Thursday, 30 August 2007

Exciting times for The School of Everything

When I moved to Sheffield a few years ago, I soon discovered that the city's newsagents were more likely to stock the Morning Star than the Financial Times. If you're interested in stories with long-term consequences rather than short-term news value, either paper generally beats the rest of the British press. But when I stepped out this morning, it was in search of the distinctive salmon pink pages of the FT. At the third shop, I found a copy.

Why this urgent quest? Because today's the day the paper was to announce the finalists for Seedcamp. In fact, the article inside was mostly about Seedcamp itself - a week-long masterclass for Europe's most promising high-tech startups, with coaching from many of the leading figures in the internet scene. You had to visit for the rundown of the 20 finalists, picked from 270 applicants to participate in next week's event.

But what matters - or, at least, the reason for my trek around Sheffield's newsagents - is that The School of Everything made the list! (We'd known for a few days, but there's nothing like seeing it in print - or hypertext, as it happens...)

It's been an amazing year for Team Everything, since we quit our "proper jobs" to work on this - and the excitement has been growing over the past few weeks. We're still a little way off having a public version of the site, but making progress fast. I believe what we're building has the potential to bridge between the long-standing networks of informal learning which sit on the edge of today's education system - in areas such as music teaching or driving instruction - and the vision which many people have been reaching towards of a society in which learning is no longer thought of primarily in terms of schools, classrooms, curricula and the other structures of industrialised education.

It's a pretty grand project! You might even say we're trying to "change the world" - though that doesn't mean much until we actually do it. I wouldn't believe we had a chance, if I wasn't working with four people I trust to be good at the stuff I'm not good at. Not to mention an incredible network of older and wiser heads who've been lending us their support and credibility along the way.

Things are certainly getting exciting - but there's still a hell of a way to go before we've achieved anything substantial. Roll on next week, though. I'm looking forward to meeting all the other teams, learning from each other - and from the amazing range of mentors the Seedcamp organisers have drawn in to work with us over the week!

(Meanwhile, I'm off to spend the weekend singing folk songs and drinking good beer in a cowshed on the North York Moors...)


Lucy said...

Wooo, congratulations, my darling! That is exciting!

Bill and i were having a look bat the beta website yesterday, when I get a chance I will jot down some notes on it.

I can't make the Bender, I'm afraid, but I hope you have a great time!


Dan said...

Awesome, congratulations! 20 out 268 chosen... Will you / the team be presenting to each other when you get there?

p.s. bloody hell, they really have got a huge range of people there to support you, haven't they?

treacle said...

That's really cool. Well done and good luck!

SimplyTim said...


Congratulations. It's a distinctive honor.

I was talking with my daughte the other day and she asked me what I would work on if I, for example, got a Fulbright scholarship. (Fat chance of that!)

But it got me thinking, and I started talking about you and your School of Everything. I would do something like that. Maybe help people how to build their own homes, or help large numbers of people to learn how to grow some of their own food.

Again, congratulations.


Dougald Hine said...

Thanks, guys!

After Day 1, I'm exhausted but excited. After a weekend away in the wilds of North Yorkshire, it was quite a plunge into the atmosphere of full-on networking and high-voltage coffee consumption. But the mentors have been brilliant, the discussions full of insights, and the other finalists are an impressive crowd! Whatever happens, there are several of the other start-ups I could see us being able to collaborate fruitfully with.

Tim - I'm really interested in the skills you could see yourself teaching. I've been reading a lot about food and farming recently - to the point where, if I wasn't working on this project, it's probably the area I'd want to dedicate my time to.

As it is, I'm enjoying the fruits of our garden in Sheffield whenever I go back - though it's mostly the work of my girlfriend and her mum, as I've not been around to do much digging this year...

SimplyTim said...


Concerning teaching people how to establish their own victory gardens, etc., for growing vegetables, etc., I wouldn't be able to speak with any authority.

I started a small garden in my back yard this summer. I used the square foot gardening system - you can google it. Let's just say that this is my first year of on the job training. I'll be able to correct some major errors next year, and I already can hardly wait.

But, I could see myself organizing a system to have others teach people who are ready for that. My own personal view, firmly held at this point in my life, is that being able to grow some of your own food is already important and will become imperative in the future.

I can elaborate some of my thinking if you would like. But for openers, realize that the food supply in any given supermarket amounts to 3 days of food. If there were a major disruption in the traffic flow into any one region beyond things could get pretty dicey pretty quickly. But there is much more to that thinking.

Congrats again.


Dougald Hine said...

Well, we didn't "win"! But it doesn't feel like we lost anything.

It's been an amazing week. We're now right at the heart of the network of people who make the internet industry work. The calibre of the mentors was outstanding. We learned a lot from them - and won some admirers. We also made friends with a lot of the other teams.

The winning teams were all extremely impressive - and I suspect most of them will get more value than we would have done from being selected to spend the next three months in London - since we're already based here. (The winners included teams from Slovenia, Sweden, Holland and Scotland.)

Finally, as a team we were deeply encouraged by the enthusiasm many of the mentors had for the passion and vision behind the School of Everything. At times over the past year, we've been advised to tone that down in favour of the main business pitch - so it was great to be encouraged to inspire potential investors by talking about what motivates us, as well as how the company will make money.

We're all hugely grateful to Saul and Reshma and everyone else involved in the week - and looking forward to a lot of long-term friendships and collaborations that will come out of it.

Defesa said...

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