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Congratulations Jack!

University of Bath student Jack Franklin has been named in the 2013 ‘.Net Awards‘ as one of the top ten ‘brilliant young web developers’ to watch.

The .Net Awards are publicly nominated to create a shortlist, which is then assessed by a panel of 50 industry judges.

Jack Franklin is a 3rd year BSc Computer Science student, currently on his placement year with Kainos as a Software Engineer. He is well known in Bath’s digital community and has been very involved in his university community too, as Chair of the Bath Student Computer Science Society in his second year of study, and as a student ambassador for his department.

Jack is highly dedicated to progressing his career as a developer, and wrote one of his first articles in 2011 for ‘12 Devs of Christmas’. He now maintains a popular JavaScript blog – JavaScript Playground – and writes for a number of influential websites.

Jack was recently asked by Addy Osmani to contribute to his book Backbone Fundamentals, which was published by O’Reilly and was freely available on the internet too. He helped to write the chapter on using Backbone with RequireJS. Jack’s first book, Testing with CoffeeScript, was recently published as a free mini book and has had over 2000 downloads to date. The book looks at TDD with the JS library Jasmine, whilst writing all the code in CoffeeScript.

Jack was approached in June 2012 to write his first physical book, Beginning jQuery, which was published in February 2013. The book aims to guide a JavaScript and jQuery novice through to a level at which they’re comfortable in writing their own plugins.

Alan Hayes, Jack’s tutor at the University of Bath, said: “Jack is one of those students who makes the most of every opportunity available to him. He continues to impress as he progresses through university, and is set for great heights in the future. We wish him all the best with the .Net awards and commend his achievement in being named ‘one to watch’.”

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SPARKies shortlist focus: best mentor or advisor

Behind most successful companies there is usually a very good mentor, and support in making big business decisions is invaluable but often no publicly recognised. This award gives those benefitting from good mentoring an opportunity to say thank you publicly for the support they’ve received.

Sponsored by The Agency, the Best Mentor category looked for entries who had given their own time and resources to support others in achieving success in the digital and tech sector.

Shortlisted for this award we have: 

Mike Wilsher. who is an advisor and mentor to some of this region’s best known technology companies and founders including Gradwell, Moresoda, The House and Storm Consultancy. In total he mentors around twenty MD’s from across the Bath and Bristol region and is considered by many simply to be the best there is. His track record looks pretty good too, with mentee’s net assets growing by almost 40% year-on-year. The person nominating Mike said: “Whilst many mentors can be applauded for their time, effort, goodwill – Mike can not only claim those, he can also say he really does get results. Mike has utterly changed the way I work, and run my business for the better.”

Gavin Eddy, an ex-investment banker, angel investor and founder of workhub provider Forward Space, has generously given his time to countless students, supported networking events, contributed significantly to enterprise education at the University of Bath by delivering workshops and presentations at conferences and BANTER Bath Entrepreneur events. He has also attended award ceremonies and launches, talks and presentations and provided invaluable advice and support. Since 2006 he has chaired the judging of 7 annual business plan competitions at the University of Bath – reading and giving feedback on over 1000 ideas. He has read and commented on over 500 business ideas and over 50 full business plans – giving detailed feedback on each plan and chairing the judging panel as the finalists pitch their ideas. Gavin’s comments to the student businesses have been wise, well-chosen and challenging.

Rob Brown works in the film industry and is also a new lecturer in film production at Bath Spa University. The student nominating Rob for this award said: “Rob’s support, experience and enthusiasm stood out in not only helping myself but our whole class to drastically improve our methods of film making.” Rob has encouraged students to specialise in specific roles like script writing, camera operating or directing, and as a result three student films have been nominated for the Student RTS awards. Many of the projects are being entered into short film competitions nationally and internationally.

Rob has gond above and beyond in mentoring students, bringing in guest lecturers that were at the top of their game in terms of their trade, giving students insight into how they could learn and be inspired from the very best.

To find out who wins the award for the best mentor at The SPARKies come to our fantastic party at Komedia on 20 March!

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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: 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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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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An interview with Margaret Heffernan

I recently had the pleasure of meeting entrepreneur, CEO and writer (Huffington Post & BNET) Margaret Heffernan, when she visited Bath to mentor groups as part of X Media Lab 2012.

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Margaret has featured on television in Channel 4’s ‘The Secret Millionaire’ and on BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Changing the Rules’.

I spoke to Margaret about her work, her experiences as an entrepreneur, and her opinions on mentoring. Here are just some of the insightful comments she made on the subject:

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

MH: No. For 13 years I worked for the BBC. I reckon they paid me to develop the skills I’d need to be an entrepreneur: a good deal for all of us.

DK: How important do you think the role of a mentor is in the initial start-up period of a business? Did you have someone to fit this role?

MH: I did not have a mentor and I wish I had. I did have some friends and colleagues who were wise and patient – that certainly helped (especially the one who hinted that I might be the problem)!

DK: Do you find it difficult to maintain a work/home life balance?

MH: I define work/life balance differently perhaps from others. I think that there has been balance across my life, insofar as there have been prolonged periods of intensive, manic work and then prolonged periods that were slow, reflective and restorative. Doreen Marks, an outstanding entrepreneur, summed it up for me when she said “when you’re an entrepreneur, it doesn’t matter which 80 hours you work.” You have freedom and flexibility – that’s tremendous. You also have responsibility that never stops – that’s hard. What is essential, I think, is that your partner is entirely supportive; without that, jealousy and resentment can grow and make both the business and the relationship painful.

DK: When does an idea become a business?

MH: An idea becomes a business when you have a customer. Revenue helps too of course but sometimes that has to come later.

