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It can seem very abrupt, when confronted with beauty and brilliance in an attractive and clever tech/digital project, to ask Where's The Value?
When your chief professional focus, like mine, is on monetary value, you sometimes risk coming across as a Philistine, or worse still, a good old-fashioned Northern Luddite.
But Where's The Value? is a question to which we need to return time and again.
Without value in the sense of realisable returns on investment, there is poor sustainability and limited re-investment.
I've been around for quite a while. I've seen the portals through which no-one wished to enter, the tools no-one was going to take up, middleware that was never going to get between anything and WAP that so easily rhymed with “crap”.
More recently I am seeing apps for everything (but often paid for by next to no-one), enough content management systems to accommodate the output of all the ages and more, and a general shunning of reuse that would be subject to major psychiatric research were it as remotely prevalent in any other significant field of human endeavour.
I heard from a wise man over the weekend. He acquired his knowledge in the heady frontier days of the 1980s, in the gold rush of major systems software and the early days of the web.
He and some of his friends have a pot of investment gold, gathering dust, awaiting the appearance of some top end IP in the North West. They are growing sceptical of being able to use it in their own lifetimes.
There are a number of things going on in this region:
1. We are largely design-led, a result of Manchester's fantastic creative culture merging with the explosion of deeper business migration to the web. The tendencies are heightened by Manchester's role as both regional capital and de facto nationwide second city.
2. But the above point of being a creative hub is linked to our pretence of being a true innovation hub. There is a myopic and self-limiting conflation of the terms “creative” and “innovative”. The questions of Is It Nice? and Who Will Gain Benefit Using It? stem from different mindsets
3. And whatever of our status within the UK, we are not a Barcelona, or a Tel Aviv, or a Singapore, still less a Palo Alto. There is an isolation in the NW of England from both deeply embedded tech culture and resource and, even more critically, from proximitous customer connection. There develops a self-limiting concept of reach within such a region's business. For example, I was in Cumbria the other day, assessing extra value possibilities within some of the county's companies. There was one consumer goods operation which may well have international potential: the existing aspiration horizon went fuzzy around getting the products into the local supermarket chain. Manchester and the NW used to look to the world: they need to do so again.
4. A key part of the equation is the need for serious academic research to address major and fundamental IT issues. At the moment far too much of the agenda is geared up to pushing through students on pre-pack degrees and subventing staff costs with tedious and unchallenging grant streams. Research has become part of the internally-focused higher level industry – it does not look outwards and engage anywhere near sufficiently with real industrial needs. This point really matters: firstly, the downgrading in recent decades of the vocational element of much of third level education restricts our relevant skills base. Secondly, universities are demanding funding and attention for their “enterprise agenda” but are, in the majority, failing to follow through with much that is genuinely useful.
Lest all of this seem too negative, the region's emergent tech winners must be acknowledged. But the proportion of such businesses against the scale of the engaged labour resource is far too small.
In order of need, these things need to be addressed: mindset, culture, education, research collaboration, research support, seed funding, expansion capital and a massive step-change in export support.
It summarises in a simple question we need to keep asking until the changes are made: Where's The Value.
The author is Techcelerate member Malcolm Evans. He is the founder of Funding Enterprise, an organisation which aims to improve the corporate finance abilities of business builders and to stimulate choice and capacity in the funding markets.
Malcolm is holding a free seminar in Manchester on April 28 on Investment Readiness.
Let us know if you know of any tech deals took place in April 2011 in the UK.
+ OpenBuildings.com Unveils Its New Architecture Database And Raises $2 Million In Funding from BlueRun Ventures and Index Ventures.
+ BookingBug secures $350,000 Angel round to scale up by TechCrunch - Among angels are Philip Crawford (ex-Oracle, current chairman of Lombard Risk plc and Avanti Capital).
+ StylistPick secures $8m in Series A to expand its monthly fashion offers from Accel Partners and Index Ventures.
+ Huddlebuy, the ‘Groupon-for-small-businesses’, raises £350k in Angel funding from Alex Chesterman, co-founder of LoveFilm and Zoopla, and well-known Angel Sherry Coutu.
+ Livebooings raises £6 million from Balderton Capital and Wellington Partners - Rapid growth in the restaurant sector continues as Livebookings, the leading global reservations and marketing service for restaurants, today announces that it processed online reservations for over one million restaurant diners, globally, throughout March. During this record-breaking month, Livebookings also closed a round of funding of £6 million (almost $10 million) in investment from existing Livebookings shareholders, including Balderton Capital and Wellington Partners.
