Well it’s been quiet externally for jbsh the last couple of months but there’s been plenty going on. This post is a cross-post from Open Coffee Bristol where we welcomed in the New Year this morning.
Well 2010 kicked off in the UK with snow, ice, sub-zero temperatures and general chaos as public services ground to a halt.
But not Open Coffee and the entrepreneurs of Bristol.
Fortified by the best coffee that the Boston Tea Party on Park Street has to offer we gathered on their first floor to catch up after the break and discuss the future. By the end Steve Cayzer (HP Labs, LinkedIn), Rupert Russell (Carmen Data, LinkedIn), Helen Davies (For Effect, website), Sam Machin (Orange, personal website), Nigel Legg (Katugas Social Media, website) and Andy (who surname I’ve unforgivable forgotten, sorry).
Conversation covered the various tax implications of company car ownership, developing new brand images for the new year (and the difficulty finding a good printers these days), online marketing for small tourism companies and the challenge of getting good geo-location data, and that was just at my end of the tables!
The general opinion was that while the weather and economic climate might be a bit inclement (or just down right awful) there was business to be done and opportunities to be exploited. Business cards were swapped and a couple of new collaborations initiated.
So the New Year is off to a great start and looks to get better.
Look forward to seeing you at the next Open Coffee Bristol on Tues, 26 Jan from 8.30am in The Boston Teaparty on Park St.
This is a re-post from the Open Coffee Bristol blog.
This morning’s Open Coffee Club meeting took place in the very pleasant surroundings of The Boston Tea Party‘s garden. A lovely summer’s morning complemented the positive ideas being discussed in the light of HP Lab’s partial pull out of their Bristol facility.
Stephen Maudsley was first after me but headed up to the first floor before I could catch him, meanwhile Dave Simpson from Engine House Solutions (holding site) arrived and we began chatting while Stephen explored the upper reaches of TBTP. I first met Dave at the Bristol leg of the FOWA tour, where he was launching his web development and software company.
StephenM soon found us and we began talking about the start-up scene and different requirements of growing companies for executive support as well as cash. Around then Steve Cayzer arrived and we began to discuss his ideas for launching a new venture based on some of his research into environmental computing and ways to underpin the low carbon economy.
A quick flurry introduced Brian Dorricott with his newly launched Meteorical, Andrew Wray from Bristol University’s enterprise support team, Andy Seaborne (also thinking about launching an enterprise semantic knowledge application) and Nadya Anscombe (freelance science & technology journalist). Introductions, connections, business opportunities and much coffee ensued.
Thanks to all for a great morning of stimulating discussions and opportunities to be explored.
If you have a company / product / service that you’ve developed (or are thinking about) and would like constructive comments & ideas, please sign up as a presenter and we’d love to help contribute to your success.
In my earlier post, I revealed some analysis that I’d asked Nigel to undertake and my interpretation of that analysis. Here I offer some thoughts on what actions businesses might take away from this.
The first thing to note is that unless you’re a Bank or car company, Government support for you probably won’t change that dramatically.
For the genuine start up, life is still going to be pretty tough until you can show some revenue. The good news is that there is lots you can do yourself that doesn’t involve lots of cost. Start blogging about your service/industry, join the Twitter conversation, keep an eye on the enterprise networks around you, get out there and meet people. The tools to support good old fashioned networking and business development have never been better or cheaper (and you can’t get cheaper than free).
If there isn’t a suitable enterprise network around you, start one. BEN is a great network around Bristol but tends towards established companies, so I set up an OpenCoffee Club, OpenCoffee is a ready made template that’s free and globally recognised. So long as you’re building an entrepreneur support & growth network and not just pimping your product/service you’ll find folks are generally happy to support you.
For the company that has some revenue, or the promise of imminent revenue there are a couple of interesting options.
The first is the range of grants available for R&D from SWRDA (South West Regional Development Agency). These are to part-fund small and close to market R&D (typically £5k to £50k) with a specific focus on small companies. You identify a project value and SWRDA provides a portion of that, usually between 40% and 60%.
Proof of Market Projects test the commercial potential of an innovative idea for a new technology, lasting no more than 9 months. The output should be a thorough and professional analysis of the scale of the market opportunity. Grants of £5,000 – £20,000 are available to small and medium sized businesses.
Micro Projects are small scale development projects lasting no longer than 12 months. The output should be a simple prototype of a novel or innovative product or process. Aid of £5,000 – £20,000 for all micro businesses covering 45% of eligible costs is available.
Research Projects involve planned research or critical investigation into the feasibility of new products or processes, lasting between 6 and 18 months. The result of the project could be new scientific or technical knowledge that may be commercially exploited. Grants of £20,000 – £100,000 for micro and small businesses covering 60% of eligible costs are available.
There are also Development grants and two Exceptional grant levels >£100k. The development grants are only 35% and the exceptional grants aren’t really aimed at the small business or start-up entrepreneur.
Next up are more general business expansion funding. A couple of days ago SWRDA announced their South West Loans Fund. This is £10m of funding for small businesses that have been refused credit elsewhere. A good slug of that cash comes from Europe (£6.25m) so the focus is on the more deprived parts of the South West (Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly get £5m), but businesses from across the South West are eligible.
