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This article was published on September 17, 2012

Umbrella People wins Startup Weekend Women’s edition in London

Umbrella People wins Startup Weekend Women’s edition in London
Jamillah Knowles
Story by

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemi Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemimah_knight or drop a line to [email protected]

After 54 hours of working, planning, networking, meeting new people and generally having a good but exhausting time, Umbrella People has won the Startup Weekend Women’s Edition.

Startup Weekend surges on as a good way for people to explore their ideas as entrepreneurs. It’s a neat platform also to encourage women to stand up and take a risk on their ideas for business.

This particular event, held at the Google Campus in East London, was dubbed the ‘Women’s Edition’ but as the organisation’s site says, ‘Blokes still welcome‘. The arrangement for having a mixed group with a focus on women appeared to work rather well.

For entrepreneurial events like Startup Weekend, the fact of the matter is that they will be majority male. There are of course women-only events too, but to encourage a selection of women stepping up to pitch their ideas, it’s good to see a selection of events on offer.

Umbrella People won the weekend with a brolly rental system. Carrying a soggy umbrella is no fun and it’s a human habit to leave an umbrella behind when you most need it.

The idea in brief is that retailers would stock umbrellas for hire. Those umbrellas would have a QR code and an account can be opened via an app on a mobile device. The concept was by no means complete but it intrigued the judges.

Around 75 people attended the weekend and 45 of those pitched on Friday for possible development with new teams over the 54 hour event. That’s a pretty good ratio for business ideas and the pitches really had some meat to them.

“There were 45 pitches and 75 people with us this weekend.”

That 45 was distilled down to a final ten who had five minutes to get their idea across to early stage investor Hussein Kanji, Belinda Parmar, CEO of Lady Geek, Nick Holzherr, CEO of Whisk and yours truly.

The pitches this time around were also pretty polished (though kudos has to go to the young man who tripped on his words and accidentally said ‘Most women want to stay at home’, at a female-focused event) and the there were very few cloned ideas in the mix, an impressive batch for Startup Weekend.

Ahead of the pitching processes we were treated to a chat with Dana El Salem of Fanshake, a platform of tools for music fans. El Salem started her digital career in 1994 when she co-founded Clockwork, a Stockholm based multimedia agency which built the first music websites for artists, she then moved on to co-found Yahoo Europe, launching some 48 products in her time with the company.

El Salem’s banter was refreshingly straight and entertaining. On the topic of technology and startups she noted, “We live in our own bubble. There are terms that I hate, like social media, that’s bullshit. I also hate the term disruptive technology.” Anyone who has been around the traps in tech would sigh relief at these words frankly spoken, but there was a general feeling of ‘clenching’ among the startups and it’s easy to imagine a few pitch scripts being amended before presentation time.

Out of the ten who made their final pitches, there was a sense that only a handful would be giving up their day job to pursue their idea as a real business. But hopefully the experience and networking will encourage them to keep on pitching and turn one of their ideas into a reality.

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