General update

12 June 2007

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog front, haven’t even been tagging so much on del.icio.us mainly because two new projects has rather taken up a lot of time. The first was setting up a new company jbsh LLP that actually took a lot less cognitive effort than I’d expected. This post (and a few others) will be cross-posted. If things work out (how often does that happen?) this will become more of a personal blog and jbsh will become my professional / work musings.

So the other thing that that’s taken my time has been helping a start-up get through the business plan writing and raising finance process. They’re based in Canada which has led to rather more late nights (thank God for Skype) than is probably healthy but a fantastic business proposition so worth it. Actually there’s a third project looking at a new innovation / funding support network mechanism in Bristol (oh and applying for jobs in case the previous 3 don’t pay the mortgage)!

In working with Howard and the team I’ve given myself a crash course in Canada’s education system, their Provincial structure (and I mean that non-pejoratively) and also looked in some depth at different funding options. I’m not a financial advisor so I’m not in a position to tell Howard what to do, but I can read widely and offer perspectives so that when he does talk to a qualified advisor he’s already prepared.

Fortunately, in this day and age, there are loads of great resources and people that are sharing their experiences (as I will in the coming days/weeks/months). Wil Schroter has a great new blog / venture called Go Big! that has been a source of information and moral support. I’ve been a long time reader of Rick Segal and his thoughts, comments and notes on the Canadian scene. I’ve recently found (through Rick’s blog) Suzanne Dingwall Williams and her Venture Law Lines blog. Nivi and the team over at Venture Hacks have been another fantastic source of Term Sheet Hacks that have been chock full of ideas, comment and humour.

So I’ve got a draft business plan, an executive summary / pitch proposal, some financial spreadsheets and a digital address book of contacts. Lots of meetings (virtual for me, face-to-face for Howard) and with a fair wind and following sea we should be working up the full product for release next year. There’s a hybrid version that should be ready for the end of this year to kick-start the revenue. More to follow…

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Last night’s Open Coffee Bristol meet up doubled up with the Bristol Enterprise Network event (though I’m not sure they knew about it). Irfon Watkins from Coull TV and Clive Birnie & Martyn Shiner from Severn Delta stopped by before joining the BEN crowd (they had free wine). I stayed for the Entrepreneur’s Question Time and asked if Bristol was ready for a Y Combinator/TechStars/et al type investment and incubation fund/service. The panel (Mike Bennett, E3, James Foster, Xmos, Sandu Hellings, RiskHive, and Irfon) all thought that the mix of research, enterprising spirit and creativity made Bristol ripe for such an undertaking. I also asked if they’d (as entreprenuers) put their own money into such a fund, Irfon went so far as to say he’s already putting something together.

I later got chatting to Andy Parkhouse from Team Rubber (got to love creative industries for company names) and he was also thinking about something similar. This could be a tipping point.

That was the question implicitly posed at last night’s business idea competition final from the University of the West of England, here in Bristol. They’ve refocused from awarding for the best business plan to the best business idea, which is a good thing I think. Alan Patrick over at Broadstuff does quite a good retrospective of Incubation1.0 and why it wasn’t as successful as marketed. Alan was prompted by Sam Sethi at Vecosys who reflected on the emerging Incubation2.0 models emerging from the US (YCombinator, Hitforge, and others sponsored by Universities) and already seeing some parallels in Europe with YEurope (not affiliated with YCombinator but inspired by them, according to the rather small disclaimer at the bottom of their site).

All this start up start-up support has even prompted OnStartups to make those that didn’t get into YCombinator an offer (so long as you’re prepared to work on someone else’s idea). All of which brings me back to last night at the Holiday Inn next door to UWE.

After a very entertaining ‘story so far’ from Stuart Avery and Mike Bennett (founders of E3 Media and now proud restaurateurs with Goldbrick House) we got on to the main event which was a 20 mintute video of the finalists and the awards.

