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Education wellbeing service developed in Bath launched today

A new web based service launched today by a company in Bath ensures children are heard in the primary school classroom and helps teachers monitor the wellbeing and happiness of their students.
Speakr makes it easy for teachers to see which of their students need some extra support, and can act as an early warning system alerting teaching staff to children who might be having difficulties at school.
Wellbeing and happiness are areas of increasing focus at a national level, with the UK Government spending £2m per year on research to understand the happiness of our children.
Speakr is the first and only online tool available that allows children to record their own feelings, from their perspective.
To use Speakr, children log into the system, either on a school computer or on an iPad. They can log in as often as they like, and can record how they feel throughout the school day by clicking on the ‘Speakr face’ that most closely reflects their emotions and entering some words to describe why they feel that way. Pupils can also use Speakr to send and receive messages with their teacher or another trusted adult within the school.
Teachers have their own login details, and can quickly and easily see how their whole class is feeling. They can identify whether a particular child appears to be out of sorts and follow this up with a conversation. Teachers can also provide ‘wellbeing’ reports to parents as part of their feedback about a child’s progress in their class.
Bath-based Anthony Lewis, father of two and founder of Speakr, said: “Often when children come home from school the only update you get as a parent is that their day was ‘Ok’ – it would be so helpful to know how they’ve really felt at school over a period of time. My original idea came from thinking about better ways to help children in care, but in talking to teachers it felt like there was an opportunity here for all children of primary school age.
“When Speakr was just a few ideas sketched on a piece of paper, the first teacher I spoke to about it – Hugh Thomas, Head of Science and PE at Broomhill Junior School in Bristol – said: “In my class of thirty, sometimes I don’t know if children are quiet because they’re quiet, or they’re quiet because there’s something wrong. If I had this tool, I’d know.” From that point on I believed we were on to something potentially amazing.
“Today’s primary school children are digital natives, so engaging them through technology they’re profoundly comfortable with seemed to offer an ideal way for them to record their feelings. We trialled Speakr in eight schools around the country and have had fantastic feedback from the children and their teachers.”
Mrs Delyth Williams, Head Teacher at Ysgol Bryn Teg in Llanelli, piloted Speakr. She said: “Assessing wellbeing is a challenge for all schools and Speakr will be a boost to all the schools that use it.”
Speakr is highly secure, with each school being allocated its own Speakr site, controlled by unique usernames and passwords for teachers and children. Children can’t share information on Speakr with classmates, everything they enter is kept between them and a minimum number of school staff.
Speakr has been trialled in schools around Britain over the past nine months and is now available to all schools and classes from September 2013. For a limited time, schools and classes can sign up to try Speakr for free. For more information see http://speakr.co.uk.
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Interview with Peter Francomb of Cahootify

Bath has so many exciting startups at the moment. One of those is Cahootify, which is about to launch in July. I spoke to CEO Peter Francomb about running a tech startup, raising funds and getting noticed.
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Pete, tell us what Cahootify does?

At Cahootify we believe in helping people do more of the work that they love by giving them the tools and resources to make projects happen. At core, this means an online, beautifully designed and fun to use team-building platform. You can use Cahootify to post projects / build a team, find projects / join a team or manage a ‘talent pool’ of freelancers, consultants or volunteers.

What motivated you to start Cahootify?

Until a few years ago, I’d almost always been an independent professional. For twenty years or so I made a living from various disciplines – freelancing as a graphics operator, freelancing as a web developer, working as a musician, running small businesses… all sorts. During this time I was also involved in projects that were about developing new skills and abilities, or about doing something that I felt was of value to people, or both. Cahootify is the online platform I always wanted.

There must have been some big challenges along the way – how have you overcome them?

Well, we’re pre-launch so I guess most of our challenges are still to come. It’s been amazingly plain sailing so far in terms of building the team and attracting interest from potential partners and the like but we’ve just hit our first real challenge, which is to close our seed investment round – and we haven’t yet overcome it.

