Damian Kimmelman founded DueDil to unlock the hidden value in private company information. He’s struck gold with some high-profile investors and secured backing to the tune of $22m
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30/09/2014 16:05 11:43
20 The Elite interview
DueDil founder Damian Kimmelman ticks all the right boxes
VOLUME 03 ISSUE 10 / 2014 REGULARS 11 12 14 17 18 98
Editor’s letter Contributors News & events Talking point Book reviews Start-up diaries
48 26 One to watch
Spoon looks set for cereal success
32 Eastern promise
The Polish start-up star is on the rise
38 The smart money
Could Intellectual Property be the next fundraising fad?
44 Safe and sound
The burning questions to ask banks when they’re after your business
46 Rise against
With interest rates set for a hike, it’s time to weigh up your options
48 Brands across borders
58 Word up
86 Eyes on the future
63 Smooth succession
91 Split decision
We take a close look at creating the perfect marketing copy A happy handover can keep family businesses thriving Is social media just the job for cashstrapped start-ups?
72 Getting to grips with growth
Scaling up brings some serious challenges
77 Tech for start-ups
We run the rule over Apple’s latest releases and more examples of October’s trendiest tech
54 That’s a wrap
80 Paper trail
Divorce comes with excess baggage for entrepreneurs
66 Recruitment 2.0
There’s much to learn when taking your wares to the world Eco-friendly packaging makes more than environmental sense
Dan Kirby gives us the goss on Google Glass
Has technology finally put paid to paper?
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EDITOR’S letter VOLUME 03 ISSUE 10 / 2014
Scan this QR Code to register for Elite Business Magazine SALES Harrison Bloor – Senior Account Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Darren Smith – Account Manager email@example.com Samuel Darcy – Account Manager firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL Hannah Prevett – Editor email@example.com Adam Pescod – Web Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Josh Russell – Feature Writer email@example.com Ryan McChrystal – Feature Writer firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN/PRODUCTION Leona Connor – Head Designer email@example.com Dan Lecount – Web Development Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing Kelly Dunworth - Head of Communications email@example.com Claudia Laing - Marketing Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Lucy Jones - Marketing Assistant email@example.com CIRCULATION Malcolm Coleman – Circulation Manager firstname.lastname@example.org ACCOUNTS Sally Stoker – Finance Manager email@example.com Colin Munday - Management Accountant firstname.lastname@example.org ADMINISTRATION Charlotte James – Administrator email@example.com DIRECTOR Scott English – Managing Director firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation/subscription UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: CE Media Limited Elite Business Magazine is published 12 times a year by CE Media Solutions Limited, 4th Floor, Victoria House, Victoria Road, Chelmsford, CM1 1JR Call: 01245 707 516 Copyright 2014. All rights reserved No part of Elite Business may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the editor. Elite Business magazine will make every effort to return picture material, but this is at the owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15 per cent, therefore CE Media Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.
The future belongs to the fintech stars By now, the rise and rise of Tech City has been well documented. London has become the doyenne of the European start-up scene. All sorts of companies have sprung up in the Big Smoke in recent years: from global kids’ sensation Moshi Monsters to controversial payday lending company Wonga. But such companies are almost the grandparents of London’s start-up community these days. The future belongs to the stars of the up-andcoming fintech sector – where innovation and technology is giving the staid old financial services industry a serious shake-up. Damian Kimmelman, gracing the cover of this month’s magazine, is one such entrepreneur tipped for success. His company, DueDil, lets others check out the particulars of a business or individual they’re considering doing business with. The best bit? The data’s free. Users are only charged for the tools that sit on top. There is, in my opinion, no industry more worthy of a facelift than the financial services sector. And the banking behemoths know the challengers are approaching. As Antony Jenkins, Barclays chief executive, admitted in a recent speech: “We are on the leading edge of a technology revolution in financial services. We can see opportunities and threats across all of our businesses.” But those really on the leading edge are the likes of DueDil and other fintech heavy hitters including Nutmeg, TransferWise and Zopa. These companies are testing their mettle against some of the biggest financial services organisations in the world and proving, yet again, that UK enterprise is something to be proud of.
HANNAH PREVETT EDITOR
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CONTRIBUTORS Adam Pescod We’re delighted to report that Pescod is now a married man, tying the knot with his beloved Bex and honeymooning in Hong Kong and Bali where he ticked riding an elephant and getting groomed by a monkey off his bucket list. On a sadder note, this is the last time you’ll be treated to Pescod’s cracking copy – which this month includes an ill-timed article on divorce. He departs Elite Business to move into the world of PR at Greene King. Promoting beer for a living? We couldn’t think of anyone better for the job.
Clive Lewis As you pore over Lewis’s piece on preparing for an interest rate rise, he’ll be enjoying a glass of grappa somewhere along Italy’s Amalfi Coast. We’re not sure whether it’s down to a fear of flying or appetite for adventure but Lewis and his wife opted to take the train for this particular holiday – stopping off in the south of France and Rome before nestling down somewhere near Naples. We hope he doesn’t enjoy himself too much: that page doesn’t fill itself.
Lyndsey Simpson It seems Simpson has picked up the writing bug whilst penning her fantastic people column for Elite Business. On top of knocking out this month’s offering on managing growth in an SME, she’s also started work on her first ever book – which she describes as “an impartial guide on recruitment outsource solutions for HR directors, CEOs and COOs.” As far as the subject matter goes, she’s on pretty safe ground.
Ryan McChrystal In a previous life this Irish expat wrote about asset management in the Middle East. Having spent the last few months living a life of leisure – whether driving across America or exploring Essex’s many charming parks and forests – McChrystal has now crashed back to reality and is settling well into his new role, filling Pescod’s shoes as features writer at EB. In his first issue he looks at how to ensure a happy handover within a family business and why going green on packaging makes so much sense for start-ups.
NEWS & EVENTS
Is the minimum wage high enough? The Labour Party doesn’t think so and has pledged to raise it to £8 by 2020 if it wins the next general election. This is pending their victory over the Conservatives, of course. The announcement came at the party conference in Manchester, where Ed Miliband said it was “not good enough” that one in five people in the UK were on low pay. Mike Cherry, national policy chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, wasn’t impressed, claiming the minimum wage is already at a reasonable level. “We’ve got politicians now trying to set artificial targets which is the wrong way for this to be going,” he said. 14
The issue on everyone’s lips last month was the Scottish referendum. Alex Salmond’s Braveheart moment was quashed as the majority of Scots voted against ending the 307-year-old union, and he subsequently stepped down. Businesses had much more to smile about, seemingly, as the No vote meant less uncertainty about the economy. Except for Lloyd’s Banking Group, which is still considering leaving Scotland and relocating its headquarters to London despite getting the result it hoped for. You just can’t please some people.
s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
WORDS: Ryan McChrystal
Christopher Penler / Shutterstock.com
If you’re lamenting the end of the summer and won’t see the sun again for another year, prepare to be dismayed. Richard Branson has announced he will allow staff at Virgin’s head offices to take as much holiday as they want with no questions asked. The only catch being that it doesn’t affect their targets, the business or their careers. Branson says he got the idea from his daughter, who had heard about a similar plan at Silicon Valley success story, Netflix.
The willies were put up Wall Street as yet another Chinese company beat America at its own game (capitalism). Alibaba, the e-commerce giant headed by Jack Ma, floated the largest IPO in history. It raised close to $29bn, sending shockwaves – and envy – through the New York Stock Exchange. The 301.1 million shares initially went on offer at $68 each and rose momentarily to $99.70. The stock closed the first day of trading at $93.89, up 38%. The flotation dwarfs the previous U.S. record set in 2008 when Visa raised nearly $17.9bn.
NEWS & EVENTS
We can all be a little careless at times but this takes the biscuit. Heads will surely roll as a £250m black hole emerged in Tesco’s pocket. The retailer overstated its half-year profit guidance by a quarter of a million pounds and is blaming the mistake on a ‘corrupt’ company culture. An investigation has begun – headed by Deloitte – and four executives have been suspended, including
UPCOMING EVENTS IP EXPO Europe October 8-9
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its UK managing director. Tesco is now working to establish the impact of the issue on its full-year results. “Disappointment would be an understatement,” said chief executive Dave Lewis. Indeed.
More than 5,596 jobs were put at risk when Phones 4u collapsed, bringing the future of its 700 outlets into question. This followed EE and Vodafone’s decision not to renew their contracts with the mobile retailer. Odd then that the same two companies have come to the rescue, with Vodafone taking over 140 of its stores and EE taking over 58. Dixons Carphone has also said it would hire 800 people who work for Phones 4u concessions at Curries and PC World stores. Not all bad then. Unless you’re a Phones 4u customer who pre-ordered an iPhone 6: the retailer is refusing to refund deposits.
Crowdfunding is the new kid on the block in financing, and even the big shots are getting in on the action. Having been set up early in September, easyProperty, the latest venture in the easyGroup portfolio of companies, set out to raise £1m on crowdfunding site, Crowdcube. It aims to change the way people buy, sell, let and rent property. Unlike most crowdfunding ventures, it was an overwhelming success. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyJet, and property entrepreneur Robert Ellice attracted 358 individual investments of up to
Business Junction Networking Breakfast October 14
The Bloomsbury Ballroom, Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1B 4DA
Business Scene Birmingham October 15
The Studio, 7 Cannon St, Birmingham, B2 5EP
£200,000, finishing on an oversubscribed £1.4m – 42% more than they wanted.
ad:tech London October 21
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Prelude Group - Speaker Boutique: Breaking down the barriers to growth October 23 Radisson Blu Portman Hotel, 22 Portman Square, London, W1H 7BG
15 JuliusKielaitis / Shutterstock.com
It emerged that each SME in the UK is apparently owed an average of £1.3m from the last financial year, with total debt reaching a staggering £6.3tn. This is according to research carried out by law firm Debt Guard Solicitors, which also found that micro businesses – those employing up to nine people with turnovers less than £2m – were hit hardest. Each has an average of £68,000 trade debt, representing 19% of their turnover.
JuliusKielaitis / Shutterstock.com
According to the latest Labour Market Statistics by the ONS, unemployment has fallen to 2.02m, down a sizeable 468,000 from last year and now standing at its lowest level (6.2%) since 2008. However, the number of actual jobs increased by the lowest quarterly rate in almost a year – and neither wages nor productivity are improving at a rate that really fills one with optimism. With wages being a fairly trusty indicator of economic recovery, the average increasing by 0.6% this quarter (to £478, including bonuses, per week) is hardly worth cracking the champers out for.
Halton & Warrington Business Fair October 30
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Lending a hand? Will the government’s latest attempt to get banks on board with SMEs make a difference?
Banks must be more flexible It’s good to see the government adopting alternative measures to encourage banks to lend more and crucially become less risk averse. This is especially important after the Richard Prime failure of the Funding for Lending Scheme – co-founder & CEO, Sonovate let’s face it, the concept of matched funding was never going to work when there are no funds to match in the first place. But whether the new scheme under the British Business Bank will result in more lending or not, the issue remains that if UK banks continue to sell their outdated and inflexible products to SMEs on the assumption that it is simple and it works, we are still in a position where the growth of UK SMEs will be stifled. The banks don’t understand the unique requirements of small businesses; they don’t offer enough flexibility to accommodate for their fast-growing nature and the information is just not available to help small businesses understand what they are actually getting into. 17 It’s not that the banks are misleading, but their off-the-shelf products that might look good on paper are not always the most sensible option for the small business in question. Until this changes, schemes like the British Business Bank will continue to be redundant.
A very welcome initiative
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
ast week, Vince Cable, the business secretary, unveiled yet another plan to try and boost bank lending to SMEs. It comes at a time when Britain’s small businesses are increasingly looking to alternative forms of finance, having grown frustrated at being knocked back by Blighty’s age-old financial institutions. This latest scheme will see the British Business Bank – launched by the coalition government last year – share the risk of some of the loans made by banks to small businesses. Cable claimed it would particularly help ‘challenger’ banks lend to smaller companies, enhancing the growth prospects for banks and SMEs alike. But is this really what’s needed to ease small businesses’ lending woes or will it fall flat like previous schemes? Here’s what those at the coalface think of the proposals.
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I’m very supportive of any initiative from the British Business Bank designed to work alongside other providers to open up more routes to finance for small businesses in the UK. Upper Street is already a grateful benefactor of another British Business Bank Julia Elliott programme, the Aspire Fund. The £12.5m Brown Aspire Fund provides support to women-led co-founder & CEO, Upper Street businesses by making equity investments of between £100k to £1m alongside private investors. This initiative was great for small businesses like us. Not only did they come into our venture as a co-investor providing us with £250,000 investment in February this year, but their network of connections also allowed us to meet other investors who fit in well with our business. The funding from Aspire has enabled us to build up the Upper Street team, redesign the website onto a brand new technological platform, relaunch our product range, open a shoe lounge in London and acquire a US competitor. The Aspire Fund is just one of the things the British Business Bank does and from our experience, it demonstrated a long-term commitment and interest in the future of our business. The fact remains that the ways in which businesses can get financed is shifting radically and the British Business Bank’s intention to foster more financing options for start ups is something I welcome.
