Author Archives: 88thmountain

Baker Botts & KPMG Open the Health Tech Collaboration Door …

Excellent and thought provoking London meeting near Bank yesterday, many thanks to both Baker Botts for hosting us and KPMG / UCL for the IP on show.

Working with startups as I do, and from a “growth hack” perspective, it’s highly important to be very clear about the problems needing tackling before thinking about solutions.

As an NHS fan and tax payer, it was upsetting to see one slide yesterday from Dr Vincent showing some fairly rudimentary problems:

* Poor password control and management
* Inability to connect with local networks
* Disabled technology functions

Dr Christopher also talked about building a solution that, at first glance, seems to be a methodology for dealing with the generic development and operational scenario. As we know, complex environments subject to rapid change are hard to respond to and exist in.

The reason for the methodological approach, I suspect, again as Dr Christopher adroitly showed, was the plethora of various US and EU regulations being drawn up which the NHS seems compelled to adopt en-bloc and then slavishly adhere to piece by piece.

Is that really the case? Or can we challenge some of the approaches being taken?

It would also have been interesting to discuss the following, perhaps a future KPMG agenda, being either in the media or implicit in the above problems:

* Massive training overheads for NHS staff, likely to worsen under EU / US regulation

* False references: huge patient impacts on both “life assurance” and “data security”

* Poor quality management, allowing poor operational practice and poor staff training

* Emerging and extant access solutions: one password access, fingerprinting, face recognition

* How Big Data is beginning to offer solutions to eg Education & Training and Regulatory

* Access & “triage” queues in both GP surgeries and A&E

Going back to my growth hacker communities, I would suggest the following Health Tech Hacker projects and solutions would have some validity and viability, given superior engineering design, some true “out of the box” thinking and then especially excellence in business infrastructure building and service delivery:

* Adopting WiFi access from private hospital implementations eg Clementine Churchill, Harrow

* Big Data projects to help NHS staff train and re-train – too many nurses “fall out” of the system

* Regulatory infrastructure Big Data projects to help produce guideline values and behaviours

* Reference checker Apps, to be more sure people are who they say, and can do what they say

* Performance Management Software – loads of these out there, can the NHS adopt and adapt?

* Fingerprinting & face recog Apps to ease access issues with NHS systems

* Self-triage Apps to “queue” onto the NHS back end – more anonymous data at first

* The extent to which financial data security could provide 80% initial solutions & learning

Why take a hacker approach? We have so often seen monolithic solutions fail attempting to fix the world. Too big to fail? More like too big to succeed.

My understanding is that the UK hacker community elite has become adept at specific solutions to specific problems, the solution infrastructure then being later absorbed into a larger existing body. In fact I’ve already suggested a queueing App to my hacker community, and there is already some interest and commitment in pursuing that as a project.

In particular, we need engineering solutions of the sort that Dr Namiluko showed are possible, building on the UK heritage of top quality but sometimes even low tech engineering solutions based on specific needs. One great example of this, I found out recently, was the Hurricane air fighter we used in the second world war.

What I’m saying here is that hacking and engineering are already in the UK DNA. But we need to rediscover and reinvigorate these elements, ideally getting some celebrity endorsements to help spread the message even further.

Be good to talk about this more, happy to chat to anyone interested.


My @Quora comment on Should “talent” be more demanding of employers?

My @Quora comment on Should "talent" be more demanding of employers?

My @Quora comment on Should "talent" be more demanding of employers? :

My @Quora comment on Should “talent” be more demanding of employers?

Should “I Can’t” customer service threaten my Virgin brand advocacy?

Question on @Quora: Should "I Can't" customer service threaten my Virgin brand advocacy?

Should "I Can't" customer service threaten my Virgin brand advocacy?

#B2B #Opportunity for 6 stand #sponsors to mass-market to 25,000 eyes in Olympia, #London

Opportunity for 6 stand sponsors to market to 25,000 eyes in Olympia, London. Two days: November 27th and 28th.

We are happy to field passer by enquiries and forward them on to you, or to have you on the stand for you to do your own marketing.
If not for you, then tell your networks, earn some social credit.

If interested in sponsoring, visit this form to log your details and book a slot, first come first served.

