Startups of Yesteryear?

DockersEver wondered what has happened to the startups of yesteryear? 893 were followed by Beauhurst, the high-growth research company, from 2011. Here are their findings which is well worth a read. Some highlights below:

2% IPO

13% Acquisitions (PE or trade)

72% Still active

13% Dead

Of the active companies, Beauhurst suggest that the value of each had grown from £3m to some £12.5m, an increase of over 300%. They do make the point that some of these are still being financed by investors. Unfortunately, there are no figures to see which are profitable, now self-funding or merely ‘walking wounded’.

It is often quoted that 90% of companies fail within five years and this suggests that those that get investment fare much better with only 13% being declared dead. There is quite a variance with only 2% in banking and finance failing as opposed to 21% in “CleanTech”. Interestingly, of the 2011 cohort that received Innovate UK grants only 4% have died.

View article at

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Planned 2017?

lakeswebHere we are, Christmas is over, 2017 has started and we are back into the rush of the daily grind. One of my favourite things at this time of year is to stop and give myself some time to ponder about where I am, what I have done and what I want to do during the next year. After all the surprises of 2016, it is doubly important that we take charge of our life so that we can make headway in the turbulent seas around us over which we have no control.

Where I start is with a review of what I have enjoyed and achieved in the last year. Some of my highlights have been mentoring at London Business School, formalising my knowledge learning about company coaching and becoming a Freeman of the Guild of Entrepreneurs. Do include other areas of your life such as parent, spouse etc.  What were the disappointments? Are they things you still want to do? Do think about what you have learnt and how you will do things differently going forward.

Now you are in a place to think about 2017. Make a list and go for the ones that you get the most excitement from. The more excited you are the more likely it will be to happen and, as such, it will not only give you direction but also will be your driver. Having made the list, now prioritise them so that you get some focus. Of course, you want to make the SMART and all that sort of thing but also think about who can help you. Do tell them and ask for their support, if only so that you have some accountability.

So, a quick review:

  1.   Review 2016
  2.   Acknowledge your learning
  3.   Make a list for 2017
  4.   Ask for support

I have put more detail in a similar article that I wrote some years ago so do have a look. Or, of course, give me a call and we can set up some sessions.

For me, I am going to focus on doing more company coaching with the strong team that I have around me and getting some holiday time in 2017. So if you know any company owners let me know, I will be posting more about this, and I am glad to say that I have already organised a trip to Morocco over Easter.

With a little planning 2017 can be a lot better!

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Kickstarter and Toy Monsters

Last night I was at a Crowdfunding London event at Makerversity where Dejan Mitrovic of Densters took us through some of the trials and tribulations of their current Kickstarter campaign for their den building toys. They have raised their minimum and there are still a few days to go if you want some of their ‘monsters’ which allow children to build the most amazing blanket forts and dens at home!

Dejan gave us some invaluable insights about Densters and the journey that they have made over the last year. Interestingly, the campaign was underfunded last night but has raised some 10% to take it past their target. Takeaways include:

  • Do not use the boosters (people claiming that they will find funders for you using their facebook/instagram etc accounts for a small charge) as many of them are scammers.
  • Do your PR before you launch so that people know you are coming
  • Find out early on what proportion of funders you provide and how many come from Kickstarter
  • Keep on plugging away at the PR and your own contacts.

Rob Hallifax, who runs Crowdfunding London, has yet again got together another interesting group of people who have either done Kickstarter campaigns, want to do them or advise companies about them. Do let me know if you have used Kickstarter or Indiegogo and what your strategy was and if you haven’t and want to know more give me a call or go to the next meeting on 7th February, again at Makeversity in the cellars of Somerset House.


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London Business School Founders Dinner

Last night was the launch of the 2016 cohort for the LBS incubator, again sponsored by Deloitte. The ten companies are chosen from the school’s alumni and covered quite a cross-section of financial, social enterprise and food areas. Interestingly, many are “real” rather than tech businesses, one of which, a short-term lettings agency called Pass the Keys, already has nine employees and not an app in sight!

