In the first of a series of guest posts about the startup scene in various parts of the UK (get in touch if you’re interested in writing one), John Bradford gives us the low-down on the scene in Bristol.
It’s not all stovepipe hats and clay dogs in Bristol. These days its more location aware gaming, mobile media and building businesses. Two Bristol startups you may have heard about are Glasses Direct (James Murray Wells, a UWE graduate) and MyBuilder (Ryan Notz, a Bristol Uni graduate). But what else is going on? As a relative newcomer to the city (5yrs and loving it) here is a quick peek around some local start-ups.
The Watershed, a digital media & arts complex in the heart of the city, has been mixing up creativity and technology for over 20 years.The place for start-ups is their new Pervasive Media Studio, headed by Clare in partnership with HP Labs & with heavy involvement from both Bristol University & UWE. The Studio launched with it’s Media Sandbox competition. Several of the projects came from larger established companies (including Aardman, HMC, BDH, Plot, etc) but the winning project brought together two startup companies, Thought Den (Dan) and Mobile Pie (Richard), to create Happy Packages. After some early PR from the Guardian, Mobile Pie have knuckled down to turn out a number of games and have picked up some awards along the way. They’ve also since been confirmed as one of the first 4,000 iPhone developers and are working with Futurelab to find funding for an exciting e-learning project.
Another Sandbox success is the Comfort of Strangers from the eponymous Simon + Simon. Using a heavily modified mscapes platform, two teams have to ‘discover’ matched players while avoiding opponents. A soft voice in your ear is all that alerts you to the fact that ‘a dancer is nearby, you have lost a life point…’ This ARG team game has been showcased at New York’s Come Out & Play. They now organise the monthly igLab to explore collaborative and social gaming developments. 19-21 Sept they’re turning Bristol into one giant playground… everyone is playing – running, hiding, seeking, finding, escaping, tagging…. igFest.
Just north of the M5, Chris & Craig at BexMedia have been developing a video platform for mobile devices, recently expanding into interactive video after developing a mobile map & video experience for freshers to quickly acquaint themselves with Anglia Ruskin University. On a slightly bigger scale is the Visualise project from 3C Research to bring unprecedented levels of personalised streaming data & video to mobile devices at live sports events. Currently with the World Rally Championships, Nigel’s actively spinning out new startups to commercialise the software & services.
Round the beck end, The Web People started up coding websites like everyone else but Tom quickly developed a web-services management system that made it simple for him to manage lots of websites, with lots of different services, for lots of clients all in parallel. Co-founder Mark saw the opportunity, they’ve just launched an open beta, and are on track for some stellar growth (clients are already beating a path to their door). Also working behind the scenes to spread and gather the word virally is Team Rubber with Andy at the helm. Though not strictly a startup, having survived the dot-com boom, Andy’s a staunch supporter and is actively helping the ‘new guys’ get off the ground.
Behind all these successes lies a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem mixing startups, future clients, partners and investors. This mixing covers everything from the fun & interesting (Dorkbot / igLab), learning & technical (Skillswap / BathCamp), business & sectoral (OpenCoffee / Media Tuesday) to University sponsored (BEN). Its not just the geeks & designers either, lawyers, accountants and exec recruiters are getting behind the start-up scene in Bristol like never before.