Meet Renaud Visage, co-founder and CTO of Eventbrite, the online event platform and one of the stars of the global start-up scene. Thanks to his tech know-how and eye for engineering excellence, Eventbrite has sold $2bn worth of tickets and attracted $80m of VC investment ÂŁ4.50
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CONTENTS VOLUME 03 ISSUE 02 / 2014 09 10 12 13 14 82
Editor’s letter Contributors News & events Talking point Book reviews Start-up diaries
16 The Elite interview
52 Letting your guard down
23 One to watch
57 Business buddies
27 A platform to perform
60 Cleaning up the stress
32 The new way to pay
64 Bringing in the best
Renaud Visage is leading Eventbrite to victory Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and its stone-cold success story Britain’s creative firms are shining on the global stage Traditional forms of money exchange are fading fast
Not using your trademark can come back to haunt you Is working with friends all it’s cracked up to be? A healthy, happy workforce is a must for all employers There’s an art to attracting talent through your doors
“Silicon Valley took 50 or 60 years to build – no other city will do it in two” Renaud Visage
38 Added value
Determining the monetary worth of your business is essential
The latest must-have gadgets, hardware and apps for forwardthinking small businesses
40 Watch your back
71 Boxing day blues
43 As seen on screen
74 Silicon dreams
48 Edge out the competition
77 Nobody likes a bully
The impetus to protect against cybercrime has never been greater
27 (H)Contents.indd 1
67 Tech for start-ups
Many an ad campaign is inspired by pop culture – but it works both ways Will King on how innovation is helping him get a lead on the market
There’s nothing worse thab a technical hitch during a peak sale day Tech start-ups can learn a thing or two from across the pond Allegations of bullying or harassment should never be ignored
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EDITOR’S letter VOLUME 03 ISSUE 02 / 2014
Scan this QR Code to register for Elite Business Magazine SALES Harrison Bloor – Account Manager email@example.com Darren Smith – Account Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Matt Webb – Account Manager email@example.com EDITORIAL Hannah Prevett – Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Josh Russell – Feature Writer email@example.com Adam Pescod – Feature Writer firstname.lastname@example.org Dara Jegede – Feature Writer email@example.com Amy Roberts – Feature Writer firstname.lastname@example.org Helene Stokes – Chief Sub-editor email@example.com DESIGN/PRODUCTION Leona Connor – Head Designer firstname.lastname@example.org Clare Bradbury – Designer email@example.com Dan Lecount – Web Development Manager firstname.lastname@example.org CIRCULATION Malcolm Coleman – Circulation Manager email@example.com ACCOUNTS Sally Stoker – Finance Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Colin Munday - Management Accountant email@example.com ADMINISTRATION Charlotte James – Administrator firstname.lastname@example.org DIRECTOR Scott English – Managing Director email@example.com 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, Fortis House, 160 London Road, Barking, IG11 8BB Call: 0208 214 1068 Copyright 2013. 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.
We need financial firepower for the UK’s start-ups to compete As a magazine that likes to think it’s got an ear to the ground in start-up land, we’ve been watching the maturing of London’s Tech City or Silicon Roundabout with interest. The cover star of the first ever issue of Elite Business in August 2012 was Michael Acton Smith – the undisputed king of Silicon Roundabout. Along with the likes of Moo founder Richard Moross (November 2012’s cover) and Errol Damelin (yet to feature – give us a call, Errol!), Smith is one of the few whose businesses go beyond the hot air of Shoreditch and actually make a ton of cold, hard cash. Then there are the businesses that start elsewhere and choose to base their European operations from our fine capital. One such stellar start-up is Eventbrite – the online event management company which has sold more than $2bn worth of tickets worldwide. When companies like Eventbrite come to London, they galvanise the start-up scene, offering diversity of thought and approach – and some healthy competition for talent to boot. But still, it seems London’s tech scene cannot escape comparisons with its Californian counterpart. This month’s cover star, Renaud Visage, co-founder and CTO of Eventbrite, asks why. Silicon Valley took decades to build, he says, so why the rush to try to recreate the same ecosystem in another city – be it London, Berlin, New York or Tel Aviv? Why can’t each community celebrate its own strengths and delight in being different? There is one trick we could be missing in the UK, however. One of the reasons UK start-ups struggle to grow their businesses to the size that’s common in the Valley is that they’re simply not capitalised enough. Until we get the financial firepower in place to fill the coffers of our most promising young businesses, we will never be able to compete. So whilst we welcome the measures announced by the government last month, in particular the Growth Vouchers scheme and Business Exchange, much, much more needs to be done. Are you listening, Number 10?
HANNAH PREVETT EDITOR
(H)Editor's comment.indd 1
CONTRIBUTORS Dan Kirby
In recognition of the digital revolution, our tech section has undergone a radical change with the multi-talented Kirby coming on board. As if writing a regular column and running technology agency Techdept wasn’t enough, the digital entrepreneur also dabbles in a spot of photography and DJing. However, Kirby’s biggest claim to fame is in board games. Not many people can say they are responsible for the global board design of Cluedo.
It’s safe to say Sandy had her fair share of fun with this month’s photo shoot of our French cover star. Taking the Eventbrite sofa onto the streets of Shoreditch may seem like a bold move to some, but we couldn’t be happier with our snapper’s brainwave. As Sandy says, there’s a lot more to entrepreneurialism than corporate blandness. And in addition to keeping a smile on son Freddie’s face, Sandy has some top secret BBC work in the pipeline.
When she’s not searching hopelessly for her name on Hollywood Boulevard, Roberts is a bona fide film fanatic, as demonstrated by her feature on pop culture in advertising. This month she’s spoken to the glitterati of creative marketing to brings us the scoop on the future of entertainment-driven campaigns. She’s even exchanged pleasantries with the guy behind those Wonga grannie adverts, a brush with celebrity practically unrivalled in the Elite Business offices.
There’s no rest for the wicked: having managed to steal a couple of days with the family over Xmas, it’s full steam ahead for Dressipi, the company Kelly co-founded in 2010. With new retail partners coming out of her ears, Kelly is looking to shift focus back to the firm’s consumer service, dressipi.com, which chimes quite nicely with her column this month about building new customer relationships. If she does have time to breathe, Kelly will likely be found at sea or atop a mountain, such is her love for getting away from it all.
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NEWS & EVENTS
David Cameron delivered more cheer for small business owners, stating that ‘big support for small businesses’ is central to the government agenda for 2014 and beyond. Speaking at a Federation of Small Business (FSB) event, the prime minister
pledged his commitment to making it easier for SMEs to thrive. Cameron laid out the government’s long-term economic plan which hopes to save five million small businesses up to £10,000 each per year by trimming back red tape. Number 10 has also teamed up with Enterprise Nation, the business network, to launch the £30m Growth Vouchers programme. The scheme will grant businesses up to £2,000 to provide increased access to specialist support on recruitment, financial management and marketing.
It seems optimism has gone viral: a business confidence survey revealed that many sole traders and part-time businesses are planning to expand in 2014. Three-quarters of respondents in the Printing.com study expressed a positive or very positive outlook for 2014 in comparison to how they felt in the same period last year, and 80% said that they were definitely or likely to launch new services or initiatives during the year. Definitely good news, since increased spending confidence is a solid sign that true growth is on the way. A case of smiles all round then.
It’ll be smiles all round at Index Ventures and the Cambridge Satchel Company (CSC) after the leather goods company announced funding of $21m (£12.6m) from the VC which has previously backed retailing heavyweights including ASOS and Net-aPorter. The partnership with Index will enable founder and former Elite Business cover star Julie Deane to grow the workforce at CSC’s manufacturing-base in Leicestershire and recruit specialist digital talent to boost the company’s profile as an internationally recognised online brand.
Good news for Silicon Roundabout inhabitants as the tech sector appears to be emerging from the recession brawl largely unscathed. The latest figures from the KPMG / Markit Tech Monitor report show that Tech City is at its highest performance peak since 2004. Experts believe the figures highlight tech as one of the key growth engines within the UK economy over the past five years, and stress that tech companies could play an important role in boosting UK GDP and bringing down unemployment in the future.
Darting into the entrepreneurial arena is Dr Leah Totton, who you may recognise as the
Employment law experts ELAS warned bosses to brace themselves for outlandish excuses from employees on National Sickie Day. An estimated 375,000 UK workers took the day off last year, leaving bosses with a loss of approximately £30m in wages, lost hours and overtime. Whilst employees reported mysterious illnesses as reasons for taking unofficial time off work, the survey found that a combination of miserable weather, commuting in the dark, hefty post-Christmas bills and the long gap between holidays were catalytic in keeping people away from the office.
winner of last year’s The Apprentice. Totton, who won the much coveted £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar on the BBC1 show last year, opened her first Botox clinic despite sustained criticism over under-qualification and alleged risks to patients. Totton insisted that she was a ‘champion of safe treatments’ and promised not to give the anti-wrinkle injections to under-18s. Economic recovery has been blamed for the widening gap between London and other UK cities. The Cities Outlook 2014 report by urban economic think tank, Centre for Cities, shows that London accounted for 80% of national private sector jobs growth between 2010 and 2012. It also flagged that for every one public sector job created in London, two have been lost in other cities across the country. But while London is leading the recovery, there are signs of growth from other cities. In Edinburgh, Birmingham and Liverpool significant numbers of private sector jobs have been created, helping to offset the impact of public sector job cuts in these locales.
UPCOMING EVENTS Business Scene South Coast Connections February 11
WORDS: DARA JEGEDE
The Cumberland Hotel, East Overcliff Drive, Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 3AG
The Franchise Show February 14 – 15 ExCeL 1 Western Gateway Royal Victoria Dock London, E16 1XL
Business Junction Networking Lunch February 13
Henry’s Canary Wharf Unit C, West India Quay London, E14 4AX
UKTI – Getting your proposition right for overseas growth February 19
Innovation Centre, Carpenter House, Broad Quay, Bath, BA1 1UD
Prelude Group Growth Partner Programme February 27 Tenter House 45 Moorfields London EC2Y 9AE
South East Business Expo February 27 West Ham Football Ground Boleyn Ground Green St, Upton Park London, E13 9AZ
Smith & Williamson The changing world of professional partnerships February 27 Best Western Chilworth Manor Chilworth, Southampton, SO16 7PT
Angel’s Den Due Diligence Masterclass March 5 Edwards Wildman, 69 Old Broad St, London, EC2M 1QS
A full event listing is available on our website: elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk/events
TALKING POINT “A necessity but the interest is far too high”
Entrepreneur in residence at the British Library
Loan Rangers Are payday loan companies a helpful tool for short-term financial aid or a fundamental problem in our debt-ridden society?
WORDS: AMY ROBERTS
ew topics provoke a fiercer debate than payday loan companies. For some, they are a perfectly legitimate measure when funds run sparse near the end of the month. To others they offer a dangerous short-term solution to what, ultimately, is a long-term problem. So are these companies the McDonald’s of finance? Offering quick fixes for those in need but replete with hidden nasties, including exorbitant interest rates and over-simplified lending terms? After all, they must have been outlawed in the States for a reason, leading some to insist that they’re scarcely more than glorified loan sharks. Or are they a valid option when financially challenged? Leading names such as Wonga and Quickquid make it perfectly clear how much borrowers will pay back overall and the customers then choose to take the risk. Surely companies cannot be held accountable for the irresponsible borrowing of the overzealous, even greedy, modern consumer? Indeed, as Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi identified when he weighed in on this contentious debate, these are legal alternatives and are saving families from the most predatory of money lending services. Clearly this is an argument with persuasive views on each side, and it seems one which is not likely to fade any time soon. But what does the business world and those directly affected by this subject have to say?
(H)Talking point.indd 1
There will always be times when individuals and companies need to borrow money, short term, without security, and they pay a higher rate of interest for those loans. The problem is when we allow these payments to be so crippling that the recipients of them can never hope to repay them and so they become perpetual. There needs to be some kind of legislation that restricts the amount of times a recipient can renew. It can’t be seen as something that won’t ever be repaid because sooner or later you have to pay your debts. These types of loans have always existed since the days of World War II when you would buy your groceries on tick from the local corner shop, but you would pay a bit more for your loaf of bread because it was on the slate. I think they’re a necessity and I think you would cripple a lot of people if you took them away, but I also think the interest rates charged are far too high and there isn’t enough 13 legislation restricting how many times they can be rolled over.
“An entirely viable financial fix” Payday loan companies are undoubtedly a valuable tool, providing essential short-term financial aid, rather than the villainous and exploitative enterprises they’re depicted as. These loans are entirely viable short-term, offering aid to people unable to cover the essentials, and aren’t designed to be abused in the name of indulgent spending, nor as a longterm solution. Research by debt counsellor Christians Against Poverty shows that four in five payday loans are used on food – essentially facilitating the very necessities. The reason these companies continue to thrive is their immediacy. Sure, there are alternatives available to someone in a financial squeeze – like credit cards and community banks – but considering the urgency factor, payday loans are the only real quick fix. Payday loans are far preferable to unplanned overdrafts – especially entering into the loan with an agreed interest rate, and paying less ultimately. Successful and timely repayment of a loan can actually help improve customers’ credit ratings. The immediacy, economical sense and personal benefits of these handy short-term loans make them an entirely viable and practical financial fix.
