GroupSpaces, an Oxford-based Web company which provides online tools for real-world groups has recently arrived back from Silicon Valley after being selected to attend WebMission 2008, a week-long trade mission for the UK’s twenty most promising Web companies
Founded by two Oxford students GroupSpaces.com arose from frustration at the multitude of different websites which clubs and societies at Oxford University were using to organise themselves online. GroupSpaces CEO David Langer said: ‘As a former president of two University societies I became increasingly annoyed with the mash-up of disconnected tools groups were using to manage themselves online – mailing lists on Yahoo! Groups, spreadsheets in Excel, events on Facebook, ancient websites – people were spending a disproportionate amount of time organising their groups across multiple platforms. There was a clear need to connect everything up and that’s what inspired us to create GroupSpaces.’
Chief Technical Officer Andrew Young, Vice President of Oxford Entrepreneurs and an experienced Web developer, added: ‘We both thought there must be a better way for groups to communicate with and manage their members’.
Young explained the unique solution provided by the Company: ‘GroupSpaces has created a free web-based service that solves all the problems of group managers with a combination of powerful, easy-to-use tools and an integrated portal. The online toolset is designed to fit in with each groups’ existing conventions, helping to establish efficient, robust procedures and facilitating collaboration between group members, managers and the wider world. Most groups have a common set of needs - communication channels, membership and database management, website provision and event organisation and promotion – GroupSpaces is designed to help with all of these.’
The team developed their initial ideas with the help of the Saïd Business School’s entrepreneurship activities including the Oxford Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s flagship Building a Business course for science and technology entrepreneurship, and the annual Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford event where valuable contacts were made.
During Web Mission week in April this year they were able to take advantage of these contacts to set up meetings with some of the top Silicon Valley start-ups, from whom they received useful feedback. In addition, David and Andrew were invited for sessions with some leading venture capitalists in Silicon Valley including a meeting with Oxford alum Michael Mortiz at Sequoia Capital where they were able to share the wisdom of the man who invested in and sat on the boards of Google and Yahoo!
In January 2008, GroupSpaces completed a 6-figure round of investment funding from a syndicate of experienced Angel Investors including London-based Avonmore Development - which made them the youngest Oxford University entrepreneurs to receive venture funding.
A pilot of GroupSpaces is currently in operation with 40,000 users and the product is being developed with the benefit of their live feedback. As well as large societies such as The Oxford Union, Oxford Entrepreneurs and Imperial Entrepreneurs, many of the Junior Common Rooms at Oxford Colleges are adopting GroupSpaces’ mailing list facilities. Oxford University Careers Service also benefits from the service. Former Director, Terry Dray said: ‘The innovative website offered by GroupSpaces has helped even more students to find out about our events and services. They are bridging the gap between university societies and graduate recruiters in a revolutionary manner.’
Adam O’Boyle, Sabbatical Officer for The Oxford Hub, an umbrella organisation for all the charities in Oxford, commented: ‘GroupSpaces have created all, and more, that we could have wanted for us and our member charities. Our students can now get on with actually running their groups.’
With more than 6,000 unique visits to the website every month, GroupSpaces has secured advertising contracts with over 50 blue-chip clients including IBM, BP, McKinsey & Company, Bain Capital, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and JPMorgan.
GroupSpaces is currently focused on rolling its online tools out to the 25,000 UK-based university clubs and societies, and will also be commencing a pilot with local groups outside the student market over the summer months.
US-based Nexo Systems estimates there to be over 100 million groups in the US alone, and GroupSpaces’ mission is to become the essential provider of online tools for real-world groups.
For further details about GroupSpaces visit www.groupspaces.com