Tag Archives for Google

Tr.im goes dark without angels

This was written before Tr.im reversed the decision and decided to keep open.  However the issues discusses are still valid – no money, no business.

Tr.im announces that it is ceasing the service of trimming the size of a URL.  The blog post says that they have not been able to find a way of making money out of tr.im (I do not like the word monetise) and they are being hit by the cost of running and developing the system.  They have lost out in the race to provide the service to Twitter.

Duncan Bannatyne of Dragons’ Den fame says that the he has lost count of the times he has said “It’s not a business, so I’m out”.  He means that “any budding entrepreneur must have a robust business plan and clear profit-making projections for their enterprise to stand a chance of success”.

The Dragons only pick the easy companies in which to invest; ones with sales and profits.  The flaw normally being that the entrepreneur does not have what it takes to turn the initial success into a large company.  This gives the Dragons easy pickings after the really hard yards have been won.

It will be sometime, if ever, before the Dragons have the nerve to join the angels in Cambridge – you do not have to be a member of the Cambridge Angels – backing ideas a long way from the market and the with sketchy business plans.  It is a very high risk world investing in people and technologies ahead of the game.  It would be fun to present a Google, Flickr or Twitter type deal to the Dragons let alone ARM, CSR and ARTVPS.

But where we can agree with Bannatyne is his condemnation of smoking.  Seen as fun when I was young, the consequences are well known nowadays.  Bannatyne quotes figures of 20% of the population (presumably the UK and not his beloved Scotland) smoking with many more affected by passive smoking.

In the geek world in Cambridge, smoking is almost taboo so perhaps we do have something in common with those fearsome dragons after all even if we may have to tr.im their egos!

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The joys of Cambridge and farewell John

Image representing Robert Scoble as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase

On the day that this is published, I will be walking up Snowdon thinking of a very special person who we lost a few days ago, the Rev John Sweet of Selwyn College.  He helped my niece when she was undecided as to whether or not to take her studies seriously.  Gentle guidance was the key.  As I get older, I wonder whether to move from Cambridge but then I remember the special people in Cambridge like John.

Take last Friday;  I had an invitation to lunch with NW Brown, although finance is not always inspiring these days.  Just before I cycled into town, I read a Tweet saying that Robert Scoble, better known as the Scobleizer, was at a meeting of Travelling Geeks at the old CUP buildings.  Robert was here four years ago when he was Microsoft’s Technical Evangelist.  He now promotes new technology companies using social networks to spread the message.  As I cycled along Mill Lane, they were breaking for lunch, and I managed to talk my way past reception, fought my way through the crowd and shook his hand.  Amazingly he remembered me but his suggestion that I should join SecretScoble on Twitter by giving him a direct message from his FriendFeed account left me a little bemused.  I will try but it is better to press the flesh.

On to lunch; NW Brown operate from smart offices on Regent Street with a reception area once described as being like a dentist’s waiting reception – no flash and fish tanks.  It was like going back in time to be escorted up to the panelled dining room and to be greeted by the Deputy Chairman, Marcus Johnson.  NW Brown is a passive equity company operating from the one office.  I knew that the Cambridge Evening News had reported a recent change of control so I had done my homework, read the bios of those attending and looked at the latest accounts.  It is a very profitable and succeessful business employing nearly one hundred people.  The interesting comment in the Deputy Chairman’s report was that they had disposed of the non-core businesses investing in the Active Equity Companies which are at the centre of the Cambridge Cluster.  As I know to my own cost, investing in new cluster companies is a not an easy business.  The of each requires careful scrutiny.

Marcus is very different from the stereotype business people we see on the TV who star in Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice.  His short bio lists that he has spent “over 30 years in the investment industry” so I was a little confused as to how he had bought out Nigel Brown.  I waited until the third course to say rather pompously that no one else present, according to the bios, had started a business.  At this Finance Director Phil Burke smiled  and stated “Marcus has”.  I took out my list of bios and read them more carefully and then the penny dropped.  Mr Burke also had “over 30 years in the investment industry”.  It turned out that Messrs Johnson and Burke had worked together for many years and then had decided there was a little gem in Cambridge with a founder looking for a change.  As with the shaving company, they liked it so much they bought it!

I felt rather humble.  These quiet self-effacing people at the table (ably supported by the long serving, 33 years, Ron Dart and key Cambridge networker Hugh Parnell) were not dreamers of the type who start Active Equity Companies but highly experienced, very successful operators who know how to turn a profit out of a very focused business.  One might describe them as a breath of fresh air in the cluster; people used to selling and looking after customers face to face.  I gather that Marcus has another persona when he dons his Chief Executive hat but he was all smiles today!

As coffee was served I took a glance at the hardly touched bottles and wished I had a doggy bag with me. How different from the days when we had proper lunches.

The Deputy Chair (or was he wearing his Chief Executive hat?) allowed me to demonstrate DuoFertility (in which I am an angel investor) and all provided excellent advice which I passed on to the company.  A proud Sarah Squire, President of Hughes Hall, said that DuoFertility was founded by three of her student.  It is always a small world in Cambridge.  The meal finished by Marcus kindly offering the use of a downstairs office on Regent Street, which has busy footfall, to DuoFertility for a Saturday so it looks as though the company could be having an infertility day of talking to customers.

