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!