VoiceLabs hit the right notes at Google Start-up Weekend

Published on: 4 August 2015

An innovative voice-coaching app was chosen as the best business idea as budding entrepreneurs fought it out at Exeter’s first Google Start-up Weekend.

The event saw 36 participants with 20 different business ideas spend 54 hours working their concepts into eight viable start-up businesses.

Participants pitched their ideas, developed them, explored potential markets and planned a business launch all in one weekend.

Pitches were whittled down to three final teams: Street Smart, Sphera and VoiceLabs, with an expert team of judges left to decide the overall winner.

After some deliberation from the judging panel, Voicelabs headed by voice coach Matt Pocock was crowned the overall winner.

Matt was delighted to take the top spot, saying: “I never dreamed I would win, I just wanted to see how people reacted to the idea. But now I feel really convinced that this start-up is the way to go and I can't wait to get cracking.”

Matt is a University of Exeter alumni with a degree in Drama.  Despite his start-up success Matt didn’t find out about the event until two days before.

He explained: “I heard about it on the Wednesday, and came down on the Friday. Having that little time to prepare I was worried I would be out of my depth. But it was so warm, friendly and exciting that I felt like I could get stuck in straight away. “If you want to get an idea started, this is the place to go.”

Matt first had the idea for his business; a vocal analysis app, while he was studying for a Masters in Voice at the Guildford School of Acting. He said: “I thought, wouldn't it be nice if you could do voice teaching through an app?', but until now the idea stayed in my head. I had started talking to my friends about it a couple of months ago, but it wasn't until the start-up weekend that I really decided to go for it.”

However, Matt is aware of the dedication and commitment that it takes to get a business off the ground saying:

“There are various parts to building a business that are fun. Coming up with ideas is fun. Designing a product can be fun. Dreaming about the future can be fun. But the vast majority of it is not fun. Incorporating a business, negotiating legal and equity issues, paying tax - these things take up a lot of time and they are crucial to the running of your business. It's all about finding a way to make those things tolerable and not forgetting your mission.”

For Matt to turn his business dream into reality he needs to focus on his business model:  “At the moment it's about sharpening the model and getting the initial investment to make the minimum viable product (MVP),” he said.

“We're looking to take on a co-founder at a later stage, but for now will seek investment to make a basic Javascript mock-up of the eventual product and the contacts from the start-up weekend have been fantastic already.”

Through taking part in the start-up weekend Matt has received a variety of business support. He revealed: “We've had a ton of support. TechHub have offered us working space and Ashfords have offered us six sessions of legal support.

“The Innovation Centre has been great too, offering business coaching, space to work, connecting me up with potential co-founders and even the possibility of seed money. And the trophy is nice too.”

Matt is excited to return to his Exeter roots to realise his business dream, and has high hopes for the future of start-ups in the south west:

He said: “The south west has always been a strong area for growth. I spent five years in Exeter before moving to Guildford, and I was always impressed by the vivacity of growth in the arts and start-up world.

“There is a lot happening. The south west seems like a great place to start a business, and the Innovation Centre provides the route to growth.”

The Google Start-Up weekend took place at the Innovation Centre from 17 to 19 July.

The event was sponsored by The Innovation Centre, CrowdCube, Andromeda Capital, Ashfords LLP, The University of Exeter, Frobishers, Haines Watts Chartered Accountants, TechHub Boston and Zenen Education.  

Exeter will be hosting a Global Start-up Weekend Battle on 20 November 2015.  Taking place during Global Entrepreneurial Week, this event features start-up teams battling amongst 200 cities around the world in a virtual global final.  To find out more contact Natalie Collard.

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