Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Enterprise level marketing for your start-up, with Pardot

Tommie O'Brien (pictured, above, right) at Salesforce, kicked off the presentation at the Shangri La Hotel on the 34th floor of the Shard (pictured, above, left, view from the Shard). I was deeply impressed by the demo, which illustrated a relatively high level of sophistication for Small businesses. For example, when setting up workflows, they demonstrated a real-time and highly effective way to re-engage prospects that hadn't signed up for an email offer; by sending them targeted ads across Facebook, LinkedIn and AdWords.

Marketing Automation lies at the heart of most Start-up demand generation programs. In My own career, I have run Marketing Campaigns using a variety of tools, from Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot, Dynamics, and more. Last year I had to learn to use the Microsoft Dynamics with Clickdimensions whilst running global campaigns for a company of around 500 employees, Headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

Currently, I'm switching from using Microsoft Dynamics to Salesforce. I've never learned to run campaigns in Pardot, so I thought that this session would be particularly helpful. After just 3 weeks, I can tell the level of support on Pardot is streets ahead of Microsoft Dynamics. I had to learn to use Dynamics by reading manuals and watching videos online. Particularly challenging was trying to coordinate fixing several serious bugs in the system with our IT team that was based in Canada.

The Salesforce team initiated some useful discussions around lead generation forms - often these forms ask for too much information. I know I have been guilty of this. According to Salesforce, 3-5 questions maximum is the standard and really first name and email are enough. The part of the talk devoted to the automation workflow was fascinating and really got me thinking about the way I run campaigns.

And they had some great insights on Lead scoring; they talked about the usual ones of course, like Job title and company revenue. But there were some surprises. This slide shows that they can track your prospects sentiments about your company and products across social media, like this:

That can really give your sales and marketing team an edge over your competition. Pardot can also allow you to create buyer personas within Salesforce so that you can use these to gauge your ideal prospect, for even more accurate lead scoring. But what really blew me away was the analytics on the dashboard and Pardot's ability to measure marketing campaigns' effectiveness in a way that will appeal to CFO's and CEO's.

Not only can you demonstrate return on investment of entire programs, you can also dig in at the granular level, to show what specific leads generated what specific revenue. As a metric-driven marketer, with an MBA in Finance, this is what I'm aiming to accomplish.

Tommie told some great anecdotes, with his classic Irish wit; I couldn't help thinking Tommie would go down a storm in my old hometown, Boston, which is pretty much run by Irish Americans. And of course, they love anyone from the old country, particularly if he or she has a lot of drive and a good sense of humour.

One of Tommie's best stories was about him setting up a new internet provider in his new home. The provider was terrible and he was forced to contact them multiple times whilst suffering from flu and working from home. All this time he was receiving prospecting advertisements and emails from the company; which only exacerbated his annoyance with their poor service. Imagine how much money this company is throwing out the window!


At the end of the talk, Rory O'Neill, Data and Systems Manager at the Drum came to talk about his experience using Pardot. I know the Drum very well. When I was at Visual IQ (now part of Nielsen), we successfully exhibited at several of their events. I found out in the presentation that Rory is responsible for sending 35 Million emails a year. My last email contact list was 30,000 strong (B-2-B) and the largest I've worked with was 400,000 (B-2-C).

I was able to ask him a question in at the end, which was to ask his advice as to what first steps he would take if he was in my shoes, rolling out pardot at my company. He recommended that most important was that I consult with the sales team and get them on board with our plan. He also offered to give me some advice on that if I got in touch with him, which I definitely will.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Moonshot thinking to unleash innovation

Before you say, yeah, right, but moonshot thinking is by its very nature, hard to quantify and only useful in very remote instances, take a look at this slide below; though Moonshot thinking only gets 10% of Company budget, it is responsible for generating 70% of the revenue (This is taking a long-term view, over years, rather than over the short-term range of standard financial quarters):

It's worth trying to solve those crucial but seemingly impossible problems, especially ones that may only come to a head 5 or 10 years from now. You could transform your company or even yourself!

