Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Rapid Growth Business Enterprise Tuesday 3rd November

Sanjeev Bikchandani - Founder of InfoEdge and therefore founder of several internet companies in India will be speaking about growing rapidly.

He started as a typical "garage" company in India and now employs nearly 1600 people across more than 50 offices. The internet businesses range from the biggest - "naukri.com" - which is about recruitment through to real estate and other services.

We normally hear about internet businesses from Silicon Valley and rarely from a "developing country" but here is a case of working against red tape, limited pools of experienced internet teams, an ecosystem that is still new to internet savvy businesses, challenging infrastructure etc.,

InfoEdge became the first internet company to list on the Indian stock market. The company has taken venture capital from global players and has a wonderful compound growth rate with a cash positive balance sheet. For those who would like to drill a bit deeper before the talk please see a link to the investor presentations made a few weeks ago - http://www.infoedge.in/pdfs/corporate-presentation-august09.pdf

Sanjeev is a charismatic, high energy entrepreneur who will talk about the key aspects of growing a business rapidly. Not wishing to steal his show - the talk will include how and when to be first to market - but that too in one that is emerging and therefore how to know if it is really big (with unmet problems to solve) and how to put together a team that can help to deliver on the vision and plans. There are more points he will make - but for now that is enough to whet our appetites.

By the way Sanjeev is flying over at his own cost and that makes him a sponsor as well! I am looking forward to the talk and the ensuing Q+A

Young headmaster - this is enterprise

Young Babar Ali - has taken to heart the idea of making a difference and the inspiration is that he is a young teenager who has decided to help in his community. I am going to let the video speak for itself!


Friday, 23 October 2009

From deep science to a cool product

Prof Henning Sirringhaus from the Cavendish Labs at Cambridge, Martin Jackson of Plastic Logic and Bill Earner of Amadeus Capital Partners talked to a packed audience of around 400 graduates and members of the business community on how and why they have taken a tough 10 year+ journey to commercialise deep science.
From what I could gather, it started with the scientists looking at how to take the technical attributes of passing light through plastic and the convenience of plastic (it is light and flexible) to see if a product could be developed. One of the driving forces of the innovation that followed seems to be about solving the problem of convenience for people on the move.
People who need to read books, documents, articles, newspapers and myriad other content have two choices at the moment. Carrying heavy quantities of documents or trying to read on laptops – where due to the intensity of the way the screen is backlit – in the end it gets tiring. The inventors, investors and management of the project saw this as a global unmet need.
Curiously so have Sony, Kindle and others who are all rushing to market with eReaders. After the iphone this product line is likely to be the next big thing in the “boys toys” category and will likely revolutionise our reading behaviours as prices come plummeting downward in the years ahead.
So – the journey of plastic electronics as it has been labelled – started a long time ago and the team made a choice to enter the market with an eReader – due to be launched at a major event in January 2010. Hopefully they are just in time when compared to other products that are coming out this winter – before the Christmas of 2009.
The team has bigger plans for their patents and inventions, but the story is not so much about technology as it is about faith, belief, entrepreneurial risk and talented people.
The early conversations between Henning, Sir Richard Friend and Dr Hermann Hauser were formative and influential. All three eminent being physicists. Hermann being the serial entrepreneur and venture capitalists has the experience and instinct to know when to back something. It is also his vision for the next big product – and the potential to create an industry that has helped to raise over $250m dollars, research grants and subsidies for setting up a factory in Dresden. With that strong vision and business credibility, the team also has its “scientific rock stars” – some early exposure to doing business in emerging technologies and gradually a build up of a strong commercial and manufacturing team. It is probably this combination that has allowed Plastic Logic to go further than might be expected for a company that has been in “start-up” mode for over 10 years.
Over the 10 years Plastic Logic has tried a variety of business models, including trying to license the technology, but found that because it was unproven, the big manufacturers were unwilling to take it on. As a result of this market feedback, the team decided to set up its own factory and were fortunate in finding support from the government in Saxony - keen to attract a cutting edge science based company. So – the focus is on scaling up from a laboratory project about the light emitting properties of plastic to a real product that consumers can buy! This is a huge transition and requires major shifts in the talent pool from scientists through project managers, sales teams, factory skills, etc.,
How does a team sustain its motivation to go through all the various change points from a scientific breakthrough in 1998/99 to the prospect of a product launch into a growing market in 2010?
The basic answer seems to be about the excitement of creating an industry through the launch of a product. In essence – where the scale and scope of the opportunity far outweighs any sense of barriers or risk! The opportunity is seen to be vast and the team wants to be in a leadership position!
My main takeaway thought was the comment that Henning made – when the whole enterprise started he asked himself – should he focus on publishing and staying “Pure” or should he devote any time to the venturing process. At the time he was an unestablished young academic. He chose to do both! Now he is a young professor, inventor and initiator of a company that could well turn out to be at the forefront of plastic electronics. As Prof Andy Hopper said last year and on the video (see www.cfel.jbs.cam.ac.uk/resources) you can have your cake and eat it!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Understanding the needs of the market – Learning from Ryanair

Tuesday on October 27th 2009. See www.cfel.jbs.cam.ac.uk

Kell Ryan, the recently retired marketing Director of Ryanair has kindly agreed to speak to the audience of Enterprise Tuesday on the 27th of October 2009. Kell is a highly experienced marketing professional, having worked in the airline industry for many years before joining the team at Ryanair.

