Creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, innovators and investors
What do you get when you gather some entrepreneurs, serious investors, and innovators together at a jam-packed, invitation-only, event on entrepreneurship? Read on to find out…
I attended the third annual Follow the Entrepreneur Investor Summit, and wasn’t disappointed by the impressive speakers, entrepreneurs and location. The event focused on: “The New Common Sense” (why society needs to organise around the entrepreneur), and “The New Future” (how entrepreneurs are transforming the future of business). Among the superb array of speakers and topics, a few highlights include:
Former defence secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP, delivered a key note calling for the UK to focus more on growing the economy by encouraging entrepreneurship.
Dell’s entrepreneur in resident, Ingrid Vanderveldt, descibed how corporates can get into the action by providing the facility to connect startups with resources (e.g. Dell’s Entrepreneur Centre), and she wondered why more corporates were not already doing this.
Mark Hoffman, ceo of Oxygen Finance group, and founder of Sybase and Commerce One, explained how to make money from account payables, via an innovative new service
Panelist, Geoff Knott, recalled how social innovation and reform has always had the biggest impact on society, and called for entrepreneurs to “think broader than just business”.
Panelist, Frank Meehan, described how a 16 year old created a news summarisation service, and secured investment from Li-Kashing’s Horizons Venture. The service is set to be acquired by Yahoo!
Panellist, Andreas Raptopoulos presented a bold vision for radical transformation of the transport and logistics industry with Matternet, an AI enabled network of drones and ground stations that can be used to deliver medicine and other lightweight goods in remote or road challenged locations around the world. I said it was a bold vision.
Mary Turner, serial entrepreneur and former CEO of Tiscali UK, described a service that senses and alerts users to events at home. The sensing network being a key component of the intelligent home and the Internet of Things.
This event was full of entrepreneurs with fascinating ideas in different stages of maturity, and it felt very much like an innovations parade; one idea even better than the next. For example, I ran into the founder of Scoopshot, (a service providing crowd-sourced visual content – i.e. images and footage for breaking news); then heard from the founders of Quill (a service for bespoke, branded content, articles which has since raised £1M from Ariadne & partners), and Taggstar (a data rich, content tagging service that enables shopping, sharing, viewing and targeting). When combined with investors and established legal / media industry representatives, one could easily see the future of transmedia content publishing and usage business models all present together in the one room. The same could be said for any other industry e.g. health, defence, logistics or manufacturing you care to name.
In conclusion, I believe it is this sort of occasion and environment (with the right mix of investors, innovators and entrepreneurs) that some key connections and relationships are sparked off, which ultimately go on to impact the world.
What does a BBC Dragon, a Lateral Thinking Guru and our UK CTO & Innovations Czar have in common? Well, a British Computer Society event on Entrepreneurship and Innovation for one thing, and who better to talk about said topics than real practitioners, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
Last night, at the British Computer Society venue in London’s West End, the audience and organizers of this event were treated to a frankly inspiring discourse on what it means to be an entrepreneur and innovator, even in these days of economic woe. The speakers were each able to focus on a specific aspect of the event theme, and by so doing provided good coverage of the topics, specifically:
- Julie Meyer (Venture Capitalist and BBC Dragon), talked about entrepreneurship and what it takes to become successful especially in tough times. Her personal experiences and involvement with early stage start-ups painted a clear picture of the qualities required to grow and thrive as an entrepreneur
- Paul Sloane (Author and Lateral Thinking Guru), came on last minute as a surprise guest speaker, and he delivered an entertaining but insightful look into the mindset of those people that have successfully driven change through innovation and entrepreneurship. He should know – Paul is a successful author on innovation and lateral thinking with over 2 million books sold
- Dave Pepperell (UK CTO and Innovations Czar) delivered a masterclass on Capgemini’s approach to innovation, and he described how to engage and harness the combined creativity of the talented people within the organization, and how clients can accelerate innovatiion via Rapid Design and Visualisation, as previously described on this blog
This excellent cast of speakers touched on the full spectrum of innovation and entrepreneurship, and had something for everyone. It also prompted a key discussion about how individual innovation and entrepreneurship might apply within a corporate environment; especially in a changing business landscape where the people-formerly-known-as-employees are starting to see themselves more as their own brand, (e.g. on Blogs, Facebook and Twitter).
I wonder if this isn’t just a precursor to the next big disruptor of the business world. Who knows, perhaps the next generation of workers might start to demand IP or equity in exchange for their creative labour; now won’t that be something?
On Tuesday evening, I had the distinctly heady experience of speaking to an audience of some 100 Entrepreneurs, Investors and Service Providers in an event to “Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of UK’s Internet Industry”. This informal event, organised by the eponymous FirstTuesday.org, consisted of three brief panel discussions (focusing on the past, present and future of the Internet), and interspersed with severe bouts of furious networking (the primary goal of the event) between attendees. The representative panel members included: Peter Whitehead (Moderator and FT Digital Business Editor); Sean Phelan (Entrepreneur and founder of Multimap); Julie Meyer (Investor and founder of FirstTuesday & Ariadne Capital); and yours truly (Service Provider and Capgemini Consultant).
Some key take-outs from the event include:
1. Capping the Crunch on Investment – With potentially less money available, entrepreneurs and start-ups must be ready to ‘bootstrap’ their own business development in order to ride out the current dire economic situation, and to prove the viability and resilience of their business models
2. Successful entrepreneurs never say die – The next wave of successful Internet businesses start-ups will be the ones that can adapt and survive even in adversity (such as in the post ‘dotcom bubble’ era).
3. Technology won’t stop evolving – from the static / info-centric Web1.0, to the hyper-collaborative web2.0 and potentially contextual / dynamic WebN.0; it seems that technology-enabled change is definitely here to stay, therefore we (i.e. the entrepreneurs, investors and service providers) must evolve our models accordingly
4. The role of service providers – In my opinion, service providers should lead the way in enabling and supporting their client’s entrepreneurial efforts and business transformation goals based on a clear vision and broad industry experience / expertise. Our approach might include:
• The TechnoVision 2012 – This concept describes how and why service providers must have a comprehensive perspective on the evolution of technology, as well as its likely impact on their client’s business and the way they work. This is supported by initiatives like RAIN (RApid INnovation), RDV (Rapid Design & Visualisation) and the ASE (Accelerated Solutions Environment)
• Thought leadership – Capgemini’s CTOs and subject matter experts have become authors, and evangelists for change, withseveral books published on various forward looking and game changing topics like: Mashups, Mesh Collaboration, 21st Century Business & IT Communication, Wealth Management and The World Beyond DRM.
The question then remains as to whether service providers like Capgemini, and other similar organisations, should invest time and effort in supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups, and if so what would be the best way to go about it (in light of lessons learnt from the ‘dotcom era’)?
There is no easy answer other than to highlight the fact that; given the harsh economic realities of a changing global business environment, it might be prudent or even vital for all segments of developed economies to invest more resources towards realising a coherent framework for a truly global digital economy, based on a more evolved concept and interpretation of intellectual property rights. Basically, not everything will be free, open source, or ad-funded in tomorrow’s digital economy, much as we might wish it to be so, and I welcome any observations to the contrary.
In conclusion, I thought this event was an excellent networking forum for entrepreneurs, investors and other Internet / start-up cognoscenti in attendance; and I also met a couple of attendees with really interesting ideas which I can’t reveal here on pain of discomgooglation (yes, it is a word). I would gladly recommend it.
Note: Originally posted on Capgemini’s Technology blog at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2008/10/