Natalie Downe

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Lanyrd: from idea to exit - the story of our startup

I recently gave a talk at SmashingConf in Freiberg. I wanted to share the story of our startup Lanyrd and some lessons learned along the way. This article is based on that talk, the abstract of which is:

Natalie launched the first version of with her co-founder and husband Simon Willison, while on honeymoon in Casablanca. As the site took off, they realised their side project was destined to become something much bigger.

This talk will tell the story of Lanyrd from a two-week proof of concept to a fully-fledged startup, the lessons learned along the way about building and launching a product, running a company, raising investment and the entrepreneurship journey. This is the talk she wished she heard before getting started! In September 2013, just a week before the SmashingConf 2013, Lanyrd was acquired by Eventbrite.


Our startup story begins in June of 2010 with our wedding - a rather unconventional beginning to be sure.


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Simon and I met in the first week university, 10 years before we got married. In our time together we had already built and launched several side projects.

After the wedding, we quit our jobs, gave up our flat in Brighton and set out on honeymoon overland through Europe and northern Africa. Our intention was to travel as long as we could, whilst earning money from freelance projects on the way.

When we got to Casablanca in Morocco we fell ill with food poisoning.


It was Ramadan so we couldn’t buy food during the day, and we were too ill to continue travelling so we hired a flat and hacked on a prototype of Lanyrd, an idea I’d had that we had been discussing over a few preceding weeks.

We built something that we wanted to exist. A week later, when we launched the first possible version that worked to our friends in private alpha, we realised it was something other people needed too.

Lanyrd is a social conference directory: we help people and companies find the best conferences and professional events to go to, help them get the most out of them whilst they are there and provide a space to collate slides and videos after the event.

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