Prince Andrew visits the office

Yesterday, HRH The Duke of York visited the Accelerator where we are based to find out more about what is happening in the Silicon Roundabout and also what was happening with enterprise opportunities for school and university leavers. It was a tremendous honour for him to come along, particularly after the event last year at Buckingham Palace hosted by Prince Andrew that I attended, and again it is another example of the work that the Royal Family does in encouraging business and enterprise in the United Kingdom. I think he was particularly pleased to see a few army officers involved in the crazy world of start ups!

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.

Technology stuff…

So I am looking at some options for EYPs technolgy platform at the moment as well as some of the social networking tools that are out there. A few of the bits and pieces that we are looking at include Kickapps and Webjam. With a group like EYP, we will always try and use the latest social media tools, including Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter and Viadeo. These are all great, but there are drawbacks – particularly wtih Facebook and LinkedIN… Facebook groups become problematic once you have over 1,200 members as you aren’t allowed to invite all your members to events, LinkedIN groups do not provide massive options for communicating with members (although recently this has improved) and neither is particularly useful in getting a good handle on who your members are – which is incredibly important when chatting with prospective sponsors and the like. We have around 7,000 members already, so we need something that can deal with a reasonable sized audience!

About one year ago or so on Gigaom (I think), there was a fantastic overview of social networking platforms including Kickapps which proved immensely useful for a consulting gig I did – hopefully a new overview of similar quality will come out soon which will make our job easier in finding the right thing to use. There was a great quote from Om Malik in Feb 2007 that said “It is time to start thinking beyond the web-page paradigm, and think of social networking as part of a larger “experience,” one that starts to blend the best of online and offline worlds.” In our case, we are seeking a good online presence to work alongside an already powerful offlne presence to build a really compelling proposition for our members. Of course, it is made more complex by the fact that many people are joined up on multiple social networks. Thus an important aspect of this going forward is to see whether our platform can easily integrate with other tools – I know for example that with KickApps, we can have widgets for WordPress and Twitter.

Am I finally being converted to Mac???

I have finally got to the end of my love affair with Windows Mobile… and particularly difficulties with synchronising to Outlook once you have too many contacts or too much going on. I recently won an iPhone courtesy of Handy Group, a cool mobile payment company, and so am going to finally pick it up this week. It will be interesting to see what it is like to use it (and I expect my dad to make some rude comments about getting a Mac device)…

And here is a happy snap from EYP‘s last event:)

Biofuels are bad, sort of…

I have to run a round table discussion on low carbon transport later today, so I thought I would do a bit of research which I guess is the appropriate thing to do. The notion of fuel and energy usage is of great concern, particularly for those of us who appreciate the completely unsustainable way in which society operates. Sadly this sometimes creating situations where well-meaning ideas are actually quite disastrous. Carbon offsetting looked good, but frankly it is just like misbehaving constantly and thinking that confession will absolve you (it doesn’t work like that with the environment at least).

Of course another one is biofuels and the general desire to have greener emissions from vehicles. There is a very interesting article that appeared in the Guardian on Friday intimating that biofuels are responsible for the world’s fuel crisis which was the finding of a World Bank report. Apparently, as the article states, a UK report will be out shortly saying the same thing. Taking away the emotion out of the issue, perhaps it is worthwhile pointing out that the concern is not with the concept of biofuels (or at least I think that is the case), but rather with the manner in which it is produced. There are other weird and wonderful ways of making biofuels, although some may not yet be ready for commercialisation just yet. Check out this Greenbang article for an example! I would cheekily point out that there are some incredibly efficient diesel engines out there that pretty much beat everything else in exsitence at the moment (including, dare I say, hybrids).

We have some technology!

So we now have our technology platform up for GoLow – there are still bits to do, but I suppose that anyone with a technology related business needs to be ready for changes and amendments. At least it means that we can still do a beta trial very soon. This will hopefully assist in our continuing fund raising efforts which all start ups go through. There was an amusing article this week that I was sent about a “green gold rush”, so it would be nice to see some of the money spoken about to go into a good home. The guys at Greenbang also covered this, although I don’t quite share their concern about Eastenders!

The rising price of oil should also assist – something which I believe is that given that oil prices are going up, transport services must either become more efficient or raise costs. The latter option is particularly difficult given the macro-economic conditions that exist at the moment, so I see a great opportunity as we are positioned to provide an answer that involves improved efficiencies. Part of the proposition is around improving fuel efficiency in vehicles which can provide significant savings and critically be far cheaper than not implementing solutions that generate efficiencies. A good friend has a large fleet of vehicles and in the last twelve months, his weekly fuel cost per vehicle has increased from around £180 per week to over £300 per week. In his case, putting in place a strategy to create efficiencies could provide an overall net saving of £50 per vehicle per week.

In the last few weeks I have started to travel all over the UK far more than previously and one of the interesting things to realise is that the choice of using public transport (particularly trains) can be immensely expensive. It is almost to the point of making car travel more economical and potentially take less time as well. It is a shame that the better environmental option is such a big cost as it doesn’t help in trying to move people into using better forms of transport.

I am involved in a green networking event on Wednesday and am chairing a round table discussion on low carbon transport which should be rather interesting (as long as I do some good preparation for it)! I have set the following topics for discussion – hopefully there might be some interesting points that I can share on here afterwards.

Emerging Trends in Transport Usage
Transport is a significant, and growing, contributor to Greenhouse Gas emissions in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Economic conditions combined with environmental/ sustainability issues and government policy have created a situation where the way in which people use transport will need to shift.
• What are the existing barriers to this occurring and how can they be addressed?
• What easy wins exist within the transport sector?
• Have issues such as the use of bio-fuels and carbon offsetting negatively impacted on sustainability goals? Are there any other potential areas for similar concern?

Reporting
Present corporate accounting standards for transport related emissions do not necessarily reflect actual emissions (particularly in terms of Scope 3 emissions). Is this a fair criticism?
• What should and shouldn’t be reported?
• How granular should reporting be – vehicle emissions, embodied energy etc?

And finally, EYP is gearing up for our next event which will be on the Queen Mary, which is moored alongside at Victoria Embankment which should be lots of fun. If any of you are in London, please feel free to come along (although you should register first)! We have just got on Twitter (and so have I actually), so we are experiencing the twitter phenomenon.