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Inspiration from British Cycling at London 2012

Dave Brailsford on BBC at London 2012We're gripped with Olympic fever here in the UK during London 2012 as you might expect.  Today has been a particularly special day (4 golds, 2 silvers and a bronze so far) for Team GB taking us to our best result in over a century, but one of the highlights was a brilliant interview on BBC Breakfast TV this morning with Dave Brailsford, the Performance Director who has revolutionised British Cycling, the team that's leading our medal charge.  It has some great messages for any business that I wanted to share, so I transcribed his words with some help from my new iPhone's voice recognition.

Dave masterminded the Cycling team's amazing success in Beijing,  and put together a plan to win the Tour de France in 5 years, but actually did it in 2 and a half, when Bradley Wiggins won in such emphatic style just days before these games started.  Even though the rules were changed, seemingly to make it more difficult to win as many medals, in this Olympics  on road the British team has won 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze, and on track 7 golds, 1 silver and 1 bronze.  An amazing performance.  On the BBC News this morning Sally Nugent asked Dave - how do you ...
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The Cloud's 5 Key Challenges for the ISV CTO

Back on 26 April I was asked to present "5 Key Challenges for the ISV CTO and How to Beat Them!" at a Ciklum seminar for ISVs that intended to deliver a hype-free conversation among CTOs, Chief Technical Architects and other key executives grappling with the journey to the cloud.  My slides for the session (see below) are already on Slideshare, but they are mostly visual, so I decided to do this  comprehensive (that means long right? - Ed)  blog write up following the slide sequence as a companion piece.  I was in good company, because the other speakers were Jimmy Gasteen of Precursive, Liam Hogan of OpenText and Melissa di Donato of Salesforce.com.  My pitch was intended to do three things:
  • Give my perspective on the current state of the Cloud landscape
  • Offer my 5 key challenges for the ISV CTO in moving to the Cloud
  • Leave the audience with some practical ideas to take action straight away
The current IT landscape is pretty cloudy.  IT providers are branding whatever product they have that happens to run in a datacentre somewhe as "Cloud" ...
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Twinfield change partners for a new dance

I was delighted to hear, early yesterday, that cloud accounting software provider Twinfield was acquired by Wolters Kluwer.  I have to disclose that my company, D2C, have been Twinfield's UK partner since 2005 and so we have a vested interest in the success of the platform and some great customers and partnerships that have come as a result of our Twinfield connection.  Over on the Twinfield blog, my good friend and one of the two Twinfield founders, André Kwakernaat, tells some of the back story and explains how proud he is.  Let me give you my take on the acquisition from the perspective of someone  who has been close to the story right from when Andre's idea started at the end of the 90s.  

Andre and the team really have done a superb job building the business since starting on 5 October 2000.  Today the platform supports 80,000 companies, with 40,000 subscribers and used by over 700 accounting practices.  Although the product operates every day in 23 countries, the bulk of the users are in their home market of the Netherlands, which has been both their strength in terms of growth, profitability and stability, but also a potential weakness. ...
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Zen in the Art of the Elevator Pitch

A touch of Zen?
What has an elevator pitch got to do with Zen?  Well good presentation is all about learning to let go of your inhibitions and achieving absolute focus on the objective by keeping things simple, eliminating all the distracting detail along with the bad communication habits you might have.  So take the Zen approach to pitching.   Penny Jackson and I put together some communication exercises and questions for entrepreneurs, start ups and mobile developers to workshop the "pitch" topic at Over The Air 10 some 4 months ago.  We did the workshop version back on September 11 (see handout below).  Here's our blog version.

What is an elevator pitch?
Well, the Wikipedia definition says:

"An elevator pitch or elevator speech is an overview of a product, service, person, group or organization, or project and is often a part of a fundraising, marketing communications, brand, or public relations program.  The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver an elevator pitch in ...

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FutureStory launches at the North East Economic Forum

Last Thursday in Durham FutureStory launched as part of the North East Economic Forum.  I've already blogged about why I've got involved in this joint initiative between Lucy Parker's Talent and Enterprise Taskforce and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).  The BIS press release on the day started like this:
"Business leaders in the North East today (on Feb 18) urged young people to proactively research local industries so they can rise to the challenge of getting a job in tomorrow’s global economy.  In return they pledged to help local schools and colleges play an active role in plotting the North East’s economic future."
The NEEF annual conference was a fitting forum for promoting this new initiative.  Adam Boulton of Sky News introduced a series of speakers focusing on the regeneration of the region which has moved from its industrial heritage of mining and steel to housing the UK's largest car exporter,  the National Centre for Excellence in Plastics, and a whole host of low carbon initiatives.  During the day we heard about huge off shore wind farms, a national training centre for Green Collar Workers that is in the process ...
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Introducing FutureStory on BTZ

