21 May 2011

Business Startup Show

My first impressions of the Business Startup show at the Excel Centre yesterday were not good.

After getting up at 04:00 in the morning to drive 320 kilometres along motorways and dual carriageways from Yorkshire my mood was not exactly mollified by the appalling pedestrian sign posting to the exhibition hall from the main car park. Clad for the Yorkshire summer in the appreciably milder Southern climate and shod in courts (though mercifully not heels) I was not best pleased when I found myself exactly where I started from after following the signs to the Excel Centre religiously for 20 minutes.

"Don't take any notice of the sign posts, love" said a friendly fellow Northerner when I complained that looking for the Excel Centre was a bit like a treasure hunt. She pointed me in the opposite direction to the street signs and sure enough a few hundred metres away the "Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre" beckoned.

Once inside the noisy and crowded exhibition hall the mishmash of stands with business coaches cheek and jowl with web designers gave the impression of a BNI business breakfast on a monumental scale.

I was looking out for Simon Brown of the UIA so that I could say "hello" but their stand at 378 seemed to have been occupied by some space business. I also wanted to see Claire Mitchell of Clilipeeps but there was no sign of her either.

I had booked for some seminars and found a seat in the
session on web design where the speaker droned on barely audible against the general hubbub. Had it not been for the fact that I had to fumble in my bag for my parking ticket long enough to exceed the 2-hour band by seconds I would have left the exhibition there and then. However, as I was now stung for £10 for 2 to 6 hours parking I decided to get my moneysworth. I trundled back to the exhibition centre for another couple of hours.

Then the show got a whole lot better. First, I met a few familiar faces such as Gary Townley from the Intellectual Property Office and Richard Quick from Successful Sites of St. Andrews. Next, I actually picked up something useful - a free copy Jolly & Philpott "Handbook of European IP Management" from the Mewburn Ellis stand which I shall review in due course. I bowled a Yorker at Darren Westlake of Crowdcube on the compatibility of crowd funding with company and securities law which he played with aplomb. David Larkin of Salesforce gave an excellent introduction to the Cloud and Web 2.0 as well as his company's CRM product. Finally, there were two informative presentations by Sage on their online bookkeeping service and business planning software which I may actually use.

Not quite a wasted journey. Will I come back next year? Probably not unless someone invites me to give a talk. But it was a good excuse for a weekend London.

12 May 2011

Crowd Funding: No Waffle

@nowaffle is the twitter name of Scottish entrepreneur, Amanda Boyle.

Amanda has an impressive track record in business:
Her latest venture is Bloom VC. When I met her just outside St. Andrews last month she explained that the initials VC stand not for venture capital but venture catalyst. As the company explains on its website:

So you’ve got this great idea for a business …

You need some funding to get it
off the ground, but you don’t have the money. You could ask the bank, but with no proven financial or business track record it’s unlikely they could help. You could ask your mum, but it’s a big ask. It would be shame to miss out on the opportunity, but what to do?

Why not ask the crowd?

It’s simple really. Crowdfunding is just an alternative source of money to help you start up your own business or fund a brilliant community project."

Crowd funding is a new concept in the UK and it is not without legal pitfalls, but the concept has attracted a lot of serious interest (see "The Micro Price of Micropatronage" Economist 27 Sep 2010). It is an entirely new source of funding that social networking makes possible. For inventors and other entrepreneurs it can't be worse than going on a reality TV show like Dragons' Den or the Apprentice.