About Growing Entrepreneurial Businesses

Dynamic content on all matters to do with growing businesses from Keith Willey

Tech entrepreneurs in the UK

The rampant success of the tech venture scene in the US – though especially in Silicon Valley – must give entrepreneurs around the world an inferiority complex.  It’s not just the individuals of course but the whole interconnected mass of experienced technologists, execs, financiers, bankers et al.  I won’t try to unpick that but the point is that a lot the essential context that helps you succeed is missing elsewhere.  All the more gratifying then to see people making smart moves over here.  UK-based Omnifone just launched in Barcelona and they are not playing around with their venture – they’re taking on iTunes and manouevring telcos in parallel around the world.  One of the founders Phil Sant is a neighbour and I can vouch for the stealth strategy they have adopted until now (four years in incubation).  I have the UK product manager for iPod in my current LBS class and only last week we were debating DRM in the music space.  Of course she didn’t like me encouraging people to look at allofmp3.com (sorry Georgina).  Either way the omnifone strategy is to get you to pay for music downloads (as of course do iTunes) and I wonder how long this is going to last?  I reckon I’ve got 80% of my lifetime music needs in mp3 format already.  How long can the music downloads market go on for, especially at current steep prices (except allofmp3 of course)?  People say that after music comes video….  in fact Phil showed me a video clip on a mobile long before they said they were aiming at music.  Maybe I’m just getting old but I can see Omnifone selling out early whilst the potential remains unfulfilled.  So who can buy a business which is a set of technology designed to work on every handset and endowed with all those telco deals?  It’s a tough industry with many players using high strategy and brutal tactics to retain their share of the value.  Omnifone need big friends to let them play in this space.  Will a telco, handset maker or platform developer dare buy Omnifone?  Maybe the media players?  The phone companies are certainly busy working on the functionality of handsets as a quick look at http://mobilementalism.com/ shows.  More later…

Filed under: Blogroll, technology, , ,

Stirring the pot of entrepreneurship

Whatever else I can claim in my working life at least I can point at variety.  Today has been an LBS entrepreneurship day so meeting lots of my students in project groups, writing speeches for upcoming gala event on Thursday, discussing how to link activity into current government reviews and attending a seminar on the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor results.  In between exchanging emails with business partner that highlight the market potential of an “evil plan” we have (Peter’s favourite way to describe money-making ideas).  They all link together really. 

For example at the GEM event we mused on the support required for early stage businesses – what could be done to make the hit-rate higher for new ventures?  A couple of people from New Zealand explaining how different the culture there is to UK.  Does our natural reticence when in the company of others mean that we are failing to communicate?  Does a UK entrepreneur thus miss getting advice and support, by failing to ask or be upfront about where they’re at? A quick look at the wiki for New Zealand reveals some claims that show where they’re coming from.  Pandora’s box, best kept shut methinks.

Meanwhile my students bring back the early evidence from their projects looking at entrepreneurial companies….   as usual we can see the living dead amongst them even if the owners cannot.  Darwinian selection means the weakest cannot attract the talent they need to become stronger, so we do what we can then it’s over to them.  We usually have a bias in these projects though towards companies that are in better than the average situation.  I guess if you think about getting an LBS team in and are prepared to open your business to examination (in private of course) then you might just be programmed to evolve and survive? Are these companies less ‘British’ mmmmm….?

Filed under: Blogroll

Tax dodging, ducking, optimising….?

This weekend thousands of highly paid IT contractors and less highly paid Nurses will be amongst those who will probably at some stage do a little admin for their ‘business’:  pull the expense receipts together, type up February’s invoice or maybe just review the docs of their new start-up companies.  As the FT reports, the taxman may have shot himself in the foot by shutting down the current dodge – managed service companies – and thus spawning a new dodge, the personal service company.  One difference is that the worker will become a Director of their company.  So now we may have 250,000 new companies and 250,000 new Directors in the UK.  That’s a lot of new companies on top of the 4m we already have and I am hoping nobody is going to claim that this statistic shows there’s more real entrepreneurship going on here.

Filed under: Blogroll

Current Kit

Just to say my own portability relies on the fabulous Dell X1 (actually a Dell-branded Samsung) plus KJAM Smartphone.  I also have an LG Chocolate into which I swap my SIM for evenings out when KJAM is too big to put in  DJ pocket say.  Sadly this lovely looking piece of kit is incredibly annoying: its fingertip heat-sensitive buttons are over-sensitive, menus are confusing, connections are proprietary etc etc.  Email via exchange server hosted on 1and1. This is one of the best setups I’ve had in ages.  Now getting worried for the day when the x1 goes pop…. not sure the latest equivalent will be as good.  Meanwhile looks as if the KJAM follow-on won’t be any slimmer or lighter. 

Filed under: Blogroll, technology

Portable Apps

Portability is something I’ve been pursuing for a long time, often for irrational reasons. It’s a behaviour that occasionally becomes evident to me when I meet two sorts of people: the person who seemingly goes about their business with no information, papers, laptops etc at all; the people (usually men in this case) who have those great big audit bag style briefcases, or who have laptops with 17 inch screens. Both these types seem to be missing something in life don’t they? On reflection I realise that my personal portable obesssion is learned behaviour built on past experience – like most things in life. Looking back I realise I spent many years on planes, in airports lugging gear that resulted in many visits to back-doctors. So a smaller version of anything is now attractive. I also have poor recall of detail so need to horde information in physical format so I can retrieve it fast. OK this is leading me now to Portable Apps….

…. for the uninitiated, portable apps are programmes you can keep on your USB memory stick. This allows you to sit at any PC running XP and, regardless of whatever else is loaded on that machine, plug in your USB stick and start using all your favourite programmes. They run from your USB stick and effectively do not interfere with the ‘host’ PC. They’re just making use of the PC’s processor, memory, internet connection etc. Imagine an internet cafe with no office suite loaded… a friends Apple… Just plug in your stick and go. When you leave there is no trace you were there.. .no files left hanging around etc. This technology is nudging at the early adopter segment, though largely popular amongst geeks right now. Technology is hyping it – it’s just neat software really. Have a look at http://www.portableapps.com which is the set of stuff I’m using. Many geeks are using quite small USB sticks – 512k say.

Of course given my learned behaviours regarding hording and portability I bought an 8Gb credit card size USB from LaClie.

Filed under: technology, Uncategorized

You Should Be Growing Businesses

Welcome to my blog. Please bear with me as I try to find my blogging voice. I have set some goals for this blog site as follows: –

1. To try to collect some insights and useful content that would help anybody in the entrepreneurial arena – whether building businesses, advising them or investing in them.

2. To offer people that I interact with some background to whatever we experienced together… who am I? where is he coming from? what was that idea we shared… is there more I can read somewhere?

3. To learn what a blog can and cannot do in my field of interest.

Filed under: Background

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