Tag Archives for United Kingdom

Stay in the Game

The Bank of England is avilable to rent...Image by aminorjourney via Flickr“Stay in the Game” says my son as KPMG offers staff a four day week or a few weeks holiday.  Tempting to take the latter but as we move into unknown territory (when before did KPMG and the like have to make such an offer) it is better to stay at the coal face.  At least until you are made an offer you cannot refuse.

Herman Hauser is promoting the cause of the Cambridge Cluster with thousands of jobs and companies at risk as they are unable to raise further rounds of funding.  The future of the UK knowledge-based economy could be at risk.  The case needs to be made to the government – the Cambridge Cluster is as important as the car and other industries.  I hear from Bristol that a company visited VCs in London and found the atmosphere chilling.

Although the banks were supervised by the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority – what were they doing? –  bankers have to take the stick but how come the likes of Applegarth of Northern Rock, Hornby of HBOS and Goodwin (paid £30million over ten years and relaxing with a pension pot of £8.4million) of RBS get away without taking responsibility for their actions.  If they had been entrepreneurs they would have lost all their wealth which might have concentrated their minds.

So should we encourage the talent in the Cambridge Cluster to start a business or are they better joining the relatively risk free and highly rewarding career of large companies.

One last thought, we will know we are in a full blown recession when the public sector starts reducing head counts.  I guess we have a long way to go.  So it is all about chosing the game you want to play and staying at the coal face.

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Dolphin Music, ten years on

City of LiverpoolImage 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!

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The business school of Gloucester Road, Bristol

BristolImage 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.

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Black Cabs in London

Parachute RegimentImage by Steven Turner via FlickrIt is great sitting in the back of a Black Cab in London using the iPhone to check the route.  The driver just chuckled and said everyone does it now!

The next driver had a Sat Nav, iPod and and iPhone on the dashboard.  So guess what he does?  He sings and soon his lovely voice was filling the cab…

So third time lucky I talked to the driver of my last Black Cab of the day.  A quiet man and we talked.  I had just met my son so was sitting back saying how proud I was of his work as a management consultant.  Well, we should all be proud of our kids.  It was a short journey and I just had time to ask “Do you have kids? What do they do?”  “My son is on his way back from his tour in Afghanistan”.  Now that is brave and made me feel humble and slightly foolish.  Why did I not empty my pockets and ask the driver to buy the lads a drink when they get together?

I thought of him as I stood at the war memorial in Glyn Ceriog on Remembrance Sunday and we sang the Welsh and United Kingdom national anthems.  Two hundred strong voices from all ages.  When the wreaths were laid, a car door opened and an old serviceman supported by his two daughters strugged down the road and up to the memorial.  What were his thoughts as he got back into the car whilst the heavens opened?

Entrepreneurships and a business plan are tough but let us keep it all in perpective.

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Walks by The Kennet & Avon Canal and a Geocache

The flight of 16 consecutive locks at Caen Hil...Image via Wikipedia Recovering from the gallbladder operation and the emotional impact of “The wedding”, I stayed for a few days by the banks of The Kennet & Avon Canal.  The footpath is flat and good for recuperation.  I set off for the Croft Beam Engine and was told to look out for a very tall chimney.  After five miles or so and after many chats with the happy holiday makers on their narrow boats, I glimpsed in the distance an apology for a chimney; well, at least if you come from the North of the UK where the mill towns had proper chimneys.  The Crofton Beam Engine was built to pump water to the highest point of the canal in this section, some 40′ above Crofton.  A spring was damned and the water pumped up the hill using steam engines designed in Manchester with pumping expertise from Cornwall. Further along the canal is the Caen Hill Flight of locks near Devizes.  I hope to reach them on my next visit.  So many nice people in their narrow boats but it is hard work opening and closing the lock gates.

But not much chance to discuss Equity Fingerprint for business plans until I met an academic from Reading searching for a Geocache; waterproof bottles hidden all over the countryside and in other countries.  We are all different and my new friend was thrilled to discover and check off another Geocache.  And he was also interested in Equity Fingerprint for his business plan!

