Chris Howard (pictured left) with Co-Founder of The Rattle, Bobby Bloomfield.

Serial tech entrepreneur and Exeter alumnus supports entrepreneurial community

Serial tech entrepreneur and Exeter alumnus, Chris Howard has returned to Exeter this week to support Global Entrepreneurship Week and run a pitch practice session.

Chris explained: “Since graduating from Exeter in 2004, I've come to learn how important it is to say something authentic yet convincing to progress out of university. Pitching is a great example of that, and a critical tool if your progression lies in entrepreneurship. I am honoured and excited to condense everything I have learned having founded over 5 companies in the UK and USA to help and support Exeter's flourishing startup alumni.”

Chris is no stranger to the wonderful world of startups, not only has he founded more than five companies, he is former UK MD of the famous global startup accelerator MassChallenge and a serial tech entrepreneur from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has helped hundreds of people turn talent into startup businesses.

Chris’ latest venture, The Rattle, brings together artists, tech nerds, and industry experts in a new form of ‘co-working’ space – but with soul and vibe very much at its core. Chris revealed: "I believe artists should see the world of startups as accessible. Their product is amazing art and through their work, they bring unequivocal joy to listeners. I want to help support these emerging artists into becoming artist-entrepreneurs and The Rattle is the place to do that. With our music & startup studios and network of expert mentors, we can help to take ideas to the next level.”

As well as music makers, The Rattle invites tech startups, those that make products to support artists and that demonstrate ‘hacker’ behaviour. They have to show that their service/product helps artists either directly or indirectly. Chris explained: “For example, we’ve got a challenger bank, and as part of their service they are helping musicians to complete their taxes automatically. It’s a mutual synergy we look for between artists and tech startups.”

Chris continued: “The Rattle is there to aid success in music without the traditional gatekeepers. It’s about embracing pure naivety and raw talent, and recognising that channelling those into entrepreneurship is just one way of exploring opportunity.”

Chris’ background, education and experience is packed with diversity and enthusiasm. In 2001 he accepted a place through clearing to study Physics at Exeter under the guidance of Professor Roy Sambles, having originally gained a place to study at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford. Securing the place meant that Chris had just four weeks to complete and pass an A level in Mathematics!

Whilst studying at Exeter, Chris continued to nurture his musical and creative roots by recording and producing for iconic band, Six Nations State, who’ve recorded major albums and toured across the world supporting bands like The Zutons and Keiser Chiefs.   

After studying at Reading University for a PhD in Computational Physics and Psychology, Chris attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), typically ranked as one of the world's most prestigious universities. Chris’ research was focused on encouraging children towards STEM subjects and he created the world’s first crowdsourced science novel in 2009, known as the Great Libboo Experiment, featuring the contribution of thousands of children and notable authors, alongside the startup Libboo.

Speaking about his passion for startups and keen to pass on his experience, Chris asks business enthusiasts to refer to three key points when considering any business venture.

1.    Is there a group of people that you care about and currently aren’t being helped/addressed?
2.    Is there something you can do that others can’t?
3.    Are you prepared to manage unending risk?

Chris explained: “I see my goal as helping young entrepreneurs to succeed. I want to help make their journey in the early part of the startup world, a positive one. Through my knowledge of venture building, I often take a hands-on approach and apply my skills to help steer the business in the direction the entrepreneurs would like it to go. To date, I have personally founded six companies as a venture builder and I have helped to venture build around 30. I see venture building very much as the antithesis to a traditional accelerator.”

Chris declared that the hardest aspect of building a startup is staying focused: “The balance between a personal investment and entrepreneurial speed is the hardest to control. I encourage entrepreneurs to enjoy what they are doing, to take stock and discover their own identity.”

Chris is a keen supporter of Exeter and the budding entrepreneurial community: “I’ve come back to support entrepreneurs in Exeter because this is where my own journey began. Great ideas don’t just happen in Shoreditch and I’m here to let people know that by supporting Exeter as a fantastic place to grow a business.”

Date: 20 November 2017

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