When the SyncNorwich co-founders and I set up the group in the summer, we had no idea of the amazing response we’d get: over 400 members and a series of fantastic packed events before we even made it to Christmas. But what’s even more satisfying for us that we’re now starting to hear about the real, tangible benefits that the group is having in the local tech community.
We know several people have already found new jobs because of contacts made between companies and recruiters at SyncNorwich events (more on that in a future blog post) and local tech start-ups are also reporting great progress towards success thanks to the feedback and advice they’ve received from fellow members.
Take the young founders of Incredibli, for example. Lauren Hine and Andy Parker launched the first version of their new online group-funding service in the autumn, just months after graduating from UEA’s Norwich Business School. They’d looked at the graduate jobs market with a growing sense of doom and decided that in the current economic climate they’d be better off going it alone with their idea for a tech start-up. But with little experience beyond their business degrees and no technical background at all, the pair had an uphill struggle.
The SyncNorwich November event was just days after the launch of their alpha site and when they stood up to present it to a packed house at the Blurtit offices, it was the first time they’d shown the fledgling service to a technical audience. Lauren and Andy had built the site themselves after a little self-taught coding practice and admit they were pretty daunted by the prospect of showing their handywork to such an expert audience.
The concept of Incredibli is (like most of the best business ideas) simple but brilliant. It’s a group-funding internet service that makes it easy to collect money from the people you know. It builds on the familiar models of www.justgiving.com and www.kickstarter.com to help users organise the finances for anything from a mates weekend away or office outing to a collection for a colleague’s leaving present. By tracking who has paid and how much they’ve contributed, Incredibli takes the hassle out of organising a collection, allowing its users to focus on making great things happen.
After explaining the concept behind the site, Lauren and Andy made a very honest appeal for feedback and technical advice. Lauren was bowled-over by the feedback they received at the event, including lots of tips and heated discussions about the website’s target market. The experienced developers in the room gave plenty of advice about how the fully-functional version of the site could be improved with more thinking about gamification.
But they’d also made a particular plea for help with marketing. Within minutes, they’d been approached by Joseph Spear, a marketing manager from SyncNorwich sponsor Smart421, show was so impressed with their savvy and their passion for the project that he volunteered his own time to help them. The very next morning the three got together at UEA for a brainstorming session: “They were explaining to me some of the ways in which they had already positioned their offering and I was challenging them to refine it. They succeeded in transferring their enthusiasm and their passion to me” says Joseph.
Lauren says Joseph’s advice has been invaluable: “It’s made a significant difference. We were floundering in terms of our marketing strategy and Joseph’s really given us some direction in terms of what we need to be doing and what’s the best way to push this kind of project forward. So he brought forward quite a few ideas that we’re planning to implement in the New Year”.
Joseph has no doubt other would-be entrepreneurs could also benefit: “I think SyncNorwich is a brilliant platform. There’s a lot of technical expertise here, there’s a lot of good business sense here as well. Those two things are often not found in any one person so it’s a team effort and SyncNorwich is all about team efforts”. His advice to other local people who are working on start-ups is pretty simple: “I recommend them to get along here at the earliest opportunity and find out how other people are doing it. Maybe they can learn some shortcuts, learn some lessons and pitfalls that they don’t have to fall into themselves.”
You can find out more about the Incredibli project here. A fully-functioning version of the site is planned for release in early 2013.
Thank you to Beccy Johnson for writing this piece.