So with my mind in a whirl, I rushed off to DuoFertility to collect the sales brochures for my forthcoming presentation to the fertility clinic at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.  I am now a part-time drugs rep trying to be more than a passive angel investor.  Such fun to be going from an established business to a start-up in one afternoon; the joys of Cambridge.  At the weekend I heard that another angel investor in DuoFertility, social network guru Geoff Jones(just back from three months in South America) had arranged for the Scobleizer to video DuoFertility founder, Shamus Husheer.

Entrepreneurs now have another High Table to gather round and I urge you all to cultivate an invitation and listen and learn.  But we in the Cambridge Cluster must never forget that our opportunities are built on academics like John Sweet who give so readily of their time to encourage and guide the young and we, in our modest way, must always follow their example.  Let us banish those who glory in “Back to back meetings”.

PS For those who missed the article on my visit to Cornwall, please read and comment at www.cambridgecluster.com

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Physiotherapist in Ambleside and Windermere for knees.

Windermere - from the northImage via Wikipedia

We live in a daft world these days with people in the NHS running scared of providing a rounded public service in case they come a cropper.My old knees are grumbling so where better place to take them than the Ambleside surgery.  “Please can you give me the name of a local physiotherapist or sports therapist, I asked”.  The receptionist replied “No can do in case we are seen to be endorsing the therapists”.  I also noticed that the surgery no longer lends wheel-chairs but refers you to Kendal which is miles away.  Strange as last year the surgery was very helpful and lent Yvonne a wheel-chair.  We had the puncture repaired and returned it after a few days.  I guess now that they are terrified of endorsing a wheel-chair.  It is time that people in the NHS stood up to all this nonsense and provided the service we require, especially in a holiday area.

A very nice patient who was leaving the surgery suggested I tried Boots.  None of the staff could help – they did try – but I was saved by a nice customer who said there was an excellent physiotherapist at the Low Wood Hotel leasure complex.

So Janet Smedley, chartered physiotherapist of Ambleside and Windermere, eased my aching joints and I am most grateful.

However Grant Dain, internet marketing Cambridge, could certainly help improve her website.  She has a nice image with all her contact details so no wonder Google cannot index her and I struggled to find her.

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Is Facebook getting ready to float?

Tagging: Maldives StyleImage by nattu via Flickr

The Equity Fingerprint of Facebook is a social network on its own and has just been increased by those nice people from ConnectU who claim to have come up with the idea in the first place.  However the “office boy” went on to fame and fortune (see my earlier post) with Facebook.  As part of a court settlement, the “office boy” has settled a lawsuit with his former Harvard college room-mates, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, receiving $20million in cash and 1,253,326 shares worth a further $11million based on the company’s own valuation.  Facebook was valued at $3.7bn, down from the$15bn when Microsoft bought in for $240million.  If Facebook floats at the higher valuation, the founders of ConnectU will do very, very well and not by half.

It reminds me of the Google float when paper was issued to thank people who had “helped” the company get going.

So many companies that go the Active Equity Company route do have to keep shuffling the equity to keep it rewarding the current people and, if all goes well, the ones who come out of the cupboard.

I remember when Reid “Glug” Hoffman of LinkedIn came to Cambridge and said that although websites looked similar, it is the attention to the small details that differentiate one from the crowd and Zuckerberg certainly has that skill.

Apart from all the history, do the ConnectU founders really deserve their cut?  Would their site have ever reached 150million users and more?  Their idea was great but could they execute?  How would you feel if you were the founder of ConnectU?  Or the “office boy”?  It would make a great case study.

Dave Morin, who runs Facebook’s app team, on friendfeed Tweets: “Today we gave our 175,000,000th user the power to share and be more open and connected through Facebook. Awesome.” One of the comments: “Congrats to Facebook on reaching 175 million users. Amazing growth. – Robert Scoble”.

So Facebook is going for the 200million mark (zuc……).

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Gower Brothers of Jagex

Great St Mary's Church marks the centre of Cam...Image via WikipediaThe Gower brothers have not made much of a splash on the Cambridge Cluster scene but have quietly built up Jagex and the RuneScape game into a £200million business with reports saying that the brothers still own 52% of Jagex with Andrew Gower owning 38.5%.

Andrew has been building games virtually since coming into this world in 1978 but he had to wait until 2001 until he came up with the idea of RuneScape.  It was re-launched in 2004, after a re-write of the code, presumable to help the servers cope with the millions of users.

According to their website, Jagex has some 5.4million players active in the last two weeks.  If the subscription is some £5 per month that adds up to quite an income – no wonder they have been voted as one of the top 100 places to work.  Do they have “Google style” offices and perks such as top chefs, I wonder?