+ Basekit raises $6.5 million from Nautica Capital, Eden Ventures and NESTA - BaseKit, which lets designers build websites without the need to write code, has secured a further $6.5m in funding from Nauta Capital, Eden Ventures and NESTA
+ Online pawn broker Borro raises £7.5m led by Augmentum Capital by TechCrunch - Online pawn broker Borro has raised £7.5m in a round led by Augmentum Capital, the growth capital fund launched by Tim Levene and Richard Mathews.
+ Just Eat secures £30 million from Greylock, Redpoint and Index Ventures - London based Just-Eat, the world’s largest takeaway ordering service, today announced the closure of a financing round of $48m co-led by two leading venture capitalists, Greylock Partners and Redpoint Ventures with substantial support from existing investor Index Ventures.
+ CertiVox Secures £900,000 from Pentech and Octopus - CertiVox, a new information security company, today announced it has received £900,000 ($1,460,000) in Series A funding from Pentech Ventures, which led the round, and Octopus Investments, both based in the UK. The funds will be used to develop and bring to market CertiVox’s breakthrough key management infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
+ Duedil secures £50,000 no strings attached convertible notes from DFJ Esprit by TechCrunch Europe - Duedil, the business reputation startup, secured first prize in the startup competition, and an on-the-day announcement from DFJ Esprit that it would award the winner a £50,000 no strings investment in the form of a convertible note. This would convert into its next funding round at the price of the next round.
+ MobiCart secures $500,000 from Finance for Business North East Angel Fund - MobiCart (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK & San Francisco, US) www.mobi-cart.com after making its debut at the world-renowned DEMO conference in Silicon Valley, California, MobiCart has gone from strength to strength, helping to fuel growth in this rapidly-expanding market. Last year, MobiCart became one of the first m-commerce app builders, making it easy for online retailers to tap into the growing mobile industry. And after securing investment from the Finance for Business North East Angel Fund as part of its funding round, work is set to start on a series of exciting new projects.
Below is a recommended reading list for early stage tech businesses in April 2011 by Techcelerate. Do let us know if you like to add anything else to this list.
+ How to hire for sweat equity by Travis Biziorek, founder of kibin.com - I believe 100% in my vision and I know I will be successful. I'm aware that everyone starting a company believes this too, but I know myself and I do not fail. That being said, it's not an easy thing to sell. Two weeks ago, before I was about to head out the door for some Wednesday night drinking, I slapped a job posting up on CraigsList and hoped for the best.
+ Why I Run a Flat Company by @JasonFried of 37signals for Inc Magazine - Something strange happened at work a couple of months ago: We parted ways with an employee. That doesn't happen too often at 37signals, the Chicago software company I co-founded. In 11 years, we've lost just five people—and one of them came back seven years later.
+ How I (almost) got an internship at Google by Evan Carmi - This post gives an insight to recruitment process adopted by a large tech company.
+ Hiring Developers: You're Doing It Wrong by Udo Schroeter - This post highlights the problem of adopting a typical recruitment process
+ What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology by Ben Horowitz - The lonely road of a CEO.
+ 5 Steps To A Landing Page That Converts Like Crazy from OpenForum - When you're an online seller, your landing page is "where it all begins." A landing page, according to CopyBlogger.com, is “any page on a website where traffic is sent specifically to prompt a certain action or result.” For our purposes, we’ll say that action or result is the sale of a product.
+13 Things You Must Do Every Week As A Startup CEO by Jason Goldberg, Founder, Fab.com - Being the CEO of a startup is a hard and complex job. Here’s my quick list of the 13 things every startup CEO should make sure to do each week:
+ Startups and metrics – hard work to set up, but worth it by Nic Brisbourne (VC) - Some of the best managed startups I know get employees to stand up on a daily or weekly basis and make public commitments to the company on what they are going to do, as well as reporting on progress against their previous commitments. Co-ordination is required so individual targets aggregate to departmental targets which in turn aggregate to company targets.
+ How Startups Can Use Metrics to Drive Success by Mark Suster (VC) - I was recently talking with a startup company who wanted me to try their product. They have a mobile app and I felt like it crashed too much for my liking. In our next meeting I asked them how often it crashed. Only one guy in the room knew – their tech lead.
