I’m at Seedcamp this wednesday, helping out as a mentor for the 22 very interesting start-ups that Saul Klein and his team have assembled for the week-long workshop. I couldn’t attend Seedcamp last year, but I’m really excited about the event, and getting to meet the companies involved.

There’s something about events like this, and social innovation camp, and the Innovation Labs at the BBC, that gets me buzzing with ideas again. Its the creative energy given off by teams of focused, driven people who are offered a small window in which to forget everything else and just worry away at an idea until it works. Or doesn’t. In which case, better to spend a week finding that out than months or years.

Despite the latent competition in these events, the sense of collaboration is always stronger, as the the focus of the camp/lab format makes everyone feel like they’re sharing the experience together. As a commissioner, they’re incredible opportunities to have a long dialogue with potential suppliers about ideas, rather than just an hour-long pressured pitch meeting in a stuffy office room. Whether you’re a commissioner at a broadcaster, or a VC looking to invest, the intimacy of an extended camp/lab helps you build a relationship with a potential project team, and tells you more than any slide deck or investors pack could. Not least whether the team actually gets on – we had a couple of teams at the BBC Labs fall-out spectacularly during the week, which is very handy to know *before* you give them the money.

I worked out that in 2007, with the Innovation Labs and getting the slate together for the C4 Education projects, I must have seen over 1,200 ideas or pitches. Without Labs, Hackday, Social Innovation Camp and Seedcamp, it would be a lot harder to get to see the best ideas across the many different pools of digital talent in the UK. If it wasn’t for last year’s Seedcamp (and a fortuitous meeting with Paul Miller at No 10) i wouldn’t have seen, and invested in, School Of Everything, for example. Hopefully, 4IP can support and extend this informal network of events, and come up with some new events to fill the gaps.

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