Director at instantlolly.com
Pivot – How Entrepreneurs Adapt and Change Course to Find Ultimate Success Remy Arteaga & Joanne Hyland
Big Bang Disruption – Business Survival in the Age of Constant Innovation Larry Downes & Paul Nunes
Publisher: Wiley Out: Now RRP: £26.99
(H)Book reviews.indd 1
hen it comes to the world of business, adaptation is the key to long-term achievement. And it is with this truth firmly in mind that Remy Arteaga and Joanne Hyland have produced Pivot. This go-to guide for all savvy folks looking to acclimatise their corporation to the ever-changing economic landscape is as engaging as it is informative, providing readers with a threefold plan to achieve lasting sustainability. Following in the footsteps of bestsellers like Tim Harford’s Adapt, this practical manual eschews the traditional risk-management approach to business, authoritatively talking readers through a three-stage method: the proposal, pivot and the propel stages. The valid premise is that an innovative and compelling concept for a start-up, combined with a conducive environment and appropriate rate of acceleration are some of the essential ingredients for success. In short, this book – along with a website that provides a digital toolkit to assist in the logistics of realising the suggested procedures – is packed with practical yet insightful guidance to inspire the budding billionaires of the future. AR
Publisher: Portfolio Penguin Out: Now Price: £14.99
n an age where innovation occurs unconstrained and technology is evolving ever more rapidly, your business is on a battlefield where innovative disrupters are the ultimate antagonists. Your prized venture may well be collateral damage as these new market entrants stomp their way to domination. In their paradigm of innovation, Downes and Nunes are on a mission to drill into your head that an attack on your business from a disrupter is imminent. In all shapes and forms and from all sides, it will appear and, like Liam Neeson in Taken, it will find you. Their suggested shield against complete and total annihilation, however, is provided in this 250-page read. With that message resonating throughout, the book offers 12 golden rules intended to help the reader escape destruction and possibly even make a switch from potential victim to destroyer, thus becoming another business’s worst nightmare. Each rule of survival is laden with detailed examples of enterprises that have used said principles to create or survive a big bang disruption. Call it a survival guide for the business war-zone. DJ
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I’m no nerd Renaud Visage’s career has been a varied one, spanning environmental engineering, professional photography and entrepreneurialism. It’s safe to say, Eventbrite’s co-founder and CTO is not your average geek
(H)Elite Interview.indd 1
the elite INTERVIEW
WORDS: HANNAH PREVETT PHOTOGRAPHY: EMILIE SANDY
(H)Elite Interview.indd 2
here’s no denying that the programmer’s stock is rising. With a few finely tuned lines of code, computer engineers can make or break a company. After the CEO, or perhaps the chairman, the CTO is arguably the most important person in the business. But the perception that IT whizzkids sit quietly in the corner tinkering with Matrix-inspired formulas is an outmoded one, says Renaud Visage, co-founder and CTO of Eventbrite, the online ticketing company. “People don’t realise that there’s a wide variety of personalities in an engineering team, although there are also common traits, of course,” says the amiable Frenchman. “We like to be quiet for a while and focus on the work we’re doing. Programming is a creative process. People often don’t realise that you have so many ways to do the same thing, so you have to really concentrate and figure out what the best way is. And that’s something that’s done quietly in a corner. You can’t be interrupted every five minutes.” Similarly, if an engineer or programmer is to climb the ranks and become senior management, as Visage has, there are many skills necessary beside technical expertise. “There’s no mould you can create a CTO from, mostly because it requires different skills that I don’t think many people have. You need to be a good coder and you need to know how to build products, but you also need to understand the business. Why do you build this? A lot of engineers don’t ask this question, they just build it because they are asked to.” Despite his claims that CTOs are all markedly different from one another, it’s fair to say that Visage is cut from a slightly different cloth to the stereotypical fusty old IT director decaying at a FTSE company. Also a professional photographer and explorer – Visage has more than a mild case of wanderlust – there’s more to this tech expert than meets the eye. “I’m not a nerd,” he smiles. Visage was born in 1971 in Vittel, (yes, where the water comes from) but only spent three weeks there. This was indicative of the nomadic lifestyle to come. “I probably lived in ten different places over my first 18 years,” he explains. They were always little towns and Visage didn’t get his first taste of the bright lights until he went to the École Centrale de Lyon to study engineering. “I’m not a small-town guy, so Lyon was a better fit for me,” he says. By the time he took up his studies in Lyon in 1991, Visage’s appetite for technology was well and truly whetted. “I got my first computer when I was eight, it was called a Thomson TO7,” he recalls. “It came with a book and I just followed the instructions and drew things. You could also programme basic stuff.” But Visage wasn’t into technology and science for its own sake. “I liked applied science, which is why I went into engineering,” he explains. After some thought, he decided to study civil engineering as he thought this would give him the sufficient opportunity to indulge another of his passions: photography. “I liked building things and I like to travel. My dad was a wildlife photographer and was always travelling around and bringing back a ton of pictures from these places, so I thought civil engineering would be perfect – I figured people would send me to remote places to build things or dig oil wells, and things like that.” After completing the first two years of his degree in Lyon, Visage studied his final three terms at Cornell, the Ivy League university in the state of New York. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the budding engineer. “It was the coldest year of my life,” he jokes. “It started snowing right before Christmas and I don’t think it stopped until the end of April.”
the elite INTERVIEW
There were language barriers too. “It was hard. For the first two months, my English was good, but not really good enough to follow classes. I had a lot of catching up to do, though I do think you learn so much faster when you’re forced to. I was thrown in the bath with no buoys on.” Visage also had some grappling with the subject matter to do. “It was a master’s programme, so there were some people who have studied civil engineering for a while, whereas I hadn’t. So I needed to catch up on both the language and the subject.” He acknowledges it was hard work, but he thrived in the US academic system. “It was a lot more work than in the engineering school in France. And they had these giant libraries so I would read about all different things. I learnt about geology and the petroleum industry. I think I wanted to get into the oil business, but for some reason I went to the other side.” The ‘other side’ was San Francisco-based company Geometrix, where he began his career as an environmental engineer cleaning up polluted sites. He started out getting his hands dirty, drilling by hand in affected sites. “Then they realised I was pretty good with the computers, so they started to ask me to make drawings for the sites. This would mean planning what the excavations would look like and how we’d install tubes to clean petroleum from the area,” Visage explains. “I went from being 100% in the field, to 0% in the field and being in front of a computer all of the time.”
Meanwhile, he was working on his own projects, programming sites and getting to grips with the web. He then started putting his newly acquired online skills to work at the office too. “They had accounting software that wasn’t webenabled at all and I needed the data in it. I didn’t like to use the clunky software they provided so I built a layer on top of the accounting system to view my projects. It was mostly motivated by my own needs but I also saw that everybody else was struggling with the system and was trying to help everyone in the company. In the end that’s all I was doing – working on this project.” All the while, Visage was watching enraptured as the dot-com boom continued apace in Silicon Valley. “I was reading books, looking at the industry evolving – there were all these companies getting created and funded and IPOed,” he says. “I wanted to be part of the bubble. I could feel the itch of wanting to try something different.” In August 2000, Visage left Geometrix to join web company Zing as a junior developer. “It was a demotion but I got paid 50% more. There was a big difference between industries, but the bubble helped,” Visage explains. “It was a brand new world. We were creating things and millions of people were using the site. We had a real impact. It was in the early days of digital photography, so it made us feel like we were pioneers,” he says. Zing was tipped as a dot-com hit.
“We all manage to fit in our roles. That’s important”
(H)Elite Interview.indd 3
the elite INTERVIEW
It raised $50m and was “hiring like crazy” right before the bubble burst. Visage was one of the few survivors. “I was in the last ten they kept. Each time they fired people, I got a promotion. I went from junior engineer to senior engineer and became director of engineering at the end. They would take people into different rooms – there was the room that kept its job, and the room that didn’t.” It was a traumatic, frenetic time but Visage says he learned some incredibly valuable lessons from the crash. “I learned a lot from that experience. I learned a lot about what not to do, about how not to spend $50m. I knew after a few weeks we weren’t going to make it. I stayed because we had a good product, we had an excellent team, but the way it was managed was very poor.” When what was left of the company was sold to Sony in 2001, Visage decided to move to Paris with his wife. In the aftermath of the bust, San Francisco was a shadow of its former self. “Before the bubble everyone wanted to come there and there was an exodus after,” says Visage. “A lot of people who came with dreams of becoming millionaires overnight realised that wasn’t going to happen in the next few years. It was still an interesting place, but not with the same energy and enthusiasm. I think a lot of dreams got shattered at that time. It took several years to pick up the pieces and it took a company like Facebook to rebuild the dreams of all the start-uppers.” In Paris, Visage worked remotely for Sony, whilst doing some travelling and indulging his passion for photography. His photographs were, and continue to be, sold to the likes of Getty and other stock photo agencies. Then, in 2006, an interesting opportunity dropped into his inbox. A former co-worker at Zing had recommended Visage to Kevin Hartz, the founder of Xoom, an international money transfer service. Hartz and his now-wife, Julia, wanted to found an online company to help event organisers, which has subsequently become known as Eventbrite. “We weren’t friends for years before we started the company, it was purely chance,” says Visage. “We met a couple of times in San Francisco and we liked each other, so we went through a trial phase to see if we could work together. I was still in Paris, so they took a chance on me being remote,” he explains. “They would send me a basic outline of the project and I’d build it pretty fast. I think they liked the turnaround time we were managing to get with our different schedules and the time difference.” One of the biggest challenges in the formative days was design – not that it’s possible to tell now. “None of us are designers – and it showed,” laughs Visage. The entrepreneur had no qualms about going into partnership with a couple.
“Maybe I was naive, but I just thought, ‘they get along, they’re both smart, so let’s do something together’. I’ve never regretted it because all three of us work very well. We have different strengths and I think I saw that as a potential for harmony. Everybody has their own turf. They never had to worry about the tech part. I never had to worry about financing the company – Kevin had done it all before with Xoom. And Julia had done marketing as well as customer support for a while. “We all manage to fit in our roles. That’s important. When things don’t go well with co-founders, it’s usually because they encroach on each other’s turf. So we have that clear working relationship,” Visage explains. It’s certainly a formula that seems to be working. Eventbrite has attracted $80m of venture capital so far, and has processed more than 150 million tickets in over 198 countries since its inception in 2006. This equates to more than $2bn worth of tickets. The company’s expansion continues apace: it now has 329 employees, including a team in South America, where it recently acquired Argentina-based ticketing company Eventioz. Although smaller competitors continue to emerge in specific markets, no other company comes close to Eventbrite’s international reach. “By all metrics we are much larger than any of our small competitors. They are more niche; usually they are one-country companies,” says Visage. We have a lot of event organisers who organise events all over the world, and they need a company that can accompany them along the way. We’re in a unique position to be able to do that. We also have 24/7 customer support – I don’t know any other company in the field that can afford that. They just haven’t raised enough money or they don’t have enough revenue to accomplish that.” It goes without saying that technology is at the heart of Eventbrite’s offering. “We have an engineering team that can innovate,” says Visage. Indeed, the tech teams account for nearly a third of the company’s workforce. The main hubs are in London and San Francisco – two tech destinations that are often pitted against one another for the title of start-up capital of the world. Visage says it’s a pointless comparison. “I think Silicon Valley is purely geared towards technology – from San Francisco to San Jose, there are thousands of technology companies. London has a much more diverse industry – there’s finance, advertising, media and so on. It’s very hard to create the same environment,” he says. “A lot of cities are trying that – New York, Berlin, Paris, Tel Aviv, they’re all really trying to become the next hub centre. Silicon Valley took 50 or 60 years to be built, none of these cities will do it in two.”
“When things don’t go well with co-founders, it’s usually because they encroach on each other’s turf”
(H)Elite Interview.indd 4
Renaud Visage is speaking at the Elite Business National Conference and Exhibition on April 10.
5 VIEWO VIDENE ONLI
ONE TO WATCH
Best served cold Jimmy’s Iced Coffee has brought a taste of Australia to the UK and amassed an army of fans along the way
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
any an entrepreneur attributes their success to a flash of inspiration. For Jim Cregan – the founder of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee – a chance stop at an Australian petrol station was the catalyst. Having ventured down under with now-wife, Sophie, to escape the harsh British winter, he stumbled across a carton of Farmers Union Iced Coffee and the rest, as they say, is history. “I had never really heard about iced coffee before but I just thought ‘this looks really nice’ so I cracked it open in the sun and drank it right next to my van,” he recalls. “I pretty much necked the whole thing because it was just incredible and I remember immediately thinking ‘how on Earth am I going to get this back in the UK?’” Sure enough, as soon as he landed on home soil, Cregan got to work exploring what the UK packaged iced coffee market had going for it. “The first thing I did was go to the supermarket and find out who was selling iced coffee and came across Starbucks, Illy, Emmi and all these other companies making ready-to-drink iced coffees, but it was all horrible,” he says. “I find all their products really sickly and way too sweet. I think an iced coffee should be really mild and really cool and really refreshing and just super easy to drink, almost like a thirstquencher as opposed to drinking custard.” Cregan soon convinced his sister Suzie to come on board. He had no doubt that she would make the perfect business partner. For one, she was already running her own café in Christchurch, Dorset, where Jimmy’s Iced Coffee is based. Sadly though, like all independent highstreet ventures, it was becoming a struggle. “We had Caffè Nero and Costa on the high street so she was basically just being swallowed up and not making enough money,” says Cregan. Moreover though, the siblings already had a fair share of wheeling
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“Why would you put anything else in an iced coffee apart from iced coffee?”
