Archive for Culture & Arts from United Kingdom

Mitzi TV’s Take on Quirky London

by on July 21, 2009 at 9:33 pm

At this month’s TweetUp in London, I had the opportunity to meet with Mitzi Szereto who runs around London and shoots, all of which ends up on Mitzi TV online.

She’s actually a yank who nows lives in London and her videos are her personal take on quirky London……. from prowling the streets of London in pursuit of a bowl of jellied eel and chatting about vintage cars with shoe designer Jimmy Choo and Formula 1 racecar driver Tiff Needell, to being recruited into a dance by a troupe of Morris dancers.

Below Mitzi with Geeks Sky Schuyler and Renee Blodgett

Mitzi Sky Schuyler and Renee Blodgett (2)

Innovation And Culture – Reflections On My UK Trip

by on July 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I just got back from the UK spending much of my time with the Traveling Geeks, a group of leading Silicon Valley bloggers and journalists meeting with UK government agencies, UK tech companies, and startups.

It was a very good trip. Here are some notes:

– There are some well established UK startups with good business models and they are profitable. One example is, which trades show tickets between fans. Spotify and Spinvox are also doing very well. Are they still startups if they have a business model and are profitable?

– Startups face the same problems as those here – funding. There are very UK VC firms and few angels. One estimate I was given was that in the Cambridge area there was just 5 million pounds ($8.26m) available for VC investments. A puny amount. Some startups are seriously considering relocating to the US for better access to investment capital.

– Successful European entrepreneurs have a tendency to go sailing and not come back. But that’s not always true. I met some serial entrepreneurs in Cambridge: Stuart Evans, chairman of Novacem, a developer of a unique type of “green” concrete;RichardGreen.jpg Richard Green (photo), CEO of Ubisense; sherrycoutu.jpgthe very impressive Sherry Coutu, (photo)a rare woman serial entrepreneur and one of the hosts of our Cambridge tour; also Steve Kennedy from Nettek.

– Cambridge Innovation. The area around Cambridge University is known as Silicon Fen and represents the European innovation capital. There is more money invested in innovation in this region than anywhere else in Europe. A key part of this infrastructure is the organization Cambridge Angels. I met a couple of the Cambridge Angels (Stuart Evans and Richard Green.) It’s an impressive organization with an interesting portfolio.

– Lots of government agencies and organizations to encourage innovation. At times it seemed as if we were meeting with larger numbers of representatives of groups encouraging startups than with innovators.

DavidRiches.jpgIt was good to meet again with David Riches, chief executive of East of England International, which helps companies get established in Silicon Fen. I had met him three years ago when he was running Think London. Also represented was NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts – “A unique and independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative.”

– UK is not great for startups. The UK government wants to encourage more startups but it’s a tough place to start companies. Taxes are high and stock options are taxed unfavorably. There is a shortage of talent and salaries are high. But there has been a slight shift in the culture, there is more tolerance of failure these days. But a good job and salary is still more highly valued than a job at a startup.

– Watching the news n the UK is interesting. Much of it is taken up with stories about the government; the government said this today; the government issued a report today; the government is looking at this; the government needs to do this… In the US there is a healthy distrust of the government and far fewer government stories or an expectation that the government needs to do “something.”

– Gadgets and dongles. We were giving some gadgets to try out:

— Nokia allowed us to use their Nokia N79 phone with the Symbian interface. The phone was a solid piece of hardware, excellent photos and good video. The Symbian interface however, was horrible. I couldn’t believe how bad it was, we were all complaining about it. It was far from intuitive and it took far too many steps for the simplest of operations – including something simple as answering the phone. The BT sim card worked reasonably well (it uses the Vodaphone network) but data services didn’t work at all on my phone.

— We were given BT dongles, wireless USB modems that we used with our laptops. These worked well in most places around London. However, because of all the video we were shooting and processing, we quickly ran through our bandwidth allocations without knowing it and spent several days trying to troubleshoot the dongles. BT increased our bandwidth caps and they worked fine but it would have been good to know that this was the problem.