I also talked to Mrs Ali Burch (tel 01672 870328) of the up market Crofton Lodge B&B – very special place to stay so she said.

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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Crisp potatoes from Saudia Arabia to Kuala Lumpur and then to China

Potato ChipsImage via WikipediaYou do not expect to learn something surprising at the breakfast table of a Bed & Breakfast, but there is always a business story.  The couple we talk to had met at Southampton University; she from the UK and he from Kuala Lumpur.  Having lived in the UK for many years, they have decided to try KL and he then talked about his business.  There are many different types of potatoes; for example, some good for chipping, some for mashing and some for turning into crisps.  Saudia Arabia produces excellent potatoes for making crisps.  A website has some figures for the 90s showing the large growth in cultivation of potatoes in Saudia Arabia.  There was little production prior to the 80s but intensive methods have resulted in a large crops and now there is sufficient for export.

But the next step is to look for good potatoe growing areas in China.  Rice and potatoes require very different land and so the search is on to start growing potatoes for crisps in China.  It certainly meant we had an interesting breakfast!

Crisp potatoes; Zemanta I want a picture of potatoes please! Thank you.

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30 years of IVF from Cambridge to the world and back to Cambridge via Cornwall

Image via Wikipedia30 years ago and at least nine months, I was working in the Cambridge office of 3i.  Stepoe and Edwards approached us for funding of the first IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) clinic, Bourne Hall.  After much debate about the morality and risks, 3i advanced a loan, no equity, to allow them to continue their work.  I think that the person in charge of the deal was Paul Gilmartin but I have lost touch with him.  So Cambridge was the place where the first IVF child was conceived – another “change the world” idea.

IVF is now a global “business“and a small Cornish company, Research Instruments, is a global supplier of the micromanipulation equipment used in IVF.  Managing Director, Bill Brown, led a management buyout of the business in 2000 when the founders wanted to retire.  Staff numbers have increased from 10 to 36 with more to start soon.  It would be interesting to have the Equity Fingerprint, the business plan resource, of the company.

But back in Cambridge we have Cambridge Temperature Concepts (disclosure: I am an investor) developing their product Duofertility.   This product will be the step before IVF to see if “timing” can help the 1 in 7 couples having difficult with having a child.  Let us hope for the families and the investors that Douofertility also reaches a global market.

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A Baddeley goes to the Olympics

The Gate of HonourImage via WikipediaAndy Baddeley has the same surname and also lived in Cambridge for four years getting a starred first in Engineering from Gonville and Caius College.

He comes from the Wirrall not far from Stafford, the ancestral home of all Baddeleys.

Now he is off to the Olympics to compete in the 1,500m – another excuse to watch the coverage.

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Bill Gates : How a geek changed the world; but what about The Cloud?

Bill GatesImage by bsktcase via FlickrWatched the Fiona Bruce led Money Programme on Gill Gates three times and want to watch it again before it expires on from my BBC iPlayer.  It is great to be reminded of all the opportunities we all let pass by and Bill grabbed with both hands.  In the early 80s, I remember seeing e-mail and hypertext for the same time – all we needed was a little bit of software to build a business but who thought that a browser or a URL would ever have any value?

Fiona Bruce makes the comment that on meeting Bill Gates, you get no sign of great wealth, great power or a strong personality but in the end you feel how his personality pervades Microsoft with his relentless determination to win.  The successful entrepreneurs in Cambridge are similar, well most of them.  The only UK entrepreneur to feature on the programme is Sir Alan Sugar– what does that say about the geek world of the UK?

So much to find interesting but how did Bill Gates pick up on an internal memo that college kids in America where incorporating the web into their daily lives from e-mails to ordering pizzas.  The Internet was not just for the geek students.  He wrote the famous memo The Internet Tidal Wave and tens of thousands of Microsoft employees changed step.  Is that leadership?

Now The Cloud looms all around us with everything on line.

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