Loving Devon, broadband and business innovation

23 May 2007

One of the great things about Devon is the landscape and rural idyll, it’s also one of the draw backs. With so much green and pleasant (for the UK at least) there aren’t the urban centres that make for prime broadband & WiFi hot spots. This can make it look like there’s not much happening out in the sticks.

An hour with Barnaby Harris in the Dartbridge Inn, has confirmed that the truth is out there and it’s knowledge based. Devon & Cornwall have always had a creative industries strength (SW Screen, Culture South West, Creative Enterprise, Interactive SW, i-DAT & others, that and surfing; you can even take a degree in it here). What is beginning to punch through is the benefit of broadband that overcomes the geographical limitations of the A38. The local development agency (SWRDA) together with the EU has invested in the infrastructure but the businesses never really knew what to do with it. Early demonstrations of the technology were impressive, but lacked a fundamental reason for being (other than the funding) so consequently didn’t survive after the funding ran out.
What’s now happening, and what Barnaby linked up very eloquently, is a convergence of software features in social networking and a better understanding of the Read / Write web for businesses, together with sufficient bandwidth to make business work.

All of this set in the context of a conversation that ranged from the earliest social networking at Xerox where early field engineers would meet up to discuss customer service and informally coordinate their parts management to minimise the value held by each engineer but maintain acceptable service levels for customers, through to Swarm Teams and the principles of Beer Mat Entrepreneur. Barnaby also touched on WiredWest and more social/business networking in the Abbey Inn over the A38 on a Friday evening to discuss and network innovative wired businesses and individuals.

Access to finance is always a popular topic in start up and innovation circles and we discussed various micro finance initiatives such as Zopa and some of the more agile VC and Angel funding programmes that are beginning to take off. As we began to wrap up (I had to be in Exeter), Barnaby mentioned 8Apps.com as another social, collaborative, productivity tool. Masses going on and more to follow.

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