All posts by monkchips

About monkchips

37. dad. husband. industry analyst. Londoner.

It’s a Wrap like Aphrodite


So Monki Gras was all the fun! Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We had



We’ve finally sorted out all the video ready for your pleasure and delectation, and so we’re sharing the goods with you here. But it goes much further than that. The fact you came to Monkigras 2016 indicates you’re a friend of RedMonk, so you should be all the happy about some improvements we’re making to how we do things, based on LESSONS LEARNED.

First I want to give a heartfelt thanks to all our speakers. You were LIT!

That in mind we’re currently working on a website redesign, all the better to highlight the awesome talks at our events. Because our MAGNIFICENT SPEAKERS give talks you won’t see anywhere else. They make them CRISP like CRAFT CIDER. So we’re going to do a proper job of celebrating that with things like PROPER LIGHTING, MORE CAMERA ANGLES AND dare we say PRODUCTION VALUES.

But of course our events are really about the idea and story curation, design and craft experiences, the food, drink and the community. It’s about you. So thanks to our attendees and of course our epic and conscientious staff.

The theme worked – Homebrew: Turning Side Projects into Communities, Products and Companies. Tom Wilkie from Weaveworks won the inaugural Monkigras craft competition.

At the end of day two this year one of our attendees came up and said simply – “thanks, you made lightbulbs go off in my head.. In places which haven’t seen light for some time.”

That is incredibly humbling, why we do what we do, and want to do it even better.

Special thanks to Saffron and Anke, Ben, Jack, Rob and Dan – our production angels. Also Helgi, Lucy, Maya, and Handsome Rob. And of course our wonderful suppliers Company Drinks, Colemans Cider, Kernel and Drum Popcorn, The Kernel Brewery, Partizan Brewing, Aphrodite’s Food, Bow Food, Raw Cheese Power, Soffles Pitta Chips, Dark Arts Coffee, Hackney Lick Ice-cream and Mani Life Peanut Butter and ChicP Hummus.

Building a Startup in 45 Minutes per day While Deployed to Iraq

I came across this amazing story yesterday and wanted to share it with you, given our theme this year – turning side projects into communities, products and companues. Matthew Mazur built a startup while on active duty in Iraq, which he later parlayed into a role at Automattic. I was interested to learn that the US military actively encourages hobbies or side projects during downtime, which makes a huge amount of sense.

You may one day find yourself in a position where you’re eager to work on a startup but limited by the amount of time you can put into it due to a day job, family or other obligations. In this post I would like to share with you all the story behindLean Domain Search, a domain name generator that I built in about 45 minutes per day during a 5-month deployment to the Middle East. If you’re struggling to find time to put into your startup, I hope this convinces you that you can accomplish a lot over time by putting a small amount of work into it each day.

As for answering support requests from the field, well that’s pretty staggering.

We worked 12-hour days every day for the entire deployment including weekends. I need roughly 8-9 hours of sleep to function at full capacity which left me with about 3-4 hours at the end of each day to have a meal, exercise, shower, chat with my wife, hang out with my coworkers, unwind and maybe work on my side project. In practice, that usually was about 45 minutes per day. Sometimes more, but often not at all.

Fortunately, there were never any major issues with my other projects during the deployment. A few small bugs surfaced, but nothing that impacted many users. I still had access to my email so I could respond to support requests when I had time. And because I was working on the new domain name generator locally on my laptop, I could work on it without worrying that there would be issues in production

I take my hat off to Matthew. He really exemplifies the urge to create and maintain things. His post is well worth a read.

If you’re considering working on a startup but can’t make the leap to do it full time for whatever reason, remember that even a few hours per week can have a huge impact in the long run.

Stick with it. Amazing things can happen.

Renaissance Brewing: The Kernel Brewery, London

Our first confirmed speaker this year was Evin O’Riordain. Monki Gras has featured his beers before, but we’ve never persuaded him to speak though I have asked him a few times – he’s not exactly a marketing kind of person. This year however he volunteered to talk, which is a huge privilege. I think he appreciates what we’re trying to do. It’s a rare opportunity to see him speak.

I really love the Kernel philosophy, which is almost austere in its dedication to good taste.

This interview in the Manufacturer does a good job of capturing some of that way of thinking. He picks his customers, rather than the other way around.

British Guild of Beer Writers ‘Brewer of the Year’ 2011, vaunted across social media, wanted across both the continent and the Pacific, Kernel could easily export far greater volumes than they currently do.

However this would remove the quality control at the heart of the Bermondsey microbrewery.

O’Riordain isn’t necessarily concerned with reputation, his primary worry is how the product tastes when it reaches the lips of the consumer.

This approach may seem baffling to companies constantly seeking demand and looking for the next market to expand into, but the aim at Kernel is as simple as the label that adorns the bottle.

“We want people to drink better beer than they are,” says O’Riordain.

The problem with mass produced beer is that the taste becomes indifferent in order to sell to a wider market, claims the Irish-born brewer.

He also highlights the difference in quality when a beer has to travel across continents, believing most beer needs to be drunk “young and fresh” to realise its full potential.

As for coping with the demand, the Kernel man says the level of interest is beyond their capacity.

“We’ve been very lucky I suppose, though I like to think it’s more than luck sometimes, as our beers have always been well received.

“The demand for them is way higher than anything we can produce, it’s far beyond our capacity.”

O’Riordain believes the consumer experience should be enjoyable right through the supply chain. He looks to work with purchasers who appreciate the product.

