We're delighted to bring you a very special episode of The IJYI Way where we bring together the Innovate Suffolk team to talk about their upcoming Hackathon event.
Simon Arnold of Fortis Recruit and Founder of Innovate Suffolk gives us some insider tips on what the Hackathon Judges will be looking for. Also, Kara Thurkettle of StrategIQ and last year's winner shares her experience of the event last year and what it was like to be the winner with her product Stress Buddy. Some great tips and insights!
Simon Arnold - Fortis Recruit and Founder of Innovate Suffolk
Peter Basford - Business Growth Coaches Network
Sam Parnell - StrategIQ
Kara Thurkettle - StratgIQ and Stress Buddy
Chris Pont - IJYI
Hi, it's Andrew here from The IJYI Way podcast with a quick note about this episode, we're talking about the Innovate Suffolk Hackathon, which was due to kick off at the end of March. Okay, so we recorded this episode of The IJYI Way before the situation with the Corona virus really started to change in the UK. As a result, we're talking about the event happening at the end of March, but it's not gonna be happening at the end of March now, because a lot of public spaces and conferences have decided it'd be better to postpone their events rather than hold them in the middle of a national health crisis. So if you have bought tickets, don't worry. The event is definitely still 100% going ahead, just not at the end of March. And if you haven't bought tickets, then you've got more time to buy tickets and go along to go to the workshops. None of the speakers have cancelled. None of the mentors have pulled out. All the sponsors are still involved. You will still get access to all of that great talent and meet all those people and also have a great time at what is going to be Suffolk's best hackathon ever? It's just not going to be in a few weeks at the end of March. It's going to be later on. So watch this space and we will be making announcements about when the revised date comes up when everyone's got a bit more understanding of what's going on regarding the situation with the Corona virus. Okay, great, that's enough of me. Let's get on with the show. Welcome back to the E G Way, and this is a special episode of E e G. Wait. Now I do say every week it's a special episode and it a way every week it is special, but this is actually special because it's not just an IJYI Way. It is a preview off the fourth coming Hackathon that's taking place on the 27th 28th and the 29th of March. So just a couple of weeks away,
when is it?
It's on the....*laughing*. It's uh oh, that's a podcast joke! Now introducing Sam Parnell who is business development at Strategic the full service marketing agency, here is my strategic drinking bottle. Thank you very much. It will only be mine until I get home and the kids get it. It's quite hard to use, though. I'm going to say, because it's got a straw mechanism. So if you put in your mouth and turn it upside down, Nothing. Nothing. Thank God Simon was here.
I should have brought some instructions with each one really shouldn't I?!
You need instructions for drinking bottle in Suffolk. That's just That's just how it works. And thank you, though. The man who gave me the instructions for that Mr Si Arnold from Innovate Suffolk. He's one of the founders and also from Fortis Recruit the IT specialists. Hello, Simon.
Hi, Andy. How are you?
I'm good. I was thirsty but thanks to you I've now had help. Thank you for that. Also joining us here, of course, is another cofounder of Innovate Suffolk Chris Pont CEO. at IJYI Obviously you've heard him before on the IJYI Way. He's a regular. Also joining us. We have last year's winner Drumroll, please. Joining is This Kara Thurkettle. and Kara is last year's winner. She is 1 half of stress buddy.
Yeah, the other half is Sean Plumber. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to make it today, but he's here in spirit.
So also, you also work at strategic?
Yeah, I'm an SEO executive at strategic marketing.
Also joining us is two other co founders in fact, of innovate, Suffolk, starting with Mr Mark Thomas, who is the founder off Codorous the Bluetooth and Internet of things people. And you've been working presumably on some very boring projects to do with, like, you know, world yacht racing and stuff.
Oh, yeah. Well so we support the America's Cup team for Great Britain. We also working along there was a Sail GB, which is also their team as well and a local speaker brand Bowers and Wilkins.
Bowers and Wilkins, as in Apple's Fabulous, super awesome brand. I'm a big Bowers and Wilkins fan actually, I've been thrown out of the apple store many times for getting too close to them. And with us as well is Mr Peter Basford. Peter is the founder of the business growth Coaching Network here in Suffolk but also innovation lab, Stowmarket and possibly are we allowed to say, possibly somewhere else as well?