Whilst Cahootify is going extremely well in many ways, that’s also making things difficult because we don’t have the resources to follow up on the tremendous and rising amount of interest. None of us is of independent means so we do now need cash investment in order to be able to continue.

What has been your biggest success to date?
Speaking personally, and bearing in mind that we are still pre-launch, the biggest success so far was probably when we enrolled a certain Mr. Simon Starr on to the team, who’s now our CTO and Lead Developer. In the world of tech startups, there are far more people with bright ideas looking for partner technologists than there are technologists on the other side of the equation. Finding a truly talented and experienced co-founder to take responsibility for the technical arena, who also has the right kind of entrepreneurial spirit, is like gold dust. I feel honoured.

Have you been able to access any funding for startups?
Not as such, no, though I estimate that the core and supporting teams have put in around £70k worth of “sweat equity” thus far. We launched a crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs about a month ago and there’s currently about £5k sitting in our account, which we can’t get our hands on yet and we’ll lose if we don’t reach our £60k target. Of course, we are going to reach our target – one hundred percent no doubt! (Gulp.) We’re also in the process of applying to the Nominet Trust and the South West Local Enterprise Partnership “Going for Growth” fund, both of which we seem to tick all the boxes for.

What would your advice be to others looking to start a tech startup?
Well if you’re asking about how to create a successful tech startup, then I don’t think I’m in any position to give advice yet! I’m not entirely sure who is, either – it’s a highly chaotic world and I often think that people ascribe meaning in hindsight to what was, in fact, just good or bad luck at the time.What I would suggest, however, is that whatever you imagine might be there for you at the end of the startup rainbow (wealth, status, security, magnetic sex appeal…), it won’t be enough to sustain you. Despite all the hassle, the inevitable setbacks, the insane hours, the financial insecurity and the mundane chores, you have to basically love what you’re doing. Otherwise, you’ll never stick it out.
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Jowst acquired by Xfire

Bath startup Jowst has announced this week that it has been acquired by US based Xfire.

Jowst is a community platform that aims to centralise a players gaming experience. For both casual and competitive gamers it aims to offer a comprehensive and unique reward and results system to show each player’s achievements and losses through their public profile.

Founder and CEO Gavin Weeks said: “We’re very excited to announce that Jowst has been acquired by Xfire.

“We are very passionate about rewriting the rules of how gamers create, host and participate in tournaments and are confident our product is capable of delivering this. Now we’re joining the Xfire team to accomplish a much bigger vision — one that can only be achieved with Xfire’s support and guidance. We’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our alpha testers who have supported us and given us priceless feedback, allowing us to build the foundations of a fantastic product.

“We have had an amazing experience building Jowst over the last 18 months and look forward to continuing to do so as part of the Xfire family. Full speed ahead!”

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Company profile: The Agency

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After a fantastic festival this year we are extremely grateful to our gold sponsors, The Agency, who not only supported as a gold sponsor in the SPARKies but also as the sole sponsor of the Family Weekend in Queen’s Square.

The Agency is a Bath based advertising and communications business, servicing global brands in international markets. With more than 80% of revenue being driven from digital and technology based accounts, notable international clients include AA, BSM, Boots, BT, Del Monte, Tom Tom, Intercasino and QVC and most recently the James Caan Foundation. The Agency have also pioneered new targeting techniques using digital media channels and advertising platforms in partnership with The Times and Wall Street Journal. This has secured North American company Quintiles, the largest pharmaceuticals CRO and clinical trials company in the world, as a long term client.

Founded in 2008, The Agency is one of the UK’s fastest growing agencies. With a current team of 15-18, including two recent Bath graduates, they expect to expand to around 28 people by the end of the year. In 2012 the Agency were ranked 43 in the UK’s Top 100 Agencies (RAR) based on financial success, client reviews, as well as peer regard.

