Sync The City 2015- An Overview Of Norwich’s 54 Hour Startup Weekend

Sync the City 2015 - An overview of Norwich's 54 hour startup weekendSync the City 2015 Participants (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

After the success of Sync the City 2014, SyncNorwich and UEA planned and ran another 54 hour startup weekend, called Sync the City 2015.  The event was held at The King’s Centre in Norwich from Thursday 19th November to Saturday 21st November 2015.

The aim of the Sync the City events is to bring together Norfolk’s business community of entrepreneurs, product developers, software developers, designers and digital creatives (members of SyncNorwich’s virtual technology and startup community) with students (in 2015 from the University of East Anglia, Norwich University of the Arts and the College of West Anglia) and to facilitate them to create new business models and form startups that are enabled by digital technologies.  The mixed business and student teams then have 5 minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at the end of the event, to win a prize.

The Organisers

SyncNorwich (John Fagan, Fiona Lettice, Sean Clark and Paul Cutting) and UEA (Norwich Business School and Careers Central – Julie Schofield, Susi Waters and Laura Johnson) planned and organised Sync the City 2015.  SyncNorwich is proactively developing partnerships with local universities, colleges and schools, so that the organisations within the community can more easily recruit student interns and graduates and to give students opportunities to meet, network with and learn from local tech sector employers.  Sync the City is part of the strategy to organise events that will benefit both the SyncNorwich technical cluster, businesses and startups, as well as students.

Sync the City 2015 (Photos: Tim Stephenson)

Sync the City 2015 (Photos: Tim Stephenson)


We had great support from local and national sponsors for Sync the City 2015, without whom this would not have been possible.  The primary sponsors were: Norfolk County Council, UEA, SyncNorwich, Liquid11, Aviva and Barclays.  The supporting sponsors were:Adnams, Allies Computing, Tim Stephenson Photography, Maxi-Cool, MigSolv andOnePulse.  The prize sponsors were: Sandler Training, White Space and Norfolk Network.  Thank you all!

Mentors and Judges

We invited local tech business leaders to act as mentors for the Sync the City teams over the weekend.  We had mentors from Aviva (Paul Russell), Barclays (Andy Adams, Gavin Ratcliffe and Paul Mayne), Liquid11 (Chris Venables), Adnams (Duncan Cardwell), UEA (Dr Joost Noppen and Steve Jones), Allies Computing (Stephen Keable), Liftshare (Ali Clabburn), Rainbird (Ben Taylor and Dom Davis), Axon Vibe (Paul Cutting and Elizabeth Scholefield), Earthware (Brian Norman), FXHOME (Josh Davies), BAE Systems (Jo Vertigan), Sandler Training (Ermine Amies), 1Password (Matt Davey), Blooming Founders(London – Lu Li) and OnePulse (London – Nick Walter), representing a range of the different organisations from small to large across the local tech sector and this year we also attracted 2 mentors from London.

The judges were Jon Bradford (ex-MD of Techstars, London), Grant Hardy (founder and CEO of Liquid11 and New Patricks Yard), Julianna Meyer (founder and CEO of SupaPass), and Julie West (Growth Hub Co-ordinator, New Anglia LEP).

Thanks to the mentors and judges for giving up their time and helping to make the event such a success.

Graham Gannon of Google’s Prototyping team gave the Keynote presentation on Thursday night and Neil Garner of Proxama gave the Endnote presentation on Saturday night.  Michael Ni-Man of SyncYouth also gave an update on his November 2015 #ihackednorwich event with Year 9 pupils from Norfolk schools.


There were 115 active participants for the whole event.  This was an increase of nearly 60% on the number of participants in 2014. Of these active participants, approximately 50% were students and 50% were professionals.  The participants were also identified by their background.  There were 40% developers, 41% business/non-technical and 19% designers represented.   In particular, the number of designers increased significantly from 2014, which was a welcome addition to the teams.

The presentations on Saturday night were open to the public and approximately 100 additional people attended.   This was an increase from the audience of 40 who attended in 2014.

The Pitches, Teams and Winners

The 26 One Minute Pitches (Chris Spalton Sketchnotes)

The 26 One Minute Pitches (Chris Spalton Sketchnotes)

For the initial 1 minute pitches, 26 ideas were pitched by the participants.  The ideas were innovative and the pitches were of a very high standard, which left a challenge of voting for the best ideas to carry forward and form teams around for the rest of the event.

14 ideas were selected to go forward and teams were formed around these ideas.  Click on the names to see their final pitches:

Team Name Brief description of idea
Gordon Bleu Matching you with your perfect meal
Sox Suk Gifts to blow your socks off!
RenTech Making tech affordable
Prompto Digital support and monitoring system for independent people who suffer with memory loss
Menulicious Finding the restaurant that’s right for you
docdirect Agentless NHS: Saving £1900 per minute
Memsabi A delightful tactile way to structure your thoughts
Zap Instantly connect to the world around you
Everyday Spaces Making churches everyday places
Gorrilla Free wifi on the tube
Zest Interactive lectures are here!
Unfold We create quality narratives around events as they unfold
Teepee Renting a house is as easy as ordering pizza
PROTO Norwich A city of people ready to embrace your ideas

After the Saturday night final pitch presentations, the judges deliberated and the audience and team members voted for the best startups emerging from the 54 hour event.

The Judges' Winners - Everyday Spaces (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

The Judges’ Winners – Everyday Spaces (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

The judges’ prize went to Everyday Spaces for their church hall booking system, which included a website that gathered the information of all churches in Norwich and a website widget that facilitated bookings for each church. Their mission was to make churches everyday places for the community.

The People's Choice Winners (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

The People’s Choice Winners (Photo: Tim Stephenson)

The people voted the winners to be docdirect with their plan to save the NHS £1900 per minute, by reducing the NHS’ use of agencies for locum doctors.  They won 28% of the 174 votes cast.

Coverage of Sync the City 2015

A dedicated website was created for Sync the City which gives full details of the event, mentors, judges, agenda and sponsors.

Sync The City attracted local media attention and the event was written up by several bloggers.

The editor of the Norfolk Tech Journal helped to promote the event and then blogged about the event over the 54 hours it ran.

The EDP business writer helped to promote the event in mid-November 2015 and then visited the event and wrote about it on the 21st November and Mustard TV televised Everyday Spaces’ story of winning Sync the City 2015.

After the event, UEA publicised the student success at the event on the School of Computing Sciences website and the Norwich Business School blog.

There were 1491 tweets using the #syncthecity hashtag on Twitter, with a peak on Saturday evening, during the final pitches.  MADE created a storify of their Sync the City 2015 experience.

We had some innovative ways of recording Sync the City as it ran.  Alongside Tim Stephenson’s photography and Sean Clark’s filming which can be seen on theSyncNorwich Youtube channel, we had Chris Spalton’s sketchnotes and East West Design/Flush the Fashion did a 3 minute time lapse video of the whole event.

The feedback from Sync the City 2015 has been great and we will use the helpful participant comments to improve the event further – so look out for Sync the City 2016!



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