Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur: Wikipedia for wingers: Back up your banter with smartphone smart Alec

Richard Farleigh
I SAT there with the ignominy of defeat hanging over me. Even though I tried to keep the shame and sorrow off my face, and to adopt the good grace of a good loser, I was indeed a loser.

A bunch of us were on our way to a Fleetwood Mac concert and really chirpy about it. Banter and joking all around – there’s nothing quite like the excitement of a good musical comeback, especially when the band members are older than you are. “When was that big album of theirs, Rumours, first released?” someone had asked. “It would have been 1976,” I had lobbed in, sounding more confident than I really was. After all, it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t really matter, it’s roughly right, and who’s going to correct it anyway? I reckon cavemen were probably tossing around loose banter at their campfires, “Hey Ugface! Remind me again where we speared that white Mammoth?” “Yes Two Dogs, it was in that valley with lots of dinosaur bones”. Confirming grunts and respect all around, even though no one really remembered.

Unfortunately, after thousands of years of harmless verbal bluff, technology is dealing it all a digital death. This was demonstrated to me that evening when some smartphone-guided smart Alec proved me wrong. “No, Rumours came out in 1977.” He instantly inherited the status of a rock ’n’ roll guru, and I was a loser because of one tiny meaningless year! There was not even any credit given for a very close, unassisted guess!

But necessity is the mother of many a startup and, as I sat there uncomfortably, a business idea – a vision – suddenly came to me: a website where the user enters some “facts”, presses go, and a nice web page appears with those “facts” tidied up and looking official. Glorious! It will be full of terms like “Statistics show that...”, “Recent research proves...”, and “Academic studies confirm that…”. And it will even be titled something like Wikiipedia, because if it’s checked, who’s going to notice an extra "i"? Or is Wickipedia even better still? 

So with my help, you will be able to risk any kind of trivial throwaway, and the moment anyone looks doubtful, grab your phone, tap, tap, tap, and then get to smile humbly and say things like, “Look, it says here on Wicki, that I’m right. A hippopotamus can jump higher than a rhinoceros. Surprising yes, but indeed true”.

In fact, I’m so confident about my idea that I think I will also do an app which will be much easier to use than a website, and faster too. Speed is important because you don’t want anyone else to start checking their own smartphone while you’re tapping away.

Now my business will need funding, of course, but the business case is overwhelming: there will be a small charge for each download of my Wicki app, and even the Chinese will flock to it (“Yes, our Great Wall can indeed be seen from the moon”), so it truly does have global potential. After all, research has shown that people from all cultures, all over the world, all through history, have enjoyed slightly “winging it” in conversations, and getting away with it. You can check that yourself on Wickipedia. 

Richard Farleigh has operated as a business angel for many years, backing more early-stage companies than anyone else in the UK.