Revolutionary Measures

Buying and selling at the Skills Bazaar

Yesterday I attended the inaugural Cambridge Skills Bazaar at the Hauser Building on the West Cambridge site. The idea was a simple one – bring together the galaxy of start-ups and SMEs from around Cambridge and help people find complementary skills to take their ideas and businesses to the next level. A great idea and a lot of thanks should go to Massimo Gaetani and Mauro Ciaccio of Cambridge Pitch and Mix for thinking it up and organising the whole event.

There’s been a lot of talk about creating the new Silicon Valley over the last week and the West Cambridge site has obviously designed to resemble US-style campuses through a combination of angular architecture and clean lines. Three things let it down however – the bitter Cambridge wind which mitigates against stopping and chatting in the open, all the parking spaces being reserved for university big-wigs and a wireless network that doesn’t work with iPhones.

Over 50 people came along to the event, offering skills as diverse as software development, product design, creative media and the unsexily titled support services, where PR resides. So a great range of talents, all keen to network and help the cluster grow. But what struck me most was how fragile this confidence was – the panel session was dominated by discussion on how to protect yourself if things go wrong or if collaboration collapses. Sure, this is always a possibility, but I think it is time for an injection of confidence if we’re going to produce more billion dollar businesses to rival ARM, Autonomy and Cambridge Silicon Radio. A bit of Californian confidence (as well as weather) would go a long way to helping companies flourish in today’s murky economy.

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November 11, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Unfortunately I had to miss the panel discussion. This morning at Pitch and Mix I heard other people discussing the negativism that you mention toward the end of the post. I agree with you Chris, warm weather probably helps optimism.

    Comment by Massimo Gaetani | November 11, 2010 | Reply

  2. A great summary of the event, Chris. I think it was also telling how many people were interested in the “money” piece of the startup jigsaw – it sounded like trying to source funds beyond the tight friends/family circle is a constant source of frustration and a huge hurdle for most startups.

    It’s probably also the furthest out of their comfort zones that many small businesses are likely to get, because while you can relatively readily outsource accounting, graphic design, print design, legal help and all the myriad of other elements that can go into building a business so long as you find suitable partners, it’s extremely hard to outsource raising cash! And doubly so if you’re reliant on the cash so raised paying for the effort of raising it – a real catch 22.

    Comment by Edwin Hayward | November 11, 2010 | Reply

  3. I am away this week and reading this in a much colder place but it struck me that however much we complain there is nothing we can do to change the weather so we can only focus on changing the orientation of the people. We know that sun is not essential to the growth successful business communities. The fact that you mention three hugely successful local companies developed over the last 20 years means that it can be done. So maybe better to find out what it is that these three and the next 50 not so famous local success stories do and share that knowledge so that we can replicate. They seem to have said in true US-style ‘The Weather? Get Over It!’ and focused on differentiating their propositions and selling globally! We have the best university in the world on our doorstep – surely that gives us an unfair advantage…

    Comment by andy hatcher | November 12, 2010 | Reply

    • Completely agree Andrew – I think we’ve got the raw materials (people, skills, ideas and support) and trailblazing companies to follow so we just need the confidence to get on with it. The weather didn’t stop ARM etc – and neither has it stopped companies from colder climes like Nokia and Ericsson……

      Comment by Chris Measures | November 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] Buying and selling at the Skills Bazaar ( […]

    Pingback by Finding the next generation of startups « Revolutionary Measures | February 16, 2011 | Reply

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