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Converge+UK mashes up design, business & technology at Google Campus in Shoreditch

Converge+UK is a new series of events to bring together designers, developers, entrepreneurs and investors. The events are being toured around the various startup incubators in London over the course of 2012 and 2013. Converge+UK is being run on a non-profit basis and tickets are usually five pounds. The next event is on 3 October at the Innovation Warehouse.

Innovation happens when people from different backgrounds are thrown together. So 31 August 2012 saw 50 designers, developers and entrepreneurs converge on the Google startup incubator in Shoreditch. The event was the launch of Converge+UK, which is a community forum to bring together people from different backgrounds and encourage healthy debate.

The event was co-founded by a diverse group of London professionals including David Clare, Sallie Bale, Dan George, Klaus Bravenboer, Tim McCready and Peter Thomson. David, Sallie and Dan have provided the PR and communications powerhouse to bring people together. While Klaus, Tim and Peter have organised speakers and pulled together an informal advisory board to steer the group.

Launch of the group
Matt Morrison, Neil Tierney and Josh Mora generously contributed their networks and connections to secure industry speakers who represented the spirit of convergence and innovation. The speakers were Alfie Dennen, Ami Shpiro and Grant Harrison. This gave the group a speaker from each of the three different disciplines of design, business and technology.

The convergence of design, business and technology is equally relevant to large businesses or to entrepreneurs, but the startup community in London seems to be a great place for people from these different backgrounds to come together. Collaboration seems to thrive in startups where every day counts and rapidly proving a concept is the difference between launching a product (or not), getting funding (or not) and surviving as a business.

Co-founder Peter Thomson had just completed a Landmark Education leadership course. "In the course they challenge you to think about the charities and community groups that you could be more involved in. I had been thinking for a long time about how to bring my friends from different work backgrounds together, so Converge+UK was a perfect project to get involved with."

The speakers on the night had been briefed to be brief, to tell real war stories and to hold nothing back in terms of what worked and what didn't. As a result, there were fewer PowerPoint slides than usual and more anecdotes about innovation in the real world.

Group discussions
One of the main aims of Converge+UK was to prompt new conversations, so after each speaker there were a series of discussion topics and icebreaker exercises. Klaus Bravenboer noted, "One thing we learned from the launch event was that once people get chatting, they don't really want to stop, so timekeeping will be a bigger part of the next event." The most popular group discussion topic was "What should LOCOG have done about the empty seats at the Olympics?" The best answers included a pre-event airline-style check-in procedure (with standby tickets), using volunteer seat fillers and even creative ways to punish corporate sponsors who didn't use their allocations.

Alfie Dennen on creativity at the boundaries
Alfie gave a great introduction to the life of a Creative Technologist. Mixing installation art, digital technology and social engineering. One of Alfie's great habits is to never refer to "the internet" instead preferring the term "the network" because it reminds us that, behind the layer of technology, it's all about people. Alfie is obviously a master of bringing different disciplines together to execute a concept. Examples included the Caledonian Park clocktower being connected to twitter to remind the community when it needs winding, a stone glyph created across the UK and open-source digital signage on the top of bus shelters.

Grant Harrison on innovation in healthcare
Grant shared compelling war stories about the startups he's been involved in. From the founding of Tesco's ClubCard, through to online doctors visits and new models of insurance. Grant shared examples of innovation in the systems behind healthcare and the difference between fixing illness and creating health. Converge co-founders, David, Tim and Klaus particularly enjoyed the discussion of quantified-self tools like the Nike Fuel Band and the FitBit. Co-founder David, who also blogs for quantified self blog One More Life Hack commented "The quantified self movement has been going since 2006, yet it is really only just starting to get traction. Hearing Grant's experiences of how he has been self-tracking for such a long time reminds us why the quantified self is so important and how far (maybe even too far) we can take it."

Ami Shpiro on crossing the chasm by collaborating
Ami is the head of the Innovation Warehouse in Farringdon (the next Converge+UK venue). Ami talked about the businesses that he's started, invested in and mentored. His technical background has allowed him to ask tough questions of entrepreneurs. The audience particularly enjoyed his discussion of how products diffuse through a community. He prompted a good debate about the book "Crossing the Chasm" and what an entrepreneur can do to try and get their product ready to scale.

Event partners
The visual identity was created by Stephen Tolfrey. Photography was captured by Peter Alberti and Dan Wong. The t-shirts emblazoned with the catch phrase for the night, Get Sh+t Done were provided by Icon Printing and looked great. The posters were printed by printed.com which turned out (despite the corporate sounding name) to be friendly and helpful. Wine and beer was provided by Central Working.

The first event was a bit like a live prototype with lots of comedic errors, table legs breaking and rapidly improvised solutions. But we got there in the end, and learned a lot which will make the next event even better.

The next Converge+UK event is on 3 October at 7pm at the Innovation Warehouse in Farringdon. Tickets, speaker information and a chance to vote on the t-shirt designs are at the Converge+UK Facebook page

Information for editors:
Converge+UK is a non-profit series of events being held around London to promote collaboration and innovation in the overlap between design, business and technology. More information is available from www.converge-uk.org High resolution images, interviews, quotes and bios are available from [email protected]

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