TagsAngel investor Apple BBC Business Business and Economy Business plan Business School Cambridge Cambridge Cluster Cambridge University Cobra Beer Company Cornwall Cumbria Energy England entrepreneur Facebook Financial Services Food and Related Products Fred Wilson Funding Google HBOS Investment IPhone Lake District London MBA Microsoft Mobile phone Pasty Scotland Shopping Silicon Valley Small Business Twitter UK United Kingdom United States University of Cambridge venture capital Virgin Media Y Combinator YouTube
Monthly Archives for December 2008
Image via WikipediaThe DT has an article on Dolphin Music in its series on Diary of…. Jason Tavaria and Rob Williams started Dolphin Music whilst students and have come a long way in ten years. Dolphin sells music equipment and has a turnover of £13million and employs 65 people.
Interestingly Dolphin was started as an Internet business and has recently opened shops in Liverpool, Tyne and Huddersfield whereas many others companies are looking to move the other way. As one of fastest (11th) growing business in the UK, they have experienced the inevitable growing pains and are now seeking new challenges by expanding into Europe. Of course the current financial woes might change their plans, I guess.
Dolphin has a good, simple website with many “calls to action”. However as a business, Dolphin Music has lots of physical stock and must have a very busy mail room dispatching all those large and heavy bits of equipment.
I wonder if they have a business plan resource and considered VC investment which would strengthen their balance sheet and their management?
If you were going to go into the music business these days, would you not prefer an Internet download business with no stock or language problems and no returns? But at least these youngsters show it can be done!
Image via WikipediaWhat better way of finishing the year than a walk with John Morrell, the best walking guide in the Lake District. With strong winds in the weather forecast on the tops and rain later, John decided on a walk from Patterdale, over Beda Fell (just behind Place Fell) down to Martindale and back along Ullswater to the car.
We started the walk across the valley to the trekking stables where the kids spent a wonderful and very wet day many years ago. Then it was slowly up to Beda Fell with glorious views over the fells and Hellvelyn. We expected it to be a quiet day but we came across a number of walkers and some ten rather earnest people taking their Mountain Leadership test. Lucky them, they were to camp out in the rain and I hope they found a site sheltered from the strengthening winds. Soon we could see Martindale below with the two churches and one of the oldest yew trees in the country.
I remembered taking a young american girl to Martindale forty years ago and think it was to the older and smaller church. John and I were looking for a memorial to a local lad lost in the war and a friend of my Father. We found the beautiful window dedicated to the crew of the H.M.S.Glorious, sunk in Norwegian waters in 1940. There are brave men and women today fighting for freedom and brave today and so good to remember them amidst all the news of delinquent city kids today. The window is described as “The ship lies along the length of the window cleaving the seas, with the stars of heaven above”.
Outside we met a group of young ladies from Flixton Girls’ High School, Urmston, Manchester who were spending a week at Ullswater Outward Bound. They were very chatty and looking forward to a dry bed after spending a night under canvas – just a pity that they had not visited either church.
On the walk back from Martindale, we saw a lovely cottage to rent and then met another group of Flixton girls coming down from the fells – happy to be away from city life and enjoying the countryside. They were led by David from Ullswater Outward Bound who had taken them caving at Ingleton the day before.
Then we went for a drink at the Kirkstone Pass Inn but it was closed. I wonder what sort of business plan resource the owners use. The Queen’s Head, Troutbeck, made us very welcome and then it was back to Ambleside to plan walks to keep me fit so I can join John on his one week walk in the Spring.
What a way to end 2008 with lots of fresh if rather damp air, the best of the young and memories of my Father and brave, brave young men.
PS Thanks to Frog in the Fields for the spelling alert – I prefer typo!
Image by Getty Images via DaylifeFor the last week and more, British Gas has kindly let me survive at home without central heating. It was fun at first to combat the freezing weather in one warmish room and then, just like in the old days, go upstairs, dress for bed (with hat). It is difficult being the warmest thing in a room. Luckily I was saved by Gavin, a charmer from British Gas, who replace the heat exchanger. The old one, really only a few months old, had been clogged up when they flushed out the pipes unwittingly using he heat exchange as the filter! It made me wonder about the carbon savings of installing very energy efficient systems but which are not robust and need to be replaced after the slightest glitch. This fancy boiler will not last twenty years and will be carbon poor.
With a warm home I can now enjoy my 20mb broadband connection with Virgin Media and look forward to the soon to be announced upgrade to 50mb. Broadband is as essential to my life as central heating. No doubt people in the sixties would have asked if they needed to spend the money and were happy keeping one room hot with a coal fire.
Currently, broadband is seen as a luxury and broadband market growth has slowed to 0.5% now from 37% in the last five years leading to a society split between the haves and the have nots.
The Cambridge Cluster needs to develop a “must have” reason for broadband so that people see it as an essential and the prices must keep coming down. So what will be the “TV” moment when everyone realises that they could not live without broadband and the pipes run hot? If not, we are going to have many youngsters who are not part of “The Cloud” generation and who will find it difficult to get jobs.
We have the business plan resource and now we need the idea!
