Future Business Weekend Blog

The journey of the Future Business Pre-Incubator

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Esters ‘Apprentice’ journey – a contestants perspective

Advertised during the Build a Business evening sessions held at Said Business School the Future Business Weekend course looked intriguing; everyone who has ever watched The Apprentice knows that given the experience they would surely do better than the contestants, here was the perfect opportunity to have a go!

Following an inspiring ‘rags to riches’ story from Marcelo Bravo, one of the assisting entrepreneurs, Jeremy started the weekend off. I was unsure how the groups were going to be picked however his enthusiasm for us to take the initiative was apparent when Jeremy opened the floor for pitches.

Despite a slightly hesitant start, everyone’s confidence grew as more people took to the floor to pitch their ideas. This opening set the scene for the weekend and provided one of the first lessons; we were in control and what we were going to get out of the weekend would depend on what we put in.

Groups were self-selecting and once I was settled the ideas began to flow. Thankfully I had teamed up with Julian a serial entrepreneur and Fujia an F1 product designer, their fantastic skills set were perfect for developing ideas for a light weight, easy use travel cot-Space Cot! This was second lesson; find a team with complementary skills set that you can happily work with.

From here on in the weekend became a rapid blur of activity all geared towards a final pitch. With a work load reminiscent of finals revision the satisfaction of creating a real business spurred us to carry on to the Sunday afternoon pitching session; however we wouldn’t have gotten far without the advice given in our initial pitch and the help of the course mentors.

I’m not sure whether it was an intentional lesson but I would say that constant (and genuine) interest of the mentors in what we were doing acted as an opportunity to validate our ideas though continual assessment. Therefore I would consider the third lesson of the weekend to be tell your your plans to someone, once that idea is out there, its a lot easier to test whether it is going to work or not!

But finally, at the end of the weekend I think that the question I entered the weekend with had changed its focus from could I do better than The Apprentice contestants, to could Alan Sugar meet the support and enthusiasm from mentoring that was offered at the weekend.

Ester Miller – Oxford 2012 FutureBusiness Weekend Cohort


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The Winners… SpaceCot

  1. A well deserved win to the SpaceCot guys.  Clear revenue streams. Good use of available IP. Unquestionable ethics and credibility and the potential for growth and social impact.
    Lets watch this SpaceCot.
  2. estherrosemille
    Space Cot won!!! Amazing! Thank you guys #fbwoxford http://pic.twitter.com/xMoeGqvD

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 10:20:30
  3. bea_schofield
    #fbwOxford And the winner is …. SPACE COT.

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 10:15:54
  4. Bam4d
    and the winner is…….#fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 10:13:14
  5. The judges also credited the runners up. Smantenn’s accelerated wifi solution in third and in second place, LabSwaps potential impact in building connections and reducing costs in scientific research. Well done.
  6. tomspencer
    The judges give their verdict! #fbwoxford http://pic.twitter.com/cyMAixxl

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 10:13:59
  7. In his wrap up Jeremy threw out a question to the room:
  8. JamesLRamsay
    Which one of the teams and their ideas would you take a 1% equity in if you get the chance? Mmmmm… #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 10:21:40
  9. The winners satisfied today’s judges but what other hidden value was in the room? While the attention goes onto the winners which one of the other teams would you like to back?
    I know which one I’d back…but Im keeping that a secret

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Capture the moment

The finest content. Omagun magic. Source: Barbara Diehl

Spotless beauty – its ‘SmileBeautiful’. Source: Barbara Diehl

“I love 2 Movie”. Source: Barbara Diehl

Wired. Source: Barbara Diehl

The new ‘Business Model Canvas’?. Source: Barbara Diehl

Import.IO – mining possibilities. Source: Barbara Diehl

Smantenn – transmitting mischief. Source: Barbara Diehl

Gaining CE approval – Limetree advise. Source: James Ramsay

LabSwap takes shape. Source: Barbara Diehl

Mentor moment. Source: Barbara Diehl

Jan catches up with the team

CareFlex. Barbara enters stage right. Source: James Ramsay

Omegun -The language of big data. Source: James Ramsay

CarbonEx. Source: James Ramsay

LabSwap. Trouble in the back. Source: James Ramsay

Did we mention the $’s? Source: James Ramsay

Laughter. Yes, its SmileBeautiful. Source: James Ramsay

Putting the deal to bed. In a SpaceCot. Source: James Ramsay

Barbara – celebrates SmileBeautiful with a ‘Mobot”. Source: James Ramsay

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The Pitches are on!

