Betas and videos

Well, I’ve had a big few weeks so apologies for not blogging for a while.

We’re now two months into our beta with Carbon Voyage. It has been interesting, and we are learning a lot, which I guess is one of the important parts of launching a new service. We have a very iterative process that we use with building our technology and propositions. I guess from my perspective that this is very similar to something taught in the military called the Boyd Cycle (also known as the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). This was originally constructed by looking at aerial dogfights in Korea between MiGs and the USA Air Force. Fundamentally (from my perspective), it is about being very proactive in dealing with what the competitive landscape looks like and what customer feedback is. Our ability to iterate quickly will be a a key contributor to our success as a business.

I’ve also started doing some videos for the business. I was interviewed by Hugh Mason from Pembridge LLP for a video that is being compiled that talks about the Gateway to Investment Program. This week, Dan Ilett from Greenbang and I have started a weekly video talking about what it’s like to run a startup at the moment which you can see below. Dan hase just launched a new company called Clean Analysis, which researches cleantech companies, technologies, legislation and services and how they fit into a vision of sustainable practices in 2020.  

  [qik]http://qik.com/video/1480307[/qik]

And finally, it’s been lovely to see that amazing story of Susan Boyle and the previous one of Paul Potts, both of whom have the most amazing voices.

An interesting week

It is only the end of day two of this week and quite a bit has happened. We had a shareholder/ management team meeting on Monday which was very useful, but actually didn’t quite follow the agenda set out. It was at a great venue on the Thames called Bacchanalia which is where we held our launch party recently.

In other news, I’ve started the process of looking for the next lot of funding for the business. Fortunately we now have working technology, a growing supply chain and even some early revenues; however, it will still be challenging to get funding whether equity or debt. There is a great program in London called Gateway to Investment or g2i and they have been really useful in framing an investment note for investors in their network. I’ve also applied for the ifund and the Blackberry Partners Fund as there are mobile applications that we are looking to launch in the near future. There is an interesting predicament around looking for the right funding source at the moment, as I fundamentally think that the amount needed to fund something with really big potential is just so much less than what traditional venture capitalists are used to dealing with (particularly if you consider that a good web application may cost only a few thousand pounds to develop). I had lunch with a very good friend today and was chatting about the funding situation for the business (and also what is happening with lots of start ups at the moment) and it brought home again the value of bootstrapping a business – it creates focus and discipline that doesn’t necessarily exist when you are flush with cash. There is a great post by Jeff Pulver that talks about the same thing.

There are at least two more exciting things to talk about, but I need to do that on Thursday once some things are put in place, and one of them involves a film that is way cooler than An Inconvenient Truth 🙂

Official Carbon Voyage Blog

I’ve now started up an official Carbon Voyage Blog which will have all of the press releases as well as some more informal bits and pieces about what the company is doing. Also, we’ve now set up groups on LinkedIn and Facebook so feel free to join!!!

We’re now a week into our beta launch and fortunately there have been no major problems with bookings thus far, and more importantly we’ve had some really good feedback about the website and ideas about the service which is something that you can only start getting once people are using the service.

Other than that, EYP launched in Dublin last week and following that, we have some terrific momentum going there. The team that is running with things there is absolutely fantastic, and we have an exciting next event coming up in April. Following our launch in Dublin, we are planning additional launches in three more European cities before the middle of the year – so lots of work to do!

And finally, if anyone is in London next Wednesday night, come along to our next EYP event.

Carbon Voyage launches!!!

Finally, after quite a lot of work in the last two years or so, Carbon Voyage finally launched. Our friends at Greenbang assisted in covering the event. The strapline of the business is ‘getting you from a to b without costing the earth.’ What we are doing is providing a car-booking service that helps people to cut the cost and carbon footprint of using private car hire.

If anyone is keen to trial the beta service should contact: info@carbonvoyage.com

Organising myself

At the start of the month, I mentioned that I was trialling Plaxo to assist me in managing my life. I guess even though I would not describe myself as a pure web worker, the reality is that I spend over 50% of my work time using the internet and the various ‘cloud’ tools that exist. The Plaxo experiment didn’t work particularly well initially – which I now discover relates to an inability to synchronise with Hotmail if you have more than 999 contacts. I’m also wondering if you can still synch Plaxo with LinkedIN as I can’t find the Synch Point in Plaxo Plus. There was a good article in Mashable yesterday about synching with Google services with a mobile – and on reflection, I am becoming more reliant on Google. Am now looking for a good virtual PA so that I am really getting into the spirit of being a web worker!

In other news, we have now launched WeWantToSee which will hopefully turn into a great repository of ideas from people all around the world about what they want to see changed in the world. The content is still small, but I look forward to seeing how it looks as we get closer to the EYP November Event.

Last week, EYP had an absolutely great wine tasting event with Vavasour, a NZ winery. Their Malborough winemaker, Stu Marfell, entertained and educated a group of EYP members on the intricacies of wine making and how to produce particular styles and flavours. Stu is an up and coming winemaker and has been named as a Top 10 Finalist in the 2008 Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year.