“A lot of what I do is actually trying to control the demand, to make sure we pick the right people to work with, the right bars where I would want to go drink and that hopefully charge the right prices.”

Artisan food also tends to be a local affair, and The Kernel applies that to beer, which also ties into the small batch mentality.

Around 90% of what Kernel sell is in London and the decision to keep matters close to home is a conscious one.

The founder believes having a larger number of smaller breweries is better than having a couple of big ones. An abundance of local suppliers offers variety

The reality matches O’Riordain’s ideal with around 50 breweries in London and over 1,000 across the country.

Similar to local organic produce, consumers are catching up with local beers and the value of community support, alongside quality of produce.

“You see quite directly the interest people start to take in where their food comes from. The growth of farmer’s markets, people being able to buy really good quality food that’s often local, that they can buy directly from the person who grows it,” says O’Riordain.

Homebrew: the why

saint peter ale

I wanted a theme for 2016 that riffed off the idea of a Software and Crafts movement. Earlier this year Dave Letorey was talking about brewing beer for this year’s event, so Homebrew stuck.

That is, I had the theme early.

We’re in the age of the side project, in our industry because of open source dominance, so why not look at passion and sustainability and making beautiful things, not because its a job but because its a way of life.

There is nothing more purpose driven than homebrew, or baking, or knitting, or becoming a wine distributor. You do it because you love it, not because it’s convenient. There is something incredibly powerful about that.

Just as with software the brewing industry is being completely disrupted by the growth of microbreweries, many of which began as homebrew. Thus Evin O’Riordain, founder of The Kernel Brewery, one of our speakers this year, when he outgrew it gave his first set of equipment to the talented Mr Andy Smith at Partizan Brewing.

If you’re a regular Monki Gras Alumni you’ll likely remember Partizan for its excellent Fes Stout, which we gave away 2 years ago, with a lovely personalised label in the company’s house style, made by Alec Doherty.

partizan pale

I want to explore the side gig, the talented amateur, the people that make things because they have too. Oh and if you are a brewer it’s time to get your mash tun in now. We’re going to open the tasting up this year to people that love to brew. Please let me know if you make something else you’d like to introduce my lovely community too.


Nordics Win at Heavy Metal, not just software


From bigthink

Even if you barely know your Def Leppard from your Deep Purple, you won’t be surprised by the obvious point of this map: Scandinavia is the world capital of heavy metal music. Leaders of the pack are Finland and Sweden, coloured with the hottest shade of red. With 2,825 metal bands listed in the Encyclopaedia Metallum, the figure for Finland works out to 54.3 bands per 100,000 Finns (for a total of 5.2 million inhabitants [2]). Second is Sweden, with a whopping 3,398 band entries. For 9.1 million Swedes, that amounts to 37.3 metal bands per 100,000 inhabitants.

The next-hottest shade of red is coloured in by Norway [3] and Iceland. The Icelandic situation is interesting: with only 71 bands listed, the country seems not particulary metal-oriented. But the total population of the North Atlantic island is a mere 313,000. Which produces a result of 22.6 metal bands per 100,000 inhabitants. That’s almost the double, relatively speaking, of Denmark, which has a score of 12.9 (708 metal bands for 5.5 million Danes)

We confirmed our band for the Monki Gras evening party earlier. Not heavy metal, more punky that that. But The Franklys surely rock. How many tech conferences have all girl post punk bands, reindeer on the menu, and talks by top notch nordic developers about concepts like Lagom (“just enough” and the cloud) and talkoot (coming together communally to get the job done). You should come.

The Nordic Web joins us


Very happy to report that the inestimable Neil W S Murray, founder of The Nordic Web, journal of record for all things Northern is joining us at Monki Gras this year as a media and analysis partner. When it comes to tracking Nordic influences on the Web I am just a dilettante, whereas for Neil it’s a full time passion.

Neil will be presenting at Monki Gras, giving a feel for the current burst of Nordic startups activity, with plenty of data and insight. We’re pleased to welcome him into the fold.

His weekly newsletter tracks what’s going on in startups in the Nordics, and you should sign up here.

Creating a New Visual Identity for Sweden – a Monki Gras talk

sverige logos2

Soon after I started putting together the agenda for Monkigras 2015 I heard about the new Sweden Sans typeface, designed by MAC Rhino Fonts, as part of a project by the design agency Söderhavet to deliver a new unified brand identity for Sweden. Geeks generally love typography and great design, so I naturally had to ask Stefan Hattenbach, the typeface designer to talk at Monki Gras this year, given our theme. What I didn’t expect was that he would persuade Söderhavet to come along as well, to give us the full picture of the project, exposing the design process.

The brief – Sweden’s government asked us to develop a new identity for the country, to be used when communicating on behalf of Sweden. Our brief was to replace the many fragmented organizational identities of Swedish ministries, agencies and corporations with one integrated visual brand identity system, to unambiguously represent Sweden in the world.

The process – During the design process, we grappled with many questions, including: Which symbols best represent a country? How do we design a unified identity for use in extremely divergent contexts and on wildly different scales? Which parts of an identity should always be used, and which parts only in the right context? And how do we clarify when an organization is speaking on behalf of Sweden?

If you’re interested in the cultural role of design, at scale, you really don’t want to miss this talk. As ever at Monki Gras we’re as much about design, culture and craft as we are about code.

Get your tickets for Monki Gras here.

Cloud Computing in Finland – way ahead in the EU

No surprises really. Finland is a very advanced country when it comes to Internet use, but also building infrastructure to support it. This is why Monki Gras has a Nordic theme this year. You should come.