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This season’s Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture Series started off with Charles Armstrong, founder and CEO of Trampoline Systems LTD.

10 October 2011

Trampoline Systems
Trampoline Systems LTD - Background

After studying Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge, Charles was mentored by one of Britain’s greatest architects, Lord Young of Dartington.

At present, he can boast “lots of different hats”: alongside Trampoline Systems LTD, he also directs The Trampery, East London's premier co-working and events space, and One Click Orgs, an open-source project which in March 2011 launched the world’s first platform for virtual organisations. In his own words, he was an entrepreneur since he was “a little kiddy”: at the age of 7 he made his first business by renting out his eraser to his school peers. “That was the first thing I remember doing that smells of entrepreneurship”, he says.

Charles’ very first career had to do with music. He used to run different bands and work with the social entrepreneur Michael Young in the 1940s. Together, they set up a school for social entrepreneurs: “I can’t help myself from setting things up”, Charles explains. Charles’ social entrepreneurship, or “social brain” as he likes to say, was the starting point for his biggest project, Trampoline Systems, created with a friend from Cambridge. After spending time in the island of St Pancreas, which counted about 80 people in total, Charles was convinced of how effective the decision-making system of tiny communities was. He therefore tried to recreate it in the larger community in which he lived. Thus, Trampoline Systems LTD came about: a software developer which specialises in analiyzing large-scale social networks. One of the first main goals of Trampoline Systems was to waste as little time as possible. For instance, corporate articles are rewritten in a digital way that is acceptable by the government: by using machines, it cuts on burocratic time-consuming actions.

Trampoline Systems Today

Trampoline Systems LTD now works with some of the world’s largest cooperations, helping them with their sales: Vodafone, for instance. Trampoline Systems provides it with a way to keep the relationships between customers and company automatically and constantly up to date. By 2007 it had raised £3million through different rounds of investments which included family and friends, angel investors, venture capital funds. In 2008 the financial crisis meant that the company lost most of the ventures it had invested in along with 15% of its capital. Yet, Charles stood fast and managed to raise the money back through what he refers to as “crowdfunding”. Whereas the classic venture investments typically raise a lot of money from few sources, crowdfunding aims to raise small amounts of money from crowds of people. “It distributes risk in a different way”, for it relies much on social networks and trust relationships to engage with more and more people.

Top Tips and Summary

What surprises about Charles is –forgive the slang- his “coolness”: he’s cool when the microphone keeps on making terrible noises at the beginning of his talk, he’s cool in front of rows and rows of students, still cool when he’s running out of time and cool in having to pick only a few of the many questions everyone wants to ask him. What’s more, this coolness, he explains, is at the heart of his entrepreneurial work. “I’m in my element”, he says, referring to the hardships an entrepreneur is often confronted with. “There is a purity in the moments when things are clearly not going the way they should be; keep a cool head; invent more choices, if none are there”. Furthermore, Charles stresses the importance of having a couple of trustworthy people at one’s side at all times, who do not panic and remind one of commitments and responsibilities. At the end of the day, what’s really important is “to keep the fun in it”, never believing anyone who says “it’s impossible”.

Written by Carolina Mostert, UCL 2nd year student studying Classics

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