Well, hopefully at some stage it will expand further. So we've got about 15 members in Stowmarket at the moment. 21 desks, running events and coaching and support for the businesses. But it's really taken off quite strongly, and there's a will to do more of these around the region.
So we're all here. We're all talking about Innovate Suffolk and the hackathon. I'm Andrew Walker, By the way, I am delighted to say I'm gonna be a mentor. At the hackathon. Yes, don't look so surprised how it all comes out now I'm looking forward to because I am a freelance writer and I do podcasting things like that. But back in the day, back in the day when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, I did work in a couple of successful tech startups doing really stuff at the time, it seemed remarkably silly and so I'm looking forward to things that people think will never catch on at the hackathon because normally it's things that never catch on. They said that about this podcast!
So I mean, start first with how the hackathon started. I guess it came from a frustration in Suffolk with a number of people that I knew through either working from a recruitment perspective or meeting that some of the local kind of networking groups, that Suffolk had this reputation, that nothing really cool happened here, that actually there wasn't really much of a technology ecosystem and there's quite a few people that disagreed with that narrative. And actually, the problem we've got in Suffolk, actually, isn't it there's not cool stuff going on it's just we're really bad at self promotion we're a bit too modest and we wanted to tackle that and look at ways we could maybe get people who wouldn't normally know about technology locally to kind of stand up and pay attention and get involved in see what a great, rich, vibrant, ecosystem we've got locally and some of the novel ideas already getting pushed out. How could we create a platform to kind of share that success? With not just Suffolk but the rest of the UK. We decided that a really good platform that would be the Hackathon platform. You could get some some of the great minds of Suffolk in a room, give them some interesting problems to tackle and then see what solutions come out over the space of a weekend.
Just to dive in there and I realise we've fired off into it. But Chris tell us, for those people who might not know or who have never been to one, what is a hackathon?
So a hackathon. You can either turn up with an idea, or you can turn up and look to join a team on. The idea is that these ideas are pitched. It's generally based around a given theme. So the last Hackathon was around mental health. From there, it's 48 hours to create something. Last year there was pitches going on all the time. So, you know, for every 6 to 12 hours, there was a pitch to a group of mentors, there's a whole group of mentors that help throughout the weekend that help teams with everything from UI design to coding itself, to product ideas and business ideas. How they might monetize what they're doing.
Sam, you're no stranger to start ups yourself so tell us how did strategic get involved.
We were a sponsor last year, which was amazing. Obviously we're really then privileged to have one of our everyone was encouraged to attend and one of our fine people won and so it's been really exciting watching. I mean, we've all been knocking around I co-host Sync Ipswich. So we've watched Hackathons for a really long time and it's not always common for companies that spin out from Hackathons to become something. But we've watched Stress Buddy from last year really turned into a tangible product with StrategIQ support with Coderus' support. It's been absolutely incredible. So when we were really keen to get involved again this year, it's very much a Si said it was a bootstrap last year. I think everyone's kind of testing the water to see what we could make. We Suffolk, if we do anything well we do people and collaboration. We're all lovely and you know it's a great event, so we're very keen to see the same happen this year.
I think it's worth saying that last year's event went better than we could have ever dreamed really. We had a much better turn-out. People were getting involved. It was interviews going on, radio suffer. You know, there was a real buzz around it. So you know that that was incredibly successful.
Now, just just gonna say, if you do hear sirens, things going off in the background, this is life and exciting. They're not just coming for me. And the lame gaggs
Kara Thurkettle. So you're a winner, right? So you're this, you're basically the only person here really who's achieved anything! So tell us about tell us about winning. It's about Stress Buddy.
Okay, so Oh, gosh, where do I start? Stress buddy is essentially a mental health app that helps you identify triggers that might be causing negative responses to things surrounding you. So I say you're having a panic attacks a lot or different things our app essentially helps you understand why you might be having a panic attack So what's triggering that response? It also gives you access to loads of different coping mechanisms. Most apps out there you are only utilize maybe one or two or three different types of coping mechanisms, but with people with complex mental health conditions, that's not necessarily the most beneficial options. So we essentially wanna have, like, a coping mechanism to a box where we're utilizing loads. So, um, we're still and we started development two weeks ago, so it's still moving. But it's It's been a great experience, Just an idea that I came with to the event last year, and now it's actually got legs in it. Something is kind of amazing because I didn't anticipate that it would actually, you know, become an app.
