Tuesday night at Google Campus witnessed the launch of our latest event format, cryptically called “GaP?->GaS!“. The idea behind “Got a Problem? -> Get a Solution!” is very simple; frustrated start-up founders can take to the stage at Google Campus and vent on their problems to an audience consisting of, you guessed it, Hipsters, Hackers, and Hustlers! Well, who else would come out in force on a Tuesday evening and try to solve other people’s problems for them?
Audience participation is a great way of making an event more relevant to all of its attendees; at so many events even the best panelists or speakers are often seen as a perfunctory precursor to a networking session, and we all want to know what secret discussions people are having at the bar, or on a cigarette break. So why not have the kind of discussions that normally take place in private, in public? Genius.
There was no shortage of problems for an enthusiastic audience, featuring the likes of Tech evangelist Alex Dobre, serial entrepreneur Prash Jaitley, and MondoTV’s Benj Minot, to solve, and thanks must also go to sponsors Elance-oDesk, who provided some great advice, and a reminder that their freelancing platform has helped to launch successful start-ups such as Vivino, at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full time development team.
First up we had George Butler, who was looking for a CTO to help him develop his latest project Spry, a tool that helps video bloggers embed social media buttons into their content, helping them to monetise by leveraging affiliate marketing partnerships. But how much should he pay, or how big a slice of equity should he be prepared to give away?
Sara Hill, founder of Treat Now, a same day health and beauty booking app, had a similar problem: how can you find a developer you can trust, and how do you evaluate their skillset; is it possible to try before you buy? Victoria Albrecht of Crybb was looking to widen the contacts network for her social flat sharing platform; James, a finance student, had a great idea for a start-up but didn’t want to give up his first move advantage by spilling the beans; and Prash, who won a £200 Elance voucher for his thoughtful problem solving as an audience member, happily explained how he had created a new problem, via the launch of disruptive rewards-for-fitness app, FITPLX.
The answers and solutions came thick and fast. The best way to meet a CTO? Start-up weekends; 54 hours of intensive collaboration and networking, no sleep, free pizza! This one got a mixed reaction, with some recommending upcoming events such as Startup Weekend, whilst others felt that a price of up to £75 per ticket, with no guarantee that you would meet the right person, was prohibitive.
There was plenty of encouragement for founders to keep on keeping on, surround themselves with people they trust, and to try to find developers whose passion for the project matched their own, but for my money, the evening’s best piece of advice was this gem: if you don’t want to reveal your business idea, ask people to discuss the problem you are trying to solve, not the solution you are hoping to launch: a fantastically insightful observation. Worth the entrance fee, not that there was one, on its own!
Finally, Paul Boon and the team from Q&A Spot were there to canvass audience opinion on their events networking app, which met with plenty of approval, and there was still time for a good old informal bit of networking, but this time, as host for the night Adam Turnbull rightly observed, the ice had been well and truly broken and nobody felt nervous about introducing themselves and opening up about their ideas, problems, or solutions. As if to emphasise the point, in a surreal encounter, inventor Nosson Nigin presented me with his latest invention, a portable, adjustable back stretcher! Cheers Nosson, it has already won many admiring glances.
In all seriousness I witnessed a number of intense discussions, which would have continued long into the night had the doors not closed at 10, and which are probably due to start again today, now that strangers have become friends, and maybe even collaborators. Great to see!
So, GaP?->GaS! A resounding success. File under “To be continued”.
Q&A Spot: http://www.qnaspot.com/
Start-up Weekend: http://startupweekend.org/
The Relationship Driving License: http://www.therdl.com