Food StartUp School at WeWork: Raising the bar!

 

foodsus1It’s not that often that you can take somebody at their word in business but when Victoria Albrecht arrived in London from St Andrews University a year ago on a mission to shake up the food and drink start-up scene and we had all known then what we know now, people would have been queuing around the corner for a slice of the action, maybe even a piece of the equity “pie”?

Already the first Food StartUp School London held in Hoxton Square was a success, largely due to the excellent speakers, her non-stop networking, the sponsorship deals she arranged and a unique presentation style that won plenty of admirers, oh and of course the masses of free food and drink on offer at the stalls prepared and presented by London’s founders, from brownies to cayenne drinks and delicate canapes.Life is never dull around Tech City!

foodsus8 Victoria ran foodie events in St Andrews for 3 years and knows how they work, what the ticket buyers want to know and duly delivers, but last night raised the bar a little further. This was a genuinely inspiring event; any founder who is not operating at the top of their game may have felt a little sheepish as they drank fine wine, and ate canapés, coconut flakes, dates and delicacies accompanied by palette cleansing iced lollies and Nix and Kix cayenne infused fruit juice slammers. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! Could have been the underlying theme of the evening.

WeWork’s event space certainly added to the crunch – the co-working space on the South Bank tends to attract entrepreneurs that build for success. The community is about being inspiring and original and challenging others to be the same. Conveniently, it also has amazing views and makes it a great event space. It was truly a fantastic location.

So the evening kicked off after a bit of networking, which actually began in the lobby as many folks arrived early, happy enough to shoot the breeze around the sun drenched bucket seats. Everyone seemed to know everyone, or at least that’s what the friendly atmosphere suggested. There was a demob happy feel in the air before it was time to take seats and get down to business.

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The Holy Grail for any foodie start-up is to see your product on the supermarket shelf. Many try, few succeed, but it’s where the big money is and it’s extremely difficult to gain a serious foothold in the food industry otherwise. Melissa Addey was a buyer and product innovation manager at Sainsbury’s for 10 years, and has also advised 100’s of small food entrepreneurs on packaging and persuading other buyers to take their calls. A gatekeeper turned poacher, if you will.

It’s a hard life being a buyer, Melissa told us, not necessarily what a crowd of founders desperate to get their produce approved wanted to hear, but true nonetheless. It’s high pressure, there are sales targets and you are moved from department to department. How do you make an impression at your new destination? Simple: drop one product, bring another in. Ruthless, but effective.

There are a lot of crazy people out there who believe they have an amazing product that will fly off the shelves, when what they really have is their grandmother’s Christmas pudding recipe, and unshakable confidence that “no-one has done this before!”. So how can you make sure you can stand out from the crowd and grab a buyer’s attention?

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Melissa gave us 10 top tips in her 40 minute presentation, which was made available to every attendee as part of a comprehensive dossier. Here’s one I made earlier, as it were. First piece of advice: make a good product! “Nothing is ever taken off the shelves because it is selling too much”, says Melissa. But you have to get it on the shelf to give yourself a chance. Here are some of Melissa’s pointers.

    • Stop thinking you are unique; it’s highly unlikely you are, so insisting your product is revolutionary is likely to infuriate buyers!
    • Win some awards; start at your local farmer’s market, no show is too small; get yourself some ribands and let buyers know you are serious. They are looking for products of proven quality, they won’t take a punt on an untested product for fun. Their jobs are on the line if they do;
    • Come up with a stage-gate process; a storyboard showing all the stages you must go through before you launch; be prepared to go back to the drawing board if you have to!
    • Build relationships; keep track of buyers movements, they shift around a lot, be friendly (really friendly), always answer emails in full and point by point, and ask for feedback.

Melissa was an entertaining speaker, fiery and conspirational (something she puts down to her Italian blood), and a very, very useful contact. Another great Food StartUp School find!

We heard briefly from Robin and Martin from the Business Growth Service. The guys have a hugely detailed understanding of the infrastructure surrounding the food industry, and can help start-ups meet all of the relevant requirements, as well as providing leadership and management training, helping you discover and overcome your businesses pain points and assigning you a dedicated account manager. Could be a wise move to contact them.