Okay, so tell us more about winning. Um, hot tips, especially for people who are gonna be going, What's What's the secret source? What's what's the secret of your success?
So I think that the most successful teams are going to be somewhat are gonna be teams that have a developer, a designer and a creative person, and maybe someone who's got a bit of a business background. The reason being is those having four different types of people. It means that you're gonna be in the best, your best position to really answer the kinds of questions that the judges are gonna be asking you. And I think each of those people has different skills and expertise that to bring to the table. So designer, be able to kind of the audience, experience the user experience, be able to kind of map out. You know, that audience user case. A business person will probably be saying, Oh, how are we gonna monetize it? How do we make this natural business? How? How about launch. A developer obviously creating, creating the product. Um, on And, you know, a marketer creative might be like Okay, what are what are those extra things that we can do? What? What kind of research should we conduct? Should we go out? Should be survey people. So I think the teams that come to the table with ah variety of expertise and their team are gonna be the best place to win. In addition to that, I think if teams want to win and they already have an idea pretty solid idea in a pretty solid team, which I'm betting this time around, there will be a lot more teams that come to the table with more prepared ideas. I have a lot of background research to support what you're saying, because if you're trying to promote an idea and it's already been done before, you need to be able to say how your idea is different than what other people have proposed.
I think another thing which I remember from last year, which set you separate from everybody else there working, was your openness to actually go off and try different things and kind of be pushed outside of your comfort zone with that, because there was one thing which you would you know, go out was it the lunchtime?
We went out and we started interviewing people live on the street. Ah, and we had some amazing responses cause that first we had a hypothesis of the experience that people were having with the NHS and we went out and we're like, Okay, let's see what other people are saying. And it was a really kind of moving experience to hear the of these background stories, and it just you know, I think that and the emotion emotional connection we were able to make in our presentation kind of enhanced the whole experience.
Yeah, I think one of the key things in the hackathons one of the things that really set Stress Buddy and a couple other teams apart was the fact that they had a plan they're willing to flex on the plan, but then they still delivered something. Whereas I think that the challenge is when you when you're in one of these hackaton environments you keep getting different ideas come across you and your plan can evolve over a weekend. There's a few instanced we had people still at planning phase. By day two, it is knowing when to stop and go right. We need to get things done now. What's our M V P? That was one of the things that Stress Buddy did really, really well is it took on feedback, pivoted changed but still actually developed a kind of minimal, viable product.
And I think that's all just highlighted that a lot of people she may have to be a developer to go to a Hackathon whereas you know what we've spoken about. You have all those different roles that are involved in developing a successful product, so you don't just have to be a developer. You could be a marketer, product designer, a manager.
This year's topics, we've got agriculture and the outdoors. So any PT or anyone working in agriculture who's keen to look at how technology could influence their sector would be a great addition because actually, industry knowledge is one bit that we will all need when it comes to whatever questions were answering.
The question, I wanted to ask Peter. Actually, it's, you know, in terms of coaching people with business growth, and also working in a sort of coworking innovation lab space. Presumably you see the sort of highs and lows people go through on the business journey. And is that a bit like the hackathon? I mean, there must be high points and low points in your hackathon journey.
Yes, in the sort of 48 hours, you see people going through that ups and downs as they think they've got something. Then then they'll get some more information and pivot on Go Oh, it's not quite what we thought it was, and then they'll take on new energy and go again. Then it might again. That might be something that gets in the way and it's not. And then you pivot again. So I suppose it's much more intense over a short period of time than perhaps something that would take 2-3 months for a start up business.
So what's your advice for that? I want everyone's advice for that. So I mean, what would be your advice ? You arrive with Hackathon, You got a great idea. I've been in similar situations myself where I thought I had a great idea and it turns out it was rubbish. So what's your advice for not falling out with your teammates and actually getting it over the line? Getting to the end
There's that realization that, you know, even running a business, you have that initial high, and then you get into that trough of disillusionment. All of that happens over 48 hours. Through a hackathon. You know, you're gonna get the initial high and then, you know, may maybe have to pivot a bit. Maybe maybe things aren't quite going according to plan, so don't let that put you off make sure that you carry some of that enthusiasm and momentum.