Make Change Happen – Get to grips with managing change in business Ian Coyne
Crazy is a Compliment – The power of zigging when everyone else zags
hange is a constant and crucial force in business. The world’s most successful companies haven’t got where they are today by standing still. In Make Change Happen, Coyne stresses that change is all about people. “Change involves emotional journeys, however short, for people to make,” he says. “Anything else, I call a project.” Coyne certainly has form when it comes to change. KPMG, RBS and BP are among the organisations to have been put under his spell. Of course, that’s not to say that everything Coyne touches turns to gold. Refreshingly, he’s more than happy to let readers know when, and why, things haven’t quite gone according to plan. After all, getting back on track when change looks like veering off course is an inevitable part of the process. And it’s a company’s people alone who can help engineer a turnaround in fortunes; whether that’s the senior staff managing the change or the wider workforce who will feel the brunt of it. Perhaps the only blot on Coyne’s copybook is his chapter on the ‘emotional bank account’, which feels like a slightly patronising and convoluted aside. But on the whole, Make Change Happen is a concise, practical read and a valuable addition to every business leader's bookshelf. AP
ou’re crazy, that’ll never work!” How many people who start a business are told they have lost their marbles? Rottenberg’s book is centred on the radical principle that if no one is calling you crazy then you aren't thinking big enough. Crazy is a Compliment is a road map to fine-tune your big dreams and turning them into something tangible. It uses the stories, missteps and triumphs of successful entrepreneurs and explains what we can learn from them. It is divided into three parts. The first two – ‘Get Going’ and ‘Go Big’ – focus on the craft of taking your idea to the next level. The third – ‘Go Home’ – is what Rottenberg refers to as the ‘art’ of entrepreneurship. In it, she takes us through setting yourself apart from the rest, whether that’s cultivating meaning in the workplace or successfully integrating your work with your family. The kind of crazy Rottenberg is advocating isn't wildly belligerent and nutty behaviour and consequences be damned but a wild enthusiasm for yourself and your own ideas. Definitely take risks but make sure they are smart risks is the resounding message here. With two decades of innovation under her belt, Rottenberg should know. RMC
Publisher: Pearson Out: Now RRP: £14.99
Publisher: Portfolio Penguin Out: Now RRP: £14.99
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Thanks to DueDil, companies can now access business, accounting and director information at the click of a button – all for free. Hannah Prevett does her due diligence on founder and fintech man-of-the-moment Damian Kimmelman
WORDS: HANNAH PREVETT PHOTOGRAPHY: EMILIE SANDY
here could not be a more appropriate home for DueDil, one of the hottest companies to emerge from London’s thriving fintech scene. A stone’s throw from the biggest financial institutions in the world, its offices mark the intersection between the banking district and the bustling world of start-ups that’s become synonymous with the east end. It’s safe to say that Damian Kimmelman, the man behind DueDil, won’t be straying any further into the heart of the City. The son of a New York banker was always adamant that he wouldn’t be following in his father’s footsteps. “I hated banking. I knew it wasn’t for me,” he says. It was clear from a young age that he was not cut from the same cloth as his father or even his sister, Kweilen, who is four years his senior. “She’s very studious and was always the goody two-shoes, whereas I was the one who always got into trouble,” smiles Kimmelman. Their parents loved to travel so the family would often up sticks and jet off to unusual destinations. These weren’t the average family beach holidays. “We went to places like Papua New Guinea when I was 11, trekking with the Asmats, and to Cambodia during the height of the UN Pol Pot negotiations. We were in South Africa during apartheid and we were staying in a Holiday Inn. There was a bomb that went off outside the hotel and it shattered all of the glass,” recalls Kimmelman. Whilst he wasn’t too concerned, his mother did not share his carefree attitude. “I thought that I was in a scene in MacGyver [the American action-adventure series] and it was the coolest thing ever. My mum didn’t find it funny that I thought it was cool. I remember her hiding my eyes and taking me down to the basement.”
The value is not in the data; itâ€™s in the information and insight thatâ€™s achieved from that
the elite INTERVIEW
School was dull in comparison with his holiday-time adventures. “I didn’t really care about going to class,” he admits. “At one school I accumulated something like 700 demerits which had to be a record. That meant that every single weekend instead of going out with friends I was on patrol or sweeping up leaves, which really sucked.” Whilst his studies failed to hold his attention, Kimmelman loved to read, especially “anything to do with business.” His father gave him some money, which he invested in the stock market. And that wasn’t the end of his early entrepreneurial endeavours. “At my day school I used to get the security guard to buy me Playboy magazines. Then I’d go back home where my mum had a photocopier so I’d Xerox them all in black and white and sell them around the school,” he reports. But such high-jinks often left him in hot water. He was asked to leave his first boarding school when he was 13 after just a year. Grotton, upon which the Robin Williams film Dead Poets’ Society is based, grated on Kimmelman. “It’s the only school I hated. I absolutely detested it,” he says. It wasn’t that he was apart from his family for the first time. (Grotton is in Massachusetts, approximately six hours by car from New York, where his parents live.) “I was asking to go,” he laughs. “I just didn’t like the school itself. It was extremely pretentious and everyone thought they were God’s gift to man when they weren’t.” This reinforced Kimmelman’s conviction that he didn’t belong. “I was always an outsider,” he says. “I was horrible at sports. I was a troublemaker. I was the one who travelled to the weirdest places. I was called ‘devil child’. That was my nickname when I was a little kid. I was born in the same year as The Omen came out and the lead character in that film is also called Damian.”
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The next school he attended was a junior boarding school called Eaglebrook. Again, Kimmelman felt as though he were something of an outlier. “I don’t want to talk badly of Eaglebrook because I loved it but it was really for people who had English as a second language, kids from quite dysfunctional families and uber, uber wealthy people,” he explains. “I was certainly the poorest person in my hall. It was crazy wealth but because everybody was so wealthy there wasn’t a sense of needing to show off. Nobody bragged. You’d only realise who they were when their parents would roll up with security guards.” Kimmelman’s time was cut short at Eaglebrook after an alcohol-related prank. “I got suspended because I thought I was really clever and poured vodka into my camel pack for skiing and I thought no one would check. I was wrong.” By now, his parents were beginning to despair. They suggested he attend Episcopal High School in East Virginia which had a bit more of a flexible approach to the rules. “They said, ‘listen Damian, why don’t you go somewhere where you don’t have to show up to class, where you can just do exams?’ Because I always got good grades, I just never really worked,” he explains. Episcopal was a hit. “I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t extremely academic but people were just very kind and caring.” Kimmelman got the necessary grades to secure a place at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where his sister had also studied. Despite never attending a single lecture during his four-year international relations MA course, he achieved a 2.1. “I wouldn’t go again,” he says. “Academia was never for me. I love reading and I went to other people’s classes but something about having to go to something was really stressful to me.” Kimmelman found other ways to fill his time. He was chosen to organise the opening ball and the May ball. “The opening ball was a massive success – it sold out in a few hours,” he says. He also got involved in the buying and selling of property, netting him a cool £1m as house prices soared. “The Prince William effect meant there were tons of Americans just flocking,” he says. When Facebook hit Blighty’s shores three years into his degree, initial scepticism soon became excitement. Kimmelman wanted a slice of the action. In search of the next big thing, he and a friend turned their attentions to social gaming. They decided they’d build an online platform for people to play Mahjong, a traditional Chinese game and brought on a third partner to help with the front-end development. But after trips to Macau, Hong Kong and Las Vegas, the trio abandoned their R&D. “If we’d continued, we’d have got into some pretty dodgy territory,” says Kimmelman. Whilst Kimmelman’s university pal re-entered the academic fray to study for his PhD, Kimmelman invested in the third partner’s business, a digital agency, and they rebranded as We Are VI. “He put £60,000 into We Are VI and I matched him. We went into business together but six months later
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the elite INTERVIEW
Anybody who says data is a commodity is a total moron
things were quite dubious. He did some really unsavoury things. I asked my accountant to take a look at the accounts and tell me what’s going on with them. He told me: ‘they’re totally cooked’”. Shock turned to horror as Kimmelman quickly realised he’d have to make the company’s 25 staff redundant and close the business. But it wasn’t just him that had missed the gaping holes in the company’s accounts: high street bank Barclays had also failed to notice any discrepencies when Kimmelman’s partner had applied for a loan the previous year. “I couldn’t read the accounts but I also realised that the people in Barclays couldn’t read the accounts either. That was a big eye-opener,” says Kimmelman. It was also the genesis of what was to become DueDil. “This was a real problem but it was also a real opportunity. If so many people – from a young budding entrepreneur to a large organisation like Barclays – couldn’t read the accounts, there had to be an opportunity in that. Because if you can’t read accounts, you can’t price risk and if you can’t price risk then you’re really screwed.” As his idea began to take shape, Kimmelman went to a TechCrunch conference where he heard a presentation from Eileen Burbidge, a partner at VC heavyweight Passion Capital. “I nervously went up to her shaking and tried to pitch my idea. She was super easy to talk to but I was just so nervous,” he laughs. The first version of the site was a browser plug-in for LinkedIn where users could give constructive feedback on people’s profiles. It didn’t fly because, as Kimmelman puts it, “it
Elite interview.indd 4
was too much like shit-stirring”. Instead they decided to put data at the core of DueDil’s offering, instead of tittle-tattle. “I saw that most companies were private. They make 50% plus of GDP across any developed economy. And yet there was no Bloomberg of data,” explains Kimmelman. The business model was different to Bloomberg’s, however. Unlike Bloomberg, it would give the data away for free. “You don’t sell the data. The data’s free. One of our old competitors, who went by the wayside, had a classic quote: ‘data is the new oil’. There’s such a fundamental misunderstanding of what data is in that statement. Data’s not the new oil. And anybody who says so is a total moron because oil is a commodity, data isn’t. Oil isn’t growing exponentially. The reserves of oil aren’t growing exponentially. We’re at peak oil. Furthermore, it’s not a fungible commodity; the price of one data set for one person is different for that same data set for another person. Which is different from oil. With oil, the price is the same no matter where in the world you are unless its subsidised.” Where DueDil sees it can add value is by layering products and services on top of the data itself. For example, earlier this year it launched v3 DueDil API which helps companies define and qualify customer and prospect profiles, based on filters such as growth rates, location, size, profitability and credit risk. “The value is not in the data; it’s in the information and insight that’s achieved from that. LinkedIn doesn’t sell people’s profiles, it sells the discovery. It sells the tools on top of the data. And we’ve taken a very similar approach,”
he says. “And I think that’s the right one.” The company’s myriad investors appear to agree. In March this year, DueDil raised $17m in its series B financing round, bringing total investment to $22m in a ten-month period. Alongside Eileen Burbidge, who was the firm’s first external investor, other shareholders now include renowned entrepreneur Tom Hulme and Sherry Coutu, who can only be described as investor royalty. Does having a gaggle of such widely acclaimed backers heap pressure on the entrepreneur at the helm? He says not. “They’re lovely. I’ve never had a problem with our investors and we’ve had problems as a company – it’s not always been smooth sailing. There have been plenty of times when our investors could have been evil to us but they’ve always been supportive when I asked for help,” says Kimmelman. What about his other most fervent supporters – his parents? “I think my parents are proud but I don’t think I’m that successful yet. I got an award for international entrepreneur of the year but truthfully we haven’t made it yet as a company. We could as easily be a failure as we could a success – and I’m not saying that in a fake humble way, it’s really true. Success isn’t guaranteed. We’re going up against some huge companies and we’re a little minnow,” he says. “But it’s been a lot of fun so far. And I’m pretty sure we’re going to succeed.”