— Intel let us use some MIDS (Mobile Internet Devices.) I played with an Mbook from Uvid. It’s got a cool touchscreen display, nice size but everything was tiny – it tries to display Windows XP on a very small screen. I’m not a fan of MIDs or of Netbooks. I generally find the form factor too small to be useful and their performance subpar. They seem to combine the worst aspects of a cell phone and a notebook. In terms of a light and small form factor, the Macbook Air is still the best, imho.

We also had the new Flip Ultra. Although many digital cameras have great video for the same price, it was handy to have this easy to use “one-click” device. The quality of the video is excellent but I wish I could plug in an external microphone. It also does well as a regular camera, I was pulling some great single shots from its MP4 video.

Here is a list of my posts about my UK trip in chronological order:

Sunday – Arrival and Tweetup in Chelsea

UK Startups Look For Funding And Escape From Echo Chamber

Digital Inclusion And The Moral Obligations Towards Tech Education

Monday – Reboot Britain – The Traveling Geeks Help Out

Monday – The Geeks Eat Dinner At The Top Of The World

Tuesday – Seed Camp’s High-flyers

Tuesday – It Never Rains But It Pours . . . More BT Innovation

Tuesday – Guardian Newspaper Media Panel . . .

A Guardian Newspaper Media Panel, Twitter, From Back to Front And Beyond…

Tuesday – Back To Soho and Dinner With

Wednesday – Humpday – Lunch With Skype

Wednesday – Time-Off For Good/Bad Behavior

Thursday – A Visit To Accel Partners – UK Is Tough On Startups

Thursday – Ecoconsultancy At Shakespeare’s Globe – Why Innovate?

Thursday – SVW Goes To The Europas . . .

Friday – Cambridge Startups

Friday – Cambridge Consultants, Nokia And Microsoft Research Labs

Friday – Looking For Ghosts In Peterhouse College Founded 1284

Also, lots of excellent coverage from my fellow Traveling Geeks here.

– In addition to the people I mentioned in my articles above, it was great to meet and talk with: Karyn Barnes from East of England International (excellent host); Jon Garside, sales director of Syphan Technologies; Michael Litman; Kai Turner, head of information architecture at; Mike Ferg (@MikeyFerg); Wendy Tan-White. founder of Moonfruit; Vincent Camara, founder,; Nancy Vega, Said Business school Oxford; Alistair Morely technology director at Cambridge Consultants; Oo Nwoye co-founder of Onepage; Professor Ian Leslie, Cambridge University; Amanda Horton-Mastin, Innovation Director at Comic Relief; Rudolph Rosini, Ecec VP at Cellcrypt; Nitin Dahad at Techspark; William Tunstall-Pedoe, CEO of Trueknowledge; Luke Brynley-Jones, Managing Director at School For Startups; Matt Rogers, co-founder of Aroxo.

Inside of the Globe Theatre, Shakespeare’s Round House in :22 Secs of Video #TG2009

by on July 19, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Econsultancy, for you “Yanks,” is the equivalent of our Jupiter before they were eaten by Forrester. Ashley Freidlein and Clare Laurie hosted a round table discussion with their top-notch clients and the Traveling Geeks. Then they took us on a tour of the Globe Theatre, which is just gorgeous.

In this short video, you can see a 280 degree pan of the Globe Theatre in London where they are changing the set for the next play.

Here’s a link to pictures from this event on my Flickr page.

Econsultancy Round Table #TravelingGeeks
Image by SusanBratton via Flickr
Image of Clare Laurie from Twitter
Image of Clare Laurie
Print, based on Hollar's 1644 Long View of Lon...
Image via Wikipedia
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Charterhouse Square

by on July 18, 2009 at 11:51 am

Part of our stay during our recent London trip was at the Malmaison Hotel, which is around the corner from the Barbicon tube on the circle line. Despite the fact that I lived in London and had countless subsequent visits, it’s an area where I never spent that much time.

Malmaison is in the corner of a quaint courtyard called Charterhouse Square.

Here’s a little background which will make all Americans feel incredibly young regardless of where they grew up in the states.

The Charterhouse is on the site of a former Carthusian monastery founded in 1371, by Walter de Manny, on what is now the north side of the square. It was established near a 1348 plague pit, located in the square, which formed the largest mass grave in London during the Black Death when around half the population died of the plague.