+ Acting with incomplete information in a startup by Joel Gascoigne (Founder) -
+ Disregard ideas, acquire assets by Xianhang Zhang -
+ Design is Product, Product is Design by Sachin Rekhi - Last night I attended another fantastic Startup2Startup event focused on Interaction Design. The lineup was terrific with Jason Putorti, lead designer of Mint.com and now co-founder of Votizen, Kate Aronowitz, Director of Design and User Experience at Facebook, and Garry Tan, co-founder of Posterous and Designer in Residence for YCombinator. They brought together a breadth of experience in design across all stages of the startup lifecycle.
+ Should Your Company Offer an API? by Mashable - APIs are a hot topic among developers these days. Companies ranging from startups to large enterprises are offering them, and APIs have, to an extent, become the lifeblood of interdependent web services. So how do you decide whether or not your company should offer an API?
+ Evernote CEO Phil Libin's 3 Steps to "Freemium" Success. Also check Evernote By the Numbers by Mashable.
+ How we almost didn’t raise $800K in the worst investment market in years by Richard White, CEO, UserVoice - In all it was quite a roller coaster ride. The pressure of the fundraising process really forced us to answer tough questions about the business that I don’t know we would have addressed otherwise. We learned a lot about business and even more about ourselves over the course of those 12 weeks.
+ Cash is King: 8 tips for Optimizing your Startup Financing Strategy by David Skok - Every smart CEO knows that they need to focus on building a compelling product, hiring a great team, maximizing sales and making their customers happy. For many first time CEOs focusing on these extremely important topics may distract them from another very important task: making sure that the company can continue to raise funding at ever increasing valuations.
Here is a round up of recent northern tech stories:
+ Bray looks to build second software empire - Tony Bray, the former sales & marketing director of Version One, who owned half of the company alongside founder Derek McGain until a sale to CedarOpenAccounts in 2007, has now begun embarking on drumming up sales for his latest venture, Intuitive Business Intelligence.
+ Media sector leads way for funding requests - Figures for January to March 2011 showed requests for funding ranged from £100,000 to £5m. The average request was £600,000.
+ Envestors to fund university tech spin-outs - Envestors is currently working with Imagen Biotech, which is based in UMIC’s facilities at the Manchester Bioscience Incubator, to provide investment support. Imagen Biotech has developed analysis software which helps pharma firms to manage the drug screening process.
+ NCC's revenues surge despite 'stagnating' economy - The acquisitive Manchester company said trading between December 1 and the end of March had been in line wiith expectations, and revealed that in the first 10 months of the current financial year revenues are 53% up on the same period last year at £57.6m.
+ Setgo raises £50,000 investment from the Merseyside Special Investment Fund (MSIF) through the Northwest Regional Development Agency’s (NWDA) small loans for business scheme - "The loan has enabled us to secure additional finance as well as fund the continuing development, marketing and revenue of our existing title,” he said. “We are also looking to penetrate new markets abroad, particularly in South America and Europe.”
+ Technology and gaming entrepreneur Chris Sheffield is to run the offshore digital business of North West bookmaker BetFred - The former owner of mobile gaming site Million to -1 will be based in Gibraltar and will report directly to Fred Done, the founder of the business who Sheffield described as his "hero".
+ Daisy acquires the assets of Telinet and Ipitomi for £15.4 million in cash. According to The Business Desk, Daisy Group has bought the assets of Telinet and Ipitomi businesses for £15.4 million in cash, from London-based technology firm Niu Solutions Holding Ltd.
Following hard on the heels of the Home Office's announcement relating to Entrepreneur visas, this week's budget had a distinctly enterprise supportive flavour.
I had very much hoped this would be the case and certainly the signals coming out of the Department for Business (in the shape of Mark Prisk - who attended Seedcamp's SeedSummit for a full hour and half), the PM in his Tech City announcement and No10's enterprise task force including treasury officials, gave one hope.
Government has the loudest megaphone in the land and once they 'discovered' Silicon Roundabout at Old Street it moved swiftly into the vernacular and the media have been making regular trips east ever since.
Its easy to be cynical when it comes to politics but I do believe we have a tech friendly Government determined - and able - to keep Britain as the best place to start a business in Europe.
I have reason to believe too, that the personal pressure which David Cameron has applied to Google, Facebook, Cisco and co to heavily invest in Tech City is being taken very seriously by those companies.
The details of the budget are well covered elsewhere but its worth summarising some of the key points which will directly impact early stage technology companies and entrepreneurship.