But come see us anyway!

Simple Direct Mail Using Google Plus

Here is something you could do for clients as part of your services:

Simple Direct Mailing using Gmail

In G+ & Gmail, perhaps using Rapportive, circle each strong contact made;
Use both niche and generic circles to provide a unique profile;
Select Contacts in Google Gmail;
Now select the top level Circles;
Add key contacts from the displayed list to a new circle, eg Mailing List;
Once complete, select the new circle Mailing List;
Click on the Google Groups button;
In your Gmail Compose, enter Mailing List in the Bcc option;
To add new contacts, revisit Circles, select contacts, click Google Groups

Voila – Simple Direct Mailing using Gmail

The Start Up Process Explained …

Every business development project needs to be able to successfully take on board and utilise at least the following components, and I’ll give a more detailed explanation following.

While I wanted to give an end-to-end view of contribution and activity, this can also serve as a specific potential agenda, or perhaps menu to choose from, for further discussion with personal contacts:

1. Every business model depends on the idea, and the intended audience

2. Predicting the brand new carries a degree of uncertainty, but it can be managed

3. In every developing and operating business, we need continually to ask the right questions

4. In order to maximise chances of success, we need to bring the right people to the party

5. The customer discovery process also depends on the starting point of owners and founders

6. User experience is critical, a poorly designed product can totally invalidate a brilliant idea

7. It’s important to select a business model that fits closely in terms of the market entry plan

8. If going down the PR route, it’s important to be talking about a working and successful product

9. Even after development, the process of getting product in front of audience is not easy 

10. The product board need to work hard to reward “team members” flexibly and respectfully

11. For a working product, the board may wish to recoup and sell on to a new investor team

And here’s some detail about what I bring to these components:

1. The idea and the audience

Too many owners invest a lot of time and money in a product before considering whether the target audience likes the idea or not.

It is well known in startup circles that ideas often change direction substantially, and may find completely different audiences than they originally envisaged. Twitter is one such example.

So I bring a very strong focus and my own development processes to make sure that the current target audience does indeed like the product, or we can find one that does, and that they are willing to invest either time or money in “solving real world problems”.

2. Predicting the brand new

Predicting the brand new is pretty difficult. No one had ever seen the like of Facebook, so the chances of getting the business projections wrong were quite high.

Nevertheless, the corporate world has been making projections for many years, and I was party to those on a number of occasions at levels of influence. I have also spent 30 years in innovation, starting as a tech developer, then a business process designer, then a project manager. This work included the successful world first in 1997, for BTCellnet now O2, bank accounts and credit card balance delivered to mobile phones via text messages.

Brand new also needs deft risk management, and again I have in-depth experience from my project portfolio.

3. Asking the right questions

As an effective CEO of a micro company, we must always be vigilant and constantly checking either development or operations.

What is working and what isn’t? If not, why not? What are the options for doing things differently?

Being a corporate project manager is good preparation for this type of role, since it requires the co-ordination of tasks and business function from different disciplines, and enough understanding of each to be able to direct proceedings and troubleshoot without necessarily needing to be a niche expert in all of them.

4. Finding the right people

With modern technologies, Twitter being a great tool in this respect, it is now much easier to find people who are on their second or third startup. And people are now so much more willing to meet and chat.

Also those who fit nicely into the Hipster, Hacker or Hustler labels. Over the past few years I have met a wide variety of people, both start up business owners, tech developers and investors, and know the startup marketplace well enough now to know what each needs from the other.

More than ever, bringing the right people to a business venture is critical, be they partners, suppliers, or longer term, employees. So is the filtering process we need, to make sure we attract people who are both willing and adaptable, who bring relevant skills, and who will commit to the cause in a way we are happy with.

5. Discovering Customers

I have just held a customer discovery workshop in London, with about 8 startups and business owners.

Again, it is key for founders and co-founders to be asking the right questions, and trying to find audience members who fit a profile, and can provide feedback about what works, what doesn’t, and what is compelling enough to compete with all other possible products that customer needs and wants.

It’s also key to understand our own skill bases. We may have a marketing background, or PR, but not understand the financial components. It’s also possible to be in PR and not understand digital marketing that well. And this is hardly surprising, given the depth and niche skills that digital anything often needs.

