Startup Stories: Simon Bos, Founder & Director of Gravitywell

Explore the fusion of technology and creativity in startup empowerment with Simon Bos, the mind behind Gravitywell’s success.

by hao-nguyen on August 17, 2023

Welcome to this edition of Startup Stories, where we have the privilege of engaging with Simon Bos, the visionary founder and director of Gravitywell. Nestled in the heart of Bristol’s dynamic tech ecosystem, Gravitywell is a creative technology agency that specialises in empowering startups and innovators to thrive in the digital age.

Simon’s journey embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. From the inception of Gravitywell to his active involvement in multiple startup ventures, Simon has carved a unique path that blends cutting-edge technology with creative ingenuity. In this conversation, we’ll delve into Simon’s profound insights and experiences. He shares his inspiration behind the birth of Gravitywell and how it has grown to be an award-winning digital innovation powerhouse.

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

Hey Simon! Welcome to Startup Stories. For those who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Gravitywell? 

Hello! I’m founder of Gravitywell, an award-winning digital innovation agency that helps tech startups and scaleups achieve their goals. We partner with founders to design, build, test and launch new businesses. 

Unsurprisingly, I’m involved in a few other startups myself. One of them, Mezze, is a SaaS product for the Food Manufacturing industry. It was built by Gravitywell, launched recently and is already processing £6M of orders per month for our clients. 

Gravitywell always enjoys a wide variety of clients and project types – this means the work is always fresh and challenging. Here are a few examples: 

  • Prototype software to enable deep space communications, supporting trials by the European Space Agency 
  • A platform for fine wine investors to track, monitor and value their assets using sensors 
  • An app for buying and selling real estate off-market 
  • An app to disrupt the traditions of networking, enabling people to make, maintain and manage important contacts with ease

What inspired you to start a creative technology agency, and how did you come up with the idea for Gravitywell?  

I’ve always enjoyed project work; small teams of smart people, with different skill sets, collaborating, taking risks and overcoming the odds. 

The points where design and technology intersect is where the magic happens. Innovation in the technology space has an air of sci-fi mystery about it, so I chose the name Gravitywell to evoke those feelings.  

We attract passionate entrepreneurs who want to immerse in startup culture and collaborate on realising their ideas alongside a talented team. 

Sometimes – if it’s a great idea and if we believe in the entrepreneur – we’ll invest in the business ourselves. The arrangement can take many forms but the founders all enjoy the reassurance of a proven team behind the project, which is invaluable when seeking further investment. 

I’m also passionate about creating a work environment that is a pleasure to participate in. I believe that trust, open-mindedness, humour, freedom and support are the key principles which enable this.  

How has the industry evolved since you first founded Gravitywell 20 years ago and how has your company adapted to those changes? 

Obviously, technology is always evolving. What’s most important is to embrace constant change, rather than resist it. Lots of agencies get stuck doing the same thing over and over, with the same technology so they become stale.  

At Gravitywell we invest in innovation as much as possible – this can take many forms, ranging from annual international events like our Hackathon, to developing and launching our own products. This is how we stay creative at the cutting edge; any idea conceived by any one of the team could become a standalone business. 

Another constant change is the fragmentation of disciplines. For example, print design diverged from digital design, which in turn now encompasses the disciplines of user experience (UX) and user interface design (UI). More software specialisms keep emerging which means that teams that want to stay relevant have to keep narrowing their focus. 

One challenge that all teams face is: how to satisfy ever-evolving user expectations. Smartphones have delivered sophisticated and polished software into everyone’s pockets, usually for free. This means that the barrier to (and cost of) entry for a new product keeps creeping upwards to meet those expectations.  

How do you and your team approach balancing the creative and technical aspects of projects at Gravitywell? 

In principle it’s easy, but it requires a lot of consideration. Rather than keeping the two aspects separate, we blend the two together right from the outset. A multi-disciplinary team takes projects from conception all the way through to release. 

The best code in the world is nothing without the designer’s hand to steer it towards a brilliant user experience. So we work in small sprints, with time for both creative and technical input at each milestone. Always refining and improving as we proceed towards the goal. 

The makeup of the team is also important. Each person has multiple skills, and we try not to pigeon-hole. This helps ensure we always have a range of views and perspectives. 

Every client and every project is very different. In particular, innovation projects require nuance and flexibility. So instead of rigid processes, we have a broad toolkit that we choose from to build a bespoke project. 

Can you tell us about a particularly challenging project that you and your team at Gravitywell have worked on and how you overcame it?  

The challenges are the reason why we love to work in the innovation space.  

During our Hackathons we purposefully impose restrictions and constraints to practise making lots of decisions quickly as a team. Building this capability helps us resolve common challenges, such as making the right technology choices, or dealing with unexpected usability issues. To give you an example, in our last hackathon we set ourselves the challenge of building a social media app within a week 

Sometimes the challenge is a lack of industry knowledge that can only come from a client. A recent project was for an organisation that designs and tests prototype aircraft wings. It would have taken too long for us to skill-up on their niche industry knowledge and processes, so the answer was to start wireframing straight away. Once we had aligned around these lo-fi designs, we were able to communicate in a common language and make rapid progress towards the solution.  

Can you tell us about your experience using Discord to keep your remote team connected and how it has helped maintain company culture during the pandemic?  

Discord is designed for gamers to text, voice and video chat. But we realised its potential to keep our team together, right at the start of the pandemic.  

Don’t think of it as an alternative to Slack or yet another video call app, think of it as a virtual studio or office. We can sit in channels on open-mic and speak as if we were in the same room. There’s an open plan room, there’s break-out areas, there might be a project-specific room. There’s even a “do not disturb, i’m in deep focus” booth! 

When you’re in Discord all day, joining or leaving conversations is slick and natural. It’s only jarring when we have to join a comparatively clunky Zoom call (or even worse, the horrific MS Teams) with a client or partner. 

What strategies do you use to balance the responsibilities of running a business with being involved in the startup community in Bristol? 

I’m running two lively businesses at the moment so this is extremely difficult, if I’m honest! 

The reality is that the Gravitywell team is also very passionate about the startup scene, and together we ensure everyone stays connected and active. It helps that the Bristol scene is very friendly, supportive and easy-going. 

Personally, I have to choose the events, webinars, conferences, podcasts and workshops very carefully, so as not to be overwhelmed. 

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

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