We played a great exercise where we were asked to count the number of red balls on this slide in 10 seconds. Quite a few got the correct answer - 10. However, when Dr. Pablo Rodriguez asked us now to tell us how many green balls there were, no one got the answer right. There were fewer of them and they were larger.  

This demonstrates the danger of over-focus. By being so intent on solving one problem that you may completely miss solving a much greater, more significant and simple one! Over 50% of scientific discoveries were made by accident; so in effect, counting the green balls, when the exercise was to count the red.

Clearly, the problems Alpha has solved, whether for improving performance at Telefonica, radically changing health habits across the globe, or bringing power to regions that were greatly lacking, all required phenomenal, high-performing, cross-functional teams. 

I asked Pablo how he selected his teams; his answer stood out. I thought he would say that He chose the most talented or educated individuals. But He said that He selected those who had an absolute passion for solving these problems. If you think you might be that person, Alpha is hiring right now. They are fully owned by Telefonica and despite having Telefonica's CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete López, on their board, they are fully independent of it.

Pablo has worked as an entrepreneur, at various start-ups in Silicon Valley, as well as in Academia. He showed the curve of an idea, where at the very early stages, often Academia can do best in advancing innovation. In a much later stage, it could be a start-up. His projects sit in the middle of that, between academia and start-ups.

He makes a great point that in the 20th Century, it was the government that primarily initiated innovation; The creation of the internet, the human genome project and yes, of course, NASA pioneering the first men to the moon, were all government-backed missions. 

But now, and in the future, most innovation is driven by corporations. This can come in many forms, from Alpha, which is owned by Telefonica to a start-up, like Cloudlock, which was founded by one of my colleagues at Northeastern University Business School, being bought by a corporation, CISCO.

This was a brilliant lecture, up there with the one I attended on Venture Capital and the one on problems of productivity in the Western World. I thoroughly commend Professor Milan Vojnovic and Dr. Pablo Rodriguez.

If you are still skeptical about Moonshot thinking after reading this, I want to leave you with a great quote about it from one of the founders and CEO of Google:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Should Telcos be getting a bigger bite of the digital economy ‘Pie’?

The big issue in the Telecommunications industry right now is declining margins. The past several years have been tough for telcos. Their revenue and cash flows have dropped by an average of 6 percent a year since 2010.

These firms can address this issue, by improving the speed of delivery of new products, reducing order fall out and simplifying and improving their customer experience.
When redesigning their value proposition, go-to-market, and interaction model, operators find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between traditional drivers of customer choice. Instead, they have turned to customer experience as the key influencer. For example, Vodafone Germany has transformed their business to enable their path to digital transformation:
“It is the first time we have raised Vodafone’s organic EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization] guidance in recent history,” said Vittorio Colao, chief executive. Polo Tang, an analyst at UBS, said the company’s performance in the second quarter was ahead of expectations in almost every geography but notably in Germany and Spain.
Success lies in reimagining the end-to-end customer journey to create signature customer moments. Companies can accelerate the delivery of a new customer experience by implementing a seamless Omni channel experience, digitizing core business processes, deploying artificial-intelligence platforms to simplify customer interaction, and creating a more agile organization.
What can companies do to alleviate the squeeze on margins and create more value?
Major advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence, network equipment, and other technologies have rewritten the industry’s winning formula. With the newest software and hardware, along with digital-age management practices, mobile operators can achieve breakthrough cost savings and capital intensity while maintaining or even increasing their scale.
Many mobile operators have essential processes that are more complex and labor-intensive, and therefore costlier than they have to be. The Management consultants Mckinsey estimate that just 20 to 30 processes generate 45 percent of the average operator’s operating costs.
There are a lot of Telecommunications providers can do to improve businesses margins operationally. This can also be part of an even bigger over-arching strategy for CSPs to boost their bottom line. For example, increasingly, slow but stable growth Telcos (at Business School we called such businesses 'Cash Cows') are acquiring high growth and high margin content companies to increase their profits.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Adobe Global Marketing Conference

Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas - The Money Show. This is a photo I took at the Pool 

In the last 10 years, I've gained vast amounts of experience attending and setting up a large variety of Conferences in multiple business sectors and diverse locations; I've got good at assessing which are effective and which aren't; using both hard metrics and softer skills - the art and science of conferences. In the past, I've had to justify the budget to my Managers or CEOs so I've had to nail this. However, I'm a bit of a geek and enjoy doing these calculations. Therefore I will do them for my own benefit regardless.

At the Financial Traders Conference at the Money Show at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, I got to stay in the same hotel that 'The Hangover' was filmed in, which was great. I also played Poker, which I learned in the US and Craps. We got plenty of good leads but it was also the kind of crazy testosterone fuelled event that you'd expect from a bunch of financial traders; think 'Wolf of Wall Street'.

The Economics forum in Washington DC was fascinating; Paul Volcker, the ex-Federal Reserve Chairman spoke. I liked the city a lot, although I do like JFK's quip that 'DC is a city with northern charm and southern efficiency'. We were marketing a new Business intelligence tool called Datazoa, to business Economists at Government agencies, Research organization’s and Universities amongst others; our efforts secured new clients from Universities, Banks, and State Treasuries.

I've been to numerous shows in New York City, including Trading Software and most recently the Digital Analytics Association. I was also in Chicago for the Internet retailers conference. I would have liked to explore the city but on that occasion, I was so busy I pretty much never got out of the area my hotel and the event was in.

My all-time Favorite Conference would have to have been the Adobe Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah: We Set up 11 meetings in 4 days, all with C level decision makers at Fortune 500 Companies; Several of which were turned to new logos by our sales team. I went to see Vampire Weekend play live and had to top it off had my best day's skiing in 8 or 9 years, in Park City with a guy from London who now lives in Toronto.

I also made some great contacts on the ski day that I wasn't expecting; for example, heads of business divisions at Bell Canada, American Express, Verizon Wireless and the Gartner Group. 

Photo was taken by a colleague I was skiing with at Park City, Utah - the final (4th) day of the Adobe Marketing Conference

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Creating Sales Growth at your start-up

Creating Growth at your start-up 

I have now been part of the Marketing teams of two start-ups that have grown extremely rapidly and achieved phenomenal success. Visual IQ, a Marketing Attribution Software provider (founded in 2006), was acquired by Nielsen last year, for $3 Billion. And Zscaler (founded in 2008), a Cyber Security Software company, just had its IPO, which took it's valuation up to $3.8 Billion. 

I think I have learned quite a bit from being part of these successful teams and also, previous experiences in the start-up ecosystem, including several years as Head of Marketing at a Start-up in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

All across the globe, there is a dearth of Marketing talent, particularly in red-hot Software businesses like Fintech, Networking, Data intelligence and Cyber Security.

By Marketing talent I mean individuals with smarts, training, experience and drive who can take a business to 'the next level'; whether that means faster growth, more sustainable or greater revenue or higher profits. This goes for any start-up from first-round venture-backed to private equity invested all the way to IPO or Merger and beyond 

For this reason, Start-ups sometimes tolerate the types of personalities that the HR department of regular Fortune 500's would not accept. There are numerous examples of this in the media but I find the satirical comedy Silicon Valley is the best example. 

Here's my 7 point plan to create a good start-up Marketing Strategy and then to execute it:

1. E
nsure that you are on the same page as the person who has created your marketing Strategy or even better, create that Strategy yourself. So many problems occur when CMOs and CEOs or Investors do not agree on this. See 'Why CMOs never last

2. Data; explore this and find out what is going on. Don't just rely on the facts you see. Talk with people, try to establish whether the data you are seeing on paper matches what you are hearing. Countless times I have dealt with either no data at all or data that doesn't match reality. Don't be the fool that devotes inordinate hours and resources creating complex models using bad information. 