So the customer discovery process is different for every startup founder.

6. Designing Great UX – (User Experience) – LMcC

A really great idea can be killed by a poorly designed product or service.

An under performing website, scratchy graphics, a poor process flow and data management, too many bells and whistles, all these can contribute to users deciding to switch elsewhere rather than persevere through to reach the benefits.

I have in my contacts someone who really focuses on user experience, who has just held his first expo down on the south coast. By the look and feel of the stories he has been able to tell, this was one heck of an event.

7. Selecting the Business Model & Personnel – OS/MS/PJai/SN
Here, gaining access to experience really counts. 

Using my own “search and selection” techniques and skills, I already have two contacts who are onto their third start up. 

The first is a serial entrepreneur in the financial space, the second is now offering umbrella Hipster, Hacker, Hustler services in the UK. And I’ve just met a third such entrepreneur, who can really pick out the commercial components of a product.

Each brings a different quality to the process of founding and growing a business.

And I should note the ability to introduce Hacker (Tech) services can be very useful in a one-man band scenario from a risk management perspective. It’s always prudent to have back up, or indeed additional resource, should that lone resource be distracted, fall ill, or simply lose impetus for any of the reasons that make us humans as complex as we are.

Yet another contact has a business that has attracted thousands of users, and is just about to start offering space to advertisers to monetise the business.

The ability to find advice and choose a relevant business model that can provide a useful framework for each startup really matters.

It is certainly the case here, where one business model isn’t quite right, that further research can be done, using a proper brief, and using the same search and selection techniques. The aim is that it is then possible, through finding the “right people”, to find a business model example that gives a better base for a startup according to its unique business idea components.

The intention here is to reduce, by a substantial amount, the “unknown unknowns”, and bring more confidence to planning and development processes.

Starting out with the wrong business model can be catastrophic, or at worst consume huge resources in terms of time and money with little to show for it.

8. Harnessing PR – SN

If need be, one of my contacts is a PR expert, and could help by giving some advice where this is relevant, and especially if the product has been built, is live, and is attracting sample audiences and feedback.

9. Getting Product to Audiences – JC

Of course PR can be a one shot opportunity, and digital marketing offers the ability to get product to audiences in a much more targeted way.

Finding a good marketer can be something of a holy grail, and the quest to find marketers who can walk the walk, and provide the unusual blend of CMO/CTO skills needed can be long and at times fruitless.

Fortunately, I have already traveled that path, and now have someone who again is onto their third startup, and takes no prisoners when it comes to businesses who have not conducted customer discovery with sufficient depth. This is a good combination in a partner, I submit.

10. Flexible Resourcing
I’ve talked a great deal here about the critical skills other people bring.

Of course, to entice them to do this, we need to offer rewards that will engage them up front and then keep them engaged.

So we may need to talk about equity share, we may need to talk about deferred payments once a revenue stream has been established, we may need to talk about commission payments for direct revenue generation services.

Some may even give their help freely! But we should not be seeking this, we must in all cases seek to respect and reward those we work with in line with their wishes and needs.

In all cases we need to make sure with prospective partners that we can access and foster the true spirit of collaboration.

On top of these considerations, CEOs need to decide whether their CEO skills co-ordinating across business functions and knowing enough about each are adequate and sufficient.

A thought could be that perhaps occasional mentoring may be of some help.

Depending on time and work life balance factors, CEOs might also consider bringing in, as needed, project management support, say where their own time is actually bespoke elsewhere for 90% plus of their efforts, or they have to step away from a business for family reasons.

Another point of contact for a board is where a startup is struggling, and the investor is not content to just throw away thousands of pounds. Some experienced troubleshooting to see where the core issues lie could be instructive and illuminating, and help start turning the business round. Is it possible to pivot and find a better place for the startup? As noted variously, Twitter themselves had to go through that pivoting process.

Finally when constructing a board, a CEO has to decide whether it is useful to have a team of different skill bases who provide different aspects to the business, and subjectively what that is or could be worth to the business.

11. Repaying Investment – MS

It is a natural thing for entrepreneurs, and particularly in the UK, it seems, to get to a burn out stage. Enough, they say, I need a rest, and then decide on a change of direction. 

