Joe Weir came to the OII fresh from finishing a BA in History at Oxford. He spent the summer in between working as a User-Experience Consultant, as well as consulting for a few technology start-ups in London. Interview with Tim Davies.

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Tim: What first attracted you about the OII?

Joe: A friend of mine took the MSc course at the OII the year before I did, and raved about what he was learning. I had a long-standing interest in the Internet and the effect it was having on society, so naturally I was fascinated. The truth is that there really aren’t any other institutions that can come close to matching what the OII offers MSc students. You’re taught by genuine leaders in the field of Internet studies, and you’re exposed every day to the most cutting-edge research out there.

Tim: What was your main topic of focus at the OII?

Joe: I had a lot of different interests, from learning statistical methods for dealing with ‘big data’, to understanding the challenges that the Internet was presenting to the UK legal system. My thesis, however, focused on the use of social media by the Rwandan government.

The Rwandan government has a reputation with many in the West for maintaining a relatively illiberal society, but it has taken a very enthusiastic approach to adopting social media and harnessing it to enhance governance. Using a mixture of interviews and content analysis I endeavoured to find out what was motivating this use of social media and what effect it was having on the way the government operated.

Tim: Where has life taken you since leaving the OII?

Joe: On leaving the OII I was offered a job as Chief Marketing Officer at MarketInvoice, a finance start-up based in East London. We are considered one of the UK’s most exciting new businesses, and are winning a lot of awards, including this year’s City A.M. ‘Innovation of the Year’. I am leading the marketing department, and trying to find new ways of expanding our user base.

Tim: Did your time at the OII prepare you for this role?

Joe: Absolutely, in a wide variety of ways. For example, I learned a lot about the way search engines work, from the kinds of algorithms that go into organic search rankings, to the calculations that go on behind the scenes in Google’s AdWords. Interestingly, I also learned a lot about the dynamics of online auction platforms. Since MarketInvoice is effectively an ‘eBay for corporate invoices’, this has proven incredibly useful.

More broadly I’d say that my time at the OII taught me a lot about how web-enabled technologies can be harnessed to implement major changes to the way organizations function. We learned every day about individuals, governments, or corporations that were using the Internet to change the way society or a certain part of society works. It opened my eyes to what can be achieved using the Internet. MarketInvoice is a company that is using an online platform to change the way small businesses manage their cash flow.

Tim: What do you miss most about Oxford?

Joe: I’ll probably be in the minority among OII students when I say the libraries. As a history undergraduate I got used to spending my days in Oxford’s many amazing libraries.

Tim: And finally: where do you see yourself in five years?

Joe: I would like to start my own business at some point in the future, although right now I am a long way from even deciding what type of business I’d want it to be. One of the best things about working at a start-up has been seeing first-hand how every aspect of the business functions. For an aspiring entrepreneur I don’t think there’s a better environment to start out in.