Monday, 18 February 2013

The broom cupboard entrepreneurs

Here is a article from the Insider, on Entrepreneurship in the South West.
Across the South West, bright young things, and some not so young but still bright, are beavering away on the idea that could make them rich. So is the next James Dyson out there?
entrepreneurs.jpg"British ingenuity is one of our most exportable assets and something investors, the government, banks and professional services providers should all be backing to get the economy growing,” says PeterWoodall, director in the entrepreneurial business team at Deloitte in Bristol. “With the likes of James Dyson on their doorstep, and most likely also in the broom cupboard, young entrepreneurs in the South West don’t have to look far for inspiration.” Dyson, famed inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner, and now said to have a net worth of £1.45bn, may be one of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs to date, but there are many hot on his heels.
Maybe the UK has been playing catchup, but there has been a spate of innovation centres aligned to academic institutions springing up in the region in the past few years, in recognition of the wealth of academic talent and knowledge waiting to be tapped by the commercial sector.
In 2008 Exeter University opened its £10m Innovation Centre, providing start-ups with mentoring, training and access to university resources. Cornwall saw the opening of the first of three centres (managed by the University of Plymouth) at Pool in 2010, followed by one at Tremough Campus, part of University College Falmouth, this year.
2011 also saw the opening of the Bristol and Bath Science Park, described as a “powerhouse for research and development”, including an Innovation Centre designed to help early-stage businesses and encourage collaborations between industry and academia. The Universities of Bristol, Bath and Exeter have a partnership called SETsquared, which supports new business opportunities through spin-outs, licensing and incubation.
Nick Sturge, centre director of the Bristol part of the operation, confirms that SETsquared is as busy as ever, with a range of companies he predicts big things for. One of its success stories is video indexing company iVIDiQ, whose director Stephen Clee was among the award winners at Insider’s 42 under 42 dinner this year.
One benefactor of such collaboration is Chris Book, who grew up in Bath and has since returned to the city. His audiobook company, Bardowl, recently won the CEO Summit Award for Innovation at the global Meffys Awards for mobile content and commerce. After leaving mobile communications giant Orange in 2005, Book identified the University of Bath’s Innovation Centre as an ideal place to start his business, which gives consumers unlimited access to a range of audiobooks for a fixed monthly fee.
“The Innovation Centre has been instrumental in our success,” says Book. “Of the seven shareholders in Bardowl today, six came through introductions made at the Innovation Centre, including our angel investor. Having a place to work where other businesses are going through the same process is vital. Being in the Innovation Centre forces you to interact with other early stage businesses and it’s incredibly useful.”
Sean Nuzum, who grew up in Cornwall, has also returned to his home county to set up a business after graduating from Southampton University. He is based at the Tremough Innovation Centre from where he runs Velotec, a technology innovation business. One of the trading names owned by Velotec is AppFuture, a mobile app development company. It recently launched the Wreckfinder app, which uses GPS technology to help anglers locate shipwrecks – where fish are often found – along the British coastline.
“Tremough has been a superb base for an innovation company, especially with the networking opportunities with established and start-up companies based at the centre,” says Nuzum. Velotec largely works with a network of freelance consultants but is in the process of tapping into University College Falmouth’s resources to recruit graduates to help grow the business.
It also collaborates with the university in other ways: “We offer graduates the chance to bring their ideas to us and then jointly work on developing them into products,” says Nuzum.
Other innovators have tapped into the South West vibe on a more informal basis. Tom Wood is co-founder of Kudan, an agency which helps creative and marketing professionals to leverage business value from Augmented Reality (AR) technology. He describes Bristol as an “exciting creative hub”. A graduate of the University of Bristol, Wood worked for pharmaceutical companies before founding the company in 2010.
He says: “AR is the combination of advanced computer vision techniques, and a very high production standard of 3D and graphic assets. Bristol has a thriving set of skills in these areas – the Kudan team has come from marketing agency, app development and 3D vision companies based in the South West.” Their customer base is largely in London, North America and Japan, butWood believes it is important to work with local businesses too. “We recently completed projects for Dyson, Pieminster and the University of Bristol.”
Three other former University of Bristol graduates are also seeing success with their company, Market Dojo – a private online marketplace for businesses and suppliers to negotiate – which was launched in late 2010. Last year it registered a tenfold increase on the previous year’s turnover, allowing all three co-founders to be supported by the business – no mean feat in the early days of a start-up. The company has collaborated with academics in the region, and Alun Rafique, one of the founders, says if he and his colleagues were to start up again they would directly partner with academic institutions, with whom they now have “strong connections.”
One need only tune into the news, or check out the stream of initiatives from the Technology Strategy Board – the innovation arm of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – to see there is a clear appetite for innovation as the UK government looks to rebalance the economy and give a fighting chance to those who can design and build new products with a muchcherished Made in Britain badge.
The success of existing hubs, which unite innovators and encourage collaboration, is breeding further investment. The third Cornish Innovation Centre opens at Treliske Hospital in Truro, in 2013, sector, while in January a new business development centre called The Hive will open in Weston Park, North Somerset, aimed at helping more businesses to start up and grow by providing flexible office space as well as advice, training and networking.
The building will house around 40-60 different tenants on a short-term basis. Angela Hicks, chief executive of North Somerset Enterprise Agency, says there is clear demand for such a facility, which will also facilitate NSEA’s work. “Ambitious businesses are usually led by dynamic individuals who want to get on with growing their enterprises rather than having to spend lots of time working out how to do so. Our role is to share our expertise and help direct them through their growth challenges – which might include, for example, product development, funding, intellectual property rights or patents, leadership skills, import and export or any of a wealth of other subjects.”
One company that benefited early on from NSEA’s advice is Weston-super-Mare-based Thirst Solution, which produces mobile food and drink vending equipment such as drinks backpacks to dispense cans or bottles.
Founded by Joseph Burke in 2006, the company now has a turnover of £750,000 with customers including the 02 Arena and Wembley. It also supplied its products at the 2012 Olympics. Burke reckons he can leverage the feelgood factor surrounding the Games into something long-term.
“The kudos and credibility it brings will enable us to grow quicker,” says Burke. “We are working on several projects and sourcing for big blue-chip clients. We already have two exciting projects in the very early stages. This is the next chapter. I forecast our company to double in size in the next 24 months.”
Burke is not alone. Market Dojo will be pursuing its “robust” growth plan over the next two years. AppFuture is launching a US version ofWreckfinder in November 2012, followed by Wreckfinder Australia in February 2013, as well as working with third parties, such as the University of Exeter, to develop further apps. Audiobook entrepreneur Chris Book also has transatlantic plans, with the launch of Bardowl in North America next year.
Woodall says: “The South West is in a prime position to capitalise on the groundswell of support for entrepreneurs with bright ideas, ambition and growth potential.”