ONE TO WATCH
Company CV Name: Jimmy’s Iced Coffee Founded by: Jim Cregan & Suzie Cregan Founded in: 2010 Team: 4
“The iced coffee idea dragged me out of bed”
Playing it cool: Jim and Suzie on a promo drive
and dealing experience between them. Growing up in the UAE, the pair partook in a couple of cheeky money-making endeavours. “We used to live in Sharjah, which is the emirate next door to Dubai and is a lot cheaper,” explains Cregan. “We went to all the Indian hang-outs. There was a place called Rolla where they sold fake Quicksilver and Billabong bags. I just bought them all up, went into school and made up some story that my uncle had flown over from the States and had bought over a whole load of backpacks. I said they were for sale for 100 Dirhams even though I had bought them for 20 Dirhams.” Another scheme saw them buying alcohol on the black market and selling it into schools; a risky move if ever there was one. “It was pretty naughty but we made good money out of that,” Cregan quips. This foray into the booze trade continued when Cregan and a friend established a venture called Spit Delivery in the UK a few summers back. It entailed rowing supplies of alcohol across to Mudeford Spit, a stretch of land near Christchurch comprising 345 luxurious beach huts. “That was quite a fun little business too,” he laughs. “We went round to every hut and gave them a menu of our drinks and a fridge magnet with our phone number on so that they could call up and say ‘I want a case of Budweiser’, ‘I want a bottle of wine’, ‘I want this that or the other’.”
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Cregan clearly had all the makings of a successful entrepreneur, but until that fateful day down under, he hadn’t had a solid enough proposition to turn his skills into serious bucks. Now, though, he did. “The iced coffee idea dragged me out of bed,” he says. “I was driven by that one thought of ‘you have to do this every single day until you can go and pick up one of your iced coffees wherever you go in the world’.” Soon enough, Cregan had secured a handy £100k from his parents and a contract was signed with a manufacturer. As for a name, that came easily enough. Cregan wanted to stand out from the crowd and how better to do that than to give the brand a personality, even if it was essentially his own? “In Australia, I was just called Jimmy the whole time so I just thought it was an ode to Australia to say ‘thank you very much for introducing me to iced coffee’,” he says. “Jimmy also has a nice ring to it, as opposed to Jim’s Iced Coffee or James’s Iced Coffee.” Needless to say, social media is the ideal sounding board for this personality. Anybody who happens to visit the Jimmy’s Iced Coffee Twitter page will have the pleasure of Cregan’s company as he responds to each and every tweet in his own unique way. So confident was Cregan in his iced coffee brand that he set his sights on upmarket department store Selfridges as a first port of call. “I was just so happy that we had
ONE TO WATCH
created something so amazing and I just wanted to share it with so many people,” Cregan explains. “It was really a no-brainer picking up the phone to Selfridges, because we were thinking ‘let’s go big and have a really fun launch.’ We just thought Selfridges was the best bet.” The decision paid off, and Selfridges became the first retailer to stock Jimmy’s Iced Coffee. That was April 2011 and now, three years later, Cregan has just secured the company’s biggest deal to-date with Tesco. It’s not to say there haven’t been challenges along the way. The packaging has undergone some refinement to fulfil the needs of retailers and, more compellingly, drivers. Cregan explains that upon approaching BP, he was told their original 500ml square-shaped cartons didn’t fit inside a car’s cup-holder. A resize and reshape later, Cregan has a product that not only tastes delicious, but can also be consumed on the move with ease. “Without devaluing the brand or the packaging or the ingredients in any way, we still managed to retain everything and open up bigger doors for distribution,” he says. Indeed, success would not have been possible if the coffee itself wasn’t up to the mark, but an emphasis on quality over quantity has served the firm well. Available in three varieties – original, skinny and decaf –
up, it gives them their energy and also makes them happy at the same time.” Granted, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee is not outselling the big guns just yet, but Cregan is ever the optimist. “We have got some catching up to do, but it won’t take too long,” he says. “You can’t be a big fake corporate brand trying to be young and sprightly forever. You will just get caught out. That is where we will succeed, just by being the underdog and keeping doing exactly what we are doing.”
“We have got some catching up to do, but it won’t take too long” every carton contains a mere five ingredients. “Why would you put anything else in an iced coffee apart from iced coffee?” asks Cregan. And with the coffee and Demerara sugar ethically sourced from Central America and Mauritius respectively, it is little wonder retailers and consumers are lapping it up. Cregan adds: “If you are going to bring a nice product out for someone, they have got be happy knowing that what they are drinking, and the vessel that it is in, is from happy people as well.” To describe Cregan as happy would be something of an understatement. His largerthan-life personality has been instrumental in driving the brand into hearts, minds and mouths. Nothing demonstrates this to a greater degree than the costumes sported by himself and Suzie on a regular basis. The giant coffee carton outfits have come to encapsulate what Jimmy’s Iced Coffee is all about and have helped convince the likes of Tesco to invest not only in the brand, but in the siblings themselves. Likewise, ‘Keep your chin up’ – the slogan adorning every carton of Jimmy’s – captures the feeling that Cregan wants every drinker to experience upon consuming one of his coffees; whatever the weather. “They are not interested in the fact that it is not hot,” he says. “They have got a great drink that picks them
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WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
t’s hardly surprising that Britain has begun to look for other flags to fly on the international stage. The financial sector, long the jewel in the UK’s economic crown, has begun to look a little tarnished in light of a decade dogged by controversy and near-collapse, which has forced us to broaden our palette. “Essentially, if you look at the industrial revolution, the same thing happened,” says Guy Armitage, CEO and founder of Zealous, the collaboration and opportunity hub for artists. In the wake of the demise of our old agrarian way of life, the British adapted by migrating to the cities and getting to grips with new forms of work. “That’s how all these things happen – wherever jobs are hard to come by, people will find solutions,” Armitage adds. Exporting financial services may not be as lucrative a market as it once was, given the increasingly dynamic BRIC economies are becoming ever more financialised in their own right. “It’s clear that the economy of the world is changing,” comments Jason Kingsley, co-founder and CEO of Rebellion, the European games developer. This means we need an increasingly diverse portfolio if we are to maintain our ability to export. And whilst our domestic manufacturing industry is coming into its own, it still isn’t a match for the force of countries such as India and China. Fortunately, we have another ace up our sleeve. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport recently announced that the creative sector in the UK generates £8m an hour, totalling some £71.4bn per year, and accounts for 1.68 million jobs. In a recent keynote speech, culture secretary Maria Miller commented: “I absolutely believe that our arts, culture and creative industries here in this country are not only the best in the world, but that they are vital to our future national wellbeing and prosperity.” Evidently, for Britain, creativity is a serious business indeed. Amongst the international community, the creative work coming out of Britain is certainly held in high esteem. “We’ve got a global network of directors and what they all say is that the work that we produce in England is over and above,” says Trine Pillay, UK MD of films at B-Reel, the international multimedia production company. “They say that what we’re producing is way more interesting than that in most other countries in the world.”
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In the wake of the downturn, it has become increasingly important to broaden the UK’s economic horizons. Fortunately, the creative sector is offering a particularly vibrant opportunity
Trying to dissect what it is that gives us this creative credibility isn’t the most straightforward task but there are certainly some unique factors that help set the UK apart. “We’ve got freedom and the diversity and multiculturalism that comes with that freedom,” Pillay explains. “As a result, you just take influence from so many different areas.” Even compared to a country like the US, we have a culture that rejects formulaic approaches. She continues: “We’re not pigeonholed into thinking or working in one specific way and that just naturally encourages creativity.” Trine Pillay, B-Reel And it’s clear that some of our recent cultural products have only served to bolster our reputation around the world, with Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony, Grand Theft Auto V and 12 Years a Slave still looming large in people’s memories. “These things are fantastic,” says Kingsley. “They’re high watermarks.” However, there is an inherent risk to focusing on only the highest peaks of British creativity. “The slight danger is that we get seduced by the single events like nice films,” explains John Mathers, CEO of the Design Council, the body representing the design industry. Undoubtedly, a product like 12 Years a Slave has brought a huge amount of attention to the British creative industries but Mathers feels it
means we can miss out on details, such as the significant growth the UK design industry is seeing. He continues: “Actually the reality is that the industry is very disparate and very diverse and we’re in danger of missing a lot of what’s going on.”
“We’re not pigeonholed into thinking or working Identity crisis Outside of these watershed in one specific way products, it is true that the creative have perhaps struggled and that just naturally industries to attract the recognition that’s due, in light of the power they encourages creativity” their lend to our economy. A part of this
All images on page artwork from London creative scene: Manos Chatzikonstantis – www.manosch.net
(H)Analysis - Different strokes.indd 2
is down to the way we delineate what creativity entails. For Armitage, the issue is in part a semantic one. “Essentially, we’ve never had a stable measure of creativity,” he says. “We’ve always measured it wrong.” This isn’t helped by how variegated and diverse our creative industries are. “That range of organisations is what has always made it quite difficult to measure and made it hard to have a collective voice,” remarks Mathers. The result of this is that for some time the creative industries have been suffering from something of an identity crisis. Pillay provides an example of how widespread this confusion around the creative industries has been. She recalls that when she was at school, children were encouraged to use careers guidance software that asked questions to match kids to their ideal career. “It didn’t really matter what you put into it, you’d get the same result,” she says. “I’m sure I was told I was going to be a landscape gardener.” This was indicative of a rather pervasive mindset at the time; that creativity didn’t really have a place in the contemporary workplace. “Art was always seen as: ‘you’re not really doing one of the proper subjects’,” Pillay continues. “If that attitude is inherently encouraged at that level then how are you ever able to progress past that?” Fortunately this is something that has changed significantly in the last decade or so. “Definitions of creativity are certainly in flux,” comments Jason Goodman, CEO of Albion London, the creative agency. And this means that we’re already in a position to meaningfully challenge some of the confusion that has
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traditionally surrounded the industry. One source of this confusion is the fact that importance in the political sphere is often based on what is immediately quantifiable, something to which, given his past experience working for the stock exchange, Armitage can easily relate. “Numbers speak and they speak a simple language,” he says. However, as with any other metrics, we can often become preoccupied with framing the figures in a better light than really probing what they mean. “If you look at the various documents that have been printed by the government, they do try and put it in their favour in terms of how growth is working and what’s valuable,” Armitage continues. “But they haven’t really spent enough time establishing ‘this is creativity’.”
Arts and minds
This can have severe ramifications for how much attention and investment certain areas attract. When Michael Gove, the education secretary, first introduced the concept of the English Baccalaureate, the Design Council found itself having to push to ensure design was one of the subjects covered. “If it wasn’t included, it wouldn’t be measured and wouldn’t be valued,” Mathers explains. “There is a constant battle to make sure that the creative industries are represented in our schools and our further education system.” And, of course, the education system is really the front line of the battle to ensure that the creative industries are taken seriously. “The important thing is that the humanities are still encouraged all the way through
(H)Analysis - Different strokes.indd 3
“The important thing is that the humanities are still encouraged all the way through school” John Mathers, the Design Council
school, in what is increasingly a STEM-focused education,” says Mathers. That’s not to do down the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills. “It’s vital to have a framework upon which you can build your creativity,” Kingsley says. We have a fundamental idea in our culture that arts and sciences are two opposing ends of the spectrum but actually this hasn’t always been the case, with some of the world’s brightest minds, such as Leonardo da Vinci, embodying both. “It’s become clear now that distinction is a little artificial,” Kingsley adds. “There are many scientists who are hugely and fundamentally creative.” What is important, however, is ensuring both areas are effectively represented. “You have to have a grounding of an all-round education,” Pillay says. “Arts and humanities should be encouraged in the same way and have as much emphasis placed upon them as the sciences.” Securing our legacy as one of the world’s leading creative economies does depend on us not allowing subjects in the arts and humanities to fall by the wayside. But quibbling over which academic disciplines are taught probably detracts from a more fundamental issue with our education system. Armitage feels teaching the value of creativity runs much deeper than what’s in the curriculum. He explains: “The problem isn’t so much the subjects themselves: it’s how we measure people’s success.” Perhaps the most vital thing for the UK’s education system to embrace is encouraging young people to think differently. Despite a lot of exploration around different teaching methods, there is still an overwhelming focus on teaching the ‘correct’ way of doing things, rather than on finding better solutions. “What a teacher will do is say ‘actually, that’s not the way you do it’ and then they’ll bring you back to a set way of thinking’,” Armitage says. But supporting Britain’s innate capacity for creativity means allowing children the space to adopt creative ways of thinking. “Give them time to experiment,” he continues. “I think that’s the real enemy: the fact that people don’t get time to create.” And creativity’s ability to encourage people to challenge norms and find new ways of doing things is precisely where it can add the most value to our society. We’re living in a time of massive change and this means our definitions of what creativity means must also change.
