Newicon’s Day Of Innovation At TEDxBristol 2019

How to start a startup with Bristol’s most inspiring people After being asked to host an interactive experience at Europe’s largest TEDx event — TEDxBristol — we realised that we needed to do something special. Inspired by the big thinkers that give the TED talks, we came up with the crazy idea to start a […]

Astra Baker

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
·11 min read (2858 words)

How to start a startup with Bristol’s most inspiring people

After being asked to host an interactive experience at Europe’s largest TEDx event — TEDxBristol — we realised that we needed to do something special. Inspired by the big thinkers that give the TED talks, we came up with the crazy idea to start a startup during the event. It began as a bit of a joke, but we quickly realised it was actually the perfect challenge for us.

We spend our day-jobs helping people invent new products, services and tools. We believe that you can’t do anything great without trying something new. Doing something new is exciting, but it also involves risk. We wanted to show that we can walk the walk and take risks on the day. 

We wanted to show that we can invent something new, under pressure and without knowing exactly what the outcome was going to be. Alongside the people of TEDxBristol, we were going to start a startup in a day. 

The event

We arrived at TEDxBristol 2019 ready to tackle the challenge. Excited for a day of inspiring talks and interesting people, we set up our stand alongside the many other businesses in the experience room and waited for the doors to open.

1. The problems (Reflect)

The first step of any new business (or startup) is to solve a problem — and that’s how we started the day.  All we needed was a problem to solve. The theme of TEDxBristol 2019 was Reflect, Rethink, Reboot, so we divided the day into three sections. So, to find a problem, we asked the people of TEDxBristol to Reflect on their lives — to find problems they wanted to see solved. And we had a few rules to make things run smoothly…


The rules for finding a problem

  1. Reflect on your own life and personal experience.
  2. Be specific. (e.g. don’t say “climate change” instead say “reduce Co2 emissions from cars in the UK”).
  3. There are no bad ideas, no problem too small.

And so, with these rules in mind, we asked people to put their ideas onto Post-it notes on our Reflect Board.

Some examples of the problems people suggested were (large and small):

2. The solutions (Rethink)

The second stage was to start solving these problems. Everyone seemed excited by the ideas on the board and started suggesting solutions almost immediately. The problem solvers stood out from the crowd and helped us think differently and re-think the problems to help generate unique solutions. 


Solving problems

Interlude: “I see more problems” 

Interestingly, we had some people who had reservations about the idea of coming up with solutions to these problems. One person said “you see solutions, I just see more problems”. This is a valid point. When you create new ideas, new problems arise. The trick is understanding how to deal with this and there’s not just one answer.

For starters, uncovering new problems is an inevitability. It’s actually an essential part of the process. As you move through a problem, you will find more and more challenges. If you assume this is an issue, you won’t get off the line. The key is simply to start. Your goal is to rapidly create and prototype ideas, and by doing this, you uncover the real complexities of the project and its potential solutions.

Uncovering new challenges takes you closer to creating a solution that actually works. It can be seen as a positive thing. It is an indicator that you are starting to deeply understand the problem. Once you have understood it deeply enough, you can create a solution that tackles the real heart of the issue.

It is also a crucial mindset to be positive in the face of new adversities. Negative thinking too early on can kill a project. We are not suggesting ignorance or blindly assuming everything will be okay, but problem solvers should approach a project with curiosity and confidence. To some degree, you need a quiet confidence in the fact that if you are creative and flexible enough, any challenge can be solved. 

The reality is, most solutions aren’t a silver bullet. They are often an aggregation of lots of small problems being solved. In the end, a groundbreaking innovation may look like one solution, but was actually a process of uncovering and solving hundreds of small problems. 

Finally, a major key to success is expertise. You need the right people in the room and you want that to be a diverse team of creative problem solvers. As more problems are uncovered, you need to apply creative thinking, engineering, problem solving, technical knowhow, industry specific knowledge, primary and secondary research, human-centred design and more. The goal is to craft the team that gives you the best chance of success and solve all the problems you will find along the way. 

