David Parkin on the attraction of a crowd, dull sportsmen and rock n’ roll stardom

IF there is one standout funding change to emerge from the long recession and the banking crisis, then it has to be the phenomenon known as crowdfunding.

A host of platforms have emerged allowing entrepreneurs to attract investment for their businesses from ordinary punters.

Since it first started in the late 1990s, crowdfunding has seen dramatic growth, driven by advances in technology, growth of online channels and often, increasing consumer dissatisfaction with traditional funding providers.

Originally launched as a method of raising small sums of money from a large group of people including friends, family, customers and supporters, the amount of money invested in crowdfunding in the UK has seen 100% growth every year over the past three years and is apparently now doubling in size every 60 days.

I’ve never put any money into crowdfunding, but popped down to the relatively new Google Garage building at New Dock in Leeds on Tuesday evening to learn more about a local firm that is currently raising funds on one crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube.

Synap is an app and website that is looking to establish itself as a leading player in the ‘personalised learning’ market.

They say that Synap “uses scientific insights into how the brain works to enhance the way students learn” and it offers “intelligent algorithms” that allows people to learn more in less time.

Put simply, it allows students and lecturers to upload multiple choice quizzes for exam revision and courses which can be shared with other uses.

The clever bit is that the site then notifies users when the next best time to test themselves is.

Founders James Gupta and Omair Vaiyani gave a presentation to potential investors at the Google Garage – a digital hub funded by the search engine giant near the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Given these 24-year-olds are both medical students at the University of Leeds, they spoke and thought like entrepreneurs and presented like they had been in the media for years.

It made for quite a sales pitch.

But I hadn’t heard anything about future revenues and profit, surely that is what investors would back, I asked them?

James made a good argument for saying that the “edtech” sector is moving so fast that the traditional revenue model can’t really be applied. He reeled off a number of companies in the sector that have attained high valuations without being profitable.

And this isn’t his first venture. Whilst still at medical school, he developed a taxi sharing app for students called JumpIn and sold it to Europe’s biggest taxi firm, Addison Lee.

The firm have the help of a number of experienced professionals including former Engage Mutual and TD marketeer Stuart Clarke and Neil Guilder, former finance director of Directorbank, who has helped them through the Government-funded Growth Accelerator programme.

Synap is selling a 12% stake in exchange for raising £180,000 on Crowdcube. And 11 days in, it has already raised more than £60,000 towards the total with another two-and-a-half weeks to go.

I remember when we developed the idea for TheBusinessDesk.com, most traditional funders didn’t really get the model.

At least crowdfunding opens up the market to alternative forms of investment for firms.

And hopefully a good return for investors.


NEWS reaches these parts that Yorkshire insolvency lawyer Jeremy Bennett is planning a big birthday celebration.

Now Jez, a great lover, footballer and golfer (I know that because he told me), is apparently organising a trip to Spain to mark his 50th birthday.

The only problem, as one of the would-be guests on the trip has pointed out, is that Jez actually passed that birthday milestone 18 months ago.


Radio 4’s Today programme carried an interview with former rugby great Johnny Wilkinson the other morning, as part of the build-up to the Rugby World Cup.

Justin Webb is a great interviewer and clearly understands his rugby, but try as he might, he couldn’t get Wilkinson to say anything controversial or funny.

No problem there, every interview can’t be revelatory or hilarious. But the man who kicked the drop goal to win the 2003 World Cup for England, didn’t actually say anything interesting at all.

He sounded like the rugby equivalent of Alan Shearer, a man who excelled at his sport but has absolutely no opinions worth listening to now he is a TV pundit.


A DREARY bank holiday Monday prompted me to switch on the radio where Radio 2 was holding an Elvis v The Beatles day, counting down the 50 biggest hits of these twin giants of rock n’ roll.

It was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the two in 1965.

Now, I’m a bit different (stop nodding).

I’ve always preferred Elvis to The Beatles. I know it makes me less cool, but that’s the way it is (as Elvis might have sang).

My only attempt at karaoke was a pub-singer-style go at All Shook Up.

Years ago I spent a weekend with lots of old school friends canoeing down the River Wye on the Welsh border.

We camped on the banks of the river and made our way to the local pub near Symonds Yat where we discovered the landlord was a huge fan of Elvis and was crooning his way through some of the King’s classics.

After too much local bitter I was singing along with most of them and he asked me to join him. We perched on a pair of bar stools and belted out a duet of Marie’s The Name Of His Latest Flame.

Now, my memory of how this incident ended is similar to how soul legend James Brown used to end his performances, with a member of his entourage wrapping a gold cape around his shoulders and helping him off stage, having given his all.

Sadly that’s not the way my friends’ remember it. They say that I was carried out of the pub and dragged to my tent while still mumbling something which sounded like Old Shep.

Have a great weekend.


2 thoughts on “David Parkin on the attraction of a crowd, dull sportsmen and rock n’ roll stardom”

  1. Hi David – thank you for writing our event up and featuring it in your column! I should have mentioned more on the financials and revenue side of Synap but am glad you raised the question towards the end as I’m sure a lot of other people will have been thinking it.

    For anyone interested, our Crowdcube page is at crowdcube.com/synap, people are free to check out our pitch video and request a copy of the business plan, alternatively happy for them to get in touch with my by email at james@synap.ac

    Hope to see you around at future events!

    James Gupta
    Founder, Synap

  2. I heard a rumour a few years ago that you had something in common with the great man. In hushed tones when leavening certain top eateries around West Yorkshire you would hear ‘David Parkin has left the building’ I could never work out whether this was said in sadness or relief!! Have a great weekend. Jon

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