Spotlight on Innovation: InCrowd

Key points at a glance:

  • There the dozens of networking events in any startup ecosystem, yet finding the right business partners remains challenging.
  • Enter InCrowd, a smartphone app that leverages technology and social networking to bring future collaborators and co-founders together.
  • Using Nifty, InCrowd’s own co-founders were able to claim the R&D Tax incentive twice to extend their cash runway and expand internationally.

A co-founder walks into a bar…

Unless you’re a little bit lucky, finding the right business partner in the startup jungle is hard. Take the often-daunting search for a co-founder. The fortunate few grew up together from childhood, like ice cream pioneers Ben and Jerry. Other times, they met while at uni, such as Mike and Scott from Atlassian. And sometimes, they were already married to one another, as was the case with the husband-and-wife team behind Cisco.

But what of the would-be entrepreneurs without such serendipity - the ones who have a great idea, but nobody obvious to team up with? Perhaps any of the countless co-working spaces, incubators, pub crawls, conferences, or workshops might do the trick? After all, they claim to bring future colleagues together.

Antisocial networking

Maybe, but probably not, says entrepreneur George Konstand (himself a co-founder). In his experience, forming connections at these types of specialised networking events comes with a brand new set of unforeseen challenges.

“There’s nothing more irritating than attending a conference with a thousand other entrepreneurs and knowing that the person you’re looking for is somewhere in that room,” George says.

“I don’t necessarily want to talk to everyone, I just want to talk to the right people. I’m focused, and my time is important to me.”

A self-described ‘antisocial social entrepreneur’, George’s workaround was to ask a question during the event’s Q&A. Any old question would do, so long as he also introduced himself, said what he did, and described what he was looking for.

“That was how I would network. When the Q&A was over, I’d have the right people flock to me with their business cards, either wanting to partner with me, hire me, or recommend me. It was efficient!”

From this little lifehack sprang an investment opportunity, continued George.

“Wouldn’t it be great if I could develop an app that simulated this exact experience at scale? That was my ‘aha!’ moment that led to InCrowd.”

Digitising destiny

The InCrowd smartphone app solves a fundamental problem for entrepreneurs looking to connect and collaborate: it uses tech to help find the right person at the right time, using services such as GPS to refine large crowds at conferences or when travelling. This empowers entrepreneurs to build their networks both locally and globally.

“I figured, if people were getting together using dating apps like Grindr and Tinder, then entrepreneurs should be doing the same,” jokes George.

After bootstrapping InCrowd from a prototype in 2014, funding it from his consulting work, George conducted two years of testing. While George continued to see its potential - even drumming up some investor excitement - the app had a fatal flaw: it was ugly.

It was then that digital designer Myron came on board as a co-founder, providing the app with the sleek-yet-sticky experience George was imagining. Did George meet Myron using InCrowd itself? Sadly not - the two have been friends for almost a decade.

For George, R&D is far and away the most important part of innovation, calling it “the difference between serving a crowd and serving one’s ego.”

“At the end of the day, we are selling to humans,” he explains, “and the only way to do that is to understand their wants, their needs, and to offer a simple solution – and solutions derived from R&D are innovative.”

Though a steadfast R&D champion, George was often too immersed in his own inventions to consider applying for any government grants or incentives. “I figured they were hard to get and/or involved some kind of arduous paperwork that I had no interest in,” he explains.

Fate, however, had other ideas. George began to run out of runway, borrowing money and flogging off valuable possessions. Things changed, however, when George heard of the government’s R&D Tax Incentive. After an extended Google session, George decided to give Nifty a call.

Nifty + R&D Tax Incentive = lifesaver

At first, George was skeptical of receiving the incentive, despite engaging in a considerable amount of app development and R&D. He needn’t have worried. After a simple and straightforward application process, Nifty submitted his claim and the grant came through.

Following the first grant, George has made a second successful R&D claim, and will be looking to use Nifty in the future as he looks to take InCrowd international.

“Nifty were a godsend,” he exclaimed. “They saved the life of InCrowd.”

Reinventing with R&D

Ever the pragmatist, George injected the proceeds from the refund back into innovation, testing code, adjusting the user experience, and managing the app’s backend.

The refund has also allowed George and the team to enter the next phase of the app’s development, launching version 2.0 halfway through 2017, and continuing to reinvent how entrepreneurs network.

“From both Myron and myself our only promise is that it won’t be boring!”