Jane Khedair and the bundle of energy that is Jeff Skinner have built an incubator with much higher success rate than most having a low failure rate and Spyn from the class of 2014 having already exited in a trade sale. We were also encouraged to use Hiver from the 2015 cohort which is a geo-location based networking app, very useful for collecting names at events. Go and have a look at

My takeaways, reminders really, included working as a team (three founders have a much higher likelihood of success) and to be very, very focused. Remember to separate the product development/market matching from the growth phase. Of course, every new venture is one of not only vision but also hard work and perseverance.

For the sake of completeness and to give the founders (or speaker when there were other co-founders) a bit of a puff here are their websites:

Alex Ryvkin

Tom Haywood

Alexander Lyakhotskly

Ryan Kruger

Stefan Humphries

Kevin Meehan

Sreejita Saha

Richard Watson
Sonic Mixers for Spirits

Tahreem Arshad

Zipporah Gatiti

A very good evening was had by all with lots of networking, support and introductions being made and, as Jeff said, God’s speed to all the companies!

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Stress – The Benefits!

imageSome of the benefits of stress from Inc. Magazine,  the September edition.

1/ It makes you more aware which means you take in more information and this leads to greater productivity

2/ It shows you have a heart as the stress comes because you care about your company and employees

3/ You enjoy the calm when all is peaceful!


4/ Beware irrational thoughts from your own worries and concerns rather than those caused by external issues

A client was having sleepless nights as he had an issue he could not get sorted. Once he realised this and brought it to the table we were able to find ways to move forward, rather more quickly than he expected.

If you are laying awake at night, just call!

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Do you need a Coach? Not an advert!


An interesting article from Inc. Magazine – honest! The October issue to be precise. It suggests four different coach areas; media, business/executive, negotiation and life ones. As with any categorisation there is some simplification. The first point I want to make is that you are sure that you know what you are looking for. It is easy to confuse a coach and a mentor. A mentor knows about the industry and the task so is good for asking advice. A coach, on the other hand, will be more demanding of you making you work harder identifying what you want and then finding ways to achieve it which may include how to overcome some of your own issues. A good coach may well be both having had personal experience as well as having worked with people in a similar situation.

Media coaches will help you with your presentations and developing your communication skills both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’.

Business/executive coaches. Here do distinguish between the two as the skills are very different especially between smaller and larger organisations. Business coaches tend to work mainly on the growth of the company; strategy, structure etc. and executive one focus more on the individual and their leadership.  Of course, there can be quite a bit of overlap as if the leaders are not growing neither will the company.

Negotiation coaches have very specialist skills, some quite technical, and are used in very specific situations. They may not be coaches but rather bankers or corporate advisors for example.

Life coaches work with you and what you want in your life which is broader than your job. They will get you to examine yourself more deeply and get you to ask bigger questions. Many of the better ones will have an understanding of psychology. Life coaching is not for the faint hearted!

The article also suggests when you may want to use a coach and breaks it down to three reasons.

1. Changing when in a period of transition

2. Fixing recurrent issues

3. Adding new skills

Of course, there are many different scenarios, most of which are confused and may be overlapping. Starting to work it all out with a coach is often a good place to start and usually much cheaper than bringing in consultants or other professionals. Many people find it easier to spot the need for coaching for one of their colleagues but if you want changes it is usually best to start with yourself.

A useful article which sets out a simple structure to help you decide when and what sort of coach you need. Of course,  a chat with me may well be easier and quicker!

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Guild of Entrepreneurs

Photo Jonathan Cherry & Guild of Entrepreneurs

Photo Jonathan Cherry & Guild of Entrepreneurs

On 15th September I was admitted into the Guild of Entrepreneurs. This is one of the newest Livery Companies and has not yet reached its second birthday. Despite that, it is very busy not only growing its numbers but also doing charitable acts. I have been involved with the London Business School mentoring one of their students on the Entrepreneurs Summer School course and will also be involved in a number of the other outreach projects that are planned for 2017.

In addition to the charitable side, there is also a hectic schedule of events including formal dinners, a carol service and monthly informal drinks. Next week we are hosting a Crazy Golf evening which, I believe, is the start of our golf club… Then there is the Lord Mayor’s Show and so it goes on!

If the Livery world is something that you are interested in and want to find out more then let me know and I will get you along to an event.

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Seminar – What is your Business Worth? – and how to Increase it!

bankrylexchOn 19th October Henry Campbell-Jones of Hornblower Business Brokers and I are holding a seminar on how to value your business and five areas to start thinking about to increase its worth.

