A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate, as chair & speaker, at a BCS Entrepreneurs event discussing the role and value of Intellectual Property for start-ups and entrepreneurs. As you might imagine this was a well attended event with so many different questions foremost on the minds of various attendees.
Given the focus on my favourite topics of IP and entrepreneurship, it didn’t take much persuasion for me to sign-up and chair the event. Furthermore, I was in the company of two legal experts on: EU IP law (Jonathan Exell, from William Powells) and employment law (Bob Fahy, from Veale Wasbrough Vizards) respectively. Also the attendees were certainly not shy to engage and they took some delight in systematically dissecting the trickier aspects of entrepreneurship and the start-up vs. IP challenge in a changing landscape.
As introduction and kickoff, I provided a quick overview of some of those key challenges facing startups with respect to IP. This was mainly based on a previous post and article I’d written and published about this same topic.
The first speaker followed through with a thorough recap of the legal position on IP particularly with regard to the EU and Brexit. Key message: it’ll likely be business as usual for IP in post Brexit UK, at least in the near term. Also, it is highly unlikely that the UK will deviate too radically from the increasingly aligned position on IP which most of the world enjoy today.
The second legal perspective provided some insights on key challenges and opportunities facing anyone trying to manage the IP risks and issues associated with employees, disgruntled or otherwise. Here the lines become somewhat blurred between contract vs. employment vs. IP laws. It was interesting to observe the number of questions relating to how founders should approach the challenge of establishing who has what IP (and / or portions thereof) when their start-up fails, flounders, or even flourishes!
To say this event was informative and enlightening would be an understatement because the second part of the seminar consisted of 1-to-1 mentorship sessions, with experienced BCS mentors exploring attendees individual circumstances in order to provide specific guidance based on the topic at hand. Pure value delivered, if you ask me. As an exercise in giving back, I can think of no better way to spend an evening than by learning, interacting and exploring various start-up IP challenges with enthusiastic entrepreneurs, mentors and experts from within and outside of the BCS.
One thing I love about my work is how it affords me unfettered opportunity to give back, by providing dedicated time (and a measurable objective) to undertake pro bono activities, such as this one, which is aimed at helping others in need of expertise or guidance for projects, worthy causes or personal development. Pure Ohana!
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/