Bonnie Lawson-Brown, In At The Deep-end!

Bonnie developed a tech startup with literally no previous knowledge or experience of development or the tech market. Her company, Silver IMP has patents pending in the USA and EU, Silver IMP has been selected for the Microsoft (ISV) programme, and she is now in discussions with major multinational companies to develop its application across finance, security, health and education, retail and social.

“She who dares wins!” This is the elite forces mantra,  I say it every day and believe it has empowered me to become the person I have always envisioned myself capable of becoming.

“My Career Journey” explores the rich and varied career paths of professional women, working in technology. Their career paths are often characterised by serendipitous events or connections, and brave changes in direction.  I will be exploring the common themes that have stayed with them throughout their journey, and those “Aha!” moments, that propelled them forwards.

I met Bonnie at the Girl Geek Scotland, Dinner at Summerhall, Edinburgh in 2012, when she was singled out by one of our four Silicon Valley Speakers as ‘a wonderful and inspiring young woman’ sitting in our audience. After a serendipitous meeting, and a shared bus ride, followed by a shared bottle of wine, we became good friends. At that time Bonnie was just starting her journey as an entrepreneur…

Tell us a bit about yourself before Silver IMP

I consider myself very fortunate to have always had close friends, supportive family and  fantastic husband. Our life has been interesting, as we have been married for 19 yrs and have moved our family unit 13 times living in 4 different countries from Cyprus to Germany England & Scotland. I have previously spent my spare time volunteering with Army charities and setting up social groups for spouses.

I was married and had children while very young. The travelling involved in being an army wife meant that I did not go to university at that age. In spite of those limitations, I have always felt I could, and been told I *should*, ‘put my brain to work’. I was simply limited by my situation. So, I sought out ways to use my time productively for the benefit of others. I worked a lot in early years education, both as a pre-school key worker, and later a primary school parent volunteer. In the back of my mind I wanted to study and further my knowledge as soon as an opportunity arose.

The opportunity for self-development. So, moving to Edinburgh in 2011 gave me the perfect opportunity for self-development. I began working at M&S to earn some extra cash. It was during a feedback session with floor managers on store layout, where I had taken an active role (and was very pleased and proud to be taken ‘seriously’ on my suggestions for improvement), that I decided to study retail so I that I could pursue a career in Management. I applied immediately, and was delighted to be accepted and became a mature student!

Work became my research. I continued to work at M&S, and gain first hand experience whilst also studying for an OU Degree in Retail at The Open University. My initial module ‘An Introduction To Retail Marketing and Management’, focused on communication with retail customers. Then, within the first few weeks of working at M&S, I was asked to “meet and greet” customers. This gave me the opportunity to watch how many people passed by the front doors. so, my job quickly became my research.

Suddenly I had lots of ideas! It led to a new way of thinking! It was during this time that I first began to think about the possibilities of marketing using mobile technology, which later led to the development of Silver IMP (Intelligent Media Provisioning).

Can you describe the real “Aha!” moment?

I was walking along Princes Street, and I had seen many posters advertising offers and so on, in the stores I passed. There were too many posters, and too much information to take in.

I had my smartphone in hand and stopped in the middle of the Street as an idea came to mind… “Why not offer me information when in range direct to my device that was of specific interest to me through Wifi”. That was to be the beginning of the IMP idea.

What were the pivotal events that led you to where you are now?

I started by contracting out the development of the initial prototypefor IMP. Since then I have met many inspirational business leaders at events in Scotland and London. I listen to their advice, and take what works for me and my business (and try not to distracted by things that don’t sound quite right).

In fact, I met Håkan Andersson in 2013 at an event in Stockholm.Håkan became Silver IMP CTO. He helped me to see the potential of the IMP location-based, technology. Soon, we were looking at the technology for applications beyond the high street. Security became the next big idea.

Then, I met Professor Bill Buchanan (following a Chambers network event), to discuss the possibility of developing a Scottish Enterprise innovation voucher application. We secured a grant to fund research for a Secure IMP software. This led to the development of a geo fenced digital data delivery system, using encryption and 2 factor authentication. It was a significant expansion of the IMP IP, which is now patent pending Europe and US.

So what stage are you at now? Can you describe Silver IMP?

In 2015, Silver IMP was selected to become a Microsoft ISV company. We have been meeting with potential partners and interested investors. Claus Hetting(WiFi Now) has joined the board. He brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and high level contacts, in the WiFi telco and mobile industry.

We are currently working on strengthening our WiFi business connections, and building a specific product that meets market need, while recognising the need for a less intrusive marketing methods.

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