Following the thread
“What we do is we tend to associate creativity with the high arts,” Armitage says. “We say fine art, opera, theatre – this is creativity.” But this entirely ignores the massive impact that creative skills have upon the economy and
how essential a creative mindset is to areas as expressive swooshes on a massive canvas – that’s one extreme end of diverse as advertising, science, engineering creativity,” Kingsley says. “But it covers many people who are writing and technology. He continues: “We forget applications or are building engines – there’s a very large component of that creativity is actually a thread throughout creativity there.” everything we do.” Some of the most interesting opportunities for creatives are those Such is its bearing on modern business, that specifically involve working with others outside of their learned innovation has become so commonplace a discipline. Armitage points to artists he knows helping to visualise demand in modern entrepreneurialism that scientific data and use their existing skills in new ways. He explains: it borders on cliche. But it is true that without “The craft is the same – it’s the collaboration that’s different.” it, any sector will stagnate. “Creativity is, “You can collaborate with people who are beyond creatives,” Armitage by necessity, a component of moving all says. “The people that would scare the crap out of you.” Even areas areas forward,” explains Kingsley. “Without that may seem incompatible with artistic expression provide potential creativity it’s always going to be very hard to avenues: an artist could potentially collaborate with an accountant. He make a leap forward.” laughs: “It’s cringeworthy but you could do it.” This should be a And perhaps the area which is obviously benefitting familiar notion to most from an infusion of creativity is that of the tech anyone working space. B-Reel has found its relationship with Google in the enterprise to be particularly fruitful and this is, in part, down to or start-up space. the way the tech giant connects with creativity. Pillay One only has to comments: “What’s really amazing about them is the look at our current way that they’ve taken both the creative industries business climate to and technical industries and married them together.” realise the extent to This has become increasingly important as which disruption technology has become more consumer-focused. “A and creativity have creative approach makes technology more accessible Guy Armitage, Zealous come to be prized. As to people,” she continues. An example she highlights Goodman comments: is the recently Google-acquired Nest, whose product “The entrepreneurial challenger mindset is Protect takes the functional smoke alarm and uses a creative approach starting to become an accepted norm.” to make it more intriguing and practical for their consumers. “It’s the Start-ups, alongside a wide range of sectors, most boring, basic thing that you need in your house but they’ve made it are beginning to get a firm handle of the pretty and interesting,” explains Pillay. huge value creativity can bring. Mathers says: In this respect, the creative renaissance that is currently happening “Businesses – big and small, multinational and in Britain really could be seen as influential as the industrial revolution very local – are increasingly recognising that if before it. “Back then Britain was obviously introducing all sorts of new you’re using creativity as part of your DNA and technologies and approaches to industry,” says Goodman. And the sheer it becomes something you embed, the results ingenuity and drive of our modern creative nation contains more than are very positive.” an echo of those pioneering times. “It’s really exciting,” he concludes. No longer is creativity the sole domain “Before this generation, that sort of ambition hasn’t really existed for of painters or musicians; it’s a fact of life in some time.” the modern world of business, with many creatively driven individuals as likely to bring their talents to an app as an opera. “Creativity isn’t just about throwing paint around in
“We forget that creativity is actually a thread throughout everything we do”
(H)Analysis - Different strokes.indd 4
The familiar feeling of a pocket full of change is likely to disappear forever. In the eyes of our payments and currency experts, what is coming to replace it?
The smart money
W “If it wasn’t for electronic payment, there wouldn’t really be such a thing as e-commerce”
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
John Chaplin, Ixaris
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hen Mark Carney announced last year that the Bank of England would be moving over to plastic notes from traditional paper ones, there was substantial media and public reaction. There is a degree of resistance in our country when it comes to tinkering with our money; it seems hard to believe the process of decimalisation was only completed in 1993 when shillings finally became demonetised. And yet our relationship with cash is changing rapidly – in Q3 2010, debit card use overtook the use of physical money for the first time. In light of this, plenty of business figures will be asking: where is our money headed? Before looking to the future though, it’s worth appreciating how our relationship with money first began. David Birch, renowned consultant and author and director of Consult Hyperion, a firm that advises governments and corporations on electronic money and identity, explains small social groups originally would have relied on memory to keep track of what each individual owned and owed. “But as the scale and scope of the commerce grow beyond that, another mechanism was needed,” he says. Whilst many early civilisations relied on written accounts, using ledgers to record each individual’s standing, this would have been impractical in classical civilisations where at any given moment in a marketplace hundreds of small transactions may have been taking place. “Instead we make coins and notes that are hard to counterfeit,” Birch explains. “The end result of that when I make a transaction is I don’t have to trust you; I just have to trust the £5 note that you give me.” Evidently things have moved on somewhat in recent times. American author and socialist Edward Bellamy first coined the term credit card in 1887 in his speculative fiction novel Looking Backward to refer to an item used for the spending of a ‘citizen dividend’. Since then, from charge coins and charge cards, via AmEx, Visa and Mastercard, we have arrived in an age where alternatives to cash proliferate.
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(H)The smart money.indd 2
“Essentially, it’s the way the majority of physical retailers want to transact,” comments John Chaplin, chairman of Ixaris, the virtual payments firm. “Almost 70% of a supermarket’s transactions are conducted via card. Can you imagine if everybody went back to paying by cash? Supermarkets would fall apart.” It’s not hard to appreciate why businesses have embraced the move away from physical money. “There is an inherent cost to cash,” explains Chris Wade, head of strategy and product management at Sage Pay Europe, the payment services provider. Anyone with experience working for a highstreet retailer will be able to echo this: cash has to be handled, cashed up, reconciled with till totals, stored securely on the premises and eventually banked. This adds a significant labour cost, even if you ignore the potential wider economic effects such as the price of production or the cost of forgery. “You can circumvent all of this if you use an electronic payment mechanism,” adds Wade. But these solutions have a much further reach than just the high street. Arguably the most significant innovation of the 20th century, the internet has utterly and irrevocably altered the way we conduct business but this wouldn’t have ever been possible David Birch, Consult Hyperion were we still shackled to physical cash. “In an online environment, things can only really be done digitally,” says Chaplin. “If it wasn’t for electronic payment, there wouldn’t really be such a thing as e-commerce.” And this is obviously vital for businesses operating in the start-up space. He continues: “The most important thing for small retailer or SME is having the ability to sell products online.” This has had a reciprocal effect on our shopping experience in a retail environment, as both consumers and businesses are beginning to want their experiences offline to reflect those online. “There’s got to be some kind of convergence there because people don’t want to be using two completely different services depending on whether they’re online or offline,” says Birch. “The question is then: is it possible that technology can come up with a better way?” Whilst our cards may be a useful stop gap, more and more businesses are questioning whether they are the best solution, particularly when we are carrying round increasingly sophisticated devices on our hips that can pick up the load. “A mobile device is great in terms of a rapid checkout experience in the face-to-face world,” Wade says. “You’ve paid with your phone, it registers a transaction. You then go online and your transaction history naturally collects in one place.” Another opportunity provided to retailers that open themselves up to mobile devices is that it makes it far easier to offer additional benefits like customer loyalty schemes. “Everybody wants to have loyalty programmes but it’s very hard to be able to afford them,” Chaplin says. “They’re not cheap.” For retailers using payment options like point-to-point transactions, it will become much more straight-forward to roll out these schemes because the development cost of an app, when compared to the sort of infrastructure supporting a scheme like Nectar Points, is comparatively low. “Mobile will enable more people to do that.”
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“The other aspect of the mobile revolution is that mobile phones have become not just cards but terminals” David Birch, Consult Hyperion
(H)The smart money.indd 3
But obviously the real benefit of the role mobile devices are coming to play is that they can do a good deal more than just make payments. “The other aspect of the mobile revolution is that mobile phones have become not just cards but terminals,” Birch says. Traditionally, point-of-sale devices haven’t exactly been cheap. “Traditionally, you wanted to get a point-of-sale device from the bank, they’d charge £20 a month,” explains Chaplin. Whilst for larger companies and even most established retailers this may have been a justifiable outlay, for those running things like kiosks or street stalls this has made accepting anything other than cash prohibitively expensive. However, mobile point-of-sale (MPOS) solutions, in which these retailers can take payment over a mobile device, are making taking a wider array of payment much easier. He adds: “In that sort of street trader environment, MPOS will become very interesting.” Given we are becoming less shackled to physical cash, however, there is a question that needs to be asked: as the cost of minting coins and printing notes is being taken out of the equation, are we likely to see increasing amounts of innovation in the area of currency?
It does seem possible that our relationship to individual currencies will gradually become more relaxed. “Once the complexities are taken away, all of sudden I no longer have to care about currencies,” Birch comments. “My phone’s taking care of it; I’m just buying things.” In his eyes, this means that a proliferation of currencies developing becomes much more likely. Wade also feels that the importance of currency in transactions is set to become less important, making reference to shopping at retailers in Dublin. “You can use your credit card to pay in whatever currency they’re accepting,” he explains. However, he does feel even whilst our relationship with minted coins might weaken, it’s unlikely that the current world of being paid and storing wages in a national currency will change significantly. “I think what you’ll see is the emergence of closed eco-systems.” This last point is echoed by Birch. “I think new currencies will be somehow connected to use,” he says. Rather than us taking a leaf from the euro’s book and creating a single global currency, it seems likely we will create an increasing number of currencies designed for specific tasks. “The idea you have different kinds of money and use them for different purposes sounds right to me.” But, of course, it’s hard to talk of new currencies without addressing the crypto-elephant in the room: Bitcoin. In Wade’s eyes, it’s a bit early to judge how Bitcoin, Ripple and their fellow crypto-currencies will affect the make-up of global currencies but they are at least opening the door. “Bitcoin is too difficult to understand for the average consumer for it to be adopted broadly,” he says. “But what it does embed in the collective consciousness is there is value attributable to stuff other than pound notes.” One area in which these sorts of currencies may play a role is acting as an intermediary to facilitate the exchange of existing currencies, as Nigel Verdon, founder of The Currency Cloud, the currency exchange and conversion solution, explains. “My gut feeling is that there will be one or two currencies that are going to be useful as mechanisms to facilitate clearing payments instantly,” he says. “If two businesses are able to instantly settle within seconds, that changes society, changes commerce. That’s why if you look at Ripple.com, Anderson – one of the big VC firms – put a huge amount of money into them, even though they are still something of an experiment.” It’s perhaps a little too soon to be making any firm bets on exactly what the future holds for our money. But one thing’s for sure: it’s going to be an exciting journey.
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We’ve all seen budding entrepreneurs get panned on Dragons’ Den for the valuation they have put on their business. Whilst you have to admire the confidence displayed in the majority of cases, one can’t help but think that those leaving the Den with empty pockets do so with a sense of ‘what if?’ What, indeed, if they had taken the time to come up with a more realistic figure with which to approach their potential investors? The first thing to say is that valuing one’s business is no straightforward endeavour. There’s a lot more to it than a calculator and stack of paperwork. However, when a big exit or investment is on the horizon, it isn’t something an entrepreneur can afford to get wrong. Thankfully, help is at hand from those in the know
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
Profit from your profits Ultimately, a realistic business valuation will be founded on the current and future profitability of a firm. “The starting point must be ‘what is the underlying profit of the business?’ and the key word there is underlying,” says Mark Hughes, corporate finance partner at law firm Browne Jacobson. “What people generally mean by that is the profit that is going to be there from one year to the next.” Depending on the sector within which a company operates, a multiplier is usually applied to the profit to determine the total value, offering an indication of when a buyer or investor will start to see a return on their money. “In a sense, what you are saying is ‘if I bought this business today, how long will it take me to get that money back?” Hughes adds. “So if you buy a multiplier of five times the annual profit, it will take you five years to get your money back.”
Have the buyer or investor in mind Whilst you may have a value in mind for your business, there is a fair chance that whoever is considering purchasing or investing in it will have an alternative figure on the table. Whether that comes as a result of their own financial situation or a skewed perception of your business, it ultimately pays to put yourself in their shoes as well as your own. “It is not helpful for people to think about valuing their business in isolation of who the value is in the hands of,” says Jim Houghton, partner at M&A advisers Results International. “If you don’t have a buyer in mind when you are thinking about value, you can’t get valuation right.” Essentially then, true value is a price that both parties are happy with. “The simple answer is the right value is what you are prepared to sell it for and where that overlaps with what somebody else is prepared to buy it for,” concludes Stuart Morris, entrepreneur in residence at Henley Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurship.
corporate finance partner, Browne Jacobson
partner, Results International
entrepreneur in residence, Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship
Raj Dhonota, investor
39 and serial entrepreneur
director, SKS Services
Add up your assets “The simple answer is the right value is what you are prepared to sell it for and where that overlaps with what somebody else is prepared to buy it for” Stuart Morris, Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship
The money-making potential of one’s enterprise is naturally going to have a significant bearing on how far into their pocket a buyer or investor is prepared to dig. However, there are other factors that serve to give the enterprise its monetary worth and which should be taken into account from the outset. “In the context of a start-up, brand and market presence is likely to be of less relevance but you might have a particular asset that is of value,” says Hughes. “For example, if you have got the UK distribution rights to a new product, that may be really important from a valuation perspective. Somebody may want to buy you out purely to get the benefit of that contract or to buy out that arrangement that you have got.” Other such assets could include a firm’s management team and, if it is a web-based proposition, the size of its client base and overall digital reach.
Have it all in front of you Compare the market When it comes to putting a value on your business, taking a look at what other firms in your sector have sold for can also provide some useful guidance. Indeed, this can be of particular use if one’s enterprise isn’t yet at the profit-making stage. “With a business without net profit, on top of looking at the multiple, you would also look at what other similar businesses in that industry are worth. What have other comparable businesses sold for at this particular stage?” says Raj Dhonota, investor and serial entrepreneur. “For example, if you build something like Twitter that is completely unique, you can look at Twitter’s growth to give you a rule of thumb before looking at the competition and everything else around it.”
