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Sum of two parts (Nonesuch autumn 2014)

David Jessup (BSc 1975) and Oliver Spragg (BEng 2013, MEng 2013-)

5 November 2014

When Maths graduate David Jessup volunteered to help with student enterprise, he hoped to share his professional experience and learn a few new skills. That was before he met final-year Engineering student Oliver Spragg. Now, David and Oliver are starting a company together.

David Jessup (BSc 1975)

At the age of 58, I wanted something totally different – a 'next career' – and to give something back to Bristol. My daughter, Kathryn (BSc 2013), introduced me to the Research and Enterprise Development (RED) division, and I started mentoring several undergraduate businesses.

Over a coffee in The Hawthorns, Oliver showed me an early prototype of one of his inventions. We started spending more time together, kicking ideas about and developing material. One day, we looked at each other, and realised we were co-founding a company.

We’ve never got bogged down in defining my role as mentor. What actually matters is whether we get on, whether our conversations move things along, and whether each of us is making the other’s business life more interesting.

Bristol gave me the mindset that you’re never too old to keep learning. I’ve certainly learnt a lot from Oliver – that it’s important to stay open-minded; that there’s always a workaround; to have the courage to just talk to people; and to stick to your vision. If it feels right, it probably is right.

Only the best start-ups survive, and luck always plays a role. But, whatever happens, as I tell my wife Edith (née Monfries) (BA 1984), and my children, we’ll always count Oliver as a great friend. I know from my career that when you fight together, and compete together, on a live project, you form bonds that are hard to break.

Oliver Spragg (BEng 2013, MEng 2013-)

I became inadvertently immersed in the enterprise 'scene' at Bristol when I met Shaun Miller (BSc 2012). Shaun and I worked together on an idea to help golfers accurately record their swing and get feedback on how to improve their game. David’s a golfer, so our idea captured his imagination.

When the golf venture came to a close, I shared another idea with David – the technology to help make paying for goods with a smartphone easier for both consumers and businesses. After an epic chat, we realised we had another project to work on together.

David’s role soon became far more than that of mentor, and we’re currently both focused full-time on building and growing the company. We have a huge workload, and problems to solve at every stage, but there’s very little as exciting or heart-wrenching as starting a business.

Since the beginning, I’ve been in awe of David’s ability to break down a complex idea, situation or project, and clear everyone’s thinking. He’s also taught me to always consider the end goal. That advice has guided many of my business and personal decisions since, and has made a noticeable difference to the way I handle both opportunities and problems.

Starting a business is incredibly risky – there are very few constants. But, in David, I believe I’ve found a friend who will be a constant, through the good times and the bad. 

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