How you spend your time as a CEO?

What are the key skills and talents you need in your business?

So what is your Strategic Edge?

How successful can you be?

Who are your customers?

Giving some thought to these areas will not only start you on the road to increasing the value of your company but also give you more time for the things that really matter. If you are interested in building your company over the medium term, quite possibly to sell, then my roundtable with other owner/managers will give you time and structure to making it happen.

So come along to seminar to find out more. It’s free, 8am at Coventry University London Campus, close to Liverpool Street tube, so register here with the London Chamber of Commerce to start making your company a more valuable asset. For more details see here.

Oh if this is not for you but you know someone who will want to come then do forward this or tell me and I will get in touch.

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rajanHere is a wonderful quote on tolerance, something I am a great believer in, from Raghuram Rajan, the retiring Governor of the reserve Bank of India. This is from a Quartz article

Tolerance means not being so insecure about one’s ideas that one cannot subject them to challenge – it implies a degree of detachment that is absolutely necessary for mature debate. Finally, respect requires that in the rare case when an idea is tightly associated with a group’s core personality, we are extra careful about challenging it.

Tolerance can take the offense out of debate, and indeed instil respect. If I go berserk every time a particular button is pressed, rebels are tempted to press the button, while mischief-makers indeed do so. But if I do not react predictably, and instead ask button pressers to explain their concerns, rebels are forced to do the hard work of marshalling arguments. So, rebels do not press the button frivolously, while the thuggish mischief makers who abound in every group are left without an easy trigger. Tolerance and respect then lead to a good equilibrium where they reinforce each other.

With so much talk about passion it is good to hear about tolerance, hopefully we can make them work together to be even more powerful.

The article has a number of other very good quotes about corruption, the rich and famous, dosa economics and more – Chicago’s gain!

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What is Your Business Worth? Seminar

20160413_175733Business owner thinking of selling to move on to pastures new? Then you must come to this complimentary seminar – You will see me!

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry present James Talbot, senior business coach, and Henry Campbell-Jones CEO of Hornblower Business Brokers in a breakfast workshop close to Liverpool Street Station on 19th October.

Who should come? Business owners who are thinking of selling their companies, probably in the next one to three years must definitely be there. It will also be of interest to accountants and lawyers who work in corporate finance as well as other professionals in this area.

What will you get? This is a two-hour workshop with Henry explaining the fundamentals of how to value your company, who might want to buy it and some of the options that you have. James is launching his Company Exit/Sale roundtable which focuses on how business owners can build value in their businesses with regular, practically orientated meetings so that changes are immediately implemented. Originally developed in America James has brought it to London. You will take away lots of ideas, copy of the slides and some exercises to get you started.

Registration Details: To register for this free and very valuable seminar sign up via the London Chamber of Commerce or contact me, James Talbot, on 020 7987 7080 or

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The Dos and Don’ts of sharing equity.

imageMotivating employees with shares and epecially options is a very complex area. There are many things that can go wrong at different stages and not just when they are offered. The areas that often get in the way are when vesting or when the tax has to be paid if indeed it should. Then there are the other shareholders or potential investors such as businesses angel or venture capital funders. So here are some tips from start up founders and seasoned professionals from my favourite business magazine Inc.

1. Do educate your employees

2. Don’t do it yourself

3. Do draft in a multiyear plan.

4. Don’t attempt the impossible

Of course there are a number of benefits that should not be forgotten such as providing compensation when you are short of cash and using them as a retention tool until the profits comes in or whilst a company is being purchased.

This is just one area that I touch on in my roundtable for business owners that want to sell their company. It is focused and delivered in a practical style so that you can make immediate improvements to build the value that will be attractive to a buyer. If you are thinking of selling your business in the next one to five years come to my talk with Henry Campbell-Jones, the business broker and the London Chamber of Commerce on 19th October. More information here,  let me know if you want to come and I will send you booking instructions.

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Shrinking Corporate Europe

9T49BELTE In 2006, 17 of the world’s 50 most valuable companies were European. Today, the number stands at 7 according to this article in The Economist. Only Nestlé is a global leader in its sector.

