Future Tech City: Croydon’s first large-scale tech event for secondary schools


By - Friday 10th April, 2015

#Croydon #TechCity founder Jonny Rose reports on the inaugural Future Tech City event which took place at Croydon College last month


Photo author’s own.

Thursday 12th March saw over one hundred pupils from Croydon schools enter the doors of Croydon College to attend Future Tech City – the borough’s first large-scale technology event for 16-18yr olds.

As part of Croydon Tech City’s ongoing mission to provide much-needed tech education, skills and apprenticeships to the borough, the day was an opportunity for pupils to see exciting local startups that make up Croydon’s burgeoning tech sector and – more importantly – to meet successful Croydon businessmen and women from of different ages and backgrounds, many of whom had gone to the very schools whose students were in the room on the day!

The day kicked off with Croydon Tech City’s Nigel Dias setting the scene with a talk about what the students could expect from the day and delivering a crowd-pleasing bit of news:

“You might not be able to use your mobiles in class, but you can here!”

CrowdCube – How to fund your business idea

Kieran Garvey from CrowdCube – the world’s leading investment crowdfunding platform – explained to the students the finer points of funding a startup idea.

From revenue to grants to loans to equity-based investment, all of the options were laid out to the young Zuckerbergs in the audience. Although the mechanics of investment initially proved a little abstract, Garvey quickly captured their attention – much to my satisfaction – by using KFC as a concrete example with which to explain the various financial models.

Pilar Nalwimba: “Making money from social media”

Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

The first entrepreneurial talk of the day came from Pilar, who explained the journey from working for Warner Music to starting MySocialMediaPA – a creative social media agency.

For Pilar, the call of entrepreneurialism was one that emerged whilst at university (“If you’re doing accounting then most people expect you to work in a bank but that wasn’t for me”). Since then she hasn’t looked back, and is now part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Pioneers team.

The talk also introduced the children to the differences between a tech services company and a tech product company.

The young entrepreneur panel: “This could be you in a few years time”

Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

Next came Chris Howson of SleepTwitch, Anthony Odogwu of FutureSpaceTechnologies and Daniel Vernon of TeenPoke. The panel was an opportunity for the audience to quiz Croydon tech entrepreneurs who had recently left school or – in the case of TeenPoke’s Daniel Vernon – were still in school.

Questions included where students could go to learn more about coding (TreeHouse and CodeCademy), what inspired them to start a business (“I wanted to build a social network to stop a serious problem: my mum spying on my tweets”), and what the hardest thing about tech entrepreneurship is (“Yesterday I forgot the key and we got locked out of my office”).

Meeting the startups

A natural break in proceedings allowed pupils to engage with the startup stalls, including Quizalize, Campus Interaction, Lexicum, MyFlo, MangaHigh, Makertribe, Fluency.io and Groupu.

Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

Simon Bird: The St Andrew’s School boy who struck tech gold

Last on the agenda was Simon Bird, co-founder of DotMailer, an email platform that he and his schoolfriend Tink Taylor created in South Croydon in the late ’90s. The company has offices across the world, over 200 staff, is listed on the London Stock Exchange and with a market cap of over £100m.

Simon’s story served as an inspirational tale of what can be done by anyone in Croydon with a bit of drive and a willingness to learn tech skills.

Faz Huda worked with the Croydon Tech City team to put on the event.
Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

A word of thanks

Events like this don’t just come together with a lot of hard work, planning and effort. The effort was led by Nigel Dias and Farzana ‘Faz’ Huda, who project managed and liased with schools in the run up to the event.

We also couldn’t have done this without the contribution of our various mentors including Paul Sinnett, Marc Roberts, Andrew Easter, Stephanie Darkes, Andrew Hill, Serena Alam, Mark Aarons and Louis Downs, each of whom were on hand to answer the children’s questions, and the startups who gave up their time to appear on the day. Thanks also to Frances Wadsworth, Principal of Croydon College, for making the building available for the event.

If you were one of those schools that weren’t able to make Future Tech City – your pupils missed out!


If you are a teacher or parent in Croydon and wish to learn more about Future Tech City, please get in contact with Nigel Dias ()

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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