LivingLens is one of the businesses taking part in the PlatformX accelerator that Virgin StartUp and Virgin Trains East coast have partnered to create. For the next weeks the businesses will be working closely with innovation experts to scale up and develop their ideas. Here Kat Hounsell of LivingLens describes how the experience is going so far.

In this blog we want to share with you our experience of being part of the Virgin Trains + Plaform-X accelerator programme delivered by Virgin StartUp. LivingLens transforms how brands make customer led decisions by turning video and other digital assets into actionable insights. The company was started in 2014 in Liverpool and has been growing ever since. We now have offices in Liverpool, London and New York. We saw the programme being promoted through social media, and thought we’d give it a go. A couple of weeks on, following a successful pitch process, here we are!

We are already in week 2 of the Virgin Trains Platform-X accelerator programme, and have gained some further insight into how the programme will progress.

The session started with a presentation by Mark Pettman, Innovation R&D Manager. Virgin Trains is the only train operating company with a team dedicated to innovation. So, although Platform-X is new, it is certainly not the first time Virgin Trains has had its sights set on innovation. He gave us a whistle-stop tour of the history of Virgin Trains and some extremely valuable background context. It makes you realise that as a consumer, even if you use the trains every day, you only know one side of the story. The complexities around ownership and who runs certain aspects covering trains, stations and other elements of infrastructure, remains mainly unseen by the general public. And this is sure to apply to other sectors too.

Lesson 1 – Do your homework. To begin to crawl you need to understand the problems a sector is trying to solve, and also the complexities it faces. This shouldn’t stifle creativity, but is important context which allows a great idea to flourish into a ground-breaking innovation.

Next we heard more about pulling together our business proposal. The criteria given clearly showed the level of ambition Virgin Trains has. Not only in improving journeys for Virgin Trains customers, but also driving innovation for the whole rail industry.

Lesson 2 – Be curious. From understanding context to being familiar with a process. Talking to the right people about what is required is key. Not only does it ensure you meet basic expectations, but can help guide and shape your ideas. It’s important to take people on the journey with you and demonstrate value as early in the process as possible. Start walking by taking baby steps. Don’t wait for a big reveal, you might just find that no-one is there to watch.

The second presentation of the day was by Axel Katalan, CMO of Pointr Labs. He was able to give us a fascinating first-hand account into what it is like to be a start-up working with Virgin Trains. The speed at which Platform-X is moving at, is not new. Pointr Labs went from a business case to being live at King’s Cross in a matter of months. They found Virgin Trains to be really supportive during the whole process, including both internal and external PR support. With a successful pilot under their belt, they are now looking to expand their relationship by working with other members of the Virgin Group.

Lesson 3 - Be patient. Companies want good ideas and they want them to succeed. However, ideas need to be brought to life and any risk put into context. In this case, having a strong case study in one part of the Virgin Group is a great introduction to other Virgin companies.

For the time being we’ll stick to getting up to running speed with Virgin Trains before we attempt to fly with Virgin Atlantic!


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