DK: For anyone sitting at home with an amazing business idea, what one piece of advise would you give them?

MH: Tell people about it. Many people worry about their idea being ‘stolen’. That is much less of a risk than that it will never become a reality. Tell people so you become practiced defining it and so that they can offer ideas, people, and resources that will speed you along your way. They may also have very valid criticisms that are cheaper to absorb early.

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

MH: Well it’s interesting to me the lipservice that’s paid in the UK to entrepreneurship. Does anyone believe it? If so, why aren’t there better finance and tax schemes? Why, as a society, are we horrid to successful people and punishing to those who fail? This government still clearly believes that our future belongs in financial services and the investment of rich foreigners. They pay lipservice to entrepreneurs because they can’t think of anything else that might work. Politicians, of course, are rarely entrepreneurial themselves.

Having said that, of course entrepreneurs will play a part in our recovery – because they always have and always will. But no real entrepreneur waits for government encouragement.

DK: Thanks Margaret! How can our readers contact you with questions?

MH: They can email me at margaret@mheffernan.com but need to be aware that I’m not investing in anything further until my kids have finished their education (which could be some time…)

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An interview with Jem Finer

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Jem Finer, formerly of the Pogues, more recently the driving force behind Mobile Sinfonia. Mobile Sinfonia, which was launched at the Roman Baths during the recent Digital Festival, is a global composition of ringtones set to compile rings from around the world over coming years.

Jem is also the artist in residence in the Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts and Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath.

For more about Jem’s project visit the Mobile Sinfonia website or follow @MobileSinfonia on twitter.

DK: Hi Jem! Tell us a bit about Mobile Sinfonia and let us know what inspired it? 

JF: The fact that mobile phones, all capable of emitting sound, are now virtually ubiquitous creates the potential for both intrusion into and enhancement of the soundscape – the sonic landscape on both a local and global scale.

It also creates the conditions for creating musical composition, either from individual devices, or in the case of Mobile Sinfonia, from the interaction of many.

Inspiration came from thinking about creating ringtones with an ear to enriching the soundscape, and at the same time, through their careful choice, to create a composition of indeterminate duration and score. In effect distributing the elements of a musical composition among a potential global community of “players” / “notes”.


DK: What motivated you to first get involved with the music industry?

JF: I never was. I played music and that happened as a consequence. Most of the time now I make music that is un-commodifiable !


DK: How has your relationship with music changed over the time you’ve been involved? 

JF: It’s got deeper both in the sense that what I consider to be music has broadened, and that I am always learning.


DK: What kind of mobile phone do you have, and why?

JF: I have an iPhone. Why? Because I am an Apple user, so it integrates with everything else I have computer wise, and because even if I wasn’t I prefer its interface. I actually think that as a phone it is not great, but otherwise the most remarkable device.


DK: What music have you been listening to recently?

JF: It depends how you define recent. But generally I listen to all kinds of music. Today, according to my shuffle play log, I’ve listened to Eric Dolphy, The Rolling Stones, Christian Zanessi, yoB, David Toop, Boris Vian, Ramuntcho Matta, Kitty Finer, DM Bob, Sonny and Cher and The Marseille Figs.


DK: Who do you really admire in the music industry at the moment?

JF: 3 of the above: Kitty Finer, J Maizlish Mole and the Marseille Figs and yoB.


DK: What is next for you after Mobile Sinfonia?

JF: Over the next year I’m building a gravity driven 8-bit computer using ball bearings which will calculate simple musical scores and play them. In the shorter term I’m finishing converting a caravan into a space ship, ¡ Arriba ! for the Tatton Park Biennial.


DK: Thanks Jem! Last question, how can our readers contact you with questions?

JF: They can get hold of me at info@mobilesinfonia.net

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XML Bath / Profile #3: Poonacha Machaiah

XML Speaker Profile #3: Poonacha Machaiah – CEO of Qyuki, the new media company founded by Shekhar Kapur and AR Rahman (Bangalore).

This XML Speaker Profile is part of a series that we are doing in the weeks running up to XML Bath (taking place 16-18th March as part of the Bath Digital Festival). Remember, XML is split into a conference (on the 16th – get your tickets here) where you can listen to experts in digital media from all around the world, and a 2-day Lab at Real World Studio for startups (apply to be included here).

1. Where do you find your inspiration for ideas?

Living in India and witnessing ‘harmony’ in the midst of chaos has been the source of my ideas over the last couple of years. Traveling across India gives me the opportunity to witness daily life across various cross sections of society and it inspires me in multiple ways. How people have incorporated ‘jugaad’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugaad), a term constantly used for improvise/adapt has fascinated me.

2. What’s the best bit of advice anyone gave you? And what’s the best bit of advice you would give to anyone else?

More than an advice someone has given me, I do believe in one principle. ‘You cannot bring back the past, or predict the future, so maximize the present’. This has served me well in life to live life large and be happy about what I have going every day! I am sure this should work for anybody.

3. Who do you most admire in the digital/creative space?

I have the unique opportunity to work with two of the most brilliant minds in the industry award winning hollywood director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth – The Golden Age) and oscar award winning music composer AR Rahman (Slum Dog Millionaire). They have inspired me both in the digital/creative space.

4. What is most exciting you about digital technologies right now?

Social Media/Collaboration and democratization of media via digital technologies is what excites me the most. The ‘Re-Mix’ culture of today’s net generation and the potential digital technology can offer to facilitate this is quite exciting.

5. What was your favourite creative work in 2011 – film, TV, ad, application, viral vid etc?

The Tamil Viral Video ‘ Kolaveri D’ is my favorite viral video of 2011. It was released in Nov. 16, 2011 and to date has 37millionYoutube views.

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