#Croydon #TechCity October review

By - Thursday 31st October, 2013

#Croydon #TechCity was in full flow with three speakers who took a grilling from the ever-growing tech community


Photo by Fluid4Sight.

#Croydon #TechCity has become an unmissable event every month. Every time I go I meet someone who tells me about an incredible idea they are working on. If you haven’t made time to come down then frankly, you’re completely missing out – shame on you!

This month, as ever, there was a stellar line up from businesses at various stages, all trying to make their product work because they believe in it. There was a last minute change of location to the Croydon Conference Centre, just above the usual venue at Matthew’s Yard. Whilst the extra leg room was much appreciated, it just didn’t have that intimate atmosphere that the wooden floors and dark walls of Matthew’s Yard create to help me in my endeavours to talk to strangers.

Even as John spoke there were people in the crowd downloading and having a go on it themselves

Our first speaker was John Coen who, with his wife Mary, has created an app called Abc Joined Up for iPhone and iPad. Mary is a literacy teacher at a primary school in Wallington, so has seen the struggles that young children face when learning to write joined up. Unfortunately Mary couldn’t attend so it was up to John to wow us with his product. Even as he spoke there were people in the crowd downloading and having a go on it themselves, which is a great reminder at how instantly we want to be able to play and touch things that are being talked about. Having a product that the audience could  easily get hold of as he spoke was a huge advantage to John. He even later remarked that visibility of your product was key. John told the crowd: “the object is to produce competent and confident writers” but also keeping it “fun and challenging”. It has won an award for the best app for handwriting in early education and is being used outside of the teaching market.

John Coen. Photo by Fluid4Sight.

Following John was Ehi Oboite whose business also focused on students but at the other end of the spectrum – those at university. He has created UniSocialSpace, a place that helps students to find out more about their new local area, while small businesses get more exposure by featuring on the website. Ehi has only just graduated from university himself and in order to make his business work he has travelled across the UK talking to students’ unions to engage with them and spread the reach of his business. With barely any tech knowledge he has managed to build a website. It is impressive to think he has come this far, mostly on his own and with no other full time member of a team, relying on friends and just a lot of hard work to get himself off the ground. He told the crowd: “It is hard working on your own. I have faced negativity, but I would like to build a team.” His drive and protective nature for his business was evident, and so was his determination to create a success.

Ehi Oboite. Photo by Fluid4Sight.

He modestly told the crowd that he “didn’t have all the answers” and took some tough questions from an audience who wanted to know why they should bother using the site or how it was differentiating itself from Yell and others, to which he answered “I’m still working on it, I’ll take that into account.” He was also aware of the challenges that he faced reaching students that were living in private accommodation. He was eager to get in contact with any developers willing to help him out.

“We’re trying to create a rich environment to enable people to find out what’s happening on their doorstep.”

The final speaker, Tim Buick, summed up his hectic life brilliantly when he said: “two kids, two jobs, too tired, but too much drive and it’s something I can’t not do.” Founder of StreetPin Tim envisages a world where everything is local but on a global scale. The boards created on StreetPin are like the noticeboards (before the age of computers) which would share information with communities. It helps you find out more about your local area, or another place that you want to get to know and gives local businesses a community to interact with. Tim said: “we’re trying to create a rich environment to enable people to find out what’s happening on their doorstep”. They have also received funding from STA which he said was a “double-edged sword” as they had to spend money needlessly, but they did manage to get a team and funding. Before StreetPin, Tim had worked on other business ideas where he admitted that they “went too big and took our eyes off the game” but they did teach him a few lessons.

There were some more tough questions from the savvy tech crowd following a similar vein to Ehi’s “why should we come back to your site?” to which Tim responded calmly: “We are cash strapped, so it is a subscription model. But we want to empower communities to come together themselves, giving them the tools to use cheaper than others and also instilling some camaraderie.”

All in all it was another rich and brilliant #Croydon #TechCity, lookout for details of future events on the Facebook page or the Twitter account.

THE NEXT #Croydon #TechCity event will take place on Thursday November 21st 7:30pm at Matthews Yard, make sure you sign up now on Facebook or to confirm your attendance.


Rajdeep Sandhu has been a lifelong resident in New Addington, apart from when she studied journalism in central London. Now she works in book publishing and when she isn't working, can be found reading, writing or tweeting. Most of all she is excited about how New Addington will benefit from the changes in Croydon.

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