On the 24th November we saw the return of Norwich’s fourth Sync the City event, which took place in the beautiful setting of Norwich Cathedral. For those who have escaped the hype surrounding this event over the past few years, Sync the City, run by SyncNorwich, is a 54 hour event which brings together budding entrepreneurs with experienced business mentors and technology expertise. The lucky competitors start by taking part in a 1 minute pitchoff, where anybody can pitch an idea. The best ideas are taken forward and you hire a team on the spot! The teams then have from Thursday afternoon until Saturday evening (minus a few hours sleep) to make their ideas a reality. This is more than your average Hackathon. It’s a three day frenzy of start-up building where the winning team can potentially win £4,000 in cash prizes (£3,000 judges’ winner and £1,000 people’s choice), as well as sales training from Sandler Training and one year associate membership of Norfolk Network. Not only that, but last year’s winners, SenLab, who took their Sync the City idea forward, went on to secure around £300,000 worth of funding in their first round of pitches; turning 18 year old computer science student George Davis into Group Chief Executive.
I chatted to our one of our Software Developers, Henri, and Software Apprentice, Jack, who took part for the first time this year, to find out how they found the experience.
What were you expecting from Sync the City?
We were slightly apprehensive. We pictured a really tense environment with lots of serious people doing serious work. But we were also worried that our skill set might not match up to that of the rest of our team and we might not be able to contribute all that much.
What were your overall impressions of the event?
In the end it was really enjoyable. We ended up with a great team who were all really friendly and that meant that everything was very open. They were accepting of everyone’s different skill sets and everyone was given the chance to put their ideas forward. And, even though not everyone had experience of presenting, we were all asked if we’d like to give it a go when it came to doing the final pitch and given the opportunity to challenge ourselves.
Can you tell us what the idea behind your startup was?
Our idea was for a type of social network that encourages face-to-face meeting. We named it “Jolli Good” and it was actually tailored toward lonely people and encouraging community involvement. You start by posting the words “Who wants to…” followed by something like “start a community allotment“ or “go and see x film”. So the focus was really on finding people near you who are free at the time and who aren’t already in your social network or Facebook friends list.
Who was on your team?
There were 9 people on our team from various backgrounds. Our Team Mentor, Brian, was a developer from Earthware, a digital consultancy who design apps and websites. And then there were 3 people from Liftshare, another aspiring developer from Norwich City Council and a Design student from the UEA.
What aspects of the project were you responsible for?
We were both responsible for developing a prototype for the frontend, but we had to focus on the elements which would make it easiest for the rest of the team to pitch and for people to understand the concept.
What was the most exciting / challenging aspect of the event?
When we had to scrap the original plan about 8pm on Friday night and start again with a whole new concept. We definitely had to work hard from then onwards to meet the deadline.
What would you do differently next time?
We probably could have driven our own ideas into it more from a developer perspective and managed the rest of the team’s expectations a bit better in terms of what we could get done in the timeframe. And never again will we try to shove new ideas into the build 15 minutes before the technical demo; only to mess up the code so that we were worried we weren’t going to have anything to show at all!
What did you think of LoneSafe’s winning project?
They had a great pitch and a really nice idea for a system for keeping workers safe, which would probably have a wide ranging social impact if it was developed.
Have you caught up on sleep yet?
Just about. We only had about 3 hours sleep one night.
Would you do it again?
To get an even better feel for the event take a look at the video below:
Photos by Tim Stephenson Photography
Words by Hollie Shooter