Entrepreneurs want more start-up hothousing
Cambridge entrepreneurs involved in the inaugural Cambridge Startup Weekend want to see a legacy put in place that leverages the ideas and energy generated by such hothousing events.
Judges, speakers and mentors emerged from the intensive 54-hour event inspired by the input of the ‘pitchers.’Billy Boyle, co-founder of Owlstone Nanotech in Cambridge and a keynote speaker said: “I thought it was a great event; we should definitely be doing more of this type of thing. “I spoke about the need to learn quickly and adapt during the start-up phase; the journey is long so get ready for the slog.”One of the judges, Allan MacLean of Amdeo Ltd, added: “I was impressed by the range of ideas presented and how much they developed over the weekend. Maybe not ‘man on the moon’, but lots of cool stuff that clearly got people engaged and has to be good for moving UK plc forward.”Business Weekly, a gold sponsor of the event, sponsored the wireless category, which also proved an inspired choice as five of the 17 pitching groups had a clear wireless component and a few others had some wireless relevance. Kevin Coleman of Cambridge Wireless member company Alliantus acted as a mentor for the wireless entries. The wireless prize went to a group – CPR Volunteers – led by Bonnie Cotier that developed an application to help get a qualified volunteer to a heart attack victim as rapidly as possible to administer CPR. The other team members were Edwin Hayward, James Shepherd, Saqib Shaikh and James Browne. Allan said: “They were a particularly interesting team as they started on Friday evening focusing on an application to get missing persons into the system as rapidly as possible. On Saturday during discussion with mentors and exploration of the domain they discovered that rapid response to heart attacks was very high priority in the new government initiative on healthcare so decided to change focus around midday Saturday. “They did an incredible amount of work to pull together a credible demonstration of the concept in not much more than 24 hours. Overall a great example of how tight time pressure can get things done – and of course what the startup weekend format can do.”
The real ‘prize’ for the group may be yet to come. They are keen to continue developing the idea and Cambridge Wireless has already offered help and encouragement to see if the idea can be moved from pilot to scale. Business Weekly will also provide publicity to the company.Cambridge Wireless chief executive, Dr Soraya Jones, is inviting the group to key events the company is running over the next few months – a location special interest group (SIG) event on March 23 and a healthcare SIG event on May 19.Healthcare also figured large in the Startup Weekend thanks to the backing of young company Cambridge Healthcare, whose CEO Dawson King was a judge.The company’s chairman and serial healthcare pioneer, Professor Alan Barrell – one of the keynote speakers – praised the organisers and the event sponsors, including Business Weekly – for encouraging budding entrepreneurship.He said: “The Cambridge Startup Weekend was wonderful - inspiring. But what a pity that nobody from Government - not even locals MPs - was there over the three days of the event to see the wonder of these young people who have started or are starting businesses. We need more encouragement, moral and financial support from government for our inspirational young people.”The Startup Weekend finished at St John’s Innovation Centre on Sunday night (March 13) after a marathon 54 hours of mentoring, brainstorming and pitching ideas.Overall winner was Lessonista whose pitch was an online facility to provide lesson-sharing plans for teachers.Belongingsfinder.com - which won the ‘Best Social Enterprise’ award – is a classic example of thinking on the hoof. Belongingsfinder.com allows victims of this week’s natural disaster in North-East Japan and related areas to report their lost objects and upload images of found personal belongings. As soon as the website finds matches of lost and found requests people are connected to help recover their losses.Rosedene Video Care won the Best Healthcare prize. Sonnet and Touch Paperwork were the other finalists.All the pitching groups were given a rousing start by stirring messages of goodwill – and sound advice – from Professor Barrell, Billy Boyle, Jamie Urquhart of Pond Ventures – and co-founder of superchip designer, ARM Holdings – and Dr Shai Vyakarnam, director of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School.Dr Vyakarnam urged a little sang-froid amid the excitement of innovation and said start-ups had to run on something a lot more substantial than adrenaline. He said young companies needed to be more cash conscious earlier in their life cycles. Cashflow was vital to sustain even the youngest of businesses, he said.RedGate Software was platinum sponsor for the event, into which the organisers – James Digby, Mauro Ciaccio, Chris Measures and Bonnie Cotier poured hearts and souls.The judging panel that gave so much of their time and enthusiasm free of charge was led by Neil Davidson of Red Gate. He was joined by well-known entrepreneur Jack Lang, representing Judge Business School, Paul Smith (Eventility), Dawson King (Cambridge Healthcare), Cambridge angel investor Peter Cowley and Allan MacLean of Amdeo Ltd.The hardworking mentors who also gave up their weekend R & R to nurture the raw ideas into a presentable format were: Paul Walsh (CEO, Cognidox), Robin Little (Associate, Beer & Partners), Kevin Coleman (Alliantus Ltd), Emmanuel Carraud (Magic Solver), Alistair Paterson (Marketing Consultant), Tony Short (Jasper Apps), Jo Vertigan (Obidos Consulting), Eric Swain (Spice), Chris Arnold (Percollate), Steve O’Connor (Airsource Ltd), Ronnie Barker (The Agile Workshop), Aamir Butt (United Lane), Simon Kingston (Kolila Consulting Ltd), Jeremy Parsons (Red Gate), and Nick Barker (Aware Monitoring).
Winners’ profilesOverall: Lessonista – an application that allows English literature teachers to share resources with their colleagues across the country simply and easilyHealth: Rosedene – An online video application that links trained nurses to patients across the world, without them needing to go into hospitalWireless/mobile: CPR Volunteers – A mobile application, it uses ambulance dispatch data to alert registered, trained CPR volunteers when someone near them calls in with a cardiopulmonary emergency through an app on their phone. The app also shows them where the nearest equipment (such as defibrillators) is, and aims to save lives.Community: Belongingsfinder.org – A humanitarian app created in response to the Japanese earthquake, it aims to re-unite victims with their cherished possessions. Finders simply photograph and upload items that they find into a searchable database. In Japan handing in lost property is central to life and culture (in one year over $21m in cash is handed into Tokyo lost property offices) and this app (in Japanese and English) aims to help by putting the process online.Wildcard prize: Sonnet – An iphone application, it allows you to compose and send love letters that will delight your loved ones. It has been submitted to the iTunes App Store and should be on sale shortly.
• Photograph by Alan Bennett - Media Imaging Solutions, www.mediaimagingsolutions.com, tel: 0781 499 4934