#Croydon #TechCity: The Third Meeting
Many would question the sense of holding a public meeting five days before Christmas, on both Croydon’s busiest shopping night of the year and the penultimate working day of the year. However, any fears of a massive no-show were quickly assuaged as Croydon’s most forward-thinking and inquisitive denizens arrived for the third Croydon Tech City meeting.
Note: The Croydon Tech City 2013 launch event will be January 24th 7pm
Put this in your diary, NOW.
Excitement was palpable as regular faces, buoyed by the past two meetings, gathered to see what the last meeting of the year had in store:
DEMO: Aaron Sonson – Founder, Stop And Search App
Aaron kicked off the night with his ‘Stop and Search’ app (currently available for Blackberry and Android), which was developed in light of personal concerns regarding stop and search tactics employed by the Metropolitan police.
The app allows young people to rate their experiences of being stopped and search by the police, to obtain information about their rights, and – most interestingly – to allow people to pin the location of the search to the map to observe any patterns that may exist.
Aaron has been approached on several occasions to partner with police organisations, but felt that to ensure the impartiality of the project it would be more appropriate for him and his team to work independently.
The ability of app users to log their whereabouts at time of stop and search is perhaps the most interesting feature. Some people within the Metropolitan Police were described as being “absolutely terrified” at the prospect of such data being openly plotted and released to the public. As one audience member noted, it will be interesting to see in time if and how data regarding stop and search released by the police correlates with the data logged by users of Aaron’s app.
Aaron’s plans for the future include improving functionality of the app and taking it into new markets such as the US.
Saif Bonar – Matthews Yard, Crowdsourcing and Kickstarter
Matthews Yard owner, Saif Bonar, is currently looking to raise £5000 to buy equipment for a space at the Yard that will become a theatre and events venue, mainly for amateur groups and as a rehearsal space, and to enable the refurbishment of the proposed space.
*Note: You can donate to the Kickstarter initiative HERE.
Saif explained the mechanics of online crowdfunding and how he came to settle on Kickstarter – the world’s largest platform for creative projects.
Apart from Saif’s own project, it was good to see that a fair few of the audience had also used crowdfunding to support their own creative and entrepreneurial endeavours.
MAIN TALK: Simon Bird (Founder, DotDigital Group PLC)
‘Ten Things We Learnt From Our Startup’
Simon embodies the Croydon Tech City dream of seeing young people (or older people with young ideas!) building a tech product and growing a large and successful company within the borough.
DotMailer was born in Simon’s parents’ dining room as he and his friends looked to ride the internet boom of the late 90s and go into business for themselves. DotMailer, an email service provider, has over the last decade grown to be a full-service agency called DotDigital Group (PLC), with offices across Britain and the US, and employing over 80 locals.
With nuggets including ‘Don’t Trust Men In Suits’ (which elicited a titter as Nigel Dias, below, is famed for always being in a suit) it made for a very enlightening talk about the struggles and delights of tech entrepreneurship.
One notable issue hampering DotMailer’s early growth was finding commercially accommodating office space that could house a small but rapidly growing team. Punishing long leases (for years, not months) in Croydon were not scalable for the young DotMailer company, although that is less of an issue now that they reside in No1. Croydon. Take note, Croydon landlords: startups need flexible lease arrangements!
*By the way, have you donated to Matthews Yard’s Kickstarter yet?
Nigel Dias (CTC, Head of Investment and Advice)
As Croydon Tech City’s Head of Investment and Advice, Nigel maintains a wide-ranging portfolio of responsibilities that ensure the movement and the ecosystem that the project creates is sustainable, scalable, and profitable.
Nigel’s talk was a frank audit of the state of the borough and of the work that needed to be done in order to make Croydon ‘the Silicon Valley of South London’.
Whilst Croydon Tech City has talented (and, perhaps, unexpected) tech gurus, people with ideas, startups with products and large successful technology companies, engaged audiences and community buy-in, a fertile growing ground for future tech gurus in the form of schools and a growing platform, and an ability to pull in people from outside of Croydon (with good logistics to go with it), there is still much to be done.
Rome was not built in a day and neither will Croydon Tech City. However, through a formalised programme masterminded by the CTC team, 2013 will be an instrumental year in making the vision a reality.
*Still reading? Then please donate to support the Matthews Yard cause. Seriously.