From analogue Madchester to digital Manchester

haciendaIt is almost 30 years since something started coming out of Manchester. I remember the point it went mainstream about 1988 when I was up there with friends. ITV showed a fantastic video of the drugged-up Happy Mondays around 1.30am. Nothing scheduled, they just decided to broadcast it.

A personal Summer of Love followed. A despatch-rider all week in London, park the bike at Euston station and up to Manchester on the 6pm train. A few beers, picked up by mates, down the Red Lion in Wythenshawe, then Afflecks Palace for some shopping on Saturday morning, a City game at Maine Road, the Hacienda until God-Knows-What-Time the next morning, back at the Red Lion for lunch followed by football in the park, some jazz at the Newcastle Steam Brewery, then back to London on the midnight milk train, ready to call in for work at 7am. Happy, happy days, even happy Mondays if you get my drift.

Much has changed in these three decades. While London is now almost free of despatch-riders because of technology rendering most expensive deliveries obsolete, Manchester has struggled to keep up with London’s ascension as one of the major technology hubs in the world.

But that may finally be set to change with the launch of a new digital festival in the city, highlighted by the Innov8 Startup Award sponsored by Google and UKFast. The festival launches on May 7th and positions itself as ‘the coolest tech festival in Europe’ covering digital, tech, ecommerce, startups, mobile, video, advertising and gaming.

Moreover, in the spirit of the old Madchester days, the typical conference schedule will be broken up by live acoustic performances and DJ sets. Probably no sign of the Happy Mondays or other sundries, but you never know.

I’m going to speak there as well as Martin Bryant, Editor-in-Chief at The Next Web and many others and the Innov8 Startup Award should be an interesting competition to see how evolved the Manchester tech scene has become… the prize package includes £100k of Google cloud credit and an exclusive support package with ongoing mentoring from industry experts.

“The event is the perfect stage to showcase the launch of the Google Developers Startup programme. I’m sure it will be a great event and I hope the first instalment of an impressive future going forward”, said Rupert Whitehead, Developer Relations Programs Lead, UK, Ireland and Nordics at Google.

“We are still an unfunded startup, reaching this point through hard work and passion, without a penny in the bank. To gain the backing of the world’s biggest brand proves that if you have the right team in place and never stop following your dreams you can achieve anything. This is going to rock Manchester and change the face of the digital landscape in the city forever,” said Jonathon Cadden – Founder, Business Rocks and organiser of the festival.

In its heyday, Madchester made the front cover of Time magazine and for a few heady months was the coolest place on the planet. Perhaps those times will come again now that the city is hugging the digital revolution as strongly as ‘refreshed’ clubbers used to do to each other at The Hacienda.

Ah, memories… in the corner of my mind.

Poem #1 – The Rules Don’t Apply To Me

 

The rules don’t apply to me,

Never did.

I know, I roil around current genes
Melded by mismatched parents
I roll from dad’s Kennington to mum’s Fulham
From there
My battle is there.

My genes predictably fighting
Over whoever ​or whaetver ​I am.

But the rules don’t apply to me.

I go everywhere

Right on the edge
Of Occam’s delicate razor.

All books, all music, all love, all places
I have tried all of them.

I obviously should be dead
With the risks and rides
Margins so, so fine.

But I never thought the rules applied to me.

My life and soul
Were unique, everything went to brain
Stronger than organs
Such as
My heart.

As for liver and lungs
I’ve kicked the shit out of them
For 53 years.

Because the rules never applied to me.

But now, right now, peaking​ in life​,
Accepting that the rules MIGHT apply to me

I step back
I think
I know
That even with that admission,
Still

The rules don’t apply to me.

 

150-WORD BOOK REVIEW: Bold by Peter Diamandis and Stephen Kotler

Bold cover

Bold cover

‘Go big, create wealth and impact the world.’ Bold’s subheading is quite a boast, and for two thirds of the book, it will certainly inspire most readers to think they can do exactly that. The book starts by giving examples and case studies of businesses engaged in disruptive/exponential technologies like 3D printing, biotech, AI, robotics and more.

The second part of the book explores how people can get into the ‘bold’ mindset – looking at some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and their moonshots as well as digging into psychological theories like flow and others.

As with their previous book, Abundance, the authors are at their best when they’re broadening the reader’s horizons and talking about those technological leaps we’re likely to make over the next 10 to 20 years. Sadly the final third of this book gets slightly lost with what felt like digressions into creating communities, crowdfunding and more.

Read it. Be inspired. Skip chapter 8 on.

Winter essentials #1 – Zippo Deluxe Hand Warmer

zippoAt one time or another, most people who have ever smoked have owned a Zippo lighter. A small object of beautiful desire, the Zippo defined the cool of America, a short-cut to being a beatnik or a hipster… by simple ignition.

I travelled across the States in the winter of 1994 clutching one such lighter, not the square shape of lore, but a customised round one. I was devastated when I lost it; it defined 12 great months of being on the road. Nowadays, I have little need for one as smoking is long gone and it’s not the same using a Zippo to light a bonfire or an in-house candle.

The joy of a Zippo was knowing how to light it and that was by pulling it down as you lit it. That way there were no embarrassing attempts at losing the flame. Owning a Zippo meant you used it properly as well; it was part of its cool appeal.

So, the Zippo Deluxe Hand Warmer brings back great memories and makes diversified sense for the company now the age of smoking is coming to an end. While bigger and palm-friendly yhe shape is the same as before and it feels warm just touching it, and that’s before it is initiated.

Somewhat deliciously, it only works by filling it with lighter fuel, the same familiar process that was part of owing a Zippo lighter. This product is an obvious fisherman’s friend, keeping hands warm on a cold night at sea or by a river, but it is great to hold on to when between pistes on the ski slopes… apres-ski if you will.

The price is reasonable as well, at a little over £20 this is a new and hot design classic classic that warms the heart.

Games investors queue for PG tips in London

mobile_gamesThe mobile games industry is now a $25 billion business and next month’s Pocket Gamer Connects conference in London will be as celebratory as it is influential.

Taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday (13th/14th January) near London Bridge, the conference brings together more than 850 attendees and 150 speakers from more than 40 countries, of which 70 are developers. A varied track of sessions and keynotes from mobile games mavens make it an industry cynosure and the first important trade event of the year.

Most interestingly (and almost par for every global conference nowadays) there is a pitching session from 2pm on 13th January where more than 10 Finnish developers are pitching to an array of VCs and investors for Series A funding.

At time of writing, there were still a limited number of investor slots still available to find the latest Rovio Mobile or Supercell mobile games behemoth. To see an investor pack click here or register directly here.

“The $25 billion mobile games industry is still growing at an amazing rate and the Finnish mobile games development scene is pretty much the hottest on the planet right now.

“Pocket Gamer Connects is all about connecting people, so we’re delighted to be able to bring together ten of the most promising upcoming Finnish companies with some of the worlds smartest investors – the results should be interesting!”, said Chris James, Pocket Gamer CEO.

I shall also be at the show next Tuesday and Wednesday to find some stories and meet some interesting and smart people. Please reach out to me by email if you would like to meet up – monty.munford@gmail.com