Josh Davidson is co-founder of Night
Zookeeper a recent Smarta
100 winner who is taking part in new tech incubator, Wayra. Here he talks
about what keeps start-up founders passionate.
We have been in the Wayra academy for nearly four months and
it's time for another update. The decisions we now face as a
business are very different to those when we first joined but the
realities of startup life are still very much the same.
This week I was sent a great article by Tim Grimsditch of Six3,
one of our fellow Wayra companies. It was written by Andrew
Montalenti and called 'Why Startups Die'. It's full of valuable
insights and the fact that Tim shared it, reflects the sense of
common purpose that the teams here in Wayra have developed. There
really is a feeling that "we're all in it together" which is
My main takeaway from Andrew's post is that you and your team
have to love what you do and this got me thinking…
About a year ago I was sitting on a bus with a housemate having
a 'Joke Inventing Contest'. It was a half an hour bus trip from
central London to our place in north London. This would probably
have been a fun game for a couple of professional comedians to play
but since neither of us were even amateur comedians, it had turned
into a game of attrition; as bad joke followed nonsensical
sentence. As our bus reached the Angel station inspiration finally
struck me. I turned to my friend, excited to be able to share
something of value at last.
"Ready?" I said
"Ready!" he replied, generously enthusiastic. I took a deep
"Two sheep…. walk into… a BARRRR"
Oh how we laughed. Well I did anyway. He basically just smiled,
but it was clearly a solid effort.
We arrived back at the house, made a cup of tea and I settled
back to watch the football scores roll in, safe in the knowledge
that I had invented a joke.
It was after my 60,342nd retelling of that joke
that I was suddenly inspired to see if it existed online… I wanted
so badly for it to be original. For one thing, I had spent the last
twenty four hours telling everyone that I had invented it.
Google was, of course, the bearer of bad news. Someone had
posted the joke on a forum already. However I realised that it
didn't really matter and I still tell people I invented the joke,
because you know what, I did.
A different search about seven years before brought forward no
results. It was for Night Zookeeper and I must admit I felt great,
but in the time that it has since taken me to start the business, I
have seen the appearance of: Night at the Museum, In the Night
Garden, Zookeeper the movie and many, many others. I know that I
invented Night Zookeeper though and I take a strange comfort from
As creators, entrepreneurs must love their idea. It's one of the
core elements that drive us forward. We are like Dr. Frankenstein's
working all those late nights on our very own monster!
When we started Night Zookeeper, one of our mentors gave us a
survey with questions designed to analyse our motivations for
starting the company. Later, analysing the results, it was clear
that we were all aligned and pulling for the same things. This
knowledge gives me huge comfort as an MD. So it could be a good
activity to do with your co-founders?
One factor that doesn't make the danger list in Andrew's article
is competitors. It's very rare that an abundance of competition
would kill a startup, but a large player or well funded competitor
isn't ideal. However what is more likely to kill your business is
the mentally draining impact of feeling like a competitor is
stealing YOUR idea. This can reduce the motivation of a startup
entrepreneur who is in it for the love of their idea. But it really
shouldn't because if you focus on why you love the idea, what
company philosophy you are trying to instill and how the product/s
you make are unique then you will always find more differences than
similarities with your potential competitor.
This 'competitor effect' isn't specific to existing startups; it
also can stop someone from taking their idea forward into a
business. But, although doing a thorough competitor analysis is
crucial to help you understand your market, discovering competitors
in the space isn't the end of the road. Like my joke, your business
idea may still be worth spreading, especially if you can tell it
well and/or to a new audience of people.
One more thing, on Sunday we received the very exciting news
that we had been selected as part of the Smarta 100! Night
Zookeeper would certainly appear to be the underdogs in this
fantastic competition. However, I hope that some of you like what
we are trying to achieve with our business. We have a profile
here and if you could take the time to vote for us, or any of
the deserving companies in the list, I would really appreciate
For more information about Night Zoo Keeper, click