There are main four reasons that Europe had lagged behind:

  1. Concentrated on old industries
  2. Focused on the emerging markets
  3. Companies in the rest of the world continued to consolidate
  4. European managers’ less aggressive attitude towards shareholder value

Of course, it is much more complicated than this, both from political and economic points of view, well worth a read if you have a few moments over the bank holiday.

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Kickstarter Rave & Ace Marks Shoes

AceMKicksKickstarter is brilliant, innovative and inspirational! It is also a very useful product financing tool. Since it started in 2009 it has raised over USD 2.23 billion for nearly 111,000 projects. There are currently some 4,300 project in 15 different categories looking for finance. These include categories for Art, Technology, and Journalism, the full list is at the bottom of this post. It really does live up to its mission to bring creative projects to life, so much so that it reincorporated as a Benefits Corporation in 2015.

This is all a preamble to me getting my Ace Marks shoes this week. Paul and his team, long-term in the shoe industry, raised $574,000 from Kickstarter with over 2,000 backers in March and it was with great excitement that I tried on my new, very good, shoes. In fact I got so carried away I did this little video – hey, it is holiday time!

Many of the projects have charitable connections, Ace Marks shoes encourage you to send back your old pair so that they then donate to Career Gear an American charity helping people back to work. Here is a link to the Ace Marks Kiskstarter site showing what a good campaign looks like. Here is the one for Ockham Razors from my 10th August post. Many projects do not reach their minimum pledge needed so your money will not taken. Once the target sum is raised and the project closes then you are at risk, some projects do not deliver in which case you lose your cash and many, if not most, will deliver late.

So here is the full list of Kiskstarter Categories, there are many subgroups:
Art, Comics, Crafts, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film & Video, Food, Games, Journalism, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, Theatre

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Kickstarter Preparation

CrowdfundingKickCrowd Funding is a concept that I became personally involved with initially though The Ockham Razor  which was launched using Kickstarter. Through this I went along to CrowdFunding London, a networking/education group organised by Rob Hallifax.

This last meeting he brought along Michael Ogden from Crowd Scene which is a podcast about successful crowdfunding campaigns and the people who make them happen. This s a must go to site if you are wanting to raise money from crowd funding. He gave a very informative talk and I thought I would share some of the key tips for preparing he has got from his interviews:

No 1 – make a great video

Clear concept
Be honest and authentic
Support with key images
Establish your credibility
Have a clear ask / call to action
Keep it short

Keep your pitch simple
Share with friends before for feedback
Choose a great title and key image
Plan creative rewards and make them personable (no to t-shirts or  hats!)
Reach out to relevant bloggers and press

Crowdfunding comes in a variety of different forms and is a very useful tool for any company to have for developing product financing and marketing. Let me know if a chat about how it can help your strategy.

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Leadership, Practice Pitches And Discount Bubbly!

View from Smith Reed Solicitors

View from Smith Reed Solicitors

Last month I went to 3C’s Community, an event organised by Colin Spiller to provide opportunities to wannabe entrepreneurs who want to test run their pitch in front of a live audience. No money changes hands and it is very much a ‘dry run’ for the starting up participants. The three aspiring companies pitching on this evening were:

Bridgestrike – Our intelligent GPS systems tracks the vehicle location & alerts the driver to potential bridge strikes ahead using visual and audible alerts.

OpenTRV sets out to make it easy to save lots of energy by not heating rooms that you’re not in, and by no longer trying to use a single thermostat to get your whole house comfortable.

whym – Translation for travel – When accuracy really matters, access an interpreter on your smartphone.

 The event started off with a presentation from Frazer Thompson, the CEO and main force behind Chapel Down which produces a world-class range of sparkling and still wines, together with the award-winning range of Curious beers & cider. He gave an interesting and entertaining talk and summarised with his seven top learning’s since setting up his business:

  1. Good people are the difference – hire the best and unlock their passion
  2. It’s all about love. For the staff, the customers, the suppliers and the consumers
  3. Not all money is equal
  4. “Try to go to bed a little less stupid that you woke up”
  5. Integrity matters, you reputation is all
  6. Plan to be patient. Focus on making really great products and profit will follow
  7. Above all be brave!

 For all of you that love good sparkling wine, especially if you are planning a wedding, he gives shareholders a full 33% off on wines and 25% off his beers. Here is the link.  As Frazer said, this is a great marketing tool as he gets his shareholders to sell for him.

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