Even a fledgling Start-up will inevitably have had many failures already and you can use this information to avoid making mistakes and model successful behavior. “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” —Michael Porter (See Porter's 5 Forces)

3. Targets, start thinking about what you are trying to accomplish. Is the problem that you have a weak brand? Is it that no one outside your core user group really understands your products? Are you simply preaching to the converted? Do your competitors have an iron-grip in certain Regions or markets? Is it that you have poor growth? Are you sinking resources into the same old Marketing investments getting diminishing returns? Are you properly measuring your Marketing investments even? Rarely have I seen this happen, actually, particularly with Company Events.

Establish what that core problem is and then ensure that all your efforts are geared towards driving solutions to that.

4. Create a plan around that. For example:

a. If the problem is that your sales team are not converting your good leads, then bring in added Business Intelligence. A remarkable tool for this is Rainking, which has a team of 600 researchers calling companies and finding out information that will enable you to identify opportunities quicker and more effectively.

Additionally, if you are not lead scoring already, then I would suggest you start doing this. The way this works is - your sales team will immediately get alerted automatically when a lead reaches a certain 'threshold' score. So let's say that score is 10, then a lead from a company with $1 Billion revenue that has requested we contact them would immediately be a 10. 

A Lead from a company that is on our target list would immediately be a 10. A Lead from a company that could be a target, would be a 5. When that lead has downloaded 3 key reports in the last week, then it becomes a 10, and so on. However, you have to ensure the algorithm that determines scoring is accurate. I've worked at companies were this is not the case and I'd say no scoring is better than bad lead scoring. 

b. If the problem is that you lack the numbers of leads needed to start with, then both Zoominfo, which I started using back in 2009 or Rainking, which I started using in 2015, are both effective for outbound activity. For inbound, I find Twitter to be remarkably effective, in addition to Google AdWords, and AdSense, of course.

I would also work with the Marketing team to create compelling content, ideally Gartner or Forrester or failing that, some other well-known research firm, like IDC. These are great because they are high-value pieces of content that your prospects will 'trade' their contact details with you to gain.

Also, Linkedin has also just developed a new Account-based Marketing - (I met with the Head of Linkedin's EMEA business in a previous blog post) tool called Lead generation forms.

One idea that We have done in the past very successfully is an 'Industry report' based on surveys we send out. Usually, I use SurveyMonkey, which I first got familiarized with at Business School back in 2006. Everyone is interested in what their colleagues are thinking about and sending these surveys out can also be a good way to reconnect with customers and prospects.

Content from blogs can be good. The only problem is that some companies want to 'vet' and control this content as though it was some kind of financial or legal document. The point of blogs is that they are quick and dirty; if the stories have been edited through several rounds of management review, they will rarely be fresh or dynamic anymore. I have developed Ebooks, infographics, Webcasts and slides, which can also be a good source of leads or simply creating additional awareness of your company.

5. Ensure that everyone is on board with it. If they are not, then discuss it, and get to the bottom of the problems. Time and time again I've seen marketing teams get on board with a big project that they had serious concerns about. In certain environments, only the courageous (or stupid!) will give their negative opinions. Once you are certain everyone is on board, then execute the plan relentlessly!

6. Analyse your results regularly, at least once every 3 months and if not effective, pivot. If it's truly disastrous, be honest about it and go back to the drawing board quickly. This is essentially the same idea that I learned in Product Marketing for innovation, the stage gate process 

When you do this look at Key financial metrics, like ROMI - Return on Marketing Investment (NPV, IRR, Payback period, etc..  Customer Lifetime Value, Cost per Click, Transaction conversion rate (For B-2-B, numbers of prospects who click on your links who go on to become Sales Qualified Leads).     