Building a startup is a high energy, high risk, but potentially high reward activity, and not for the faint-hearted or deluded. Hard headed pragmatism is key to succeeding.

Especially where financial investment is concerned, investors may at some stage want to cash their chips in, and recoup on their “investment”, and there can be many reasons for this.

As well as my own search and selection techniques, one of my contacts is offering the ROI section as part of his business model, but equally it is entirely possible to find new investors through new and emerging techniques to do so.

The plus side of a one-stop shop is that the whole process, from ideation, through tech build, to recouping investment, is under one roof, is integrated and not piecemeal, and the owner has proved he can go though the process in two or three different market places.

The downside is lack of freedom to engage talented business people who may bring skills that are missing to the overall piece. The “partnership” with my colleague is a mutually exclusive and binding one, and he has his own teams who bring their own skills to each initiative.

So this is another key decision each entrepreneur and investor team must make.

To those who say entrepreneurs are born, not made? I say look again, and consider why it takes so long to produce a successful business.

Yes, some are lucky, but finding the same luck twice is a huge gamble, and a risk that almost certainly won’t pay off. It still takes time and effort to invest in understanding what makes a business work and why.

Are people who call themselves capitalists or espouse what they believe are capitalist views giving capitalism a bad name?

Answer by Peter Jones:



On their individual behaviour.

Not all capitalists are bad, but what we desperately need is greater transparency into financial institutions.

Sadly, Finance is an industry built entirely with the intention of bedazzling customers. using technical complexity and jargon. It's been the same way since the early days of coffee shop trading.

That can be helpful if you are trying to avoid a marketplace getting spooked, but unhelpful if the market place has every right to be spooked, as in the sub-prime disaster. Or the original crash, the Dutch Tulip disaster, where at peak some tulip bulbs were worth more than houses.

Many may say sub-prime isn't a disaster, but oddly (not) they are the survivors in the Financial sector. They are categorically not those who experienced the fall out and financial ruin first hand, who can now no longer afford the cost or energy involved to dispute the "victors'" winning narratives.

There is in fact an enormous opportunity for a financial institution that gets the need for consumer trust to trade this way, but again, it's an easy way of living off other's people's need to put their money somewhere.

Just looking at the banking associations and otter hangers on who also make a lucrative lifestyle off what is or at least was in fact our money.

The incentives to avoid change, and even put newcomers who challenge the status quo out of business are enormous.

Our hope is that the flame of innovation continues to be unquenchable, and that challengers to banks will come along who are equally unquenchable.

Bitcoin has just such potential.

Banks are accordingly trying every trick in the book to make the emerging sector unviable and for participants to fall off a cliff.

Yes, Bitcoin carries risks about money laundering, but so do conventional bank accounts. At least with BitCoin, the ledgers are actually open to public scrutiny, which in time may make tracking transactions somewhat easier for authorities.

Of course if you enquire into bank's defensive behaviours here, you'll find a level of smoke and mirrors that will indeed bedazzle you.



Are people who call themselves capitalists or espouse what they believe are capitalist views giving capitalism a bad name?

Do I need money to build a business ?

I often see this question asked in forums, and here is a “lean” NO answer that hopefully will help to keep startup costs down.

