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Edward Elliott (2011, History)

Edward is Head of Development and Partnership at PUBLIC, a company that helps startups solve public problems.

Edward Elliot, the Head of Development and Partnership at PUBLIC.

Ever found it a nightmare to book a GP appointment, or contact your local council? These are the problems we are trying to solve.

A colleague recently asked me how I went from studying medieval history to advising and investing in tech startups. Sadly, even many years of arriving poorly prepared to Oxford tutorials didn’t quite instil me with the quick thinking necessary to invent a connection on the fly between artificial intelligence and eleventh century stone engraving. Here – with a little more thought applied – is attempt number two.

I grew up in Cambridge, and my decision to join Oxford was as much based on escaping my parents as being lucky enough to get in (sorry Mum!). I studied under a series of brilliant historians and was guided towards specialising in medieval Scandinavian culture. I still feel very indebted to all my tutors for their patient encouragement and for their continual pushing to think deeper, harder and more analytically than I had before or since.

Exeter’s largest contribution to my future career, however, came from the JCR and SCR. I co-founded a company at Exeter – a media screening company called Hacked Off Films, similar to Secret Cinema – and was lucky enough to be provided with a grant by the college to start and grow operations. We went on to work with National Trust London and O2. This grant and the company it helped to build was the primary reason I was hired by PUBLIC – a company that helps tech startups work with the public sector.

When I joined PUBLIC, we had only four employees. Now we operate in four countries, produce events frequented by leading startups, and create reports read by senior public sector leaders across the globe. More importantly, we’ve begun to build an ecosystem where government can work with the latest technology to improve public services to the benefit of both citizens and service providers such as doctors, police officers, and local councillors. Ever found it a nightmare to book a GP appointment, or contact your local council? These are the problems we are trying to solve.

I would thoroughly encourage anyone reading this to consider a career in startups. During my time at PUBLIC I have been given a huge amount of responsibility, decision-making and challenging problems to solve: chances are, if you have enjoyed your degree at Oxford, these will all be qualities you will relish. I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside over fifty startup companies and all have been dedicated, fun teams led by inspirational people. More than this, startups provide a real sense of community, where your colleagues are your friends and where you are building something special together.

Finding your first job with a startup can be hard: it is often an opaque world that seems confusing and complicated from the outside. I work with a lot of such companies, many of whom are looking for smart employees, so please feel free to reach out to me with questions or requests for advice.

If you are interested in a career in a startup or have any questions for Edward, please contact the Development Office, who will be happy to help you connect with him.