Editorial | What Sir Richard Branson’s backing means to CODOC

Guy Gunaratne

Yes, that’s us, mugging away next to founder and chairman of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson. That’s Jamal Edwards, the founder of youth media platform SB.TV, next to him is Nigel Gilbert, CMO of Virgin Media and Richard Reed, co-founder of the very cool Innocent Drinks. Names that invite ovation. How in the world did we get to stand among these figures, we remember thinking. Well, those mugs, that comedy cheque was actually the culmination of an entire year and a weeks worth of graft. After our eyes bled for one long morning watching the live public vote, we were thus anointed one of the four finalists. We snagged an invite from young entrepreneurship platform Virgin Media Pioneers to pitch an idea for the future of web-video to a panel and a knight. The day itself went off like this:

It was a good day, instructive, constructive and for a few short minutes we found ourselves pitching a dream for a chance to forge a future. What Virgin Media Pioneers had gifted us was a spotlight. A short burst of electric attention, a finite chance that if grasped meant that for a moment our heads would peek over the bustle of the others long enough to gulp in that elusive start-up oxygen: progress. It feels like that sometimes. Watching the rain drip-drip around our obscurity can be hard on our little engines. Scratching out a raw idea on a notebook can render those pages into windows of solace, lonely as those moments may be. This is why these shots are so crucial, why Virgin Media Pioneers is so special. VMP have had a lot to do with the UK’s recent move to set up the Youth Enterprise Loan for Britain’s young entrepreneurs, CODOC were among the young enterprises surveyed for the research for their campaign for it. This is truly substantial, thick value. A gift for future generations of upstarts going it alone. The dedicated souls behind it all; J.P, Ernestina, Jos and Erica are all deserving of an ovation themselves. Applaud them. The man himself by the way, Sir Richard, is everything you’d expect – warm, disarming and in every way the embodiment of the brand he has built. That in itself is a lesson for us all.

Flourished with romance and digital cache as it is, opting to start-up can be a torturous endeavour. But equally, those heady highs can be glorious moments of vindication. A beauty in life I’m lucky to share with the lovely Heidi Lindvall, Managing Director of this adventure. CODOC is, and always will be a labour of our synergy. We’re lucky enough to be able to fight our fights together. But having a network there such as VMP, a community of kindred energy,  has given us the catalyst for our focus.

Now a lot of you might not know this, but we were one of the first pioneers to be inducted into the Virgin Media Pioneers community. Since then, a year ago now, we have actually been editing most of the original video content you see on the site. We’ve watched a lot of other pioneers through our lenses, asked questions and learnt the lessons at each and every event VMP have put together. It has made compelling viewing watching other pioneers, the likes of Abdul Khan of Ratethatcurry.com for instance who went from snazzy logo to Rockstar Entrepreneur in a heartbeat propelled by an online community who backed him every step of the way. That was good to watch, heartening to see. Everytime I see Abdul now, there is a knowing glance among he and I. I bumped into him the other day, pulled me aside and said, “Look at what we’re doing together dude!” as if some conspiracy of awesomeness had swept us in uninvited. “I know mate, living the dream!” I’d coax, grinning. Come pitch day, it was the first time we were in front of the cameras and not behind.

Yes, indeed we were among the runner-ups that day, Dan Watson of SafetyNet technologies won the big one, the cheque with more 0′s on the end. A competition it might have been, but Dan is a good guy with a sea-shaking idea. At the end of the pitch there was a feeling that among us, behind the curtains, away from the crowds, that we were brothers in arms. We weren’t strangers by then, we knew each others stories, why we were there and what moved us to do what we do. VMP became a bond among all the finalists.

I write this blog on a precipice of some truly exciting developments at our offices. And it is due in no small part to Virgin Media Pioneers, Sir Richard Branson and his decision to give back and offer a hand to those who want to emulate his success. A few days after the pitch day we appeared in the Telegraph Online. A flurry of tweets, e-mails and inquisitive phone calls and suddenly we realised that we were no-longer behind the curtain. Then there was this quote on website startupsmart.com.au:

“British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson appears to be on a start-up investment spree, sinking funds into four small start-ups, including Codoc, following his backing of Square, Path and Tumblr.”

We love that sentence. For CODOC to be mentioned in the same breath as Square, Tumblr and Path is a very cool thing – so forgive us a hi-five – but equally we are conscious of being swayed into becoming just another UK tech start-up. Those who know us know there’s more. Simply watching the UK’s tech space crackle and fizz is exciting but to crackle and fizz is not enough for us, we who want to burn and trail a flame and perhaps someday head a torch, we have our eyes firmly set on the long game. It’ll inevitably mean at times watching others take a few steps further so we can keep climbing. That doesn’t bother us. Dan, we’ll see you over the next hill. What we all must do is commit some form of alchemy in transmuting spotlights like VMP into tangible leverage, grab the publicity and continue onward. For us, this boost could not have come at a better time and it is a privilege becoming the first among the VMP vets to finally begin budding.

So from CODOC, grateful thanks VMP, truly.

Now, who want’s to see £750 spin into £7Million? Watch us do it right here on Codoc.org.

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