ONE TO WATCH
Dragons’ Den success story Spoon is giving commuters and cereal lovers a healthy taste of home
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
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rustration is the cause of many a foray into entrepreneurialism. For Annie Morris, co-founder of Spoon Cereals, a lack of decent breakfast options on the morning commute spurred her into action. “What I love doing is making my own bowl of cereal,” says Morris. “’I’ll have muesli and add my own seeds and nuts before adding some fresh yogurt and blending in some fresh fruit. But I just couldn’t find anything like that on the way to work.” Morris is certainly not ashamed to call herself a cereal nut. “I’m a bit of a grump if I don’t have my breakfast in the Nevertheless, whilst Morris had the seed of an idea, she morning, which is why we have our little mantra ‘no small didn’t possess the business acumen to go it alone. At a family talk before breakfast’,” she adds. BBQ last summer, Morris’s sister Pippa It was whilst working for an ad agency in provisionally agreed to join her in launching Soho that Morris became convinced she’d the business. Meanwhile, Jonny Shimmin, stumbled on a business opportunity. “Soho is boyfriend of the third Morris sister, Sarah, a haven for inspiration and there are so many offered to become a mentor to the pair. At little start-up things going on especially the time, Shimmin was working in private in the food market,” she says. “I used to go equity in Amsterdam, having previously along on a Friday lunchtime and speak to all worked as a research analyst in the City the guys down there. I was also just talking covering food manufacturing for various to friends and family who had started up banks. He ended up taking Pippa’s place as their own businesses too. They were all really the co-founder of Spoon. “My sister’s career Annie Morris, Spoon supportive and gave me great advice.” had just started to take off and she was doing really well,” explains Morris. “She couldn’t quite commit to the amount of time that we’d have to put into the business.” You could say it was an unlikely partnership but Shimmin’s experience of the food industry combined with Morris’s creative spark was just what was needed to get Spoon off the ground. “Our skill sets are so different, which is why I think we work so well together,” comments Morris, who was solely responsible for Spoon’s branding. “Annie is a graphic designer by trade, which is why our branding looks so clean and sharp and lovely,” comments Shimmin. “We just wanted the product to speak for itself in terms of its quality and health properties. We didn’t want to have to shout about it.” Entering the cereal market was evidently a daunting prospect for the first-time entrepreneurs. However, the pair are hoping that the taste of their product will stand them in good stead. Spoon sources all of its ingredients in the UK, with the granola and muesli coming from a small cooperative in Somerset and the fruit hand-picked from gardens in and around London. It’s sweetened only with maple syrup – a
I’m a bit of a grump if I don’t have my breakfast in the morning
ONE TO WATCH
We wanted to bring back some of the taste and flavour profile that had been lost by high volume manufacturing Jonny Shimmin, Spoon
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big thumbs up for calorie counters. The dry ingredients are hand-rolled in the Spoon kitchen in Park Royal, north London, and the fruit turned into compote. The latter has proven a challenge but Morris says it’s been worth the hassle. “Compotes get absolutely everywhere and transporting them is a bloody nightmare,” she laughs. “But they’ve gone down really well.” Whilst a focus on quality inevitably comes at a cost, Shimmin thinks it’s a price worth paying at a time when consumers are growing tired of what’s on offer from corporate cereal giants. “When you buy a pack of cereal or granola from a supermarket you‘ll pay £2-3 for that product but what you’re actually getting in terms of money that’s gone into the ingredients is probably somewhere between 40 and 60 pence,” he says. “That was one of the big drivers for us when we started Spoon. We
wanted to use really high-quality ingredients and actually bring back some of the taste and flavour profile that had been lost by highvolume manufacturing.” Needless to say, the pair sensed they were onto a winner as soon as they launched the product at Barnes Food Fair last September. “That first outing at Barnes Food Fair basically proved to us that we had a good product,” Shimmin adds. “We spent the next few months trading at pop-ups, food markets, and various events. We even served breakfast at the BBC headquarters. We used that period to refine our ingredients, find the taste profile and refine the branding.” Spoon also started to sell its cereal online and made its initial approaches to retailers, with Harvey Nicholls the first to place an order. The company’s imminent appearance on Dragons’ Den had some part to play but all of the supermarkets, along with Harvey Nicks, were suitably impressed with what the entrepreneurs had managed to create. “We spoke to all of the retailers before Dragons’ Den aired and they all loved the branding and they all loved the product,” says Shimmin. So, despite only having a few months of trading under their belt, Shimmin and Morris decided to time was ripe to take on some extra help, and some additional capital. The business had been totally self-funded up until that point. The pair were given just a week’s notice of their appearance in the Den; the call coming whilst they were running a pop-up at
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ONE TO WATCH
Spoon earlier this year. “We have been super happy with both of them as investors,” says Shimmin. “They have been really hands-on and have really helped us out a lot. We have absolutely no complaints about the deal that we did.” The immediate focus for Spoon is securing retail deals with the supermarkets along with a manufacturing partner. However, Shimmin is keen to stress that this will not signal a move away from Spoon’s USP. “It’s going to remain a hand-turned product but our packaging is all done by hand at the moment and that’s something that is very easily automated,” he explains. “We’re basically trying to find someone who shares our principles and can help grow the wholesale side of the business.” The fresh side of the business isn’t taking a back seat either. Spoon had pop-up stalls at a handful of music and food festivals during the
Compotes get absolutely everywhere and transporting them is a bloody nightmare Annie Morris, Spoon
Company CV Name: Spoon Cereals Founded by: Annie Morris & Jonny Shimmin Founded in: 2013 Team: 2
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Old Street station. “In a way it was a good thing because it meant I didn’t have the time to freak out about it too much,” Morris laughs. Spoon’s limited trading history was also a blessing in disguise. “We probably had about £5,000 in turnover at that stage so we were selling them little more than a concept,” says Shimmin. “There was no Duncan Bannatyne questioning the five years of trading that we’d had and why we’d made such massive losses.” Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones – the investors Morris and Shimmin were most eager to get on board – were suitably impressed with the entrepreneurs and their fledgling cereal brand. Entering the Den with an equity offer of 10% for a £50,000 investment, the pair jumped at the opportunity to work with Meaden and Jones, even if it meant giving away 30% of the business. “These guys have lots of other business interests and £25,000 is not going to garner a significant amount of their time,” says Shimmin. “But what you get with Peter is the history of developing a food business with Levi Roots and Deborah is fantastically well-connected and just really good on the marketing side.” The Dragons are already making their presence felt since joining
summer and Shimmin is adamant its cereal pots will remain a core part of the brand. “We get really good exposure from fresh because it gets people excited about what we’re doing,” he says. “So whilst we’re absolutely focused on retail, fresh is always going to be a part of what we do.” Pop-ups by their nature provide a good test ground for future product launches and Shimmin has many plans brewing. “One of the great things about the Spoon name is that it has some nice natural extensions into other product areas,” he says. “So potentially down the line, I would like to see us doing our own range of yogurt and maybe some compotes to go on top of cereals as well.” Morris adds: “What’s been quite good about the way we’ve been working so far is that we’ve been quite open-minded and tried our hand at lots of different things.” And, as yet, the partnership hasn’t led to any family rifts. “We’re still speaking – so that’s good,” Morris laughs.
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A Dark horse WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY: INNOVATION NEST
There is definitely something unique about the thriving Polish tech scene. But closer collaboration with Europe and the UK could massively boost its potential – not to mention our own
here’s no doubt that Poland’s startup scene is picking up some serious momentum. Whilst it doesn’t quite have the same traction as London, Berlin or Tel Aviv, the rate at which the industry is growing is truly phenomenal with an ecosystem rapidly forming around the country’s burgeoning tech industry. “In terms of the critical mass and number of start-ups, it’s active, it’s noisy,” explains Pawel Chudzinski, the Polish cofounder and partner of Point Nine Capital, the Berlin-based venture capital firm. “Five years ago there wasn’t a start-up industry; now it’s a valid career path for many people.” And actually the difference between Poland and more established communities elsewhere in Europe isn’t as large as one might think. “It’s pretty much the same as in Berlin or in London,” says Marcin Szeląg, partner at Innovation Nest, the early-stage venture fund and accelerator. “The difference is probably in scale.” Whilst there is a disparity between the number of startups listed on Angel List – Germany has 1,200 and Poland has 350 – looking at the number of start-ups forming and the amount of support on offer shows
Other ecosystems can benefit from Poland’s technical talent Pawel Chudzinski, Point Nine Capital
that the Polish start-up community is already very well developed. “If you put a number on investors and the people involved, it doesn’t look that different,” he explains. “We’re on our way to having an established ecosystem with all the parts it needs to work.” One of the reasons for the growth spurt is the actions of the Polish government and the European Union. In 2007, the EU began an initiative to pump €67bn of ‘structural funds’ into Poland to balance the economic prospects of member states, with almost €10bn of this earmarked for growing the country’s entrepreneurial industry. “The EU poured billions of dollars into the Polish economy for new innovative companies,” says Szeląg. “They launched a couple of programmes where you could apply for a grant to set up a seed fund and you’d get $3.5m to invest in start-ups.” Initiatives like these have had a pronounced effect on the lending landscape in Poland, not all of it entirely positive. “There’s an oversupply of money in terms of the ratio of funds to start-ups,” Szeląg says. Part of the issue is with the ‘8.1’ programme, an oft-criticised initiative from the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development,
that dishes out grants of €5,000 – €170,000 without taking an equity stake and has flooded the market with funds without the kind of due diligence commonly practiced in other countries. “There’s no rationale in terms of valuing the companies wisely,” he continues. “But that’s a transitional state; market forces will balance the supply and demand sides.” But this stimulation has also seeded some excellent resources for fledgling tech enterprises. “There are so many incubators and business angels who can help you with a little seed money – $10,000 or $20,000 – so you can launch and just focus on your start-up,” says Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe, the productivity app. For this reason, it has become incredibly easy for tech entrepreneurs with a great idea to get their business off the ground without having to resort to living on the breadline. “This kind of money is quite readily available,” he says. “You don’t have to borrow from friends and family because you can very easily get access to funding from business angels.” At later stages, however, this glut of capital tends to ebb, bringing the Polish investment landscape much more in line with economies elsewhere in Europe. “Where it becomes hard is where you get initial traction and an investment of zł1m [£187,000] or zł2m [£373,000] isn’t enough,” says Grzegorz Kazulak, CEO of Positionly, the SEO provider. As in the UK, there can be something of a funding gap prior to completing a Series A round; particularly given the fact that later stage tech firms are less of a secure bet, it can be harder to convince traditional funds to part with their cash. “You have funds that invest in bricks and mortar businesses; they’re more than happy to
invest zł20m [£3.7m] in a network of coffee shops but it’s really hard to get Series A funding for a tech company,” says Kazulak. Despite this, the start-up community in Poland is definitely finding its feet. “We are following the blueprint set by Brad Feld in his book Startup Communities,” explains Szeląg. “We have accelerators, we have co-working spaces, we have mentors, we have investors.” Beyond getting the funding right, a considerable amount of effort has been invested in creating a viable start-up ecosystem, kicking the enterprise landscape into overdrive. “There are now start-ups popping up everywhere,” he says. However, none of this is to say there isn’t more to be done. “The community is very grassroots in a way,” says Chudzinski. Whilst Poland has developed a lot of the key infrastructure seen in the States and the UK, it is still lacking something: a Tech City or Silicon Valley of its very own. Many of the major cities – such as Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław, Poznań and Gdańsk – have thriving start-up scenes but no one city has emerged as the jewel in the country’s tech crown. “I’m a big believer in big hubs that concentrate a lot of activity but this one key hub has not materialised yet,” Chudzinski says. “Krakow could become it but it is not dominating the scene yet.” Despite the lack of a clear home for its digital economy, Poland is seeing a lot of attention from abroad. At his Berlin-based fund, Chudzinski sees no shortage of German startups eager to snap up Polish CTOs for their strong tech skills. “There’s a lot of emphasis on mathematics and natural sciences in our education system as opposed to French or philosophy,” he says. Whilst he doesn’t think Polish engineers are necessarily significantly better skilled than their contemporaries elsewhere, the education system does produce a much higher number of technically minded professionals. “There are just many more people who have the skills and natural talent to do those highly analytical jobs.” Filip Knioła, product marketing manager at InvoiceOcean.com, the e-invoicing solution,
believes there is another factor at play: a natural self-reliance. “If we want to seek something, if we want to be good at it, we just learn it ourselves,” he says. Whether it’s getting to grips with new programming languages or finding new approaches to fix problems, he feels that Polish entrepreneurs have a natural curiosity which helps them get to grips with technical disciplines. “We dig, we do research; that’s what drives us,” he explains. However, despite a very broad base of technically minded engineers and a strong desire to find new solutions, there are some areas in which the Polish start-up market struggles. “Some Polish start-ups are run by very cool, smart people who just have no idea how to sell themselves,” Sliwinski says. “The marketing part, how to sell their idea, is missing.” The cocksure confidence of a Californian chief exec as they tell you why their product will disrupt a whole sector isn’t an approach the average Polish start-up is at home with. “We criticise ourselves a lot and because we are so hard on ourselves we sometimes lack the courage to sell what we have,” he continues. This is perhaps reflected in the level of ambition that has been shown thus far amongst a lot of the first-time entrepreneurs in Poland. “It’s rooted in our culture,” says Szeląg. “We only transitioned from communism to capitalism about 20 years ago so most people are trying to fulfil all of the basic necessities in terms of owning a home and having
There are so many incubators and business angels who can help you with seed money Michael Sliwinski, Nozbe
enough money to buy a car.” Many enterprises have built a significant presence at a national level but up until recently there has been less desire to aim for more. “We have very few people who are actually crazy enough to dream that they can build a global company out of Poland and compete with American start-ups that are funded tenfold,” he says. But this has started to shift over the last couple of years, with the first generation of this new wave of tech start-ups beginning to see some healthy exits. “In the last year or two, we’ve seen a number of exits that were in the range of zł5m and zł20m,” says Kazulak. Although these are not huge windfalls – ranging from just shy of £1m up to around £3.75m – they are demonstrative of increasing confidence in the ability of start-ups to secure hefty returns. Additionally a few giants of the community are paving the way for those that follow – LIVECHAT Software, the global corporate customer service chatroom provider, made significant waves with its recent flotation. “They recently IPOed on the Polish stock exchange with a market cap of around zł400m
Slow burner Nozbe
It was whilst working as a freelance developer and marketing consultant that Michael Sliwinski first identified the need for the productivity app that would one day become Nozbe. “By nature I am a very disorganised person and I wanted to get more organised,” he explains. He’d read plenty of books on productivity but it wasn’t till he read David Allen’s Get Things Done that he realised he’d hit upon the right approach. “Get Things Done was the trigger,” he says. “I was like ‘yeah, I need to have a
system like that’.” However few software solutions seemed to support this way of working and so Sliwinski got to work coding his own. “I did a very basic mock-up, in MySQL and PHP, just for me,” he explained. “It was very ugly but it worked.” Before long, however, he realised there were plenty more people who could benefit from his tool and began to code a product for the English-speaking market. Whilst its emergence wasn’t exactly greeted with a fanfare – “The first week I got ten sign-ups,” Sliwinski laughs – its user base grew rapidly, thanks largely to word of mouth, the support of bloggers and coverage from outlets such as ZDNet. Before long he found himself being invited to conferences in San Francisco to speak about productivity and Nozbe was announced as one of Lifehack.org’s 11 best apps of 2007. Fast forward seven years and Nozbe now has over 200,000 users around the globe, with Nozbe 2.0 launched in late September. “It’s a very rewarding business to be in,” says Sliwinski.
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30/09/2014 17:50 17:10
Global appeal Outbox Group
The CRM consultancy Outbox Group was always destined for big things, especially given the nature of the talent on board. “Our founders were five ex-PwC guys,” says Marcin Malinowski, director at the company. “And I would say the majority of the first-time employees also came from PwC, IBM, Accenture.” With such strong technical backgrounds, clearly there was a bright future for the company. Whilst its original focus was on the Polish market, perhaps inevitably given the profile of its founders, destiny came knocking and Outbox Group began working on contracts from elsewhere in Europe. “After three years, we started to cross over into doing business abroad and did a couple of projects in Germany and the UK,” says Malinowski. Whilst it continued to nurture its Polish customer base, gradually the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland have become its other key markets. Malinowski puts the company’s success down to one factor. “It was based on the notion that we can only be successful if our clients are successful,” he says. “We believe that if you do projects well then your clients can benefit and you secure more work.” Given the consultancy has grown to be the biggest in the Polish market, it’s not a tactic you can quibble with.
