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Norwich tech start-up sets sights on international growth

Rachel Buck
Digital Marketing Consultant

If you’ve not yet heard of The SenLab Group you soon will. We’re expecting great things from this Norwich tech start-up. In just under a year the company has expanded beyond its home in St George’s Works and established a base in London, has a non-executive board of 5, employs 6 people and will be launching the full version of its Prosper BI software in January 2018. It’s hard to believe that its Founder George Davis is not yet 25-years-old.

Local businessman and Norfolk Network member Dom Davis, Tech Marionette, was George’s mentor at Sync the City where the idea for The SenLab Group was conceived. He believes the young entrepreneur has a bright future ahead of him.

“It’s fantastic to see how George has grown into the role of CEO since Sync the City. From simple beginnings, the SenLab Group has flourished into a business with huge potential. I can’t wait to see what George and his team achieve in the coming years.”

We recently caught up with George to find out more about how The SenLab Group came about and what it was like for him as a young businessman starting out.

What is the story so far with The SenLab Group?

We formed The SenLab Group in 2016 after taking part in Sync the City as UEA students. We developed an application called ‘LectureSense’ that predicted university league table positions.

We then pushed forwards with preparing the software for release into the real world. However, we quickly realised that we couldn’t survive selling this software to just UK universities and we couldn’t afford to market globally – in a nutshell, universities take a ridiculously long time to purchase software. So we pivoted. Twice.

We set up as a web agency in Norwich, took on some work for a few small clients and, as soon as we had enough funds, we started to build Prosper BI. We then restructured to ‘The SenLab Group’ to enable us to open multiple subsidiaries.

We have now picked up a few hundred clients, started talks with two major high street banks about a partnership, and are opening a £500,000 investment round in our product subsidiary – Prosper Systems Limited.

“The biggest challenge for me was being taken seriously in the industry.”

How did you get started on turning the idea into reality?

I began by writing the initial machine learning engine that powered the proof of concept for Prosper BI. We also sought out extensive professional advice from many different mentors across the UK – ultimately leading to the creation of a five-person Non-Exec board.

It became clear quite quickly that predictive intelligence was something that SMEs were longing for at an affordable price and delivered in an accessible manner. So, our first priority was making data easy.

We designed and built our system in such a way that any user can organically move from past, to present, to future without changing the way they already think about and understand their data. If they understand the data they are putting in, they understand the data they are getting out. We knew this was what would make us stand out, so making innovation accessible to all became our mission as a group.

What have been the challenges and the hardest new skills to develop?

Networking was a whole new concept to me when I started The SenLab Group. Not only had I never been to a networking event, but I had also never found it easy to talk to new people. I found myself being the stereotypical tech start-up founder with very little confidence.

I quickly had to learn to portray the business in the right way and market our product to hundreds of decision makers. This was a steep learning curve. I now love giving talks, demoing to clients, and attend as many events as possible.

The biggest challenge for me was being taken seriously in the industry. The finance sector is dominated by old, wealthy, men who have a certain view of how a business owner in that area should be. I would find people would look down on me for my age, patronise me, and simply wouldn’t listen. However, I learnt how to get past this and prove to them that they can take me seriously and it is now no longer a problem – but it did limit us greatly in the beginning.

“The immense amount of support from the local business community has been a great aid to our rapid growth.”

What kind of connections and introductions did you find you needed beyond the uni community?

In the early stages, the university community was useful to us. We had a great amount of support from Finbarr Carter in the Enterprise Centre to develop our business model. However, as things progressed it became more and more difficult to manage both university and the business and eventually we got to the point where it was safe for me to put my course on hold.

I went out of my way to find business advisors, lawyers, accountants – anyone that could make a difference to my business. As a result, we picked up multiple major clients and have mentors from the UK, Ireland and America. Without putting myself out into the business community, not just in Norwich but around the world, I would never have taken the product as far as I have.

What is the value to you and your business of participating in local business communities?

There is great value in participating in the local business community. It is where I started and it allows me to make valuable connections with the right people. We have found that local businesses are eager to help new, young businesses with passion. The immense amount of support from the local business community has been a great aid to our rapid growth.

What single piece of advice would you give to other young CEOs?

Don’t get beaten down by those that don’t take you seriously at first. Prove them wrong. Learn to stand up for your company, product and team no matter your age, gender or aesthetic.

“I want to help make NN more accessible to the younger generation and show the value of the connections that NN can bring to a business.”

As the youngest member of the Norfolk Network what part do you want to play in shaping the next generation of NN?

I want to help make NN more accessible to the younger generation and show the value of the connections that NN can bring to a business. NN can play an important part in helping the Uni provide a launch pad for student/young enterprise.

Where next for The SenLab Group?

The group will shortly be opening ‘SenLab Research & Innovation’ – a SenLab subsidiary focussed on providing innovation to those that can’t normally access it. The innovation arm of the group will open in Summer 2018. Prosper Systems will be releasing the full version of Prosper BI from January and will be closing its testing trial at Christmas. By the end of 2018, Prosper Systems aims to have spread worldwide and developed the clientele that it already has in EMEA, APAC and the US.