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Another big name to speak was Jonny Shimmin of Spoon Cereals, a start-up offering a “more adventurous type of breakfast cereal”.  Fresh from an appearance on Dragons Den which netted them investment from two dragons, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones, Jonny, who claims to be the less glamorous half of Spoon Cereals (the other founder is his wife’s sister, natch), surprisingly had a lot to say about failure. “We were totally unprofessional to begin with”, he assured the crowd, “but we put ourselves out there and we wanted to learn”.

These are Food StartUp School’s kind of people. They succeed because they are adventurous and don’t fear failure. In a nutshell that’s why last night’s event was so good. I’m not one to bash London but the scene needs to admit that it can learn an awful lot by listening to the people who want to help it grow. Victoria speaks what sounds like American, but actually is German, and has just returned from fact finding trips to San Francisco and Milan, Jonny lived in Amsterdam, Nix and Kix are from Munich; there was a lot of life in the room, confident, intelligent people making things happen, and taking care of business. Pay attention, London!

There is a section for “network pitches”, new start-ups are given 90 seconds to get their message across and promote their product, and the winner gets a prize. These were; ………..

Dicky @ Morse Toad; Julia & Kerstin @ NIX & KIX; Priya @ Ambu Tree; Stephanie @ Mindful Bites; Pauline @ Natural Origin; Jerome  @ y1; Tara @ Kitchen Table Projects; Khadija @ Milk & Date; Zack @ Apesnacks; Alistair @ Thordrinks

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That was followed by the food, which was awesome. Special mention must go to the canapes, which it turns out, you can order to be made in your kitchen at dinner parties and served by the chefs of La Belle Assiette.

This event was longer than usual, however, nobody seemed bothered, and on we went. A hilariously feisty and brilliant speech from Melanie Goldsmith, Co-Founder at Smith & Sinclair, the alcoholic confectioner. Another charisma infused incitement to “fail your way to the top”, with tales of derring do and hilarious misadventures involving broken dehumidifiers, drying out a ruined batch of sweets by chucking pasta on it (it worked!), buying 100’s of kilos of sugar from the local Costco, and…getting picked up by Selfridges and Harrods. She also mentioned the best words ever to hear from a buyer: “I owe you”. Somebody should make a film.

Cesar Roden’s speech about Ice Kitchen, the Ice lollies / popsicles depending on which side of the Atlantic you are from was different, but awesome in its own way. Again, at the start everything Cesar tried went wrong, but the business is thriving now he has found a mentor through the Manufacturing Advisory Service, and taken a step back. “You can’t tell everyone what to do”, Cesar says, “but being the producer makes you want to”.

And there was time for James Shillcock, founder of Vivid Drinks, to talk about tea, specifically Match green tea, derived from naturally treated plants that are grown in the shade, meaning more chlorophyll is produced because the plant must work harder, meaning the flavour is stronger and makes you feel more alive! James spoke about his strategic approach, getting big and small favours, how good good branding matters, and how he’s creating an entirely new drinks category.

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And that, ladies and gentlemen, kind of sums it up. Must work harder, come prepared, be tenacious, stay classy, give more, network more, bring more flavour and enjoy the experience! This is what Food StartUp School teaches us, thanks to Victoria and her team – which has been growing – as well as the entourage of camera people, helpers and friendly faces she seems to have produced in a short space of time from anywhere and everywhere, full of insider knowledge that you will struggle to find elsewhere.

Honourable mention to the Lebanese founder of the date milk Milk & Date; Food StartUp School is very cool. If you have a startup in the food space, you should go. As Victoria may have signed off, “Stay hungry, London!”

Motivii founder Eamon Tuhami on quitting the day job, founding an ambitious new start-up, and why happiness is a journey that can be mapped

 

motivii3Eamon Tuhami has half a mind to take his dissertation back to his professors at Derby University and ask to have it re-marked. “They didn’t believe me back in 1999 that digital would be the worlds biggest marketing channel!” he says; perhaps not many lecturers would have done, but most of what Eamon believed would change in online at the time has indeed come to pass.  Given this charismatic founder’s penchant for making things happen, this is unlikely to have been a coincidence!