[just shy of £75m],” Kazulak says. “They’ve been successful in taking a Polish company to a global market and a global presence.” This is beginning to have a significant impact, helping to galvanise the startup industry. “It’s the typical thing with that happens every tech ecosystem,” says Chudzinski. As with Skype in Estonia, highprofile wins clearly redefine what success looks like for the other enterprises in that ecosystem. “There is a big announcement, a major funding or a significant exit and that fires up people’s imaginations,” says Chudzinski. “It’s helping Poland find the bravery to go for it.” But, of course, Poland is just a small part of a bigger story. Building major international tech brands will require close collaboration between tech communities, regardless of where they’re located. Here in the UK we’re not lacking in evidence of how international collaboration can invigorate an entire community. “Tech City in London is a good example of the various number of start-ups and how close they are to people from different countries;
If we want to be good at something, we just learn it ourselves. We dig, we do research; that’s what drives us Filip Knioła, InvoiceOcean.com
they collaborate, share ideas,” says Marcin Malinowski, director at Outbox Group, the CRM consultancy. Already, joining the EU has allowed enterprises to work more freely across the borders, with many, such as Outbox Group, coming to these shores to contribute toward the UK’s thriving tech scene. “People from different countries in many cases have a different view and also if you combine them together you have a completely fresh view,” adds Malinowski. Ultimately the real lesson to be learned from the developing start-up ecosystem in Poland is that greater dialogue between nations will profit us all. “Poland can benefit from us working together with other ecosystems and these can benefit from Poland’s technical talent,” says Chudzinski. Given the scarcity of engineers and tech skills in London, Berlin and even in Silicon Valley, a meaningful exchange of talent and knowledge – not to mention closer ties in terms of venture funding and media coverage – only stands to strengthen all who participate. “It cannot be that every country figures it out by themselves,” Chudzinski continues. “There is an international tech community and being connected as much as possible is the best way to bring ecosystems in tech forward.” Certainly the future of the Polish start-up scene is looking bright. “It’s amazing how much impact you can have from Poland,” Sliwinski concludes. “For me it is remarkable that, from a country that was the behind the Iron Curtain back in the 80s, I can create a global product and touch people from all over the world. It’s something I love being part of.”
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A penny for your thoughts Start-ups and SMEs are investing an increasing amount of money in IP and intangibles but raising finance against this can be tricky. Which is why the UK needs a true marketplace for IP
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
s businesses become more and more focused on ideas and innovation, inevitably the kinds of assets they tend to hold have shifted away from machinery, fleets and property. “We are moving rapidly towards a knowledge-based economy,” says Adam Tavener, chairman of Clifton Asset Management, the pension-led funding provider. Instead intangible assets – such as branding, business processes, intellectual property (IP) like patents and copyrights, software and contents of databases – have come to dominate the balance sheet of most businesses. “Traditional British industry still exists to an extent but it is a smaller and smaller part of the overall pie,” he says. Given the fact that fewer small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are tying their limited funds up
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in expensive overheads like property and a fleet of company vehicles, the most significant part of their balance sheet will inevitably be tied up in intangibles. “Even on a modest basis, it’s quite easy for an SME to have intangible assets which are at least as big as all of its tangible assets,” says Patrick Towell, joint chief executive of Golant Media Ventures, the innovation consultancy for creative and cultural enterprises. When a significant proportion of SMEs rent or lease property, their tangible assets might amount to little more than some furniture and a collection of Macs. “It doesn’t take much effort before your intangibles are bigger than those,” he says. And there is plenty of data to back this up. In March 2014, UK investment in intangible assets – a working
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Equity-led finance has typically been more bullish about the value of IP because it stands to share in the success generated but, given it has far less to gain from gambling on IP, debt-led finance is considerably more risk averse. “From the banks’ point of view, there is always a consideration of risk and anything which looks to be high risk is quickly weeded out,” says Jackie Maguire, chief executive of Coller IP, the provider of commercial IP management and evaluation services. “There are also some limitations placed on the banks. With the regulations involved, there is a discouragement of lending against intangibles.” But this doesn’t mean there are no debt-driven models that SMEs can use to raise finance against their IP. In 2013, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) commissioned Banking on IP?, a report by Martin Brassell and Kelvin King, to see how SMEs could more effectively put their IP to work and use their intangibles to harness some much needed funds. The report highlighted a number of effective mechanisms that exist to help businesses leverage funds with their IP but perhaps the one seeing the most significant attention currently is IP-backed pension-led paper from Nesta, the innovation charity – funding. identified that in 2011 the UK market (excluding health and social work, public administration “Pension-led funding exists as a framework whereby business owners can and defence, real estate and education) invested invest in their business using their own pension scheme,” says Tavener. IP £137.5bn in knowledge-based assets, compared to can be leveraged in one of two ways; either it can be used as a security for just £89.8bn in tangibles. “It mentioned this idea a loan from the fund or it can be directly purchased by the fund, thereby of the ‘great reversal’,” explains Juan Mateosreleasing the capital, and leased back to the enterprise. Garcia, economics research fellow The clear benefit of this is that not only does the business for the creative and digital economy get the funds it needs to grow but it has a direct impact at Nesta. “Before the advent of the on the value of the entrepreneur’s own pension. “It’s a knowledge economy, 20% of the virtuous circle,” Tavener explains. If the funds are used value of a company would be tied effectively they should increase the profits of the business, up in intangible assets and 80% meaning its valuation increases and so does the value of would be tangible assets. We now its IP. This means that the return for the entrepreneur’s live in a world where the opposite pension fund becomes more significant the more growth is true.” the enterprise sees. “You’ve got a net accelerating effect on Adam Tavener, Clifton However, trying to release all sides of the equation,” Tavener explains. Asset Management some of the value tied up in an It’s important to recognise though that no investment is intangible asset like IP isn’t all that bullet-proof and inevitably some businesses that borrow straightforward. “Historically, traditional lenders will fail. But whilst taking an £150,000 hit to one’s pension is far from simply have not been prepared to take IP as a first ideal, it is significantly better than what would result from defaulting on line of security,” Tavener says. “Your brand has a traditional loan backed against the entrepreneur’s home. And in the value as long as that business is still functioning. vast majority of cases the pension fund will attempt to sell off the assets, But if your business goes bust I can’t guarantee recouping the shortfall. “They can put them into a separate package and what I’m going to recoup by trying to sell it.” create a little business plan around them which looks at what that asset or
We are moving rapidly towards a knowledgebased economy
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bundle of assets on its own is going to be worth,” the valuations and trade of these assets is absolutely essential. “There needs says Towell. to be a ‘thicker’, transparent market for IP that creates historical data about However, this is one of the factors that makes the value of different types of IP assets after they are separated from the building a substantial lending landscape around human and organisational capital that generated them,” explains Mateosintangibles problematic: trying to calculate how Garcia. Knowing exactly how much separated, packaged assets are selling much assets are worth once they are stripped for in a given market would mean lenders and business could have more from the business that created them can be an confidence about the real market value of the assets they’re trading in. almost insurmountable task. “People might But it’s not simply tracking that’s important. “If you look at other areas be prepared to loan to you if you’ve got a big where there’s very deep and liquid markets and trading of shares, options, brand,” says Chris Haley, head of new technology unit trusts and derivatives of various kinds, there’s also loads and loads of and start-up research at Nesta. “But actually information services, analysis and publishing around them,” says Towell. capitalising on it, if the company goes belly up, The formation of a real analytical ecosystem around the market is also an can be quite tricky.” essential step, mirroring the kind of in-depth scrutiny that surrounds the Firstly one needs to know that the intangible housing market and stock exchanges. “You need a world of discussion, assets have any worth once they are removed analysis and tracking like you’d get on Reuters or in the Financial Times,” from the business that created them. “One he concludes. “When you’ve got quite a lot of information flowing about feature of intangible assets that creates barriers of particular kinds of assets then you’ve got a market that you can trust.” their use to secure finance is the separability from the intellectual What the government would like to see is the ability for capital of the company that owns them,” Mateos-Garcia people to trade in their ideas more comments. “These assets are often complementary to the Patrick Towell, Golant Media Ventures human capital that exists within the company and actually if you separate it, it loses value” And it is this very factor that causes such skittishness around lending off the back of intangibles. “People are much more inclined to invest in stuff that they know has a value,” says Tavener. He contrasts the market in intangibles with the housing market; banks are happy to lend against houses because the valuations of that market are highly visible. “A marketplace that can prove the value of a given intangible asset would be hugely beneficial,” he continues. “It’s just that there is no way at the moment of expressing that value in the way that you might a stock or a share.” Which is why the creation of a visible and transparent market for IP is an idea that has begun to draw attention from all quarters. In its follow up to Banking on IP, the IPO commissioned Golant Media Ventures to produce a report, Markets in IP and enabling information ecosystems, to hammer out the key characteristics of a market for intangible assets. “What the government would like to see is the ability for people to trade in their ideas more,” says Towell. “Those markets don’t really exist yet. They do exist in patents to some extent but to a very limited extent and much more in America than the UK.” To improve confidence in the inherent value of intangibles, the creation of a market that tracks
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Picking the right bank for your business 44
Securing the services of a bank to handle one’s day-to-day monetary needs remains part and parcel of most entrepreneurs’ lives. Of the plethora of decisions a start-up has to make when taking its first steps, choosing the bank with which to open a business account is probably among the most important. But how can an entrepreneur ensure that they’re left feeling content with the financial institute they pick to take care of the cash?
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
Assess your needs
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Before checking out your banking options, it’s worth pinning down exactly where a bank is going to be of the greatest service to your business. Mapping out the future is a good way of working out your most pressing needs but it will also give banks a good overview of your enterprise. “The first place to start is always your business plan,” says Martyn Kendrick, north-west area director for SME banking at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. “This will enable you to plan strategically for your future needs, and will be essential in securing any growth funding or lending packages you may need in the future.” “Even if you do not need to borrow from your bank from the outset, you may anticipate needing a loan or overdraft over the next few years,” adds Amanda Murphy, head of business banking at HSBC. “It is important to consider the financing options and lending services available from the different banks.”
Check the chemistry You have to feel a certain affinity with an organisation that’s going to be keeping your money safe and secure. If there’s no discernible connection there, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. “The bank and the account manager need to understand your business and what your goals are,” says Adam Ludwin, chief visionary officer at Captify, the ad-tech company. “If this isn’t agreed and understood upfront you might find that you both have different ideas of how to further the business and that makes accessing finance harder. For Captify, it was agreed that the business needed to work with a bank that was used to working with fast-growing businesses.” And of course, familiarity can often breed contentment for an entrepreneur. “Around 70% of new business start-ups choose the same bank and branch that they use for their personal banking,” explains Murphy. “This is unsurprising given that a bank will already know the existing customer, and vice versa.”
Size matters Your choice of bank will also depend on the scope and ambition of your enterprise. Suffice to say, there’s something for everyone. “Significant national and international banks will generally have branches across the country, which is particularly useful for mobile businesses,” explains Chandauka. “They are also more likely to provide you with a one-stop shop – current account, commercial loan, insurance, savings products, online access, innovative technologies and other kinds of specialised services. “Regional banks are attractive to small businesses that operate within a specified geography,” Chandauka continues. “Typically, they offer a more personal level of service, good customer care scores, and lower fees if you require simple products. Banks that offer most of their business products and services online, generally offer ease of access and internet banking services without high fees. However, the level of personal engagement may not be desirable, particularly for early stage businesses where being able to get some commercial banking advice is important.”
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What’s the damage? As with a lot of business decisions – especially for start-ups – a choice of bank may eventually come down to price. Entrepreneurs should therefore make sure that are well-versed on how much they can expect to cough up in charges and fees for each bank. “A start-up will always have to manage a fine line on their cashflow so it’s essential that a bank is transparent about their overdraft allowances, along with the fees that might be incurred should the overdraft be exceeded,” says Ludwin. “In the initial first six months to a year the amount of payments fluctuate massively, due to set-up fees and payment from initial clients.” “Many banks will offer you bundles with a variety of services,” adds Sophie Chandauka, head of asset financing at Virgin Money Group. “Quite often, the bundles encompass everything you could ever want. However, it is important to be clear about what your business really needs before you pay unnecessary fees.”
Test their industry knowledge Some banks will have considerably more experience dealing with businesses from specific sectors. Therefore, it’s worth probing them about the sorts of enterprises they’ve dealt with before and checking that their knowledge of your particular industry is as sound as a pound. “Economic changes over the last few years have seen many lenders re-evaluate which sectors they operate in but having a bank manager who understands your industry and who has other customers trading in the same sector can be immensely helpful,” says Kendrick. “They will be well aware of current trends and the professional support available to similar firms to yours, such as trade bodies or business mentoring groups.” Ludwin can certainly speak from experience in this regard. “Particularly with high-tech businesses, many banks have very little knowledge or experience,” he says. “It’s advisable to ask about the bank’s experience and what other businesses they have worked with previously to ensure that they are a good fit with the company.”
Adam Ludwin, chief visionary officer, Captify
Amanda Murphy, head of business banking, HSBC
north-west area director for SME banking, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking
head of asset financing, Virgin Money Group
The bank and the account manager need to understand your business and what your goals are Adam Ludwin, Captify
may make moving earlier more advisable. If you have an overdraft (usually at a variable rate) you may want to reduce it or convert to a fixed rate loan. However many businesses did not adjust loan payments when interest rates were higher so they could be better able to meet future loan repayment commitments. You may want to model the impact of interest rate increases of 0.25% and higher on projected profits and cashflow. There may also be an opportunity to strike a deal with your bank ahead of an interest rate rise with lenders. Other lenders might be prepared to provide a better deal to win business, so these alternatives should be explored. This may include moving from a standard or variable commercial mortgage to a fixed rate. 46
In your interest With interest rates expected to rise to 2.5% by 2017, SMEs would be well-advised to consider the impact this could have on their bottom-line and act on it
f you ask your bank for a loan and you pass their lending tests you will be offered a number of finance options, including a fixed or variable interest rate loan. Feedback from banks suggests more businesses are opting for fixed rate loans. Why? The reason is that more than five years on from the last bank (or base) rate cut to 0.5%, it looks as though we are approaching the first increase, with the rate predicted to rise gradually to 2.5% in the next three years. Yet, according to an ICAEW survey, many businesses are ill-prepared for a future interest rate rise, with nearly two thirds (65%) of businesses having not put any measures in place to deal with rising interest rates. So is securing a fixed rate deal in the current environment the best option? This depends on a number of factors. Fixed rate deals are for a specific period – usually three, five or ten years but can be for longer. If you terminate a fixed rate deal early there may be penalties which can be very costly. So you have to think carefully about the period – or term – if you want a fixed rate loan. Another consideration regarding a variable rate loan is whether it is linked to the base rate or LIBOR (the rate that a bank will pay if it borrows from another bank). Measures to consider if you already have a loan or overdraft
You should consider how future rate increases may affect your cashflow projections, existing debt repayments and business development plans. If you’re considering an acquisition, the changing finance environment
Consider the impact on customers and suppliers
It’s not just your business that will be affected by higher interest rates, it will be your suppliers and, potentially, your customers too. Higher interest rates increase the cost of debt while also making saving more attractive. Both could have a knock-on effect on consumer spending. Similarly, rising rates could be a potential problem for your suppliers. Small companies with little or no access to market funding could be at the biggest risk of an interest rate shock, the ICAEW’s April research warned, especially if rates rise faster than expected. Exchange rates could be affected
Interest rates and exchange rates are interlinked. Foreign investors may be attracted to a higher UK interest rate, which may cause the exchange rate to rise. Relatively small interest rate increases can have a big impact on importers and exporters. Rethink your return on savings
If you’re a business sitting on cash, it’s going to be important to review your savings as well as any debt or financing. Early consideration and action are the key
Finally, the effects of rising interest rates can take a while to filter through into the wider economy. So you do have time to assess your situation, consider the options and then to take appropriate action. A useful first move would be to sit down with your banker and accountant and consider the potential impact of rate rises on your business.
