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Sync the City 2015 - An overview of Norwich's 54 hour startup weekend

Sync the City 2015 Participants (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

Sync the City 2015 – An overview of Norwich’s 54 hour startup weekend

December 17, 2015  |  Digital innovation, Innovation  |  Comments Off on Sync the City 2015 – An overview of Norwich’s 54 hour startup weekend

After the success of Sync the City 2014, SyncNorwich and UEA planned and ran another 54 hour startup weekend, called Sync the City 2015.  The event was held at The King’s Centre in Norwich from Thursday 19th November to Saturday 21st November 2015.

The aim of the Sync the City events is to bring together Norfolk’s business community of entrepreneurs, product developers, software developers, designers and digital creatives (members of SyncNorwich’s virtual technology and startup community) with students (in 2015 from the University of East Anglia, Norwich University of the Arts and the College of West Anglia) and to facilitate them to create new business models and form startups that are enabled by digital technologies.  The mixed business and student teams then have 5 minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at the end of the event, to win a prize.

The Organisers

SyncNorwich (John Fagan, Fiona Lettice, Sean Clark and Paul Cutting) and UEA (Norwich Business School and Careers Central – Julie Schofield, Susi Waters and Laura Johnson) planned and organised Sync the City 2015.  SyncNorwich is proactively developing partnerships with local universities, colleges and schools, so that the organisations within the community can more easily recruit student interns and graduates and to give students opportunities to meet, network with and learn from local tech sector employers.  Sync the City is part of the strategy to organise events that will benefit both the SyncNorwich technical cluster, businesses and startups, as well as students.

Sync the City 2015 (Photos: Tim Stephenson)

Sync the City 2015 (Photos: Tim Stephenson)


We had great support from local and national sponsors for Sync the City 2015, without whom this would not have been possible.  The primary sponsors were: Norfolk County Council, UEA, SyncNorwich, Liquid11, Aviva and Barclays.  The supporting sponsors were: Adnams, Allies Computing, Tim Stephenson Photography, Maxi-Cool, MigSolv and OnePulse.  The prize sponsors were: Sandler Training, White Space and Norfolk Network.  Thank you all!

Mentors and Judges

We invited local tech business leaders to act as mentors for the Sync the City teams over the weekend.  We had mentors from Aviva (Paul Russell), Barclays (Andy Adams, Gavin Ratcliffe and Paul Mayne), Liquid11 (Chris Venables), Adnams (Duncan Cardwell), UEA (Dr Joost Noppen and Steve Jones), Allies Computing (Stephen Keable), Liftshare (Ali Clabburn), Rainbird (Ben Taylor and Dom Davis), Axon Vibe (Paul Cutting and Elizabeth Scholefield), Earthware (Brian Norman), FXHOME (Josh Davies), BAE Systems (Jo Vertigan), Sandler Training (Ermine Amies), 1Password (Matt Davey), Blooming Founders (London – Lu Li) and OnePulse (London – Nick Walter), representing a range of the different organisations from small to large across the local tech sector and this year we also attracted 2 mentors from London.

The judges were Jon Bradford (ex-MD of Techstars, London), Grant Hardy (founder and CEO of Liquid11 and New Patricks Yard), Julianna Meyer (founder and CEO of SupaPass), and Julie West (Growth Hub Co-ordinator, New Anglia LEP).

Thanks to the mentors and judges for giving up their time and helping to make the event such a success.

Graham Gannon of Google’s Prototyping team gave the Keynote presentation on Thursday night and Neil Garner of Proxama gave the Endnote presentation on Saturday night.  Michael Ni-Man of SyncYouth also gave an update on his November 2015 #ihackednorwich event with Year 9 pupils from Norfolk schools.


There were 115 active participants for the whole event.  This was an increase of nearly 60% on the number of participants in 2014. Of these active participants, approximately 50% were students and 50% were professionals.  The participants were also identified by their background.  There were 40% developers, 41% business/non-technical and 19% designers represented.   In particular, the number of designers increased significantly from 2014, which was a welcome addition to the teams.

