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Creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, innovators and investors

June 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, innovators and investors

What do you get when you gather some entrepreneurs, serious investors, and innovators together at a jam-packed, invitation-only, event on entrepreneurship? Read on to find out…

Follow The Entrepreneur

Follow The Entrepreneur Summit 2013

I attended the third annual Follow the Entrepreneur Investor Summit, and wasn’t disappointed by the impressive speakers, entrepreneurs and location. The event focused on: “The New Common Sense” (why society needs to organise around the entrepreneur), and “The New Future” (how entrepreneurs are transforming the future of business). Among the superb array of speakers and topics, a few highlights include:

Former defence secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP, delivered a key note calling for the UK to focus more on growing the economy by encouraging entrepreneurship.

Dell’s entrepreneur in resident, Ingrid Vanderveldt, descibed how corporates can get into the action by providing the facility to connect startups with resources (e.g. Dell’s Entrepreneur Centre), and she wondered why more corporates were not already doing this.

Mark Hoffman, ceo of Oxygen Finance group, and founder of Sybase and Commerce One, explained how to make money from account payables, via an innovative new service

Panelist, Geoff Knott, recalled how social innovation and reform has always had the biggest impact on society, and called for entrepreneurs to “think broader than just business”.

Panelist, Frank Meehan, described how a 16 year old created a news summarisation service, and  secured investment from Li-Kashing’s Horizons Venture. The service is set to be acquired by Yahoo!

Matternet Drones

Matternet Drones

Panellist, Andreas Raptopoulos presented a bold vision for radical transformation of the transport and logistics industry with Matternet, an AI enabled network of drones and ground stations that can be used to deliver medicine and other lightweight goods in remote or road challenged locations around the world. I said it was a bold vision.

Mary Turner, serial entrepreneur and former CEO of Tiscali UK, described a service that senses and alerts users to events at home. The sensing network being a key component of the intelligent home and the Internet of Things.

This event was full of entrepreneurs with fascinating ideas in different stages of maturity, and it felt very much like an innovations parade; one idea even better than the next. For example, I ran into the founder of Scoopshot, (a service providing crowd-sourced visual content – i.e. images and footage for breaking news); then heard from the founders of Quill (a service for bespoke, branded content, articles which has since raised £1M from Ariadne & partners), and Taggstar (a data rich, content tagging service that enables shopping, sharing, viewing and targeting). When combined with investors and established legal / media industry representatives, one could easily see the future of transmedia content publishing and usage business models all present together in the one room. The same could be said for any other industry e.g. health, defence, logistics or manufacturing you care to name.

In conclusion, I believe it is this sort of occasion and environment (with the right mix of investors, innovators and entrepreneurs) that some key connections and relationships are sparked off, which ultimately go on to impact the world.

Talking Innovation

July 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Innovation is a great word for a great concept, and most people seem to have something to say about it, but the fact remains that innovation (or being innovative) is not something said or claimed, but rather it is best used (preferably by others) to describe an accomplishment. With that in mind, how difficult or easy is it really to innovate, or to be innovative?

Tough questions which it seems can only be answered by those who have themselves done it. Apparently, there exists different categories of innovation, including: incremental, tangential or accidental, and the much-loved (by start-ups and investors) disruptive innovation. Over the past few weeks, I had several opportunities to discuss or participate in activities, events and groups concerned with innovation, to different degrees, and below are brief highlights from some of them:

Logos

Innovation related events / activities / groups

 