This will be the first in a continuing sequence of posts here on BTZ about FutureStory, a government initiative from the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) which connects businesses to schools to help make young people wake up to the opportunities, rather than the threats, of globalization.   Caroline Teunissen called me and Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, and a number of other interested bloggers in to help promote the topic.  Caroline introduced me to Lucy Parker, head of Talent and Enterprise Taskforce, who is spearheading the initiative in conjunction with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

So why did I think this is important? Why did I want to get involved?  As we progress in to the 21st century, we live at a time of astonishing extremes and rapid change.   Globalisation, climate change, the explosion of advanced technologies and what some would call a broken education system here in the West have come together to make a perfect storm of complexity.  FutureStory directly addresses two of these components.  Globalization is a fact of life to be dealt with.  Although we hear many stories of losing . ...
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The cost of launching a web 2.0 company

Guy Kawasaki has a very interesting post detailing the start up cost of his new baby - By the Numbers: How I built a Web 2.0, User-Generated Content, Citizen Journalism, Long-Tail, Social Media Site for $12,107.09.  This highlights how it is possible to finance a new media/new technology company on your credit card rather than by pitching to investors.  We are living in a new world.

Truemors is kind of a Digg for rumours which is explained on their site as follows:

"Truemors is a web site that enables you to "tell the world""”within the bounds of good taste and the law anyway. You can post your rumors, news, and sightings, and anyone with web access can read and rate them within minutes. We wish to acknowledge the pioneering and inspiring work of Twitter, BoredAt, Digg, PostSecret, PopSugar, and HotOrNot in this field."

My friend Mat is just about to enter public beta stage with his company Approvr.  Approvr tackles the approval workflow that so many companies require for sign off of designs, documents and specifications.  My friend Dennis has teamed up with three developers and is launching FreeAgent this week at Wiki Wednesday and OpenCoffee Club.  FreeAgent tackles the invoicing and money management issues for freelancers and contractors.  I just joined the advisory board of another company started by three guys developing a SaaS based document management solution that will initially be aimed at smaller legal and accounting firms.  We'll be looking for some beta test clients soon.  I'll be tracking the start up costs of all three of these enterprises, and hope to report on them when I can, but we're living in a new world.

When I started this blog back in 2005 I wrote about Joe Kraus.  Joe needed $3m to start search company Excite back in the 90s.  When he started the JotSpot wiki company in 2005, it only cost him $100,000.  He sold out to Google late last year for an undisclosed sum, but he looked pretty relaxed at the time.  Here we are in 2007 and the barrier to entry has been dropped again.  We're living in a new world indeed.

Update:

David Tebbut writes about this on SmallBizPod.  Quite rightly he suggests you read the full Guy Kawasaki post, and all of the comments as well - a very illuminating insight in to marketing in the new world.

Zoli blogs about the event that Guy is pitching the company at tomorrow, and highlights the presentation material he has created.

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Last week at OpenCoffee Club, and other networking stories

Paul K explains SWAPZ.co.uk to David Wynn and Christiano BettaI'm not going to be able to make either today or next week's OpenCoffee Club, which is a great shame. I've got in to the habit of trying to arrange London meetings on a Thursday, so I can drop in and meet new people. Last week I was there with my business partner David Wynn, the other D in D Squared C. We met the usual, eclectic bunch which sparked some new ideas for us, and made some interesting connections.

I chatted with Giles Morgan of Nimrod Consultancy Services, who advises companies and brands on product and project risk. He was there with his friend and colleague Greg Vitarelli, an American PR guy who came to the UK on assignment, and is still here many years later. Tore Lande told me about GBOB, the global battle of the bands website that aims to find new, unsigned music talent and showcase them on the web. Of course Saul Klein was there, and I spoke to him about finance for one of my business partners, as well as getting advice on pitching to VCs from Matt Knopp of eastside consulting. Paul K was there talking about his SWAPZ.co.uk - a site were you can barter your unwanted goods for something more useful. Sandi Wassmer talked to me about Copious, the web design and marketing agency she has started. I keep seeing Fergus Burns visiting the same sites I do, so it was good to meet him in person and find out a little about his web-based RSS marketing solutions. I also had a great conversation with James Brady, from a new start up of ex-IBM guys called Cambridge Data, with a product called TagandFile - a tag and search based document management service that they are initially aiming at the legal profession. I could see some potential for using it in the accounting profession as well.

