Entrepreneurship is not only about that great idea, it’s also about good timing and sacrifice as Bonnie Lawson-Brown recently reminded me. After more than a year away from the media, the military wife behind SilverIMP, a geo-fenced notification and data service, agreed to participate in a Startup Interview. We met up to chat about her big idea, the importance of patents, life as a businesswoman and military wife, and why entrepreneurship isn’t all plain sailing.
Bonnie has recommended that we meet in Black Medicine on a sunny morning in early June. She’s just arrived when I get there so has not yet had the time to order herself a coffee and gluten-free macaroon. She does so before taking a pew on one of the many wooden benches in the middle of the café. As she does so, she tells me a little bit about herself; “I’ve recently turned thirty-six, a number I didn’t quite believe was real until it happened,” Bonnie says with a laugh. “I’m a mum of two, wife of one, friend of many, confident of,” she pauses to think, “over the years, I’ve probably met thousands of people, but hand on heart, I have a very tight handful of great friends that I would call on.” I find this interesting because, so far, Bonnie has yet to mention her business. It’s an interesting insight into the thoughts and focus of an individual behind their entrepreneurial mask.
We’ve met before, albeit only briefly, at the Engage Invest Exploit conference now infamous as Scotland’s best showcase for tech startups, however, I have to admit that, from our brief encounter and my pre-interview research, I am none-the-wiser as to what it is that Bonnie does so I ask her to explain the idea behind SilverIMP. She explains that it all started with an idea to be able to “access instant media notifications via poster, video or a piece of text but only from businesses and brands that interest me.” At the time, Bonnie was taking an Open University course in Retail Marketing and Management in order to become a retail manager – “so I wouldn’t have bosses above me, I wanted to be a boss and have my own team,” she explains – and the idea came to mind as the course paid very little attention to digital marketing, focusing instead on television, radio and print. Not wanting to be distracted by countless campaigns adorning the high street windows, she felt that a digital application could better filter advertising for each individual. A few years on, a variant on her idea can now be seen in the likes of digital shopping applications, however, Bonnie’s vision for her innovation goes a lot further than simply being the latest means for advertisers to get at you.
“iBeacons are becoming very popular and well established and they aren’t something I want to try and compete with,” Bonnie tells me. “I still want people to be able to receive media and messaging dependent on their location, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be advertising.” She recalls how she was sat in Starbucks one day when her patent application for proximity media marketing came through and that she downloaded it out of excitement, not sparing a thought for who might be watching her internet movement. “I thought to myself, ‘what if that email had waited until I’d arrived back at home where I could use my own WiFi – which is private and secure – to download it to my device?’” she says.