Fashion App Gets $175,000 Prize At The Cisco BIG Awards

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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TechWeekEurope gives you a complete breakdown of the competition and profiles of the six finalists

Snap Fashion, an app that analyses pictures of fashion items and finds where to buy them, has won the main prize at the first annual British Innovation Gateway Awards, hosted by Cisco on Wednesday.

The winners were announced following a live Dragon’s Den style pitch, complete with inevitable grilling from six judges including CTOs, managing directors and Cisco CEO for UK and Ireland Phil Smith.

Six finalists presented their ideas, fighting for a prize pot worth in excess of $250,000, and TechWeekEurope was there to find out everything about this year’s most promising UK start-ups.

Cream of the crop

Competition, Start UpThe aim of the Cisco BIG Awards is to discover and reward the finest examples of the UK’s innovative digital businesses. More than 300 entries were received this year, before the competitors were whittled down to 13 semi-finalists, then the final six. So who were the top dogs?

Shopitize wants to put shoppers in control of their own shopping data, by analysing their purchasing patterns. Users simply take photos of their receipts with a smartphone, and the app turns them into useful tools, such as automatically generated “smart” shopping lists and spending reports. The platform also provides offers and rewards from brands which users have engaged with in the past, while protecting their privacy.

ParkAtMyHouse belongs to the new wave of collaborative consumption projects, sometimes united under the term “sharing economy”. It offers homeowners a chance to make money with zero effort, by renting out their driveway or garage as a parking space. Founded by one of the creators of Parkopedia, ParkAtMyHouse has already made its customers over £5 million.

The parking market in the UK is worth around £1,25 billion, but suffers from lack of innovation. ParkAtMyHouse aspires to become “the eBay of parking”, by offering a service that is more secure, more flexible and a lot cheaper than traditional public parking. Later this year, the app will be integrated into Minis, then BMW cars. The company is also working on a sister project, ChargeAtMyHouse, aimed at the owners of electric vehicles.

Nerve Centre was the only company in the final six aiming to work primarily within the public sector. It develops collaboration and management software for hospitals that cuts costs and “removes communication delays”. According to an external report, after introducing the system to the Nottingham University Hospital, the number of clinical incidents dropped 70 percent, and the average length of stay – 12 percent.

Nerve Centre products integrate with the existing healthcare software, can track the location, skills and workload of every hospital employee, and are already available on tablets and smartphones. The company reported 400 percent growth year-on-year, but wasn’t successful in convincing the BIG Awards judges.

And the winner is…

Thumbs Up, ApprovalSix3 is a video messaging service, limited to 63 seconds of footage. It was designed to appeal to the generation of “video natives”, people who have grown up with digital cameras. According to CEO Tim Grimsditch, video messaging is “more emotional” than text, simple and quick to produce, and more than capable to compete with SMS.

The 63 second limit, similar to Twitter’s 140 character limit, was decided on as a result of research into attention spans, and as a way to stop people “rambling on”. The software itself is free, but the founders hope to make a nice profit from selling Instagram-like visual filters, packages and add-ons. The mobile app is currently only available on iOS.

Six3 managed to impress the jury with its business plan and well-designed app, and received the third prize – a cheque for $10,000.

Digital Shadows is a service that “continuously monitors online exposure” of an individual or business to prevent cybersecurity breaches. The start-up has built an engine that continuously scans websites, social media conversations and even “darknet”, and warns the customer as soon as it detects information that could damage company reputation or be used by hackers to plan an attack.

Example: an employee is discussing the software he’s working with on Facebook. By doing this, not only does he breach the company policy, he also gives useful hints to hackers. Digital Shadows will detect this behaviour and suggest the ways to mitigate the danger.

Digital Shadows was easily the most serious enterprise project in the competition, and managed to win the second prize – a cheque for $25,000.

Snap Fashion, the winner of the competition, offers users to take pictures of fashion items, and instantly buy them online. It is a simple idea, backed by complex algorithms developed by 25-year old Jennifer Griffiths. According to Griffiths, who came up with Snap during her time at university, the modern day consumers “suffer from too much choice”. Snap solves this problem by making shopping visual, based on the instant reaction of “don’t like / like / want”.

The app brings the social aspects of shopping online, by offering sharing features, wish lists and history. In the future, developers plan to teach the engine to give fashion advice. Snap Fashion mobile app had been launched on Monday, but at the moment only features female items. A version of the app designed for men is expected to be released in January.

Enthusiastic presentation by Griffiths, backed by solid numbers and unique technology, bagged Snap Fashion the first prize – a cheque for $100,000, $30,000 worth of marketing support, $30,000 worth of PR support and $15,000 in legal support.

“The competition was incredible,” Griffiths told TechWeekEurope. “It’s really nice that the judges thought we’re going to go far. The money will help us to get PR support, which is what we needed for ages, and allow to make other key hires.”

“The nice thing about analysing images is you get rid of the language barriers, so we think it will be fairly easy to expand into Europe. Then, it’s over to the US. “

“The thing that I regret the most is that I didn’t have the guts to do this project a few years ago. My advice is just go for it while you are young, because you don’t have a lot to lose. See what happens, and if it doesn’t work, you could always try doing something else,” she added.

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