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Company profile: Deloitte Digital

Deloitte at Apps Crunch Launch

Deloitte presenting at Apps Crunch Launch

As part of the build up to The SPARKies and Bath Digital Festival, we will be profiling a number of companies associated with the events: sponsors, shortlisted SPARKies nominees and judges. Today it’s the turn of SPARKies sponsors Deloitte Digital.

Deloitte Digital is a bold and innovative part of Deloitte, offering everything digital from strategy, multi-channel, bespoke development and managed solutions.

Deloitte Digital is an innovative leader in online and mobile strategy, design and development, delivering world-class knowledge and resources from the leading global business and technology consultancy. They work with a wide range of iconic local and global organisations, helping them understand and profit from the online and mobile revolution.
DD logoThe focus of Deloitte Digital is on the areas of digital strategy, mobile, social / web, content management and managed services. This is all underpinned by digital tech architecture, application implementation and development expertise. They approach projects with great energy and passion, aligning the client’s business aspirations to the goals of the end user.

Winners of the Business Plan Competition pitch with Deloitte

Winners of the Business Plan Competition pitch with Deloitte

As a Gold Sponsor of the SPARKies, Deloitte Digital are backing the “Future SPARK” category recognising promising young tech talent in the region. This builds on the history of support that Deloitte Digital, as well as Deloitte, have shown for the University of Bath’s “Apps Crunch” and “Business Plan” competitions.

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Company Profile: Eden Ventures

Edenlogo_blue

As part of the build up to The SPARKies and Bath Digital Festival, we will be profiling a number of companies associated with the events: sponsors, shortlisted SPARKies nominees and judges. Today it’s the turn of SPARKies sponsors Eden Ventures.

Eden Ventures is one of Europe’s most respected early stage venture funds. It has always been a committed supporter of tech events in London – as long-time sponsor of DrinkTank – but with an office in Bath, it has also looked to help out the tech entrepreneurs of Bristol and Bath as frequent sponsors of BathSPARK and South West Founders.

On describing the make up of the Eden team, Charles Grimsdale, General Partner, said, “We are a mix of serial entrepreneurs and investment professionals with a very strong track record in operational management and building global businesses of high value.”

Eden has raised two funds to date and has invested in some of Europe’s most successful startups including: Reevoo – Europe’s leading social commerce company; Huddle – the leader in cloud collaboration and content management for the enterprise; and Borro – a company plugging the short-term credit gap. Eden also boasts a few locally headquartered startups within its portfolio, including Basekit (Bristol), Brightpearl (Bristol) and The Filter (Bath).

As one of three Gold Sponsor of this year’s SPARKies, Eden Ventures are sponsoring the “Totally Killing It Abroad” and “Best Start Up” awards. It is clear that those categories are a perfect fit for a VC fund with its focus so clearly on investing in startups that have the potential to go big on an international scale.

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Autostitch

I was introduced to Matt Brown by Guy McCusker, who works at the University of Bath. Autostitch has become my favourite-by-far photo app on the iPhone and when Guy told me it had been developed here in the city, I went in search of more information..

Q: First, please introduce yourself

I’m Matt Brown, a Lecturer at the University of Bath and a founder of Cloudburst Research, a startup specialising in Computer Vision on mobile devices. I first heard about Computer Vision when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, then moved to Canada to do a PhD in the area. I started doing some research in object recognition and panorama stitching, and out of that came Autostitch.

Q: What is Autostitch?

Autostitch automatically combines photographs into seamless panoramas, using object recognition techniques to recognise overlaps and align the images. It’s based on research I did as a PhD student at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Later, I teamed up with Professor David Lowe and Dr Bob Hearn (also from UBC) to form a startup company called Cloudburst Research, which is now developing and improving the software for iPhone, iPad, Android etc.

Q: How does it differ from other products that do a similar thing?

Autostitch is a very flexible approach to panorama stitching as it can work with photos from any source and in any arrangement. Other panorama apps have a constrained capture process, such as a single sweep in the case of Apple’s panorama stitcher. They also tend to use lower quality and often blurry video footage, whereas Autostitch works with high resolution stills. This approach, combined with advanced algorithms for alignment and blending, gives us the highest quality on the App Store and results that are comparable with professional desktop software.