  1. At the Future Business weekend all roads lead to the Rhodes Trust lecture 4.30pm. This is the big one – it’s pitching kick-off time!Earlier today we had 10 teams – but now we have 12!The CareNet guys spun-out CareFlex – so now we have two Medi-tech models being pitched, and mentors Mark and David emerge as a Geo-location proposition based on ESA IP.
    Do they fancy the champagne rewards for themselves?
  2. estherrosemille
    #fbwoxford its the final now!!!!!

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:34:09
  3. JamesLRamsay
    It’s all about dreams – sell it then build it! Let see why we have created #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:35:08
  4. The energy and tension builds and everyone falls into line
  5. Bam4d
    @importio pitchin’ begins #fbwOxford http://pic.twitter.com/oB72We44

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:33:09
  6. Jeremy sets the rules and briefs the contenders
  7. simonbayly
    Compere @jdap introducing the final pitches at #FBWOxford http://pic.twitter.com/5qa3E3mT

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:36:15
  8. tomspencer
    Final pitches at Future Business Weekend, Oxford! #fbwoxford http://pic.twitter.com/LN0rla3t

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:37:10
  9. JamesLRamsay
    The judging criteria – who will tick all the boxes? #fbwOxford http://pic.twitter.com/eyTDhAfP

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:39:52
  10. And so the Pitches begin……
  11. And its time for Linear Solar Reflector….the brave Bala shining on after loosing his two team mates to a flu bug. How can we take renewable tech and combine it with bio-mass re-processing
  12. JamesLRamsay
    First pitch by Bala using ESA Ip and making environmental impact -solar thermal plus organic processes #fbwoxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:43:53
  13. Second pitch was the Smantenn team. Just like the Wombles – these guys are “making good use of the things that we find” – today its European Space Agency IP for long range, high bandwidth wifi technology. Is this the one to address the bandwidth challenges we create as online video consumption goes through the roof?
  14. liliana_grigore
    RT @simonbayly: @smantenn in the den at #fbwoxford http://pic.twitter.com/PiaZnsqp

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 16:13:45
  15. JamesLRamsay
    A billion dollar company for serving the mobile backbone – grounded in ESA IP – enabling high-bandwidth users. Not for sheep! #fbwoxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:46:55
  16. Nice branding from the Smantenn team adding their “Radio Sheep” in their Twitter avatar.
  17. Smantenn
    Thanks to all the mentors and industry experts at the #FBWOxford Have fun pitching everyone.

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:06:22
  18. estherrosemille
    @smantenn nice touch adding twitter #fbwoxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:46:21
  19. And now its on to TrueValue… Oh no – its now CarbonEx! We’ve had a reBrand!
  20. tomspencer
    Team CarbEX! #fbwoxford http://pic.twitter.com/2bWbzdGA

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:46:34
  21. JamesLRamsay
    James Tilbury rocks the mic! Sorting the carbon risk challenges for industry #fbwoxford #TrueValue

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:49:55
  22. This business is there to handle the carbon exchange challenges – but the judges want to know about th eregulationary clout. How are we going to compel customers to care? Will the oblogation come from policy or is there some other incentive to make this idea stick?
  23. Now here we are – the weekend started with Julians vision and enthusiasm and here is the teams product – its Space Cot! Yes they have registered the domains – its going to happen…. now lets see if the pitch can go well first!
  24. JamesLRamsay
    What time is it? It’s SpaceCot time! 800g for a Travel cot – awesome – based on ESA IP #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:55:37
  25. tomspencer
    Team Spacecot plans to incorporate their business tomorrow! #fbwoxford http://pic.twitter.com/PR7loj7Q

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:57:26
  26. Bam4d
    spacecot. awesome! #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:56:55
  27. This technology is clearly resonating … and a second round of pitches by the ‘Weekenders’ gets planned to help with Bea’s dilemma…
  28. bea_schofield
    I want to have a baby so I can buy a space cot #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:58:17
  29. estherrosemille
    @bea_schofield that sets us a 9 month business target 🙂 we’ll try and get a product ready for you by then!

