After stops in Sheffield and Newcastle in an attempt to get better insight into what is happening in tech and startups outside of London, my tour of the UK continued this weekend with a stop off in Birmingham to sponsor and mentor the Launch48 Weekend being held at Aston University.
What is Launch48?
Launch48 run three events regularly around the world, from evening showcases of early stage startups, to intensive pre-accelerator prep programmes. This event, Launch48 Weekend, is for the budding entrepreneurs; those with a seedling of an idea that would like to not only find out if other people think it’s viable, but to learn some of the skills involved in breaking it down and working it into something marketable, saleable, launchable and possibly some other ‘ables’ I haven’t thought of.
Put even more simply, it squashes about 3 months of startup time into 48 hours and gives the attendees time with experienced mentors. You come in with an idea, you could leave with a company.
Around 60 people showed up for the pitching session on the Friday night. Of the 20 or so pitches, six were chosen as the main focus for the weekend and teams formed.
48 hours later, after some long nights, dropouts, pivots, mentoring sessions and two board meetings with organiser Simon Jenner and some guy called Martyn from SendGrid, the teams presented their wares. This is what they showed us:
A service for creating bucket lists of activities you would like to do with friends. Aimed at a potential market of 2-3 million young professionals in the UK, Shared Memories lets you collaborate with friends on the activities, from idea to execution. Their proposed revenue would be from affiliate networks and targeted advertising.
Linking together all the connected devices that are going to be in the home over the next 10 years on one platform that gives the user total control of their washing machine, kettle, lights and more. Their win would be through collecting usage and diagnostic data from the devices and licensing it back to manufacturers.
A SaaS platform that let’s people discover how to build a team ‘that really works’. Through a series of scoring mechanisms that contribute to your personal ‘Gene Metric’, they can show you which team members will deliver the best project, allowing you to chop and change until you find the best fit for your project. Keep an eye on this one, it’s way more impressive than it sounds and they managed to get an agreement from a project management consultancy to resell this for them. (Team Genes)
Working on the problem of missed connections, this team of two pivoted a lot on their idea, eventually landing on a way of finding meetings to have in cities you’re visiting when your original meeting gets cancelled. Targeting the 8% of travellers who travel for business and the £1.3bn a year that cancelled meetings cost the UK economy.
Entrepreneurs Lunch Club
The first team of the weekend to earn revenue. This service raffles off lunches with ‘rockstar entrepreneurs’, with all proceeds going to said entrepreneurs charity of choice. An excellent use of the JustGiving API, they made £120 raffling lunch with local agency mogul, Jacob Dutton. (Entrepreneurs Lunch Club)
“Like eBay but for selling your soul,” was the pitch on the Friday night. Sadly, their only achievement by Sunday was 8,000 fake Twitter followers after their team of six reduced to two after they couldn’t figure out the tech side. In a last ditch pivot to something more wholesome–”help cleanse your soul”–they turned to Facebook’s app platform only to realise everyone else had already tried that. So they split the equity between the two of them and went home.
At least two of the teams plan to continue working together. It doesn’t always go well though, as SoulTradr proved, in business there are always hard lessons to be learned. They were very honest about how much they had learned about themselves and how to approach ramping up their own ideas from attending the weekend, proving that if you had been holding out on attending a weekend like this before, you really should go. You may get more out of it than you realise.
Keep watching Birmingham
My biggest takeaway from the weekend was just how much everyone in Birmingham’s startup scene seems to be doing. Many of the attendees were already working for local startups, and came with ideas that were different still to their own ‘outside of work’ ideas. Everyone seemed to have at least three things going on, all of which sounded incredibly exciting.
I guarantee that we haven’t heard the last of Birmingham.