Richmond panorama

Q: Without getting too scientific (!) can you describe how it does what it does so well?

A key part of the approach is the use of Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT) features to find matches between the images. This approach was developed by one of our co-founders, Professor David Lowe, and has been revolutionary in the field of Computer Vision. We are then able to implement the remaining stages of a professional panorama stitching pipeline, including bundle adjustment for optimal alignment of all the images, and multi-bland blending for high quality output. Dr Bob Hearn provided a lot of expertise to allow us to implement this efficiently and beautifully on iOS.

Q: What next for Autostitch?

We’re working on a new Android version, as well as several improvements to our iOS versions for iPhone and iPad. Our team has grown to 5 people, and we’re looking forward to the future of Computer Vision and Photography on mobile.

Q: What’s your favourite panorama taken with Autostitch?

That’s a difficult question! I spent a lot of time in the mountains when I was in BC and some of the most amazing panoramas I’ve shot were taken there. But now that Autostitch is always in my pocket it’s much easier to share panoramic views from anywhere… I stitched a really great panorama inside the stadium at the London Olympics last summer, for example.

Autostitch is available on the app store here.

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StoreNextDoor – an interview with Dom Moorhouse

I recently caught up with Dom Moorhouse … a serial entrepreneur, business book author and angel investor. Dom built and sold the successful professional services business (Moorhouse) but now – after many years ‘travelling the line’ to London is now focusing his work activities within his home City of Bath.

ME: Hi Dom! A quick one to start. Have you always been an entrepreneur?

Partly. I spent my twenties as a Royal Marines Officer so that was clearly a different phase in my life; albeit, this still gave me some excellent lessons in leadership and organisation which I have always found invaluable in business. Prior to this, at University, I had a small advertising business – publishing student term planners – which covered my living costs. Since leaving the Royal Marines though – bar a short stint at Deloitte Consulting – I have been somewhat of a serial entrepreneur. Firstly, with the concerted eight-year project that was Moorhouse and now with a ‘basket’ of exciting, new projects.

ME: Tell me a bit more about the start-up you are involved with.

StoreNextDoor seeks to shake up the traditional self-storage model as serviced by the large corporate incumbents (Big Yellow, SafeStore etc). As part of the ‘collaborative consumption’ wave, we are going to build a community-based alternative. Through our site, people with stuff to store can link with people in their neighbourhood who have spare space and – by linking at a private level – enjoy a match that saves money (and provides a welcome extra income stream for the space owner) as well as, often, being more convenient and local. Trust is clearly the key issue here so we have worked hard to build a professional site/service – member profiles, identity verifications, proper contracts etc – all fully backed by an insurance product that has been developed for us by Aviva.

ME: How did the idea come about?

As always, it is less about the idea per se but about people … and how, when you bounce ideas off of talented people, a creative serendipity ‘kicks in’. For me, the project came to life when I discussed it with two other Bathonian friends … Dan Hilton and Rosie Bennett. I had just come back from the 2011 Wired Conference and mentioned the excellent talk given by Rachel Botsman on the ‘collaborative consumption’ phenomena (Airbnb being the oft-cited ‘poster child’). It really got me thinking as to where else there was ‘spare capacity’ in our lives that could be better matched via the internet. Space seemed like the really obvious asset. Loads of people have redundancy here and, equally, loads of people really need it at core ‘pressure points’ in their lives. By example, over a Bath ale, Rosie got talking about how she had just received a sailing dinghy as a hand-down from her dad; Dan, similarly, had just become a father to his second child and needed to de-clutter a room to make a nursery. In this instance, I could offer some garage space to Rosie and Rosie could help Dan, with storage of his items (she just didn’t have a room for a dinghy). It just got us thinking as to how many other such matches could be better facilitated by a well built site. The real ‘eureka’ for me though was just a recognition as to how complimentary our skill sets were. Dan is a CTO par excellence and Rosie is a very experienced digital service designer/marketer. As importantly, we enjoy working together, so the development of the proposition and business model kind of grew naturally from there.