Tens of thousands of bodies were buried here. The name is derived as an Anglicization of La Grande Chartreuse, whose order founded the monastery.

It’s no wonder we look at the world differently than our Anglican pals on the other side of the pond.

UK Diary: Friday – Looking For Ghosts In Peterhouse College Founded 1284

by on July 18, 2009 at 2:26 am

After a hard-packed day of visiting with Cambridge startups, government agency representatives, Cambridge tech incubator, meeting with Nokia research labs, meeting with Microsoft Research Labs – and punting on the river Cam, the Traveling Geeks are invited to dinner at Peterhouse College.

According to my excellent guidebook “Cambridge Colleges” by Janet Jeacock, Peterhouse College features one of the finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite stained glass, by Morris, Burne-Jones, and Madox Browne. It is the oldest of all 31 Cambridge University colleges, founded in 1284.

As the rest of the TGers are shmoozing on the lawn, my son Matt and I explore the building. We’re hoping to find some ghosts. Please see the short video above.

Next: More Cambridge innovation. . .

Life in London: Does Fun Have an ROI?

by on July 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm

I did very little blogging while I was in London, but it wasn't because I didn’t find anything interesting to write about. It’s because I was talking, laughing, eating or drinking nearly every moment of my two-week trip. I proudly announced to my husband that I hadn’t taken a single Ambien during the visit. Unfortunately, it wasn't because of some no-jet-lag magic, it was because I only got about two hours of sleep a night.

Every time I visit London I find a city with zero downtime filled with entrepreneurs, investors and the like who are offering to take me for afternoon tea or a drink to talk about the industry or well, just talk into wee hours of the morning. One Oli Barrett even serenaded me with several songs from Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang late after the TechCrunch Europa awards. After all, that’s how we Americans all think the British talk, right? That’s pretty accommodating stuff.

And look no further than these pictures to see how much fun Scoble was having. Even had a sense of humor when a TechCrunch editor stormed their offices somewhat unannounced. (Michael Arrington? Less of a sense of humor about that post. Sorry, Mike.) People are intense about their companies, but there’s a sense in the UK that it’s not the only thing that matters.

The joviality is all the more surprising given the rough times UK start-ups are having, as I detailed today on TechCrunch. Money available for early stage start-ups is perilously low and good many entrepreneurs I know have already closed their companies or sold them on the cheap. But here they are all still hanging out, supporting one another, having wild parties and enjoying life. It’s as if (gasp!) the world doesn’t revolve around the Internet.

As a business reporter, I’m of two minds on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m a big believer that there’s no such thing as work-life balance when it comes to start-ups—a view that frequently gets me in trouble especially when I’m talking about why there aren’t more women in the business. But sometimes the Valley takes the macho-look-at-me-working-24-hrs-a-day thing too far. Startup or no, I’m not sure I know anyone who works just 40 hours a week here, and I know I don’t know anyone who isn’t checking their email every minute of the day. The debate about whether that’s healthy is one thing—but does it actually make us more successful?

UK Diary: Thursday – Ecoconsultancy At Shakespeare’s Globe – Why Innovate?

by on July 16, 2009 at 7:03 pm


Thursday afternoon the Traveling Geeks are at The Swan, which is attached to the recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre on the Southbank.

The event is organized by Econsultancy , a digital marketing firm, and led by Ashley Friedlein, CEO and Co-Founder (See my photo above.)

There are about a hundred people gathered in a large room. I’m sitting at one of several tables, crowded with people and bottles of water, and we’re talking about innovation.

There are many people from large UK firms at the table, all talking about how they try to encourage innovation within their companies. It’s not easy.

I make several points about innovation. The most important one is that large companies want innovation badly but they can’t innovate. But they want to innovate because there is no end of consultants that tell them they will die if they don’t innovate.

Well, they will die anyway. There is a finite lifespan to large organizations and that’s just the way it is — innovation or not.

An organization is successful because it knows how to monetize a particular business process. Each organization is very bad at changing its culture of monetization. Much better to buy-in the innovation.

Afterwards, I talk with Mathys van Abbe, the founder of Moby Picture, a fast growing Dutch startup (and one of my current favorites.) “Why don’t corporations just concentrate on doing what they do better? They can’t innovate and they don’t need to.” I agree.

