Hack Horizon seeking applicants for hackathon in the air

If the usual hackathon doesn’t get you excited, how about one that takes place  11 miles up in the stratosphere (meaning, yes, you might have to talk to the stranger whose knee is touching yours)?

As lofty as it sounds, this is what the organisers of Hack Horizon are offering. Over 3 days, 32 successful applicants will be invited to build new products that can make travel simple, safer, cheaper and fun – and the highlight of this “journey” is a 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to London. It’s digital nomadism on steroids, passing through the air space of China, Mongolia and Russia, among other states.

Of course, there is an underlying purpose to all of this. Through experiencing a journey end to end, participants will be able to test their  assumptions on other customers, while presumably proceeding with caution in the air, as few people would like to be interrupted by a wide-eyed product designer while watching Iron Man vs King Kong Part II.

As Hack Horizon explains on their website:

Hack Horizon will completely immerse you in the travel experience and give you access to real life customers to test your assumptions right off the bat. What’s more is, that you will be granted special access to some of the best travel technologies and APIs out there as well as have the support and mentorship of leading industry experts.

The trip furthermore continues beyond touchdown. From arrival at Heathrow, Hack Horizon participants will spend the afternoon and evening working from TravelTech Lab in London, once they have discovered the joys of the capital’s transport system. They will then spend another day of hacking and final preparations before pitching before entrepreneurs and the media at the London Transport Museum.

If you are reading this far and have applied successfully for Hack Horizon, here are my gripes thoughts as a regular traveller – these are problems that simply won’t go away, no matter how many times you flush:

  • Airline websites. Many are incredibly frustrating to use
  • Airline food. It was bad before. It still is bad, irrespective of class
  • Reclining seats in Economy. No longer a good idea
  • Manners. Passenger etiquette seems to have been sucked out of the window in recent years
  • Retail. Would airports please stop treating me as a shopper? I’m a passenger trying to find my gate, sometimes as quickly as possible
  • Gimmicks – travel is full of them, from priority boarding to the mobile boarding pass
  • Airport security, a borderline humiliating experience. This has to improve

And here are things we don’t need –  so don’t even think about it:

  • Another novelty in-flight safety video featuring hobbits, football players, or whatever else springs to mind after a caffeine-fuelled sleepless night
  • An in-flight social network
  • An in-flight messaging app
  • People yabbering on their phone in the air

Good luck to all applying. It sounds completely bonkers – but whatever it takes to make flying an experience we can all look forward to again.

Are you a British entrepreneur moving to China? The Media Pioneers wants to hear from you

China is the new land of opportunity these days, from tourism to tech (Facebook is trying very hard to get in and Snap is reportedly eyeing a way in).

It’s also a tough nut to crack, with some American companies already deciding their big China opportunity is over. Some brands get it hopelessly wrong, and some people lose it completely.

As such, Chinese adventures make compelling television, as programmes like An Idiot Abroad confirm (though Karl Pilkington’s experiences were not a patch on mine). As luck would have it, TV production company The Media Pioneers is looking to hear from budding entrepreneurs who are leaving the UK to start a business in China for the purpose of chronicling their journey.

At a time when shows like The Apprentice feels passé (why start a business in London when you can have a go in the world’s second biggest economy?) and Brexit supposedly means Brexit, now feels a good moment to turn the spotlight on entrepreneurs in Shanghai rather than Shoreditch.

If interested, email: ubutt@themediapioneers.co.uk or mliang@themediapioneers.co.uk (and good luck!).

London perceived as the world’s best city, PwC report shows

London phone box

City rankings are all the rage these days. This year we have seen surveys from Mercer, the EIU and Monocle. Any day now, I’m expecting to see the World’s Best Cities to Celebrate the Festive Season (with the likes of Vienna emerging top again).

Most recently, PwC have joined the throng, revealing the world’s Best Cities as voted for by the public across a range of factors such as politics, food, happiness, culture and business. The report was conducted in collaboration with BAV Consulting, polling 5,200 decision makers, informed elites and other members of the public from 16 countries (I’m not sure why so few countries were targeted) in December 2015.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the so-called “world cities” that dominate international affairs and fill column inches that have won most recognition. They have a left an imprint on the public consciousness.

London (which enjoys by far most media attention in the UK) is seen as the world’s greatest city, with perennial superbrands Paris and New York completing the top three:

    1. London
    2. Paris
    3. New York
    4. Amsterdam
    5. Sydney
    6. Berlin
    7. Tokyo
    8. Toronto
    9. Stockholm
    10. Los Angeles

It’s hard to see London displaced any time soon. Brexit is unlikely to hurt London’s ranking, a question posed by PwC in their report. The UK capital has a history of battling through crises. More than anything, its capacity to remain resilient and reinvent itself throughput the years underlines its appeal, like all successful brands.

Yet while the traditional triumvirate are seen as the most influential, they might not necessarily be the most liveable cities. Young people are keen to move away from expensive cities, and from London in particular.

PwC’s findings are especially interesting as a report was released in parallel showing how cities were performing in “reality”, based on hard facts instead of perception. The report, Cities of Opportunity, showed that while London came top again, Singapore and Toronto emerged second and third best, respectively:

  1. London
  2. Singapore
  3. Toronto
  4. Paris
  5. Amsterdam
  6. New York
  7. Stockholm
  8. San Francisco
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Sydney

It appears that Hong Kong and Singapore have an image problem!