ME: When does the site launch?

Development thus far has been a part-time concern for us all; but, we have recently ramped this up (working from the excellent Dispensary) to prepare for a September beta-launch. Thereafter, the plan is test the idea locally in a Bath/Bristol trial for c. 6 months (looking closely at some central financial hypothesis we have as to its take-up and the cost of contract acquisition etc). During this phase, we know we need to work hard to promote what is a very new concept – primarily offline and with real innovation. In fact, you should look out for Rosie driving around Bath in a squirrel costume (our company mascot). If we pass ourselves out of this local test, we will seek to then start to move it to other regions via a series of dedicated offline marketing campaigns.

ME: Having built and sold a successful professional services business, what lessons do you think cross over to this venture?

There are some aspects that cross-over identically but there are also aspects I realise that are totally new – and potentially unknowable – in relation to this specific venture. In terms of the fundamentals, that I have learnt from previous experience, the key is to work with people brighter than yourself (tick), to collaborate in a really dynamic ‘make and break stuff’ fashion (tick) but not to get seduced by the ‘we don’t need a business plan, school of cool’ (we have spent as much time modelling/discussing the numbers as we have conceiving the service/site). A pure tech start-up is, however, pretty new ground for me so I recognise there is much to learn here. Fundamentally, we are also building something that requires a fundamental behavioural shift in how people currently ‘consume’ self-storage. The question as to how much inertia is in this market – and how best to encourage a behavioural shift to our new model – remains a very large, open question.

ME: What role do you think entrepreneurs play in the recovery of our economy?

A pivotal one. I have recently written a series of mini-books (also to be launched in September) that talk to this topic focused, specifically, on entrepreneurial owners of professional service firms (consultants, web design, creative firms etc). Ultimately to entrepreneur is ‘to dare’; start-ups rarely makes sense from a pure ‘risk management’ perspective not least because risk probabilities are not well understood at this stage. Entrepreneurs break this logical impasse and just start to make things happen … a kind of unpredictable serendipity then emerges. If you get it right, there is no better satisfaction in knowing that the vision, spark and force-multiplying enthusiasm of the founders went onto create a mini-economy that others then also gain from. For sure, the UK needs more such people and start-up teams to rescue us from our current economic malaise. 

ME: What’s your take on Bath as an entrepreneurial City?

It has been a real revelation to me. For the last decade, Bath was really just the beautiful City I came home to after another long week at work in my London office. Since stepping back from Moorhouse last year, I have seen Bath through a new set of eyes. It is clear that there is a real glut of talent in the City particularly so in the digital, creative space and I have really enjoyed meeting people in this network. Hats off to you Mike in this regard for being such a facilitator of these kinds of forums – they are a really important part of the entrepreneurial equation.

ME: Thanks Dom. Last question, how can our readers contact you with questions?

In relation to this venture, I can be contacted on dom@storenextdoor.com or – more generally – on dom@moorhouse.com; @dommoorhouse.

If anyone wishes to help us with the Bath trial for StoreNextDoor they can sign up on the website now and/or like our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/storenextdoorUK).

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From RAF engineer to app engineer

When Matt Powlson’s job as an RAF aircraft engineering officer took him away from his family, he still wanted to read his three-year-old daughter Libby a bedtime story.

Matt Powlson

Matt Powlson. Picture: The Bath Chronicle/Bath News & Media

From that paternal desire, an entire business has developed. Matt set about writing a programme for a digital picture book. Every time his daughter turned a page, his pre-recorded voiceover would read the words. So began a series of interactive children’s book apps, with Matt quickly forging links with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

The renaissance man was still with the RAF at the time, but having left the Forces in October, he is now running his business BlueWorks from Regency House in Wood Street.

It marks quite a change of lifestyle – and environment – for the electronic engineering graduate. He spent 20 years in the RAF working in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and Kuwait. His final four years were in Ohio.

When he left the air force in October and made a trip to Bath’s Christmas Market, he reached the decision that Bath was where he wanted to base his business.