The presentations on Saturday night were open to the public and approximately 100 additional people attended.   This was an increase from the audience of 40 who attended in 2014.

The Pitches, Teams and Winners

The 26 One Minute Pitches (Chris Spalton Sketchnotes)

The 26 One Minute Pitches (Chris Spalton Sketchnotes)

For the initial 1 minute pitches, 26 ideas were pitched by the participants.  The ideas were innovative and the pitches were of a very high standard, which left a challenge of voting for the best ideas to carry forward and form teams around for the rest of the event.

14 ideas were selected to go forward and teams were formed around these ideas.  Click on the names to see their final pitches:

Team Name Brief description of idea
Gordon Bleu Matching you with your perfect meal
Sox Suk Gifts to blow your socks off!
RenTech Making tech affordable
Prompto Digital support and monitoring system for independent people who suffer with memory loss
Menulicious Finding the restaurant that’s right for you
docdirect Agentless NHS: Saving £1900 per minute
Memsabi A delightful tactile way to structure your thoughts
Zap Instantly connect to the world around you
Everyday Spaces Making churches everyday places
Gorrilla Free wifi on the tube
Zest Interactive lectures are here!
Unfold We create quality narratives around events as they unfold
Teepee Renting a house is as easy as ordering pizza
PROTO Norwich A city of people ready to embrace your ideas

After the Saturday night final pitch presentations, the judges deliberated and the audience and team members voted for the best startups emerging from the 54 hour event.

The Judges' Winners - Everyday Spaces (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

The Judges’ Winners – Everyday Spaces (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

The judges’ prize went to Everyday Spaces for their church hall booking system, which included a website that gathered the information of all churches in Norwich and a website widget that facilitated bookings for each church. Their mission was to make churches everyday places for the community.

The People's Choice Winners (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

The People’s Choice Winners (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

The people voted the winners to be docdirect with their plan to save the NHS £1900 per minute, by reducing the NHS’ use of agencies for locum doctors.  They won 28% of the 174 votes cast.

Coverage of Sync the City 2015

A dedicated website was created for Sync the City which gives full details of the event, mentors, judges, agenda and sponsors.

Sync The City attracted local media attention and the event was written up by several bloggers.

The editor of the Norfolk Tech Journal helped to promote the event and then blogged about the event over the 54 hours it ran.

The EDP business writer helped to promote the event in mid-November 2015 and then visited the event and wrote about it on the 21st November and Mustard TV televised Everyday Spaces’ story of winning Sync the City 2015.

After the event, UEA publicised the student success at the event on the School of Computing Sciences website and the Norwich Business School blog.

There were 1491 tweets using the #syncthecity hashtag on Twitter, with a peak on Saturday evening, during the final pitches.  MADE created a storify of their Sync the City 2015 experience.

We had some innovative ways of recording Sync the City as it ran.  Alongside Tim Stephenson’s photography and Sean Clark’s filming which can be seen on the SyncNorwich Youtube channel, we had Chris Spalton’s sketchnotes and East West Design/Flush the Fashion did a 3 minute time lapse video of the whole event.

The feedback from Sync the City 2015 has been great and we will use the helpful participant comments to improve the event further – so look out for Sync the City 2016!

