By Brigette Currin 4 minute read

We’re so pleased to share with you that the Brandbank-led team won this year’s SyncTheCity event in Norwich.

During last weekend’s hackathon, Brandbank staff worked with local developers, designers and business people to produce “Pantry”, the intelligent shopping list which listens to its users, can recommend healthy options and reminds you to buy milk when you’re out and about.

SyncTheCity is a 54-hour start-up weekend jointly run by SyncNorwich and UEA, designed to bring together local digital creatives, product developers, software engineers and business people, and run a competition that facilitates new business ideas and models that make use of digital technologies. This is the third year in a row that it’s taken place, and this year’s impressive turn-out of 120 people made for a really busy and exciting atmosphere.

Brandbank was one of this year’s technical sponsors – for while we’ve grown into an international digital organisation, Norwich is our home town and Head Office location, making SyncNorwich a cause close to our heart. And it just so happened that two of our employees, Chris Ballard, Data Scientist and Stuart Tottle, Lead Developer, had been working on an idea which could completely re-imagine the routine of grocery shopping.

The event kicked off with the initial quick-pitch round, in which an incredible 29 ideas were pitched and then shortlisted to 12 by everyone participating in the event by placing voting tokens in a cup. Delighted to have made the cut first time around, we set about recruiting our team of enthusiastic and savvy volunteers with whom we would research, design, develop and ultimately present our product in 50 hours’ time.

Having gotten to know each other’s strengths, we split into smaller teams, each with a key role. How was the UI going to look? How could we ensure that the voice recognition system would tie in practical advice and recommendations? We needed a name, a target market, a value proposition! We met every few hours to review each other’s work and check we were all on the same page.

While the hackathon was well underway in the main auditorium, the organisers had also arranged a day of startup seminars delivered by prominent business leaders and innovators in the local area. Speakers included Tom Hacziewski from The User Story, who offered some insight on improving user experience and design interfaces. Sandler Training CEO Ermine Amies shared her extensive experience in approaching prospects, time management and strategy development, while Tom Wood proffered some pearls of wisdom following his story of staking his savings on start-up venture Foolproof, now a highly successful design agency operational in Norwich, London and Singapore.

After two and a half days of hard work, Saturday evening rolled around and it was time for the 12 groups to make their final pitch. Since the quick-pitch round, our initial idea had acquired a name, target customer segments, a user interface, basic functions, the ability to listen, and a revenue model – and we had to show all of this in five minutes. Watch the Pantry pitch here, delivered by Ben Jest.

We’re incredibly honoured that the judges selected Pantry as the winning venture, especially given the calibre of the other ideas pitched. We would also like to congratulate Hector Help, which received the People’s Choice Award! Hoping to launch in 2017, Hector Help is designed to provide bullied children a voice for when they are too scared to speak up.

What will happen now?

There are a few conversations to be had. The SyncTheCity team is reuniting next week to discuss Pantry’s next steps, and the Brandbank leadership team is keen to learn how the app works and how Brandbank can support the venture.


Brandbank (a Nielsen company) is one of the world’s largest providers of trusted digital product content for ecommerce sites, mobile shopping apps and virtual merchandising applications.

With 20 years’ experience in ecommerce content, Brandbank maximises the impact of online products, while minimising the cost and effort to retailers and suppliers. We create high quality content that fuels ecommerce success for our customers, while creating a rich online shopping experience.

Reproduced, with kind permission of

Katie Ford, Brandbank Head of Marketing

Images used with kind permission of Tim Stephenson.