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I spoke to Saman Mansourpour, co-founder and partner of the Agency, about running a highly successful international business from Bath and why they felt it was important to support Bath Digital Festival:

Which project are you most proud of?

I think it would be re-positioning BSM to the youth market. We helped to drive their business online and increase brand awareness of 17-24 year olds to 97%. We also got to work with celebrities such as Pixie Lott and JLS which was great. Helping to define and measure digital media will be the biggest part of the business going forward I’m sure because its all about what can brands do in that environment and how can you capture that activity and quantify it in a commercial way. This will help our clients know, first and foremost, what works and what doesn’t  and secondly, how to proportion their budgets accordingly so they know what the online channels are really delivering for them commercially both short and long term. Therefore, for that reason, we’ve also invested this year quite heavily in a digital media team. We’ve got a new planning director, digital media manager and we’ve started to buy quite a lot of media and it’s helping to close that loop for us. So now we’re all the way through from coming up with the strategy, the campaign, the creative to actually getting it pushed out into the media, monitoring and measuring what happens,and taking the learnings and optimising that process. The integration means it’s across all of those digital media channels.

As a sponsor for our festival why do you think it’s important to support Bath’s digital community?

Well, we’re based here first and foremost [laughs]. It’s our home city, we should support it and be seen to support it. We do business here and we do business from here so that in itself is a good reason to support the city as a whole. From a selfish perspective, as Bath thrives and the digital scene in Bath thrives, then we thrive. But equally, for that to work it needs to be a virtuous circle, and we need to give back to the city as well. So for us it’s not just about sponsoring the Festival to help the events take place, it’s about being part of it and helping to promote it as well. The more notoriety Bath gets, the more people come here and thrive here, the more people we’ll hopefully get to work, engage with and learn from. If we can make this a technological hub of advancement then that can only be a good thing for everybody involved. We will benefit from that and in turn our clients benefit from that as well. As an agency we have to be mindful of that- we’re only ever as good as the last thing we’ve done for our clients. We’ve always got to be offering them and delivering them something new  to keep their brands abreast of the market and that’s what we strive to do so the city will play a really big role in that . The university in particular will continue to play a part in that so as we grow we hope that the digital scene will grow as well and should be symbiotic.

Do you think there is anything Bath can do as a city to attract more digital companies?

I think that on a wishlist for the digital scene here to grow, the employment opportunities need to grow and by virtue of that it means we’re going to need more companies here doing business. So, as a city, we probably need to attract businesses, small, medium and large, not just start up operations. There’s a lot of start ups that come out of Bath, they’re important, they’re great, we need them and they can be the bedrock to a thriving culture. But, ultimately, it requires some level of scale and we need to have businesses that are bigger, businesses that have more money to invest in R&D and more money to invest in people and growth. I think Bristol does a very good job, it’s bigger, there’s more square footage, there’s more people, by definition it’s easier for them. However, I think Bath has a certain intelligence about the population and certainly the university helps to feed that and we have to make sure that we keep that here and we don’t just let it run off to London and come back when it fancies kicking it’s feet up and having an easier life because that’s not necessarily when people are at their best. The university provides some excellent digital students so we want those people all the way through, we want them to learn here, stay here, be here and hopefully retire here.

Thanks again to The Agency for their generous support. You can find further information about their services on their website www.theagencyonline.co.uk.

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SPARKies shortlist focus: Biggest Success Story of 2012

The companies shortlisted for the Biggest Success Story of 2012 are Complete Control, Mubaloo and Rockpool Digital.

To find the biggest success story in 2012, The SPARKies judges were looking for nominees that could demonstrate significant growth, some form of sector recognition or a technological breakthrough.

In 2012 Complete Control had a fantastic year;  they were winner’s of The 2012 SPARKies ‘Best Digital Design Agency’, and their first original IP game concept was commissioned by Cartoon Network – a hugely ambitious multiplayer online sports game called SuperStadia and a ground breaking project the small, but perfectly formed, digital agency. The concept was so well received that Cartoon Network commissioned SuperStadia as their worldwide offering for children’s online sporting games across ALL their global websites – so a massively prestigious project for the talented Bath based agency.

