Innovation Birmingham runs ‘Tech Wednesday’ once a month as a get-together for the Entrepreneurs for the Future (e4f) and Membership community to mingle with other tech types from the region. The evening event starts with beers and networking, then an hour of presentations in the state-of-the-art conference room, then more beer, with complimentary pizza.
March’s Tech Wednesday had three tech entrepreneurs share stories on their start-up journey and sector insight. As ever, the meet-up attracted lots of new faces and was a great way for others to interact with the Innovation Birmingham Campus’ tech entrepreneurs.
The three speakers were Abdul Khan of Pass the Popcorn; Dan Thompson from D4 Software and Stephen Willey from Incus Games.
New to the Tech Wednesday community, Abdul started off filling in the attendees on his entrepreneurial story from his first start-up, working with Richard Branson to his latest venture; Pass the Popcorn.
After being made redundant from his first job in digital marketing and ad deign, Abdul decided to embark on his first venture; a Drive in Cinema concept. Unfortunately the level of investment required – coupled with Abdul’s lack of experience in the industry – was seen as too risky, so the venture failed to generate investor backing.
Moving on, in 2010, Abdul decided to put his web development and digital marketing skills to use, creating Rate that Curry. This time, Abdul decided to boot-strap rather than pitch for investment, giving him the freedom to develop his concept at his own pace and in his set direction.
While developing the market for Rate that Curry – by building websites for local takeaways – Abdul was approached by Virgin Media Pioneers. He was asked to help deliver a government strategy proposal on best practice support for young entrepreneurs. The report was launched in 2012 and sparked the youth investment fund which later became The Start-Up Loans Company, headed up by serial entrepreneur James Caan.
Abdul’s latest venture – Pass the Popcorn – an idea based on the concept of pop-up cinemas, is an online tool that helps people plan ‘invite only’ movie events. The USP of this idea is that attendees vote on the movie to be screened on the day, adding a new level of consumer power.
So far an MVP site has been launched and Abdul is in talks with investment platform, Seedrs and is looking for co-founders.
For more information on Pass the Popcorn and how you can get involved, please email Abdul@passthepopcorn.co.uk
The next presenter was Dan Thompson of D4 Software, who comes from a data analytics background.
D4 Software was launched in May 2012 and offers expert data analysis and mining consultancy.
Dan has created two services. This first service is Answers To Go; D4 will work with you to answer your data related question for a fuss-free, fixed rate. The second service revolves around consultancy support. D4 can provide weekly reports, data clean-up exercises, and a range of other services to help manage your data.
While being based at the Entrepreneurs for the Future Tech incubator, Dan developed his first product; QueryTree. Query Tree is a simple yet powerful app that lets people explore and extract data from a MySQL or SQL Server database, without needing a developer to write a report. Dan has worked to simplify the data mining process making it accessible to wide range of users. To see an example of how it works, visit querytreeapp.com
Walking us through the process of a live client brief, Dan spoke about the importance of understanding the outcome required from the data being mined.
Dan evaluated several software solutions in relation to his brief, each with its own unique and credible attributes relating to data evaluation. Stating “Everything is a trade-off” Dan worked through solutions offered by Hadoop, Windows Azure, Google’s ‘Big Table’, Cassandrea and Elasticsearch, all of which proved there’s a NoSQL for everyone but no NoSQL that fits all.
Sharing his expertise, Dan rounded up by focusing on the reality of any data mining project; “you need to look at the commercial goals of the project, the risks involved and accept compromises where necessary.”
Last to speak was Stephen Willey from Incus Games; a collective of digital game designers working on an experimental project utilising the power of audio in game design.
Using audio information as the core asset of their games, Incus Games’ debut title Three Monkeys has been designed to bridge the gap between the sighted and visually impaired.
Rather than relying on visuals to lead the player, the game forgoes graphics all together, other than an ambient background, and instead uses binaural audio techniques to create gameplay. Read the latest press article here.
The Three Monkeys game informs the player what they are imagining, rather than how to imagine it. This unique take on audio immersive gaming aims to empower the game player, limited only by the power of their own imagination.
The 3D audio game has attracted lots of interest from both sighted and visually impaired gamers, reaching a diverse market. Watch the game trailer here.
Stephen then went on to discuss the main challenges of the project; fundraising and crowd-sourcing; “Working as a collective means having to juggle workloads between a team of six – all of which have their own jobs or consultancy businesses – while trying to find the time and budget to develop our much anticipated IP.”
Stephen also touched on the challenges of developing a smooth audio user interface. With the elimination of menu systems, the game tutorials need to be integrated into the gameplay, reversing tutorial techniques used in main stream gaming.
Looking forward, Incus Games is hoping to release the Three Monkeys game for PC and Mac next year. For more information follow @incusgames and @enterbyzantia