Innovation in Shoreditch : Interview with James McBennett Co-Founder of Fabsie

6c9d668fJames is co-founder of Fabsie. He maintains interests in entrepreneurship, architecture and digital design. He presented at the TED2012 Finalist auditions and is regularly involved in the organising of TEDxEvents such as TEDxLondon and TEDxDublin. A keen outdoor endurance swimmer, James attempted the Channel Swim from England to France in 2011, but unfortunately swam in the wrong direction towards Holland abandoning the attempt 36km from shore and hopes to reattempt in the near future.

G: Tell us about your business.

Fabsie is an e-commerce platform that is creating a new and better generation of flatpack furniture. I met my co-founders at the Architectural Association in London where we gained a deep knowledge about the current digital manufacturing technologies. These new methods for making are poised to kill manufacturing as we know it and open the doors of mass-customisation. Fabsie sells furniture on that is uploaded by designers that use CAD software and downloaded by makers using CAM machines local to a customer to produce products in their area. We create faster, stronger and easier to assemble furniture that is customisable. We don’t store physical products; we host digital files and therefore can cater to niche products like never before.

CAD: Computer Aided Design
CAM: Computer Aided Manufacturing

Scissor ChairG: What were the biggest obstacles launching the start-up and how did you overcome them?

We aim to launch soon. Finding the right team members was my primary challenge, many wannabe entrepreneurs suffer from ‘shiny-ball syndrome’ that flock to the next exciting challenge before ever finishing the last, generally forming weak connections to their startup. I needed to find people driven by passion in digital design techniques, interested in long-term plans for disrupting and advancing the field.

G: What would you say has been your most memorable experience while developing your startup?

At first, we struggled to convince designers to allow us to use their files. I held Skype conversations resulting in several rejections from designers who wanted to deal with larger and more established companies. Luckily we found some successes with designers that are excited to be associated with a cutting edge and innovative young business.

GardenG: Tell us about DO’s and DON’Ts when starting the company?

I love to learn whether it be by reading books about startups or watching TED talks. Attending several events around East London, I learned quickly that there is a ‘diminishing law of marginal events,’ the first few are really useful, the rest are of little help. “You are on your own, you know what you know, and you are the guy who will decide where to go….your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.”

I admit to taking too long to launch in order to achieve other things that may not be necessary. It has been said many times, Launch your next product before it is ready. Both Tom Hulme from IDEO and Tom Allason from Shutl both said to me that they don’t know any company that has launched early enough.

G: Why did you choose Shoreditch to launch your start-up? 

IrlantiWe were already living near East London and took inspiration and advice from several entrepreneurs in the area. There are plenty of things going on to help startups of which we attended the Startup Games in Hackney House picking up an award from Kraft Foods (Cadbury). We hope to setup a workshop in East London and run a popup shop in the near future.

G: What/who should help for the development of Shoreditch entrepreneurial community?

Matt Webb from Berg recently held an event at General Assembly asking why designers and tech entrepreneurs are still two distinct communities in East London with little interaction. I believe what needs to happen next will be the integration of these diversely skilled people, strengthening startups in the area.

G: Who/what are your favorite CEOs/Businesses in Shoreditch?

I’ve enjoyed meeting and taking advice from several entrepreneurs in the area such as Tom Allason of Shutl and Andy Young of Groupspaces. I am inspired by entrepreneurs who grow their startups into thriving businesses of which the music startup scene in London is particularly strong with companies like Mixcloud and Songkick. Tom Hulme from IDEO offers great advice to young companies of which you can watch his TEDx talks.

G: What are your favourite places in Shoreditch?

I live in a flat near Russell Square in a post-graduate student residence, Goodenough College. Spending much of time there, my aim is to live frugally on cheap canteen meals, dining-in and £1.50 beers from the bar. Recently, I justified a meal at Duck and Waffle on the 40th floor of Heron Tower as I used to work for KPF architects who designed the tower and I also love Lucky Chip burgers at Giant Robot on Clerkenwell Road.

G: What does the future have in store for Shoreditch?
The startup scene will be expanding into nearby neighbourhoods in East London that will hopefully be all linked together. My main wish is that design, tech and entrepreneurship become one single community.

Social links:

Twitter: (@jamesmcbennett)