  • Brand New BCS Entrepreneurs Specialist Group – In an industry famous for turning other industries on their collective heads, the BCS Chartered Institute for IT has finally created a specialist group dedicated to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among its members, businesses and society at large. I attended the pre-formation meeting, at the rather appropriately named Innovation Warehouse, and can safely say that the aims / aspirations of this group to engage with entrepreneurial communities in order to grow the digital ecosystem is right on target, and should be one to watch.
  • Mentoring innovation at the Information Technologists’ Company – An event on mentoring, organised by the 100th livery company of the City of London, was the forum for meeting several like-minded entrepreneurs, investors and technology leaders. Suffice it to say that this company takes seriously, its aim to give something back to society via robust programmes of charity and education (including mentoring) of those less fortunate / established amongst us.
  • Innovation Foundation – I recently had a chat with Professor Hargreaves, of UK IP Review fame, at the London HQ of NESTA, (the independent charity for innovation and entrepreneurship with stated mission to “help people and organisations bring great ideas to life”). The aims and objectives of this organisation are ever more relevant and urgently needed for a sustainable economic recovery, especially as more people are venturing to set up their own innovative technology businesses in the UK.
  • Parliament, Industry and the Lord Sugar – The Industry and Parliament Trust works to encourage more real world interaction and constructive dialogue between UK business and parliament. Their recent AGM featured renowned entrepreneur, the Lord Sugar (from BBC’s The Apprentice) who held a Q&A session which covered among other things, the often unrealistic expectation of young entrepreneurs (who mostly wish to become the next Mark Zuckerberg), and his belief that entrepreneurship is a quality best observed, commented and bestowed upon a person by others, pretty much as observed earlier about innovation.
  • Social Media Jam – A brief internal social media event featuring digital agency co-founder, AKQA’s Ajaz Ahmed, talking about the Seven Laws of Velocity, in his new book entitled “Velocity: The Seven New Laws for a World Gone Digital”. A wealth of anecdotes on innovation included an observation about how really great innovative companies (e.g. Sony or Apple) will not often to themselves as innovators, rather this is how others perceive and refer to their products and services – once again, after the fact!

All wonderful stuff indeed, and which has left me with a fierce hunger (or “La Niaque”) to do and become more involved in groups and activities that foster innovation. For example, next week, I’ll be speaking about the role of enterprise architecture in innovation at the Open Group Conference in Washington DC. In any case, the two key messages I picked up from the above listed flurry of activities / events / groups are:

  1. A common theme that real innovators and entrepreneurs will often be perceived and described as such, by others, after the fact. Actions truly speak louder than words in this respect.
  2. Technology consulting firms and system integrators, such as Capgemini, may have a key role to play in the innovation / entrepreneurship ecosystem, especially as a trusted advisor and potential partner to large organisations clients in their quest to connect with those innovative, high-growth companies (not necessarily early stage start-ups) that can help them differentiate / change / elevate their game in the fast changing business and technology environment.

I would welcome any suggestions / comments / critique on the best ways to help make the latter happen. As for the former, I guess we’ll just have to wait until after the fact!

The Multi-Everything Approach to Creative Business and Innovation

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Clearly, 21st century business is a crazy mixed-up world of multi-platform, multi-channel, multi-format, multi-device and multi-revenue (oh, and don’t forget mash-up) business models. Most brands, businesses and individuals must learn to adapt, compete, survive and perhaps even excel, in this challenging environment, but the key question is how best to go about it?

Once upon a time, it was the admirable thing to be able to “do one thing, and do it well”, however, in these crazy mixed up times, it seems like anyone and her uncle’s dog are attempting to do multiple things and, in some cases, they seem to do them very well indeed. So how can an ordinary, garden variety, business or individual even hope to compete in such a world? The answer, incredible as it sounds, is to be able to do one thing well, but that one thing is nothing less than the ability to handle change – a whole lot of change. Ok, so this isn’t a lightning flash of brilliance or originality, after all evolution has shown that highly adaptable generalists, such as omnivorous mammals, are more likely to succeed than their single purpose, built-for-speed and all things bling, counterparts.

For a business or individual to compete, survive and excel these days, it must have inbuilt, DNA level, capability to change. Nowhere is this more true and important than in the creative / knowledge industries of the digital age. If I had a five year Private Equity fund to invest as I saw fit, my one yardstick for judging a proposition would be based on this one quality (i.e. how change-ready is the individual, start-up or established business) in everything from business model to individual outlook. Basically, I propose using a stakeholder prism to analyse the change-readiness of the proposition from the point of view of five key stakeholder groups. So how might this work for example with new video, music or publishing venture?

First of all, we’ll need a standard way to establish the overall clarity of vision for that proposition, and for this, I’d suggest using the excellent Business Model Canvas (as described in the book Business Model Generation), to provide comprehensive articulation of the business model / proposition in no more than a single poster. This is a near perfect template for most circumstances, and the book provides model patterns for various types of businesses (you can also see the relevance to Enterprise Architecture in a recent CTO Blog post by Andy Mulholland).