An understanding of the components that make up business value is one thing, but the process itself can be all the more challenging without access to up-to-date facts and figures. With these in place, it should be a far smoother ride. “The minimum that somebody needs to do is have a really solid set of numbers regularly produced by the business; monthly management accounts that explain the margins on products and all those types of things,” says Sanjay Swarup, director at accountancy firm SKS Services. “If I wanted to sell SKS today, it would be very easy because we have monthly management accounts and everything is explained. If I didn’t have management accounts and I just produced something on the fly, the credibility on those numbers is not that high so people will discount on the value straight away by 20-30%.”
with a transaction, external advisers may be appointed. One of the key issues to bear in mind here is that many of these parties may not at this stage have a formal contract with the company. Therefore, information sharing needs to be carefully and thoughtfully managed. Initial approaches
The next phase will generally involve making initial approaches to target companies, investors, acquirers and angel investors. More parties will become involved including, in some cases, competitors. Sound information management, with proper regard for security of information, becomes ever more important at this and the following stages. The information is becoming more commercially sensitive too. Preparing information about the business
It is at this point that increasingly large volumes of information start to be shared with the various participants, such as disclosure documents, prospectuses, vendor due-diligence packs and regulator information. The flurry of activity may well alert others inside and outside the organisations that a transaction is underway. There is also the heightened risk inherent in large quantities of valuable information being stored or circulated, which only becomes more dangerous if accessed by the wrong people.
Cybercrime is a threat to all parts of a business, but when a big deal is in the pipeline, being on guard is essential, says David Petrie, head of corporate finance at ICAEW
orporate finance covers a very wide range of activities, from a small business replacing an existing debt facility, to a large organisation preparing to list on the London Stock Exchange. It’s a major area of economic activity and driver of entrepreneurship, innovation and business expansion. UK-related deals were worth a total of £216.8bn last year and it’s the high value of the deals combined with the number of people involved in each deal that make them a potential target for cybercrime. Cyber security – the process of protecting commercially sensitive information, data and intellectual property – is a vital issue for all companies, advisers, investors, regulators and other stakeholders, whatever their size. In cyber security, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. And that weakest link can be targeted by anyone from employees and contractors to ‘hactivists’ and organised crime networks. Cybercrime is estimated to cost UK businesses several billion pounds per year. Supported in its work by the government through its
Terms of transaction
National Cyber Security Programme, the ICAEW convened the taskforce and produced the Cyber-Security in Corporate Finance guide. One clear message from the guide is to only share information with those who need it. It’s very important to guard against over-confidence within circles of trust and to question whether all information should be shared with all parties during a corporate finance transaction. The guide sets out six phases of cyber security in corporate finance. Preparation
Even before an organisation has decided to push the button on a corporate finance transaction, senior management will be starting to gather valuable information on how best to proceed. The very act of putting this information together may let slip that a transaction is imminent to individuals best left out of the loop. Engaging, selecting and appointing external advisers
Once a decision has been reached to proceed
Here the level of detail will increase and the nature of the information being shared is likely to be of a highly sensitive nature. For example, there are risks faced by participants such as bidders in a transaction. There are known incidents of bidders’ highly sensitive information, such as bid prices and financing terms, being intercepted by rival bidders in a transaction even before any bid has been submitted. This is clearly damaging to the bidder and could put the transaction in very serious jeopardy. Completion
By now there will already have been large numbers of individuals involved in the transaction. However, it may be that only during or following completion will the transaction become public knowledge. There will be heightened risk as funds are transferred to complete the transaction. The act of moving funds presents a risk of interception. Today, all company directors and advisers need to understand, anticipate and manage cyber security risks. They aren’t just the concern of IT and technical specialists but a strategic, enterprise-wide risk.
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For years, brands have utilised popular culture to inform and enhance advertising strategies. Now, with increasingly sophisticated technology and ever more savvy consumers, What does the future hold for culture-driven marketing?
WORDS: AMY ROBERTS
Pop A culture club (H)Pop culture club.indd 1
merican author Seth Godin once stated that “marketing is a contest for people’s attention.” As most entrepreneurs are aware, the significance of self-promotion and raising public profile is immeasurable when looking to kick-start, maintain or grow a burgeoning enterprise. It is perhaps for this reason that so many companies and brands turn to the most fickle and changeable of mistresses: popular culture. But do campaigns that rely on what’s hot in music, literature, film, television or any of the other countless forms of mass entertainment simply employ the cultural zeitgeist for monetary gain? Or do they perform a social function, influencing and informing what we talk about around our morning cup of coffee?
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It is certainly true that since the early days of marketing, clever bods have used what is broadly liked and recognised in order to generate interest and create a relationship with their target demographic. “It’s not just taking the ‘borrowed interest’ of a famous asset, but tapping into the deeper needs that make people care,” says Alex Dudson, co-founder of The Bakery, a creative marketing agency. “It’s about the stuff that moves people.” Switch on any television during a commercial break and you are likely to stumble upon an ad using pop culture of some kind. Pepsi, for example, has used a plethora of household names from the world of music and sport, including Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and the ever bankable stars of the Premier League, to sell its products. Chanel and Galaxy too have utilised the glamour and elegance associated with Hollywood icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe to appeal to the intended buyer. And a recent hard-hitting ad from environmental activist group Greenpeace strips down the opening sequence of Disney classic The Lion King, removing all animals one by one to highlight the human-inflicted damage upon our rainforests and wildlife. It would therefore seem that the employment of pop culture is both ubiquitous and universal in the world of advertising. But the fundamental question is why? The dominating view is that in using popular culture in their campaigns, brands are better placing themselves to speak with their desired audiences. They can spark an interest and dialogue around whatever product they may wish to promote. “Pop culture has always been a way – if implemented right so you’re not piling on the bandwagon – that you can tailor your message to a much more targeted audience,” says Mark Artus, CEO of 1HQ, the brand agency. “You
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“It’s not just taking the ‘borrowed interest’ of a famous asset but tapping into the deeper needs that make people care” Alex Dundson, The Bakery
can align better and get more traction.” Meanwhile, for Jason Goodman, CEO of Albion London, the creative agency, it’s more about the ability of pop culture to generate much-needed word-of-mouth surrounding brands and their wares. “Obviously the way big brands have borrowed from pop culture is a bit of an advertising norm,” says Goodman. “What’s interesting in all businesses and startups is the way you make culture part of your communications and marketing.” Indeed, some advertisers not only utilise popular culture in their marketing collateral, but influence it. With technology continuing to evolve at a rapid pace, the campaign has become almost as significant as the product itself. Brand identities have infiltrated the public psyche and become ingrained in the general consciousness to such an extent as to merge into the lexicon and take on a life of their own. Who hasn’t been told they ‘should
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have gone to Specsavers’ or described themselves as ‘tangoed’ when they’ve been a tad overzealous with the St Tropez? Both of these are examples of instantly recognisable marketing constructs that have been taken willingly to the public bosom. Now are the days of gorillas drumming heartily along to Phil Collins in the name of Cadbury, and Russian-accented meerkats vowing to find you the cheapest possible car insurance. Similarly, in the case of product identities, does anybody today truly vacuum their home? Or search online? Doubtful. They hoover and they google. So strong are the identities of these leading names that they become synonymous with the product itself. The reason for this new viral form of marketing lies at the feet of technology, argues Goodman, the man whose company helped pair Oprah Winfrey with Skype, and is responsible for those Wonga grannies so many people are now familiar with. “There’s a blur now between how people can create celebrity content and involve celebrity in content,” he says. These campaigns have irrevocably altered the
“There’s been a massive shift between consumers and advertising. The best advertiser is now the consumer” George Smart, Theobald Fox
advertising landscape and the approach to using pop culture in marketing. “Those kind of ads just identify a certain asset of that brand that resonates with the consumer” says Artus. To be catchy now, it seems, is about the combination of saturating the technological universe and coming up with a concept both innovative and enjoyable to your audience. George Smart, owner of Theobald Fox, the creative agency, says creating a memorable campaign is the name of the game. “Nowadays to make something catchy you have to be creating something that consumers will buy into, share around,” he explains. “There’s been a massive shift between consumers and advertising. The best advertiser is now the consumer.” Does this mean the days of using traditional pop culture endorsements – the face of George Clooney plastered over your not-so-average coffee machine, for example – are a thing of the past? Goodman thinks so, taking the view that this as a ‘dying area’ and claiming that “if you are going to identify brands with these big pop culture names or concepts then at least make it useful and add some value.” However, Smart disagrees.
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“People will always have heroes,” he explains. “And pop culture has seen all sorts of reference points that make up people’s lives and define them in terms of how they mix their interests.” It’s well and good debating the merits of a star-studded advertising campaign, but the million dollar question for your average SME is ‘what can I do to compete with the big boys?’ Nick Moutter, CEO of Admedo, an adbuying platform, says SMEs can be slightly slow on the uptake when it comes to advertising and culture-based marketing, partially as a result of budget constraints. He recommends smaller companies think a little out of the box to get the best for their money. He concludes: “If you’re a small business and you put something quirky in front of someone that isn’t the standard ad, you’re going to get a better return.”
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Trying to innovate can be difficult in any market, particularly when it’s dominated by just a few big players. Will King gives us the lowdown on how a revolutionary product can revitalise a whole industry
Shaving grace “I’m always looking to see what could be the best, what could we do, how could we do it”
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WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
acial fuzz has made something of a comeback in recent times. With Movember, increasingly hirsute comedians and ‘stachebased semiotics adorning our products, the proportion of beardy blokes in our towns and cities are definitely on the rise. Men have been drifting away from the shaving market and razor sales have been slowly falling for the first time in living memory. Clearly the men’s grooming market needs some sort of saviour. Fortunately, King of Shaves believes it has provided just that in its latest product: enter the Hyperglide, a razor that allows customers to shave without having to use shaving foam or oil. It’s certainly been a while since the world of razors has had a true breath of fresh air. Speaking at the launch of Hyperglide, Will King, founder and CEO of King of Shaves, made reference to the evolution of the razor: since the introduction of the lubrastrip in 1976, there have been few leaps and bounds in shaving. We’ve seen blades added, strips proliferate and even batteries included, and yet the core shaving experience has barely altered. King thinks a big part of this is down to lack of competition, meaning there is little pressure to innovate. “When you’re making £2 - £3 on the sale of each cartridge – or about 94% gross profit – then you ain’t gonna change that are you?” King asks. “You stick with what you’ve got until somebody comes along and delivers better.” Unfortunately, this is obviously a flawed perspective. Given razors aren’t a perishable item, there’s no call for a consumer to purchase a new razor unless it offers a significantly new experience. Adding new bells and whistles to a product may potentially attract someone to choose it if forced to purchase a new one but it still makes it incredibly unlikely that they will feel much desire to upgrade. King explains: “That failure to innovate is very symptomatic of industries which are monopolised.” And the Hyperglide is nothing if not innovative. Allowing shavers to trim their stubble with the aid of water alone is definitely a revolutionary idea but, for a lot of product developers, knowing to make the
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intervening steps isn’t immediately clear. The key is being able to recognise potential solutions when you see them. “I’ve got a great curiousity and I’m a mixture of an engineer, a creative guy, entrepreneur – I’m quite a hybrid character,” says King. “I’m always looking to see what could be the best, what could we do, how could we do it.” One of King’s real passions is the area of high-performance yacht racing. “There are surface modification treatments that can be put on to hulls to make them go through the water faster,” he relates. An area causing much debate in recent years has been between the merits of two such treatments: hydrophobic solutions – which repel and push water away – and hydrophilic alternatives that attract water and spread it across a surface, offering better lubrication. For King, it wasn’t hard to see the crossover with his own industry. Blades have received a huge amount of treatment over the last few decades, not only offering a closer and more thorough shave through the use of multiple blades but with vastly improved edging, grinding and treatment techniques. However, steps forward with lubrication largely hadn’t progressed much past 1976 and the lubrastrip. “What I wanted to do with Hyperglide was to put the shaving oil into a solid state lubricant on the cartridge,” says King. Hydrophilic treatments seemed the ideal solution. “That’s when the journey started.” And it’s been a long but rewarding one. However, its patented super-hydrophilic cartridge hasn’t been its only differentiator. Not only has King of Shaves carried over the ‘S-Flex’ flexible head from its previous razor
“What I wanted to do with Hyperglide was to put the shaving oil into a solid state lubricant on the cartridge” and introduced a new easy release cartridge but the company invested significant time ensuring the look was just right. “It’s the pride in the product,” comments King. “The aesthetic of Hyperglide, the curves, how the black and the white work with the chrome – it’s got to look so markedly different to a Fusion or a Hydro that there is no confusion over what this razor is.” It’s evident that every element of Hyperglide is clearly designed not only to utterly change how men shave but to take a significant step forward and get people excited about the idea of shaving again. “That is what Jony Ive and Tony Fadell did at Apple,” King comments. “They took the mobile phone and they didn’t just bring it up-to-date: they completely revolutionised that space and made
Just add water An innovation is all well and good but finding a simple way to present that to the public isn’t always straight-forward. Fortunately, King has an ace up his sleeve in the form of his wife: Tiger Savage, the renowned creative director responsible for the famous ‘Lynx Effect’. Eager to hear her thoughts on the product, King gave her a Hyperglide. He recalls: “She goes ‘it’s just a razor,’ and ignores it for about two weeks.” Eventually, after a little gentle coaxing, Savage did indeed try the product and was blown away. “Because she’s a fantastic
(H)Shaving Grace.indd 2
phones more desirable.” Inevitably, taking a serious step forward in any industry is going to be a product of intuition, perspiration and no small amount of luck. In King’s opinion, any great innovation relies on an ability to recognise it when you see it, something the likes of Apple have always used to their advantage. “That can happen instantaneously or it can take five years like it has with us,” he explains. And he’s keen to stress there’s no slowing down, with the firm looking to use the strength of their IP to expand into many other areas that involve a super-hydrophilic contact with skin. “Anything that involves a lubricity with water, we know how to coat surfaces with this tech,” he concludes, hinting toward a bright future. “It’s a journey and we’re still in it.”
advertising creative director, she distills products to a simplicity point,” King explains. “She says ‘why don’t we shoot it with a guy shaving underwater?’” Produced by Savage’s agency Tiger’s Eye, Hyperglide’s campaign is sublimely simple. “You’ve got a guy, who’s a good-looking guy and he’s shaving away,” King explains. “Then he grabs a toothbrush floating past his head and you get the point. He’s underwater: he can shave. Then obviously you can deliver a very clever advertising aesthetic, which gets the point across: ‘Just add water. King of Shaves: Hyperglide’.”
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A recent case involving Gucci has exposed the dangers of not making regular use of a brand’s trademarks
Marking your territory A
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
logo is a valuable asset for any business. Whilst a company’s very product or service – or even its workforce – may represent the largest source of investment, the power of a striking brand logo cannot be overstated. Nike and Apple have got to where they are today by offering top quality sportswear and tech gadgetry, but the simplicity of their branding has also undoubtedly stood them both in good stead. A glance at that iconic tick or semi-eaten apple does seem to make the old adage of ‘less is more’ nigh-on indisputable. Moreover, both logos are instantly recognisable in all corners of the globe. This is why a well-devised logo can be of equal monetary worth to an enterprise’s other property. “One of the great things about logos is that they are international so you don’t have any problems with language barriers,” elaborates Kate O’Rourke, trade mark attorney at law firm Charles Russell. “If you think about some classic examples recently, the Starbucks logo used to have ‘Starbucks’ in it. It doesn’t even do that anymore. People recognise the logo and automatically think of Starbucks. It then doesn’t have to worry about a possible contrary meaning of Starbucks in other countries and other languages.” It is no coincidence therefore that companies look to protect their logos through the registration of a trademark. As O’Rourke says, “logos can be really strong trademarks.” And whilst the challenges of registering a trademark have been touched upon before in the pages of Elite Business, the problems presented when one is revoked are new territory indeed. Needless to say, a recent case involving global fashion brand Gucci has thrown the subject into the spotlight. Things came to a head when fellow fashion brand Gerry Weber applied to register its logo, an interlocking G that bears certain similarities to Gucci’s own famous logo. It will come as little surprise to learn that Gucci
filed an opposition to the application, only for Gerry Weber to retaliate. It applied for Gucci’s trademark to be revoked on the grounds of non-use, claiming there had been no ‘genuine’ use of the Gucci logo for a five-year period. “It seems that Gerry Weber decided ‘okay you are going to oppose the registration of our logo so I am going to attack the registration of your trademark’,” says O’Rourke. “This is not unusual. Companies don’t usually attack other brands without good reason.” The onus thus fell on Gucci to prove that it had made ‘genuine’ use of its logo. “When someone files an application to revoke a mark on the grounds of non-use, the registered trademark proprietor has to file evidence showing that they have actually used it,” explains Catherine Richardson, associate at Charles Russell. “And that is not just a case of showing you have used the mark on one scarf in 1991. You have to show that you have used it in relation to every single good or service that you have listed in the specification. It has to be more than just ‘token’ use. It is not enough to show that you used it maybe once or twice.” One would assume this is something Gucci could present at the drop of a hat, but alas, it fell short. The hearing officer in the case said the evidence put forward by the company was not sufficient, specifically in relation to goods in classes 14 (jewellery), 18 (bags and purses) and 25 (various items of clothing in addition to scarves, socks, belts and shoes). Issue was also taken with Gucci’s global reputation and length of trading being put forward as evidence to help support its case. “Gucci had put a few sentences in its evidence that said that Gucci is obviously a very wellknown brand, it is sold in multiple countries and it has this many million sales per year,” says Richardson. “But the hearing officer queried the relevance of that to this particular case. What does that actually show about use of this particular trademark in relation to these particular goods? It is important in these
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“If you don’t use it, you can lose it” Kate O’Rourke,
trademark attorney, Charles Russell
cases to ensure that when collating evidence, trademark owners consider ‘what are we trying to show?’” Gucci’s trademark was therefore revoked in the classes mentioned above, and one can speculate that this was down to lack of preparation. “Quite frequently, when we get applications like this, we will ask clients for evidence of use and it is quite clear that records of where and how brand owners have used their trademark are not kept as a matter of course,” says Richardson. “I suspect that is something that has happened with Gucci. They may have unexpectedly been landed with this application and had to rummage through their archives to find relevant evidence. I would not be surprised if they struggled a bit.” Clearly, there is a lesson here for businesses of all sizes. “If you don’t use a trademark for five years without good reason, then you are at risk that some party could apply to cancel it,” says O’Rourke. “But that five years in the UK could be five years just prior to someone filing the cancellation action or they can stipulate a five-year period that could have ended two years ago. That is why it is very important for owners of trademarks to keep continual records, not just do it for a couple of years and think ‘that’s fine now’.” That being said, it isn’t all over for Gucci. It can still reapply for the trademark, but its approval may depend on whether it can get hold of the evidence this time around. Otherwise, speed is very much of the essence. “Gerry Weber have already filed an application for their logo, which will have a filing date before any new mark which Gucci might file,” says Richardson. “On that basis, Gerry Weber, as it came first, would have prior rights on which to oppose Gucci’s new application if there is too much similarity between them.” Whatever the outcome, the Gucci case has underlined the importance of taking good care of one’s intellectual property. As O’Rourke concludes, “you have to remember that a trademark registration is a monopoly right. The price of that is that if you don’t use, it you can lose it.”
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WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
With a little help What do Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Google all have in common? Other than being the world’s leading tech firms, they were also founded by personal acquaintances. What, then, makes friendship such a powerful force in business?
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hether or not it was intentional, many entrepreneurs become the face of their brand. It would be impossible to think of Virgin without an image of Richard Branson springing to mind. Likewise, how could one not envisage James Dyson when vacuuming the living room floor? These two pioneers are also distinguishable by the fact that they went it alone. Whilst they may have had a few close colleagues whispering words of advice in their ear from the start, both Dyson and Virgin are the result of one person’s vision, imagination and unrelenting determination. Nevertheless, many of the world’s other corporate behemoths were founded by some mates with a great idea. The late Steve Jobs may be seen in some people’s eyes as ‘Mr Apple’, but the tech giant wouldn’t be where it is today without Jobs’ former workmate and co-founder Steve Wozniak. Moreover, one can only wonder where Bill Gates would find himself were it not for his childhood buddy, Paul Allen. Their friendship, along with a shared
love of both computers and entrepreneurship, combined rather well to create Microsoft, which continues to make billions. And lest we forget that Mark Zuckerberg was one of five Harvard College roommates to found Facebook. Throw Twitter and Google into the mix as well, and you have got a rather impressive portfolio of enterprises that were created off the back of shared adolescent experiences and a common passion for building businesses. Titus Sharpe, co-founder of MVF, the customer acquisition platform, is one person who can bang the drum for starting a business with buddies. Founded by Sharpe and four friends in 2009, MVF was recently named the UK’s fastest-growing tech company by The Sunday Times. Needless to say, that probably wouldn’t have happened as soon as it has, if at all, if Sharpe hadn’t become acquainted with his fellow founders. The fact that most of them had worked together before meant that the decision to combine forces on MVF was a relatively straightforward one, he explains.
“For me, it was a total no-brainer,” Sharpe comments. “I knew what everyone brought to the table and I knew their strengths and weaknesses. Particularly regarding the guys I’d worked with before, we knew we could function as a team because we had been doing it for nine years previously. So it just seemed blindingly obvious that the team would work.” As far as Sharpe is concerned, there are tangible benefits to sharing the load. In MVF’s case, the variety of skillsets and experience has proven invaluable. “I have talked to so many other founders and they say ‘the commercial side is great but we haven’t found the right tech guys’,” he says. “It has been profoundly beneficial to MVF having that strength and depth of team that we knew worked before we even started. That breadth of experience brings a nice rounded balance.” It is a similar story for Linde Werdelin, the renowned watchmaking firm founded by childhood friends Jorn Werdelin and Morten Linde in 2002. Indeed, was it not for their professional lives taking dissimilar paths to begin with, things would have turned out somewhat differently for the pair. “Morten started out as a product designer and had done product design for more than a decade before we started Linde Werdelin and I – although growing up in a watch and jewellery retail environment – was in banking and had some experience with numbers and accounts,” explains Werdelin. “I think that combination of creativity and business creativity makes it work. It is about realising that Morten can do some things that I can’t and I can do some things that Morten can’t.” He adds, emphatically, “I think if we had not been friends and trusted each other, Linde Werdelin would not exist today because there would be so many reasons not to do it.” That’s not to say everything is rosy when it comes to embarking on a new venture with one’s nearest and dearest. Emotions can run high in business and disputes over a potential new investment or other matter can often boil over, threatening both the professional and personal relationship in the process. As is the Titus Sharpe, MVF nature of friendship though, such squabbles are often resolved more amicably and promptly
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than they otherwise would be. “Disagreement is where the friendship helps because even if we scream at each other, we know that we will have to speak again tomorrow,” says Werdelin. That said, Sharpe admits that there is one issue that has the potential to cause a rift among mates like no other. Salary is an infamously thorny subject for entrepreneurs, but the difficulty can be heightened when there is more than just a single individual’s needs at stake. “One person has got to make the final decision on who gets paid what in the business and if it is your friends, it is quite a tricky decision,” says Sharpe. “You have got to weigh up making a profit in the business first against remunerating your friends as well as you can.” Naturally, the dynamic is slightly different when a sole founder takes on a friend as their first employee. For one, a certain degree of authority is thrown into the mix, which can present scenarios that would not customarily have occurred when hanging out together at the local pub. However, as Toby Brand, founder of Br4nd, an online fashion start-up, testifies, such fears are ultimately allayed as a result of the trust between the individuals involved. Brand employed his friend Sarah Frankel as operations manager so that he can juggle his university studies with the demands of building an enterprise from scratch. In spite of their personal connection, Frankel just happened to be the best person for the job. “It was completely by chance that I was at the pub with some friends, I mentioned it, and Sarah was there,” says Brand. “We just had a chat about it and I realised she was perfect. She had a skillset that was pretty much exactly what I was looking for.” Suffice to say, Brand believes that Frankel’s professionalism and their ability to work brilliantly in tandem will continue to serve them well going forward. “We don’t really appear like we are close friends when we are in meetings with designers,” says Brand. “We just appear like any other work team.” So much so, Brand adds, that he barely feels like an employer at all. “We are just two people working together,” he says. “She jokily tried to call me ‘boss’ once and I said ‘never call me that’.” So long as a fine balance is struck, there is no reason why personal and professional acquaintances can’t work in harmony. As Werdelin concludes, “the challenge is managing the relationship so that you don’t lose the professionalism, but also so that you don’t lose the friendship.”
“One person has got to make the final decision on who gets paid what in the business and if it is your friends, it is quite a tricky decision”
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There is such a thing as ‘good pressure’ – when we feel galvanised and eager to achieve. When that pressure turns to stress, it can cause problems for employees and employers alike
Address the stress WORDS: DARA JEGEDE
ince the dawn of time, human beings have been under pressure to sustain a living. Even Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble had to provide for their families. But recent perilous economic tides have ramped up the stress a couple of notches. From worry over daily essentials to mortgages and job security, both individuals and businesses have struggled to deal with the disparity between the cost of sustenance and the available income. And as a result of trying to do more with less, businesses are demanding more from their employees. When these factors converge, build up and are sustained over a long period, workers are liable to reach a point of total burnout. Dr Jo Zagorska, a clinical psychologist, elaborates. “Burnout is a result of longterm stress that builds up to a point where it becomes unmanageable,” she says. “It can lead to periods of depression and anxiety because they’ve been living with a very high level of stress and it then tips over to a level they can’t manage.” Whereas it was once assumed that reaching this state of utter exhaustion was the preserve of those only in the most senior of positions, burnout is becoming disturbingly common lower down the
ranks. Indeed, a survey commissioned by Conference Genie (CG), the communications services provider, revealed that 41 is the average age at which the British professional hits the point of no return. Simon Prince, managing director of CG, says the research is cause for alarm. “41 is about half way through a career,” he explains. “A 41-year-old would have a family and a lot more responsibilities than a person in their 20s and 30s and there is quite a big gap between when people say they’re going to burnout and when they’re looking to end their career. That strikes me as an incredibly worrying time to be burning out.” Whilst the immediate impact of stress in the workplace may affect productivity and absence levels, Daniel Booth of Jelf, the insurance
“Burnout is a result of long-term stress that builds up to a point where it becomes unmanageable” Dr Jo Zagorska, clinical psychologist
services provider, sheds some light on the longer term effects. “You risk losing good people altogether which will have a significant impact on your business’s success,” he says. He explains further that the employer also risks an expensive law-suit over long-tail liability, where the cause of harm to the employee may have occurred several years prior, and the effects have taken time to come to light. With impending severe medical and financial consequences if diligent care is not taken, entrepreneurs and employers would be wise to identify the factors that can contribute to burnout and develop coping structures to help alleviate them. While most companies will have a form of stress management policy in place, when it comes to the wellbeing of their employees it seems managerial involvement should go beyond just what is printed in black and white. It might seem like common sense, but the starting point is to create a good working environment – something which Webmart, the printing services company, has embedded in its ethos. “We don’t just focus on the financials,” says Richard Biltcliffe, marketing manager at the firm. “We try to maximise the emotional, intellectual and financial benefit of everybody who works here. We try to give people a challenge and make them want to come into work. If they’ve got a monkey on their back they won’t be as effective as they should be.” Webmart has implemented several devices as support mechanisms for its ‘Webmarteers’. These include, amongst other things, a loading bay that has been reworked into their ‘Yorkshire room’. Decked out with astroturf, and with scenic views of Yorkshire papered onto the walls, the room functions as a space for yoga classes and barbeques. The company also has a number of financial schemes including an employee help scheme which provides up to £400 a year for personal problems in or outside of work. “It’s all well and good having policies, and waving a piece of paper around,” says Biltcliffe. “But we try and create an environment that allows people to have little breakout spaces and manage their stress really.” While it is commendable when an employer can offer these subsidies on health and stress relieving systems, Prince sympathises with the plight of small businesses where financial resources are more than a little limited. “It is difficult for small businesses to absorb these
costs into the running of things, but they can find other ways to help and support people,” he says, and points to flexible working as an alternative. “We try to make sure, within reason, that staff have the flexibility and autonomy to work when they feel they’re able to work their best. That’s crucially important in getting value for money.” Furthermore, Jill Miller, research advisor at the CIPD, says there’s no substitute for good people management. Lending an ear is often as effective as instigating pricey wellbeing programmes. “HR need to adopt an open culture where people feel like they can talk about any issues without feeling they might be penalised, or in case it impacts on their career with the organisation,” she says. Biltcliffe offers similar advice to business owners. “A good point of call is to have regular reviews with people,” he says. “You need to engender openness of communication where people are able to come to you with their concerns and woes. It’s a prudent thing to do for your business because that’s how you get most out of people.” Effective people management will include scrutinising job roles in order to determine particularly stressful aspects or identify stress hotspots elsewhere in the business. This will help employers to create a balance with the less stressful elements of the employee’s role. Miller highlights the role of middle-managers in striking the right balance. “Line managers are the eyes and ears of the organisation,” she says. “[They] are key to the effective management of stress and spotting early warning signs of stress and mental health problems.” She elaborates: “Stress and mental health problems can be difficult to spot because people will exhibit them in different ways. Managers need to know their workforce quite well in order to be able to spot any subtleties in behaviour change, such as somebody who is normally quite punctual turning up late to work. They need to get training around how to have quality conversations with people about these kinds of issues.” Managing stress in the workplace should not focus solely on employee welfare but also on that of the leaders, adds Miller. “Often entrepreneurs put the success of the business front of mind because ultimately they’ve emotionally and financially invested in it, but really the question is can they lead the business if they’re not firing on all cylinders?”
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The trouble with talent is… attracting it If identifying talent is a challenge, convincing it to walk through your door is a tall order indeed. But, argues Lyndsey Simpson, it is by no means beyond the reach of a small business owner
n January’s issue, I kicked off a series of articles entitled ‘The trouble with talent’, focusing first on the challenges relating to identifying and defining talent for your business. This month, we are working on the proviso that you now know exactly what type of individual you seek for your business and the types of things you want them to do to create maximum impact. So the challenge now is, as an SME or start-up, how do you get talent to come and join you if don’t have the brand, corporate budget and employee benefits that your competitors have? To that end, here are my top six tips on how to attract talent to an SME or start-up business:
1 Have a story
From the off, you need to become a storyteller. Why does your business exist? What’s the exciting journey you are embarking on? How are you going to change your customers’ lives or create a dent for the positive in the market you are operating in, whilst having fun en-route? Don’t write a dull corporate mission statement; make it real, bring it to life and you will find that talent will want to come along for the ride. In my business, The Curve Group, we have a quest and think of ourselves as players on a game board. We do everything to make sure every action we take drives us closer to achieving our quest and minimise the things that make us step off-track on our journey towards it.
2 Offer something different
If you don’t have the deep pockets of a corporate to pay great salaries or provide
healthcare and amazing pensions, don’t lead on the financial elements of your employee proposition. Choose instead to play to your strengths in the areas that your bigger competitors cannot match, for example, less bureaucracy, freedom to make decisions, more breadth in the role, ability to use commercial judgement when setting pricing strategies or changing the delivery model. These are the gifts a smaller business can give to their employees that drive morale, engagement and performance. Anyone who has ever faced death by PowerPoint and the sixth sign-off committee to make a simple decision in a large corporate will give up financial elements of their package for the freedom to make a significant difference.
3 Start dating
In the same way that you would start a romantic relationship, courting your prospective partner, making them feel special, as and when you spot talent in the market – at a conference or networking event – you need to do exactly the same. Don’t simply give them your business card and say “get in touch if you fancy a chat about working with us”. They won’t. They’re talent, doing well where they are and not actively looking to change. You need to own the action, not pass it off, and actively court them. Take them for coffee every three months, find out their career aspirations, keep in touch and ask them how they’re getting on. You may not even have line of sight to a role for them yet, but if they’re talent, you need to court them and make them want to jump ship and join you when the moment is right for your business and you have the right opportunity for them.
“Show them just how different it is going to be working for an SME by moving at a pace your corporate competitors can’t match”
4 Interview as if they’re a new customer
Now, you will know what you need to get out of your interview process, be that technical ability, cultural fit, understanding of their motivations, style of working or ambition. With that forming the core element of your interview process, it’s important to then wrap a sales process around it. You start by putting your best people in front of your prospective employees first. Who are your most upbeat, positive advocates that can talk about your business passionately? If that’s you, then make sure you conduct the first interview and don’t delegate it down. Dedicate enough time to selling your story – how they can make a difference, why people enjoy working for you – even if you’re not sure that you want to employ them. Your mission is to get everyone you interview queuing up around the corner wanting to work with you so you can select the best.
5 Be flexible
As an SME or start-up, it is unlikely that you are going to have the plushest premises, in the heart of the city, right next to perfect transport links. Therefore to counter this, your weapon is flexibility. Use the savings you are making on rent and rates to ensure you have proper remote working capability as you grow and allow your employees to embrace flexible working and working from home. Don’t apologise for
being out of town, sell the fact that your employees are always going in the opposite way to the masses cutting down on commuting time. Reap the benefits of free online conferencing and video calls at the expense of your competitors who are carrying the overhead costs of expensive offices and meeting rooms.
6 Be a speed demon
You’ve got them excited, you’ve decided they are the one for you and you want to make an offer. Show them just how different it is going to be working for an SME by moving at a pace your corporate competitors can’t match. Give them feedback on their interview the same day, don’t spend ten days drawing up an offer letter, send it out within 24 hours or even the same day if you can, and follow it up with a call. Make it personal. In the offer letter don’t just state the facts about salary, location, role; tell them how excited you are about them coming on board and what an impact they are going to have on the business. By taking some or all of these tips on-board you will immediately stand above the parapet of your competitors who despite their best intentions, generally fail to do anything out of the ordinary to attract talent into their business. Make yourself a magnet to talent and just watch them queue up around the block.
“With iPads and iPhones seamlessly integrating into the workday, businesses are becoming quicker to say “i Can.” ShoreTel’s new business-grade docking station for the iPad and iPhone brings together Apple’s intuitive magic with ShoreTel’s brilliantly simple mobile UC application—creating something altogether more powerful. Call it supercharged collaboration, unleashed via effortless telephony, instant messaging and conferencing anytime, anywhere. See what your people can do when they’re left to their own devices. For more information contact Ami Glass on 01628 826 336.
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In the murky world where law and tech meet, there are few wins for micro-enterprises. However, the David and Goliath case twixt mobile technology firm Vringo and Google has taken an interesting turn, with the latter being slapped with a ruling to pay ongoing royalties of 1.36% for infringed IP at the core of its AdWords service. The ramifications of this remain to be seen but, in the meantime, the world of gadgets refuses to draw breath, with lots of new items hitting the shelves. Here are just a few of our faves
MakerBot Replicator Z18 Say what you like about its move away from open-source hardware; MakerBot certainly puts together a mighty impressive product for a comparatively small price-tag. As demoed at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show and due for release this spring, the Replicator Z18 has the largest build volume of any MakerBot 3D printer to date, clocking in at a whopping 12 x 12 x 18 inches and printing at a teensy 100 micrometre resolution. At just £4,000, this is an excellent option for enterprises looking to prototype large items at a comparatively low cost.
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
Dell M115HD projector
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Given the proliferation of presentation apps available for tablets and smartphones, you might wonder how you’re supposed to really utilise your natty slideshows wherever you go. Bam. Portable projector. Recognising that the vast majority of entrepreneurs need tech that goes where they do, this Dell M115HD projector puts out an impressively high quality image despite its diminutive stature and takes HDMI, VGA and USB inputs. Whether you’re cranking out a powerpoint or just fancy playing giant Angry Birds in Starbucks, make sure you don’t overlook this dinky bit of kit.
Kokkedal There’s nothing the health-conscious entrepreneur loves more than cycling but you may feel the unimaginative old cycle could do with a reboot more in keeping with London’s hipster-friendly boroughs. Kokkedal’s bikes do just that. Bringing a taste of classic style yet introducing modern flourishes to the frame, these cycles should definitely introduce some pedal-based pizzazz to our high streets.
Curator When you’re making plans for your start-up, the adage a picture is worth a thousand words certainly holds water, which is why mood boards can be incredibly useful. Unfortunately they’re also a faff to digitise and difficult to share. iPad app Curator neatly addresses these problems, offering a way to collect creative inspiration together. And it has one up on Pinterest in that you can also collect text and websites, which makes setting and communicating your brand voice a breeze.
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mophie space pack Now smartphone batteries have a lifespan that would make a mayfly count its blessings, chances are you already own a back-up battery for your phone. And one battery is as good as another right? Wrong. Not only does mophie’s space pack come with an extra charge in its tiny package but it’s the first pack to include more storage space for your iPhone, providing you with an additional 16GB or 32GB. The space pack is expanding the capacity of your phone in more ways than one.
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The nightmare after Christmas Major technical problems on a peak shopping day is generally something online retailers only see in a bad dream. Unfortunately, last year, these nightmares became a reality
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
nsurprisingly, the Christmas period is vital for online retailers; fail to take it seriously and you can easily slip from liquidity to insolvency in the blink of an eye. But it doesn’t end the second the wrapping paper hits the floor. The post-Christmas sales aren’t just an opportunity for retailers to give a little back with some hearty reductions; they exist to stimulate demand during what would otherwise be an incredibly fallow retail period. And, given it’s a time of tightened belts, every day really does count. Which is why Boxing Day last year undoubtedly set a few klaxons going. Keynote, the market research company, was conducting routine analysis on some of the UK’s major retailers and noticed something unusual. Typically, in the run-up to Christmas, performance – the speed at which a website responds – tends to drop because of the volume of traffic. Whilst Keynote saw this rebound as expected after Christmas Day 2013, something else took a nosedive. “We saw availability drop on a number of sites,” says Robert Castley, lead solutions consultant for EMEA at the firm. According to the company’s findings, 12 out of the 18 retailers monitored had faster response times during the week following Christmas than the week preceding it. However, reliability of sites dropped significantly, with the brunt of the damage taking place on Boxing Day. On average, retailers’ sites were only available 97.08% of the time. Whilst this may sound relatively innocuous, data showing that Dorothy Perkins fell to just 50% availability at 11am and River Island to 66.67% at midday demonstrates quite how many customers were being missed.
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“For people to attempt to access the site and get nothing back doesn’t really build the confidence for the consumer”
However, perhaps more worrying than this was the nature of the faults returned. “In this particular situation, the error that was being returned was what was called a ‘500 error’, which basically means that the server was unavailable,” Castley comments. Generally, when a section of a website is unavailable, due to updates or major changes, a message will be displayed explaining this is the case. “It’s not like you don’t get anything – you do at least actually get something letting you know that is the case.” But Keynote’s analysis on Boxing Day demonstrated this wasn’t happening. “With a number of these sites there was what was deemed a 500 error, which just means that nothing was being presented to the user,” Castley says. Inevitably, this wouldn’t have exactly left customers with the best of impressions. “The home page is the window through which people all look through. For people to attempt to access the site and get nothing back doesn’t really build the confidence for the consumer.” Not only this but, on one of the key trading days of the year, anything blocking customers from entering your store is potentially catastrophic because you’re not capturing them at the moment of purchasing intent. “It would have been disappointing for them,” says Castley. “The sales would have kicked off, people are looking for the next bargain and people would have been coming to these sites and getting nothing. They lost revenue potentially by not being available at those times.” Given the disparate nature of the problem, being spread as it was across many high-profile retailers each with their own servers and e-commerce platforms, it’s difficult to point to any one route cause as being behind these lapses in availability. And whilst it’s tempting to bash retailers for their lack of preparedness, it does seem this may have been something of a freak occurrence. Looking at other times of high demand demonstrates that retailers aren’t found wanting when it comes to resilience. The recent doubleheader of Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year could certainly have caught online retailers unaware but Keynote identified few problems during these peak shopping days. “This year was the biggest year for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and they survived it; they got through,” Castley comments. This suggests a confluence of forces perhaps led to the poor results; things that couldn’t be predicted, only
“With a number of these sites there was nothing was being presented to the user”
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fixed retrospectively. “There would have been some poor chap having to jump away from his turkey curry and go and fix a few problems.” Of course, in light of this, it’s tempting to just write off these Boxing Day issues. Christmas is now, after all, little more than a memory. But Castley is keen to stress that this doesn’t mean that there aren’t important lessons to learn from all this, particularly with more key shopping days like Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day looming on the imminent horizon. “These days, people are more savvy about the tools and facilities that are out there that allow them to test and optimise,” he explains. Not only will this have allowed online retailers to detect when these problems arise but it also won’t be disregarded, ensuring they can learn from the potential weaknesses in their system that could limit their sales. “I’m sure they’re now putting out point releases,” he continues. “They’ll have looked at the data and thought ‘we could improve things here, we could improve things there’.” Ultimately, when you’re operating in the tech space, shielding oneself from all errors that could potentially occur is a rather Sisyphean task. However, when significant problems do arise, only a fool doesn’t learn from his or her mistakes.
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How to run your business like a Silicon Valley start-up Dan Kirby, CEO of Techdept, says there’s a lot to be learnt from how start-ups are done across the pond. And technology can simply lend a helping hand
“You build something, then you measure its performance, from which you learn”
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e honest. When you think of Silicon Valley startups, you probably think of clever tech, billion dollar buyouts and quirky CEO dress codes. But it’s not just the tech that’s being innovated. These west coast tech gurus have been applying their scientific minds to the problem of how to effectively build and sustain a busines, all underpinned by some clever tech tools. So what are these lessons and how can you apply them to your business? Enter any technology accelerator, start-up or tech venture capitalist’s office and you’ll hear phrases such as ‘minimum viable product’, ‘build’, ‘measure’, ‘learn’ and ‘pivot’. They are all phrases from a 2011 book, The Lean Startup. It’s the bible for tech start-ups. The basic principle of The Lean Startup is one that turns more traditional business thinking on its head. Usually you create an exhaustively researched business plan before investing your money to create a ‘perfect’ first product, which you launch with enormous fanfare with the rest of your money. Then you sit back as your customers empty their pockets. Only that’s not how it works. A business plan is theory, not proven practice. What if that product feature you slaved over just isn’t wanted by the majority of your customers? The Lean Startup advocates doing as little as possible upfront, until you know it will work. Get a minimum viable product out into a limited release in the market, even if it’s incomplete. Your customers then give you feedback – data – from which you refine your product. You build something, then you measure its performance, from which you learn. It’s an agile and iterative process. So set up a simple web page promising a new product or service and see how many people sign up. If no-one does, then maybe it’s not such a great idea. If they do, then make it happen. Web apps like Unbounce allow you to rapidly create marketing pages without a developer – so you can test literally hundreds of ideas to see which gets the most interest. If people don’t like your ideas, then you pivot – you change direction.
All that matters is that you fit your product with your market, even if this means dumping your carefully crafted business plan in the bin.
Test like the best
Serial entrepreneur and Epiphany co-founder Steve Blank is leading the way in creating a more scientific model for generating new businesses. You should get acquainted with tools such as the Business Model Canvas, which allows you to conceptualise your own scalable business model (as distinct to your business plan) on one page. This is available in an easy-to-use iPad app, which I find is a great way to channel and map your thinking. It even generates a spreadsheet of forecast profit and loss based on the model you build. As Blank says, “a start-up is an organisation formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model”. But to find the right business model, you need to try things out. Not all of these ideas will work, so you need to get used to failure, albeit the right kind of failure: failing fast. If you treat your business activity as a series of hypotheses which you test, you will see quickly which are working and which aren’t. How about the design of your website? You may love it but does it perform? Most people create a design, which remains fixed in time until the next website is built. If you have sufficient amount of traffic to your site you should consider testing your site design and employing advanced analytics to understand exactly who is visiting your website. A technique called A/B testing means that you test multiple page designs simultaneously. So you set a control page (for example with a blue ‘buy’ button) yet also direct traffic to a different page (with a red ‘buy’ button) and then measure which performs best. Web apps like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer turn the design process into a quantifiable series of experiments. Advanced analytics platform Kissmetrics
lets you see exactly who has visited your site. This means that you can contact them and ask why, for example, they have visited your web site 100 times, but never actually bought anything.
Act like a pirate
One of the problems with measuring your activity is that it creates a lot of data. To cut through the fog you should focus on only a handful of essential metrics –in other words data that you have measured – the ones that show whether you are moving towards, or away from, your objectives. I’ve learnt a good deal about this from a man called Dave. Dave McClure is a profane and swashbuckling tech investor, who heads up the very well respected Silicon Valley tech accelerator, 500 Startups. McClure has his own start-up development method: Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR! AARRR stands for acquisition, activation, referral, retention, revenue. McClure says that you should map all these points in your business and brutally test them until you have created your world-beating money making machine. It’s worth googling and watching some of his AARRR! talks to get more insight. A key activation tactic that can apply to a non-webbased business is the utilisation of lifecycle emails. Using platforms like Aweber or Hubspot, you can automate communications to different customers as they move through the sales funnel. McClure recommends drilling down to a handful (at most) of key metrics. You then track these week in week out, and take action based on what the information tells you: they become ‘actionable metrics’. If the data is positive, do more of it. If it’s bad, then you stop. Ask yourself how many customers you have
(H)Techdept column.indd 2
“If people don’t like your ideas, then you pivot – you change direction” to call before you close a deal? How many days does it take for your biggest customers to pay you? What percentage of people visiting your site actually make an enquiry? My company, Techdept, sells a service to clients. We exchange our time and skills for money. So how we manage our time is the single biggest driver of our profitability. We use a cloud platform called AtTask to log, in detail, all the tasks within the company, while logging time against them. This allows us to quickly trouble shoot projects that have over-run, and diagnose why. A simpler tool is Harvest, which lets you easily track time from your desktop, in a browser and by a mobile app. Getting clarity on your company’s actionable metrics means you can move heaven and earth every day to get them better. I find that these Silicon Valley start-up lessons are liberating. They mean that you can worry less about your untested plans. They focus you on getting real world data on what your customer really wants, rather than pursuing your own preconceptions. And if you can find out what your customer really wants, you’re one big step closer to that billion-dollar buyout.
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Not on your watch
Bullying and harassment can often scar victims for life. What more reason, therefore, does an employer need to keep their house in order?
(H)Not on your watch.indd 1
t was with a sense of sadness last month that we were greeted with further news of bullying at the BBC. Rod McKenzie, the editor of Radio 1’s Newsbeat, was removed from his post and handed a month’s leave following a handful of complaints from staff. It came less than a year after the publication of the Dinah Rose Review, initiated in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to assess the corporation’s policies and processes relating to sexual harassment and attitudes regarding the behaviour of staff and freelancers. Suffice to say, the report made for uncomfortable reading, revealing the anxiety and fear that had taken hold of some employees in the organisation. From aggressive management styles to alleged instances of favouritism, no stone was left unturned. And whilst the number of sexual harassment incidents was small by comparison to the size of the workforce, 37 complaints in six years still made for a rather sorry state of affairs for the Beeb. Of course, both bullying and harassment are unacceptable forms of behaviour in anyone’s book. Where businesses are concerned though, responsibility lies with the employer. Thus,
they can have a detrimental effect if they are not eradicated at the earliest stage possible. Nevertheless, whereas harassment has its own definition enshrined in law, the same cannot be said for bullying. “Most people think of them as being the same thing but harassment has an extra significance in employment law,” says Lloyd Davey, senior associate at law firm Stevens & Bolton. “It is a form of unlawful discrimination when the reason for it relates to a protected characteristic such as age, gender, race, disability or sexual orientation.” That is not to suggest that victims of harassment must be in possession of one of these protected characteristics in order to make a complaint or claim. “An employee can still sue for harassment on the grounds of what is called a protected characteristic even if that employee doesn’t have the particular characteristic themselves,” Davey explains. “For example, an employee can bring a claim if he is being harassed because a colleague thinks he is gay, even if he may actually be straight.” Nor, indeed, is it always the victim of harassment who raises the issue with an employer. Witnesses of such behaviour may also wish to bring a complaint
(H)Not on your watch.indd 2
against themselves or a fellow employee. It in the first instance and subsequently a claim if it continues. therefore goes without saying that taking Bullying, whilst not technically holding its own legal definition, can measures to limit their occurrence from the still land an employer in trouble if a member of staff resigns, citing outset is vital. “There is a lot an employer can their being bullied or being privy to bullying as the reason. “Even if there is no discrimination or straight harassment claim, there is still do to ensure the culture of a workplace doesn’t give rise to bullying and harassment in the the potential for them to resign and claim constructive dismissal,” says first place,” says Davey. “The key thing is that Davey. “The employee can argue that the employer has breached trust employees need to clearly understand what and confidence in the employment relationship, either by bullying that bullying and harassment is and what action employee or allowing bullying to take place.” Where bullying and harassment do find common ground is in the will be taken where bullying and harassment is found to have occurred.” harm caused to the individual on the receiving end. As such, the duty of care an employer assumes over their Sadly though, despite the “Employees who best efforts at prevention, workforce comes into play, along with other legislation pertaining to the general employee-employer relationship. unsavoury incidents can prefer not to “Bullying and harassment are both unwanted behaviour still occur, or accusations be report bullying made. The onus is then on that makes someone feel offended, humiliated or the employer to gather the intimidated,” Davey continues. “It is in every employer’s and harassment facts and take the necessary interest to comply with the legal obligations to employees, whether they are under employment-specific legislation are likely to suffer action. If fair process is followed, this should leave such as the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Equality lower morale” the complainant satisfied Act 2010, or common law duties of care outside of those that the matter has been pieces of legislation.” Lloyd Davey, Stevens & Bolton dealt with in their best Naturally, the last thing an employer wants on their interest, and equally plate is an accusation of bullying or harassment, whether relieve the employer from a potentially crippling law suit. “Above all, it is very important that the aggrieved person feels that their complaint has been dealt with honestly and sympathetically, as many legal claims are brought by employees who don’t feel their employer has done enough in the process,” Davey comments. As far as gathering the evidence is concerned, immediately suspending a suspected bully or harasser is generally considered the most sensible first step. “Suspension is always on full pay and is not a predetermination of guilt,” says Enrique Garcia, consultant at the Employment Law Advisory Service (ELAS). “It is not a punishment. It is ultimately just so you can protect the business and ensure you can do a full, fair and proper investigation without any interference.” Challenges can certainly arise if a victim does not feel safe in their ability to come forward. However, a solid grievance procedure should mean that things don’t go undetected whilst also serving as a robust deterrent. Of course, the keener-eyed of employers will also be able to identify the tell-tale signs of trouble before it is too late. “Employees who prefer not to report bullying and harassment are likely to suffer lower morale,” says Davey. “They may not be performing to the best of their abilities or they might have a higher than average absence record.” Indeed, given the harm and tragedy that bullying and harassment so often bring, an employer should have incentive enough to set the record straight from the get-go.
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the START-UP DIARies
The start of a beautiful friendship Donna Kelly, co-founder, Dressipi
Success comes easily when you put the customer at the heart of everything you do, says Donna Kelly, co-founder of Dressipi
e have a fundamental belief at Dressipi that we are not in the business of selling our customers a product, rather that we are helping them solve a problem. It’s a significant difference in approach; the former is a more ‘build and ship’ style, while the latter is more customer-focused. For customer-focused businesses, a lot of work goes into understanding the need or want and being obsessive about responding to that. It doesn’t really matter if you are a direct-to-consumer business with millions of customers or a business-to-business operation with fewer and more complex clients. It’s our belief that putting your customer at the centre of everything you do creates a more rewarding and successful relationship for both parties. That said, we certainly understand that it is not for everyone and there are plenty of successful businesses that give less attention and consideration to the customer. A customer-centric approach can be costly both in time and resources. For the best chance of success, the entire team, business and operations need to be aligned and focused around the customer. Take our business as an example. We have two types of customers: the consumers who use our fashion fingerprint to help them find clothes that flatter and fit them and retailers who implement our technology in order to improve conversion and basket size in their e-commerce operations. These customers have different needs and, because we need to maximise satisfaction for both of them, the alignment and effort can become a little more complex. With our retail partners, where no two businesses or business goals are the same, it is vital for us to understand them at a very deep level. We need to know how the organisation works in the wider context. We have to have an intricate knowledge of the internal challenges faced by the team we are working with and what success looks like for them. Once we know all this, we can work on giving our retail customers the tools and assistance they need to demonstrate value in the language that will be understood by the wider business.
“When you’re starting from fresh it’s much easier to structure your values and culture around the customer”
(H)Star-up diaries.indd 1
When it comes to end-consumers (both the users of Dressipi’s own consumer service and the customers of our retail partners) the focus is much less about goals and more about experience. Successful consumer businesses focus on delivering features and products that enhance people’s lives by responding to a genuine need. It was that need which we identified among women like us – a way of solving the problem of finding the right thing to wear for the right occasion – that led us to set up Dressipi in the first place. Let’s face it, a customer focused business is not a radical approach but it’s also not for the faint hearted. But the good news is that it’s an approach for which start-ups exhibit a natural advantage. When you’re starting from fresh it’s much easier to structure your values and culture around the customer than it is for a larger, more established organisation. But if you have the willingness to embrace it, in our opinion, a happy and satisfied customer is what it’s all about.
myleene klass Sir bob geldof
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Meet Renaud Visage, co-founder and CTO of Eventbrite, the online event platform and one of the stars of the global start-up scene. Thanks to...
Published on Feb 3, 2014
Meet Renaud Visage, co-founder and CTO of Eventbrite, the online event platform and one of the stars of the global start-up scene. Thanks to...