The OPEN venue in Norwich city centre hadn’t seen anything quite like this since the SyncConf back in February. I’d estimate 300 people had flocked there, united by a common cause – their passion for tech.
Slick and professional opening intro’s from organisers John Fagan (@johnbfagan) and Fiona Lettice (@FLettice) set the scene perfectly, explaining how this meetup had come about [it started with a tweet – literally – see Twitter 6th May], the purpose of SyncNorwich and the voice of experience from a highly regarded researcher in innovation.
Limbering up for the first half of the meetup, three great start-ups each gave a 10-minute pitch (hey, you’re on: FXHOME, Liftshare and Proxama).
But the pace noticeably picked up when a dozen or so start-ups took turns to deliver a 2-minute pitch, in some cases at near machine-gun speed, baff b-b-baff baff (take a bow: Haberdash, Pingle, RainBird AI, Sessioncam, 99squared, Photocrowd, 3sixty, Blurtit, Zealify, Supapass, Wordwides).
This sequence of rapid-fire tech pitches left me feeling a little punch-drunk, which was entirely unexpected as I had full advanced knowledge of who would be taking to the stage this evening. Maybe I’m going soft.
Paul Russell pitching 3sixty
Despite a fully charged battery in the mobile and nifty qwerty keyboard skills, I too tried to keep pace with it all. I think Paul Russell at 3sixty (@get3sixty) probably got the prize for ‘land speed record’ of well-polished pitches. Meanwhile, Michael Ni’man at Wordwides (@Wordwides) would perhaps have to walk away with the accolade for surprise of the night – just 16 years old – reminded me of Nick d’Aloisio all over again, apart maybe from not having a dad who is a merchant banker and a mum who is a patent attorney.
It didn’t go unnoticed that there were a good the number of ex-UEA students among the speakers who had embarked on their first venture, among them Zealify (@Zealify_) who were exactly the sort of thing that Mike Butcher had come to see, and to inspire in others.
Butcher enjoying pitches from tech start-ups in Norwich
After the beauty pageant, a chance to relax over a swift half (bar vouchers courtesy of sponsors Smart421 and Naked Element) and to do some business networking which, as the regulars know, is invariably very good at these SyncNorwich meetups.
When we were all talked out, we felt about ready to take our seats and settle down to listen to the man himself, Mike Butcher (@mikebutcher) Editor-at-Large at TechCrunch.
I heard that on arrival he was somewhat taken aback, probably imagining some tin-pot Norfolk turkey shed and a poxy turnout of aimless ‘hoodies’, rather than a marble-lined former banking hall heaving with savvy people.
Norwich 1. Mike 0.
Jason Gregson, Norwich’s unofficial ‘Mike Butcher’ look-alike
Characteristically edgey and moderately irreverent, the leather-jacketed Butcher commenced the second half of the meetup swirling around the stage with some deliberate provocation. Why should Silicon Valley have all the action? Why not other places, why not Norwich? Quite right too.
He declared the situation within the tech industry to be chaotic; the turbulence coming not from the R&D divisions of big vendors with big budgets but from the designers and developers in the back bedrooms with no money, hyper-connected networks of them, bashing out code for disruptive solutions capable of discontinuous innovation in social, mobile and wearables.
He talked of a revolution…
“Who knows, he said, the next Google could be right here in the room tonight!”
Moving swiftly on to cover the tension between these innovators and those who hold the purse strings, Butcher didn’t hold back on the VCs, business angels, and the rich uncles who decide on what is investable or not. Butcher exhorted us to be mindful of the people not just the product.
“Investors will choose The A team with the B product, not the A product with the B team” he screamed.
Slides listing some of the most active VCs in Europe sent delegates into a bit of a spin, rushing for a pen and something to write on (wot? ain’t ya got Evernote on ya mobile, geeza?)
From left: Mike Butcher, Juliana Meyer, Fiona Lettice, Peter Schmidt-Hansen and John Fagan
I thought I detected a number of similarities with what I heard Mike deliver at TechCrunch in Italy earlier this year. Having said that, even if some of the content was identical – what difference does it make - the audiences were entirely different.
He definitely brought the majority of us some very helpful new stuff to chew over.
The locals definitely seemed to like it, judging from the numerous nods of agreement and the briskness of twitter feeds on the hashtags #tcnorwich and #syncnorwich
Norwich 1. Mike 1.
Gis’ a job, Mike!
The Q&A session brought forward some great questions, always an acid test as to how well a speaker has stirred things up. Butcher had to think quick on his feet once or twice here.
But he coped, even with a cheeky pitch for a job from an aspiring journo (well, if he’s right in front of you, why the hell not?).
FXHOME got properly name-checked – and we’re not a bit surprised – but a genuine discovery for Mike and one which clearly impressed him.
Norwich 2. Mike 1.
One would hope the Editor-at-Large of TechCrunch will have returned to the bastion of his London HQ with an entirely different view of Norwich than when he arrived. His talk did us good. He’ll always have a warm welcome back when he returns.
He said he would.
Norwich 2. Mike 2.
All photos by kind permission of Tim Stephenson > http://www.timstephensonphotography.co.uk/
TechCrunch visits Norwich. Relive it again [YouTube video] > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41Z9rsCNvqk short URL http://tiny.cc/a8km7w
Slides from this event are available via http://www.slideshare.net/tag/tcnorwich
More great write-ups on the same event:
by Naked Element > http://nakedelement.co.uk/techcrunch-visits-norwich/
by Fiona Lettice at UEA > http://www.fionalettice.com/techcrunch-visited-norwich/
by Richard Jones at ip21 > http://www.ip21.co.uk/2013/12/tech-crunch-visits-norwich/
by Tim Stephenson > http://www.timstephensonphotography.co.uk/news/norfolk-event-photography-techcrunch-comes-to-syncnorwich
Press articles by Shaun Lowthorpe > http://www.edp24.co.uk/business/sync_norwich_event_hears_how_hi_tech_start_ups_are_helping_to_put_the_city_on_the_map_nationally_and_internationally_1_3058991
Blogs on past SyncNorwich meetups > http://smart421.wordpress.com/tag/syncnorwich/
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