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Meetings are part and parcel of business life and often fundamental to launching new ventures, raising funds and making strategic decisions. They can also be time consuming and excruciatingly boring, but as these four entrepreneurs have discovered, some of the best outcomes can come from meetings held in the most surprising of places.
Serial entrepreneur Mike Peates and his mentor, who’d first met at tech incubator SETsquared, were venturing into the world of health supplements. Another fellow SETsquared associate, Phil Warrener, founder of fintech startup Phinzo, had offered to help by getting their website up and running. He and Peates agreed to meet over a coffee one Monday morning to discuss.
On the Friday night before, Peates received a message from Warrener to say that because the weather was looking good for Monday he was proposing to hold the meeting in his microlight whilst flying across the English south coast to the Isle of Wight.
“I asked him if he was already on the red wine, or being serious,” says Peates. He was being completely serious and on the Monday morning the pair met at a private airfield in Surrey and prepped the microlight.
“Having the communication equipment in the helmet made it easier to talk, when I wasn’t taking in the stunning views,” says Peates. “We discussed what was needed on the website and continued our discussion over a coffee when we landed at Sandown airport on the Isle of Wight.”
As a result of the airborne meeting SupermarketCBD was born and the website was up and running just two weeks after the flight.
Nana Parry, founder of Metier Digital, started his business following a chance encounter with a stranger at Casablanca Airport in 2017. He was visiting a friend in Casablanca, but on arriving at the airport had his passport confiscated by a passport control officer and was led away to a separate part of the airport building.
“I couldn’t communicate with any of the officers as I can’t speak Arabic, and I had no idea what was going on,” says Parry.
Twenty minutes later, another British man, evidently caught up in a similar situation, was led into the same room. Parry explains: “We started talking about digital products and he asked me if I had a team that could help with an idea he had. I said yes, although in reality I had no team whatsoever.”
Parry was then asked if he would be available to meet in London the following week to make a start. He says: “Almost overnight I had to start a business from scratch, recruiting talented people I knew who could work on the project, for what would become my first client. We’ve never looked back from that chance meeting in the airport and have been in business ever since.”
September 2017 was a turning point for Curiosity Box, a science subscription startup for kids, as it prepared for its first round of fundraising.
Founder Renee Watson says: “We were aiming to raise £150,000 so I posted a notification on LinkedIn that I was selling my company. Soon afterwards I received a message from a guy I’d taken on as an intern almost 10 years earlier asking if we could catch up. Back then, he’d developed some AI tech that made lights and music ‘perform’ together – way too technical for me – but I encouraged him to go for it.”
Clearly it was good advice because when they finally met up in Silvie’s, a little independent café in Oxford, Watson’s former intern offered her nearly all the money she was looking for.
“I nearly choked on my cheese toastie,” says Watson. “My immediate reaction was one of disbelief, but he absolutely believed in our mission to get more kids having fun with science and wanted to support Curiosity Box. We ended up raising just shy of £250,000 ($315,000).”
Getting accidentally locked inside a car with a stranger is hardly the basis for a business meeting, but when it happened to entrepreneur Prask Sutton, it led to the launch of a new business. A few years ago Sutton had been working on an event in Berlin where he was staying with the organizer. At the end of the night, around midnight, he and another British man who’d also worked on the event, but who Sutton had never previously met, found themselves in the back of the organizer’s car, about to head back to his apartment.
“The organizer got into the car, but then turned around and said he needed to go back into the venue to speak to someone he was having some problems with,” explains Sutton. “As he walked away from the car it locked, automatically.”
He didn’t think too much of it, but after 15 minutes, his companion decided he needed some fresh air and tried all the doors and windows, without success. They ended up waiting in the back of the car for almost three hours.
Sutton says: “The organizer eventually came back, but in the meantime, my companion and I had got chatting and came up with an idea for a business that we started when we got back to London. So not a scheduled business meeting by any means, but certainly a positive outcome.”
The company was BoxSpace, providing non-visual, multi-sensory marketing and advertising. This evolved into interaction design studio 76msma, and then in 2014, into Nock, which eventually spawned payment platform Wi5.
Earlier this year, Wi5 raised £8 million ($10 million) in a seed round to drive growth of its platform in an investment led by West Hill Capital.
May 30, 2019 at 11:00AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs