The last couple of weekends has been a veritable conference roadshow for the Mazzini project. First it was off down to London to find out what everyone else is up to with energy monitoring and home automation (all sorts of interesting things as it turns out) at Homecamp, and then last weekend we kept it local and made the five minute walk to Barcamp Liverpool.
If you want to find out more about Homecamp then take a look at my notes from the event, and the slides from the two talks I gave at Barcamp Liverpool are up online too.
I didn't give a talk about the Mazzini project at Barcamp, but the last session on Saturday was the first round of "Bitchin' Pitches" and with no preparation I volunteered to pitch the Mazzini project.
Around a dozen of us had one minute to talk about a startup, website or other project, and the best six would be chosen to go through to the final - held that evening in the after-party. There was a wide mix of projects being pitched - from a startup hooking into social networking sites to help choose the right music for your party to a Bluetooth peer-to-peer transmission network or a grass-roots time travel investment fund.
I hoped I'd get through to the final, but the problem with that was I'd then have to fill five minutes with a pitch. So I was happy when I heard I'd made it through, and then had an hour or so to think about what to say.
Some of my fellow contestants had slides to accompany their pitch, and seemed much better prepared as they presented their ideas to the panel of four judges. At the end of each pitch the judges, in Strictly Come Dancing style, gave some brief feedback and then a score out of five. When the first contestant scored threes and fours, and maybe even a five, I didn't think there was much hope that Mazzini would score any higher.
I ended up pitching last, and spoke for my five minutes about where the project is now - showing the picture of the prototype and the graphs produced on the blog post announcing it - before talking about what comes next and the possibilities for controlling devices and aggregating results from users to help them understand their energy use. I'm not sure it was a true pitch, because I wasn't looking for VC-funding or investment - I just wanted to find out what people think of the idea, and whether they'd buy it, although I did also mention that I'm always interested in hearing from people who want help building the "Internet of Things".
When the scores came in, I was amazed and delighted to receive a five, five, four and another five! Mazzini scoops its first award.
The feedback from the judges was great, and also from assorted members of the audience who I spoke to afterwards. It's great to hear that people think it's a good idea and are interested in it. Such feedback makes it much easier when you're stumped on why the hardware isn't behaving in the way you expect, or when you're trying to work out how to take a rough-and-ready prototype and convert it into something that non-geeks would like to have in their home.