Aside from this, Complete Control also created the new BAFTA kids website, seeing the most successful amount of votes ever – a massive 590,000 kids votes in just 4 weeks. Complete Control’s work with Bath Spa University has resulted in their Sutdent Employee win Student of The Year 2012 and subsequently they have been nominated for National Graduate Recruitment awards alongside Cap Gemini and American Express. They’ve really set the standard for success for 2013!

Bristol based Rockpool Digital was commissioned to produce Red Bull’s website, online game, interactive experiences and social integration for one of the biggest events of 2012 – Felix Baumgartner’s Stratos Jump. The result? Over 9 million people watched the jump online. With over 8 million concurrent streams on YouTube, it became the biggest event in their history. Rockpool Digital’s website received over 22 million users on jump day and over 150,000 people played the game to guess where Felix would land. Social media usage was amazing with over 3.1 million tweets about Stratos on jump day and over half of the trending topics relating to the jump. Facebook shares of the image of Felix on the ground reached over 29,000 in 40 minutes and the group page collected 800,000 likes, with 216,000 of these coming on the day of the jump.

Stratos will be the content marketing project by which others are judged in the future. For Rockpool Digital, the global attention is one of the defining moments in their history and without a doubt made 2012 a standout year with such an incredible success.

Mubaloo was founded by Mark Mason in 2009, seizing the opportunity presented by the growing app market. 2012 has seen a number of successes for the company with new clients acquired including BP, Schroders, Met Office, RAF and Argos, Mubaloo is not only growing in terms of client base, but also in terms of financial growth, in numbers of staff employed and in technical experience.

Over the last 12 months, Mubaloo has developed an array of enterprise apps from an iPad presentation tool for Schroders, to a location based logistics app for DHL and an events app for the London Stock Exchange. Mubaloo is also listed as a recommended enterprise app developer by Apple. Mubaloo has also developed a number of successful consumer apps for clients including the Met Office, RAF, Argos, Monocle and William Hill. Mubaloo’s status as an industry leader has been affirmed throughout the past 12 months with a number of very successful thought leader seminars and presentations, as well the level of PR that Mubaloo has achieved.

Over the last year Mubaloo has received coverage in The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Drum, Mobile Marketing Magazine, BBC, Strategy Eye, the Evening Post, Android Magazine, and Digital Arts Magazine to name a few – all of which have been highlights for the company. Last year Mubaloo won a number of awards. These include App Developer of the Year 2012 at the Appsters and Best Enterprise App Developer at the 2012 Mobile Entertainment awards. The company also won Business of the Year 2012 and Best company employing under 100 people at the Post Business Awards. All in all, Mubaloo has had a fantastic year and looks to be set for more great things to come…

This category, sponsored by Bath Spa University, was extremely strong and demonstrates that 2012 was a fantastic year for many of our region’s tech and digital organisations.

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SPARKies shortlist focus: best app of 2012

This years Best App award saw an overwhelming number of entries with it being one of the most competitive categories. The award is sponsored by Cap2 Solutions, and this year’s shortlist are:

MyTalky, launched just last December the brainchild of Alamex and Intohand, MyTalky is a social voicemail app that allows the user to send audio messages via Twitter. MyTalky already has had success with a number of X Factor contestants here in the UK and in the USA using the app, it was also selected by Kate Russell on BBC Click as one of the favourite new apps of the year. An updated app is already in development that will allow messages to be sent via Facebook.

The Met Office app developed by the Met Office in conjunction with Mubaloo allows users to access an up-to-date 5 day weather forecast including wind speed, UV levels and sunrise and sunset times. Downloaded over 1 million times within 2 weeks of launch and accessed over 6.5 million times during one weekend alone in February 2012. The app has been voted the number 1 weather app by The Independent (June 2012) and the success of the app has been further proven as it has overtaken the Met Offices main website in terms of site traffic.