Having established completeness and clarity of vision, we can then proceed to analyse the change-readiness of the proposition from five key perspectives (i.e. from the creator, technology, commercial, governance and customer stakeholder groups), loosely based on current and emerging trends affecting the creative industries:  

Five stakeholders

Figure: Five Key Stakeholder Groups*

  1. Content creators – In a multi-everything world, creative artistes must also be multi-talented. It is no longer enough to just sing for your supper – look what this author has resorted to doing.  The content creators in the proposition must be capable of applying their creativity to the entire lifecycle 
  2. Technology providers – This current situation (and this blog post) is a direct  result of disruption caused by Internet and mobile technologies, which enable the multi-everything paradigm of multi-format / multi-channel / multi-platform offerings and experiences so capably delivered by devices such as the iPad etc. The proposition must be able to take advantage of these enablers throughout the entire content lifecycle
  3. The commercial stakeholders – The Creative industries are starting to embrace the multi-everything philosophy, and to paraphrase one speaker at a recent publishing event, the future of multi-publishing is one-third physical, one-third digital, and one-third live events. The commercial model in the proposition needs to be flexible enough to handle all three if necessary 
  4. Legislative and governance stakeholders – The recent spate of IP Reviewsare testament to the fact that a creaking Intellectual Property (IP) system is woefully inadequate to handle the multi-complex threats and opportunities on offer today. The proposition must show how it aims to address challenges presented by a far-too-slowly evolving IP environment  
  5. Customers / end users – Finally, this group of stakeholders encompass all others, and as it is their judgement that really matters to any business, the prime goal of any business venture must be deliver value as early as possible to this group. The ultimate change-readiness test is to demonstrate how the proposition can fail fast and often without losing its hold on the customer / end-user.

Any business proposition that can provide satisfactory answers to the above tests is bound to do well, even without support and investment from my mythical PE fund. However, there are still a couple of very tough but related issues that compound an already perilous creative business environment i.e.:

  • Piracy – and I mean real industrial piracy, (not the “we-have-an-outdated-business-model-so-let’s-just-sue-the-people-formerly-known-as-customers” variety), needs to be addressed at a global level. A recent UK Government report put the cost of cyber crime at £27bn, (of which some £9bn was attributed to IP theft), in the UK alone.
  • Copyright – and all other Intellectual Property systems must evolve to something better able to handle digital complexity. In other words, we must start to simplify and facilitate the whole end-to-end process of IP Rights. Several promising events / debates have and will continue to take place until a workable solution can be found – e.g. the World Copyright Summit and Berklee College / Midem’s Rethink Musicevent each provide an exemplary forum for such worthwhile discourse.
  • Territoriality – is fast becoming an outmoded concept in a globally connected mobile digital world. Creative businesses are increasingly looking to reduce the headache caused by historical remnants of territorial boundaries in a global digital environment.

To conclude, in a multi-everything world, the best approach to creative business innovation is to be fast, flexible and adaptable to change, but also keeping in mind the global reach of digital and mobile technology. It is no different than the business of evolution, except that it is probably happening right this minute on a device near you.

*Image Source: Adapted from The World Beyond Digital Rights Management, BCS 2007

Publishing, Intellectual Property and Private Equity: A Tale of Three Events

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s not often one gets an opportunity to attend three compelling events in one evening, but as luck would have it, the stars were aligned and I managed to do just that in a mad scramble from one venue to the next. Such are the benefits of living and working in a great city like London, but less so were the thorny issues under debate at each of the three events.

It took a minute to digest and process various messages from these events, but as promised / tweeted, below are three key points, take-away or opinions:

1. Publishers must embrace multi-platform models as business-as-usual (Publishing Expo 2011)

It was standing room only at the Multi-Publishing & Digital Strategies Theatre in a packed final session on “the future of multi-platform publishing”. According to one of the speakers, “the bleeding edge of multi-publishing model is one third print, one third digital, and one third live events.”

