Starting a business in Leicester: CrowdLab

The market research specialist sizes up Leicester's start-up opportunities, business schemes and explains why the "city council just get it"...

Company name: CrowdLab
Founders: Mat Mabe & Jim Willis
Founded: 2011
Description: Bespoke and user generated market research apps for smartphones and tablets

What’s great about starting a business in Leicester?

Apart from being the kind of city where you can find a king buried in a car park, there’s an amazing amount of creative talent in the city with plenty of schemes to help build relationships with the local universities.

What business support in Leicester have you used? How was it? 

We’ve received a number of grants to help with capital purchases and marketing expenditure. The city council just get it in Leicester. There’s strong leadership and some really dedicated officers who know how important it is to get start-ups access to the right kind of funding.

Name the top three reasons to set up a business in Leicester:

  1. The city. It’s got soul! A rich heritage combined with vibrant day and night time economies made it an obvious choice for us.
  2. The low cost and diversity of quality workspaces and living accommodation.
  3. Transport links – we can get to central London on the train in little over an hour, the same time it takes to get from one side of London to the other.

Where could Leicester be better / what does it need?

A large contemporary art gallery. There’s a great local art scene and some wonderful small galleries but nothing to attract high profile international artists on a regular basis. It’s important because galleries and art provide escape and inspiration. They challenge us, make us ask questions.

How easy has it been to access finance to grow?

It’s never easy to start with, unless you’ve got a proven track record. You spend a lot of time pitching and courting. Our first round of funding came from the US.

We’re now into our second round of funding and it’s proving a lot easier now that we are perceived to be less of a risk.

Where do you go to network in Leicester? 

The Cultural Quarter is a great place to hang out, there’s a strong tech start-up community that’s very welcoming to new people and meets regularly for a wide range of events from hacks to more business focused collaborations.

Where do you take a client for a business lunch?

St Martin’s coffee shop, it’s got the right mix of informality with quality deli boards and a killer selection of coffee that’s roasted on the premises.

Where’s great for a company night out?

We like to keep it varied to accommodate lots of people’s preferences. One of our planned nights out is to head to a few real ale pubs before going to see a Northern soul DJ upstairs at Firebug.


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