London OpenCoffee Club at Waterstones 5th Floor BarThere is no doubting the value of these kinds of networking event. I was just speaking with Graham Salmon who attended the last Manchester event, and recognizes he has to stay in touch with what's going on so he can advise his clients. He was pleasantly surprised that although there was a lot of emphasis on new technology, it wasn't a geeky event and all of the talk was business oriented. As Dennis posted earlier, we need more accountants to get involved. Graham is one of the exceptions.

David Tebbutt is at today's session, so I hope to get a full report of how it went later on.

Update: Saul Klein just pointed out this interesting post on Read/Write Web by David Lenahan:

"Events like these should have an instant appeal to anyone in this business as a free and easy place to network and build community. Where will it go from here? Saul (OCC Founder) tells me that they are planning their first international OCC meeting next week in Amsterdam before the NextWeb conference. He also hopes that with the launch of their site on Ning.com, many more people who don't have a OCC nearby can start to network online."

I agree wholeheartedly with these conclusions.

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London OpenCoffee Club update

OpenCoffee Club - that's me shuffling out a business cardBack on the 19th I went tomy first London OpenCoffee Club meeting. I blogged about it before, but here is a quick update. There were a couple of people I met but forgot to mention. I spoke to Cristiano Bettaabout technology, a Dutch trends blog called Frankwatching, education and teachr.tv,and hesent me the links to his Flickr photos taken that day, and his blog. I was spoke toa guy from Linkadoo, whichsounds like it could be a pretty good brand name. I also saw that Sam Sethi, who I spoke to on the day, and Loic Le Meur did actually kiss and make up amongst the deal chatter. Sam's post on it announces the fact there will be a Le Web IV over in Paris at some point this year. Lastly, I mentioned that a Channel 4 team were filming the session. They incorporated it in to a piece on the current technology wave of start ups being like a second dotcom boom. All a bit sensationalist really. However,halfway through the piece you can see me shuffling out business cards (which is a key activity at these events) and talking to Saul Klein, the guy who started OpenCoffee Club. A few seconds of Channel 4 fame last Tuesday. Mike wrote about the news item too.
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Yesterday at the London OpenCoffee Club

London OpenCoffee ClubYesterday I went to Saul Klein's Regent Street, London OpenCoffee Club Meetup. Saul's idea is straightforward. Set up a regular place and time for a relaxed meeting of entrepreneurs, investors, and anyone else who is interested in startups for networking and chat over coffee. They take place every Thursday at 10:00 at the Starbucks inside Espirit in Regent Street in the centre of town. They only started on March 1st this year, but the idea has already spread around the world. Looking at Saul's Ning community you can see references to events in Seattle, Houston, Cape Town - there are even 4 clubs set up in Ireland! Maybe that's because Ireland has such a strong network of bloggers and a thriving technology community. I see that the Cork Club is planning to visit the London Club on May 10th, so that will definitely be one to be at. The news is travelling fast, and maybe even faster after this evening. A Channel 4 reporter and camera crew were at yesterday's event, so it might well be publicised on the 7:00 pm news today.

London OpenCoffee ClubI met with Saul himself, Sam Sethi and his wife Gillian Kent.  Gillian used to be director of MSN.co.uk, and is now doing strategy and marketing consultancy. Sam's just about to rebrand his site as Blognation, and start a network of similar sites in 8 or 10 countries. Frankly I'm amazed nobody had grabbed that domain name until now! I spoke to Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, who was over promoting the Next Web Conference to be held on June 1st in Amsterdam. I spoke to Kate Patterson, a transplanted Australian who is in her third month of operating Sprout. Kate's advising growing businesses on marketing and strategy, hence the name. I spoke to angel investors and VCs, and Stephen McCurry, in the middle of his MBA at London Business School who'll soon be looking for a good opportunity. Lachlan McArthur from eMarketing company Quirk was on the look out for business. Loic Le Meur was over from Paris, but was so deep in various conversations I never got the chance to break in and introduce myself. Mike Butcher was doing his thing, making notes on an impossibly small notepad, and his quick summary of the event is here. He posted his Treo photos from the event on Flickr, so thanks for those Mike!

I gave cards to various people who had run out of theirs, so hopefully they'll drop me a line so I can give them a mention. I guess there were around 50-80 people, and most of them didn't just come for half an hour, but stayed beyond 12:00. I'll certainly plan to be a reasonably regular visitor.