7. Finally, and most importantly, encourage criticism and make your entire company a safe place to share information and mistakes. You cannot take important calculated risks without making mistakes and you can't learn without them either. If you're not failing then you're not trying hard enough! 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

House of Lords Cocktail Party

Lord Maurice Saatchi, the founder of Saatchi & Saatchi and MC Saatchi, told us He only applied to one University. His message on the evening and now the world's shortest poem was 'LSE made me'. In my case, I did apply to other colleges since I never expected to get into the LSE, particularly to study Law, which is highly competitive, as my grades were not that good.

Maurice Saatchi got a first in Economics back when that was a very hard accomplishment and of course, He is one of the greatest minds in advertising, author of the Iconic 'Labour isn't working' Campaign that ushered Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party into power in 1979.

There were some prominent MPs, Peers, Academics and Executives from organizations like JP Morgan, HSBC, Fidelity Investments, Barclays Bank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, BP, PWC, and Accenture, at the event, to name a few.

Lord Maurice Saatchi, below

My friend and Law School classmate, Joanna Mcdwyer, formerly Head of government affairs at HSBC Bank, currently organising corporate membership and marketing for the Colnaghi Foundation  

On the river outside the reception, from the House of Lords 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What's new at Linkedin; Transparency in the workplace and its recent Acquisition by Microsoft

You arrive on your first day at a new job, you're ushered into the induction room for your first day of training. The first thing the HR Director tells you is that they know you will leave the company one day. This seems strange but is exactly what happens on your first day at Linkedin. Reid Hoffman, the CEO, in his book 'The Alliance' says that the days of the 'Company man', where you could be expected to work at the same organization for 30 or more years are long gone.
Nowadays, Reid sees a job more as a Military 'Tour of duty'. The Company needs your skills to fulfill certain problems they have. Once you have completed that you are on to the next job solving the next set of problems. Apparently, Linkedin has lots of great data showing that employees leave companies!
 A few weeks ago I attended an Audience with Linked organized by Sandy Pepper, a Management Professor at the LSE. He as plenty of real-world experience since prior to this position he had a long career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) where he held various senior management roles, including the global leader of the Human Resource Services consulting practice.
  The main event was Joshua Graff, Linkedin UK Country Manager and EMEA Head of the Marketing Solutions business, talking about his vision for Linkedin. Linkedin's mission statement is to create economic opportunity for the entire Global Workforce. This seems like a wildly ambitious aim. However of the 780 million Professionals worldwide, already 487 million have LinkedIn accounts; and that number is growing rapidly.
 Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook coined the term 'The Social Graph'. Linkedin has tremendous amounts of social data that can show what skills are leaving your company and what skills are coming in. They can even predict what skills will most be in demand in 5 years time. For example, the job 'Data Scientist' was relatively unknown 5 years ago. Today it is one of the most sought-after job titles in the world.
 Josh told a great story about a High Tech company that he had worked with that was growing exponentially and hiring large amounts of salespeople. Linkedin was able to show that they were only reaching 1% of their potential talent pool with their current methods.
 He elucidated some of the more detailed aims of the company which revolved around creating value through their talent solutions business (60% of Linkedin's revenue), Marketing Solutions, including sponsored content (20%) and of course Premium Subscriptions (20%). All this is going to drive the company forward, particularly now that Microsoft has just completed acquistion of Linkedin for $26 Billion on the 8th of December. Josh said it was ironic since prior to working at Linkedin, He was working at Microsoft, and now he will be back there again.
 He rounded off the talk with a discussion of values. 50% of employees would not consider taking a job at a company unless they had visibility into its culture and what it stands for, so obviously this is important. Linkedin espouses compassionate management, which is not necessarily empathy, but rather being able to imagine what it's like to do your colleague's job.
Josh said that empathy may debilitate you if you feel too much. But to understand what, for example, your team members are going through will enable you to manage them much more effectively. As he put it it's simply 'walking a mile in someone else's shoes'.
 Equally, he talked about Linkedin's culture of transparency. This was the most powerful part of the discussion since He shared his own deeply personal story of coming out as a gay man in the workforce. When He first came out to his parents, he immediately went back 'into the closet'. This is what 60% of Millenials and Generation X's do in the workforce. Yet on Linkedin He finally published a piece talking about his homosexuality and embraces that in the workforce today.
 Josh was obviously keen to get everyone publishing on Linkedin. In addition to his own story, He shared 2 other situations where publishing stories had had a really positive impact. The first was around the well known Cyber breach at Target. At this time the CMO of Target wrote a piece on Linkedin which admitted Target's mistake, apologized and showed the steps they were taking to rectify the matter and ensure it never happened again. This was widely shared and appreciated.    
             Similarly, when a very unpleasant article came out in the New York Times, criticizing the work culture at Amazon, an Amazon employee published a piece disputing this and saying it was a great place to work; this quickly went viral and garnered more than 1 million views.
    I was inspired by this value. According to research, workers who are more transparent about who they are, end up as more productive, more engaged and happier. Since Josh's epiphany came from publishing his piece on Linkedin, I was also motivated to publish more myself. 
 After the talk, we all retired to the bar/restaurant in LSE's new building. I met a really interesting array of Professionals from all walks of life; Financial Services, Marketing, Recruitment, Management Consulting, even a Surgeon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe

The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe by Joseph E. Stiglitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went to see Professor Stiglitz talk at the LSE a few months ago and that's when I purchased this book, which I also got Joseph to sign for me. I've enjoyed quite a few of his books before including 'The Roaring 90's' about the boom in the Economy in that decade.

This is compelling reading. He shows that even the Success story of the European Union, Germany, has only had fairly anemic growth since the European monetary union was formed. You can see this demonstrated here: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/germa...

At the other end of the spectrum, you have crumbling economies like Spain, Portugal and particularly Greece that according to Stiglitz is being decimated by the austerity measures imposed on them by the EEC and heavily enforced by member States like Germany.

The book made me feel better about Britain's decision to leave the European Union. Though admittedly this book is about the damage that the European currency has done to Europe, whereas Britain retained its own currency.

It also went some way to explaining some of the Economic struggles the EEC has gone through since the Euro was introduced 17 years ago; That the EURO has shackled a lot of Economies that may need the financial independence of their own currencies to perform to their highest potential.

He also questions the fact that an unelected body is imposing budgets on countries that their own people have rejected, for example in the case of Greece, which actually voted against these measures but had them imposed upon them by the EEC nevertheless This may be the reason why tax revenues have fallen significantly in some of these countries. 'No taxation without representation' was the rallying cry of another well-known revolution.

In addition, the Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz raises the question of Currency manipulation and who really benefits from the Euro. Much is made in the News about China artificially reducing the value of the Yuan in order to make their exports cheaper so that they operate with a trade surplus. However, Professor Stiglitz shows that actually German has a larger trade surplus than China. It's entire Economy relies extremely heavily on exports.

In February Germany's trade surplus--or the balance of exports and imports of goods--increased to 252.9 billion euros ($270 billion), which marks the highest surplus since records began after WWII. Because all the weaker Economies in Europe bring the value of the Euro down, Germany ends up with a currency that is 15% undervalued; thus creating their imbalance. Conversely, countries like Greece, Spain, and even France, operate with a currency that is valuable too high; Hence their poor economies, high unemployment, lower exports and trade deficits (as opposed to Germany's surplus).

It seems counter-intuitive, but Professor Stiglitz believes that the only hope of saving the Euro in the long term is for Germany to leave the European Economic Union.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Economics of Persistent Slumps

This week I went with a friend to the Philips lecture  at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) with Professor Robert Hall of Stanford University, originator & author of ‘The Flat Tax’   & one of the founders of Macroeconomics (author of one of the first books on the subject and now the standard University textbook on Macroeconomics )
The gist of the lecture was how productivity has declined in the USA. Areas of concern included the rapid fall in the Labour participation rate, which has now started to affect women (who previously were increasing in the labor force quite rapidly) too.

