North East Blog Directory

April 18, 2015

Richard Powell - UX and Web Design in Newcastle

The anatomy of a design process

Analytical data, support tickets, market research, metrics like NPS, usability testing and iteration...

April 18, 2015 09:18 AM

April 16, 2015


Spoiled for Choice: STEM and new micro-controller platforms

As a father of a toddler, and an interest in electronics, I am always on the lookout for what might be interesting to her.

Engoyed reading about learning to code by Adrian Oldknow Latest documents: Learning to Code 1, Learning to Code 2, Learning to Code 3  

In the last 5 years there has been an explosion in platforms (both software and hardware), the learning to code series looks at 12 combinations from pic to arduino to raspberry pi.

Now there is a growing group aimed at youngsters, cheap badge microcontrollers with easy attachment.

3 uk based products that interest me. Only the last one is currently available. There is the MicroBit that will be given to school children in uk in yr 7, The CodeBug that is on kickstarter and the Crumble, which can be bought now for £12. I Dont have them, but it would be nice to get all three to compare there strengths and weaknesses(hint hint).


Micro Bit


Code Bug (currently on kickstarter, by the PiFace people)



and my current favourite

Crumble Microcontroller, by redfern electronics

Crumble Microcontroller



by Brian at April 16, 2015 09:33 PM

Community IT Academy

Workshop: Social media - is it right for you?

Workshop: Social media - is it right for you?

CITA is running an introductory workshop on social media at the North East Funding Fair.

The North East Funding Fair, which is on 27 April 2015 in Gateshead, is an opportunity for voluntary and community organisations from across the region to meet a wide range of funders and social investors.  It has been organised by a partnership of Gateshead Council, GVOC, Funding Information North East and VONNE.  There will be a number of workshops throughout the day on a range of income generation and funding opportunities. 

We will be running a short workshop which offers an informal introduction to social media for small voluntary and community organisations.  The workshop will look at the potential benefits of using social media and help participants to evaluate if their organisation should be using it.  There will be an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the session.  The workshop will be at 3:15pm - 3:45pm.

We will also have a stand at the fair, so please come along and say hello!

If you would like to attend the workshop or the funding fair please book a place:

North East Funding Fair 2015

If you can't make the funding fair, but would like help getting started with social media we recommend attending one of the regular social media surgeries in Newcastle and Gateshead.

by (William Mortada) at April 16, 2015 08:49 AM

April 15, 2015

Community IT Academy

Talk on CiviCRM and Drupal

Talk on CiviCRM and Drupal

Find out more about this open source contact management system for voluntary and community organisations.

If your organisation is looking for a better way to manage your contacts you may be interested in this talk on CiviCRM on 29 April 2015 at 6pm.

CiviCRM is an open source web-based contact management system that is specifically designed for non-profit organisations. It is used by thousands of organisations across the world including Amnesty International, the UK Green Party and Medecins Sans Frontier.

Adam Hill from Consult and Design will be talking about CiviCRM and Drupal at the next Drupal North East meet up in Newcastle.  He will be joined by William Mortada from CITA, who will be saying a few words about how Children North East has used CiviCRM to manage cases in their peer mentoring programme.  Drupal North East is the user group for Drupal developers so the content may be a bit technical at times, but it should still be of interest to those without a technical background.

If you'd like to attend, please book a place: CiviCRM and Drupal talk

If you can't make the talk but would like to know more then please get in touch and we'd be happy to discuss how your organisation can best manage its contacts.

by (William Mortada) at April 15, 2015 03:18 PM

April 10, 2015

Jon Bradford


Success has many fathers and some very lucky coincidences.  Before my original suggestion for an accelerator in the North East, the Cloud Foundry (which turned into the Difference Engine), I failed to raise funding for a startup.

Ian Leader (now Product Lead, Calendar at Google) is a very good friend that I met at PaperX – a dotcom business formed only a few months before the meltdown.  Needless to say, it didn’t work out too well for the investors that included Mike Chalfen who went on to be a successful VC at Advent Venture Partners and now Mosaic Ventures.

Ian went on to become my best man at my wedding and godfather to my second child – Angus Bradford.  We had been trying to find an excuse to do a startup together – and after many suggestions we landed on building an online accounting software package known as SoSage (“Son of Sage“).  Fortunately for the world, it failed to get off the drawing board and failed to raise funding from the “Proof of Concept” Fund managed by North Star Ventures (who are investors in Ignite which I founded with Paul Smith as the successor of the Difference Engine).

The primary reason for failing to raise funds from “Proof of Concept” fund was a business called Kashflow which ironically was founded (and successfully exited) by Duane Jackson – who has subsequently become a very good friend and mentor at Springboard and Techstars London.

Whilst we failed to raise funding for SoSage, we agreed to publish our thoughts on ReadWriteWeb called “Online Accounting: The Next Killer App For Google Apps“. Our first blog post also appeared momentarily on Techmeme.

