Chris Rabbitt has a name that is impossible to forget.

“My dad is called Peter Rabbitt,” he told TechBlast’s latest Going 4 Growth roundtable.

Going in to 2020 he was working as a portfolio sales director when disaster struck in the form of COVID-19.

“Having spent two years getting my practice off the floor I was set for the best year ever in 2020,” he recalled. “I was a gun for hire essentially.

“I was on for a mega year. I’d already had four days a week booked for the entirety of 2020. I was due to turn over about £200k.

“Then the cold hard muzzle of the COVID service revolver was applied to the back of my neck and my business pretty much vanished overnight.

“While everyone was spending their Bounce Back Loans on marketing, companies sent their sales teams home. All of a sudden I was left with nothing to do and no ability to network to get more business.

“My company twitched on the floor and messed about a bit until July when it finally keeled over.”

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Rabbitt admitted that the first three months of COVID represented the toughest time of his professional life.

“I’ll be perfectly honest, I absolutely 100% totally panicked,” he said. “I’ve never been one of those people to be affected by anxiety and could never empathise with people that were, but I spent 12 weeks pretty much not sleeping. I stopped eating, believe it or not it is true. I’ve recovered since then!

“I genuinely had a horrible time of it for about three months; my entire world collapsed. And this (Meeow) was basically our attempt to drag ourselves out of the mire.”

Turning point

The turning point came when Rabbitt attended a Zoom meeting with Simon Glenn in April 2020 and the duo combined to launch 24/7 online networking solution Meeow.

“Simon had the idea,” said Rabbitt. “Our pitch was that virtual meeting rooms like Zoom for networking – and God bless anyone that enjoys them – are absolutely appalling. You can’t speak to anybody, you can’t interact properly. You’re essentially a spectator.

“Making connections in an environment like this is impossible so we thought there had to be a better way to do this because we were going to be in lockdown for at least 12 weeks and we had to try something different.”

Meeow operates by hosting four-person virtual hour-long meet-ups, known as meeows. The four participants are selected using AI and come from a variety of business backgrounds.

Rabbitt jokes that if LinkedIn and Zoom had a baby they’d call it Meeow.

The concept proved so popular they were quickly attracting 250 people every week into the platform.

“We found that everybody wanted that outlet,” said Rabbitt. “People were essentially dissatisfied with the solutions that everyone else was punting out.

“By the time we got to June and July, it was really clear that the elastic limit had been reached; the acceptance of meeting online was complete.

“We started to look at how we could make that more permanent and how we could actually make a business out of it. We’ve essentially spent the last 12 months proving that we can get people to pay for this, and we can.”

£470k investment

The startup has already raised £470k in investment and has continued to grow as the world comes out of COVID.

Rabbitt explained: “We can now create as many hourly meetings as there are people to meet. If 200 people turn up at 10am on a Tuesday morning for argument’s sake, we place them into 50 four-person meetings.”

The entrepreneur said despite the devastation caused by COVID, he described the last two years as the ‘most amazing time of my professional life’.

“From being in a situation where literally the bottom dropped out of my world, and I’m not one for self pity but believe me I had quite a bit of it going on,” he said.

“Anyone who runs a startup will know you never work as hard or earn as little ever and I’ve never had so much fun. There’s some hugely exciting stuff we’re involved with and the opportunities for growth are massive.”

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