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 12:35:08
  30. The CareNet team have had an emotional journey during the weekend – now they present the technology solution for at-home health monitoring. They are using ESA IP to capture and transfer the vitals – gaining a rich data-set that will hold future value to clinicians.
  31. JamesLRamsay
    CareNet – dedicated to save lives at home – cost reduction and care at home #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 08:59:50
  32. Now here is a surprise – Mark Evans and Dave Gudgin can conceal it no more – its time for “I Like It”!
    Just how good can geo-location be if we reject sloppy GPS and adopt tech with a 1m positioning accuracy? Well these guys are going to tell us – and its all based on available space tech IP.
  33. simonbayly
    Now a team of mentors pitching an idea they had this afternoon! #fbwoxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:06:32
  34. JamesLRamsay
    No escape from your wife says Judge Barbara – its accurate geolocation with Team ‘I Like It’ #fbwOxford @markandrewevans

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:06:38
  35. Time for Collaboration Spotter… who is working with who and in which areas of technology? What are your competitors up to? Do we have the right R&D focus? Where can we find the partners with the pools of knowledge that we need to complement our strategic capabilities? Just how do we spot who we should collaborate with?
    These are the questions the guys are going to answer – and everyone will win – addressing both sides of the ‘seeker/solver’ IP match-makers’ dilemma
  36. JamesLRamsay
    Science and research knowledge and IP is fragmented – fix it with Collaboration Spotter – efficiency in hunting for value #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:09:26
  37. Bam4d
    these guys pitchin’ use @importio as a data dependency! connectedcollaboration!! #fbwOxford!

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:11:19
  38. JamesLRamsay
    Gain sharing business model – lets share the savings by working smarter – win/win #CollaborationSpotter #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:12:19
  39. From collaboration spotter to adolescent spots – next up its SmileBeautiful, but they arent a blemish on proceedings.
  40. bea_schofield
    Smile beautiful 🙂 #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:13:19
  41. JamesLRamsay
    SmileBeautiful – the trials of adolescence – fear not! We have an answer! #zitGone #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:14:29
  42. But its not easy – the judges can’t see the value in having access to ‘customers’ so young – and are their ethical issues? What are the boundaries in building business models around minors?Judge Jim clarifies what on offer here:
    “Have I understand this right – you propose to take pictures of peoples spots so that they can share them?”Steve ‘wheelies’ in to clarify – its actually one step further….
    “We are going to video the spots!”
  43. bea_schofield
    Arguing about spots #fbwOxford @importio

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:16:29
  44. Now on it’s the “I Love 2 Movie” team – how to choose the best moves to watch based on your friends choices.
    On the Alexa website-ranking site, the movie service IMDB is ranked 23 busiest site in the UK  – movies are a big deal and this info has global appeal. 18 – 35 year olds are the main followers of this kind of entertainment – so what will the ‘silvery’ judges make of this one?
  45. JamesLRamsay
    It’s word of mouth and social that drives consumption patterns “I Love 2 Movie” #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:22:15
  46. JamesLRamsay
    Have you noticed? The value is now in the data… Serving Youth demographics has hidden value #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:20:29
  47. Have you checked out http://www.sparkol.com/videoscribe.php? The ‘I love 2 Movie” team really did something neat with that service today.
  48. JamesLRamsay
    Hey! The “I love 2 Movie” guys using Videoscribe to pitch #wowFactor #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:18:52
  49. Now its time for Omegun – or are we now called Omagic! The University IP that is position by Seb Haugh and Omer to address the shortage of up-to-the-minute content. This stuff is so smart Im wonder if they can communicate the huge value in this to the judges?
  50. simonbayly
    Omagic looking to pull together big data into natural language reports #fbwoxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:26:23
  51. JamesLRamsay
    Smart automated content for mobile consumption – fill your boots with #Omagic – Big Data becomes the News #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:24:28
  52. Bam4d
    omagic!!! literally citing @importio as their data provider #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:25:30
  53. JamesLRamsay
    Huge potential to generate content in other languages – data to content is Big News #Omagic #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:27:43
  54. Next up it is the newly formed CareFlex team – they have been together only since 11.15am today! What are they going to do?
    Well, its a solution that builds upon the success of “23andme” but builds customer relationships with a significant “customer lifetime value”… if they can keep the punters alive! Can these guys offer the assurances and intimate service needed to keep health worries at bay?
  55. simonbayly
    Careflex – healthy lifestyle choices powered by DNA screening #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:36:04
  56. JamesLRamsay
    Careflex – DNA services for a healthy life – personalised medicine and lifestyle advice #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:30:22
  57. Next up its LabSwap – connecting researchers to allow them to hand-over soon-to-expire consumable reagents. There hasn’t been a scientist who has looked at it and not seen the value. But will others get it?
  58. JamesLRamsay
    LabSwap – the story of John and George – magical match making for Reagents #value £60m saved costs #fbwOxford #winWinWin