And finally, I read this great article in the BBC this week about the International Congress on Islamic Feminism. It makes a very interesting point about how religion is often heavily influenced by culture which perhaps detracts from the original intent of the religion’s founder(s). Anyway, a very interesting article.

EYP Stuff and the Financial Crisis

This has been a big week for EYP. We had our monthly event at Zebrano, just near Carnaby St and somewhere just shy of 200 people in attendence. As per normal we did a few speed networking sessions which worked really well. Tonight we had our committee meeting, and were fortunately joined by our good friend Andy Lopata. Andy is always full of great ideas and we have some exciting things coming up in the next few months. Our next event will be a big one, and done with Make Your Mark as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. It will be in London on the evening of 18 November 2008.

I am continuing to play around with the various social networks and tools that exist. There was an interesting breakfast at WidgetWebExpo put on by KickApps and Clearspring. Clearspring do some very cool stuff with widgets – and with some things we are doing with EYP, widgets are about to get very important for us. Fortunately I have found a good widget blog – and more importantly a widget competition so I can get some money :p There are probably going to be some weird widgets appearing on the various social networking sites I use over the next week or two while I learn how to use them, so apologies in advance.

My sister and I listened to the video I posted a few days ago. It was hilarious of course, but again quite shocking that it was done a year ago or so. I discovered that the video has actually got a lot of attention, but one of the original posts is here and here. And just to add to the mix, another one from Bird and Fortune – again from a long time ago and also very spot on.

Umm … a few random things

So I finally did my first ever radio interview today, although it won’t go on air for about three weeks. It was to promote GoLow and an event that is being run by EYP. The radio station is Passion for the Planet and they will be one of our media partners for our October EYP event, which is focused on environmental issues. We will be fortunate to have Dan Ilett from Greenbang as a moderator for our panel discussion which is shaping up to have some really interesting participants.

I think EYP is starting to mature in terms of some of the events that we are doing. Our next event is at the Kensington Roof Gardens, owned by Sir Richard Branson, and is almost fully subcribed after a few days of bookings being open. Our October event is looking really cool, and in November we are planning to do a massive speed networking in London in partnership with Make Your Mark for Global Enterprise Week. And we have some goodies lined up for next year.

A gluton for punishment, I have set up a more formal business GoLow blog – so now I really can’t be too slack with posting.

And finally, I really liked reading about the recently completed operation in Afghanistan where several thousand soldiers got involved in delivering a turbine to a key power station. Providing basic services to locals in such conditions can be quite a challenge but is so unbelievably valuable.

Social Networks and Corporate Sponsorship

EYP is going through a big growth period at the moment and some of the exciting work is around establishing relationships with corporate sponsors (which was a discussion point in the recent Make Your Mark get together). We are presently finalising deals with two big companies here in London and the experience has taught me some interesting lessons which I thought I might share.

Sponsorship perhaps implies a one-way relationship where the sponsor is providing support one way. EYP has certainly had support like this in the past, but I don’t see that sponsorship is necessarily the right thing anymore. What is important (particularly with all the belt tightening going around) is the establishment of a relationship that provides value for both parties. In both instances, the relationships are not about EYP getting a bunch of money for an evening function, but building up a relationship over time where we support each other. Instead of being corporate sponsors, these two organisations are very much becoming corporate partners. Rather than spending the sponsorship money in one hit, we can provide benefits for our members over a long period of time which gives membership a degree of value, and at the same time, our corporate partners get support from our members (a nice arrangement). Through these relationships and our own networks, there is a great opportunity pipeline for other corporate partnerships to be built, which drives value for our members.

In some respects, this is no different to one of my personal guiding principles in networking, and that a great network is one where you bring value to the members of your network and for that to be reciprocated.

We have a really exciting event coming up in June where we are going to do a workshop with one of our corporate partners. They have some products from Eastern Europe that are new to the UK market; in a fun workshop environment, we will be coming up with some ideas about how best to promote these products in this market. This is a great way to use the diversity of our organisation (in terms of different skills and experiences, and different nationalities) to achieve some tangible business outcomes. When appropriate I will say a bit more about it, but it is really going to be fun :p

My new business

I have been rather slack with posting on my blog; however for the last nine months almost, I have been working on a fantastic new venture in the United Kingdom that addresses some of the environmental problems that exist here in the transport industry while not burdening users with additional costs. We have just finished getting the seed funding sorted out for the business as well as commencing business development work, so it is great to finally be at this stage. Now that I have run a number of ventures, I think I might start posting some things about my experiences and pointers for other entrepreneurs.

The new business is called GoLow and exists to provide an environmentally friendly and economically efficient way to use taxis and other private hire vehicles (limos, mini cabs etc). It is quite amazing how much money is spent on these in the UK; and also very shocking to see how much these vehicles are under-utilised (they are generally empty about 50% of the time), which creates needless pollution and cost for everyone concerned.

It is my first environmentally-related business and it is good to be involved in something positive that seeks to deal with some of the significant challenges that exist. Most importantly for me, it is something that can contribute in a tangible manner, as there is a lot of hot air (no pun intended) with talk that goes around about ways to save the environment.

Anyway, I will post more about this new venture in coming weeks as we move through the next stages of what we are doing!