BizSpark Innovation Accelerator

I left Bangor this morning at 6 am and after picking up some lost souls in Belfast, made my way south to the BizSpark Innovation Accelerator being held in the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Dublin.

The talks have been useful to me – though the panel on “Building an Innovation Economy” fell into the usual tricks of complaining about the local state aid agency (for those of us in the North, it’s InvestNI, for those of us in the South, it’s Enterprise Ireland, for Scotland it’s Scottish Enterprise). The percentages, the amounts, the timing, the bureaucracy and the lead time for funding were discussed at length and generally no-one said anything positive. Of course people want larger percentages of money with lower requirements for match funding, with larger amounts available at specified times with less red tape and less lead time for due diligence.

Of course people want these things.

I want a Moon Pony with a built-in toaster.

Something new for Twitter in ’09?

Today I was complaining about the poor suite of features in the default Mac OS X Twitter client, Twitterific.

@IanRobinson pointed me at this from Otter Software

digestive

which also has the bylines…

Spring 2009 will see the arrival of a new way to integrate your Address Book with Twitter.

and

In the summer of 2009 we will be launching Digestive, a fresh approach to Twitter.

Now I’m all excited…

{You can follow Simon Wolf on Twitter)

It’s a busy week….

Tonight is the February 2009 NiMUG meetup being held at Windsor Lawn Tennis Club in Belfast. The topic tonight will be iPhone development (because last Thursday night, 20 people gathered in Roast on the Lisburn Road and bumped heads together about iPhone development – so it seems timely).

Tomorrow, the 24th February, is the Innovation Accelerator being held in the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Dublin’s city centre. It’ll be rounded out by an XCake Dublin meetup for people interested in iPhone development in the Sky Suite of the Radisson at 7 pm. I’m going down for the full day.

On Wednesday the 25th, 4IP is hosting some New Media Workshops at NIScreen in Alfred Street. Designed for indies and individuals in Northern Ireland, this is a morning of discussion around the elements and ingredients of projects and platforms that can change the face of public service media, with a view to putting forward a proposal to 4iP. The content of these workshops is up for discussion.

Irish Blog Awards ’09

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that my better half’s blog dressjunkie.com has reached the final of the Irish Blog Awards – She’s only been running her blog since November last year but already has more readers, more comments and more subscribers than I do. I’m incredibly proud. She’s an incredibly strong contender and much more readable than my oft-ill-informed rants from here!

We won’t be going down to Cork for the awards (as @dressjunkie works) but we’ll be having our own mini-celebration up in Belfast when we’re with @theronster and @karenquinn. Apparently the bubbly will be out whether there’s a win or not. I love the attitude!

Good luck to the other folks who made it to the finals. We’ll be watching Twitter and living vicariously off your achievements!

XCake 1st Meetup

After several months of talking about it, we’ve had our first XCake meetup.

img_0043

We had 20 people turn up, all told. They ranged from the education sector (Belfast Met, The University of Ulster and Queen’s University of Belfast) to the private sector (sole traders, bedroom developers, partnerships and limited companies) including some companies which have a distinguished history of software development.

Philip Orr’s Home of Serendipity has another XCake writeup.

It’s to be followed next Tuesday (24th) by an XCake meetup in Dublin.

XCake iPhone meetups in Belfast and Dublin [updated]

Mentioned earlier but now gathering a little steam. These meetups are mostly informal and designed to help build a little community around what we have here on the island.

XCAKE BELFAST: Thursday 19th Feb, 6 pm. Roast, Lisburn Road, Belfast.
I’ve confirmed they have WiFi and will be happy to have a cluster of seats taken up by coffee-swilling nerds. I’ve been told of ten people who have expressed interest in going to this – let’s make it busy and kick-ass.

XCAKE DUBLIN: Tuesday 24th February, 7 pm. Radisson SAS Royal Hotel, Dublin.
This is only an hour after the BizSpark Innovation Accelerator being held by the DigitalMediaForum and in the same hotel so people interested in both might be interested in attending both. There’s folk coming all the way from Belfast and Kerry coming to this so you should consider it too.

Nokia to launch Ovi Store. Bored Now.

Robin Wauters of Techcrunch writes:

At the Mobile Word Congress in Barcelona, Nokia has unveiled its initiative to try and repeat the runaway succes of Apple’s App Store with its own mobile storefront dubbed Ovi Store. This was an expected move…

…because we can’t expect Nokia to innovate, only copy. Developers of the apps will retain 70% of revenues (which might be enough to help people put up with developing on Symbian S40 and S60

The Ovi Store does include this feature:

Ovi Store is unique in its ability to target content based on where you are, when you’re there, why you are where you are and who else has downloaded similar content.

Nokia estimates that this will reach 300 million users by 2012 which essentially means that we’ll be inundated with tat because everyone around us will be downloading it. Depending on where you live it’s going to be classical music or something tremendously chavtastic. It’s a bit like the Welcome to the Social feature of the Zune. I frankly don’t care what my neighbours are downloading, I want to know what’s good and I feel this feature will not build upon the wisdom of crowds but mob stupidity. I won’t even go into the privacy concerns of an online store front having your location and using that information to inform your neighbours what to buy.