1. Expansion of Entrepreneurs Relief: limits capital gains tax to
10% on business sales under certain conditions. The “lifetime” limit on capital gains which can qualify for entrepreneurs relief will be doubled from 6 April to £10 million.
2. Changes to the Enterprise Investment Scheme
offers income and capital gains relief for investors in growth businesses.
The rate of income tax relief on EIS investments will rise from 20% to 30% from 6 April 2011.
This means if you invest £100,000 in a qualifying company, you immediately benefit from an income tax
deduction of £30,000. ..and the qualifications and type of shares are to be made much simpler and wider - limits now to 250 employees rather than 50. The annual allowance for individuals doubles to £1m
3. Corporation Tax:
The main rate of corporation tax will be reduced from 28% to 26% from April 2011.
The rate will then be reduced by a further 1% in each of the following three years, giving rise to a corporate tax rate of 23% by 2014. This will give the UK one of the lowest rates of corporate tax in Europe.
The small profits rate of corporation tax will fall from 21% to 20% from April 2011.
4. R&D Tax Credits:
There is a major boost in the Budget for small businesses investing in research and development. The rate of relief on qualifying R&D expenditure rises to 200% from April 2011, with a further increase to 225% from April 2012.
All in all there has never been a better time for start-ups in the UK!
The inaugural Northern Tech Awards 2011 was launched to recognise the achievements of Tech Companies at the Gala Dinner. Supported by Paypal, the global payment company and MIDAS, the Manchester Development Agency Service, the packed crowd heard Ajaz Ahmed, the tech entrepreneur who convinced Dixon Group to setup Freeserve and then sell it to Orange for £1.6 billion spoke about the need to create global top 100 tech companies in the UK, and especially in the Northern UK.
+ Inside The M60: Techcelerate celebrates its inaugural awards
+ The Business Desk: Software firm triumphs at inaugural tech awards
+ The Insider North West: Six business honoured at technology awards
+ MPP Global Solutions wins Best eCommerce Tech Company Award
We are hosting an event run by IBM to engage with technology start-up businesses where there is synergistic technology with IBM’s smarter planet initiative. In particular the event will be focusing on
Learning how IBM are sparking innovation through collaboration to help make our planet smarter and looking to engage with companies in the programme
IBM wants to team with entrepreneurs to build a smarter planet. Are you an early stage startup? Does your solution address issues enterprise customers are facing in the areas of banking, buildings, cities, cloud computing, education, energy, food, government, healthcare, infrastructure, intelligence, oil, products, public safety, rail, retail, stimulus, telecommunications, traffic, water, and work?
Discovering how to build your business with cloud computing and business analytics
How can I keep my IT costs under control?
How can I ensure that my solution is robust, scalable and secure?
How can I integrate my application with Business Partner solutions and my clients' systems?
How can I make sense of all this data that my business is starting to generate?
Learning how to engage more closely with IBM through their global entrepreneur programme
Since launching its Global Entrepreneur initiative last year, IBM has helped more than 500 new businesses in key areas such as green energy, health care and transportation.
To register companies need to go to http://ibm.co/daresburyevent.
Cutting-edge online recruitment portal Hiring-Hub.com is one of only three groundbreaking new digital businesses to be shortlisted for the prestigious 2011 DediPower UK Digital Innovation Award.
The award, which is in association with The Sunday Telegraph and Lloyds TSB, aims to promote standout young British entrepreneurs and digital excellence, while championing businesses with the Internet at their core.
Built to make recruitment more efficient, Hiring-Hub.com is an intermediary platform that gives employers access to a free web-based Applicant Tracking System and Vendor Management Tool, in addition to its core services: an online recruitment marketplace, and low cost multi-post job board advertising bundles.
Along with the other two finalists, Hiring-Hub.com’s founders Simon Swan and Sara Jones will present their business to a judging panel at the Telegraph Media Group’s offices in London on Tuesday, 22 March 2011 before the winner – who will receive business support and up to £12,500 in investment – is announced.
“Naturally we are delighted to be named a finalist in DediPower’s Digital Innovation Award,” said Hiring-Hub.com’s co-founder and Managing Partner, Simon Swan. “It is recognition of our technical team’s hard work and achievements in recent months, and the ability of Hiring-Hub.com to alter the UK’s recruitment landscape.”
For more information on Hiring-Hub.com please visit: www.hiring-hub.com