#Croydon #TechCity: February Review

By - Tuesday 25th February, 2014

Becca Taylor reports on last week’s new media startup edition of #Croydon #TechCity

Photo by Fluid4Sight. Used with permission.

In recent years, Croydon has seen a boom in new media start-ups – the likes of Croydon Radio, Croydon TV and Chew TV embracing digital tools to make the most of talent in the borough. As Jonny Rose said, more media start-ups began in Croydon than any other London borough between 2011 and 2013, and they display the ‘panache and innovation’ that is somewhat lacking in traditional media. Uncharacteristically, a little late to the party, Croydon Tech City invited four of these new media names to the February edition at the Croydon Conference Centre.

First to the stage was a name readers will know well. James Naylor, esteemed founder and editor-in-chief of the Croydon Citizen, told us the story behind the Citizen, modelled as a social enterprise and community venture. To date it has published 500 articles from over 100 authors and moved into print thanks to crowdfunding with We Are The Million. The Citizen joins together the knowledge of ordinary people with the editing skills and objectivity of journalists and editors to form a kind of ‘platlisher’ – a platform publisher. James acknowledged the hideousness of this term, but it sums up the aim of the Citizen – to give a voice to ordinary, knowledgeable people of Croydon.

And why go to print? In a world where ‘print is dead’, what benefits could there be to branching out into publication as opposed to staying online? James slammed this as ‘utter rubbish’. Showing stats from Google’s ad revenue, he pointed out that even the largest website and company in the world could only just surpass the print revenue in the states and that with a UK ad revenue of £3,517,000,000 annually, even just a small slice of that would suffice to keep the Citizen doing what it does best.

Jonny Rose, #Croydon #TechCity cofounder, and James Naylor, Croydon Citizen editor-in-chief.
Photo by Fluid4Sight. Used with permission.

Next up was Daryl Willcox, the self-made journo turned PR guru behind DWPub, based on Dingwall Road. DWPub provides services to journalists, PR companies and to companies who want to do their own PR and as such he has formed a close relationship with the media over the years. DWPub currently employs 40 people and has a 50,000 strong media network with plenty of demand for strong content and tools for inbound marketing. Asking how many present that evening owned more than one company, Daryl advised them to ‘focus’. Don’t start a new company with every new idea or when you get bored of the last one. Focus on making it successful.

Daryl recognised the benefits of Croydon but admitted that in the past he had been ashamed to say that DWPub was from Croydon – its reputation being less than favourable. But the community at Croydon Tech City had inspired him to want to shout about it. That received just about the biggest round of applause of the evening.

After the break, Adam McCann took his turn, introducing his incredibly successful VideoGamer.com to the crowd. Adam started videogamer almost by accident, taking over design of the site from someone who wasn’t, shall we say, quite so talented in that department. Over time, it became Adam’s baby and when he finished university, he set up office in his bachelor pad and grew the company. He pointed out that his only business accreditation was a C in GCSE – encouragement that anyone with a good idea can succeed.

Since starting VideoGamer, and launching Sportra, Adam has learnt a thing or two about running a business. He advised start-ups to be realistic about their goals, to surround themselves with passionate people, and to learnt to project manage from an early stage. The best business plans either do something unique, or do something better than the competition. And perhaps most importantly, find some time to relax too!

Nigel Dias, #Croydon #TechCity cofounder.
Photo by Fluid4Sight. Used with permission.

Closing the show was something a little different for tech city – a failed start-up. Dharmesh Suraj Bali started Footballista when he realised how difficult it was to follow the updates from the January transfer window across multiple sites such as Sky or the BBC. He said to himself “there must be an app for that!” … and found there was. Undeterred by the competition, Dharmesh set about teaching himself to code iOS apps, thinking the weekends and evenings of one month should be plenty of time to learn the skill. Laughs from the audience confirmed what he eventually learned – it wasn’t, and before he finished, iOS6 was released and everything he learned was old hat.

Eventually releasing the app, Dharmesh created a free model, monetising through iAds. Before he removed the app, he made a whopping £0.27 through Footballista. Dharmesh was brave and honest facing the crowd and saying simply “I tried – it did not work out”. What was the undoing of his product?

Dharmesh advised new start-ups to think globally. His product caused confusion in the States as football is an entirely different sport to US audiences. Like the other speakers, he recognised that perfection is impossible, and it’s more important to create a minimum viable product and settle for a level of acceptability. He also noted that start-ups should define what a good return on their investment will be – do they want fame? A holiday? Know your competition – how much of the pie do you want? But the ultimate test of Dharmesh’s product was finding himself using other alternative apps, which he confessed were doing a much better job than his own. Dharmesh was very much admired by the Tech City crowds for trying his idea, even though it didn’t work out. He hinted that he will be bringing out a new product with the skills he has learnt and I’m sure we will one day welcome him back to the stage to pitch that one.

Dharmesh Suraj Bali.
Photo by Fluid4Sight. Used with permission.

The next Croydon Tech City event takes place on March 20th with the theme ‘Politics and Tech’, from 7:30PM at Matthew’s Yard. To attend, please sign up as ‘attending’ here or  to confirm your attendance.

Becca Taylor

Becca Taylor

Becca is a newcomer to South London, currently living in Sutton and working in Purley, as ICUK.net's Head of Marketing. She has a background in politics and journalism, and is slowly learning the ropes in the tech world. A graduate of Swansea University, Becca is also a keen fitness enthusiast and a proud fan of Southampton FC.

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