From Southampton to Silicon Valley!

Zack Young applied for a place in the Catalyst Centre two years ago with his tech start-up Cherry Bird, an innovative platform for student letting. Cherry Bird is designed to give control back to the tenants whilst making life easier for landlords – an idea born out of his own personal experience. Taking away the confusion of renting for the first time, the system allows student tenants not only to find properties but also sign letting agreements and guarantor forms as well as paying their rent, bills and utilities all in one place online.

When Zack arrived at the Catalyst Centre he had a great idea, a lot of enthusiasm, the drive to succeed and investment from friends and family. With this promising start, he entered the Catalyst Centre ready to get going and boy did he get going! At his graduation Zack said: “Winning a place here has helped my business by giving me a higher level of credibility. It’s given my business a real advantage in the competitive world of start-ups.” So, we were keen to catch up with him to find out where he is now and what’s been going on.

Since leaving the Catalyst Centre 18 months ago, Cherry Bird has been non-stop, hiring further staff including a CTO. The team has also been touring the country’s universities spreading the word about their ingenious solution in association with NACUE, the network of student societies. From Bristol to Cardiff to York and many more, Cherry Bird has flown right across the UK.

After the Catalyst Centre, the Company took a place in Oxygen Accelerator based at Google Campus and is now a full time resident in London’s Tech City with another office in Cardiff. The rapid expansion means that Zack and his team are currently midway through raising funds for their second phase. Things are certainly looking promising for the future.

In an amazing opportunity, Zack also recently took part in LDN2SFO, a week created to bring the best of London-based entrepreneurs to San Francisco and Silicon Valley: the global exemplar of start-up culture that Zack describes as “a huge beating heart of innovation”. We wanted to dig deep and find out what he learnt from the trip, so here’s what Zack had to say about his key lessons from Silicon Valley: 

“I believe the Valley produces so many success stories because of three key elements:

1. Work Ethic

Unlike here in the UK, weekends don’t happen in the start-up world. Each day is another opportunity to create, launch and change the world. Rest days don’t really exist – people just continue but build in fun each day. Here, we have this strong belief that everyone deserves the weekend, so start-ups over the pond get an additional two days a week to speed ahead. I don’t believe this is going to change anytime soon, it’s too built into our culture. Oh, and everyone is ready to work hard! Money is much less important in the start-up work ethic – it’s all about being part of the next big thing and changing the world. But I should probably add here that developers in the Valley get paid huge sums of money – code is king.

2. Funding

There is no shortage of funding in the Valley and, if you have a good network and a good team, you can be sure someone will fund your early stage venture. It’s all about numbers in the States and funding is driven by VCs; they’ll fund a few $100k into new ideas knowing that one in a hundred will do well.

3. Talent

There are excellent people everywhere but the eco-system that has been created in the Valley means that everyone works in a start-up. During my visit, you were never asked ‘what do you do?’ but instead, ‘who do you work for?’ because everyone assumes you work for a start-up. This start-up driven culture means that people fall into other start-ups when things don’t work out – the work ethic is retained and the knowledge passed on. You’ve obviously also got the giants like Google and Facebook there too so everyone seems to step up their game. 

It was a fantastic opportunity for me to explore the very cool but relaxed San Francisco and then take a trip down to the Valley and see where the action is. It was eye-opening and has inspired me to step up our game.”

If you fancy following in Zack’s footsteps, why not apply for the Catalyst Centre? Be quick though – with just four days left to get your application in!