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"Sweet talking": Rob Fitzpatrick

8 October 2012

thestartuptoolkit.com, 10k Bootstrap Challenge, dex.io

Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture Series
The entrepreneurship guest lecture series 2012-2013 at UCL saw a grand start. Up until the minute before Rob Fitzpatrick started his talk, more and more people kept walking into the lecture theatre; no seat was empty; Rob started his story.

Last Thursday, students were given a “picture of entrepreneurship with its joys and terrors”. Rob Fitzpatrick is a technology entrepreneur, one of London’s leading lights. In 2007 he founded Habit Industries, a “roller coaster” which Rob ran for almost four years. After the company’s crash, the founder’s attention turned to the educational side of entrepreneurship. He founded Nvana in June 2010, with the aim of developing tools and knowledge to teach entrepreneurship in universities. Nvana was a success: about two thousand students, thanks to Rob’s help, managed to found their own start-ups to which teams £200k got distributed.

Recently, Rob decided to get practical again. He started two companies, Dex.io just four months ago. Dex.io finds a business in chatting to people; its aim is to help people, when delivering speeches, to get maximum exposure. How? Thanks to a mini “PR techonology system”. For instance, quotes and slides of a speech are tweeted out during that speech; a self-promotional phone app is being developed, so to capture the whole “ton of content” of a person’s talk and waste none. The start-up’s “focus is on live capture”. The first step in the job is, in Rob’s words “to attach people”: through Dex.io, speakers have a chance to be vain, to show off and promote themselves. By doing this, Dex.io –in turn- is promoted because speakers, by using Dex.io, promote the technology. Dex.io benefits from lessons learnt in the earlier days of Rob’s journey as an entrepreneur.

With his first company, Rob had plunged whole-heartedly into the project: he had dropped out of graduate school in order to pursue his idea, had no money but still pursued his dream, lasted a rough-four-years-time before admitting the company’s failure. That was long ago. Now, Dex.io is a side-project: “it’s important to check if it’s got legs, before giving it everything”. In addition, Dex.io is a self-founded project: this means Rob and his partner are “able to walk out of deals, whenever” and to have a new, fresh, independent start.

Rob Fitzpatrick looks at Dex.io’s future optimistically. Target-speakers are freelancers, those without an institution as back up, such as designers, academics, people from the creative field in general. A further move will be to turn the technology behind this “marketplace for speakers” into a truly professional one and eventually make its system automated. Besides working to improve Dex.io, Rob remains involved in education, teaching –amongst other places- at Seedcamp and HackFwd. Looks like he’s done brilliantly up to now: as for his newest creation, Dex.io speaks for itself.

Written by Carolina Mostert

The UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lectures are organised by UCL Advances which is affiliated to UCL Enterprise