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Global gathering 48
The internet may be a great enabler of international growth but becoming a global brand takes far more than just getting online
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
here’s arguably never been a better time to take a brand overseas. With social media now a ubiquitous presence in most people’s lives and the dawn of the internet a mere speck in our rear-view mirror, start-ups have instant access to international customers at the touch of a button. And as the world pulls itself out of economic meltdown, a whole host of visionary enterprises have come to the fore, all of which were founded upon ambitions of global success. But becoming a truly global brand is no walk in the park. Start-ups should be under no illusions about the amount of work that’s entailed in getting their name anywhere and everywhere. Suffice to say, the companies that have gone on to become international megabrands share some distinct characteristics. “If you look at the global brands that have been particularly successful, they all know exactly why they exist and they are ferocious about protecting that,” says Mark Artus, CEO of 1HQ, the branding agency. “If you aren’t clear about why you actually exist, you can get into all sorts of trouble because you will just be interpreted however a particular market chooses to see you.”
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Without a doubt, an entrepreneur who has their eyes abroad from the outset will be bound for failure if their brand only strikes a chord with domestic customers. “There is often a debate about what is local and what is global – and I think what the brand stands for has to be global,” says Ed Bussey, founder and CEO of Quill, the content marketing agency. “You might localise some of the communication but it still should have a brand signature that is consistent across all markets.” An uncomplicated brand message is a good starting point, according to Jorn Werdelin, co-founder of Linde Werdelin, the specialist watch and instrument company. “Ours is quite a simple message: watches, instruments, diving, skiing, Jorn and Morten,” he says. “That’s something that people can understand, regardless of whether they actually do those activities or not. It provides a simple and, to some extent, unique story: there are two old friends setting up a company that sells watches for going diving and going skiing.” Being understood is one thing but without a sufficient amount of demand for the product or service it’s tied to, a brand can struggle to make a mark on the international stage. Finding a niche in a crowded market can help. “If you do something that’s really unique, then you can find a space in the universe,” adds Werdelin. “People don’t need another sweater, they don’t need another car, they don’t need another watch but what can you give them so that they can enjoy what you do?”
Mark Artus, CEO, 1HQ
Ed Bussey, founder &
Jorn Werdelin, co-
founder, Linde Werdelin
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founder & CEO, Emoderation
Whilst a global brand’s raison d’être will transcend international boundaries, the likes of Coca Cola and Apple still have to deal with the cultural nuances thrown up by every single market they enter. Getting to grips with the distinct characteristics of ‘local’ audiences, and adapting accordingly, is therefore a core part of any international growth strategy. “You have got to understand who your audience is in the new market and how one communicates with that audience,” says Bussey. “Whilst you might have adopted a certain set of marketing channels to reach the audience in the UK, that target audience might be present in a very different place in China or Japan. You have to figure out what your marketing strategy is to reach that audience, whilst maintaining your brand values.” One way of meeting such a challenge is employing or at least engaging with people who are attuned Ed Bussey, Quill with the local way of doing things. “Wherever you go, you need someone on the ground who is culturally fluent as well as language fluent – someone who is immersed in the culture of the country you’re targeting,” says Tamara Littleton, founder and CEO of Emoderation, the social media management agency.
There is often a debate about what is local and what is global – and I think what the brand stands for has to be global
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You absolutely need to address every market as it comes Mark Artus, 1HQ
Getting social Sportlobster
With the possible exception of music, there’s surely not anything that connects the world as much as sport. The global reach of the Premier League is such that you can fully expect to find yourself discussing Manchester United’s defensive frailties with a Balinese tour guide on your honeymoon. Sportlobster, the sports social network founded by Andy Meikle in early 2013, looks to harness this universal love of sport by allowing users to engage with fellow sport lovers in all parts of the globe. The platform has already amassed an impressive 1.8 million users across 227 territories worldwide. Tailoring Sportlobster’s content for each
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“Even in markets where on the surface we’re very similar and share a language – such as Australia where we’ve just launched – there are still cultural differences to consider.” With brands jumping on the content bandwagon left, right and centre nowadays, tackling the language barrier has become an even more important part of global marketing efforts. Needless to say, a simple bit of translation isn’t going to cut the mustard. “You could translate if you wanted but if you’re doing this properly, you’d localise the content,” says Bussey. “You need native speakers who understand the local vernacular and the local idioms. The moment you start to translate, you are eroding the accuracy and the tone of that content.” Due consideration must be given to the visual characteristics of a brand as well as the actual words used in slogans, marketing copy or on social media channels. “It’s a huge challenge and companies still get it wrong,” says Artus. “Red isn’t seen as very positive in certain parts of Asia and there are certain bits of language you can’t use in other parts of the world. You have to do your research and ask yourself: ‘How do I translate this brand into the market we’re going to? Are there cultural issues? Are there colour issues? Are there language issues? Is the sentiment wrong?’” As Artus goes on to explain, brands are at liberty to adopt a different name in different markets as long as they don’t stray from the message they’re trying to portray to the world. “You absolutely need to address every market as it comes,” he says. “For instance, Surf is called Omo in Brazil but if you look at the centre of Surf or you look at the centre of Coke, there are the assets that define the brand. And as long as those are right and as long as everybody understands them, you can then work out how you can best express that brand in the markets you’re taking it to.”
and every country it touches has been key to this growth. The United States was a prime example of this. “When we planned the introduction of sports which have a mass following in the US, we knew that this content needed to meet the specific needs of American sports fans,” he explains. “We appointed specialist members of our team, who now manage the communications channels for our US content. They adopt a very different tone of voice and language to those used across other sports on the platform. It is easy to pinpoint someone who doesn’t really understand or watch American sports by the way they write and the language they use.” Respecting cultural nuances and traditions is just as important for Sportlobster as other brands, in spite of the universality of its product. “Different audiences have very different senses of humour and different ways of
interpreting potentially amusing content,” Meikle says. “Equally, common phrases or sayings in one country may be completely meaningless in another country. Because of this, we continually have to ask ourselves ‘Who are we speaking to? What is the appropriate tone of voice? Will this translate across different regions or do we need to target the content specifically towards one sport, one nationality or one specific audience?’”
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SALES & MARKETING
The complete package Many British businesses are driving the green agenda forward through their commitment to sustainable packaging
WORDS: Ryan McChrystal
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aking an interest in the environmental impact of packaging isn’t just for the hardened eco-warrior. It can help companies build a competitive advantage over rivals and provide assurances to customers that they are prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. Today we generate ever increasing quantities of packaging to wrap the things we consume. Packaging is everywhere, and despite our best efforts only around 67% is properly disposed of. A lot of the time businesses take the brunt of the blame but more and more often they have been taking real steps to respond and find an approach which is both environmentally friendly and meets their marketing needs. A recent study by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) showed that such action can actually be good for business. Corporations that actively manage and plan for climate change were shown to secure an 18% higher return on investment than companies that don’t – and 67% higher than companies who refuse to disclose their emissions. Those companies at the forefront have an opportunity to enhance their reputation in the eyes of society in general and create significant longterm value. Lucy Frankel, communications director at Vegware, agrees. “Sustainable packaging makes economic and environmental sense, and proves that behind your brand there are real human beings who care about their impact on the world.” Vegware is the UK’s first and only completely compostable food packaging firm. It is pioneering the development and manufacture of
eco-friendly catering disposables and food packaging. Its 250+ products, spanning from tableware to hot and cold drinking cups, are stylish, functional, economic and sustainable. It works with a network of distributors across the UK to deliver a range of ecodisposables to its clients. “Selling food is all about presentation and the experience, which is why companies invest in good branding and presentation,” says Frankel. “By integrating sustainability through packaging, companies can get a higher return on capital and gain value for their future.” The eco-impact of packaging is an increasingly global concern. A grocery store in Berlin, for example, recently said ‘Auf Wiedersehen!’ to packaging altogether in a ‘precycling’ move to avoid the acquisition of unnecessary waste before it accumulates. The package-free shop, Original Unverpackt (translation: Originally Unpackaged), follows a European trend which has seen similar stores crop up in Bordeaux in south-western France, the Austrian capital, Vienna, and Italy, which boasts two. When it came to the crunch, even UK crisp manufacturer Walkers saw the light and last year it reduced the packaging on Quavers by 30%. The company claims the move will mean less waste on our landfills and see “100,000 miles taken off the road”. The new multi-packs contain the same six 16.4g bags of the cheese flavoured potato snack but the outer film now contains less wrap. Many UK retailers and food manufacturers are going sustainability crazy with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) plans. The UK government has played a vital role in this with its efforts in improving resource efficiency and reducing waste in the UK grocery sector. Most recently it has funded and encouraged companies to sign up to the Courtauld Commitment. This is a voluntary agreement delivered by WRAP, which supports the UK government’s policy goal of a ‘zero
waste economy’ and climate change objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It works in partnership with leading retailers, brand owners, manufacturers and suppliers who sign up and support the delivery of the targets. While this coincides with mounting signs of a seismic shift in the environmental response of SMEs, it is pressure from consumers that is having the greatest impact on behaviour. As sustainability becomes more embedded in our personal behaviours, it comes out in our spending behaviours as customers. Although there may occasionally be a knock-on effect on price in the short-term, for many it is a price worth paying. This in turn sees investors increasingly interested in sustainability objectives in order to protect their interests,
Sustainable packaging makes economic and environmental sense Lucy Frankel, Vegware
with many including a sustainability strategy as part of their investment decision criteria. “UK consumers are aware of packaging waste through coverage in the media and have a good understanding of the environmental benefits of carton packaging and how easy it is to recycle at the end of its life,” says Nikki Clark, group marketing manager for the Benson Group, the printed folding carton supplier. The Benson Group aims to be a leader in the production of sustainable cartons, leaflets and labels produced for the packaging industry.
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Its main customers are food and beverage processors. “We work hard to improve environmental responsibility across the supply chain,” says Clark. A big part of the sustainability effort is making products that are long-lasting. The Versapak Group, for example, is a company that helps businesses store and transport documents and sensitive items. Its reusable and tamper-evident bags and cash in transit bags are used by leading companies in many industries throughout the world. Traditional storage methods often involve the use of cardboard boxes, which are easily damaged when subjected to wear and tear so they cannot be reused continuously. This results in tonnes of cardboard and paper having to be disposed of or recycled by businesses across the globe. Versapak has addressed that problem and come up with an environmentally friendly solution. Its bags are ethically created out of recyclable materials and they are built to last. They come with a five-year guarantee as standard, many last longer. The company claims some well-loved and used bags last as long as 35 years. This
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We are all about longevity and sustainability for us is very much about making things reusable Julie Goddard, Versapak
Zoe Brimelow, brand director, Duo UK
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healthy lifespan minimises waste and the need for recycling, helping customers to “do their bit for their environment”. “We are all about longevity and sustainability for us is very much about making things reusable,” says Julie Goddard, business manager at Versapak. “All of our products are made to be used up to 2000 times.” The ability of such companies to come up with new and innovative ways to reduce and improve packaging is remarkable. Duo UK has been around for more than 25 years, delivering consistently high quality packaging products. It is one of the UK’s most trusted packaging manufacturers and suppliers and among its customers are some of the leading retail, mail order, e-retail and industrial brands. “It’s important to us because we know how important it is to our customers,” says Zoe Brimelow, brand director for Duo UK. “We intend on investing in new products that encourage sustainability.” Duo is to be the first UK-based manufacturer to produce mailing bags using green PE, a thermoplastic resin made entirely from sugarcane ethanol. Also known as green polythene, it has been developed by Braskem, the largest petrochemical producer in the Americas, which has recently signed a partnership with Resin Trade to distribute its goods in the UK and Ireland. Sugarcane is a water efficient crop which also captures carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and is planted through strict ethical guidelines. Each kilogram of green plastic produced using this method saves 2.15kg of CO2, when compared to the production of conventional oil-based polythene. This is particularly valuable for clients seeking to achieve carbon
neutral status, or for those looking to be one step ahead of potential CO2 taxes, which are currently being mooted. “We are challenging our suppliers and partners about what new products are coming to the foresight and we can offer that to our customers,” says Brimelow. “Everyone has to be responsible for their own area and making sure they are innovating and opening themselves up to new developments.” Duo has been awarded the Investors in People standard and Paul Brown, an apprentice at the company, was named Apprentice of the Year at the Plastics Industry Awards 2012. There is a perception that sustainability is expensive and in a lot of cases it is. But as Brimelow says, a large part of that is R&D money for new products, which will decrease over time. “You have to look at the whole lifecycle,” she says. Going green on packaging can both improve a company’s operating performance – typically by lowering costs – and increase trust in its brand. An environmental commitment will support business growth and help customers and clients achieve their own sustainability objectives. The relationship between business, consumers and regulators is cyclical and the drive for sustainability is only set to grow from here on.