Eamon’s dissertation was on internet marketing and his career to date has maintained a similar upward trajectory to his subject matter, whilst encompassing some of the same ups, downs, and periods of change. It’s been an adventure.

After uni Eamon joined an emerging internet start-up in Cardiff called Acequote, working in the sales team and quickly being promoted to marketing manager. A year later, and as the internet bubble was bursting and the company was suffering financial losses Eamon opted for redundancy and went travelling with his then girlfriend, now his wife.

He left Acequote with his reputation enhanced, being labelled a “born marketing whizz” by colleague Drew Benvie, who is now the founder of Battenhall PR. In fact, if the sheer volume of positive feedback and solicitations to work again someday in the recommendations section of his LinkedIn page are anything to go by, Eamon can be considered one of the hottest properties currently plying his trade in the “Silicon Roundabout”.

He is an investor in 4 of the area’s hottest new start-ups, as well as the digital marketing agency he set up and ran, Digital-Labs, which specialises in the “four key digital disciplines, strategy, design, media and knowledge”, and can also be found at networking events pitching his new start-up business, Motivii.com, a genuinely unique idea that changes the dynamic between a manager and their staff, although the underlying concept almost raises as many questions as it answers. It helps that in the flesh Eamon is as enthusiastic, talkative, and curious about the world around him as his profile and his start-up suggests he might be. As the old saying goes, he’s the radiator in the room, not the thermometer.

Eamon truly made his mark on digital advertising as the Head of Online Marketing and subsequently Director of Sales and Marketing at Experian Ltd. He was the first person recruited to the newly formed Experian Interactive team in London, and tasked with launching Credit Expert into the UK market, building relationships and clients and recruiting a development team. That was in 2004; after 6 successful years, he was made director of Sales & Marketing in 2010.

Again, it is easy to find numerous people from his time at Experian who have been delighted to have worked with Eamon, won over by his energy and knowledge of the digital marketplace. But by now Eamon had taken a tough life decision and decided he wanted to go it alone. He founded Digital Angle Ltd, an agency / consultancy with a focus on helping client’s monetise digital through data, sales marketing and ad-tech.

Eamon is happy to swap stories about his time at Experian, such as how he built the UK sales team from scratch to eventually manage a £20m digital marketing spend, and signed one of Facebook’s very first UK direct advertising deals after bumping into one of their top sales execs at a US conference, and from his time running Digital Angle; the extensive testing, using AB and MVT, of different marketing strategies to find the perfect formula, and using the data to pinpoint a product’s target market or audience. He clearly has excellent market knowledge and a head for business, but recently he has been spending the bulk of his time when he is away from his family thinking about something a little more abstract, something that is the principle on which Motivii, his new start-up, is founded. Motivation itself.

Eamon’s belief is that motivation is the fuel that powers us on our journey towards happiness. He believes that happiness is an endpoint, a goal to work towards, rather than a state of mind, and, crucially, that motivation needs to be recorded and studied if the journey is to successfully reach its conclusion.

motiviiThis is where the Motivii app comes in. It works similarly to a “map my run” style app or a Fitbit tracker, however all the user is required to do is to record their own levels of motivation, from 1-100, at different times of the day. On the commute to work, during a lunch break, before and after exercise, or before bedtime, for example.

The results, Eamon tells me, are revealing. A big fan of the “quantified self”, Eamon’s research on himself has already thrown up all kinds of helpful insights and helped him to approach his working day differently. Should he walk into work or take the train? Cycle, have coffee or tea, visit a client or sit down with the team? Using Motivii, Eamon can make informed decisions about how, when, where and with whom he should complete tasks and what his main focus should be that day. It’s a completely new and innovative approach to an age old problem. What makes us happy, and how do we manufacture more of it for ourselves?

Where Eamon also sees Motivii having a big impact is as a management information tool. Having led teams on countless occasions, Eamon notes that he has always found it hard to extract honest and unbiased feedback from staff. The annual staff survey is usually completed in a rush and not taken seriously by staff, but on the other hand asking for weekly updates from a team often results in a manager having to spend hours sifting through information submitted across different formats (word, excel, PowerPoint, written down), which lack the required level of detail around the only three questions a good manager wants to know: highlights of the week, biggest challenges of the week, and the plans for the following week.

