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Entrepreneurs build businesses in 54 hours at Norwich Sync the City event

PUBLISHED: 20:17 23 November 2014 | UPDATED: 20:17 23 November 2014

The Sync the City event at the King's Centre. Organisers, Fiona Lettice, professor of innovation management at the Norwich Business School, UEA, and John Fagan, founder. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Sync the City event at the King's Centre. Organisers, Fiona Lettice, professor of innovation management at the Norwich Business School, UEA, and John Fagan, founder. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A new event in Norwich has challenged entrepreneurs to create a company in three days. Business editor Ben Woods found out how it was helping to put the city’s digital industry on the map.

The journey of turning an idea into a fully-fledged business may seem like a long hard road of careful planning, financial prudence and calculated risk.

But teams of would-be entrepreneurs have sought to blow this concept out of the water by attempting to create start-up businesses in just 54 hours.

The daunting task has been laid before them at Sync the City – a new event in Norwich, where groups of software developers, product designers and students are pitching their ideas to industry professionals in a bid to kick-start a company and win prizes worth £7,000.

Starting on Thursday and ending today, the teams began by shaping their concepts on day one, building their businesses on days two and three, before presenting their companies to a panel of judges.

The teams competing

• Happy Home Hunter: A program which brings together information people need when browsing for new homes online.

• Be me for one minute: A website where users can share disability access problems seen in buildings and organisations.

• Co Travel: An online platform which encourages travellers to share taxi rides to reduce the cost of fares.

• Team Everest: An app designed to improve communication between people within the home care sector.

• Trip Roulette: An online travel booking website which takes care of choices and decisions. The user simply selects a date, a budget and spins the wheel. Trip Roulette then contacts the user at each step of their adventure, without them knowing what they are doing beforehand.

• 1 Word: A platform which allows companies to go to their customer and get a one word feedback on new products and services.

• Autumn Leaves: A new library app which allows people to access services through their smartphone.

• Home Sync: An app and website service to drive communication, scheduling and management for people living in a houseshare.

• Swarm Robots: Drone technology (robots) and sound detection to support first responders searching for people in disaster zones.

• Sport Score: An app for the Apple smart watch which allows sportsmen and women to keep score easily.

• Mai Time: An online platform where beauty professionals can list their services and images of their work and the times they are available.

And yesterday, one group had already reached a verbal agreement with a Norwich taxi company to integrate their product into its business – despite only finishing a working prototype that morning.

The Co Travel team, which has built a smartphone app encouraging people to share taxi rides to reduce the cost of their fares, is joining forces with Loyal Taxis on Cattle Market Street.

Dave Cutting, software developer and member of Co Travel, said: “Loyal Taxis Norwich loved the idea and we’ve made an agreement with them.

“We came up with a broad idea about co-operative travel and then focused down onto the concept of sharing taxis.

“When I was pitching our idea I thought some of the other groups had much more interesting sounding concepts, and I wish them luck. “Ours is quite focused because we wanted to develop a revenue generating business in 54 hours.”

Organisers of the event said they were surprised by the quality of the business ideas developed by the groups, and hoped it would help underscore the growing potential of Norwich’s technology sector.

John Fagan, co-founder of technology community group Sync Norwich, helped create the Sync the City event with Fiona Lettice, professor in innovation and management at the University of East Anglia’s Business School.

“Start-up weekends are a global movement in the tech community. We are proving it is possible to create tech businesses from scratch in 54 hours,” he said.

“Sync the City is a platform to bring people together from public, private and education sectors to collaborate in small teams and have fun. There are some amazing product concepts being prototyped from coordination of home care access, library services, travel, disability access, swarm robots, house sharing and more.”

Mrs Lettice hopes the event will create a stronger relationship between the university and technology businesses in Norwich after seeing strong interest from students in the event.

She said: “I am hoping the connections some of the students will get with the companies here today will help get them jobs. Meanwhile, in the long term, I am getting to meet companies that might sponsor research at the UEA in the future.”

Held at the King’s Centre on King Street, the event finishes with an awards presentation tonight after the groups have pitched their plans to a judging panel, including Jon Bradford, from international growth accelerator programme TechStars, and James Duez, chairman of Norwich-based artificial intelligence company Rainbird.

• Do you have a business story for the Eastern Daily Press? Contact business editor Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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