The biggest surprise here is that almost all of the decline in the Labour force is in the top levels of income and education.

Almost all the Labour participation shrinkage in the US Economy is from the richest and most highly educated sectors

 Professor Hall calculated that US GDP would be approximately 15 percentage points higher if this and a few more minor issues were addressed. He was only covering the US in his lecture. However, I'd imagine these issues with productivity will only be worse for some of the other developed countries if you look at this chart below. 

Current GDP per hour worked, G7 countries 2013 and 2014

We rounded off the night with dinner at The Delaunay.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Has Venture Capital finally arrived in Europe ?

Now that I'm back in London after 10 years working and studying in the USA, it's fortuitous that my office is a stone's throw away from my Alma Mater, The London School of Economics. They have regular lectures and recently I decided to go back to attend one on Venture Capital in Europe. The LSE Finance Department invites me to these from time to time.
There was quite an interesting bunch gathered in the Conference room, including my neighbor, a Consultant at KPMG specializing in due diligence accounting for Venture Capital. The host for the evening was Ulf Axelson, who is the Abraaj Group Professor in Finance and Private Equity at the London School of Economics and the director of the Financial Markets Group. LSE has just started a Master’s degree in Private Equity Which He now runs.
Right away I learned a new word - 'Decacorn' - it's like a Unicorn (Tech start-up that reaches the 'magical' $1 Billion valuation) but instead it reaches the even more magical $10 Billion valuation. On the panel included the Chief of Staff of Lord Rothschild's investment group, Magnus Goodlad; Magnus has 14 years’ private equity experience, including early stage UK technology and venture capital investment. Magnus previously spent ten years at Top Technology Ventures/IP Group where he held various roles, including Chief Operating Officer.
Felda Hardymon, who is a senior partner at Bessemer Venture Partners and the Class of 75 Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. His investments have included Parametric Technology, a provider of product cycle-management software; sporting-goods chain Sports Authority; office-supply company Staples; and Axis Networks (acquired by ACE) a 4G, wireless-remote radio head supplier.
Byron Deeter, who is a managing partner in Bessemer’s Menlo Park, California Office (working at the same company as Felda Hardyman) where he focuses on investments in the cloud-computing, mobile and Internet sectors. He was the founding CEO of Trigo Technologies, acquired by IBM. Byron is the co-author of "Bessemer's 10 Laws of Cloud Computing and SaaS", the BVP cloud index, BVP's cloudscape and BVP's next cloud unicorns. He was the main investor in Criteo, France's most successful IPO of recent years.
Saul Klein who most recently co-founded Kano and Seedcamp, as well as being co-founder and original CEO of Lovefilm International (acquired by Amazon). He was also part of the original executive team at Skype (acquired by eBay).
11% of US businesses are venture-backed companies, which makes up a whopping 21% of the US Economy. So it's clearly important to US business. This article was referenced at the beginning of the talk.
9% of US Venture-backed companies IPO versus only 4% in Europe. Whilst 28% of US companies are bought out versus 20% in Europe
Some of the theories on why Europe is behind the US in Venture financing included:
1) Venture Capital is a younger business in Europe. It only really got going in 1999, whilst in the US it was going strong in the early 1990's
2) There is less of a network of VC's and support organizations (Law firms, Consultants etc.) in Europe than in the US. Part of this problem is caused by employees not moving around enough in Europe. In the US it's far more common to change jobs quickly than in Europe. This change creates bigger and bigger networks, with much more interplay between individuals.
3) Financing - in the US the entrepreneur is the star, financing plays second fiddle. In Europe (particularly London which is dominated by the Financial Services Industry) it's the other way around. At one point someone asked 'what's more important - the Venture Capitalist or the Entrepreneur? and everyone agreed it was the Entrepreneur. However, in Europe entrepreneurs are often left feeling like they are begging for scraps from bankers, not creating a potential gold mine.
Aside; my other favorite quote of the night was 'There's nothing more useless than a Venture Capitalist without a checkbook'
4) Regulatory problems - Byron Deeter talked about the difficulties he had trying to set up Criteo in France. Though a French company they chose to have their IPO in the US on the Nasdaq 
5) Psychology of Europeans - are they more risk-averse than Americans? Certainly, it seems harder to get capital to invest in European countries right now.
Although the 50 square miles of Silicon Valley creates more companies than the whole of Europe, this talk did leave me feeling optimistic; that now is the time for new companies to take off in Europe. Skype, which was founded in Denmark, is a great template to look at for aspiring European Entrepreneurs.
I've also been inspired by talking to a friend who works at a UK Venture builder called Blenheim Chalcot, which currently generates over £300 Million in revenue from investing in 40 new ventures in the UK. They also support these firms with anything from office space to Marketing and Legal services.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Dinner with the founder of Justgiving

