Today we are speaking to Simon Davies from Black Swan. Black Swan create algorithms which help brands better predict consumer behaviour and is our largest resident company at GROW. Recently Black Swan was named Britain’s fastest growing start-up by TheSunday Times.
Hi Simon, what’s exciting you right now?
Three things; my little girl, moving house and Black Swan!
Aww, how cute and good luck with the move! Tell us about Black Swan, how long have you been working with them…and why?
Black Swan was founded in 2011 to help clients work out what will be important tomorrow. We do this by building algorithms that predict consumer behaviour and software to enable automation.
Mix in the right context and we can make accurate predictions to solve data marketing problems using predictive analytics.
The original idea was sketched on a napkin which is now framed in our London HQ.
I joined last June and am loving it so far!
We work with some pretty big clients such as Pepsi, Disney, Vodafone, Panasonic. We also have a philanthropic arm called White Swan that provides our services to solve problems such as predicting footfall in NHS hospitals.
Why? As cheesy as it sounds, I like building products which change people’s lives.
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Several things. I’d sail around the Caribbean with my family on a yacht, I think travel is the great education and broadens horizons.
I’d also buy into Black Swan!
I think we should do better by previous generations, our parents and grandparents. I’d give back by creating retirement homes which were really stimulating and exciting places to be.
What is the worst/stupidest/most embarrassing thing you have done (perhaps under the influence :-))?
I’ve done a lot of embarrassing things, it’s hard to pick one. I once got very drunk at my friend’s wedding and sang Angels; in my defence, it was a Scottish wedding and they kept bringing me drinks - even the vicar. What made it worse was that I was the best man. Fortunately, they don’t bring it up too much.
Is there anything that no one here knows about you? What is it?
I’ve been blessed by the Pope.
How did that happen then?
I was about eight or nine and the Pope came to Cardiff. I was in the crowd, he stopped in front of me, waved his hands about and then moved off. I probably wasn’t, but hey - it’s a good story and we’re in a world of "alternative facts". I do remember thinking he had a cool car though.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a fire engine. There was a fire engine manufacturer called ‘Simon’, I saw my name on the fire engine and then actually wanted to be the fire engine. Alternatively, Batman or a space man.
Favourite thing about GROW?
It’s like a creative ‘hive’ of different and disparate people, not all on the same mission. It’s difficult to describe, but most organizations have their own rhythm and heartbeat; at GROW there are several different overlapping rhythms and beats, which is creates an interesting buzz and stimulating atmosphere.
In your opinion, what is the most valuable aspect of co working?
At Black Swan we co-locate our developers and creatives to create hotspots of innovation, putting together full stack feature teams whose mission is to deliver real value. Rather than projects progressing along a ‘production line’ this creates ‘loops’ of energy where everyone involved in the project can feed off each other’s ideas and both ends are connected. We do the usual two week sprints and everyone is charged to add value to the customer. We celebrate with either a GnT or a Bulletproof Coffee!
Less production line, more collaboration and more nimble.
Thank you Simon, it's been great to hear more about Black Swan and your own plans and adventures! Bless you :-)!