  1. You need a great idea to solve a problem that everyone else just moans about.
  2. You need a lean way to get to your marketplace and prove people are willing to pay for the thing you have created. The internet now provides many and varied tools to use, of course the skill is in navigating the huge choice and selecting which work best for you.
  3. You need to take your learning from your mistakes on board, and be willing both to share your depth of knowledge and be agile in changing direction when you need to.
  4. Good ethics take time to acquire, and need to be shown off through actions, as well as claimed through words. Look at those in or near your marketplace with a strong reputation. What do they do? How could you do that?
  5. You can start basic marketing using social media for not very much at all. If you can find a “good crowd” who will guide you, occasionally rap you over the knuckles, and point you towards good practice, you can start telling the world what you do, and why people should work with you. You are aiming to build your brand so people absolutely know what you do, and you spring to mind immediately when they are in conversation with others as their “go to solution” for whatever the problem is.
  6. By using “social sales” techniques, you can avoid the hard sell that everyone dreads, especially in UK market places. This means engaging in dialogue, trying to find out where the other person is going, and whether you can help, either directly or through your network. You won’t sell a lot in one to one dialogue, you are aiming mainly to build relationships and earn the right to be recommended.
  7. You need to be able to explain to potential partners clearly, concisely and persuasively why your idea works, thinking about how they win from working with you, so that you can build a team who can help you bring your idea to fruition.
  8. You need to solve a problem more cost effectively than the others in your marketplace, and do so in a sustainable, systematic and long term way, perhaps completely redefining how people approach solutions to particular problems.
  9. You need to be able to tell large numbers of people in one go, building a credible and ethical brand that others believe in. Your aim is to be someone your audiences look to for thought leadership and innovation in your area of expertise.
  10. By this point you should have a working business, having made many difficult decisions and changes of course along the way. If you now feel you can grow your business further, only now is the time to look for investment money. Match investment to clear objectives about how and why you will grow your business, who you need to bring in to do so, and on what terms. By now, you will have proved your resourcefulness to any potential investor, and they will have far fewer fears about investing their own hard earned money in you.
Voila ! Ten easy to say but hard to do steps, taking you towards innovation and enterprise !
And you might be surprised at the success stories coming from people borrowing quite small amounts eg on credit card to start their business. Bill Gates famously started Microsoft in a garage in the garden.
Yes, building a business takes time and effort, but then time is money after all !!

The FT Transformational Conference – Transforming Cities

On 12th June 2014, Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor of London for Enterprise,  was one of the panel guests attending the morning session at the FT/IPC inaugural meeting to assess Business Transformation in the UK.

This particular session wanted to look at how cities and their local businesses need to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.

Introductions – Kit’s Plans for London
During preliminary introductions, Mr Malthouse outlined the London Strategy for City Transformation in 4 parts:

1) Making London’s transport systems more effective
2) “Self-contained” households regarding energy, consumption, waste
.                Note – “Self contained” (sic) meaning self-sustaining
3) Improving collaboration with London’s social and business communities
4) Making the environment greener and cleaner

Mr Malthouse also alluded to an academic body contributing towards overall city strategy, but chose not to elaborate on the body or who was in it.

Panel Questions – Engaging Community
After the introductions, two questions from the audience were aimed at understanding how authorities get better at involving the local populous in identifying and implementing change.

One of these referred to the recent Chinese physical business park that solely focuses on idea generation and intellectual property (IP), and the questioner asked how to get passionate Brits involved from the creative ideas perspective, and tieing in to a more open agenda for change.

Guillermo Dietrich, Head of Transport, Buenos Aires
Mr Dietrich offered that it required significant education to achieve change, and the consultation process often slowed down the pace of change possible.

He also mentioned that it was hard to appease different factions within communities, and that some conflict management and horse trading was inevitable.

Summarising this component, he stated no change was possible without the assent of the populous.

Mr Dietrich also said it was important to involve the business community, in that the populous could better believe that thare was no political axe being ground, and also that changes would have a better chance at longevity and sustainability.

His final point was that population density makes a big difference in terms of being able to apply co-ordination. Very dense populations, he opined, are much harder to penetrate and make an impact.

Pedro Pires de Miranda, Corporate Vice President and Head of Global Center of Competence Cities, Siemens
Mr Pires de Miranda suggested that cities are very involved in and at the forefront of a number of global issues:

1) Net population issues – growth in the East, shrinkage in Europe
2) Ageing populations – how to provide services for changing demographics
3) Climate – how to ensure clean and healthy living environments
4) Resources – how to continue providing services with finite resources

In cities he identified two key issues for conference, being transport systems and keeping cities clean and efficient through low carbon emissions.

It was heartening to hear that there are clear visions and appreciations at a high level of the issues to be tackled. Of course, Siemens are heavily involved in city infrastructure projects, so this was doubly the case, given Mr Pires de Miranda’s role.

Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor of London
Interjecting a little, Mr Malthouse mentioned Talk London in relation to community participation, which is most often thought of as a Radio service, but is now attracting a small audience online.

Later Mr Malthouse was asked why this service had such a low profile, but he wasn’t sure why this would be.

