My Week: David Langer of GroupSpaces

The technology entrepreneur on the triathlon, working on Silicon Roundabout, and breaking the US.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

After I wake up, I usually train first thing in the morning – whether that’s going for a run, going to the gym or going for a swim. Last week, training was particularly important because on Sunday, I did the London triathlon. It was only my second year doing it, but I managed to beat my previous personal best by nine minutes – I did it in two hours, 36 minutes.
Sport has always been important to me: it’s very cathartic. Running GroupSpaces, our website which helps clubs digitally manage their memberships, can be a lot of pressure – but exercise takes up all that pent-up energy I’ve got left over from the day. When I was younger, I was on the England Table Tennis squad. Obviously triathlon is quite a shift away from table tennis – but either way, it’s always been important to me to have sport in my life. I’m a firm believer in healthy body, healthy mind.
Because GroupSpaces was founded when my business partner Andy and I were still students, we still have quite a student attitude: we usually get into the office around 10 or 10.30. It’s only a 10 or 15-minute walk from where I live in Angel to our office in Old Street. This is very much by design: when I was studying at Oxford, the best piece of advice my lecturers gave us was ‘live as close to your office as possible’. When you’re running a business, you try to optimise your time during the day, so if you can spend as little time as possible travelling, that helps.
We moved our offices from Oxford to Old Street roundabout (also known as ‘Silicon Roundabout’) earlier this year so we could be closer to the London tech scene. Moo, the online printing company, sub-lets half its office space to different tech businesses, so we’re in an office with the likes of Tweetdeck and Soundcloud. It’s a really cool environment, there are lots of other start-ups to talk to about the things you’re doing, and it helps us build contacts: on Tuesday, we went round to (Bebo founder) Michael Birch’s house to talk coffee and viral marketing. He has an amazing house overlooking Regent’s Park – and more importantly, he gave us some great tips on things we could do with GroupSpaces.
In the evening, we had a team dinner, followed by bowling. We’ve started a bowling league – it’s a good team-building exercise, getting people doing stuff other than sitting in front of the computer. That said, I only came second in both games, so I was a little frustrated. Last time we played, I won – but that was before we started the league, so it doesn’t count…
Earlier on this year, we gained $1.3m (£830,000) of investment from Index Ventures, and since then, our team has grown from four to 12. On Wednesday, I had an interview with another potential technical hire who might join the team. It’s a very exciting time.
I spent the rest of Wednesday preparing for the next day: we were invited by the National Union of Students to be part of their national training at Loughborough University for all the societies officers and sports club officers in the UK. We were training them up on how to manage their communications. It was a big day.
When we first started the business, it was a bit like Facebook – at first, we only launched the product at our own university, and then started to roll it out to other universities across the UK. Now it’s diversified into all different types of group – almost half our user-base are now non-student groups. What we’ve found is that regardless of the type of group, they all need similar things: each group needs to communicate with their members, have an email list, organise events, etc – it’s generic problems we’re solving.
On Friday, we had some calls with our team in the US. We’ve just opened an office in New York and we’re launching quite aggressively into the US student market at the moment, so we needed to talk about our plans for that. The main difference between the two countries is the size of the market. In the UK, there are about 15,000 student clubs and societies – in the US, there are about 1.2 million. Pleasingly for us, though, the actual needs of the two groups seem to be similar – in terms of adoption, the US has been very consistent with the UK.
Also on Friday, we were identified by the Telegraph as one of its top 10 European technology companies to watch – which was very nice. That was published at about four or five o’clock on Friday afternoon. All in all, a pretty good way to end the week.

David Langer is co-founder of GroupSpaces, a technology which enables groups to manage memberships more easily.

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