The question is often asked, are entrepreneurs born or made, well in Cambridge on Sunday night it seems experience certainly counted for something as all three winning Appathon teams contained at least one member with an existing and growing startup behind them.
The Appathon, organised by Cambridge University Entrepreneurs (Cue) as part of the Silicon Valley comes to UK (SVc2UK) event that takes place next month, offered access to masses of government data backed by help from major mobile and internet companies to speed the process of hacking together apps in less than two whole days.
Perhaps unsurprisingly undergraduate and graduate students from Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory featured heavily, however there were many people from the "real world" of world and outside the city, including Norwich and London despite the latter having its own SVc2UK Appathon together with Edinburgh and Sheffield (Oxford and Southampton participate next weekend).
The majority of the apps seemed to emphasise the geographic nature of much of the data, linking it to measures of wealth, health, environment and education to help people decide good places to live, with one app even telling you what your chances of dying that particular day are.
The winners were WiguTree, Collisions and Dawson, who contain members that have also founded or co-founded Qiqqa, Mixcloud and How Are You? respectively.
However, the second stage of the competition remains open and while each member of these teams won a Kindle, a second show and tell on 23 October will be used to decide which teams get to send a member to Silicon Valley before hooking up with UKTI for SxSW, which will be announced 16 November.
Location based social networks are broken say Collision and they're here to fix it with an innovative new way to connect with friends, explore cities and discover new places. It was one of the few teams not to rely heavily on government data sets and like many great ideas, was born in a pub, this one formed by Mat Clayton, co-founder of Mixcloud, home of radio content on the internet, and Alistair Parr, a social games developer behind Infinite Degree.
They were joined by Steve Marsh and Michael Platings.
Unlike Foursquare or Gowalla where the user has to actively check in, something Parr says people forget to do which means opportunities to meet up are missed, Collisions runs silently in the background and alerts automatically.
The app connects through Facebook friends graph, silently tracking location and when it detects a nearby friend, it sends both people an instant notification and suggests a suitable place to meet somewhere at a fairly equal distance to each other. It runs on iOS, but Android and Windows phone versions are planned for the next few weeks.
Dawson King, founder of Cambridge Healthcare, the company behind the recently launched How Are You? site, a social network for health (both patients and health professionals), won with the How Are You? mobile application.
The win was particularly impressive as team Dawson consisted solely of Dawson, who produced an app to accompany his web site, connecting patients with long-term conditions to NHS services, health care professionals and other patients.
Like the main site, the app uses NHS Choices open data and a smartphone's geolocation function to enable patients to find local NHS services, view information on that service, such as opening times and patients' reviews, as well as interact with the service by phoning the practice from the application or finding their way to the practice using the Google Maps location feature.
Patients can also check-in to a service, such as Addenbrooke's Hospital and talk to other patients (who have also checked-in) with similar conditions. The application creates a profile for the patient on howareyou.com where the relationships and information can be stored for use outside of the mobile application. Dawson says the app will be available on iPhone, Blackberry and Android in the coming weeks.
wiguTree.com (When I Grow Up) formed from two existing friends as well as some random meetings including one at TedEx and a night out in a bar somewhere. The team counts James Jardine as a member, founder of Qiqqa, a document management startup gathering quite a head of steam, together with Vicky Hansen, James Phillips, Graham Bates and Sandeep Tailor.
The idea is to provide an early steer for young people with no idea about what they want to do with their lives, helping them begin to make some decisions based on the recommendations of other older children who do know.
The app uses five government educational and employment data sets, one commercial data set on job satisfaction and short (one minute) videos uploaded by young people who interview their mums, dads and role models.
The videos are the key and are to be created by young people either off their own volition or as part of their work experience programme. The videos can then be viewed by other youngsters so those who didn't have the opportunity to try an interesting job can benefit from the experience of others. wiguTree then provides specific links to the comprehensive 'Next Step' government website to help them explore their careers further.
Some of the others:
Yes, I die. Manfred Zabarauskas, Dan Sanduleac, Ada Lica and Raluca Turc (all computer science undergraduates), want to create awareness amongst young people about environmental issues in their area, such as air pollution and they want to do this by predicting your chances of dying today.
They hope this unusual feature in the Windows 8 app will draw in people with the slightly unreal information before providing more relevant data on how actual air pollution in an area has grown over time, or water pollution, even motorway accidents.
The only team to have no one studying computer science at any academic level (engineering, nanotechnology and mathematics), "but we rock," explained Leo Martinez enthusiastically, joined by Angel Garcia and Peteris Erins.
The team with no name worked on a 'heat map' for the UK based on an individual's preferred criteria, including education, environment, hobbies...
This app by Neil Collins, Rob Whitehead, Nick Skehin and David Brazdil (the first three computer science undergrads, David a 'real world' person) allows people to compare relative wealth with others in the same local authority using information on income distribution, income tax and weekly earnings. This could be expanded into comparisons of education and health.
Dacio Ferreira and Simao Belchior de Castro both work at the United Nations Environment Program-World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge. Their app takes data from government to find out where best to live in the long term looking at pollution, education, health and can cross that data using Facebook with information about friends and family. It will ultimately recommend best on criteria set by people.
One computer labber, the rest real world attendees, including a UEA lecturer (Robin Message, Scott Grandison, Euan Harris, David Jessop and Joe McGuinness). Their web site to help people move house. There's a lot of stuff about schools and stuff, but not about community and people when you want to get a job in a particular area. Criteria would include schools, price and job location.
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