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Entrepreneurship

 

Venturing forth: livil

Startup founded by Cambridge MBA alumnus helps to make office work online easier.

Shot of colleagues working on their computers in an open plan office

In the pre-Internet age, “multi-tasking” was often pretty modest – perhaps just typing a document while being put on hold during a telephone call. These days, there are a lot more balls to juggle for most professional people.

Nils Frers (MBA 2009)

Nils Frers

“If you were to ask around in a busy coffee shop filled with 100 people looking at their laptop screens, 44 would say that they are working on two to five topics and 49 people are tackling more than five projects at a given point in time,” says Nils Frers (MBA 2009), who has launched a startup called livil that aims to simplify people’s day-to-day work online.

The livil platform consolidates and connects online tools that people are often using at work – including Gmail, Outlook, Dropbox, Yahoo!, Google Docs, OneDrive, Skype and Google Calendar. The aim is to create a bit more harmony in using these applications in whatever order or configuration.

The idea for the startup came from Nils’s experience while working for different consulting and automotive companies in Germany and the UK. Nils experienced difficulties organising his work when using different applications or tools.

“For example, let’s say you need to update a marketing leaflet: previous leaflets are saved in Dropbox; the new logo has been shared by the design agency via Google Drive; colleagues have provided input via Slack; and further information is on Trello, whilst volunteers have shared their feedback via email. So a straightforward task is now a complex process involving six or more tools with individual log-ins,” Nils says.

Livil’s solution to this is an online dashboard where all these tools are integrated and the user can customise how the tools will be displayed. The content from different sources can easily be connected using drag and drop. All related content (a marketing leaflet, for example) can also be searched and conveniently displayed in one place.
The target audience for Livil is small businesses, freelancers and anyone who’s working on multiple projects.

The startup was launched earlier this year, but Nils and his team have been working on it since 2015. The Cambridge-based team of four wanted to test their idea first, and launched a survey where 240 people provided feedback and shared their daily struggles. The survey showed that 83 per cent of people responding use three or more different email accounts daily, and 68 per cent said they use multiple file-sharing tools.

Before the product was officially launched this month, Nils managed to get more than 500 customers on the waiting list. One of the customers said: “I’m a full-time freelancer and have four or five clients at any given time. I have to work within their system which means I have multiple emails to check and multiple communications and task apps running, not to mention checking in on social media platforms or working on programs like Photoshop. I’d love to have some sort of platform that I could use as my own dashboard, but it would integrate my clients’ processes without having to login individually to each one.”

Nils said he caught the “entrepreneurial bug” during his time at Cambridge Judge Business School: “I’m that kind of person that likes to be challenged and offer solutions to a problem. As soon as I started my MBA studies I got involved in various entrepreneurship events, including attending Enterprise Tuesdays and organising Silicon Valley comes to Cambridge event. I knew I’ll run my own business one day, so I was making all the possible connections and networking whenever I could.”

He managed to get one of Cambridge Judge Business School’s academics on board. Mark de Rond, Professor of Organisational Ethnography at the School, will share his knowledge and experience on teams and what are the challenges for people interacting online. Mark has closely studied the Cambridge University Boat Crew and combat surgeons in Afghanistan, among other high-performing teams.

Mark said: “Nils was an outstanding student, and it is good to see him put his significant talent to work in designing and commercialising a solution to the frustrations many of us face in multitasking online. Livil should be a godsend for freelancers and small businesses managing multiple projects and clients across different platforms.”

Livil is now available for businesses in UK and Nils is planning to launch in other countries as well as start work on a smartphone application. The main challenge is how to advertise and market the product: “I think what we offer is something unique but at the same time quite technical. People need to see how it actually works before signing up for it,” he says.


This article is part of Venturing Forth, our new series on the aspirations and challenges of ventures connected to students, alumni and others associated with Cambridge Judge Business School.