A business started by Bath graduates is making waves in Silicon Valley, securing $1.4m investment and connecting conference attendees around the world.
Lanyrd was started by Bath Computer Science graduates Natalie Downe and Simon Willison in 2010 on their honeymoon in Morocco.
Having fallen ill with food poisoning during Ramadan, when meals can be difficult to get during daytime, the couple decided to hire an apartment with a kitchen and ‘cook themselves better’.
It was here that in the days of their illness they came up with the idea for Lanyrd, an online social conference directory that helps users keep tab of people and events related to conferences they are attending.
With their friends ‘watching’ their activity over Twitter from the UK, the pair built the first version of Lanyrd in an apartment in Casablanca, with little awareness of how it would quickly spread to change the international conference space.
Lanyrd exists as a website and as a smartphone app, and allows users to find conferences see which their friends are attending; allows conference attendees to ‘check in’ to particular events; meet others who are attending, and share materials and conversation.
Launched to their friends within four days, and publically after little under two weeks of development, Lanyrd quickly received excellent reviews in internationally significant digital publications, and the pair chose to cut short their plans for a long honeymoon and return to the UK to continue their work.
Following a rather unusual beginning, the pair secured seed funding from startup accelerator Y Combinator and spent three months attending the accelerator’s startup school in Mountain View, California.
Reflecting on the company’s first two years, Natalie said: “We have come such a long way from our time as undergraduate students at the University of Bath. We both studied Computer Science together which gave us the core skills to develop the app and start a business.
“The way we started Lanyrd wasn’t conventional, but that just shows that there is no ‘correct’ way to go into business. It’s having the right idea and then the passion to execute it that really counts.
“The investment we received and out time at Y Combinator has been a huge vote of confidence in our product and capabilities, and has allowed us to hire a really good team. We’re now working on updates and innovations to Lanyrd, and are exploring different opportunities for revenue generation from the product.”
The team initially launched Lanyrd at dConstruct in 2010, and have returned to the same event earlier this month to soft-launch ‘Project Guinea Pig’ – a new dimension on networking with fellow attendees at events. They will be releasing these features to the world soon.
Natalie said: “We are constantly improving Lanyrd, which our time at Y Combinator and subsequent funding has allowed our team to do – so watch this space!”
Professor Phil Willis, Head of the Department of Computer Science, said: “Both Natalie and Simon were extremely capable students who deserve the success they are now experiencing.
“Seeing graduates from the Department go on to international success is hugely rewarding and on behalf of all of the staff here I wish them all the very best for the future development of Lanyrd.”
To learn more about Natalie, Simon and Lanyrd, see this video.
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