in WriteLaTeX

Joining Bethnal Green Ventures

July has always been a favourite month of mine — sunshine (occasionally), summer holidays (usually), and celebrations (it’s my birthday in a few weeks :-)).

This year July is bringing something new — a move to London and a place on the Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator programme.

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John Lees-Miller and I are the two founders of writeLaTeX, a free service that lets you collaborate in real-time on scientific papers and presentations, as part of a cloud-based approach to academic publishing. We’ve been developing writeLaTeX for a while now, and with its growing popularity we were looking for support and investment to take the idea further. A good friend of ours recommended the BGV programme, and we were delighted to be accepted as part of the 2013 summer cohort.

This cohort consists of ten companies, all working in areas of social and environmental responsibility — people looking to “really improve things that matter in the offline world”, to steal a line from the BGV website. This has always been important to me — I’ve grown up wanting to work on projects that have the ability to make a difference in the world, and this was one of the main reasons I left academia after my PhD to work on an innovative new transport solution looking to revolutionise the way we get around our towns and cities.

First Passenger Trials for Heathrow's Driverless Car.

Using the Ultra Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) system at Heathrow Airport

The gentleman in the centre of the photograph above is Professor Martin Lowson, a fantastic man who was a true engineer and innovator across many disciplines. After working on such things as the Apollo rocket programme and for Westland helicopters, it was in 1995 whilst at the University of Bristol that he produced the concept paper for the driverless taxis now operating at London’s Heathrow airport, designed and installed by the company he founded, Ultra PRT.

Martin was the man who interviewed me for my role at Ultra in early 2008, and was a great mentor as I found my feet on the many different projects and opportunities that arise when working for a small company developing an innovative new idea. Martin sadly passed away earlier this month, and I shall miss him a great deal — not only was he a good friend, he took a keen interest in writeLaTeX, and offered much good advice (and probing critique!).

So this July is an exciting new beginning in London — with the gentle reminder that we all have only a finite number of Julys to really make that difference to the world, as Martin most certainly did.

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