I cannot find much corporate information on the site but it says that Geoff Iddison, the former European CEO of PayPal, joined the company as CEO in October 2007   Was this there “Ed Schmidt moment” but without the back-up of the Google VCs?  There is an interesting interview with Geoff by Matt Martin.  Pity it is not a video interview as they use on the Huffington Post or Huffpo as Fred Wilson calls it. Do I need to buy and use an HD video camera?

No details on funding and I guess that they were funded by themselves from the income generated by the earlier games.  In which case why do the brothers “only” own 52% of the business? Were there any VCs or angels investors?  Did they use a business plan resource or did they just put in the “sweat” hours?

I hope that someone can persuade them to talk in the Cambridge Cluster soon.  But as I have said before, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the “talkers” and the “doers”.  Zemanta does not find much on Jagex so here is a picture of the heart of Cambridge which was covered in binary numbers last night.  It is about time we had a science and technology museum at the heart of Cambridge.

Somewhere on a dusty shelf in Cambridge is the tube JJ Thompson used to “see” electrons – really the first TV.  How many people know that Cambridge Cluster companies ARM and CSR power most mobile phones?  If the Gower brothers sell up and cannot find a college which needs a donation and a new name, how about The Gower Science and Technology Museum in a new wing of the Fitzwilliam Museum?


Much more detail on the comments and thanks for the help.  Why did the Gowers go to New York for funding when we have Amadeus in Cambridge and Index Ventures in London?  Geneva Technology also went to New York for funding and let us hope that Jagex does as well for the Cambridge Cluster and all who work here.

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7% spend misses 21% time

LC-A+ Is...Image by 摩根 via FlickrI should have posted about this earlier.  At the CUTEC conference a couple of months ago we were given these facts and told to build a business to address them.  Advertising spend in the USA is 7% on the Internet but people are spending 21% of their time on the web.  So the advertisers need a product to encourage them to move to the web.  But it does explain why so many people are now talking about buying on line – that is where they spend their time.  And when you have clicked, clicked and the product arrives virtually by return, you keep clicking.  Particularly with lower cost items as you save on time and save on fuel costs.  Groceries is my top example but I try to avoid the adverts to minimise the impulse buys!

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Friends of Facebook founder

Mark Zuckerberg f8 Keynote - Dave MorinImage by b_d_solis via FlickrIn the Telegraph Magazine of 19 July 2008, there is an interesting article on Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, detailing (again) how he has fallen out with college friends and others on the way to building Facebook.  It ends with a comment from Kara Swisher. a columnist on the Wall Street Journal “….The number of people he’s had problems with at a young age is remarkable- not in a good way.”.  I bet he would not have had the problems if he had not been so successful; in a variation of the old saying “Money keeps you in touch with your friends”.  As Reid “Glug” Hoffman said on his flying visit to Cambridge, it is easy to have the idea but so difficult to make it fly, something Facebook has certainly done.  Besides lots of different groups of people from pop stars to footballers who get very rich very quickly find life difficult, both family and professional so why should geeks by different.  ConnectU still only boasts 15,000 members at 200 colleges/universities.

The article gives some figueres of interest to Equity Fingerprint, the business plan resource, but omit any reference to an angel round in which Reid “Glug” Hoffman claimed to be an investor.  But now Facebook is registered in Delaware so it is difficult extract information unlike Companies House in the UK.  The details from the article show the normal chopping and changing of ownship in start-ups as people come and go and others do not stay close, very close to the action.

  1. Zuckerberg and his Harvard room-mate,  Saverin agree to invest$1,000 with ownership 2/3 to 1/3
  2. With the site taking off, ownership is now Z 65%; Saverin 30% and Moskovitz (around 13 April 2003?)
  3. Z moves to Silicon Valley and Saverin stays in New York (“That decision would prove ill-judged) – summer 2004
  4. Z meets Parker who co-founded Napster at age 20yrs
  5. Z attends meeting with Sequoia Capital in his pyjamas and turns down offer of investment
  6. In July 2004, Z claims that Savarin never matched an agreed investment of $20,000 in seed money and et al.  Z transfers all IP and membership interests to a new versin of the company in Delaware.  “The value of Savarin’s stock was unhinged from any further growth of Facebook, and Savarin was expunged as an employee”.
  7. Parker leaves
  8. In spring of 2005, a VC(who?) invested $12.7million in Facebook and users amounted to 5.5million
  9. Microsoft invest $240million, valuing Facebook at $15billion.

I think that the parties have made settlements recently.  When Google floated, lots of “friends” and “consultants” appeared out of the woodwork and were appeased with stock.

I do not the details but I do know that if you have a good idea, you quickly find friends who want a stake for no effort and no risk.  But it was never easy.

I wish that I had had a free ride with Facebook and Google!

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Google maps comes to Cambridge

Google Maps with Directions FeatureImage via WikipediaWhilst others were muttering about the Google maps car going up and down the streets of Cambridge, I had nothing to hide.  The young driver said that it will take a year or so before the pictures are on Google maps so look out for a cyclists waving on Derby Street, Newnham, Cambridge, England.

I wish I had been on a tandem!   Sadly my face will be obscured when the maps are published.  Do they do this by hand or is there some clever algorithm working automatically?

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