Tech Pitch: The Crowd

Headed by the former CEO of YO! Group, we find out more about the events company-turned-digital platform which supports the UK's business community

Company name:The Crowd
Founders: Ben Patten (41) and Jim Woods (42)
Background: Patten founded the company in 2008 and is now CEO of FarmDrop. Woods is the  former CEO of YO! Group and has led the company since 2012.
Based in: London
Launched:We launched the events business in 2008 and the digital business will launch in April 2015.

Very simply, what does your tech start-up do?

The Crowd is introducing data sharing to the corporate sustainability community, with the aim of accelerating the rate of change. Having built up a network of 10,000 corporate sustainability experts through an extensive events programme, our next stage is to connect them digitally so that they can learn from each other.

In April 2015 we will launch “The Curve”, an online database where companies share their investments data for critical natural resources. We will start with their energy curve, with the aim of using the same architecture for water and waste. Over time we believe we will be able to apply the same principles to social issues such as youth unemployment.

The business model will be a similar structure  to LinkedIn – a “Freemium” service for the energy users – giving them access to the best returns, the ability to compare programmes with peers, find the best suppliers and draw up business case reports. Over time we expect the main revenues to come from supplier access and data subscriptions.

What were you doing before starting?

Woods was enjoying being an “unconscious” entrepreneur until he read an environmental book at the same time that he had his first child. He was an investment banker, before founding a business that designed the first delivery motorbike, and was then CEO of the YO! Group. Patten used to organise events for the food community, and had always been in touch with a bigger picture.

Tell us why there’s a need – what do you disrupt?

There is a lot of reinvention of the wheel going on as companies develop their sustainability strategies. Most are over reliant on internal experts and external advisors testing the same technologies through a similar process of trial and error. The Curve will allow companies to make smarter decisions by drawing on each other’s experience thus getting a better and cheaper service than the traditional consultancy market.

Are you funded?

The Crowd has funded itself to date through internally generated profit, largely from the events business. We are just completing a £300,000 crowdfunding round to develop and launch our digital business.

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What’s the best thing about where you’re based?

We love Chancery Lane. A couple of hundred years ago it was where all the saucy stories broke – next to the Courts of Justice and Fleet Street. Being in the centre of London is critical to being at the heart of the business community.


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