When you are organising a big event, you spend half the time worrying that no one will show up, and the other half of the time worrying that everyone will show up! But one of the most exciting things you can hear before the event begins, is "Can we let them in? There's a queue!" Yes!
This is how the #StartedinOxford Demo Night opened. Now of course, before that, there was a lot of running around, organising, ensuring there were both startups to see and attendees to see them, but ultimately, once the doors opened, I could breathe a sigh of relief!
It's important to note that this event, part of the #StartedinOxford Festival, was a truly pan-Oxford event; there were startups, spinouts and social enterprises from University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, and some who were just based in Oxford. And the same was true for the attendees: we had people from both Universities, but also from across Oxford, from London, and beyond. It really show the strength and depth of the Oxford startup scene!
The doors opened to an eager crowd, ready to find out more about the 27 startups. Each attendee was given 1000 #StartedinOxford dollars to "invest" in the startup they liked the most. It was a great way to encourage the attendees to find out as much as they could about each startup. After a welcoming introduction by Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Anne Trefethen, over 250 attendees were left to wander the hall and explore the startups. The theme of "queues" stayed throughout, with attendees waiting in lines to meet startups! With businesses ranging from battery power to cricket flour, samosas and energy bars to science boxes and digital platforms, there truly was something that everyone found interesting.
The hall was absolutely buzzing all evening; everyone seemed to be having a great time, meeting new friends and catching up with old ones as well. There were plenty of demonstrations, discussions, and exchanging of cards and information. However it was soon time for the attendees to "invest" in their favourite startups, and count up the cash, and declare the winners. There was a very prolonged 10s countdown (I think there was a 3.9, 3.8. 3.75s even!) The team of volunteers then counted each team's money quickly, and soon we were ready to announce the top three teams.
Third prize went to Fairfull, a social enterprise that creates delicious food products with flavours and inspirations from around the world and uses profits to fuel positive change in the country of the food’s origin. Second prize went to The Curiosity Box, the first STEM subscription box for kids in the UK, inspiring children to think and create. First prize went to Greater Change, a mobile donation system that enables members of the public to give directly to a homeless individual.
The amazing winner's trophy, a golden Megazord kindly sponsored by Herd, was presented by the previous Demo Night winner, Kyle Turner from Fungry (a delivery service for independent restaurants).
What made this evening so much fun was the relaxed atmosphere, and the ability of the attendees to speak directly with the startups. Each person could directly ask questions, and interact with the teams, making it very personable and enjoyable. The only problem was that there wasn't enough time to get around and have in-depth conversations with everyone! Thank goodness for business cards and mailing lists!
A huge thank you to all the startups, our amazing sponsors, the fabulous volunteers, and of course everyone who came and made the event a success! Can't wait for the next one!
Photography by Fisher Studios Photography