Motivii asks all 3 questions and provides a universal platform for staff to use; similarly to Twitter, brevity is encouraged, and of course staff can also submit motivational readings, at any time, anonymously, for managers review. This is the beginning phase of a much larger project that uses merged communication to bring business benefits to teams and managers, takes snapshots of employee motivation levels, and ultimately uses the accumulated data to provide powerful insights and introduce potentially game changing new ways of challenging staff to be the best they can be.

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Motivii are based in Shoreditch, at the heart of Tech City, in a converted warehouse

The Motivii team, currently numbering 5 and based in Shoreditch, and on Tuesday launched a beta of the app with Ad-tech firm Criteo. It’s the first step on a long journey for everybody involved in the project; staff, managers, Eamon and his team, and doubtless HR managers and any corporates prepared to be innovative to ensure they keep top performing staff (and get rid of any “negs”) happy and on message.

No stranger to investment, having taken equity in and provided mentoring to Driftrock, Glisser, Zzish and Loyalty Bay, all successful disruptive tech start-ups in their own right, Eamon will shortly begin raising funds for the Motivii project. Some aspects of running a start-up are new even to someone with his experience. He is constantly on the lookout for a top class CTO, but finds it hard to locate programmers, or “hackers”, as they are better known, at networking events. Once he’s found them, I’ve no doubt his team will agree, he has no problem motivating them.

Eamon knows he has taken a risk; he could easily have stuck at consultancy and settled into his new home with his young family, but the 9-5 lifestyle never felt like an option. Eamon knew he had an itch; fortunately he has developed the perfect tool to scratch it with.

Eamon Tuhami is the founder and CEO of Motivii, a start-up that helps businesses keep track of staff motivation and use the data to improve motivation for every employee and organisation globally. He is an advisor and Investor in Driftrock, Glisser, Zzish and Loyalty Bay, and an online marketing expert. Eamon’s approach is to “work hard, play hard and always love what I do”.

Technology reviewed, refined, and restored at ‘This Happened’ MeetUp:

 

this happened 7fashion correspondent Abi Buller writes: The power and influence of technology within our everyday lives is certainly not news to most of us. But has anyone really considered how we can begin to rehumanize our digital lives?

The speakers at Saturday’s “This Happened London”, a quarterly event held at the V&A, considered this notion. While not disputing the importance and usefulness of technology, the speakers were creatives simply considering the journey from hands on human makers to a species where everything is accessible and instantly available to us.

Dreamstake FinHack Funding Forum & Startup Showcase: startups are leading London’s FinTech charge!

 

image1FinTech has been variously described as the saviour of London’s startup scene, the industry that will finally put paid to the hegemony of the traditional high street and investment banking industries, and a bubble that is in serious danger of falling under the wheels of its own overhyped bandwagon.

The facts are that after London was hit hardest by the global banking crisis, losing its place as the world’s leading financial hub to New York City for the first time last year, the capital has increasingly turned towards FinTech to showcase the fact that it is still fighting hard to maintain an edge over its rivals as the most innovative, efficient and lucrative destination for financial services.

The rise of MallTech means you had better take your smartphone shopping with you!

 

CONCEPT_IMAGE_WW_SHOW_SS14“Brands can’t lord it over customers now. Before, it was about waving the flag of the brand. Now consumers are turning themselves into brands through social media. Gap doesn’t make you cool; you make Gap cool by choosing to wear it.”

Antonio Bertone, former marketing chief at Puma, speaking to Wired magazine, sums it up nicely. Over the past decade there has been a substantial and not so subtle power switch from brand to consumer, and it’s largely thanks to social media and the ease with which we can now compare and contrast brands online.

Why I’m sticking with tibdit!

 

tibdittibdit is one of the most interesting and challenging start-ups I have had dealings with over the past year. A couple of weeks back I spent the day with 3 of their team, Justin, Iain and Rosemin, helping to man their stall at Wordcamp, a festival and celebration of all things WordPress related.

