The Tech Off: Our inaugural tech smackdown!

The Tech Off: Our inaugural tech smackdown!

UPDATE: The Tech Off is next up on Weds 15th October, central London – learn more & register to attend at:

In what will be known by future generations as “The Thriller In The Cellar”, Thursday 24th July 2014 was The Tech Off: the first outing for our new event concept.

We invited some of the UK’s top creative tech’s to enter a battle of ideas, like a modern day Fight Club – but without any actual fighting, or secrecy! The aim – apart from eternal digital glory – was to win The Tech Off belt, and to inspire us all on the way (or at the very least keep us entertained on a Thursday night).

The Tech Off Winners Belt! BOOM!!!!

Our rapid fire format meant the contestants had only 5 minutes to persuade a cellar-full of thirsty marketers, creatives and techies of the importance of their insights. It was mean, it was lean, and it was sometimes obscene :-0

Four awesome fighters entered the arena, each gave an amazing talk – with genuinely fascinating insights into the future of technology, and creative ways to use these tools.

The Winner's Trophy and some beer!


Our WWE-style Dream Team was:

Dan ‘Bone Crusher’ Crow
CTO at Songkick

Dan spent a decade in Silicon Valley, with four years at Apple (where he worked with Steve Jobs), and creating four startups in San Francisco, culminating with co-founding Blurb: a site that lets you publish your own books. He spent five years at Google: first in NYC where he built their first semantic search engine, then in London working on Ads and Android. In the last 3.5 years, he’s been CTO of Songkick, one of the UK’s hottest startups.

Dan took us into a future where the robots take over. From cute Scalextric style cars that learn, to Google’s driverless cars, to Boston Dynamics’ leading edge work on advanced robotics. This was a future where the machines start to if not take control, then take a significant role in all our lives.

Phil “Mad Dog” Dearson

After nearly 20 years in digital agencies – including Head of Strategy and User Experience at Tribal DDB – Phil is now an independent consultant. He was once described as the Peter Cook of digital. He has no idea what-the-hell that was supposed to mean either!

Phil introduced us to the murky world of The Resistance. Ingress (Google’s massively-multiplayer, real time, location-based strategy game), is where players create portals in public spaces, linking them in virtual triangular fields over geographic areas. When players are physically near these places on the map they can interact with them. Phones become scanners, and everyone can be involved in game play, everywhere… and it’s all going on right under our noses, apparently.

Martin ‘Crazy Horse’ Hollywood
Innovation Director for Jack Morton Worldwide

16 years working commercially across digital has turned Martin’s CV into a who’s who of London’s top creative teams: previously, he was Creative Technologist & leader of the Interactive team at SapientNitro, TBWA\Media Arts Lab and Start Creative, BBH, DLKW, PlayStation and Founder/Director at (defunct) production company Gunforhire Studios.

Martin took us on a journey where technology and emotion fuse, to create experiences which elevate the mind and the mood, building data points throughout. He demoed an amazing wristband – the XOX emotional technology platform, as showcased with Saatchi and Saatchi at Cannes – which changes colour based on how you on your arousal and emotion, their service then interprets the data to show the intimate feelings of an audience in real time (clue: awe-inspired).

Rick ‘Gandalf’ Grundy
CTO at Techdept

Trained as a chemical process engineer, Rick worked across the globe in the oil industry for years, including various meetings in Enron’s boardroom. In the late 90’s he set up a web site called – which let you share what you had been doing that weekend, photos, updates etc – but of course he kept it private. He established Techdept with Dan Kirby in 2004.

Rick took us on a journey of the evolution of the web, from the amoeba-like state of the original unconnected PC – to the vision of machines learning from big data available in the cloud, and being able to then predict the future. Sound like sci-fi? It’s already happening: Microsoft and Google battled to predict the World Cup winners (Microsoft’s Bing won, predicting all but one of the games’ winners). Our brains hurt!

But how can you possibly choose a winner from such a line up of tech heavyweights? Luckily we had a unique prototype app we had developed precisely for this purpose: The Techometer!

Our R&D team worked for days and days to get the BETA version of this app

Despite being only a BETA version, The Techometer managed to accurately filter the audio waves within the room as the crowd cheered their preferred speaker. From this available data it selected our inaugural winner: Dan Crow!

Dan was presented with the belt, the trophy, and the glory – while the other contenders muttered about the whole thing being a fix…We soothed their disappointment with a free bar and some finger food.

The first winner of The Tech Off - Dan Crow - gets his winnings from Techdept CEO Dan Kirby

Dan will keep The Tech Off belt until our next event – where he will present it to the next winner!

All in all it was a great night, and as one attendee said:

“I think you’re onto something with that format!
Fun, the future and a modest hangover, all in one bundle.”

If you fancy coming to the next outing of The Tech Off – it’s being held on Wednesday 15th October, in a central London location TBC.

Drop us an email and we’ll get you on the list!

In the meantime here are some more shots from the night:












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