ManagePlaces is a great example of the fertile atmosphere for cross-faculty, cross-sector start-up activity here on campus – and of how the Business School team are reaching out to support other disciplines as they navigate the digital economy.
A digital success story
ManagePlaces’ core product is a workflow management system for remote teams. The company was established by Aaron Mason in 2009. Aaron is a current Surrey PhD student, who also spent his undergraduate career at Surrey studying Computing and Information technology followed by MSc Internet Computing. ManagePlaces has been funded by the University through the Business Enterprise Student Support Scheme, and later incubated by the European Space Agency and SETSquared, as well as receiving government grant funding. Mason also has a track record of success with his previous start-up, a software-development company called Thoughtified, acquired in 2013 by a fraud detection company.
For help with the ManagePlaces business model, Mason approached Surrey Business School’s Associate Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Professor Alan Brown. Brown put together a team of Surrey MBA students to work intensively with Mason, providing the students with the ideal opportunity to focus on a real-world business challenge, and to work with a company on a meaningful analysis of the issues. ‘This outside perspective was extremely valuable,’ Mason reports, several months on. ‘It changed our direction, and opened up sales opportunities.’
The timely opening of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre provided the next step for ManagePlaces. Applying to join as a Technology SME member meant Mason’s team could apply to access testbed facilities to test new technology. ‘Of course we welcome the prestige that the official Uni connection with 5GIC represents,’ affirms Mason, ‘but also, as our technology is based around mobile and data, it is an obvious link.’ ManagePlaces is seeking expert advice from 5G engineers, as well as a means to run a ‘simulation experiment’ in the 5G facilities. With conditional funding to develop an innovative travel application that makes use of ‘big data’ and ‘indoor positioning’, Mason is on the cusp of great industry interest in digitising the travel and retail experiences.
The story of ManagePlaces spans business and engineering, innovation and entrepreneurship, Surrey Business School, and the 5G Innovation Centre – and it’s taking place at the heart of Surrey’s initiative to predict, comprehend and manage the challenges of the Digital Economy. This initiative is led by the Surrey Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE); a major effort based at Surrey Business School focused on the impact of digital technology on businesses, the economy and society.
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