I blame Duane for ensuring that SoSage (what a stupid name) never saw the light of day – and without which the Difference Engine, Springboard and multiple other accelerators would not exist today. Thank you.

by jon bradford at April 10, 2015 12:00 PM

April 08, 2015

Jon Bradford


The second Difference Engine was a more sober affair.  The Difference Engine had been publicly funded by One North East (the Regional Development Authority) and in the intervening period between the two programmes there was a change of government – from the Labour party to the Conservatives.  Austerity measures meant that the programme came under threat – but ultimately ended up running but with a much reduced budget – resulting in a cutback of the funding reported in Techcrunch by Steve O’Hear.

The programme was moved to Sunderland Software City and this time there were ten teams:

  • 360 Revelations; Mark Careless, Arden Aspinall & Crombie Collin; based in Leeds, 360 Revelations are no longer operating.
  • ConstruQtive; Thomas Salvini; ConstruQtive was eventually acquired by Clarity3.
  • Evalyou; Kirill TripolskiNikita ShipilovNatalja Sidorenko; Evalyou never hit its stride and struggle to get traction post programme.
  • Fuboo (aka eWowBooks); Emer McCourt; following an investment after the programme, the app was launched but never gained significant traction.
  • ImpressPagesAudrius JankauskasMangirdas SkripkaMindaugas Stankaitis; ImpressPages continues today and is part of the Practica Capital portfolio in Lithuania – making strong steady progress.
  • Love Your Larder; Tristan Watson; Love Your Larder initially progressed well and gained good traction- but ultimately never enough to continue.  However, Tristan is now a key individual in the North East and is now the Programme Director at Ignite that was the successor of the Difference Engine.
  • Party Shouts; Mihkel TikkArgo Leetmaa; Mihkel has gone on to become the Director of Cyber Policy Department at Ministry of Defence in Estonia and Argo is last seen somewhere in Norway.
  • Pinevio; Daumantas DvilinskasMindaugas Krisciunas; Whilst Pinevio eventually came to a quiet end, its founders had no intention of going quietly – Daumantas went on co-found TransferGo and Mindaugas joined XtGem – two of Lithuanian’s best startups today.  The latter subsequently joined Springboard.
  • Suptoo; Sebastian MortelmansJelle Henkens; sadly Suptoo didn’t make it to the end of the programme with the founders going their separate ways.
  • Wedding Tales; Oli Wood & James Rutherford; In their own words “With some regret, we have decided to close Wedding Tales.” Oli went on to work with CANDDi from the first Difference Engine and now works for Sage (boooo).  James can be found at Campus North (home to ignite) helping fellow startup types.

As with the first Difference Engine, a series of videos recorded the second programme, including a retrospective of some of the companies from the original programme.  Below is the final video from the second programme.

The programme quietly slipped away on 31 March 2011 without much fanfare – only being reported in the local press.  In its place Springboard its successor had been launched in Cambridge a few months earlier.

by jon bradford at April 08, 2015 11:00 AM

April 06, 2015

Jon Bradford

Difference Engine Cartoon

And a quiet revolution started with the launch of the Difference Engine on 30 November 2009.  It was initially picked up by The Next Web (thank you Martin Bryant), Computer Weekly, and Techcrunch (thank you Mike Butcher).  The original application deadline was just 5 weeks later with a Christmas break in the interim with the programme expected to start in mid February – very ambitious and totally unrealistic.

Nine teams were selected (a tenth team declined an offer to participate – I know who you are) with a start date of 22 February 2010. Ironically, the original programme was planned to be 16 weeks (my theory was that Europeans would take longer to pick up the concepts) but due to delays the programme had to be compressed to 13 weeks – the original length of Techstars. And guess what, Europeans aren’t any slower than Yanks. Thirteen weeks is a perfect balance between having enough time to GSD and creating a real sense of urgency.

So who were these initial nine companies (in alphabetical order).

The original Difference Engine was based at the very awesome Digital City Business in Middlesborough – which on a sunny day was amazing.  A series of videos was prepared which followed the programme over the 13 weeks, culminating with a final video at the London Demo Day. Don’t forget to check out the very embarrassing video of Basti, late one night.

There was also a series of great pictures taken by Basti taken during the programme.

Somehow we managed to persuade some amazing people to come and spent time at that first programme including Iain Gavin, Jeff Barr, Bindi Karia, Stewart Townsend, Mike Butcher, John Lunn, Paul Kinlan, Alex Van Someren and many others who I collected from Darlington station.  We even managed to get Dave McClure to Skype in and do his famous AARRR presentation.

We had two demo days – the first of which was in the North East and the second was at the Microsoft HQ in Victoria – thanks to Bindi Karia – which I vividly remember included Rogan Angelini-HurllAdil Mohammed and Richard Newton; all of whom went on to become very influential in ongoing programmes.

The Demo Day was written up by Mike Butcher from Techcrunch and the presentations were recorded as a single page cartoon shown below.

Difference Engine Cartoon

by jon bradford at April 06, 2015 01:31 PM

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