I think setting goals and expectations at the very beginning is very beneficial as well. Like Sean and I from right up front, we said, This is what we agree on. This is what we don't agree on. This is what we need more information. And we set out I was going to do X amount of research on this specific things. Sean was going to do this research and he was going to do this speaking part of the presentation, I think if you delegate rolls very early on and like I said, use everybody's expertise and set goals for yourselves and have, you know, use those chunks of time say, Day one. This is what we're doing day two this is what we're doing. Day three this is what we're doing. We need to be done by this time. And make sure you rehearse and you have your pitch in the amount of time that you have to have it It Is it five minutes this time? Yep. A lot of teams went over the amount of time because they didn't rehearse their pitch enough.
Yep. All businesses have highs and lows along the way. The hackathon is much tighter in terms of time for that to happen but actually fail, fail, learn and fail again and learn again is a much better way of going.In America that culturally is very different. But they hope that people fail and they expect 80% failure. Whereas here it's a bit "oh that's a bit of a word. Can't talk about failure." Actually it's really good.
All right, so pro tips and bearing in mind this year's theme as we sort of hinted at already was very exciting is agriculture and tech agri business. I want to turn to a Mark for a minute because presumably when you are putting together combinations of wearable devices and mobile signals, GPS stuff that's got to fit together with a team who are potentially, you know, upside down in the Southern Ocean or something like that. I'm I'm guessing that mean hopefully not s
I was gonna say if our software has done that I'm sure I'm gonna get a phone call from Ben.
Yeah, that, if it was Microsoft, you know, like, hang on a second. Your boat is updating.
Make sure you close all windows.
Okay. Okay, fine. No, actually, you're definitely getting my drink bottle for that man, that's awesome. So how do you go? What would be your advice of prototyping? What should it look like? How basic can you get it is like a series of storyboards. Enough or you need something you can click on. Presumably. How much is too much? What's the right level of getting a prototype right to to explain it to the judges
I would say, first of all kind of work out what your solutions gonna do. We know user use of performers are there, like ideal, you know, work out. You know who you're delivering it. Then start building out from there when you're building your minimal viable product. You know, remember, that's what it is because lots of people say I'm building my MVP. Then they throw everything into it. You know, just boil it down to the most basic things that you need. Don't worry if it looks ugly. If it performs the action that you need to do. That's great, because that's what you should be focusing on, especially for something like this is like build a solution which will work then, you know, if you win, and I'm sure even some of the other ideas which will come across the weekend may even kind of go out. It's not about winning. It's about building those solutions out and you know you can optimize them later?
Yeah, but it's well, it's not just about its not about winning. It's also the experience of the weekend of the thought process, like it's quite challenging, having to go through that through the highs and lows concept, mapping out the concept, working out, working with other people. So actually just be there to experience it and see if you can challenge yourself to work in a team in that way, I think is quite a is reasonable way to set expectations going into it just just literally part of suspend belief that the door go in there and give it your best. Come away from it and experience it.
There is a prize. Okay, This year things have changed, right? Because it's more than just money
Yeah. I mean, sorry, Kara. The prize this year, so much better. Again for us it was about creating something meaningful, out of the weekend that can continue and support. We thought about that, and we looked at what Stress Buddy had done with amazing success in progress is they made with their app and we thought, how could we empower that and support them? Or what partnersships do we need to form? So my business Fortis Recruit will be putting up £500 the same as last year. Cash. But the wonderful people of innovation Martlesham who run really good incubator there have offered to the winners this year free access to their incubator. That's 18 months worth of support, which to include office space mentorship programs, access to finance.
This is that Martlesham, where, of course, BT have got their Innovation Labs there's a whole bunch of startups based around it.
Yeah, yeah, it's a cluster they have over. It is over 140 small tech businesses, so it's a small tech businesses ranging from seed funded startups to Series C funded 700 million turnover businesses there. So it's a really real rich and vibrant ecosystem on then, alongside that as well, we've re partnered with Suffolk Agricultural Association because the theme is Agri-tech and the outdoors and Suffolk Co off the winners of this year and then also some more of the technology ecosystem locally at the Suffolk Show, because what better place to celebrate technology in Suffolk than the premier show in Suffolk? When you think about our objective, which is to get tech out of just the tech industry sector and out into the general populace of people understand what goes on locals they can promote? A Suffolk show isn't a technology show it was traditionally agriculture and farming show that now involves technology involves Suffolk skills, the Army. There's lots of different people showcasing there. So if we can get technology on the map, then the kinds of people that come in there it's a real opportunity for us to inspire people in our county and shine a spotlight on some of the great minds we've got and great idea we've got happening right here in Suffolk.
