Silicon Milkroundabout - Sunday May 15th

Posted 19 May, 2011 Anthony Tan (staring at yet another render. But still loving it for some reason..)

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Of late I've noticed that there's a bit more of a push to get some more light shone on the local startup sector over here in London, and latest in events that I've been along to has been silicon milkroundabout. As one of the lucky invitees, thought it'd be worth just taking some notes and writing them up for the benefit of hindsight, and those who were too far afield to get in.

Just this Sunday past I was lucky enough to apply to and be invited along to silicon milkroundabout which saw a crushing of about err, 400-500 of assorted developers, techies, etc in close contact with a selection of 45 odd startup-esqe companies. I say lucky, because the response to the event was way more than Songkick and everyone expected with well over 1000 applicants and a further 60 companies that didn't get a spot

Thanks goes to..

First up, things like this don't Just Happen - organising things and getting people sorted isn't an easy task in general, and much credit should go to the guys at Songkick for getting us all together and I presume, being chief cat-herders. Well done guys!

The view from the inside

It was an interesting mix of people out there, some like Skimlinks were very businesslike (they wanted PHP devs, so when hearing I was a generalist, gave me the 'thanks, but please move on' motion), while others like the Lightbox guys and tBone were happy to chat and talk tech.

Everyone got a 1 minute pitch up on stage to describe their company, do a sell, and then we broke and made up a huge surge/sea of bodies trying to barge through and get to the corporates that we most wanted to speak to. A number of people had some (clever) gimmicks to draw people across, but ultimately it was a sea of bodies.

Anyhoo, some general thoughts as I head back onto set for filming...

Everyone's funded?

The impression I got from talking and just generally wandering was that of a jobs fair/expo. Not that it's a bad thing, just not quite what I was prepared for - I had sort of expected the skew to be more towards the super-early stage startup. It took me about an hour to put my finger on it as to why, but I suspect it's because everyone out at the event was funded - some were self funded, some via angles, some via strategic investors, some were (in my view) established companies, but all were past that treacherous idea generation/proving stage and could afford to have swag, hire, and eat something other that instant ramen.

Reacting to ideas and working the crowd

Personally, I'm not looking for a 'normal' job, I'm looking for a place to work on something that I think is incredibly neat, and novel, but with all the risk that entails and I don't think I'm unique in that respect based on those people I talked to. So an observation if pitching to a finicky crowd like us - we're all here because we're ready to take a risk on our careers, jobs, cashflows, and sanity. Make sure your product or your corp seems to be offering something to engage a risk-taking individual (either in tech, corp structure, dataset, something) and it'll translate into much greater foot traffic and a different class of interest (if that's what you want of course). Bring your best and most random techie staff if you can afford it, be prepared to handwave and share the vision and you'll get the best people in show heading straight to your door.

In terms of event prep, might I suggest the following:

  • be prepared to have a booth area with a few guys to pull traffic in and make sure you're really easily identified (highly identifiable corporate tshirts, bunny ears, lime green hats, etc).
  • have two or three others prepared to wander and work the crowd, and intercept the queues as they're forming for other companies...
  • be organised to take names and details and then followup if you want to harvest crowd (laptops work better than pens, which work better than handing out cards, which works better than nothing)
  • Set out a challenge for the crowd, chuck out some kind of intractable problem, and you'll definetly get people like me beelining to your stand to talk about it
  • swag is neat to pick up, but they aren't as effective pulls as you'd think alas...
  • Attendees

    On arrival we received a small A6 notebook with the attendees in them - everyone got a single page and answered the following basic questions.

    • In one sentence...
    • Founded...
    • Funding...
    • Team...
    • Hiring for...
    • Jobs page...
    • Key recruitment contact...

    There's only so much you can do in a small page, but it was a rather effective tool - scribble down notes during presentations and memory joggers before heading into talk to people.

    If you didn't get along to the event, here's the full list of attendees (on the off chance that the core Silicon Milkroundabout site ever dissapears..):

    Mind Candy, Songkick, skimlinks, EDITD, 7digital, fizzback, nestoria, mendeley, groupspaces, LYST, huddle, playfire, smarkets, onefinestay, gosquared, shutl, aiHit, keynoir, moo, lightbox, pusher, housetrip, webmynd, tuxebo, stylistpick, globaldev, lanyrd, artfinder, conversocial, metail, covestor, peerindex, acunu, groupay, struq, hailo (just coming out of stealth), ss3, inq mobile, tbone, opengamma, masabi, rangespan, last.fm, qubit, and finally blottr

    Two of note

    (this isn't me endorsing some of them over the others, just the first two that bubbled to the top of my head, which in some way probably means they were memorable)

    Lightbox

    Aside from having the misfortune of almost losing a Galaxy Tab to a spilt beer, Lightbox was memorable because I got to chatting to one of the founders, Nilesh Patel, and for some reason they just felt about right. The best I can describe it would be it felt like the product and the development of something interesting was foremost - like a proper engineering/development company.

    Me_tail

    Me_tail had an interesting pitch, the main bit I remember from them was a call to the crowd asking us to come round and have a chat if we had any ideas on how to simulate/model what gaining/losing a few lbs would do to a person's body shape. Clearly, that got me interested because it sounds very much like a challenge, and so I spent a bit of time chatting to Jim Downing (their head of technology). In essence, they're trying to do work in the micro-customisation space with clothing where you model yourself (as in, a 3D model) and so when shopping online, you can get a much better confidence level in clothing fit.

    Methinks that's an interesting dataset that they're going to have stashed up in a little while and one that I'd love to be able to play around with... I reckon that there's a heap of interesting uses that will pop out before long. My personal request was for them to focus on foot shape if they could, and then push the data out to boot manufacturers so they can tweak their lasts and make better fitting boots. Seriously.

    But no, really, why do I think the data is particularly interesting? Well, I'd be curious to see how this data could feed back into the fashion industry as a predictive/sampling tool as an aide in clothing design. Or perhaps any industry that interacts with people? (read: seat design on airlines)

    Morris the Milk Maestro and Philip Glass

    And lastly, just because they're damn cute little characters, may I introduce Morris the Milk Maestro, and Philip Glass? Can't think why, but I suspect they'd both be good on keyboard...

    (both by Gideon Bullock and featuring on silicon milkroundabout kit)

 
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  1. the original silicon milkroundabout site is at www.siliconmilkroundabout.com (you need the www bit otherwise it times out..)
  2. If you didn't get the somewhat oblique reference, look up Philip Morris Glass
  3. As a side note, on speaking with someone there we had an idea on developing a micro-location beacon system to try manage the crowd-body crush issue, it's nice to be in an environment like this where making up neat productable ideas is just part of the regular day.