Of course this will be a success. The model has already been proved (though whether the UI sucks will be another thing)

Videogames don’t kill people, People do.

An EU report claims Video Games swill not rot your brain.

Contrary to fears about the violent reputation of some games, there is no firm proof that playing them has an automatic negative impact on children’s behaviour, for example by causing aggression, said the report from the committee on the internal market and consumer protection.

Instead, “video games can stimulate learning of facts and skills such as strategic thinking, creativity, cooperation and innovative thinking, which are important skills in the information society.”

It’s about time that games (and serious games) were taken seriously. In Northern Ireland we have various discrete pockets of technologists who do digital animation, games, serious games, e-learning and other content without realising that through collaboration, they could create a real industry for these skills in the province.

The European parliament conceded that “violence in video games can in certain situations stimulate violent behaviour,” but said there was no need for Europe-wide legislation. It called for a Europe-wide approach to prevent the sale to children of games intended for adults and urged the introduction of stricter identity checks at the point of sale and a wider application of the age-rating system that currently applies to computer games in many European countries.

It might be more honest to admit that someone who commits a videogame-inspired crime was probably already doing it or thinking about it. This is an old argument. People don’t kill people due to videogames, they kill people for money or land, for abuse or betrayal, for their colour or creed or simply because they’re mentally ill.

If someone is already unbalanced enough that they’re going to be influenced by a game, then it’s hardly the fault of the game. The game itself becomes a scapegoat.

Open Source Funding?

Mark Cuban is an American billionaire entrepreneur, ranking 407th on Forbes’ “World’s Richest People” list. He owns the Dallas Mavericks and is chairman of HDNet (a HDTV Cable network). He’s been involved in some of the biggest names in eCommerce – Broadcast.com, Weblogs, Grokster, IceRocket…

..his latest idea is Open Source Funding.

“Rather than trying to be a Venture Capitalist, I was looking for an idea that hopefully could inspire people to create businesses that could quickly become self funding. Businesses that just needed a jump start to get the ball rolling and create jobs. Im a big believer that entrepreneurs will lead us out of this mess. I just needed a way to help.

I will invest money in businesses presented here on this blog. No minimum, no maximum, but a very specific set of rules. Here they are:

1. It can be an existing business or a start up.
2. It can not be a business that generates any revenue from advertising. Why ? Because I want this to be a business where you sell something and get paid for it. Thats the only way to get and stay profitable in such a short period of time.
3. It MUST BE CASH FLOW BREAK EVEN within 60 days
4. It must be profitable within 90 days.
5. Funding will be on a monthly basis. If you dont make your numbers, the funding stops
6. You must demonstrate as part of your plan that you sell your product or service for more than what it costs you to produce, fully encumbered
7. Everyone must work. The organization is completely flat. There are no employees reporting to managers. There is the founder/owners and everyone else
8. You must post your business plan here, or you can post it on slideshare.com , scribd.com or google docs, all completely public for anyone to see and/or download
9. I make no promises that if your business is profitable, that I will invest more money. Once you get the initial funding you are on your own
10. I will make no promises that I will be available to offer help. If I want to , I will. If not, I wont.
11. If you do get money, it goes into a bank that I specify, and I have the ability to watch the funds flow and the opportunity to require that I cosign any outflows.
12. In your business plan , make sure to specify how much equity I will receive or how I will get a return on my money.
13. No multi-level marketing programs”

His blog post has attracted over a thousand comments so far but, nomatter what you think of the scheme, there are some parts of his rules which seem obvious.

It can’t depend on advertising for revenue
This is obvious. Companies are not making money on advertising – the smaller companies are drying up in the baking heat of the recession and larger companies are only just weathering the situation. Newspapers, wholly dependent on advertising for their revenue (and being vastly outpaced by online models of news distribution) are struggling if not already dead.

It must be cash flow break even in 60 days. It must be profitable within 90 days. If you dont make your numbers, the funding stops
This effectively mean you have to be selling your product within 30 days and you’ve gotta make some money from that initial sale. Companies are going to want to get NET30 after all. You have to be profit focussed and you have to exceed your business plan sales numbers.

In your business plan , make sure to specify how much equity I will receive or how I will get a return on my money.
This is the question that will give most entrepreneurs the heebie-jeebies. When you’ve worked your ass off on some project, the idea of giving part of it away it very tough to stomach. But if you don’t then there’s the question of how quickly you can pay him back (and at what return).

There’s nothing new here. This is something that Business Angels and Venture Capitalists have been doing for years. The difference is in the cachet that Mark Cuban may bring and the fact that this offer is being posted on his blog and not just an invitation on a VC web site. This idea isn’t really Open Source – it’s just taking the elevator pitch and putting it into some blog comments.

You can talk to VCs. They’re human. And some of them will be at the Digital Media Forum’s Innovation Accelerator which is an all-day event on the 24th of February in Dublin.