Interview: Tristan Abbott – Howdy, partner.

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HowdyHub, the networking app connecting visitors to the Like Minds event, has its origins in an introduction that launched a distinguished career.

This is one of a series of interviews leading up to Like Minds, Bristol – powered by Barclays  which takes place on September 8th & 9th. You can learn more about the event and book tickets here.

If there is one key principle driving British innovation culture that is reflected with the clarity of a mirror by the Like Minds Ideas Festival, it is that introductions count.

Introductions make the world go round – something no one understands better than the team at Howdy, the event platform ­­dedicated to enabling visitors to meet the right people, that has been adopted by the conference.

“Introductions, and creating a truly valuable network around you and your company, is the key to any startup’s success,” says Howdy co-founder Tristan Abbott.

I think everyone has started to realise that just harvesting thousands of connections on LinkedIn is not actually all that valuable. Howdy strives to create a truly valuable network around the people you meet at conferences and gives you the tools to really manage that network and make the best out of it.

Launched earlier this year by Tristan, his brother Ben and co-founder William Wynne, Howdy has been trialled successfully at events such as the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) in Dubai.

It owes its inspiration to an introduction that changed the life of the Abbott brothers’ father, Trevor, whose introduction to Richard Branson by an old friend launched a career that resulted in him becoming the iconic Virgin Group’s CEO in 1989.

Described as an “an intelligent networking app”, Howdy is focused smartly on one key aspect of functionality: employing artificial intelligence to generate clever recommendations for people at events to meet other people.

“We wanted to add a real degree of intelligence to the conference experience,” says Tristan. If you go to an event, whether there are a few hundred or 5,000 people attending, it can be very hard to find the right people to meet. Howdy makes that a lot more simple.

“If you are a young entrepreneur and Howdy learns from your actions that you are looking for investors, it will start surfacing more investors for you to meet down the line. Similarly, if your status and your needs change, it will change with you.”

A key element of Howdy’s appeal is its simplicity – users can make an introduction with just three taps and, once downloaded, the platform can also be used for other events without the need to download their own custom-built (and often clunky) apps.

Tristan says Howdy keeps things simple by retaining a clear focus: “A lot of other applications out there spread their load over a dozen or more pieces of functionality, and people who download these tend to be overwhelmed by all the choice and end up not using very much of what’s on offer after all.”

This emphasis on simplicity is bolstered by a commitment to the exciting startup culture experienced by Tristan first-hand while working in San Francisco as an intern with sports news aggregator SportStream, which was bought by Facebook in 2013.

Abbott caught the bug, turning his back upon his return on the prospect of a corporate career to follow his heart as an entrepreneur.

“I just really fell in love with the ethos and the approach of that San Francisco startup culture – an open culture that really breeds a lot of success. I came back to London and had a brief stint in finance but this itch wouldn’t go away – I always wanted to start my own company.”

If there is one thing Tristan learned Stateside, he reflects, it is how important that culture can be to innovation.

“At Howdy we practise this culture in our own British way – for example, our co-founder Will is a young graduate aged 24 but has already taken on a huge amount of responsibility. We have a completely open culture, everyone is equal and can share their opinions, and we have really thrived from open debate.”

His experience so far, says Tristan, leads him to believe that this cultural revolution is gathering momentum in the UK.

“We’ve had only a few really big success stories so far in the UK – like DeepMind which was acquired by Google, for example – but I think it’s getting a lot better.

“Having seen the startup culture in London and being involved in it for the past year or so, I can really see a willingness to break out among a lot of talented people. It’s only a matter of time that there will be a big breakthrough here.”

To hear more on this from our stellar line up of speakers, come and join us at the Like Minds, Bristol, “Innovation & Ideas Festival” – powered by Barclays on September 8th & 9th. Read more and book tickets here.

About the author

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Gavin O'Toole is Consultant, Head of Research at Onyx and a journalist, author and copywriter with a specialism in finance and business.