The Entrepreneur: David Burgman, The Raptor Group

The Raptor Group has student satisfaction at its core, working closely with brands and educational institutions to make university life as fulfilling as possible. We speak to its founder, David Burgman.

About Us

Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a serial entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. We interview successful entrepreneurs from all over the UK, celebrating their achievements, hard work, and determination to get to where they are today. This article was authored by:

Company: Raptor & ayda
Founder: David Burgman
Website: ayda.co.uk

David’s first entrepreneurial venture was founding student marketing agency Raptor. His innovative and hugely successful marketing agency delivers bespoke, student-focused campaigns for big-name clients including Deliveroo and Depop.

As a result of Raptor’s success, David founded the hybrid campus events platform ayda. Identifying the issues of student isolation arising from the pandemic, ayda was created to enable universities to organise hybrid events, including freshers fairs, via its platform.

David, founder and CEO of The Raptor Group, speaks to Startups about bootstrapping Raptor, a dodgy (and costly) Brazilian campervan ordeal, and the importance of delegating tasks and trusting your team.

The Business

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique?

The Raptor Group operates within the higher education space with two businesses.

Raptor, is a student marketing agency that supports youth brands in building long-lasting relationships with students. Born from a relationship between experiential student marketing and event promotion, Raptor elevates third party brand relevance in the student marketing landscape.

We collaborate with best-in-class production and tech partners to ensure we deliver the very best bespoke campaigns for all our clients such as Deliveroo, Depop, Jägermeister and Pot Noodle.

Created during the pandemic, ayda is a virtual and hybrid events platform purpose-built for higher educational institutions. As students were forced to study from home to curb the spread of the virus last year, their education suffered – but it wasn’t just their education that suffered, they also missed out on socialising with friends.

This is critical for shaping the rest of their university experience so ayda was born to bridge that gap. ayda gave students the opportunity to connect with one another and still feel like part of a community while they were forced apart. Now, ayda aims to enhance the in-person event by providing a 3D digital replica that is accessible to all, no matter where or when.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

My greatest business achievement can be split into two.

On Raptor’s side, representing and creating marketing strategies for some of my favourite brands including Nando’s, SoundCloud, Jägermeister and Depop was an achievement I am seriously proud of. It is so exciting to be working alongside some of the businesses that I have grown up with and loved throughout my childhood and career.

I’m also proud to have partnered with some of the top education institutions in the UK such as Imperial College London, University of Birmingham and University of Glasgow with ayda.

How did you fund your business?

Raptor was founded with a £5k credit card and my mother-in-law's Mini. In the very early days, all of our clients were disruptive tech brands so the campaigns were paid on performance (acquisition). Luckily we performed well and this allowed us to fund the business going forward.

We used funds from Raptor to launch our digital platform ayda, this was during the pandemic when all physical activity was on hold.

Raptor was founded with a £5k credit card and my mother-in-law's Mini. In the very early days, all of our clients were disruptive tech brands so the campaigns were paid on performance (acquisition). Luckily we performed well and this allowed us to fund the business going forward.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

We do an activation nearly every day of the week and a number of our campaigns are target driven where our event and ambassador teams are incentivised to meet and exceed these targets. So whether it’s acquisition numbers for an app or sample numbers for one of our FMCG clients, numbers are always top of the agenda.

From a business perspective, forecast and cash flow sheets are always open somewhere on the laptop!

To what extent does your business trade internationally?

To date, our clients are predominantly UK-based due to our relationships with education institutions. We delivered our first French hybrid event in Paris in November 2021, and have started conversations with other international institutions. ayda has been set up to support any institution wherever they are in the world.

Where would you like your business to be in five years?

Our vision is to become the number one choice if looking for an engaging and easy-to-use hybrid events platform. In five years’ time we envisage ayda being used by education institutions across the globe. Bringing students together and enriching their university experience whilst supporting institutions in creating revenue and streamlining their events ecosystem.

What software or technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Starting a business during the pandemic creates challenges that only technology can overcome. The whole Google suite has allowed the ayda team to communicate, share ideas and create documents.