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TechCrunch Visited Norwich

November 28, 2013  |  Disruptive Innovation, Innovation  |  2 Comments

Mike Butcher speaking UEA were delighted to be the first UK university to host Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large, for TechCrunch.  Mike is one of the most influential tech journalists in Europe right now and is on a mission to excite students about tech startups.  It started with a tweet back in May 2013 and then finally, last night – November 27th 2013 – we hosted, with SyncNorwich, the biggest tech event and geek meetup in Norwich ever, with over 300 attendees. TCnorwich audience John Fagan of SyncNorwich and I opened the event with an overview of the growing digital creative community in Norfolk.  Then it was the turn of a great line up of tech and startups from the region, with some great success stories and a sprinkling of UEA graduates in the line up too.   It was fast and furious with fantastic presentations from all involved. FxHome’s Josh Davies (a UEA graduate) kicked off the tech showcase and demonstrated how FXHome’s products are used by children to make their own films right through to Hollywood creating the special visual effects in blockbusters like Salt and the short film, Prism. Next up was Liftshare, with Ali Clabburn explaining how his company was born from a need to get to Bristol and not enough cash for the train fare!  From this start in 1998, Liftshare has grown to support 1.5 million trips per month and a typical member can save about £1000 per year by using the service. Then Rainbird’s James Duez and Ben Taylor shared their vision of building smarter software to capture knowledge and solve problems by joining up the dots – lots of potential applications and one to watch as they head for full release in March 2014. Richard Churchill of Service Tick presented and session replay.  This product picks up how users are interacting with your website, where they are touching and looking and so can help to increase conversion and reduce basket abandonment.  Proxama finished this session with James Taylor explaining how they connect the physical and digital worlds with their TapPoint platform, offering next generation mobile market for brands wanting to better engage with their customers.  They offer proximity marketing and contactless payment via smartphones. slide6-techcrunchThe agenda then turned to a series of ten 2 minute pitches:  Get3Sixty offer the ability to gather, store and view anonymous feedback from the people you work with.  99squared have developed Kuoob to support personalised advertising.  Everpress presented their Haberdash app to create your own personalised photo-cushion.  Betahive showcased their Pingle app to match and connect groups of people.  Photocrowd set photographic assignments and allow users to vote and provide reviews from experts and then showcase the winners.  Supapass are building the music ecosystem of the future, linking musicians and fans.  Blurtit presented their social question and answer site. helps source talented software engineers with their matching service.  Zealify, started by UEA graduates, is a recruitment platform to help small companies to identify the right interns and graduates to recruit.  Last up was a 16 year old Norwich School student, Michael Ni’Man, aiming to raise literacy rates with an educational app – Wordwides.  What a brilliant showcase of innovative products and services!mike butcher speaks After a quick networking break, came the energetic and engaging keynote from Mike Butcher.  He took us on a whistlestop tour of the history of tech and the highs and lows of being a startup.  He explained how Web 2.0 has taken innovation out of the labs and into the bedrooms and coffee shops, creating “absolute chaos” – but in a good way!  He emphasised that people are what matters most in the early stages of technology businesses.  He stressed the power of serendipity and the need to keep on meeting at events like this one and the other meetups that SyncNorwich and Hot Source provide.  He encouraged Norwich to build silicon bridges to link up the ecosystem and was impressed with the incredible display of talent that Norwich has to offer.  In the Q&A session he encouraged those pitching their ideas to keep it simple – strip back the text in presentations, make it visual, be enthusiastic and tell a story. Boil down complex concepts and get to the point.  Identify the problem and how you will solve it! The evening was rounded off with big thanks from Peter Schmidt-Hansen of Norwich Business School at UEA to all who helped to make it happen at SyncNorwich and UEA and to the events other sponsors: Smart 421, Naked Element, Lambda Films and Tim Stephenson Photography (including photos in this post).  Thanks also to the OPEN team for the venue, technical support and catering. And of course, to Mike Butcher for travelling up from London and supporting the event for the Norwich tech community and UEA students!

Check out the slides here, great photos from the event here and don’t miss the doodles of the presentations by Chris Spalton.  Inspired by Mike’s presentation, Everpress are building a map of tech companies in and around Norwich at  Watch it grow!

Read other blogs on the event by:

Naked Element at

Smart421 at

ip21 at

Tim Stephenson Photography at

Press coverage by EDP24 and Norwich Evening News24 sites and a feature in the Norfolk TechJournal.