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Perfect copy 58
Given that most entrepreneurs live and breathe their business, writing their marketing copy should be easy, right? Wrong. Creating a unified voice for a business across its written marketing materials can be hard enough; creating a voice that engages and excites its customers is even tougher. We’ve assembled tips from some of the best and brightest to help you create consummate copy A good beginning
Delivering perfect copy starts with the very first word; it has to catch an audience’s attention right from the off. “Great copy must promise intrigue and information, debate and education to entice its reader to commit the necessary time and energy the writer seeks to secure,” says Andrew Cattel, client services director at Connect Advertising & Marketing, the communications agency. If a start-up wants an audience to engage with its message it is absolutely vital to draw it in from the very first word and provide it everything it needs to know. “A lot of people forget to put the correct information in there: who, what, why, where, when and how,” explains Sara Tye, founder of redheadPR. “And they need to put that in at the start.” When the purpose of a piece of copy isn’t obvious from the off, it’s hardly likely that an audience is going to put in a significant amount of work trying to figure it out. “Getting the headings to capture their imagination or compel them to read the rest is really important,” she explains. WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
Finding your voice
Identifying an appropriate voice for a brand’s copy isn’t always that straightforward. A good way to work out what’s needed and how to keep your copy consistent is with a tone of voice document. “What you will often do is you will write a few paragraphs about the brand or business as if it were a person,”
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explains Jen Bull, head of copy at Collective London, the creative agency. “You create a large metaphor as if they were a character: ‘this is someone you’d love to talk to in a pub’ or ‘he spends his weekends in the garden’.” Once a brand’s personality is clearer then it becomes easier to work through some dos and don’ts for a company’s copy. “Say it was for Barclays Bank, you might have an example of an opening paragraph of a letter,” Bull continues. “You’d have ‘this is how we would say it’ and ‘this is how we wouldn’t say it’ and the reasons why underneath.” Being human
Creating sparky and engaging copy will often mean leaving the corporate speak in the boardroom. “Whether your business is B2B or B2C, too much jargon never works well,” says Matthew Morris, director of Carr Consulting & Communications. “You need to limit it when dealing with your customers.” An enterprise may have the goal of creating a professional persona for your brand but the worst way to achieve this is miring itself in dull language. “You don’t need to write or speak too formally, like an 18th century school master because it will bore the audience,” Morris continues. The key is letting a little humanity shine through. “Writing great copy is all about thinking as a human being,” says Bull. “Like any business, SMEs need to talk about benefits. And that’s the point at which normal humans
– writers, clients – can turn into corporate non-humans.” But it’s comparatively easy to avoid this trap by remembering your copy should be a conversation with the reader. “Write how you talk,” says Tye. “We always say that if you’re writing for a magazine, you’re talking to the person who’s reading it as one person.” Be economical with words
The best copy is copy that keeps it simple. “Economy is the golden rule,” Bull explains. “I always take out everything I possibly can; the less words there are the better.” When an enterprise is writing copy it should have a pretty clear idea of what it wants to communicate and yet it can often be tempting to try to cram in a whole load of window dressing. “If you know what your message is, say it, prove it, then stop,” says Morris. “Waffle just dilutes [it].” One way a writer can avoid this trap is by being very precise in the language they choose to use. “Don’t use loads of flowery words in what you do,” Tye says. “The reader actually wants to get to the crux of the matter right away.” She recommends that, rather than going all round the houses with your copy, you find the exact word that captures what you’re trying to say. Check check check
However, the real make or break of a brand’s copy is the editing process. “Writing great copy is also about being a smokin’ hot proof-reader, grammarian and punctuator,” Bull says. No copy will be perfect the first time around and the only way to ensure that it creates the desired impression is to be meticulous in your editing. Without due care and attention all an enterprise’s efforts can come to naught. “Mess up and the business looks stupid,” she continues. “Bad copy casts a shadow.” Additionally, it’s a good idea to allow some sort of cooling off period on your copy. “When you feel a piece is ‘finished’ it can be tempting to go ahead and upload or distribute it there and then,” says Ben Austin, CEO of Absolute Digital Media. Leaving it 24 hours can often help a writer get a fresh perspective on when a bon mot will bomb or a witticism is likely to wilt. “Often clever or witty content that seems like a great idea at the time is just embarrassing the next morning,” he concludes.
SALES & MARKETING
Great copy must promise intrigue and information Andrew Cattel, Connect Advertising & Marketing
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29/08/2014 18:38 16:46 27/08/2014
Family fortunes W
Many family businesses fail to land in the hands of the third generation, while others seem to do it with ease. So what is the secret to a happy handover?
There needs to be a central vision that everything is built around
WORDS: Ryan McChrystal Family business.indd 1
Donkey work Williams Automobiles has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1911 when it was a one man and his donkey operation, weeding cemeteries. It is now a luxury car dealership specialising in British performance cars. It gives customers the five-star treatment and will even roll out the helipad if you are in a rush. Four generations and more than a hat do JCB, Associated British century after its inception the company is still in family hands, with Harry’s great grandson, Foods and Stemcor have in Henry at the reins, selling flash cars. common? You’d be correct to say Richard Williams, Henry’s father who ran they are all British companies but they have also been run by the same the Bristol-based company families for a long time. In before him, explains the success of the handover a few years ago. the UK around two thirds of “You have to plan for it for some businesses are family-owned time and ensure you get every and the biggest issue many will face is deciding who will detail right.” Williams says that in order take over when the current to succeed, a family business owners retire, pop their clogs must make the competency or disappear. Only a small proportion of family firms and training of the up-andremain within the bloodline but coming generation a priority. Richard Benson, Since heading up Williams there are many great examples Guide London Automobiles, he has proven of survivors out there that date himself to be more than capable, back generations. While no two cases are the same, it’s safe taking his floundering family business from a loss of £266,000 in 2011 to a profit of £370,162 to say certain themes such as planning, last year – with higher returns still expected communication and adapting to change this year. prevail in successful successions.
Still in fashion For the survival of a family business, it is vital that the next generation really wants it. With no desire to work in the City following their studies at the Manchester School of Management, brothers Richard and Jack Benson went to work for Guide London, the fashion business their father had started in 1973 with a £70 loan from his aunt. “We had grown up seeing our parents working for themselves and that very much appealed to our sense of free spirit,” says Richard Benson. Guide London offers everything from shirts, trousers, knitwear and coats to socks and underwear. The brothers got involved in 2004 and together they reformed the brand, focused more on in-house fashion design and increased business with UK-based independent retailers and those in Ireland and Scandinavia. The process of handing the business down, however, was gradual. “Initially, when we joined the business, it was very much a case of look, listen, learn,” says Benson. Over time as their experience has grown, they have grown into the business and taken it forward.
you retire, you are gone and aren’t the boss anymore.” To tell someone to butt out may seem harsh but that’s the beauty of a family – you often get away with saying things you wouldn’t normally say to someone you’re less familiar with. Sometimes tensions within a family can become overwhelming but Wyatt has a solution for that. “Within our family, conflict is very easy to resolve. If one of us has a very strong viewpoint, the other one always backs down. It’s a simple as that. But it’s fortunate we see eye-to-eye on pretty much everything and have very similar approaches.” Moving up For any professional, separating your working and personal life can be difficult. So can you imagine how much more difficult it is within a family firm? Peter Bishop, ICT director at Bishop’s Move, the largest family-owned removal business in the UK, explains: “Growing up in the family, we made a rule: as soon as I started properly working for the firm, discussions about the
business took place at work, not at home.” Bishop’s Move was established in 1854 by JJ Bishop and 2014 is a defining year as, after 160 years, the fifth generation of the family has handed the reins over to the sixth generation. The ‘L’ word is a must in any family business. No, the other ‘L’ word. Loyalty is essential but often lost as soon as an external proprietor is brought into the equation. Bishop’s is the exception to this rule, deciding to take on a managing director who does not share the DNA. However, only family members can become shareholders, so overall control remains with the Bishops. “This generation of the family has taken the brave step of getting outside help in, rather than saying it is our business and we need to run it, which could prove fatal when you reach a certain size,” says Bishop. It is plain to see that while there is no such thing as a concrete plan for success, there are certain constants. Knowing when to deviate from a plan and not being afraid of stepping outside the box may be the greatest strength of all.
We had grown up seeing our parents working for themselves and that very much appealed to our sense of free spirit Richard Benson, Guide London
Respect your elders One of the most crucial points of handing your business down is maintaining a good relationship between the different generations. For Benson, it comes down to having some common ground. “There needs to be a central vision that everything is built around in any business unit. There needs to be a core principle that allows a business to take its intellectual capital and profit from it.” James Wyatt, one of the partners of Barton Wyatt, the estate agent, which has been around under one guise or another since 1869, believes you can’t put a price on the wisdom and common sense of older generations. He runs the company with his brother, Rupert, and they both have a very close relationship with their father. “My father retired at 55 due to ill health but then he got better. So we employed him as a consultant until he was 65, as he did with his grandfather, and even now, although he is 71, I still call him from time to time to pick his brains.” Wyatt also believes it is important to draw the distinction between old and new. “Once
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Social staffing More businesses are starting to integrate social media into their recruitment but is it really the next big thing in the race for talent?
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
e’ve all heard how social media can help businesses reach consumers on a global scale. The massive marketing power presented by the likes of Facebook and Twitter is beyond dispute. However, there’s more to social media than meets the eye. On the one hand, it puts companies in front of an audience of millions – even billions – who may wish to part with their hard-earned cash for a product or service. On the other, the recruiters and HR managers of the world will inevitably have a different view of this audience. For them, it represents a global talent pool that can be dipped into whenever a new position needs filling. “Social media has given small businesses the recruiting power and reach of much larger organisations,” says Pierre Berlin, head of EMEA staffing within the Talent Solutions business at LinkedIn. “As a result, it’s now cost-effective for even smaller organisations to employ a recruiter full-time, saving money they might have normally spent on expensive recruitment agencies.”
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Social media has given small businesses the recruiting power and reach of much larger organisations Pierre Berlin, LinkedIn
Equally, social media can serve as a useful accompaniment to firms’ current recruitment strategy and put the message out to their network that they’re in the process of hiring. “Often, it will just tie in quite naturally to existing marketing efforts that a company is engaged in,” says Logan Naidu, founder and CEO of Dartmouth Partners, the recruitment consultancy. “For instance, if a small business has a Twitter feed that they use for their customers or for business purposes more generally, it makes sense to leverage that network they have in order to supplement their hiring as well.”
Despite these opportunities, smaller firms are not yet taking full advantage of social media in their of companies with 10-49 recruitment efforts. According to an employees use social Office of National Statistics (ONS) media to recruit report from December 2013, ICT of Activity of UK Businesses, 2012, the recruitment of employees only ranked fifth in the six most common uses of social media among businesses. Just 11.8% of companies were using social media to recruit employees, compared to the 33.1% using it to develop business image and market products. Closer inspection of the companies that
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utilise social media in recruitment reveals that just 9.9% of firms with 10-49 employees – and 18% of those with 50-249 employees – make use of it when hiring. Meanwhile, more than a quarter (28.3%) of firms with 250-999 employees integrate social media into recruitment, with that percentage rising to 41.9% for companies where the workforce totals over 1000 staff. One possible explanation for this is the sheer resource gap that exists between small and large firms. “When it comes to the other bits of the process – the sifting of applications and interview process itself – that is actually where a lot of recruitment firms come into play,” explains Naidu. “A lot of the challenge of the recruitment process is to go through that stage whilst trying to manage the business and everything else that’s going on.”
PUTTING IN THE TIME
But if an SME is willing and able to invest its time into it, a dabble in social media can certainly bring rewards. Spreckley Partners, the PR company, has advertised two junior roles on LinkedIn recently. “We wanted to see if we could hire without having to pay the extra fees to recruiters,” explains Robin CampbellBurt, associate director at Spreckley Partners. This approach has come with added man hours but Campbell-Burt believes it’s been an effective channel for the company. “We had 120 applicants for our most recent vacancy so I had to look at each and every one of those to see if they’re appropriate, which was a lot more work than when a recruiter is sending through people after you’ve briefed them on who you’re looking for,” he says. “But with a
Everyone hopes for a panacea that will solve their recruitment problems but there is no quick fix to recruitment Peter Burgess, Retail Human Resources
Tearing up the recruitment rulebook Beringer Tame bit of patience, the end result was that the people we’ve got to interview are of the same quality and calibre as if we’d gone through a recruitment consultant.” It’s also provided Spreckley Partners with a useful reference point for the next time it recruits. “Everyone who’s applied who we’ve quite liked the look of; we’ve got them on our radar,” adds Campbell-Burt. NOT A PANACEA
But as it stands, social media is just one piece of the recruitment puzzle. It’s not yet threatening the existence of traditional channels meaning a reliance on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter won’t be that fruitful for the majority businesses. “You should be relentless in looking for talent and if you think that you can just run an advert on social media or in your local newsagents, and that will do it, it probably won’t,” says Patrick Tame, founder and CEO of Beringer Tame, the digital and ecommerce recruitment company. Certainly, it’s yet to have as big an impact on recruitment as it’s had on the world of marketing. The same old rules apply. “Everyone hopes for a panacea that will solve their recruitment problems but there is no quick fix to recruitment,” says Peter Burgess, managing director of Retail Human Resources, the retail recruitment company. “The only way to do recruitment is to see a hell of a lot of people before you see the one that you want.” However, whilst social media may not be the be-all-andend-all for seeking out talent, it’s undeniably become a shop window for potential recruits. “All companies need to look at the way they are represented in social media because it’s a candidate-driven market and talent chooses where it works,” concludes Tame.
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The most eye-catching example of social media recruitment in recent years was the Twitter campaign to find a new CEO for fashion brand Lyle & Scott. Digital recruitment firm Beringer Tame encouraged people to apply for the role on the micro-blogging site after Lyle & Scott said it was seeking a leader who was well-versed in their tech and social media. “We had a profile of the type of character we were looking for so we looked at the top 200 people on Twitter that this person was most likely to be following,” explains Patrick Tame, founder and CEO of Beringer Tame. “We knew that if we could get some of those 200 people to engage with the Twitter campaign, it was going to be accessed by the right kind of people.” But, it wasn’t just a case of a tweet being sent out of the blue. “It was actually a very sophisticated campaign,” adds Tame. “We wanted people to find the tweet and wanted the tweet to be the thing that people talked about but there was an awful lot of work done behind the scenes in order for that tweet to be picked up.” Social media was also integral to the latter part of the recruitment process, with candidates asked to serve up Pinterest boards and video content. “Just because we get someone via a Twitter campaign doesn’t automatically mean they’re tech-aware or innovative,” says Tame. “This allowed us to see what they could do and who they were rather than simply looking at a CV and having them tell us what they’d done.” And the results were very interesting, as Tame reveals. “Some of the candidates with creative experience from the world of fashion fell short and didn’t really have any originality,” he says. “On the other hand, some of the people with perhaps duller CVs who you’d expect to be a little bit less creative really took it as their opportunity to show us what they could do.”