Standing Room Only

Publishing Expo 2011: Future of Multi-Publishing

My Comment – Never mind multi-platform, it sounds more like a multi-model approach will be necessary for the entire creative industry, in my opinion.


2. But how do you value Intellectual Property? (IP For Innovation And Growth)

This has to be one of the thorniest questions for IP, because consistent and intelligent valuation of IP is at best confusing, or non-existent. IP is really just an economic mechanism, so a fundamental attribute should be the ability to establish an agreed value for the property in question, but this presents a severe problem because current valuation are highly subjective and always dependent on the buyer or seller’s points-of-view. Throw in the ability to effortlessly copy and distribute works via digital technology, and you’ll get the somewhat muddy picture.

IP Panel at the RSA

The RSA: IP For Innovation and Growth

My Comment – There is a clear opportunity here to create a dynamic and transparent IP valuation model or approach, which can produce the right valuation for IP, based on the buyer / seller relationship and context


3. And does a cash economy make IP any less relevant? (Private Equity Africa)

Apparently, it’s all about cash in Africa which leads me to wonder if and how global IP will work in a cash economy. This event does not immediately appear to have much in common with the others on IP or the creative industry, and even one of the speakers afterwards, said he considered Intellectual Property in Africa to be, and I quote, “nothing more than intellectual masturbation”. However, when you think of the thriving industry and market for music and filmed entertainment (e.g. Nigeria’s Nollywood), it is easy to see how IP can provide an important boost to developing economies. Therefore, even if there is little point in enforcing IP Rights locally, all developing economies must be interested and involved in any discussion relating to global IP rights and digital distribution / piracy.

PE Africa

Private Equity Africa

My Comment – when it comes to content and IP, it is a level playing field as all jurisdictions and stakeholders struggle with the impact of digital technology

Overall, one clear trend I can see emerging from the above is that such tough questions / issues will need even tougher answers and resolutions to overcome. For example, they may well be pointing to the same underlying problem – i.e. a flawed and inflexible concept of economic value – but perhaps that is rightly the subject of another blog and blogger.

Translating Music Technology Innovation into Real Opportunities

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The Music 4.5 event in London will try to show how this can be done, by combining the main ingredients of: “music tech start-ups, serial entrepreneurs, investors, artists, band managers and key industry players” in a programme of events designed to enable them to share, exchange, inspire and network ideas with each other, and with you the audience.

It often seems like the first few months of each New Year are overrun by a veritable smorgasbord of major Events, Conferences and Summits that demand attendance (and / or attention at the very least). Presumably it’s a good way to kick-start the year and take stock of what the other guys are up to. It also helps companies to generate major buzz around new products, services and other hypeware. Some of the key yearly events of this ilk include:

  • MIDEM – January in Cannes, France. The premier global music industry event where all the big deals and announcements are made (only perhaps more-so in those heady pre-digital days. Sniff!).
  • The World Economic Forum – January in Davos, Switzerland. Annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, an international body that is “committed to improving the state of the world”. So there.
  • MacWorld – February in San Francisco, USA. This year saw the launch of the uber-hyped Apple iPad. It is the main event at which the Apple faithful gather to pray.
  • TED (Technology Education & Design) – February in Long Beach, USA. TED is all about “ideas worth spreading”, and this is where potential future Nobel Laureates come to share their thoughts / angst.
  • Mobile World Congress (MWC) – February in Barcelona, Spain. This is the mobile equivalent of the CES, and is where all new mobile products / services get prime time, (at least until next month).

So after the first couple of months, one might be forgiven for thinking that people must surely be struggling with severe event fatigue. But apparently not so, because of what can only be described as an insatiable appetite for yet more events, (and perhaps the perks thereof, think cute gift / goodie bags, air miles, and after party / networking sessions).

In any case, one can only conclude that said event organizers, speakers and attendees, (sometimes event entire industries), are still seeking answers for whatever ails them most in a dynamically converging digital landscape of disruptive technologies and beleaguered business models. To that end, it would be great if more focused events like Music 4.5 could provide some of those answers, where possible, in an environment that allows participants to roll up their sleeves and come up with real strategies and solutions to deliver the titular 4.5 percent ROI from music tech startups. Watch this space.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.