In between pitching tibdit to an assortment of brainy, techie types queuing for lunch (all of whom were intrigued by the concept), I found myself chatting to Caroline Sullivan, the Guardian’s renowned music journalist, and attending Render Positive Jon Buchan’s awesome speech on the power of marketing and the written word. If it had been a virtual presentation, I would have tibbed it.

EVOLUTION OF E-COMMERCE: FASHTECH TALKS TO ASOS!

 

fashtechWith speakers from ASOS and Cortexica, FashTech’s latest event, held at ASOS HQ, attracted an audience eager to learn about the latest innovation in retail experience. Branding themselves as ‘’the leading fashion image recognition company’’, Cortexica have teamed up with online high street giant ASOS to introduce the most up to date e-commerce experience.

#FintechStorm discusses online payments, asks if banks are losing ground in the battle for financial services

 

fintech storm logoHaggerston Times thinks of Arifa Khan as the voice of Fintech in London, and the Fintech Storm, which she organises, as the best place in London to find unbiased, open and high level discussion of what FinTech means and how it is currently trending.

Arifa has an open and daring personality which always makes her opening remarks enjoyable and worth listening to; even when she is introducing a panel of big-hitters such as of Praful Morar of Safecharge, a global provider of payments services, risk management and IT solutions, Stuart Butler of Skrill, a payments processor most active in Africa and South America, and Celine Lazorthes, Founder and CEO of Leetchigroup and MangoPay, online money collection and crowdsourcing platforms respectively, Arifa invariably finds ways of challenging preconceived ideas about FinTech, and unveils new topics for discussion during the lively panel debates.

Tea with the HT: Not your average boot-strappers! Louis Saha and Patrice Arnera, co-founders of elite sports networking platform Axis Stars

 
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Louis Saha and Patrice Arnera, co-founders of Axis Stars, as sketched by Hackney artist Thomas Moore

Louis Saha, the ex-Manchester United and France footballer, one of the finest goal-scorers of his generation, is embarking on a new career; as an entrepreneur.

Together with business partner Patrice Arnera, Louis is launching an exclusive and secure networking platform for elite sportspeople, Axis Stars, which allows players to connect with one another through a secure, members only platform, receive offers from selected luxury brands, and discuss sponsorship deals and other commercial opportunities with trusted agents, ex-pros and sports governance bodies.

Redefining Beauty: McQueen Retrospective at the V&A

 
by Abi Buller

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Both nationally and internationally, the recent emergence of the V&A’s Alexander McQueen retrospective has been a much anticipated affair for Art and Fashion lovers. Following on from New York’s 2011 MOMA tribute to the British designer’s legacy, the V&A welcomes a vast collection of the designer’s work, which spans over two decades of his career.

Who wants to be a billionaire! Enterprise Connect at King’s College London presents Mara Group and Foundation founder Ashish J. Thakkar and Craig Donaldson, CEO Metro Bank; on scalability and work ethics!

 

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Enterprise Connect is an initiative run by Kings College London which helps aspiring start-up founders learn from one another, and hear from some of the finest, high-profile, entrepreneurial minds, those whose businesses have hit the big time. What are they like? They are gluttons for punishment, it turns out; perfectionists who just want more! Last week’s panel was a mix of those taking their first steps, and 2 founders who have, in no small way, made history, but whose journeys in many respects are only just beginning.

When it’s time to utter those 4 little words, think Render Positive!

 

render positiveThere comes a time in every business person’s life, no matter how good the product, no matter how strong the market, when they have to go to an advertising agency and say: “please: make them like me!”

This is the least enjoyable part of working with a marketing agency. And it’s not something you want to have to say more than once, so bearing that in mind it’s very important that you choose to work with the right one. And once that part is over, if you have chosen well, you can start to enjoy yourself.