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Pedal to the metal 72
Your business is going gangbusters. Though good for the bottom line, growth will have implications for your people strategy. The trick is managing it effectively
o you’ve hit the accelerator pedal. Your business is scaling up – fast. It’s a nice problem to have, of course. But you are experiencing growing pains: running out of space, scared about cashflow and top of the list, you are hitting a whole pile of new people problems that you just didn’t anticipate. It goes without saying that fast growth in itself can motivate your people. Most people like to feel part of something that is growing and going somewhere. However, and I can speak from experience of owning a business in hyper-growth mode, it can also present lots of new challenges that you just didn’t plan for. In this month’s column I hope to give you some food for thought and practical ideas on how to manage your people whether you are experiencing fast growth right now or if you are just planning for it. Bring the right people in
Taking the time to make the right hiring decisions can be one of the hardest things to do when you are under pressure from customers to deliver. However, the people you bring in, particularly the first 100 employees, are absolutely critical to your future success and essential to retaining and developing your company culture and values. Be clear with anyone thinking of joining you that change is inevitable. By joining a company that is scaling up, their role, environment, processes and structure are all going to go
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through numerous reinventions over the coming months and years as the business evolves. You also want people who are smart about how to manage projects or deliverables with insufficient resources. No matter how well or fast you recruit, if you are growing quickly you will never have enough employees or funds for what you need but bright problem-solvers manage to adapt to the situation at hand and find a way through. Keep your existing team
If you’ve been operating a nice small business with say up to 15–20 employees for a while before you hit your stride, then the first thing you will see creep into your existing team is insecurity. They are likely to feel threatened by a sudden influx of new people with your senior people worrying that their stature is going to be reduced and your junior people feeling more distant from you as the owner and as such neglected or less important to the company. This first issue is actually one of the easiest to solve – just get them in on the journey and your problem, then empower them to help you solve it. Ask them to write the role profiles for the new positions you need to hire; involve them in the interview processes and get them to meet and share their opinions on new hires before you bring them in so they are part of the decision. Reassure them that the only reason that you need to hire more people is that they are doing such a fantastic job in delighting
Bright problemsolvers manage to adapt to the situation at hand and find a way through
your customers. Make sure you tell everyone about new positions before you go externally and give them the opportunity to apply for the role first. If someone’s role is going to be impacted heavily by a new hire, then make sure you cover this with them in advance. Find a new plan of action where they can focus on different objectives and mentally move away from the activities they will be passing over. This means when your new hire joins, they are focused on training them up quickly as they are excited and keen to move on to their now remit rather than becoming a blocker. Create a solid structure
As you scale, you are likely to take on more customers, more employees, generate more revenue but also need more processes and more layers of management. As your business grows, it becomes more complex and you have to find a way to deal with that added complexity and inevitably this means more
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processes and hierarchy. Now this can really change a culture if implemented in the wrong way or too quickly. My advice would be to add little by little and only as much as you need to repair the cracks before things break but not so much that you cement over them and make your business rigid and too corporate. Key at this point in your evolution is to focus on creating structure around the things that need it, not the things you think a larger company should do. For example, if you don’t believe you have a problem with sickness absence, don’t introduce a sickness monitoring policy. But if you do now have a layer of line managers that are leading people, perhaps for the first time, then invest in some coaching and performance management training. Likewise, if you can survive another 12 months without the slick CRM system and are managing to get by on Excel spreadsheets but mistakes are creeping into your invoices and your debtor days are creeping up, focus on introducing process and structure for the raising, signing
off and chasing of invoices and save the money for the CRM system for next year. Make tough decisions
Finally, inevitably, as you grow up, you sometimes outgrow some of your people. One of the biggest mistakes you can make, if your intention is to keep on growing, is to hold on to people out of loyalty and not address the issue at hand. The operations manager who you hired when your operations were on one site and handled by a team of four may not be the operations manager you now need to lead a team of 50 across multiple sites and geographies. It doesn’t mean that they’re not committed, don’t work hard and aren’t passionate about your business. But if they don’t have the aptitude and skill for your current and future challenges, you need to face the thorny issue of effectively demoting them as you grow and hire people above them or take the hardest decision of all to let them go. Who said this growth malarkey was easy?
A marriage made in Shoreditch: Why Unilever wants London’s tech talent
From Old Street’s Silicon Roundabout to west London’s triangle, the capital’s much lauded tech scene continues to excite entrepreneurs, investors and politicians alike as we vie with the likes of San Francisco and Tel Aviv to become the world’s premier digital city
rands are the latest entrants to the tech business. The firm launched start-up hub The party with global players investing Unilever Foundry earlier this year and wants to serious capital in the technologies that build lasting relationships with tech innovators – a will give their products and marketing the commitment beneficial for big brands and fledging edge. Enthusiasm for ‘madtech’ (marketing and tech firms alike. advertising technology) among brands is at an “Start-ups are defining the future of marketing all-time high as social media, mobile and a data and it’s in our interest to encourage collaboration innovation lead a revolution of the marketing with the rich seam of start-ups we have here in industry. London,” says Marc Mathieu, Unilever’s SVP Unilever is one brand with big ambitions to global marketing. He is an ad:tech London embrace start-ups into its marketing keynote alongside the likes of Sir department and corporate culture. Martin Sorrell, investor Leonard The firm is hosting The Next Big Thing Brody, Coca-Cola VP marketing at ad:tech London on 21 October – a Javier Sanchez-Lamelas, Mondelez pitch and award featuring eight of the VP global media & consumer City’s most exciting tech start-ups. engagement Bonin Bough and new Diageo and Shop Direct – two more Ryanair CMO Kenny Jacobs. firms with a track-record of investing “We’re excited to meet the people in start-ups – are the other brands on who will lead this revolution Marc Mathieu, Unilever the judging panel. and discover what the city’s tech Unilever is also calling on London’s community can create in a day.” creative technologists to develop Whether or not the event uncovers data-fuelled products that will enhance consumer Old Street’s answer to Facebook, it’s exciting to experience and help create sustainable markets for see Unilever and its rivals make such a significant its brands such as Dove and Knorr by participating start-up play. in a Hackathon at ad:tech. London’s start-up scene is inspiring a generation Whilst there’s up to £35k of prize money and of entrepreneurs who will not only shape the funding available via Unilever Ventures, what future of marketing and media industry, but that is more significant is the shift in direction of society and the global economy. Unilever has taken when it comes to working with start-ups and overcoming the challenges ad:tech London runs from October 21-22 of successfully integrating them into its FMCG at The Olympia National, London
Start-ups are defining the future of marketing
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Historically, events like the arrival of Halley’s Comet sparked mass hysteria in our ancestors. But even this doesn’t approach the level of fervour and anticipation exhibited by modern man in the run up to an Apple launch. Despite some issues with the livefeed – which probably induced quite a few ragequits – Apple still managed to make a splash with three new releases at its September Event 2014, including the announcement of the much-heralded Apple Watch. We take a look at the new apps and gadgets alongside our other highlights of the month’s best tech
Even before its existence was confirmed, the Apple Watch had probably attracted more discussion than most devices do in their entire lifecycle. But was it worth the wait? It’s perhaps too early to tell but everything about it – from its digital crown, fuss-free interface, built-in haptic feedback that aids navigation and allows users to ‘tap’ each other on the wrist, heart-rate tracker and pressure sensitive touch screen – screams potential. Apple has also managed to achieve something hitherto out of reach of most smartwatches: it really is aesthetically attractive enough to live on your wrist the whole time. Which potentially might finally help wearables crack the mainstream.
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 Plus iPhones have always been the petite option in the premium smartphone market but rumours abounded that the iPhone 6 would be going big. It seems the rumour mill was pretty on the money: the screen size has been upped from 4in to 4.7in with the iPhone 6, whilst its bigger brother the 6 Plus comes in at 5.5in. Both are significantly thinner than their forefathers at 6.9mm and 7.1mm respectively and include a 1080p HD video camera that can shoot slo-mo at a staggering 240 fps. Lastly Apple is angling to replace your wallet entirely with Apple Pay, the NFC-supported, fingerprint-secured payment system.
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BelayCords Let’s face it: USB cables are a pain in the backside. Trying to plug them in invariably involves flipping them round and trying each way up several times until it finally slides home, often scratching the hell out of your anodised aluminium casing in the process. Happily this frustrating experience is now a thing of the past thanks to BelayCords, the reversible USB plug that will play nice with your ports regardless of which way up you hold it. It is also reinforced inside, has a wear-proof fabric exterior and comes with a lifetime guarantee, meaning that your stress-free USB cable will stay strong plug after plug.
iOS 8 The third jab in Apple’s triple whammy of releases is the latest version of its mobile operating system iOS 8. Whilst it was never going to be as significant a step forward as iOS 7’s major graphical overhaul, the latest OS comes with some neat new inclusions. Users can now include audio in messages and use the camera to shoot time-lapse video. Additionally, the slightly old fashioned keyboard has been updated so it suggests contextually appropriate words and its latest suite of tools, Health, gathers info and feedback from your activity tracker, heart rate monitor and assorted health and fitness apps all in one place.
Noke In the past couple of years we’ve seen no shortage of bluetooth-enabled locks, offering access to your home without having to fumble for keys. But Noke is different – this bluetooth padlock is taking this tech from your front door and bringing smartphone-driven security wherever you need it, allowing you to lock garages, bikes, sheds and lockers in 21st century style. And don’t worry about getting trapped by a dead phone battery – Noke can also be unlocked by clicking out a user-defined pattern on its bolt, meaning not even an Apple battery can prevent you from gaining access to your prized possessions.
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Getting past paper 80
There are plenty of reasons to reduce your reliance on paper. But if you’re going to break the habit, it’s best to start as soon as you can
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
here’s no doubting that moving away from paper is a good call and not just for the sake of the environment. Saving the planet is an admirable goal but whilst reducing paper consumption can remove a significant proportion of CO2 from the atmosphere there are benefits closer to home that might form a more significant business case for SMEs. “People think about paperless as being more about efficiency than saving the planet,” says Jerry Brand, founder of Caternet, the online IT solutions provider. “It is efficiency that actually makes the case for technology.” There are plenty of reasons to reduce your reliance on paper but inevitably the first one will come down to the fact that office space comes at a premium in the modern world. “You can walk into some organisations and see they’ve got level arch files all over the place,” says Tony Reissner, owner of Whitegate, the business solutions provider. Given leases in London have never been higher, it’s becoming increasingly hard to justify paying for the extra square footage just to house all your documents in triplicate. Moreover, with increasing numbers of professionals working on the go or eschewing the office entirely, technology is allowing people to have
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access to key files in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible with paper. “Having access to that information if it’s all in lever arch files in an office somewhere isn’t possible,” Reissner says. “Whereas if it’s electronic, it’s almost like you’ve got your virtual office and wherever you are you’ve got access to those documents.” But it’s not just a matter of access. Even the most diligent filing system cannot tell you where key information is at any given moment – knowing an invoice is somewhere in the accounts payable department isn’t much comfort when the final demand arrives. Brand explains that for a huge number of meetings in the past he’d log key info under a date in his notebook; with a study of his diary he could usually locate the details he required but it wasn’t the most efficient system. “That used to take ten or 20 minutes,” he says. “Whereas Jerry Brand, Caternet with cloud systems you just fire up the computer, there it is: job done.” Cloud storage has had something of a bad rap recently. But whilst Apple’s iCloud hacks are something to be concerned about it’s fair to say that your docs are more secure on cloud servers than being lugged around in a leverarch file in the back of an employee’s Ford Escort. “If you’re having to pull out the files and travel with the files on the
Paperless is more about efficiency than saving the planet
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“It’s not removing paper entirely; it’s still Tube, then there’s the risk of course of losing going to meetings with some paper and a pen or leaving them somewhere in a public place,” but it’s about how easily can you access that Reissner says. Additionally, if there’s a fire in information afterwards,” he continues. the office and a company doesn’t have offsite archiving untold damage can be caused. “If There are a couple of things that stand in the way of this. “One is technology; it’s getting it was in the cloud then they would be able to there, no doubt about it, but it’s not there yet,” access it from the cloud or from their backup says Brand. “The other one is human beings devices,” he continues. because breaking those habits is very difficult.” There are clearly myriad benefits to cutting Whilst technology advances at a rate of down on your paper and putting paperless solutions in place. But is a truly paperless office knots, people tend to be considerably less quick to change their ways. “In really achievable? accountancy, what you’ll see Probably not, at least in is the older practitioners like the short term. “When we myself accept that paperless talk about a paperless office, for the majority of things we’re not talking about will work but don’t like to let going completely paperless; I go of old habits,” says Paul don’t think that is a reality,” Miller, managing director Reissner says. Trying to of Cornish Accounting boost productivity by utterly Solutions. He explains expunging paper from your that paper has been such processes could backfire, a fundamental part of his particularly with employees Tony Reissner, Whitegate working processes that it is who aren’t digital natives.
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When we talk about a paperless office, it’s not removing paper entirely
hard to completely abandon it. But he accepts that the younger generation’s relationship with paper has been fleeting. “If you look at some of the younger practices and practitioners, they’re more readily able to accept that paperless is the right way.” And it’s not only people that get set in their ways as they age. “The problem with the established organisations is that they already have their processes in place and it’s going through that change which is the challenge,” says Reissner. But new businesses can get these habits right from the off and instil effective processes that grow as they do. “For a new business you can just start off in the right way and you’re going to save yourself a lot of hassle later on,” he concludes.