Clockwork Racers, developed by Opposable Games specialists in connected games allows multiple players to play together across different devices, featuring four characters, four tracks and one exciting Grand Prix challenge. The app has been nominated as it is changing how people and families interact through gaming, allowing for new shared experiences.

All three shortlisted have achieved success with their apps and the contrast between the nominees shows the growing success of app technology here in the region. The winner will be announced at The SPARKies on 20 March at Komedia.

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SPARKies shortlist focus: best startup

The Best Startup is always an exciting category to read through, and with a large number of entries this year it was hugely encouraging to see that the regional tech scene is going from strength to strength.

The three startups in our shortlist are all completely different, and all at different stages of development. What they have in common is that our judges were really impressed with the achievements to date, future vision, business planning and strategy of each.

The Best Startup category is sponsored by tech investors Eden Ventures.

CiteAb is an antibody search engine, allowing scientific researchers to quickly find antibodies that will be right for their work. Currently large amounts of time and money are wasted on the ‘wrong’ antibodies. CiteAb, an website inspired by researcher Dr Andrew Chalmers, overcomes this by matching search results with academic citations, so researchers can choose an antibody that has been proven to work. The site was launched in Q1 of 2013 and is now preparing to reach 1m antibodies.

Forged from the burning heart of Games Jam culture, Bristol’s Opposable Games has bought together some of the best and most experienced talent in the South West in the fields of games design and development, illustration, 3D modelling, audio design, and composing, to create brand new gaming experiences. Their first release – Clockwork Racers – is now available on the App Store, and the company has got grant funding from the Wellcome Trust to produce a game demonstrating DNA damage and repair within a human cell. This young company is already demonstrating its huge potential.

Prezola was created by a Bath-based team as the definitive directory to home and garden products from the UK’s favourite high street and online retailers. The site pulls together over 30,000 products into a single destination, making it easier for users to browse everything the market has to offer; all in one place. In its first year Prezola has been nominated as Wedding Gift List of The Year by Bridal Magazine and has enjoyed widespread national press interest.

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SPARKies shortlist focus: the good award

The good award is probably my favourite at The SPARKies. We see digital skills being used in fantastic ways in Bath for business, but the more philanthropic uses can be just as, if not more, exciting and we often never hear about them.

Every year our judges say how hard this category is to judge. Each nominee has put in hours of personal time, using their digital skills to help others. Choosing the best is really tough. That said, our three finalists are really impressive and here I am going to give a little of the back story to each.

The Good Award is sponsored by Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios.

Charlotte Calkin went to a TED conference and found it so inspiring she decided to run a TEDx of her own, and recognising how much impact this type of inspiration could have for teens she aimed TEDxYouth@Bath at 16 – 19 year olds. Charlotte worked tirelessly to line up a stunning series of talks from some of the country’s brightest young talent, and students from every single Bath secondary school attended the event and left inspired.

CuraHQ lets you look after the people you care about by allowing you to create your own secure online community. You can invite the family members, carers, friends and neighbours of the person you are caring for, and share updates and tasks to share the load. Most of us have a parent or a grandparent who needs some help to stay living in their own home, and CuraHQ aims to make that easier to manage.

Marcelle Speller runs Localgiving.com. She has worked tirelessly to make many thousands of small, local and vital charities visible online and to allow them an easy and effective way to raise funds. Localgiving.com supports the fabric of our society in a way not possible before… and it is much needed. Marcelle’s efforts have had an impact tens of thousands of people nationwide and she now has an ambition to take Localgiving.com global and help millions.

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SPARKies shortlist focus: Best Service Provider

Being a bit of an infographic magpie, I lost an inordinate amount of 2012 courtesy of one single Tech Crunch article into what makes a successful ecosystem for start-ups.

