Young startups beginning their journey to success can struggle to get the attention and momentum they need. That doesnât seem to be a problem for Capsool. This small team based in the north of England has not only an interesting product of its own lined up, but today sees the launch of a service it has built as an official part of the Queenâs Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Capsoolâs own product, which it is keeping under wraps for now, will offer a new way of communicating, with a focus on timeframes â but thatâs all the team will say for now. Meanwhile, the Jubilee Time Capsule is a website that has been commissioned by the Royal Commonwealth Society, marking sixty years since the Queenâs coronation by encouraging the public to submit videos, photos and text about memorable days over the past 60 years.
The memories donât need to be related to the Royal Family â as long as it happened betweenÂ 6 February 1952 (Accession Day) and 6 June 2012, it can be submitted and may be part of a collection of content from the site that will be presented to the Queen later in the year.
So, how does an unknown startup get the gig to build a Web app for a major event like the Diamond Jubilee?
Co-founder Paul Carruthers explains that Capsool did some early tests of its product at Manchester Grammar School. One of the schoolâs staff was also an essay marker for the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), and a week later he was in a meeting where the RCS discussed the idea of a time capsule for the Jubilee. This chance encounter led to a project that has been over a year in the making.Â Following a soft launch last year, over 23,000 items have been submitted to the Jubilee Time Capsule.
Capsool was started by Carruthers and Peter Kawalek while they both worked on a government IT project in Manchester, in the north of England. âI think we saw timelines way before Facebook. We have a more profound vision of where the Web is evolving than we see on current sites,â says Kawalek.
âEverythingâs squashed on the Web, everythingâs in the here and nowâŚ Thatâs important but in the end it drives you to some form of psychosis. I think what we can do is something much moreÂ imaginativeÂ and meaningful.â
Having a bold vision of what your product can do is all very well, but if you donât have the right ecosystem around you, gaining traction can be difficult. Weâve discussed the problems faced by startups in the north of England before, and Carruthers agrees that life can be hard for startups just a couple of hundred miles north of London.
âI donât really see active networks out there for us to get involved in. When youâre just looking for small amounts of money to get started, itâs hard. I donât think itâs easy to find cheap office space in Manchester. In London there are places like TechHubÂ where you can go. Thereâs just none of that base-level help. Thereâs so much good creative, digital stuff that goes on in Manchester but it tends to be agency based and digital production rather than startups. Iâd be hard pushed to tell you anyone else in a similar position to us.
âThey must be out there but I just donât know who they are,â Carruthers continues. âI suppose the environmentâs not there for us to put our heads above the parapet and say âHey weâre hereâ â because the support networkâs not there and you think someoneâs going to nick your idea. I think in London, itâs very different. But thereâs so much talent up here â the biggest student campus in Europe and we donât have that infrastructure to help people in a very basic way.â
The CapsoolÂ team has found that VCs only want to talk once the product has gained traction, and the lack of a strong network of angel investors in the north has led the startup to stick to self-funding for now. However, Kawalek doesnât see that as a particularly problematic situation. âI think that itâs easy for startups to get fixated about VCs, a bit like bands used to get fixated by getting signed by major record labels. But then people begin to break the model and almost âsign themselvesâ.
âI think weâll prosper just because we have better ideas. It may be a slower path, but thatâs what will bring us forward. I think that the VC community â though Iâm always willing to meet a good one â is not staffed by people with the best calibre and imagination to match the northern entrepreneurs.â
For now, Capsool is busy with the Jubilee Time Capsule, but it promises to develop in many other directions in the future. âWe think that model around âsocial archivesâ can be applied to lots of things, and we donât think that existing social networks do that very well,â says Carruthers. âAnywhere where thereâs a mass of people coming together and they want to share stuff, we can do that â and we can do interesting things with the content once we have it.â