All grant applications have to address two very different needs. Yours and the funders. Having written plenty of successful business grants for funding, research or collaboration myself, knowing how to frame your business innovation so that it appeals to public sector funding is more art than science.
Although most of the cash is coming from SWRDA, BSSP means you access it through Business Link who will provide you with Information, Diagnose your needs, and Broker connections to the right bits of SWRDA’s Innovation team.
As I’ve said elsewhere, there is evidence that banks are beginning to open up to good companies under the Enterprise Finance Guarantee. For business growth finance this is probably your best bet, and you’ll have to have tried (and failed) here before you approach SWRDA for a South West Loans Fund application.
Then there are the equity funding options from SWAIN, Catalyst Venture Partners, Eden Ventures, and those are just the main ones in the South West. There are other independent Angel investors and networks in London that are investing.
So as ever, there are quite a few options. I’ve only cover some here, those I feel are most relevant to the small business or start up entrepreneur. The full list of support products is available in a pdf from SWRDA.
That was the experience reported from this morning’s OpenCoffee and another reported positive feedback that more would follow. Of course this is bank lending so low risk, but at least it is funding to underwrite growth and expansion needs. Both reports were of the positive impact that the Enterprise Finance Guarantee is finally having for smaller businesses.
Elsewhere we had a couple of new faces with Brian Dorricott (ByNetWorks) and Ian Grimley (Roxburgh Milkins), well new to me, they came to the last OpenCoffee but I was in Plymouth that week. Along with the regulars we did a pretty good job of taking over the upper section of Starbucks.
Peter mentioned one of his clients was having some challenges with an old website that they’d had a “mate” set up and had since had a falling out. Within minutes Sam had his Macbook out and was sorting through how to change the Nominet & hosting set-up, Ian was providing legal commentary and everyone else was chipping in with business / technical thoughts. I think Peter just about kept up taking notes! 🙂
Nigel and I had a couple of good discussions about business developments and various grant awards that are available.
It was great to catch up with Brian again. After a successful entrepreneurial career of his own, he joined SWAIN for a spell before leaving to return to angel investing in his own right. Ever the entrepreneur we had a good discussion about his venturing experiences and a development idea he’s working on, and a business development / funding project I’m working on.
A great start to the day and lots of buzz around the tables.
The next OpenCoffee Bristol is a company demo session at SETsquared, courtesy of Nick Sturge on Tuesday, 21 April from 8.30am.
Please do book so we have some idea of numbers, and especially if you want to present your business / innovation, what you’re up to & what support / ideas you’re looking for.
Change of venue and format brought out the regulars and new faces for this morning’s OpenCoffee Club meeting. Mariama Njie welcomed us all with fresh coffee, tea and chocolate cookies to UWE Ventures’ new business incubation space in Bush House right on the harbourside in Bristol. There was plenty of time for folk to have a good look around and catch up with each other before squeezing into the main Board Room for the company demo’s.
First up was Michael Bartley from Test & Verification Solutions. Michael introduced us to software testing and code validation. His expertise was in providing clients with access to reduced cost and flexible resources at this specific point in their software development cycle. Michael works closely between clients and partners (mainly in India) to build find the right out source partner (rather than a body-shop as Sam Machin described it). The right partner was one that understood the application domain as well as the technology and could provide a high quality of service with good knowledge management.
After software testing, Ed Ross introduced his solution to oversized email attachments and overwhelming spam. Tonsho provides both services in a single subscription. Attachments of up to 100MB are handled through normal SMTP from your email to the Tonsho servers, the recipient receives a friendly email with a link to the file that they download (again through SMTP). Whilst all this is going on, Tonsho also offers a “challenge – response” solution to spam. Email that fails a spam filter triggers a challenge to solve a capatcha, if successful the email is automatically moved to the inbox and the sender added to the users white list. Ed was using Adsense and limited additional marketing, some good write-ups on About.com and word of mouth from existing users to grow the service. Basic accounts are free, added storage and features are available from Pro, and Enterprise accounts. Ed also offers a “Photographers” version that includes a photo gallery with watermarking.
Last up, but certainly not least, was Nigel Legg with a live demo of his latest enterprise Katugas Social Media Monitoring. Building on his experience coding and analysing free text responses on market surveys, Nigel is now delivering detailed analysis of a companies social media profile. Using software from Radian6 in Canada, Nigel pulled up a series of queries for Open Coffee and topics that might be talked about. Turns out the iPhone is very popular with nearly 500k mentions in the last 30 days. The interesting part was when Nigel pulled up individual mentions, and began grading them for sentiment (positive to negative on 5 point scale). He then pulled up the key influencers based on number of articles, comments, links, etc. A really powerful analysis of a business’s online presence and valuable tool for monitoring brand perception. With the ability to report daily, weekly and monthly this is a fantastic addition to Bristol’s business environment.
After the semi-formal presentations folks carried on discussions until gone 10am. Mariama did an excellent job supplying coffee throughout and lots of new connections were started.
Thanks again to the presenters, attendees and UWE Ventures.
The next OpenCoffee Bristol will be on 10 March at Starbucks on Park St. The next demo session will be in a month or two (drop me an email or comment if you’d like to present).