(Ed – So come on Londoners, apparently the Talk London door is open, let’s push and see what happens.)

Mr Malthouse also mentioned the usage the GLA are making of Big Data. There are many transport Apps now helping Londoners commute across their busy lives, and crime statistics are now also helping the police with some leading edge predictive policing and helping communities monitor local crime levels and hot spots.

A Comparison with Startup Ecosystems
In 2013, Dave McClure, of US Startup incubator Startup 500, produced a great slide show explaining a startup ecosystem, and including this specific slide:

Startup Ecosystem

Primarily majoring from the more mature and established US perspective, the comparisons are interesting.

We can perhaps add two factors from a city transformation perspective: Business & Social Communities can be added to the People component, and Big Data should be added to the Product component.

Shell Pamphlet: New Lenses on Future Cities
This topic can also be viewed against a knowledge packed pamphlet from Shell, with this fascinating graphic embedded on Page 7, and many more besides:

Urban Density & Transport Related Energy

The full pamphlet can be accessed online by clicking here.

Summarising one key point, transport is a key global issue for every city, no matter the categorisation. Again, see the Shell pamphlet for more on the types of city, and some global examples.

Two Final Questions – But No Time to Discuss Virtual Meetings
Time being finite, the panel also fielded two final audience questions, which focused on the role of buses in dense urban conurbations and the need for city waste to reduce it’s carbon footprint.

Bus & Cycle Solutions
The panel were all of the opinion that both have a critical role to play in cities, and Mr Dietrich in particular noted that cycles had a significant impact within his role as Head of Transport in Buenos Aires.

All panellists agreed that bus companies are now all moving gradually towards electric motor system buses, with the intention of reducing carbon footprints.

However, while cycles and buses feature heavily in environmental solutions to urban pollution issues, the move toward virtual connections and meetings as a key strategy in reducing pollution and carbon footprint was not covered.

This was primarily an omission of time pressure in the rather compact one hour slot, rather than intention, but it’s a subject that also merits a key place on the agenda.

Waste Solutions
The questioner here asked about plans to make waste less of an impact on carbon footprints, especially where waste has to be transported a long way outside city centres, and then the recycled materials have to be brought back in again.

Here, Mr Malthouse revisited his idea about the “self contained” (sic) house, suggesting that we need to have an effective way of taking waste to the bottom of the garden, “zapping it”, and being able to add the energy to our local energy networks.

We should mention here that Mr Malthouse lists energy solutions among his business interests, so it is not surprising he can be passionate and knowledgeable on the subject and would wish to try to engage in some public education on the subject.

This was a fascinating first session to the conference, and perhaps worthy of more time as a subject just to itself.

This correspondent hopes the conference will reappear next year, and that FT Live will kindly invite him again, as the public need to know more about and engage with these kinds of initiatives.

#UK: #LocalCouncils in Desperate Need of #Innovation

Councils need some serious innovation given the budget constraints they now need to adhere to. They need this to deliver the same quality in services, but at a much lower cost overhead.

How are councils reaching out to local community service providers through “virtual supply chain communities” so as to provide the “big society” services we know we need?

Examples include:

Job Centres – 21st C business skill training for able applicants
Mobile NHS – For the less mobile citizens in our communities
Stopping Nay Sayers – Council “blockers” who prevent innovation
Small Businesses – Better support to boost growth rates
School Disruption – Helping stressed teens get back on track
Internet Education – Helping teachers guide, not parrot

There are plenty more examples, but as yet no real engagement or openness across local business communities to ask them how they would solve local public service issues.

If councils could be more open with their development plans, say by having them openly on social media, then local businesses would have the opportunity to offer relevant proposed solutions.

The increase in transparency would answer several questions about how well councils spend tax payers money, and start to expose and get rid of council place fillers and nay sayers.

The whole process would be far more dynamic and immediate, and able to respond real time to emerging events, rather than sit on council agendas for ages waiting in turn.

Of course no one likes change, especially if they didn’t suggest it themselves. But over time, a case could be made for the positives as to why this could be a constructive, sustainable and worthwhile move, and also ground breaking in reputation and earning potential for those involved.

Happy to explain or discuss more as needed.