There is something refreshingly amateur about many of the best techie, raspberry-pi, internet-of-things inspired Christmas goodies hitting the supermarket shelves this year. The Brits have always been proud of their unprofessional, just a bit of fun, it’s only a game style approach to many aspects of their lives, from the old “gentlemen vs players” days of cricket, where those who played for cash were looked down upon and sneered at (even though they did so mainly because they were working class and skint, unlike the players, who were probably the ones suppressing their wages!), to crazy, not to mention hair-raisingly dangerous hobbies such as hunting, shooting, and horse racing. So, it should come as no surprise that the presents the British like to give their kids can be a little eccentric.
But you know what, there’s method in the madness; Britain boasts the inventors of the steam train, telephone, television, and more recently, the world-wide-web, so why change a winning formula? We love kits, we love experiments, we love putting things together, trying them out, breaking them, and putting them back together again. Think humpty dumpty, but with a slightly happier ending.
It’s not just the brits, of course, every nation likes to get creative with a bit of programming, and, in the case of some Italians, a piece of garishly coloured plastic. Fizzly, which I have written about before, is a genuinely wondrous creation that, as the old cliché goes, has as many uses as your imagination will permit. Fizzly’s smart tracker technology means it can be used for games, helping kids understand basic physics, playing pranks, and, at a push, even as a fashion accessory.
Fizzly’s crowdfunding campaign ends soon, and, although the product will not be available until April, if you get your order in now you will beat the market price, and feel the kind of tingle of excitement you would otherwise get only if you accidentally swallowed a Fizzly, and somebody activated the movement sensing device. Ouch!
Not to be outdone, a digital production studio in Shoreditch specialising in designing products for the financial sector, Brilliant Basics, who decided they wanted to help kids get more involved with today’s technology, have released a virtual snowglobe advent calendar for Google cardboard. The “Snow Shaker Maker” is easy to put together, lets you create your own magic show globe, and, miraculously, climb inside it! The team have made it into PC Advisors top 10 list of Google cardboard apps, and I can exclusively reveal they plan to release a programming tutorial this week…go team Brilliant Basics, showing the kind of Christmas spirit that would make Scrooge blush!
Another entrepreneur, Elena Corchero, the award winning smart materials and wearables specialist, has been crowd-funding her latest project, Zippykit. No not a DIY rehash of erstwhile fly mouthed children’s TV stoic and friend of Geoffrey the giant pink, rather camp, hippo, but a smart new puppet / tech / toy hybrid, inspired by wearable tech, and designed to help kids get to grips with core curriculum subjects.
“With ZippyKit, anyone can dive into the world of soft electronics with no previous experience,” say’s Elena; the puppets have specially designed paws which can navigate tablets, allowing children to swipe themselves to top marks with the help of their cuddly new friends, and build their first ever LED kit in the process. Very ingenious, inspiring, social, and stylish. Elena’s Kickstarter campaign has ended, but we hope she gets the financial support she needs and you can reach her here, or watch the vid!
A word to the wise, however, I found some pretty awesome amateur tech kits whilst browsing around the Rough Trade store off Brick Lane last week, only to discover that they required items such as a soldering iron, baking powder, or strange types of batteries, to put them together and make them work. I don’t know about you but I’m running low on solders and baking powder right now, and there is nothing worse than a big Christmas reveal going arse over tit because nobody saw the “batteries not included” sign. Can’t you whack a soldering iron in with the kits, guys?
“Lose the Suits!” campaign is storming Canary Wharf and informing Alan Sugar it’s not the 80’s anymore.
Finally, Alan Sugar might look a bit like an Atkins diet version of Father Christmas, but his generosity and ho-ho-ho-ness does not extend to his outdated business methods, according to ex-apprentice contestant Tre Azam, who is teaming up with fellow entrepreneurs, including ex-Microsoft Ventures alumni Haje Jan Kamps of Triggertrap and Daigo Smith of Loveflutter, to take action!
The campaign was set up after start-up recruitment platform Tyba conducted a survey concluding that two thirds of start-up entrepreneurs felt that traits such as arrogance, aggression, control, and an obsession with making sales, in other words the basic characteristics of the average Apprentice contestant, have no place in the modern business environment. Azam says’
“If we all did business the way it’s done in The Apprentice business itself would crumble. Many times hagglers on The Apprentice negotiate 50 or even 100% discounts. A big part of this is because there is a massive camera crew following you around; try doing it down your local market and I guarantee you won’t have suppliers for very long!”
Quite, although to be fair Sugar started out as a market trader and he seemed to do ok. He’s even got his own TV show, we hear. But the founders are of course quite right when they point out that shameless self-promotion does not make the business world go round, and hard-working entrepreneurs ought to know better than to engage in below the belt boardroom shenanigans such as back stabbing and celebrity culture.
You may have missed the photo-shoot in Canary Wharf, but there’s still time to get involved: losethesuits.com. Or, if you are worried about putting your corporate job at risk, just slightly loosen your tie occasionally and make V signs at people with your hands in your pockets on the tube!
That concludes this special, extra and exclusive bulletin from the Haggerston Times team, written in response to an inbox brimming with emails from PR persons, founders, and the worthy. Please, please, please keep the requests for coverage coming in, ignore the tongue in cheek throwaway gags, and use the HT to get your message to the people you love, the people you want to love, and the people you want to love you. That should cover just about everybody. Even Sir Alan. Merry Christmas!