Last week I was kindly asked to be a judge for an Apps competition at the digital Summer Camp event. This was a day-long event in Hackney “designed to help schools and young people learn important digital skills, shape their digital futures and champion digital innovation”. There were over 100 exhibitors from the tech and education fields and about 3000 young people walking through the doors during the course of the day. O2 Think Big got involved to support and run a series of ideation and coding workshops. My talented colleague Ben Plain ran four consecutive condensed Think Big School sessions to close to two hundred 14-16 years olds.

Back to Apps competition now. The pitches that started at 2:30pm that day were the result of hard labour from a group of young people from the Hackney Community College that had been working and developing their prototypes for the past three days. The youngsters had to come up with a new App idea that could be turned into a business, and prepare a pitch for it. I must say the four teams were striking and proposed solutions that solved real problems relevant to their daily lives. From the vibrating wristband alarm, the sports centre geolocator, the music news spot to the family shared calendar idea. What was remarkable was the breadth of the research they had done in so little time and how well rounded their business cases were. They included things like tiered pricing, competitors, market size and catchy names. They all also had developed a prototype of an App interface and some had even started creating their logos.

What made the competition and the pitching even more special is that the Duke of York was also on the judging panel. I must say it was quite exhilarating at first to know that I was going to be meeting and discussing with a member of the royal family. But despite all the hype, it pretty much felt like any other person in the end.

The Duke kept his powder dry for most of the pitching and didn’t ask any questions to the teams, but at the moment of deliberation he was quite torn and praised the different team’s merits. He’d even recognised one of the young guys pitching for one of them. After some discussions and to and fro between the four members of the jury, we decided on the Music Central as the winner App, mainly for the readiness of the proposition and the outstanding team spirit.

In the closing speech, the Duke  highlighted the merits of the creative exercise the young people had been on for three days and of the whole Digital Summer Camp event. He explicitly wished that kids always remained somehow frustrated and dissatisfied with the status quo so they could keep challenging and innovating with original ideas.

Pretty slick for a Duke.


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