Of the 12 finalists, 5 were in a Social Entrepreneur category and the remaining 7 were Business. The Social Winner was Self Help Association for Social Confidence (SHASC, audio CD’s and resources for the socially anxious) and the runner up was the Bristol Design Festival (still a holding page) and both of which have clear potential for making money as well as social impact (OK, the Design Festival might not make Neil Ferguson and his team millionaires but it’s a very cool addition to the Bristol scene). The Business Winner was CoolBoard and the Runner up was GuessWhen (an online gambling site that is in stealth mode, they didn’t even have a speaking part on the video just a scrolling message to watch their web sites for info).

This is only the 4th year of UWE’s competition and all the judges praised the high standards (which I guess they sort of would) but with solid support from the business community (Osborne Clarke, Lloyds TBS Business, Haseltine Lake, Business Link and the Chartered Institute of Marketing), next year’s should be even better.

I missed some of the early presentations due to my getting horribly lost in central London.

ESRC funding for Groups – 5yrs JISC – bi-annual circulars (April, September), Laurie Phipps – user community groupings, identify bids & ideas – UK wide impact – Measuring impact on user community – partnerships & models of collaboration

Dr Peter Scott KMI – number of breadwinners – quantified financial targets Per breadwinner 71 ppl, 26 RA, 12 PhD, 17 Support, 8 Project Officers (these may now be out of date, or copies down inaccurately, there was quite a bit of real data Peter was sharing) aiming to be twice as big as us by budget 2010 – EU Networks of Excellence (the future) – don't lead on EU Project Base (30/70 money earners) with 20 baseline generic technologies

Prof Mike Sharples Learning Sciences Research Institute Moving to EU funding ? Roughly 1/6th our budget 4 Research Fellows , based in HEI schools , PhD (some Masters teaching), China campus soon to start with PhD research & teaching

Thoughts from the Technology Strategy Board. 6 arising topic areas for ICT

Pervasive – no mention of education as user? Demo 1 million node platform, sort out inter-operability.

Digital telecommunications – e-learning etc, high end of communications stack, exploits of underpinning research. More focus on digital media content rather then telecommunications hardware & systems.

Inter-enterprise – virtualisation, web services , autonomics (self healing systems) Development areas ; security , real-time data integration, personalisation, management tools & accounting, legal & social (IPR).

Intelligent systems – e-legal, virtual reality & serious gaming future applications area.

Modeling & simulation – quantitative prediction – Formalised trust models (from pervasive computing workshop) & risk analysis. Lots of convergence not much cohesiveness

Core criteria

  • UK competence & expertise to develop & exploit
  • Potential for impact & timescale
  • Size of global market opportunity ICT Innovations platform for education – working title

ICT competition – £1m-£2m over 2-3years Have an end-user on the consortium with a market in mind that will make money and could be exploited in other areas! 01355 272155 helpline Revisit briefing days in early May

Graham Spittle Chair of the Technology Strategy Board

Innovative platforms – societal challenge – range of technology – policy levers – products & services: network security & intelligent transport are done – possible link to DFES BSF?

Pam Alexander RDA Innovation lead, SEEDA

need to link with SWRDA (Stephen Peacock) over Bristol pervasive learning something – ideas from Learning Team & Phil Stenton HP – 20% of RDA Innovation spend in this area

Patrick McDonald Technology Director, DTI Science & technology investment framework 2004-2014 (treasury website ) – consultation until end-May Triple bottom line justification for projects ? Check out societal innovations platforms ? Possibly similar to the commercial platforms. 2 November – Innovate 2006 – DTI conference

Ray Browne Deputy Director,Technology Programme, DTI Can cross technology areas but must be within somehow. 1:8 funding to application ratio – academic partners get 75% funding – Gateway Questions: q1 alignment with Technology priority q2 added value

Slides on website Application briefing – 18, 19 May 10% fasttrack 10-15 applications per stream £1.5m grant average funding splits are nominal only In-kind contribution not aligned to project – check definitions Industry driven projects really.