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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: Best Tech Entrepreneur

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 12.39.18What makes a great entrepreneur? “Being passionate about your idea to the point of craziness,” says Robert Scoble. “Being a successful entrepreneur is not about breakthrough innovation. It’s about flawless execution,” says Naveen Jain. “You never learn from success, but you do learn from failure,” adds Marcus Dyson.

One thing is certain, tech entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of business. Without them, ideas just remain that, ideas… Last year’s SPARKies winner of this award was Doug Pulley, founder of Picochip. An idea he developed and that evolved into a company that employs hundreds of people in the city and is now owned by US-based Mindspeed.

This year, the Best Tech Entrepreneur category is sponsored by SPARKies headline sponsors, The University of Bath Innovation Centre. This was an extremely strong category for nominations, proving the strength and depth of entrepreneurial talent in the south west.

In no particular order, the first of the finalists is Glynn Hayward, the Founder and Creative Director of Complete Control. As an entrepreneur, Glynn continues to set the vision, win the pitches, and drive new creative and technical concepts in the form of children’s apps, games and websites for the UK’s leading children’s brands – as well as developing a stable of Complete Control’s own IP. Glynn’s energies for nurturing new talent in the digital space can also be seen in his great work with local Universities and Schools. Developing the next generation of ‘Tech Whizz Kids’ is a key passion of Glynn’s and shows his ongoing commitment to the industry.

Next up is Mike Barlow, Founder of myHealthPal.com. Mike was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 42 and created myHealthPal to help people manage their own condition or for someone else to manage it for them and makes use of touch screen devices such as the iPhone to perform condition related tests, to capture results and log other information automatically. Mike has funded the product development process himself and is determined to make a real difference to people’s lives.

The SPARKies third finalist is serial entrepreneur, Mark Mason. Mark co-founded Mason Zimbler, a Bristol-based full digital marketing agency specialising in the technology sector. Mark sold his company in 2008 and then founded Mubaloo in 2009 to service the demand for B2C and B2B app development. Mubaloo’s clients include BP, the Met Office, DHL and the RAF. Mark is well known around the South West for the work he does locally: in 2012 he won the IoD South West Director of the Year award and he is very active as a mentor and organiser of student app building competitions.

To see which of these three finalists win, come along to The SPARKies Awards party on Wednesday 20th.


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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: Future SPARK

The ‘Future SPARK’ is new to the list of awards being presented at this year’s SPARKies awards and is all about recognising young, up-and-coming tech talent in the region.

Nominees had to be 25 or under and in full time education up to January 2012, in addition to which they had to demonstrate a flair for digital innovation above and beyond the call of their studies. The shortlisted entries are testament to the incredible dedication and drive that these gifted youngsters have at a time when many of their peers are most likely to be found in one of the local bars…

UrbanTribe was started by friends Nicolas Carey and Yael Fainsilber whilst studying at the University of Bath. Having originally developed the business by providing free notepads to students paid for by advertising, they quickly adapted the concept to embrace the student shift towards digital media. Their platform provides the first port of call for online discounts to local bars, restaurants and other services in the city. They have also recently signed an agreement with the Students’ Union to provide a platform for promoting deals and events on campus.

Current University of Bath student Ollie Marshall is co-founder of online ticketing platform GoTag, which has grown rapidly into the number one provider of tickets for nightclubs in the city. Ollie began work on the project 18 months ago (despite only being in the first year of his Computer Science degree) and reached the final of the university’s Business Plan Competition in 2012. There surely can’t be a better endorsement of is achievements from the local tech community than for GoTag to have been selected as the ticketing platform for this year’s Digital Festival!

Rounding off the three finalists are yet another pairing from the University of Bath. Computer Science student James Isbister and International Management student Alex Marshall were winners of the Students’ Union app design competition (“Apps Crunch”) in 2012 and have gone on to develop their visual learning app to the point of imminent launch on iOS. ‘InBrain’ is based on the Method of Loci principle for learning, whereby information is more easily recalled if it is linked to a known visual object. App users link pieces of information (beit from websites, notes, video clips or other media) to regions of a familiar image, creating a highly visual ‘mind-map’-style resource. James has coded the app in collaboration with local developers Intohand, and is about to start with the company on a 6 month work placement.

The FutureSPARK award has been kindly sponsored by Deloitte Digital, the new tech arm of the venerable service provider firm, as part of their on-going commitment to supporting the development of the southwest’s brightest young entrepreneurs.

The three shortlisted entrants, as well as a cohort of students from across the region’s universities, will be at the SPARKies awards evening at Komedia on the 20th March.

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SPARKIES shortlist focus: individual contribution to tech

Through their careers, their personal passions and their various groups and networks, these shortlisted entries in the ‘Individual Contribution to Tech’ category have gone out of their way to further the tech sector.

Our judges were looking for entries that had given their own expertise and enthusiasm to further the overall success of the tech sector and had made significant contribution to the forward movement of technology.

Shortlisted for this award, sponsored by Bath and North East Somerset Council, are the following individuals:

Stuart Farrimond, a medically trained doctor who’s health prevented him from continuing in the profession, is the founder and driving force behind digital ‘science lifestyle’ publication Guru Magazine, a free, crowd-sourced digital publication that looks at scientific issues in a way that can be understood by the masses. Not only has the magazine gained a worldwide readership, but it has already served as a launch-pad for a number of young science writers. Stuart has been shortlisted for the extensive efforts that he has made throughout the past year to use technology to bring science to the masses.

South west entrepreneur Paul Kane is one of just seven people in the world chosen to be an ‘internet keyholder’ – looking after a key that will ‘restart the world wide web’ in the event of a catastrophic event. In the event of a security breach – such as a terrorist attack – Paul will be required to travel to a secure location in the US, meet other keyholders and and recover a master signing key. Mr Kane was chosen for the role after being recognised as a leading internet security specialist.

Professor Phil Willis from the University of Bath’s Department of Computer Science was nominated for his work on developing a new vector-based video codec over the past 10 years, which is expected to lead to the death of the pixel within the next five. Professor Willis’ new codec was released at the CVMP 9th European Conference on Visual Media Production held at Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London, and has since attracted worldwide attention from leading organisations in the world of digital imaging, including Warner Bros. Willis’ significant breakthrough has the potential to revolutionise the way visual media is produced.

All three shortlisted entries have put the region on the map for their digital expertise and the contribution they have made to the digital and technology sector. This award highlights quite how significant the work being carried out in our region is to the wider digital community. The winner of the award will be announced at The SPARKies on 20 March at Komedia.

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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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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


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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