“I fell back in love with the city and things just started to fall into place,” he said. “Since then, with the Bath Digital Festival and the X Media Lab taking place in March, I’ve met some great people in the city who are all digital innovators. The creative mood in Bath is so strong.

In January, he found an office on a Thursday, founded the firm on the Friday, and started work the following Monday.

His main focus now is the We-Reader, an app that enables multiple people to comment on the same text in an interactive way – with the author also being able to interact.

“It allows you to have a reading group all the time – with the author in the room,” explained Matt. “It’s potentially a global community for sharing thoughts.”

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SPARKies Finalist Profiles: One To Watch For 2012

 

The SPARKies awards aim to recognise the very best of Bath’s tech sector and, with only one day to go until the sold out event, excitement levels are running high! One category in particular, the “one to watch for 2012”, shows the impressive range of emerging companies generated in Bath. For those of you who perhaps haven’t heard of all of them just yet, here is a quick run down of the finalists.

Artolo LogoArtolo
How many of us are too intimidated to purchase a work of art from a gallery? That’s if we can even afford the prices in the first place! Artolo is reinventing the visual art world, making it accessible to all customers and budgets alike. It is an online platform which allows any artist to present their work for sale. Customers can then view these pieces in coffee shops, hotels and studios in their local area.

Artolo will launch this summer on a national scale giving independent artists the tools they need to connect with their audience.

Jowst LogoJowst
Jowst is a free community platform for both casual and competitive gamers that aims to centralise a players gaming experience into one easy to manage competition hub. Users can create or compete in tournaments for all games on all platforms. Jowst shows every conceivable stat that gamers crave, from tournament participation and win/loss ratio to being able to discover which teams are your biggest adversaries and viewing your form over time.

Jowst is working with professional teams such as TCM-gaming and is currently accepting applications for its beta programme.

Meanbee beeMeanbee
Meanbee use the Magento e-commerce platform to build websites for clients and have become experts in their knowledge of the platform. They aim to build websites that look great, maximise user experience and focus on increasing conversion rates. They also build custom Magento extensions including DIY Mage which makes it easier for a store owner to edit the look and feel of a site without needing to contact any developers.

Since graduating from the University of Bath last summer, Meanbee have moved into new offices with views of the Abbey and in 2012 they plan to double their team from three to six team members.

Topic Logic LogoTopicLogic
TopicLogic’s mission is to make it easier for information workers to find, share and publish their information wherever it is stored. All your files and emails are organized by topics and presented in your own personal online map. Files can be shared within teams with a single click. This increases productivity and collaboration by reducing the time spent sending and downloading information within a company.

TopicLogic are currently in private beta and are working with UK lawyers to trial and market the product.

Treehouse
Treehouse is an online tutorial service to teach web design and development to beginners. Users pay a monthly subscription fee for access to video tutorials and reinforce the content through quizzes and coding tests to unlock badges.The service is brilliant for any entrepreneur who wants to learn how to build their own web products or simply for people who wish to increase their employability prospects.

Treehouse currently has 8,000 paid users and with investors such as Kevin Rose and Reid Hoffman this is certainly a company with some serious credibility.

Urban Tribe LogoUrban Tribe
Urban Tribe is an online student community which gives members access to discounts at local venues and tips and recommendations for the area. Users can create their own “circle” of friends to keep track of the most relevant offers being used and share activity on Facebook. By allowing members to be paid for signing up their friends, user acquisition has been very successful.

Urban Tribe have worked with over 200 clients so far and their user base has doubled in the last month alone. They are planning to launch nationwide in Fresher’s week this September.

 

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SPARKies Finalist Profiles: Best Start-up

The SPARKies Awards Party is getting closer day by day, and this is the next instalment in our series of finalist profiles. This time it’s the turn of the Best Start-up category…

Artolo

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I met the Peter Dickinson and Tom Brereton, the guys behind Artolo, almost exactly a year ago and immediately saw a potentially explosive mix of entrepreneurship, passion and market knowledge. Artolo is about you and me and the art all around us – everywhere is a gallery!

