Future Tech City: Introducing two hundred A-Level students to Croydon’s tech scene


By - Monday 26th October, 2015

Jonny Rose reports on #Croydon #TechCity’s sophomore Future Tech City event


Photo by Chantal Schonbachler, used with permission.

Earlier this month, Croydon Tech City hosted its second large-scale technology event for Croydon’s students.

For the first time ever, two hundred Croydon students were introduced to the technological boom that is on their doorsteps

This time, over the course of an afternoon, two hundred A-Level students were treated to an afternoon of talks from successful local tech entrepreneurs and an opportunity to interact with local tech startups.

The event was part of CTC’s Future Tech City scheme which focuses on supporting the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and entrepreneurial skills in Croydon’s young people. By ensuring Croydon’s young people understand the full range of opportunities that careers in startups and enterprise technology companies offer, we hope to keep Croydon’s young people competitively places to take on tech jobs, both locally and internationally.

Simon Bird, co-founder and CTO of DotMailer

The afternoon kicked off with a talk from Simon Bird, co-founder of DotMailer, an email platform that he and his St Andrew’s school-friend 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.

Erika Brodnock, Founder of Karisma Kidz

Photo by Fluid4sight, used with permission.

Erika is another Croydon Tech City success story and triumph of what can be done in the face of relentless naysaying from others.

Whilst Erika had not had the best of starts, her determination and self-belief in creating Karisma Kidz was a testament to how anyone in Croydon could run a successful business if they put their mind to it. Erika’s talk was a mix of practical advice (“Learn to speed read so that you can take in information quickly”; “It’s never too early to start thinking about personal branding”) and a call for students to reappraise their relationship with technology (“We need to become creators – not just consumers – of technology. Don’t wait for some else to do it”).

Again, as with Simon, the message was loud and clear: your circumstances don’t have to hold you back.

The Young Entrepreneurs Panel

Featuring Pilar Nalwimba of MySocialPA, Daniel Vernon of TeenPoke and Han-Son Lee of LOAF, the Young Entrepreneurs 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 from the students included where students could go to learn more about coding (TreeHouse and CodeCademy) and what inspired them to start a business (in the case of TeenPoke: “I wanted to build a social network to stop a serious problem: my mum spying on my tweets”). The panel made it clear that tech entrepreneurialism is not something that had to be far off for the students, but was something that they could pursue now.

Meeting the startups

Startups that demo’d on the day included Help My Cause (a local crowdfunding platform), LOAF (a virtual cooking aid), Pi-Top (a hardware company for Rasperry Pis), Blippar (a virtual reality software company), Gojimo (a tool to aid exam revision) and CycleAlert (a road safety device that alerts cars to nearby cyclists).

Darren Mulvihill of CrowdCube, “How to test your idea”

With the students hearing from tech entrepreneurs and meeting tech startup founders, it seemed prudent to actually instill into them how they could test the market for any ideas that they had fermenting in their heads. From Google keyword research to the key questions you should ask potential customers, Mulvihill gave the students a masterclass in idea validation.

CTC mentors engaging with students.
Photo author’s own.

Special thanks

The day could not have gone ahead without our great speakers and startups from the community, but a special thanks goes to Croydon Partnership for sponsoring the event, Croydon College for hosting the event, and the mentors from the CTC community who made themselves available on the day to talk with students: Sal Salahudin, Paul Sinnett, Peter Gillingwater, Louis Downs, Marc Roberts and Mary-Jane Boholst.

Any teachers, parents or students that wish to learn more about Future Tech City should visit the website, and any secondary schools that wish to join the Young Croydon Tech City network (so that their students can attend events like this) should contact Croydon Tech City directly .

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 and a Linkedin lead generation service. 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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