Paperless in practice Cornish Accounting Solutions
Running an effective business often means recognising hitches in your processes. “We seemed to be shuffling endless reams of paper around the office,” says Paul Miller, managing director of Cornish Accounting Solutions. Inevitably, given the huge investment of time that accompanied this, it became clear his firm had to kick its paper habit. “Given the fact that as an accountant we are driven by timelines, by statutory deadlines and compliance deadlines, you’ve actually got to look at what you’re doing and actually have a more effective way to do it.” Finding the right solution might be tricky but Miller stumbled across the perfect solution while researching other accountancy firms. One firm had adopted the solution Virtual Cabinet and a quick ring later Cornish Accounting System had a solution that would help them kick the paper habit. “The guys came down, they migrated the data,” he explains. “It was quick, it was easy, it was hassle free and we then went through a training system of how we could actually use Virtual Cabinet.” And it’s had a significant impact on the way the company communicates. “Clients actually see it as a progressive step forward,” says Miller. “If you’re advising people on technology, whether it’s accounting software or whatever, then you’ve got to be seen to be embracing new technology.”
Stay one step ahead of your competitors Your own data could spell the difference between flying high and just hanging on, says Neil de Villiers, MD at Fan Business Solutions
aving invested in numerous applications and systems to record your company’s activities, such as financial applications (ERP systems), customer relationship management systems (CRM), project management systems, etc., do you fall into the same trap as 95% of all other companies who then fail to analyse what is happening? The truth is that most companies simply rely on their financial reports to tell them how they have been doing. If you are one of these companies, then you are potentially missing out on these vital indicators:
• Real-time progress reports during the month enable you to track your performance against targets and budgets and make proactive decisions before it is too late. • Spot a sales trend in a specific product range and focus your marketing to capitalise before your competitors even know what is happening. • Specific performance indicators could alert you to potential problems before they become real problems. For example, operational overload on your staff could result in poor quality for your customers. Too little load and you are paying for staff you don’t need.
Maximising your company’s potential starts with keeping a constant eye on the most important details and indicators
One of the primary reasons companies don’t invest in business intelligence (BI) is that most solutions are unaffordable. However, it is important to realise that if your company uses MS Excel, you already use the most popular BI tool in the world. Therefore, with very little additional investment, you could immediately benefit from powerful decision-making information that could see your company boost profits by 25% or more within just 6 months. Fan Business Solutions specialise in ROI-focused implementations: each small investment results in a real, tangible benefit. Contact Neil de Villiers directly using email@example.com Quote ELITEMAG for 27% discount on your first order.
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A touch of Glass
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ou know when you’re trying to find your next meeting while staring at a map on your phone and struggling with a laptop case? Google Glass aims to fix that problem and a fair few more. It’s the ultimate piece of wearable tech, turning your shades into a web portal. It can provide a realtime stream of the latest information that doesn’t need to waste time going via your fingertips. Google’s typically understated mission is to produce the mass market ubiquitous computer. On the side of your Google Glass is a touchpad letting you control things by swiping through a timeline-esque display. Sliding backward shows current events, such as weather, and sliding forward shows past events, such as phone calls, photos and the like. Most controversially there’s a camera: Glass can take photos and record 720p HD video. This has given rise to major concerns over privacy. The information comes in your eyeline so you can see it without having to look down. You interact with the device by speaking – saying “OK Glass” and then
Google Glass is a ‘marmite’ piece of technology. People seem to love it or hate it. But what is it really? And how could you use it in your business?
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an instruction like “take a photo” or “direct me to my next meeting”. There are an increasing number of apps available for Glass including many existing Google applications such as Google Now, Google Maps, Google+ and Gmail. Additional apps include Evernote, OpenTable, and Strava, with others including facial recognition, photo manipulation and translation. The Glass also now comes in various styles with Google having teamed up with Luxottica, which produces Ray Ban and Oakley glasses. How can it be used?
So far, the fuss around Glass has been focused on the privacy issues and the social norms about its use in public. It’s annoying enough when your lunch companion checks their phone but imagine when you suspect them of browsing the web mid-conversation. Indeed the furore has spawned a new term for those that wear the technology: the ‘Glasshole’. But it’s outside of personal use where the most interesting applications of Google Glass are being seen. Glass has the potential to revolutionise training and the sharing of knowledge. Recently, a team of doctors led by US-based orthopaedic surgeon Selen
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G. Parekh performed a foot surgery at an Indo-US conference in Jaipur, using the technology to broadcast the procedure live over the web. Dr. Ashish Sharma, who organised the conference, said that he can see a time when the device could be employed to communicate with patients’ families, help teach students remotely and collaborate with other doctors during a surgery. The construction industry is also exploring the use of the platform. Companies like FieldLens and Procore are releasing Glass apps, aiming to let workers access plans, safety documents and even machine or tool instructions without having to drop what they’re doing. You could even pull up an instructional video if you are a trainee builder. Imagine having hands-free browsing when you’re working on top of a skyscraper. Manufacturers could also benefit from on-the-job instruction – GM North America is exploring its use, seeing immediate benefits for quality control processes and for training staff. As with medicine, the in-built camera can be used to live stream what the operator sees and to record for future documentation. Even more traditional industries like farming have seen a role for Glass. A developer called Basecamp Networks has created the IntelliScout application to make it easier for farmers to spot and log
Those who can embrace wearable tech will gain real advantages
issues with crops (eg pests), without having to pull out their camera or smartphone. They can record what they see, as they see it, and instantly send it to others while in the field. Not everybody is a fan though. Despite being a fairly sci-fi piece of kit, NASA has said it’s not much use in space. “Google Glass is a promising technology but needs to overcome battery life, display viewing and scrolling issues in order to be an operational useful tool,” it reportedly declared. But what about my company?
It’s one thing for international doctors, General Motors, or NASA to use (or not use) Google Glass but what about us mere mortals? How and where could we use a Glass in our companies? The technology works best when you need to get information but typing is difficult (remember the builder on top of the roof?). After all, if you can easily type, why not just use a smartphone or tablet? There’s none of the social awkwardness. Think about any kind of skill-heavy maintenance work, such as fixing cars or particular appliances or machinery when on site, or working with unfamiliar or old equipment. It would also work well for some kinds of customer service – airports, event coordination, hotels, and high-end office receptions. It’s also great if anything you are doing needs to be recorded: we’ve already seen the training potential. Maybe you could record your star sales person as they handle a meeting or your warehouse team, in order to make sure your storage facility is as efficiently organised as possible. It would also be a fantastic sports training aid – you could record your team’s training up close and personal, getting a real feel for how to best improve their technique. Imagine refereeing with the ability to see instant video playback on contentious decisions – it may at least save a few Sunday afternoon squabbles. The opportunity
Love it or hate it, the Glass – and other wearable tech platforms – are the thin edge of a very large wedge of technology and will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future. Those who can embrace these platforms – making the most of their practical applications while avoiding the pitfalls – will gain real advantages. And someone needs to build these apps, creating opportunites for companies like mine. We are already exploring Glass apps in our R&D activity and for numerous new tech start-ups. So why not put on your “tech specs” and get ready to see the future?
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tats are few and far between for the number of entrepreneurs that have gone through a divorce. However, one can safely assume that next to your Average Joe citizen, the volume of entrepreneurs whose marriage ends up being terminated is proportionally higher. “Entrepreneurs don’t have a very healthy balance between work and home life,” says Dr Stephen Bence, divorce finance expert at Vardags, the law firm. “The classic entrepreneur works extraordinarily hard and often does that in quite anti-social ways, whether that’s late at night, over weekends or travelling to get a deal done. It’s a high hours, high stress culture and relatively few manage to balance that against the demands of family life.” Whilst divorce can be an emotionally and financially crippling experience for many people, it’s worth considering the additional implications of a marriage break-up for an entrepreneur. “Divorce can end up being effectively a tax of 50% or more on your entire wealth. That’s the biggest tax bill – in inverted commas – that you’ll ever pay,” says Bence. “And it can be particularly problematic for entrepreneurs because a high proportion of the wealth of the marriage will be tied up in the business and that is often an illiquid asset. In extremis, the business could end up having to be sold in order to fund a divorce settlement.”
With divorce a fairly common occurrence among entrepreneurial folk, it’s always worth bracing your business for a marriage break-up
Given what’s at stake should divorce papers land on an entrepreneur’s desk, being able to protect one’s assets is imperative. Thankfully, there are a number of avenues available to a business owner. “There are lots of mitigation tactics that one can deploy,” explains Bence. “The first and most obvious is to get a prenup. That takes it out of the courts as much as possible and determines what’s going to happen to the assets in the unfortunate event of a marriage breakdown.” Removing the rose-tinted glasses can also pay dividends for an entrepreneur in times of divorce. Bence explains that getting a more realistic value for one’s business can sometimes go a long way in helping to limit the damage. “One has to give the entrepreneur a dose of realism when it comes to a divorce,” he says. “Just because you’ve attracted investment that notionally values a business at one value doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the value that you could really get for your shares were you to sell them.” “Once you’ve got them into that frame of mind, it’s about looking at why that business might be worth less than it might on first glance
Dr Stephen Bence,
divorce finance expert, Vardags
appear,” Bence continues. The position of the entrepreneur in the company can have a large bearing here, along with the actual amount of control they have within the business. “You have got to look at the real control of the individual and the class of shares that they have got to determine what the real value is,” he adds. The level of liquidity in the business may also be taken into consideration, which again could see the actual value of the business end up being lower than envisaged by the entrepreneur. “That can make a huge difference to the outcome of a case,” Bence says. In the absence of a prenup, there are still ways that matters can be kept out of court, thus limiting the time, stress and expense involved in such proceedings. According to Bence, the options available to an entrepreneur include raising money against a business instead of selling it; reaching a settlement whereby a pay-out can be made over a number of years; or even offering one’s spouse an ongoing share in the business.
One has to give the entrepreneur a dose of realism when it comes to a divorce Dr Stephen Bence, Vardags
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“The courts tend to be quite limited in the options whereas, by negotiation, you can come up with much more creative solutions,” he says. It goes without saying that transparency is everything in divorce proceedings. Having worked alongside the high-profile Young vs Young case – in which property tycoon Scot Young was jailed for non-disclosure of key assets – Bence knows first-hand what entrepreneurs risk by keeping secrets. “As an entrepreneur, if you’re involved in divorce proceedings, you really should get professional advice pretty damn quickly,” he says. “If you head off in the wrong direction and you’ve got somebody on the other side who is absolutely determined to hunt you down, it can be incredibly timeconsuming, incredibly expensive and ultimately you can get caught out.” He continues: “One should be quite proactive about financial disclosure: be upfront about it, present your finance in a realistic – as opposed to optimistic – way and let that be challenged by the other side.” Of course, there is another option for entrepreneurs when divorce comes a-knockin’, one which, according to Bence, is favoured by many. “I’ve seen a number of incredibly successful entrepreneurs take the attitude of ‘I’m just going to give them half of it. I then want to move on with my life and just go and earn it again’,” he says. “It’s another alternative: rather than fight it, just go with it and then make yourself successful again. It saves the time and aggro of going through a costly and acrimonious divorce, something which can be incredibly distracting when you’re trying to make money.” In an ideal world, an entrepreneur will balance their professional and personal lives without causing too much damage to either. However, this is easier said than done so assessing the options at the earliest stage possible is the wisest approach. “Everybody should be going into marriage thinking about the possibility that it doesn’t work out,” concludes Bence. “Entrepreneurs are even more prone to that and so they, like everybody else, really should be thinking about it right from the start.”
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the START-UP DIARies
Friends in the right places Sarah McVittie, co-founder, Dressipi
Word-of-mouth recommendations only come about after some serious face-to-face at the start and making good on your business promise
t’s all go here at Dressipi HQ. We’re in the process of bringing in some big retailers as new clients so the team has been hard at work implementing them in time for autumn and winter. In those rare moments when we get to think about something other than the job, it all feels a far cry from what it was like a couple of years ago. Back then we had only just begun our new strategy of selling Dressipi as a B2B service for retailers and our biggest challenge was finding and then getting in front of the people who were able to take our recommendation projects forward. We had a lot to prove because, while we were sitting on a lot of really rich, interesting data, our technology was relatively young and had been developed with consumers in mind not businesses.
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The result was that, for months, Donna and I felt as though we were stalking a group of people who felt like the most elusive group in the fashion industry. We had to prove Dressipi’s credentials as a service that might solve intractable problems such as high returns or abandonment. And the best way we knew to do that was to make ourselves ubiquitous. We spent our evenings going to events to mix with the right people and hustled for meetings. We sent emails and made phone calls to the people who organised key industry events and got ourselves speaking lots and making panel appearances. Every chance we got we put ourselves out there. It was this initial push that got us into the retailers who became our first customers. Landing them was crucial as it helped us get out of the chicken-and-egg situation that new businesses often find themselves in: having a really good idea but no opportunity to refine it into an actual business. These relationships taught us a lot of very valuable lessons about how recommendation worked in the real world. But it also made us a few friends that proved just as useful along the way. This brings me to another key moment for Dressipi: when Sir Stuart Rose came on board as our chair at the end of 2012. Operationally it changed very little but the news sent a very important signal to the rest of the industry. We suddenly became the business that had attracted the attentions of one of the UK’s most successful retail executives. It opened doors but it was still up to us to convert that interest into something more tangible. In a highly networked space like fashion retail, it was important to get ourselves out there and publicly position ourselves as a hot new business. Yet it was more important to get a reputation as a business that delivered behind the scenes. Since those first few customers, most of our new business deals have come in because of recommendations. You can never predict how or when these referrals will come in but it’s important to remember that they’re actually the culmination of lots of hard work. For example, I know we got one of our big new contracts because a client has been sharing the results they’ve been getting through Dressipi with the rest of their group. That happened because we built a good relationship with our key client by delivering on our promises. One of the clichés of business is that it isn’t what you know but who you know. Our experience has told us that it’s important to make friends but it’s actually what you do for the people you know that really matters.
We spent our evenings going to events to mix with the right people and hustled for meetings
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Damian Kimmelman founded DueDil to unlock the hidden value in private company information. He’s struck gold with some high-profile investors...
Published on Oct 1, 2014
Damian Kimmelman founded DueDil to unlock the hidden value in private company information. He’s struck gold with some high-profile investors...