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Tech City: ‘Startup Van’ rolls into Old Street to capture Silicon Roundabout’s best ideas on film

PUBLISHED: 15:48 07 June 2016 | UPDATED: 16:13 07 June 2016

Mark McDonagh and Graham Hussey in their van at Old Street

Mark McDonagh and Graham Hussey in their van at Old Street

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With so many start-ups competing in Tech City, it can be hard to keep track of all the new ideas and entrepreneurs out there.

Graham and Mark chat to entrepreneurs from cupcakes and shhhtGraham and Mark chat to entrepreneurs from cupcakes and shhht

From banking to socialising to bathroom breaks, a new idea or business seems to emerge every day. And with a different entrepreneur behind each one, the risk of missing the latest inspirational person or idea is real.

Luckily for us, that’s where The Startup Van comes in. Founded in 2015 by Graham Hussey and Mark McDonagh, the idea behind the van is a simple one; to meet, interview and pick the brains of the people behind some of the most innovative new businesses coming out of the world of technology today.

“We’d been running separate blogs about technology and entrepreneurs for a while, and we found that we were inspired more by these start-up entrepreneurs than we were by people like Richard Branson,” Graham says.

“I mean of course he’s a great success story, but it’s hard to identify with a billionaire, whereas the people we were speaking to were at the start of their journey and were so much more relatable.”

Alan McDonagh, Mark McDonagh, Graham Hussey, Stephen BerginAlan McDonagh, Mark McDonagh, Graham Hussey, Stephen Bergin

They wanted a way to share the stories they were hearing with the rest of the world.

“We were at Websummit in Dublin and it’s such a busy event that we didn’t want to just be wandering the streets with a video camera, as it would have meant the videos would have been poor. So we hired a campervan and invited entrepreneurs in to talk to us, and pretty soon people were coming from all over!” says Graham.

Working out of a campervan can have its drawbacks, however.

Graham tells the story of how, when they first hired the van, he and Mark almost met their demise at the hands of one of their camera men.

“We’d noticed on the way back that the van was leaking petrol, so we stopped to take a look,” says Graham.

“No sooner had we started seeing what was going on than one of the camera men walks over with a cigarette in his mouth asking if he could help. And Mark and I are both covered in petrol. So yes, that was an interesting experience!”

After narrowly avoiding death and completing the event in Dublin, the two were left to consider where best to take their van from there. The next logical step, Graham says, was to host an event in Tech City.

“We brought the van to Tech City because it’s got such a phenomenal start-up scene, and the response was amazing. We had 45-minute queues waiting outside the van, in the middle of January!”

The event went so well, in fact, that the duo recently visited Tech City again, this time hiring an office in Old Street station for a week at the end of May. Again, they invited entrepreneurs to come down and talk about their ideas, even holding the event in front of an impromptu live audience due to the high turnout they received.

“We were impressed mostly with the level of dedication and love for the area, and with the sense of community here,” explains Graham.

“No one in Tech City is looking to New York or LA to build their business – they want to stay there and be successful in that area. And there’s a real community there. We had a wall of selfies we’d taken with everyone we spoke to on the show, and every new entrepreneur that came on knew someone who was already on the wall.”

Over their five days in Old Street the Start Up Van spoke to 76 individual start-ups, creating 225 videos in the process.

They came across some great ideas, Graham says, including an app-only bank that is being valued at £65million before it’s even launched.

Their next stop is Chicago, where backer Sage is hosting the Sage summit at the end of July.

But Graham says he’s sure it won’t be long before they return to Tech City to pick the brains of the next set of entrepreneurs.

To find out more about the Startup Van, visit thestartupvan.com

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