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Two French students came to Bristol…

Here is an article written by our second intern, Antoine Boton, from École Atlantique de Commerce in Nantes.  Here he empathises with how British people may view their arrival.   Please note that all views of expressed within belong to Antoine and are definitely not those of Market Dojo!

It’s a usual British Friday night; two young people disembark the Paris to Bristol plane under a torrential rain. You can’t really tell that they are French because they don’t wear a béret nor a striped sailor shirt, which is odd. You only can tell when they begin to speak with a horrible accent and complain about the bad weather.  Surprisingly, they looked almost clean, which is  rare for French students!

After a brief tour of the city, they were shocked, of course, by the left-hand traffic (which is the better way to drive), and by the lack of space in the street because of the parked cars. We don’t need garages, that’s a French word!

First Saturday night in England, aside  from the fact that they can’t figure out what each coin is worth (easy, the biggest coins are worth the least, duh!), they also have troubles to understand our (magnificent) British accent. Of course we help them progress by speaking as quickly as possible.

Another weird thing, they weren’t eating junk food at 3am in the street like everyone else.  Also, they looked very silly with their warm clothes and their hood on despite the pretty good weather (see picture).  Oh, and we successfully trapped them in our galleries by locking them in at 6:15pm, classic!  They seemed to not know that we close our stores early in order to eat early which means drink early!  And when it’s time to drink (7pm to 7am), we do it with heart and soul so that we sometimes sleep in our neighbour’s house by mistake because of the likeness of our houses. 

Aside from all of that, we try to make them feel welcome by using all of our French vocabulary: “bonjour”, “Paris” and “crème fraîche”.

Anyway, we hope that they will enjoy their stay in England and have fond memories of our beautiful land. 

Market Dojo - eSourcing made simple

Monday, 11 February 2013

Our first upgrade of 2013, with so much more to come!

Over the weekend we completed our first 2013 upgrade, following on from the second upgrade to Samurai back in December of last year.  Such is the elegance of the Software as-a-Service model, each and every one of you can benefit from the upgrade when you next log in.

Quite simply, there are too many improvements to list (70 to be precise), so here are some of the important highlights:
  • The ability to drag and drop questions, sections and even entire questionnaires so you can re-order with consummate ease.
  • Improved logic for weighted RFQs and Auctions when questionnaires have not been submitted, have not been scored or are awaiting resubmission.
  • Ability to manually re-send event invitations quickly to all who have not responded.
  • Enhanced document management functionality depending on which stage of the event you are in.
  • A new questionnaire question type for requesting a document to be uploaded, which can then be scored.
  • Full integration between our CRM and Market Dojo and so when you next call up, we’ll know who you are!
  • And most importantly, updating our copyright text at the bottom of the site to read 2013 instead of 2012!
On top of this, we have made a number of upgrades to our infrastructure to keep ahead of the increasing demands of our customers.   We are now sending several thousand e-mails a day, practically becoming a MailChimp in our own right, and so we have upgraded our e-mail account to ensure uninterrupted communications between our Hosts and their respective participants. 

