Last night was the welcome and kick-off of the new sailing season with the Bristol Sailing School, and their volunteers in particular. At the moment there are 3 evening sailing opportunities that are largely supported by volunteers with core cover provided by WESSA staff. At the moment I mainly help out with the Wednesday evening sailing for schools that would otherwise find it difficult to send children sailing.

I also found out about the Monday evenings where they take children with severe learning difficulties sailing. So I’ll try and get along to some of those also. The Friday evening sailing is for adults with severe difficulties, but I’m usually on the road then so probably won’t make those.

The gig out sailing last night isn’t part of the Sailing School but is a very cool sight to behold when a couple hundred years ago such vessels would have been the tug boats, rescue boats and general work vessels around the Bristol docks and Channel.

A beautiful sight, sailing gig in Bristol Docks.

Originally uploaded by Poo Bar.


Bristol OpenCoffee

20 April 2007

A small but motivated (it was 8am after all) group of us gathered at the Starbucks just outside Bristol Temple Meads train station for the inaugural Bristol OpenCoffee meet. Topics of conversation included the usual difficulties of breaking into the mobile markets and the power of the operators, and finding sources of seed or pre-Angel funding. There was also discussion around the a possible Bristolian trait of enjoying an ‘underground’ approach (great if you’re a DJ, perhaps less good if you’re looking to launch the next global business).

There was general agreement that the morning was a success, there was even a little business conducted. Given the strength of the media and digital arts scene, it was proposed that the next OpenCoffee be an OpenBeer event and perhaps alternate on a fortnightly basis.

Definately more to happen here so watch those and OpenCoffee spaces for more news.

StarBucks, I was a bit early which is why there’s no one about, I think Mark has a better photo of us taken a bit later.

Originally uploaded by Poo Bar.

Enterprise Innovation

15 April 2007

I spent a really good couple of hours Frankie Owen at the Enterprise Pavillion at the Arts Institute Bournemouth. In the way of these things, I’d visited the Pavillion shortly after its launch when in my previous role, but haven’t had much contact since. The building itself is set apart from the AIB but is on the same campus, I think gives a good balance with being ‘business’ focussed and not just converted teaching rooms, yet still definately a part of the AIB and thus not isolated.

Frankie has a specific project he wanted to talk about (Universal Access by Design)and many of the issues he has faced are common to both our roles so hopefully it was as useful to him as me. Its a very cool and low tech way to upgrade the signage in a library to be more meaningful and useful to visitors than the traditional Dewy classification. To me, possibly the greatest benefit of the system was that having discovered the area of interest e.g. Graphic Design, the system would encourage you to explore, almost in a StumbleUpon manner rather than directing you to a highly specific Dewy code.

The whole experience rather got me thinking about innovation and the role of the Incubator facilities that (nearly) all Universities have. People like Frankie are not teaching staff and have a very entrepreneurial mind set. Although the offices that are available for staff and students to get their business up and running are important, it’s the surrounding service environment that really makes the value proposition. A recent post about Y Combinator made the point for me that even though they are offering a comparatively small cash investment, their value add from service and connections appears to be enough to make it worth while for start-ups and pre-start-ups. One thing is certain, there are more entrepreneurs, VC, angel investors and company directors blogging than ever before. The stories, advice and raw experiences are there to be learned from, the future of incubators is, I think, increasingly around blending that background information with access to professional advice so that once the (pre-)start-up has ventured over the electronic welcome mat, they find a conducive and encouraging environment.

There’s an ongoing debate on whether the business environment in the UK supports or stifles entrepreneurship and personally I’m not sure we’re quite there yet. But a tipping point is approaching. More investors, advisers, entrepreneurs and innovators are blogging and extending the traditional networks. The series of Open Coffee events are really gaining ground (personally I’m looking forward to the first Bristol OC event) that should see a breaking down of the traditional access route to Angels and VCs through membership and subscription services. The Funded are providing a backchannel on what different investors are like to work with/for.

Its a good time to be innovative.

Software as Google

10 April 2007

I’ve been playing with GTD for a bit (after realising that I pretty much followed the concept without some of the labels). Although Outlook does mostly OK, there are some factors that don’t work so well for me (mostly around project and task management). Some recent features of Gmail and others might prove to be a partial solution.

Having opened up Gmail, and always filling up my company mailbox limit I figured 2.8Gb was worth trying out for. However, it wasn’t until I installed Greasemonkey and registered with Remember the Milk and GTD Inbox, I think I might have something I can work with.

With GTD Inbox I seem to find it more natural to group, categorise and plan emails around projects and activities. I’d already started using Gmail features after reading Steve Rubel’s fantastic hint sheet on how to be more productive with Gmail. With RTM integrated into Google Calendar, and Actions from GTD Inbox going to RTM that loop is closed with tasks and reminders centrally stored in Gmail but accessible through their more natural calendar and task list programs.

I think this was one of the great limitations for me with Outlook. Yes you had calendar, tasks and email, but there wasn’t an easy access way to see everything relating to a project in one place (tasks, emails and appointments). The Journal function might have provided that but I couldn’t get on with it.

So now I have emails each with a ProjectHome, with actions, using Stars to identify the Next Action and tasks getting emailed to RTM and linked directly to Google Calendar and showing up on the day due. Stuff without a ProjectHome is referenced and archived for easy recovery. Now I just need to use it in anger for a bit to see if it works for me.