Fetch London via @thefetchLDN and on Facebook. Sign-up to receive our events-packed digest via theFetch.com and get your work life covered!

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