Sadly, we do have to start tying it up there. What I want to do is ask everybody your final thoughts. Final words. Is there any room left? Can people still get involved? Can they just come along and hang out and meet people and attend the workshops as well as take part in the hackathon? Anything else that they need to know that we haven't covered yet.
We're still accepting people. To get a ticket they could go to our website www.innovatesuffolk.co.uk. On there's a link to Eventbrite where you can get a ticket. The ticket includes access to the mentors the workshops, private working spaces fast WiFi all your food and a lot of coffee all included £45 plus booking three.
£45. And this is for a three day event with high profile tech mentors and me. But you know, mostly high profile tech mentors plus all the people in this room, plus obviously access to the likes of IJYI and Coderus and some of the players here and a business growth network, which would probably be really useful. I'd imagine if you're trying to start a business and of course top agencies.
The challenge this year is the outdoors and agriculture. It means we've got a couple of very specific challenges provided by some amazing sponsors. Strategic here in the room. Who's challenge is surrounding getting a team up and about getting thme more active outdoors on. Then we got Agent three another amazing local tech business who presented the challenge. "How could encourage people to grow more of their own produce at home" Then there's the open category, which is the innovate separate categories. Anything could think of. So you want might want to survey cows with drones. Or you might want to make a dog walking up. Or you might want to look at ways that you could use lorwan networks to monitor butterflies on farms. We don't mind. It's just we just want to hear the crazy almost better.
Kara, what's your advice?
Try and get your employer to sponsor you because,R&D and training and stuff it's tax deductible, And Andy at Strategic actually sponsored me last year. Coderus has sponsored Sean, and that's how we're both able to attend, and it was amazing experience. So if you can't afford it, get your employer to sponsor you
Well worth it. My main advice would be, I think, even if you can't afford it's really worth it. Those three workshops alone, I think, are worth their weight in gold. Access to these individuals could be career changing. So I think, you know, come along. Come with an open mind. Just see what you can do. And even if you just sat and observed, I think you just absorb information and meet interesting people.
I would say don't just come if you think you're interested in tech, one of the people added a lot of value last time was actually a nurse who didn't have a tech back around it all. But her information helped a number of the teams. So don't just limit coming to this if you're a developer, just come along if you're interested in making things better for everybody.
Okay and Mark, what do you think?
Just reiterate everything everybody is just said. I think it's just fabulous. Kind of pulling some kind of taken all the words out of my mouth.
Chris, your advice,
Yes, I'm Sam nicked most of my bits, But come with an open mind meet. Meet some new people. Take away some value. Learn something. You drink lots of coffee.
One last thing. Just to mention on the ticket prices. If you do want to come and the financial aspect is an issue. Feel free to contact me directly because I do have a number of corporate sponsorship opportunities I've got businesses who are interested actually sponsoring people outside of their organization.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you can't afford it, But you want to see if you can get a corporate sponsor. There's lots of companies here. There's over 150 companies working in Tech in Suffolk, and at least some of them are going to be interested. Okay, So one thing we haven't mentioned is an old friend of the IJYI Way Matthew Applegate from the Creative Computing Club. He is also involved, and there is a junior hack price. Mark. Tell us more.
Yep. We have the junior hackers you mentioned that's being run by Creative Computer Club and Matt who is gonna be bringing along his club. That would be a whole bunch of six year olds, you know, from the club. You know, coming along is that they'll be there on the opening night. Gonna listen and basically, I imagine they're gonna rock because I'm highly involved with them being a patron off the creative computing club with them. So there was a really great energy. They're really looking forward to see what they do over the weekend, and they probably will shake up quite a lot of the teams when they present on Sunday.
Definitely. Matt Applegate was part of Rewired State the O. G. When it came to hackathons. So I'm really I'm excited to see what they come up with because
Oh they've been practicing. Matt's been running the course already and he's already got some of the kit. He's going to be prepared!
He likes to win very much
They'll be there on the opening night. They'll go back to Creative Computing Club HQ Which is a bit like kind of a bat cave on London Road in Ipswich.
We will see you on the 27 28 on the 29th at the University of Suffolf in the Atrium. We are looking forward to seeing you all at the hackathon so come with your ideas and be ready to hack!