So why choose Render Positive? Because Channel 4 did, and described them as “a truly professional and inspiring outfit to work with”? Because Symantec and Sofa Workshop think that “their ideas “have a fantastic success rate” and “they offer intelligent responses to our requests”? Because they persuaded one of the greatest living ad-men, Rory Sutherland, to spend an hour on their sofa and asked him brilliant questions? Nope. Here’s why:

How to run a fantastic Tech City start-up: the tenets of “Flubilosophy”

 

flubit4Define start-up? A 27 year old co-founder; a 25 year old COO; a pool table; a table tennis tournament; kayaking. International travel. Presentations at dawn? There is no template, but it’s tempting to think that Flubit, the demand driven marketplace which guarantees to create a better offer for any goods bought online via a network of more than 1,000 suppliers, is what a “trendy” Dave Cameron meant when he pitched us Tech City back in 2010; and Flubit stepped up and helped to make it happen, in the process raising over £9 million of seed & Series A and B funding. So what does success looks like? It looks like hard work and togetherness, but it’s kind of fun, too. In a nutshell, work hard, play hard, take equity; get involved! The HT took a closer look at what a start-up looks like from the inside; by observing some of the basic tenets of “Flubilosophy”.

Game, set and watch! The Apple smartwatch has it all, tradition and battery life aside, and will probably become ubiquitous

 

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This much we know: Apple is about to blow the smartwatch market wide open. With the same impeccable timing that saw them announce a new record for weekly billings on their app store ($0.5bn) and a record breaking 2014 for iOS app developers ($25 billion in revenues) during a damp squib of a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which they declined to attend, Apple has been dropping ice cubes down the vest of this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona by announcing that the Apple Watch will be officially released to the general public on March 9th. Mobile is so 2014!

The inspiring story of a start-up founder who turned the memory of a painful shopping trip into an omnichannel sales and delivery solution

By Wednesday, March 11, 2015 0 No tags Permalink 0
 

minime1Like many successful entrepreneurs before him, Dino Demetriou’s decision to found a start-up was born out of frustration that there wasn’t a better way of doing things.

Finding himself lost in one of Dubai’s vast shopping malls for the umpteenth time one morning, Dino gave up his shopping expedition and headed to the airport to catch his flight home. Having been thwarted once already, in the departure lounge he once again found himself surrounded by high end stores and products; Dino was ready to spend but short on time, as most passengers usually are. But with limited room on the plane, and no easy way to arrange overseas delivery, in the end he decided to keep his money in his pocket; at the same time the businessman in him sensed an opportunity.

Top speed pitching at Google Campus with the Hipsters, Hackers & Hustlers; here are (most bits of) the pitches!

By Wednesday, March 11, 2015 6 No tags Permalink 0
 

They say lightning never strikes twice, but this was the 18th consecutive time it had struck Google Campus on the 2nd Tuesday of the month!

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Is there a more electric, creatively charged night in Old London Town than this one? The Hipsters, Hackers & Hustlers team have been putting on storming co-founder dating nights for entrepreneurs at Google Campus for the best part of 18 months, and last night was another belter.

Comb founders and top fashion blogger demonstrate how to build your brand using social media!

By Friday, March 6, 2015 1 No tags Permalink 0
 

fashion bloggingOn Wednesday night at the London School of Fashion Haggerston Times was treated to a master-class in how budding fashion bloggers or PR peeps can use social media to drive more traffic to their sites, and build a personal brand using the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and how to interpret the results of their efforts using techie stuff like Google Analytics, and bitly.

Fancy a Dark Date? This one woman show will delight you, just don’t order the stake!

 

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Monday evening. Soho. Raining. Tower Street. Dark Dates, anyone? Zoe Cunningham, member of the Techerati by day, performer and presenter by night, and director Peta Lily put on an excellent adaptation of Tracey Sinclair’s novel at the Tristan Bates Theatre, which looks and, appropriately feels like the inside of a coffin. Good start.

The future is mobile! KPMG, alongside UKTI, are sending the best of British mobile start-ups to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

 

kpmg mobileKPMG are collaborating with UKTI and helping to exploit the phenomenal recent growth in the mobile applications space, by sending 8 of the most promising UK based mobile start-ups to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; the initiative began with over 60 applicants, whittled down to a shortlist of 20 companies, with 8 finalists eventually making it through to compete for the title of Best British Mobile start-up. The winner will be decided, after a final pitch in Barcelona, by a panel of 3 judges; the startups will also be showcased to as many as 11,000 KPMG employees.