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Day 5 in the incubator...

…and we’ve not hatched yet.

The view from BGV towers/basement

So. Here we are. Democracy Club managed to blag a spot at Bethnal Green Ventures, a social start-up incubator. We’re one of 9 teams in the Winter ‘16 cohort. We’ll be here for 12 weeks. Learning and Doing. And possibly forming something quite different from Democracy Club, on the side. But more on this later.

I think there’s probably some value in us blogging our progress - so over the course of the 12 weeks I’ll aim to do a Friday post each week.

This week? … we’ve been in a lot of workshops. We’ve met our fellow founders. We’ve realised that we possibly should have had more of an idea of the specific product that we would try to develop in these 12 weeks. Sym also ate a disappointing bacon sandwich - up your game, Tom’s Deli. Joe got lost in the crazy corridors that run through the bowels of Somerset House - it’s a maze, an extraordinary maze.

Anyway, the work:


A cruel task to begin the week: define what it is we actually do… in three sentences, in a sentence, and in seven words. We had to really work for the seven word one.

We’ve scraped together: “Democracy Club helps voters get the information they need.”

Does that make sense? Any other thoughts? Comments below - or @democlub on the twitters.

This is all part of developing our pitch, something that we’ll be refining week-by-week until Demo Day (Demo as in demonstration, sadly…but we’ll take the dual meaning).


Week One’s best bit? Mentor Speedating. Loads of smart folks, many ex-BGVers, who have somehow been convinced to come spend a couple hours chatting to each team. It’s exhausting, but every one has a different angle on what you’re up to, has ideas for extra people to speak to, has fun stories about their first days as a startup.


Really, we’ve got to identify whether there is a social business that fits within Democracy Club, or runs alongside it. Or is completely separate. Something that can get revenue. The dollars. The cashish.

The slight trickiness of Democracy Club in an incubator like this is that we’ve already built a bunch of products - which we hope are already providing significant social good. For example, one million people used to find out who would be on their ballot paper earlier this year. But these products are all civic projects based on open data - there’s no revenue there.

We’ve got a list of potential business ideas - from new democracy products to consultancy services for folks running elections - and we’ll aim to pick one as soon as possible. Then we can apply some of the other bits of this week - service design, pitching - in a more accurate and useful manner. We might test these out on you.


Lastly, let’s introduce some of our new colleagues. (I’ll try to do a colleague/team a week).

Sitting opposite me is Zoe, who - brilliantly - used to be a powerboat racing journalist. Even more brilliantly, she’s now planning to improve the quality of social care by helping professionals treat the whole person, through mycaredata. That is - she’s inventing a way to ensure that NHS staff have access to a patient’s non-medical information - their story, their living preferences - all that stuff that could be easily missed.

Zoe’s already got an excellent quick pitch deck here.


Priorities for next week include narrowing down the options for the business idea - or at least fleshing out the list of ideas and coming up with robust criteria for choosing which we proceed with. We’ve also got plenty to do to ensure the existing DC plans for 2016 make progress (Sym’s already smashed through some interesting postcode-to-constituency problems - there are a lot of elections happening at once in May, which is making things complicated).


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