October 5, 2008

London Hacker Meetup

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Last Thursday I went to the “London Hacker Meetup #6”. These events are organised as a London analogue to the dinners held for Y Combinator" startups in the US, although anyone could go along. Never having been to an Y Combinator dinner, I can’t compare to the original, but I definitely found it an interesting evening and more welcoming than the Techcrunch Pitch event. It was held in the Songkick offices in Spitalfields (actually over the market) and drew a crowd of around 30, mainly youngish guys in very casual clothing (there were I think 3 women). I felt quite old and conspicuous in my work shirt and trousers. Luckily everyone was polite and friendly even after I told them I worked at a bank.

There were four quick talks. ConnectiveLogic demonstrated their product to easily create concurrent programs without writing any concurent code – interesting, but I’d have to have a play before saying more. Fuzzwich showed their online product to easily create simple flash animations. It looked fun and having tried it out since I can say it definitely works as advertised – give it a try. Mary (can’t remember the rest of her name) spoke about her music recommendation project, The Perceptron. Finally, a guy presented his idea for a startup, then asked if anyone was interested in joining him and applying to Y Combinator. I was tempted, but thought it would be hard to commit to a company with someone I didn’t know at all. Also, I’m more invested in Queuesaurus and would need a good offer to move right now.

After the talks we decamped to the local pub. I spoke to a couple of the Fuzzwich people for a while. They moved from San Francisico to London to be near their customers. We discussed how to pay employers (not so little they aren’t committed but not too much, they also said an options “cliff” was standard – that is if you are sacked within the “cliff” period, usually a year, then your options are cancelled). We also spoke about motivation and starting a company, their advice was “do it!” They seem like nice people. Later I spoke to a person who had an idea for a startup; but not the technical knowhow to implement it. This seems like a common problem, there seemed to be a few such people around. My last conversation was with a guy I met at the Pitch event. He said that the company that pitched had since shutdown – we talked a bit about founder commitment and how important it is. He didn’t seem discouraged at all; he is now interviewing other startups founders to see if they suit him (definitely the right way round!).

I certainly left with the impression that there is still a great deal of activity in the London startup scene, even as the financial IT world significantly slows.


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