StartupChile, PyCon, StrongSteam

As ever with a startup – there’s always too much to do and the game is all about juggling burning balls whilst figuring out which shouldn’t be dropped. We’re rather busy here.

Yesterday Emily and I finished the paperwork for our first reimbursement round at StartupChile. This is the part of the process that gets the most complaints from the startups here. We spent 5 hours yesterday preparing our first £5k or so for refund (flights, visas, first month’s rent, various expenses). All going well we’ll get 90% of this money back in a few weeks. Quite possibly we’ll have missed a massively important but otherwise minor detail somewhere and the admin team will reject up to 90% of the receipts (which can be resubmitted in a month) – such horror stories abound from Round 1.

The future expenses that we’ve already paid for like my trip to PyCon (next month) and flights can’t be claimed yet as I’ve yet to attend – we can only reimburse for definitely-spent money. The argument is that we could refund a future plane or conference ticket having already claimed it here through StartupChile, so getting ‘money for nothing’. This means I’m carrying another few thousand pounds of expenses that I can’t refund for at least another 6 weeks. Ho hum. Cashflow is king, I’m glad we had reserves when we flew out here.

Emily notes that the next application round opens soon, I know that Round 3 starts to arrive in a week’s time. I hope everyone who is already here updates the wiki so the obvious newbie questions that we asked don’t get repeated all over again!

Talking of PyCon – I’m pretty excited to be teaching High Performance Computing 1 this year. I’ve made some updates from last year’s course and I’ll get to tell some stories this year as we’re using this tech in StrongSteam. Getting to catch up with Travis (numpy originator), Fijal (numpypy in PyPy) and others will be rather awesome. I’ve also accepted a teaching position for EuroSciPy in August.

StrongSteam continues to develop. We’re still not taking on alpha users, we’re focusing on our first client from London until the end of March and then we’ll invite people to come play with our first bit of tech. In April we release our first iPhone app – it’ll let you take photographs of Latin plant labels at botanical gardens, we’ll then match them using Optical Character Recognition and vision techniques to a database of plants and give you information, pictures and videos (via WikiPedia, GeoSpecies and BBC:Wildlife) in return. We’re working with Kasabi (data partner announce) as our data partner.

Everything is backed by Python, our third member (Balthazar Rouberol @baltorouberol) joins us this week and he’ll wrap the client API as a Python package so we can start to distribute it to users who have joined our announce list (see our homepage).

We hope to expand this tech to make a similar app for use at the London Science Museum – getting videos and schematics for all the wonderful devices at the Science Museum direct to the smartphone seems like a wonderful way to enhance a trip (Steam Engines puffing! Babbage’s machines calculating!). We’re really excited to see what devs can do once they can reliably match text from labels, plaques and information cards – despite noise, distortion and obstruction – to a database of matching entries. This should make for some fun mobile apps.

I’m also preparing to declare myself as ‘tribe leader’ for Data Mining here at StartupChile – this means our Data meetups will gather more of the Return Value Agenda points (the points you have to get to qualify for the $40k grant under the programme), it’ll also give me more reasons to go open doors at the local telecomms companies.

Ian is a Chief Interim Data Scientist via his Mor Consulting. Sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London and to hear about his data science thoughts and jobs. He lives in London, is walked by his high energy Springer Spaniel and is a consumer of fine coffees.