Getting To Know You: Jonathan May, co-founder, Sponsorcraft

Since graduating with first-class honours in Computer Science from The University of Cambridge, Jonathan has been involved in a number of entrepreneurial ventures, including Pure42, TangibleFX and Silicon Futures.

Currently CEO and co-founder of Sponsorcraft, a company which provides a platform for crowdfunding to students in higher education here he tells us what inspires him.

What do you currently do?

I run a brilliant team of people at Sponsorcraft , the world’s leading education crowdfunding platform. We work with students, universities, schools and colleges to create awesome projects, inspire and connect networks, and bring accessible funding to everyone involved in education.

What is your inspiration in the business

In a volatile world where traditional institutions are being swept away by the web, and where governmental default is a realistic outcome (and cuts a certainty!), the only thing that educational institutions can guarantee and rely upon is their current and former student community.

This community is the future of those institutions, as well as the future of the world.

The world’s educational institutions need to create tools, platforms and programmes that engage these students – and alumni – and bring them together to create and deliver projects that can ensure the financial viability and sustainability of the institution, and the vital work that goes on inside it.

I personally would love to set awesome ideas free from the constraints of volatile markets and governments, and enable democratic, free flow of accessible funding to the most important pieces of work, and to the students who are creating our future.

Who do you admire?

People who create things, and people who are unafraid to speak their mind.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?

Absolutely. It’s going to sound a bit cliched, but the two biggest things were to listen harder and deeper to the customer, and to stop thinking too hard about scalability too early.

Our critical pivot that enabled us to grow and scale was told to us by a customer before we’d even shipped our first product (getting the universities on board as whitelabel partners), but it took another 12 months of input before we decided we were committed to doing it.

We also made sacrifices in the way we wanted to do business because we decided that they weren’t scalable. This is a mistake. By trying unscalable things, you have a chance to figure out whether the customer likes them, you get better customer feedback, and more customers. Then you can figure out if there are ways to scale it. We spent too long worrying about scalability at the cost of customer development and acquisition in the early days.

What defines your way of doing business?

Creativity: we are a very creative team; we invent things all the time. As we’ve grown, we’ve started putting in place processes, to help guide the creativity, but it remains at the forefront of who we are.

Trust: we operate openly, give freely of our time, and are very trusting of others. We grow through partners, and our partners grow through us.

Integrity: we do “the right thing”. In the end, a business is just a collection of citizens with a purpose, and it has a role within a society. With that role comes responsibility for other citizens. We try to apply our personal values to the business and bring it up as if it’s a child – allowing it to develop, but with socially responsible values at its core.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Believe in yourself and your ideas. The world is full of people who will – through a combination of short-sightedness, jealousy, and fear – never start their own ventures, and as a result, resent and reject those who do. These people are the biggest barrier to start-ups and new entrepreneurs, because the barriers are psychological and test the willingness to take a risk, to step out of your comfort zone.

When you step out there, you’ll realise that you’ll take people with you. You don’t need anyone’s permission but your own.