Ignite the West and BizCamp Galway

Two important large-scale events took place in Galway City last weekend. Ignite the West rolled into town and set up shop “for a fun night of geekery and networking.” The next day BizCamp Galway took place at the Cairnes Building at NUI Galway. An event so over-subscribed that extra passes were granted only to those who were willing to act as volunteers for the day.

Although very different in nature the two events were underscored by a shared sense of optimism and a willingness to move forward regardless of how circumstances present themselves.

On the Friday night, Ignite the West led by Steve Daley and Dermot McCabe (aka Mr. Whippy) and their team brought, bean bags, music and projectors and the hallowed halls of the 091 Labs Hackerspace. The 091 Labs community in turn provided the sound system, videography and general crewing for the night. As well as hosting the event much effort on their part was spent on promoting the event in Galway City itself.

The original idea for Ignite the West came out of Seattle in 2006 as a personal project of Brady Forest and Bre Prettis the idea has travelled across the globe and had finally arrived in Galway.

The concept is simple. Each speaker has five minutes and twenty slides that change at a preset regular interval. The topic is at the speakers discretion as is the subject of each slide. After that it is tighten your seat belts and prepare for what might be a bumpy ride. There is no time for hesitation and in front of an audience of 130 people it is safe to say that a good few of the speakers were well out of their comfort zones.

We don’t have space to list all the speakers so in a spirit of fairness we have used random.org to pick out three.

Eric Van Lente researcher in the health promotion research centre at NUIG and his talk on “The Defensive Self”. He spoke about the ego and the Body and Self. It was thought provoking as he explained how we have two defence systems and how if you threaten the ego it feels like the body is being attacked and how you can become over defensive. The ego effecting the immune system with imaginary future ego threats – when the body doesn’t know any better. He offered up possible solutions to the audience of meditation and mindfulness to help with ‘ego death”.

Mike Hogan another NUIG researcher gave a 5 minute presentation on “Spirituality and Systems” . He spoke of how open networks can create more ideas and how different mental modes are developed depending on their reality.

Ellen Dudley of Crowdscanner, on “Digesting Sugar”. Ellen’s hilarious five minute presentation was on hacking the digestion system. There was mention of cling film and the small intestine! She criticised the newsagents and how they sell POISON in the form of sugar and that it should be against the law to eat sugar. If there was a prize for best speaker of the evening Ellen should have got it!

After such a high powered start to the weekend one had to wonder how BizCamp Galway would fare in comparison. But they turned out be complementary affairs. Michael Fitzgerald who along with Dave Kelly, Elaine Divilly, Paul Killoran and Mark Campbell helped put the occasion together described the thinking behind the event.

“It’s a bit like a doocracy where you have grass roots entrepreneurs, zero sales pitch, basically sharing experiences that they have rather than saying this is the way it should be done. [It’s more,] this is the way I did it and this what I found was good and bad. It’s a real honest approach to things.”

Not only were there three hundred applications for the two hundred and fifty free attendee places there were also more than sixty people who put themselves forward for the thirty available speaking slots. It may not have been as adrenalin fueled as Ignite the West but one could argue it was every bit as intense.

Again, to maintain our impartiality we shall use the random.org to select another sample of speakers to show the range and quality of what was available at the event.

A very interesting talk was given by Lyn Julien, a Nutritional therapist on “How to Combat Stress with Nutrition”. Her talk advised on eating the right foodstuffs to combat stress and increase energy and on supporting the adrenal glands. She explained that one of our main goals with eating food when having a very hectic work life is that we should eat Low GI (Glycemic Index) foods to balance blood sugar levels. She advised on the different types of meals we should consider eating during a busy and hectic work schedule.

Pat Phelan of MAXROAM spoke about his litany of failures. His first job after completeling his InterCert in 1981 was as a butcher. He failed as a butcher. He also told us that he failed as a drinker. Finally after a period away in Pakistan as a chef, he saw an opportunity and started up a phone company when himself and his colleagues couldn’t ring home easily and cheaply. Pat stated that he was happy to grow his company as a business in Ireland despite the current economic downturn in this country and spoke about his own wife who is starting up her own business and how she secured her own funds by herself. He spoke about all the opportunity ahead and advised us to get out on there and to knock on doors.

Mark Campbell has created a wonderful and innovative app for anatomy called Pocket Anatomy. Mark’s app is a supplement to textbooks on anatomy. Mark spoke about the importance of focus groups and their feedback in the development of iPhone apps.

The main takeaways from Mark’s talk were on his emotional attachment to the app he developed and how it wasn’t a good idea for the developer to sit in a focus group as a moderator. It was better to get an independent moderator to do the job and get the richness from the content obtained. For the focus groups he had involved in his app development he recommended going for a group of six people with an even gender balance.

Bizcamp Galway was a well organised and thought provoking day out. It is good to see an effort being made by local entrepreneurs. For things to work at a national level in Ireland they also need to work at a local level and Bizcamp Galway demonstrated what you can do with community business groups in the locality by getting them involved and aware of one another.

As Michael Fitzgerald says, “ I feel there is something special happening around Galway especially around the internet and small business. As a country we are waking up to industry again. Waking up to something that will give us value.”
The writer of this article, Ina O’Murchu, was a speaker at both events. She spoke about FashionCamp Ireland at Ignite the West and gave a talk entitled “Beyond Facebook” at BizCamp Galway.