Traveling Geeks Photos on Flickr by Susan Bratton: London and Cambridge #TG2009

by on July 15, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Here is a link to all of my photos (please, tag and comment away!) from the Traveling Geeks blogger junket.

Thanks to all whom I met and to the new friendships I’ve made. I have been thoroughly impressed with the tech scene, the quality of entrepreneurs and the start up scene in London and Cambridge.

If you have photos to share, please comment below.


Susan Bratton Traveling Geeks Flickr Sets

Susan Bratton Traveling Geeks Flickr Sets

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What’s After MoshiMonsters and WeeWorld? MovieStorm and Stupeflix. #TG2009

by on July 15, 2009 at 4:51 pm

The real-time web. The semantic web. Augmented reality. It’s all happening right now. And for most Boomers not in the tech world, most of these new technologies will pass us by. But not so our progeny.

Taylor, my 12 year old daughter, like your children, has been raised on Nintendo, creating virtual worlds to pass time in the car. Today there are next generation online worlds like WeeWorld and MoshiMonsters from MindCandy, that are a new breed of stimulating, mentally challenging game environments. And as our kids grow up, they will be creating their own 3D movies with MovieStorm and promulgating their customized online videos with Stupeflix.(yeah, I know, bad name to translate from French into English)

These four companies were just a few of the extraordinary organizations with whom I met during last week’s Traveling Geeks tour of London and Cambridge.

Jeff Zie, Founder, Movie Storm - Cambridge, England

Jeff Zie, Founder, Movie Storm – Cambridge, England

I have a rule with Taylor that she can spend as much time online as she’d like, as long as 50% of her time is focused on content creation, rather than content consumption. After growing up steeped in the dimensionality of computer games, I hardly think she’ll be satisfied with photo montages set to music. She’s on her second Flip Video camera and prefers to create her own movies.

Tay and Maddie Making a Movie "The RatSkat"

Tay and Maddie Making a Movie "The RatSkat"

With the advent of MovieStorm, her generation won’t be satisfied with anything less than the ability to generate 3D animated movies like this.

MovieStorm 3D Room

MovieStorm 3D Room

Stupeflix was another impressive player on our trip, allowing one to go beyond creating a simple slide shows set to music ala Animoto. Instead Stupeflix  leverages the beauty of XML to allow you to create a standard templated video that can pull files into it to mass customize as many versions of the video as you need.

One application Nicolas Steegmann demoed at the Seedcamp event was a weather video that showed a US map, but filled in the local weather from a feed. Here’s a great article from BoxofTricks on how to use Stupeflix.

If these companies seem “far out,” they are not. They really get where the online users are going. The only question is will they able to reach scale and drive profits fast enough? The Mattels of the world should be investing in them now, because they are the future.

Coming up on DishyMix is my interview with Jack Lang, Cambridge Angel investor who has put money into MovieStorm.

Jack Lang, EIR, Judge School of Business, University of Cambridge with Susan Bratton, Host of DishyMix

Jack Lang, EIR, Judge School of Business, University of Cambridge with Susan Bratton, Host of DishyMix

Image representing Stupeflix as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Seedcamp Details for Stupeflix:

Twitter: @stupeflix



Company Description
Stupeflix is a web service aimed at people and companies that want to generate massive amounts of videos automatically from their pictures, music and videos.
It comes as a fully customizable REST API and an embeddable online video editor.
Stupeflix uses unique technologies allowing faster than real time video rendering, as well as the generation of 10,000’s videos a day using one server only.
The public API that Stupeflix offers to developers is pretty much unique in the flexibility and level of control it allows.

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UK government terms used differently

by on July 13, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Well, I was confused at the start of the Traveling Geeks tour, but have learned a coupla things. This is my (over-simplified) version.

The "government" in the UK is the majority party, who selects ministers including the Prime Minister.  It's somewhat analagous to "administration" in the US. (The majority might be a coalition.)

There's no formal transition period in the UK, and far fewer political appointees.

The opposition party maintains as "shadow cabinet" which is ready to replace the existing cabinet immediately.

Feedback appreciated, I'd really like to get this right.

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