Note: This was a short relationship in the end, and I returned to public service in August 2022. If I’m honest, I was kidding myself when I wrote this. I could have stayed at GDS and continued the good work we were doing on GOV.UK Pay, but also I don’t regret the experiences I had at Claimer. It’s always good to learn things. Onwards!

After three and a half years working at Government Digital Service (GDS), last week I started a new job at Claimer as their first product manager. We’re building a product that makes it effortless for startups to find and claim R&D tax relief and other government incentives.

I’ve only been in the job a week but it’s a really exciting place, and I wanted to write down what’s got me hyped so I can look back over these early, energy-filled bursts of enthusiasm in the future.

Here’s what’s making me jump out of bed in a morning.

What I love about the product

We’re breaking new ground

There’s one prospect that always gets product people excited: doing something new. Claimer’s founder, Adam, put version 1 of the product together because there wasn’t anything similar out there, and the opportunity to practise user-centred design and Lean Startup principles in a novel context is probably what excites me most!

There’s plenty of competition in the market, don’t get me wrong, but I think Claimer has a unique value proposition that can really revolutionise the way startups find and claim incentives from governments.

We’re making complicated tax rules easier to work with

One of the founding design principles for GOV.UK was that ‘there should be no need for a user to understand government to interact with it’. People only interact with government when they have to – they just want to do a thing and get on with their life. GOV.UK’s job as the digital interface between people and government was to make that interaction as straightforward and convenient as possible.

It’s something I call ‘boring magic’. And it’s exactly the same with Claimer.

No one really wants to spend hours understanding complicated tax rules in order to claim back some money: they just want to submit a claim, get the money, and go back to making new things. So it’s our job to make that as effortless as possible.

The team is full of wonderful people

In late May I went along to an away day to meet everyone and have some photos taken for the company website. I was a little bit nervous, especially as I hadn’t started the job yet, but my anxiety subsided when I realised how lovely everyone was.

Everyone was friendly and smiling, they took time to chat to me, and there was a real sense of camaraderie in the air.

What’s surprising is that that culture, that jovial atmosphere, had been borne of the pandemic. The majority of people joined the company working from home and, for many people, this event was the first time they were actually meeting in an office. As someone who’s been thinking about the future of work quite a lot, it fills me with confidence to be joining a company that’s worked some of this stuff out already.

What I love about Claimer’s vision

There’s a better way of funding innovation

Of the many things I’ve learned from Tom Loosemore, at the top of the list is how a crisis can be a moment of creative destruction, illustrating ‘imperative for radical reset’. The last 18 months have cast the global human community into a collective crisis, showing us where we need to do better or giving new approaches an opportunity to prove themselves.

I don’t want to downplay how awful the pandemic has been for millions of people – it’s important that we all remember that – and some governments have taken frankly inhumane approaches to dealing with the coronavirus. However, it has encouraged some people to try out risky strategies, some of which have worked.

One such lesson is that learned by Stripe, a payments platform, who wanted to make funding for COVID-19 related science more readily available. They stood up their Fast Grants programme, assembling a team to review and grade funding applications, aiming to get money in the hands of scientists sooner than institutional mechanisms. 32% of grant recipients said that Fast Grants accelerated their work by ‘a few months’ – and 64% of respondents told Stripe that the work in question wouldn’t have happened without receiving a Fast Grant.

The pandemic taught us many lessons, and it’s clear that there are better ways for doing things.

Funding innovation helps to make our lives better

Governments are writing innovation funding and tax relief into their economic and fiscal policies, to encourage people to develop new scientific methods, new materials, brand new products and services, all of which can serve to improve our lives. Whether it’s

  • immunotherapy for treating cancers
  • clothing dyes that are more sustainable compared to chemicals
  • simulated environments to teach robots to better collaborate with people
  • a smartphone-based platform to teach young people to code and improve their IT skills

there are plenty of pioneers, inventors and visionaries out there looking to lower their costs and fund their projects. In making it easier for organisations to find and claim tax relief and other incentives, there’s an opportunity for Claimer to be a part of creating a better world.

In fact, it has already helped out Unmind, a workplace wellbeing platform that wants to help people to live more fulfilling and balanced lives. It’s humbling to hear those endeavours mentioned in the weekly town hall.

It reminds me of something Mariana Mazzucato said in The Value of Everything:

“It’s worth recalling something basic: there is no point to the economy unless it helps people to lead better lives – and that quite reasonably means, at least in part, happier lives.”

We’re hiring

If you’re looking for a change, take a look at Claimer’s careers page or drop me a line: it’d be great to talk more!