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:35:08
  59. JamesLRamsay
    #LabSwap the operational savings on consumables with gain-sharing – “a huge advantage” for science and research #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:43:29
  60. But the judges are asking why do researchers want to do this – how can we make them share and realise the huge potential for operational savings?
  61. JamesLRamsay
    How do we encourage researchers to be responsible? They are! It’s a virtuous Opt-in – its a community mindset #collaborate #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 09:38:05
  62. But don’t worry the passion in this team crushes the opposition – and Judge Barbara refelcts upon how this service could connect researches and be the catalyst for all kinds of social encounters that build trust and seed innovation. Lots of heads nod – Operational saving and a higher purpose… it doesnt happen often.
  63. Phew… So that was that! What a rollercoaster!

    Everyone is smiling and laughing – there is relief from the ‘Weekenders’ – but now the judges leave the room.
    Time to debate and decide.

  64. The Judges return – with their comments and conclusions….
  65. tomspencer
    The judges give their verdict! #fbwoxford http://pic.twitter.com/cyMAixxl

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 10:13:59
  66. JamesLRamsay
    Drum roll! The winner will be……. #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 10:09:49
  67. So who won?
  68. JamesLRamsay
    In not going to tell you the winner – you should have been here!!! #fbwOxford

    Sun, Nov 11 2012 10:20:13
  69. To find out check out this post.

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To everyone who made #fbwOxford such an amazing experience: to the sponsors who made it possible; to the judges who had to choose between 12 projects most of which weren’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye last Friday morning; to the facilitators who kept everything on track; to the helpers who gave their time and enthusiasm; to the team who hold the vision; but most of all to the exceptional people who came, formed teams and did the impossible:

To all of you, thank you: I am awestruck.


Building the Canvas – the models emerge

After the energy of the kick-off on Friday evening we really weren’t sure what time the ‘Weekenders’ would return to battle this morning.

We had promised (and delivered!) bacon sandwiches and fresh coffee but the tempter wasn’t needed – as we walked into the foyer at 8.30am the place was already dotted with eager entrepreneurs ready to get cracking.

But how would they engage as teams? How would they grab the business canvas and make sense of their opportunities and shape them up into credible pitches in front of the scrutiny of the mentors?

Well the progress was impressive.

The LabSwap guys were taking shape as a ‘performing’ team – looking at ways to share soon-to-expire ReAgents between labs.  There was a focus on getting the minimal viable product – leveraging Android bar code readers and a simple user-experience to quickly build up an inventory of lab consumables – linking up community and building an opt-in mind-set for a system that supported the researcher at the bench.

But how could we credit the good community members – is there a gaming mindset that can be promoted – giving credit to member that are help out others? And the mentors raised tricky questions. What do we have to do from a governance perspective? Are there any conflicts in ‘donating’ research consumables even if they are about to expire?

The CareNet guys were a buzz of energy all day and they battled through the challenges of collaborative working. There are many hotspots of value in their medical care opportunity but which ones fit in with the groups aspirations? The hidden value in patient data – which when anonymized would be valuable to clinicians. Or do they focus on the infrastructure that allows patients to be at home – avoiding ‘bed-blocking’ costs and allowing them to get well in the stress-less comfort of home?

There were some interesting dynamics:

“Its often chaos and difficult to make sense of the opportunity. Chaos is good but it’s often not clear. Most of us are thinking beyond the project and there are differences in the team. But there are many avenues of investigation. We’re being very pragmatic.”