Traditional wisdom has it that entrepreneurs migrate to where the money is; like the proverbial bees to a honeypot. I’ve always felt this to be an over-simplification as most of the entrepreneurs that I’ve come across, whilst pragmatic and financially savvy, are rarely driven by purely financial motives. The research backs this up, concluding that a complex web of support services are what really makes a start-up hub “hum”.

So whilst the concept of a “Best Service Provider to the Tech Sector” category at the SPARKies might at first seem a bit woolly, it is in fact key to what makes the south west such a magnet for high-growth, high-tech businesses. Award sponsors FreeAgent (providers of an online accounting system for SMEs) certainly share this view and were eager to offer their support.

The Innovation Centre, headed up by Simon Bond of the University of Bath, is the first of the shortlisted entries. In addition to providing high-quality incubation space to a range of university spin-outs and external high-growth ventures, they are committed to providing a myriad of other support services. These include mentoring, a flexible co-working area and hosting of influential regional networks (including Silicon Southwest, OpenMIC and BathCamp). A true exponent of giving back to its community of customers, they are also headline sponsors of this year’s SPARKies.

A constant challenge in a historic city like Bath is the provision of modern comms systems; the lifeblood of any digital start-up. It is a challenge that Gradwell, led by founder Dr Peter Gradwell, has risen to time and time again. Stand-out examples include providing WiFi access to the Assembly Rooms for last year’s X-Media Labs conference and battling BT to install extra lines for a 60 person hack day at extremely short notice. The company continues to grow, securing £1.15m in investment last year to expand their VoiP operations.

Anyone at all familiar with Bath’s tech scene will know of iPrinciples, the long-standing service provider run by founders Richard Godfrey and Paul Cross. Recognised globally for their development skills, the iPrinciples team have invested their time and energy in building a variety of local start-ups in 2012 such as TopicLogic (now CloudFind), Cognisess, Artolo and Neighbourly. They are always happy to help anyone looking to start a digital business in and around Bath and regularly give freely our time, advice and useful introductions. The team give endlessly to support the Bath Digital Festival as well as many other events across the region.

The sheer variety of services provided by these companies will surely fuel a heated debate amongst the award judges come the 20th March, with all three deserving of merit for making the southwest such a vibrant place to launch and grow.

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SPARKIES shortlist focus: one to watch in 2013

Being shortlisted for ‘the one to watch for 2013’ means our judges thought the nominees below showed significant signs of making waves from the regional digital scene this year.

Our judges were looking for a nominee that has seen tangible achievements to date, and has the potential to see further growth, success and development on a large scale in 2013.

The Innovation Centre sponsors the ‘One to Watch in 2013’ category. This was a highly competitive category with over 30 entries, and our judges had a hard time selecting the very best for our shortlist:

Cahootify is a radical new way for creatives, consultants and changemakers to recruit each other for projects. The site is launching soon and will allow users to upload work descriptions, and other to express an interest in them. By matching projects with potential collaborators the site aims to democratise the social recruiting space.

CiteAb is an antibody search engine, allowing scientific researchers to quickly find antibodies that will be right for their work. Currently large amounts of time and money are wasted on the ‘wrong’ antibodies. CiteAb, an website inspired by researcher Dr Andrew Chalmers, overcomes this by matching search results with academic citations, so researchers can choose an antibody that has been proven to work.

myHealthPal is a healthcare initiative created to explore the use of everyday technologies to allow people to better manage their own conditions. By making use of touch screen devices the platform visualises health to illustrate the impacts of various lifestyle choices on medicine effectiveness. Underpinning the primary function are the myHealthPal CareCircles that enable users to create a support network who can see in real-time how they are managing by viewing their timeline to review any event types they are permitted to see.

All three shortlisted nominations show the potential for high-level impact and impressed our judges. The winner will be announced at The SPARKies awards ceremony on 20 March at Komedia.

 

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