TechHubTuesdays is like a real version of Dragon’s Den, in that it’s not crafted into a TV friendly narrative, and like a fake Dragon’s Den, in that no-one is going to get any money.

In case you haven’t come across TechHub as a venue, it’s a desk sharing / office sharing space just of Old Street roundabout. It looks like it’s been squatted, with missing ceiling tiles and makeshift fittings. It’s actually quite expensive.

One Tuesday a month they offer a chance for startups (on this occasion one of them only 10 days old) to demo their sites to an audience and then answer questions from the floor. I’m not sure if there were any real investors present but the questions certainly had an edge of Den style alpha-male business-savvy rather than offering mutual support. Mostly, from what I know if these things, the questions were pertinent and the advice pragmatic.

Half of the six demos were about lowering friction in market places: Let Engine making lettings easier (they seemed very relaxed about the HUGE competition they face);  Your Job Done gets tricksy tasks performed by local handypeople, eg Ikea furniture assembly (a less competitive niche); and Rise Art which is a marketplace for upcoming artists (art.sy being the obvious competitor).

One of the other three was Digital Shadow – a company that does something useful but boring to do with security (ie. most likely to make money) and the remaning two (Ekko and Mapchat) were to do with location based chat – something I just can’t get excited about.

Naming no names, I think some of the ideas were quite weak. I was amazed that they had the funding to get something together and also surprised that they’d managed to get as far as they had without becoming alarmed by the goliath competition many of them faced.

My favourite was Rise Art, a market place for up and coming artists. So far so good. Except Marcos Steverlynck described it as a place for good artists who are not good at using publicity to get attention to make their mark. Using their algorithms, image detection and an in-house panel of experts the site attempts to rank art by a combination of what’s best and what’s most popular.

I tried to explain that I thought that the ‘best’ art literally means nothing, it’s only popularity contest. I reckon they way society values art is one of those things which relies on us not having a complete understanding of it. If you wrote the algorithm that perfectly rated the quality of images then you’d either a) ruin art b) make people start evaluating art differently. Anyway, I didn’t get very far with this line of questioning before I started to look like a dick, so I gave up.

Whatever Rise Art does, and despite my philosophical reservations, it has a load of really great prints on it. It’s almost like my concerns about possibility of aesthetic objectivity don’t matter – http://www.riseart.com.

What I particularly loved about Rise Art was that it was motivated by the the desire to run a marketplace that really promoted quality. Having a panel of experts is something that I’m sure a lot of business minds would consider unscaleable, none the less they’ve gone for it. In addition, a number of revenue models were suggested by the audience which placed less emphasis on finding great art, but Marcos seemed understandably wary of these ideas.

In summary: TechHubTuesday provides as much beer and (good) pizza as you can consume for £6.80, and serves up a genuine slice of startup culture. On the other hand, it does have the drawback of highlighting that Startups are mostly destined to fail, and it’s also less ideological than other geek gatherings. Not recommended for a first date.

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