Collaboration tools such as Miro have also been helpful as they have allowed us to be creative and stay on track in terms of features and development whilst working remotely.


Growth challenges

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in business?

I’m sure this is a pretty standard answer these days, but the pandemic was the biggest challenge. When the lockdown was imposed, all live events were cancelled immediately by our clients, and all students were ordered to study from home.

However, our biggest challenge became our biggest opportunity. We realised early that Universities would not be able to run their traditional events calendar. Freshers’ week could not run without thousands of students getting freebies and merchandise from brands.

ayda was born to support universities claw back revenue lost due to the pandemic and help students connect through shared interests.

What was your biggest business mistake and what did you learn from it?

A horror moment was in my early days at Raptor. A client was keen to activate a UK tour using a classic camper van.

After searching for a camper van for hours during a late night scan of the web I came across a Brazilian camper van which was half the price of a UK alternative. After agreeing to a price and shipping date we set up the journey plan, excited for our camper van to arrive.

As expected, the Brazilian camper van arrived with no engine, no lights and a bent chassis – the money spent to get it roadworthy far exceeded the cost of the UK alternative and the time taken to fix it meant we had to rearrange the tour.

Lesson learnt, don’t cut corners. When it’s too good to be true, it almost always is!

What one thing do you wish someone had told you when you started on your business journey?

That you can’t do everything yourself. It has taken me a couple of near burnouts to learn to delegate and trust in my team. Now I have the realisation that my team does a much better job at their tasks than I could ever do. The business is much more efficient because of them.

You can't do everything yourself. It has taken me a couple of near burnouts to learn to delegate and trust in my team.

How has the pandemic affected the market you operate in?

Students have had an extremely rocky ride throughout the pandemic. For what are the most sociable years of your life, students were sequestered to their halls of residence and were criticised when they were seen to be breaking lockdown rules. They were then sent home from university having to complete their academic course remotely.

The adoption of technology in the education space was accelerated by the pandemic at an unprecedented rate – especially when the education industry had been mostly stagnant for the last ten years and had failed to embrace technology as quickly as other industries. Students overdosed on zoom calls with their coursemates, some they had never met creating animosity and negativity with live stream tech.


Personal growth

Did you study business or learn on the job?

I studied an undergrad Management and Marketing degree followed by a Masters degree in enterprise at the University of Manchester.

My undergrad dissertation was about festival sponsorship and activation which is something we deliver each year at Raptor. It is great (and unusual) to practice what I preached!

How have you developed and grown as an entrepreneur?

I worked for different businesses for ten years before setting up on my own. This experience helped me learn the key skills needed to become an entrepreneur and a leader myself. Furthermore, learning and understanding how to play the game in the bigger PLC setups provided me with invaluable experience.

After going it alone, you lose the safety net of working for a bigger business. One wrong move can have a massive impact and as a result, you learn much quicker from your mistakes. Because of this, my decision making skills have drastically improved and it’s something I now pride myself on and trust in myself to do.

After going it alone, you lose the safety net of working for a bigger business. One wrong move can have a massive impact and as a result, you learn much quicker from your mistakes. Because of this, my decision making skills have drastically improved and it’s something I now pride myself on and trust in myself to do.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without?

Business app has to be Slack. I don’t know how we would have coped without it, especially during the pandemic. The desktop app has been a game changer for both myself and my teams.

Personal app would be Strava. I am totally obsessed with exploring new running and cycling routes, and there’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition with your friends when you can track their performance!

A business book or podcast that you think is great.

I recently read ‘Agencynomics' by Spencer Gallagher and Peter Hoole. It was such an interesting read and features lots of advice and anecdotes about agency life from a team who have been there, done it and got the t-shirt – they now advise thousands of agencies! This is a book that I can relate to and has helped me develop my existing knowledge which I have gone on to share with my team.

Finally, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting a business?

Don’t do it for the money, do it because you love it!

Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website.

Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism.

Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

Leave a comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top