Glad that I am not the only one to feel the pain of this recession which is washing-out so many of the early stage investors. Perhaps Doug Richards will fade away from the Cambridge Cluster as quickly as he arrived. I still have not forgiven him for throwing my Yomp cards on the floor all those years ago. Perhaps if he had used the Yomp as a business plan resource then all would have been well at Library House. It was always a very strange business model as it was so very labour intensive. Helping to produce the database for Equity Fingerprint taught me the vast value of data – it is so expensive to collect.
Mind you I see that our friend Fred Wilson of avc.com has just invested in AMEE. They use software to aggregate data from the web – these are special spiders which do not need feeding or rest! There are a number of organisations with the title AMEE – wonder how this one ended up with the .com?
Artimi and Staccato announce that they have taken the best they have to offer to merge into a new entity with the latter’s name for strategic reasons. They are backed by a “whose who “of the best VCs in the Ultra Wide Band (UWB) field :Allegis Capital
Amadeus Capital Partners
Charles River Ventures
Noble Venture Finance
Oak Investment Partners
A total of $20million was raised to kick-start the merger and the news that “WiQuest and Intel recently shut down their UWB” programmes. Presumably Intel will fold their work into the New Stoccato.
As an Angel Investor in Artimi I have privileged information so all this is from the press release. It certainly will make an interesting study using a business plan resource.
Image via WikipediaAlan Hansen writes about Roy Keane and says that “I guess, like Paul Ince at Blackburn and even Gianfranco Zola at West Ham, Keane is beginning to understand that if you’ve played at any of the top clubs you have to realise that the players you manage will not be as good as you and they might not have the same hunger and desire”.
The same can be said of entrepreneurs in the Cambridge Cluster. It is nice to be modest and talk about luck but some of these founders do not want to do the hard yards. In one of my angel investment companies, another of the founders has just decided to make a “career change”.
Bet if he had made the business hum, there would be no moving on. Bet he keeps his shares so we now have nearly one third of the equity lost to two quitters. No wonder the VCs tie in the equity to results when they use their business plan resource.
Fred Wilson has been pushing his latest investment in Boxee which is like a portal for all your music and entertainment sites.
So I downloaded the alpha release and found it hard work. It filled up my screen and all I could think was that no one at Boxee has watched a non-geek download and open up and start clicking.
I am sure that it will be a great product as Fred Wilson is ahead of the game. I told him that I was happy to be in his fan club but he was modest and demurred and said he was a fan of mine – some chance! Go to www.avc.com to ask to join the alpha trial or else you join the bottom of the queue and have to wait for weeks.
Let me know when the beta trial starts and I will have another go!
Image via WikipediaYvonne and I took late morning tea at the well established Polly Tea Rooms of Marlborough and a glimpse of the “Ladies who lunch” as Polly’s went up a gear for the well-healed customer after noon. Established in 1932, Polly Tea Rooms is reckoned to be one of the top places of its kind in the UK. The tables were close together and the radiator leaked. It was strange because you were given your bill and asked to pay at the cake stall at the entrance. Some of the customers were very demanding but the soup was good. It was busy so not the quietest place in town but the mobility scooter was safe outside.
Afternoon tea was taken, sounds posh!, at The Tart, Gloucester Road, Bristol. Tart has been open for a few weeks and is run by Mother and Daughter, Jennie and Ellen. Both have left the cosy world, in financial terms, of working for the public sector as social workers. The website is called lovelytart.com and would have made a better name than Tart which is written in a strange font so it looks like “harte” so an anogram of heart.
Jennie and Ellen have found a top chef who produces lovely food and the design is smart with a party room at the end. The chef likes the family friendly hours of a tea house that closes at 6pm. When I saw a party of young, excited, girls arriving I feared for my peace and quiet but they were happy in the function room. Most of the tables were full of ladies enjoying the afternoon. No Wi-Fi seemed to be on offer.
So two businesses at two very different stages. Will Tart last for 76 years? Does Tart have something which could be franchised? Which business plan resource do they use? Will public sector employees enjoy the long hours of the entrepreneur and learn to smile?
Image via WikipediaThe daughter and I were walking along Gloucester Road in Bristol when we met Robert Uphill. Robert is an engaging young man and has just joined the ranks of the self-employed. He has got his first contract and is/was in the process of registering a company and website under the name Robert Uphill. But he had met the right people! We suggested he had a dream of building a bigger business and needed to have a name and website such as Uphill Associates.
Then we started to dream and suggested he explored the business schools at Bath and Bristol and the resources available to help him produce a business plan with a dream of building a technology company similar to the ones in the Cambridge Cluster. I also pointed out how much he must earn to have parity with the total package offered to the public sector – around three times salary. That gave him something to think about.
As we were dreaming a nice young man asked us to move away from his jewellry shop as he was about to close the shutters. We got talking and all he said was that the taxes in the UK were too high. He wanted to jump in a lorry to get out of this country! He quite put our friend off starting a business!
And then the Daughter and I crossed the road and entered a Hi-Fi shop were a very pleasant young man with an easy going manner gave us a demonstration of Bose products. Just got to hope that they will have a good sale in 2009 and I can blast my iPhone.
So a quick walk along the Gloucester Road, Bristol, is recommended to entrepreneurs.