About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Psonar icons - 20 shades of startup

Tech investor Martin Rigby and software developer Richard Urwin originally created Psonar in 2008 as a mobile service that connects people to their music in the cloud. In 2010, the two decided to pivot the business towards monetising music with the help of micropayments.

Since launching the Beta version in 2011, customers can buy credit and be charged small amounts (one or two pence) per song played. Psonar combined a variety of financing sources to grow their business, including bootstrapping (i.e. investing their own money), angel investors and crowdfunding.

In the coming year, signing licences with more major record labels and forming new partnerships are on Psonar’s to-do list.

We asked Martin about his experience and reflections on starting up

What did you find most challenging when starting your startup?

Getting the right development talent and keeping the right development talent has been challenging. At the moment I think that UK developer talent, particularly in mobile, is grossly overpriced. We’re having to pay too much, which is why we’re looking abroad.

Psonar logo - 20 shades of startup

What do you think about the funding opportunities for startups more generally?

I think the angel funding in the UK works really well. There are lots of people out there interested in doing it. SEIS obviously is fantastic. So, at seed stage there isn’t a problem. I think series A is more challenging.

And what is your experience of government support initiatives?

They are all very different. I think EIS is the most pain free; it’s very easy to use. R&D tax credit is a bit labyrinth-like; but we’ve ended up with a solution which is reasonably satisfactory. UKTI is, I think, probably a bit more complicated than it needs to be; but nonetheless they’ve been very supportive and we’ve had good value out of them. And Growth Accelerator has been pretty straightforward.

You started in Cambridge – how did that work for you?

The business is very virtual. If you look at our digital team, our social media and marketing guys are in Brighton; our PR and promo people are in Bath. We’re looking at recruiting developers based in Poznan. So, the geographical centre isn’t important.