Bela Hatvany was in town, He comes to Boston a lot since He has family and Business interests here as well as some history (although He now lives in the South of France). So we grabbed some Tapas at Tappeo on Newbury Street, where I used to live when I was taking my MBA. He's a fascinating guy. His dad lost his fortune in Hungary during the war. So He came to England & made another fortune as a bridge player, Buyer of art & backer of racehorses.

Anyhow Bela said that He was treating me as my dad bought him & his wife dinner at the Belvedere restaurant in Holland Park, London, last week. Bela told me a great story about when He was at Harvard Business School. He was asked by IBM to complete a data/software project at the end of the first year of his MBA.

IBM told him it would take 14 software programmers a year to complete. Bela explained that He figured out a way to do it much quicker - He actually completed the project alone, & in only 12 weeks. After that, he was in quite a lot of demand.

 Here's one of his other companies, Silverplatter, which He sold to Wolters Kluwer for $113 Million in 2000. These days He invests in a whole host of new companies, such as Justgiving, which has grown immensely as a business.

I remember clearly Bela telling me about his idea to set up this online giving site back in 2000. I was more than a bit skeptical at the time since the internet was still at quite an embryonic stage. However, his idea was spot on and they got first mover advantage in the market so everyone knows the Justgiving brand now.

It's now quite a few years since We met up in Boston and I actually had lunch with Bela in Holland Park recently. However, looking back, I realize that this did teach me a valuable lesson; to be more open-minded about start-up ideas. All the start-ups or early stage companies I have worked at have been successful and grown quickly, sometimes by 2 or 3 times in a year. One of them was acquired by a Multi-national, Nielsen. Another, Zscaler, the cyber security company, just had an IPO which now gives the company a Market Cap of $3.5 Billion

Bela Hatvany recently sold Just Giving for £95 Million. Now that's not a bad deal for a company Bela set up as a project after he had 'retired', to do some good in the world!

Newbury Street, in Boston's 'Back Bay', where I lived whilst studying for my MBA

Monday, January 04, 2016

SoMoClo TM*

MIT, 10 minutes walk from our house in Cambridge, Massachusetts 

So last Monday 2/13 was the launch party dinner at the British Consulate in SoMoClo Basically the idea is that Social Media & Cloud are converging. But still they are often treated as separate entities - for example, a director of social media is not connected to Mobile strategists or IT folks managing the cloud.
SoMoClo Key Benefits:
1) Increased efficiency, transparency & speed of access to info by fully integrating Social, Mobile and the Cloud
2) Improved ROI through all of the above
There's a real powerhouse of talent behind this initiative.
 I know the venue well as I've been there for http://www.babinc.org/ as well as http://www.aflse.org/ I also know the British Consul, Phil Budden. It was both entertaining & informative. As mentioned my wife, Catherine, is in Europe, fixing Global Recruiting for her Company
I'll be flying to meet Catherine in London next weekend (2/21) at the Sheraton tower. There are some great panoramic views of London from the rooms which I thought She'd appreciate since She's only been to London a few times before and doesn't know it well: http://www.theparktowerview.com/