3. The wireframes (Reboot)

The first step of any real solution is the wireframe. You transition from talking about a problem, to really creating solutions, features, benefits, user flows, user stories and more. 


With all of our clients (and in the innovation kit), we get clients to move away from long lists of requirements, long documentation and long meetings and instead get visual as soon as possible. The moment the conversation transitions from hypothetical discussions to visually creating actual screens, the real problem solving has begun. 

With this in mind, we chose two ideas to take forward to the wireframe stage. This doesn’t mean that the other ideas weren’t worth following up on, just that we didn’t have time to do all of them!

Startup idea #1: Hyper-local pollution reduction tools


Pollution in bristol is high and bad for our health.


A mobile app with a range of features helping commuters, cyclists, families and more to track pollution where they are and make smarter decisions about their journeys and locations. This could be linked with an existing pollution tracking device or we create a new one to help people understand the pollution around them. This data could also be fed into councils and organisations influencing policy decisions and the app could be used to bring communities together to make larger pollution decisions about their community  


Parents, people with health concerns, councils, cyclists, commuters — walkers or drivers, people with concern about home or workplace pollution.

Benefits to users

Improve your commute, plan your journeys to avoid pollution, improve the air quality in your home or workplace, influence councils or policy decisions, improve health, optimise commute, warning of high pollution or notification of low pollution, sign petitions and influence people, we could tie in data for about impact of weather. The app could also benefit councils with hyper-local data.

The details

The solution requires a portable device to monitor air pollution levels that pulls the information into an app. That app aggregates data, provides recommendations and offers big data sets to councils.

The solution could collect data in a number of ways — from open-source data, existing devices or our own device. You can then capture and aggregate hyper-local pollution information and offer user friendly tools and recommendations to users. 

The key is that the tools are useful enough that people collect that data about their local area. This individual information aggregates together to create a large data set that is more useful, predictive and could be analysed by data scientists or AI algorithms.


Who do we need help from?

Pollution experts, product makers, people who can make pollution detection devices (or already have one), councils. 

How to differentiate?

We could focus in on cyclists, commuters or families.

Interested in this project?

If you’re interested in this project, get in touch. We’d need a collection of pollution experts, passionate do-ers and investors to make this a reality.  If you’re passionate about this topic and could help fund it, you can get in touch here.

Startup idea #2: Education equality


Education inequality due to a lack of afterschool education or tutoring for low income kids.


An afterschool education volunteer platform that links tutors and children. It makes it easy to volunteer, manage your time, find and sign up local volunteer tutors, collects donation, link children with free tutors and provide booking tools. It also allows children to find the tutor they want with location and availability information. 


  1. Parents/carers of children/young people from low-income backgrounds.
  2. The children themselves. 
  3. Adults offering skills/knowledge.

User 1: Parents

User 2: Young person

User 3: Volunteers



Edunetics, Afterschool Equality, Free learn.

Who do we need help from?

Schools, education experts and consultants, children safety experts, initial volunteers, youth organisations, teachers. 

Interested in this project?

If you’re interested in this project, get in touch. We’d need a collection of education experts, passionate do-ers and investors to make this a reality. If you’re passionate about this topic and could help fund it, get in touch at our contact details here.

All in one day.

And that was it. In one day we went from having no ideas, no solutions and no startups to dozens of ideas and solutions and two projects that have started their journey to becoming a fully fledged startup. Would there be more problems along the way? Yes. Would the business grow into a huge success? We don’t know. But one of the hardest parts of a new business has been done…the journey has started.

What next?

From this point, we would transition into our full UX and UI architecture process. That would mean turning this idea into a real, clickable prototype and then onto development. 

As we said earlier, for this to become a reality we would need some funding but  if we found a team interested enough in taking these projects on and able to help fund the next stages we are willing to offer our own investment into the project as well. We look forward to hearing from you, we look forward to running this event again and we look forward to the next TEDxBristol. 



I'm Astra Baker

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Newicon

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