Daniel McMahon, CEO of 1715 Labs

Photo of Daniel McMahon

CEO of 1715 Labs. A spinout from the Physics department at the University of Oxford, taking the technology behind the world-leading citizen science project the Zooniverse.org to commercial applications. Cofounded by Professor Chris Lintott and Sophie Hackford.

We are using the technology to label the ever exploding world of data to provide high-quality training data that gives algorithms tractions.

Seed stage, backed by InMotion Ventures, Parkwalk Advisors and OSI.

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Ex Research Student, Ex Army, Ex Amazon – Always challenging and exploring. I don’t like to be insulated and removed from core business.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
I view it as looking to create value – something greater than the sum of its parts. A building mentality.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
1715 Labs Logo

Slightly different here – as 1715 Labs is a spinout. The Zooniverse story speaks for itself. A community of 2 million active contributors, labelling data across 100s of projects, with 500 million labels and 150 plus academic publications – tackling some of the most challenging academic problems from Galaxy classification to pathogen migration at a cellular level to combating plastic waste. The team is world class and their achievements are significant.

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Resilience – Getting started is tough but an incredible learning journey
People Skills – Even in tech, it’s all about people and getting this right makes getting underway great fun
Communication – Crucial for early stage sales and fundraising. Clear, concise and adapted to the relevant audience

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
The independence, the struggle and the responsibility.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Different organisations for different reasons:

Amazon – for the confidence they have it what they are doing and why
Patagonia – for the patience to grow
Bill and Melinda Gates foundation – for ambition and vision

If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I’m fascinated by decision making and what drives great decisions at an early stage. Stories of success are too often told retrospectively.

I am always keen to know how – at the time and knowing what they knew – did they come to that decision

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
Building a team – working with amazing people

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Getting balance right between the detail of your product / service and a strategic vision that excites your team, customers and investors. I constantly challenge myself on both.

Particularly at the beginning – A real depth of stakeholder understanding – Spinning out of Oxford University, there’s lots of complexity with a broad range of contributors.

How have you funded your ideas?
Sales and Venture Capital

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Good: Incredible depth of investment support, deep technical talent and an amazing reputation and track record to build upon

Bad: Complexity – Lots of moving parts and interdependencies need to be unpicked – a fair trade off for the advantages!

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
Back to their intended customers – cannot emphasise enough how important this is!

With such a range and depth of early stage ventures – try and find businesses that have similarities by stage, market, technology or process. Early stage business owners are very open to chatting things through. Portfolios of OXFO, OSI etc are great places to start.

Any last words of advice?
It will be the best decision you ever made – go for it!