We have also upgraded our servers (again) to ensure we maintain our 99.9% uptime record.  Some events have even had over 500 participants involved, and so we’ve learned a great deal about where potential bottlenecks may lie and catered for them accordingly.

What’s next?

We have a number of exciting new features we are working on that will be released imminently.  For example, in collaboration with our customer Arqiva, we are in the final steps of testing and improving our User Hierarchy feature.  This will allow our users to invite friends, colleagues and countrymen to view their sourcing activities, or even to have edit rights should they have a licence.  You can manage all your internal users from a central place, see all the events across your organisation from your own Dashboard, and even invite external users such as consultants to have their input on your activities.

We are also nearing completing of an enhanced white labelling feature with another collaborative partner in the US as we help them with an exciting new venture.  Our users will be able to define their own URL for the sourcing events, such as www.esourcing.marketdojo.com, which will have your logo and menu colours with your own log in, sign up and password reset facilities.  In short, it will be your own portal: even the e-mails will come from you.

Here’s to a fantastic February ahead!

PS:  If there is anything you’d like us to work on, get in touch and we’d be happy to talk.

Market Dojo - e-sourcing made simple

Friday, 8 February 2013

First impressions of the UK - by our intern Camélia Chiguer!

For the next few weeks, we are lucky enough be working with two interns from France, Camélia Chiguer and Antoine Boton.  Here are the observations about the cultural differences they have encountered, through the eyes of Camélia:

Ever since I’ve arrived in the magnificent mother country of Hugh Grant and Coldplay (big fan here), I’ve had lots of opportunities to notice random details that are slightly – or sometimes considerably – different from France to England.

Above all, I can say that everyone here loves Frenchies – everyone that I’ve met so far anyway. Not to mention this (awesome) obsession about what we sound like when we talk: when I try and make an effort to speak proper English, some people even ask for my “real accent”!

In fact, the main difference between us is how friendly and welcoming English people are. It is a huge change compared to France, which is full of people doing nothing but being grumpy and looking unhappy all day. People here are polite and a stranger will always answer with a smile when you ask for your direction in the street. I am not used to it. A stranger smiling at you is something you should almost be afraid of in France, it definitely hides something.

Another area where England is way ahead of France is music. Lennon once said “French rock tastes like English wine“. Need I say more?

Well, enough with putting our English fellows on a pedestal. There are some daily things that got me really confused ever since I’ve been in this country. 

First of all, what’s up with the taps here? There are no signs of any mixing valve. The water is either ice frozen or boiling hot, never in the middle. How practical.

I’ve also had the chance to experience the “typical English weather”: I saw some snow when I came out of the plane, then a lot of rain on my way from the airport, quite good weather the next day but then 5 min later a storm, lightning and even hail stones; and all of this happened in less than two days. I can say that at that point I was really missing France.

I’ve also noticed to my great surprise that English people and especially young ones aren’t actually sensitive to this lovely weather, and they don’t seem to like wearing clothes that much: even whilst out at night I could see people wearing nothing but a simple t-shirt, when I, on the other hand, was struggling with keeping my fingers attached to my body, wearing several layers of clothing, a scarf and everything.

Furthermore, I have also been disconcerted by how everything closes at 6pm, if not 4:30pm. I found myself locked in some mall at 6:15pm after having dinner really early (trying to get used to the British way of life, ya know). Similarly, most of pubs close down at 1am on the weekends (whereas in France it wouldn't be before dawn). On the contrary, nobody's surprised to find dozens of restaurant open at 3am… no offence guys, but you have got a quite nonexistent sense of time management.

Anyway, back in France, as you can imagine, we have a few preconceived ideas about English people. We always imagine you really blonde and really pale (not true (well, not always)). You’re famous for your food across the Channel – not in a good way though – and we have this idea of you eating all the time what we just call “pudding”, which is this jelly-ish Christmas pudding of yours (not quite true again). However, you do drink tons of tea. And you cherish your favorite sport teams in a way I can’t describe. I mean, I’m not sure that entirely disguising yourself is required when supporting your team at the local pub, but then again it’s only my opinion.
 
Conversely, you have a stereotyped representation of us as well. So sorry to break it to you, but we do not hang around carrying a baguette and wearing a beret. If the cliché of us eating lots of bread isn’t that incorrect, the only time I actually saw someone wearing a beret was here in Bristol on my first night out.

PS: I have learned about you calling us “frogs”. Well, back in France, your nickname is “rosbeefs” so that’s one all I guess.

PS 2: we are so going to beat you up at the VI nation game France vs England! (But then again, I don’t really care if we don’t. I’m just saying this because I’m trying to fit in the British spirit, remember?)