The Smantenn team were storming ahead with the wifi tech. Working with mentor Dave Waller, they got a handle on the challenges of the next-gen UK broadband roll–out – finding key influencers and new entrants in the market and sensing the momentum in this space. It’s a fragmenting market and a good place for the entrepreneur to make an offering. The underlying IP plus the expertise in the group promised a way forward.

The guys at Tent.It impressed many people today  – there was a real energy around this group, with Ester calling upon insights into the stresses of her sister – currently struggling at ‘being a mum’ – and how the space technology could be the basis of a lightweight, easily erected travel-cot. All parents need help at this trying time.

Minds were creative and open taking input from many mentors and taking to the streets of Oxford to capture customer insights on the perspective of parents in the city: “How can we make your ‘away-stay’ experiences better?”

But sometimes this stuff is hard. The ‘Collaboration Spotters” were focused on progress:

“We don’t have all the answers but we are trying to move forward. We have a different dynamic with the mentors – they are being challenging and it gives things a twist. Sometimes it‘s our analysis that gives us a challenge – we are quickly learning this market but we are focused on progressing this in as short a time as possible. We take steps forward – we will demonstrate progress.”

And how is it for the guys that came along to share their ideas but now teams and mentors are pulling the ‘dream’ into a new shape?

Michael shared his experience:

“I came in this with an ideal of addressing a sustainability issue – but now its about the business model. How do we differentiate? It’s challenging the model and we’re assessing the risk. We’re all asking who is the customer? What is the problem we will fix? Our work is widening out – there is divergence. But we are sense-checking and realistic about the challenges. We are looking for a clear runway and looking for that space for us to compete.”

What was evident in the room was that we were hunting for real viable businesses – while there was technology, IP and data-science at the heart of the capabilities – people were spinning out options for businesses that could be built within the limited resources of an entrepreneur.

And as Andrews flip-chart shows there are some big choices for people to make after the final whistle on Sunday. As hoped this stuff is destined to be a ‘call to action’.

More fun tomorrow – the weekend is not over yet!

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The Big Bang – The Future Business weekend commences

It was always going to throw the room in to a silence hush…

“So who has come to today with an idea or an opportunity they want to explorer”

Folks chuckled awkwardly and bums shuffled on seats as everyone goes shy.

But Julian and Andrew stepped up – they both had spotted something in the IP that made sense and justified a project during the Future Business weekend. And now was the time to share it.

Julian got here first – with expertise in smart metering he had spotted something neat – the guy has spent years in this space and really knows that world. And if you didn’t like that idea – lets disrupt the world of temporary structures – the tent market needs a shake up: “They haven’t changed in years”

The flood gates were now open. Archie talked about use of data to profile the characteristics of cities – if you like the city wine bars of London where will you find the same vibe in Paris? If you like the bohemian areas of Paris where will you find the same in Reykjavik?

James Tillbury talked about using wider profiles of data to profile the health of a company – going being the financial statements to look at  social media traces – info on sustainability indexes and a measurement of CSR – building us a holistic corporate health check. It was became clear that import.io would be a great asset to the event.

Steve Moyles made every one smile with a FaceBeautiful idea. Carl talked about use of algorithms to validate performance of financial products. Peter connected the dots on the data compression technology and how it could aid medical monitoring, and Mark got pumped over the application of a more accurate and robust GPS technology.

And still more ideas were shared – with everyone feeling safe and ready to pitch an idea.

David was a clear expert in solar technology and was keen to share the tech of the Italian farmer that would be disruptive. Michael shared is passion for tracking carbon and sustainablily. Oana talked about solving the challenges for finding the right movie to watch and how we can be a social network of referral and relevance.

The ideas came thick and fast covering lifestyle, access to information, tracking of corporate IP and even the chance to track ‘everyone ever’ – the complete known footprint of the global population in the history of man!

A safe place, lots of divergent thinking and lots of people nodding and supporting the guys brave enough to step up and be innovation leaders.

At the start of the night Jeremy disclosed: “I don’t know what will come out of this weekend – but I guarantee it will be fun!”

He wasn’t wrong.  Roll on tomorrow!