Ryanair has been a great success as a low cost carrier. It has brought benefits to many people beyond price reduction. People can take short term jobs in other countries; get short week end breaks, host hen nights and parties in all manner of cities, bringing tourism wealth from those who have to those who can benefit! If we want to learn to think about marketing, customers needs and having the courage to make new rules in the market place – we need to look at how one of the more successful companies does it.

Kell Ryan has agreed to tell us about the early days of Ryanair marketing, their innovations and how they value both acquiring and retaining customers through meeting the key needs of customers. Importance of customer retention, Impact of the Internet, Ancillary revenue /activity, Innovation on costs, Business model, Simplicity of Operations, Branding /Marketing and that Price is King !

Kell is charming and you will learn from him the hard nosed lessons you need to take away about how to be innovative with marketing. These lessons will generalise to other industry sectors. I can’t wait to hear from him. I hold the Otto Monsted Guest Professorship at Aarhus School of Business in Denmark and it is only possible for me to even consider such a post and to deliver on it through the growth and development of Ryanair.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

How not to get divorced – lessons from serial entrepreneurs

I was at a dinner at Downing College (Cambridge) where our after dinner speaker was Jody Chatterjee who has had a rich career in many different roles. His honesty about the roller coaster ride of an entrepreneur was engaging! Jody spoke at the end of a long day of thinking about entrepreneurship in large organisations that was being run for Haniel by Ashridge Management College. Haniel is a family owned 35,000 employee organisation from Germany, with a diversity of businesses.
The others contributors were Claudio Marinelli from Nokia, Dan Sandhu from ACIS and Rob Stewart from Stevenage Packaging.
Each painted a rich picture for us to think about.
They were pretty unanimous on the fact that entrepreneurs work with a passion to make things better or to make better things – that solve problems.
Entrepreneurial people are driven by seeking freedom and autonomy to make decisions. This is a dominant theme from the conversations. If entrepreneurial people involved did not have this freedom to act and to act quickly they would wilt.
Entrepreneurs are impatient to get things done; making them hard to live and work with, but the passion to make things better comes with the impatience to get it done. The impatience also comes over as being somewhat “crazy”. So they are seen as disruptive influences within the organisation!
Very low tolerance for internal politics – in the end is it possible to be an entrepreneurial employee in a large organisation to succeed without “political skills”?
On a very personal level – everyone acknowledged the role played by their family in supporting them. The short hand was framed in the evening as “find out how not to get divorced”. The point being – what is the purpose of entrepreneurial success if in the end it breaks up the things that in the long term are what matter – family?
In the past – in my consulting role when I have been mentoring people with their ambitions to start and to grow their businesses – the key question that has stopped people in their tracks about what they want to do – has been to ask – Do you have a “contract” with your family? Do they know you will put the house on the line, the level of risk you want to take, that you will behave in a totally obsessive ways for months, not sleep much, get irritable if things are not going the way you want, feel highs and lows of emotions and you will hardly be around either mentally, physically or emotionally? The family needs to understand this in order to be able to truly support you!
Entrepreneurs I have met who have managed to be realistic about the work load and the risks and been able to get the support of the family – whether this is their partner or their parents or siblings have been truly amazing because they have a kind of freedom that others who are trying to balance their entrepreneurial ambitions with family obligations simply do not have.
It is unlikely you will find the answers in books and videos, just talk openly to a friend with wisdom.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Enterprise Tuesday kicks off on October 20th

This year the flagship course at Cambridge - Enterprise Tuesday which attracts over 1500 registrations and regular attendance of 300 - 400 is set to be a blockbuster! The main reasons is that we have made some radical changes to the format this year. In addition to the classic evenings of very high quality talks followed by networking we also have aligned with "Silicon Valley comes to Cambridge" and are part hosts to a debate at the Cambridge Union (on a Thursday!). We are also doing a networking only evening - having invited 20+ of the local successes - our Entrepreneurs in residence - to interact with the audience. This will be hosted in the magnificent setting of the Judge Business School over two floors.

There are also going to be "Live" rehearsals of elevator pitches and panel discussions on several evenings.

Beyond the format changes - the speaker line up - the headlines are as follows:

Plastic Logic founder Prof Henning Sirringhaus with his investment and management team members. This is a big current story as the research and the commercial ambition is to stimulate the start up - not just of a company - but also of an industry - in plastic electronics.

We then have Kell Ryan - to tell us about meeting customer needs. He recently retired from marketing position at Ryan Air (The name is no coincidence).

Sanjeev Bikchandani is coming over from India to talk about growing his business. It is one of the fastest growing internet companies around - and the biggest job site in India. He is a dynamic entrepreneur and is coming over just to do our talk!

David Cleevely and Andy Richards are highly successful Cambridge based Business angels and serial entrepreneurs. David is in wireless and telecoms while Andy is in biotechnology. Both are highly influential in the investment community and in their industries.

E T will be on a Thursday this year to make best connections to our regulars - and the guest line up includes the founders of LInkedIn, Twitter etc., The event has its own website - SVC2C.

Finally we hear from a panel of recent alumni of Enterprise Tuesday. People who have been inspired to get started with their own companies. They will share with us the why and the how on the evening. It is bound to be animated. The names are less famous - but the energy and the future prospects are fabulous.

Next term - we kick off with Prof Chris Winter who was co-founder of Cambridge Antibodies. He has done a number of other companies in biotech and is a hugely respected academic.

In order not to protract the blog - let me say that the last of the series is with Warren East from ARM - and I am hoping we will get as much of a public view as possible about the battle lines between ARM and Intel