While still ‘under the radar’ to a large extent, Artolo have some really fantastic design concepts and a clear vision for making art accessible to everyone, as well as enabling purchasing at the touch of a button. I really want to see this take off big time!

Bardowl

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I’ve always thought that Bardowl has the potential to be huge and I guess this nomination means I’m not alone. Imagine having pretty much any book you want available as a streaming audiobook on your smartphone. For a single monthly subscription you can get access to all the self-help books you can eat plus some great fiction for when you’ve had enough! The app has been developed by the infamous Chris Book (of Big M and openMIC fame) in Bath – well worth a try when it launches real soon now!

Catchy Agency

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While not your traditional tech start-up, Catchy Agency has attracted some great attention since moving to Kingsmead Square in Bath. It’s not uncommon for developers to think “I’ll create an app and put it into the marketplace and bob’s your uncle” – but, unfortunately it rarely works like that. What about discoverability, promotion, integration with other marketing campaigns and social media?  Richard and the team are pulling the whole package together for people who want a mobile channel through some great connections with app developers, operators, handset manufacturers, etc.

meanbee

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Meanbee is a great example of what happens when some talented Bath Uni Computer Science graduates decide forgo the draw of the banking sector and decide to set up their own company. Tom and Nick have got an infectious enthusiasm for ecommerce and have built their business on being the best Magento folks around. I met them for the first time this week and was really impressed with their clear focus yet fun attitude to business.

As well as producing ecommerce sites for customers the guys are building add-ins for the Magento platform and have already released a bunch of free and paid-for modules.

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One to watch: Treehouse

treehouse logo

Web design is a daunting prospect for any beginner. The number of programming languages available to choose from alone makes it hard to know where to start. Thankfully, Bath resident and entrepreneur Ryan Carson has given all newbies a solid foundation in which to make those first vital steps towards becoming a capable web developer.

Treehouse is an online educational service to teach web design, web development and iOS. Users can watch video tutorials on their chosen topics, then complete short quizzes and coding tests to reinforce their knowledge and unlock badges.

The site itself has a very clean, easy to use interface and the videos are comprehensive yet broken down into manageable chunks. This is definitely a major contributing factor to Treehouse’s success. When I first began designing the front end of websites I wasted hours reading forum posts and watching tutorials containing either too advanced or irrelevant content. Treehouse provides a clear pathway to guide users from the very basics or jump straight in at a relevant experience level.

 

Treehouse asks what do you want to learn

Treehouse lets you decide which topics you want to learn.

The service is provided on a monthly subscription fee which ranges from $25 to $49 per month depending on your membership level. Students get a fantastically cheap deal at only $9 p/m but even on the higher price plans I would strongly recommend Treehouse if you are just starting out in web design.

Ryan Carson

Ryan Carson, CEO of Treehouse

Ryan Carson kindly gave me a quick interview in which I asked for his thoughts on learning to code and starting a Business here in Bath.

So why should a complete beginner join Treehouse and take up web design or coding?

I think, really, coding is becoming the new literacy. In the future, for kids, it will become an essential part of their high school diploma. It is very important to have an understanding of programming as these days almost every device and business is connected to coding in some way.
Is it just complete beginners using the service?

At the moment treehouse is being used mainly by beginners, we don’t expect you to have any prior understanding of programming so it’s really people who haven’t had any experience before. However, we will be expanding to more advanced material soon.

What was it like trying to start a tech company in Bath?
I think Bath is becoming a good place for tech. My best advice is to try to have lunch with as many people as you can and get involved with the scene wherever possible. Even though it can be hard with work and family commitments, you really need to get out and socialise. Location doesn’t always matter, I started Carsonified in Bath then sold it and started Treehouse in Bath too.
What do you think Bath needs to do to become more established as a tech city?
I think Bath needs to have its own established incubator programme with seed-funding such as YC or seedcamp. There’s a lot of people in Bath such as Chris from TED or Peter Gabriel who could really throw their weight behind Bath projects. David from Bath Digital is doing really great stuff at the moment. But definitely for Bath to get national credibility it really needs an incubator programme.
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