Category: Tech Brains Talk Podcast

How to build an economy of opportunities


Economy of opportunities is all about how can you bring your insights, talents and experience together in order to solve an issue. Whether that be a industry issue, client issue or internal issue.

Flavilla was joined by James Herbert, Founding Partner of The Panoply, to discuss “How to build an economy of opportunities and create your tech ecosystem”.

Briefly, tell us how your journey took where you are right now

My journey started in the same way that many older entrepreneurs start. I’m not even sure that I am that entrepreneurial. I certainly wasn’t selling food in the playground from age 8 like so many entrepreneurs say they did. Working in an industry – Government – whose use of technology, data and suppliers frustrated and saddened me so much, I wanted to do something about it. I believed that I could bring about more change from the outside than as an employee. It was this need to try and fix an important thing rather than some burning desire to create a business or some fancy exit plan that first pushed me into it.

 

What has been your biggest lesson learnt from working at The Panoply?

Having sold the business to a listed PLC, I have been on a huge learning curve about listing and what being a public company really means. It does have some challenges but on balance I think I have learnt about the wisdom of the markets. Often, in the short term, the pressure of the markets can feel a bit short term or too intense. But actually, on reflection it leads to you growing up quickly as a business. It forces you to focus and really think about your decisions and investments. I don’t regret doing it and I suspect I will always be a much stronger business person for the experience. economy of opportunities

 

Tell me about Panoply’s customer acquisition systems? And at which stage of a company’s lifecycle should they approach you?

We support clients in their digital transformation efforts, primarily through building products and services on the cloud and through automation. As a company, we are building up our marketing and content presence. But at this stage, most of our work comes via words of mouth, relationships and government frameworks. Panoply is very good at making sure certain types of organisations always need the thing that we are expert in. Our clients are generally medium to large institutions such as public, private and non profit. They tend to need our help with their digital, technology and data goals.

 

What do you wish more people knew when it comes to creating a tech ecosystem?

I wish people knew more about the detail of creating double sided platforms rather than just the headlines. What it takes to build such platforms. How do you get supply and demand to interact over the platform? Are you capable of owning such a platform? Do you have the right conditions in place to be successful? What talent do you need to maintain the platform and the business model etc. In terms of our business model, in a way, we are an eco system of experts in some aspect of modern technology rather than the tech ecosystem. I’ll let you know more about that in a few years when I know more myself. 🙂

 

Thinking about your legacy, how do you want to be remembered?

As someone who was generous in spirit to the people in my life and who was authentic about what I believe to be important in (business) life. As I mentioned in the interview with Flavilla, I would love to bring my knowledge of Government, tech and data to help in the fight against the hideous problem of Lyme Disease, particularly in children. But that might have to be my longer term project. economy of opportunities

 

About the speaker

Prior to his entrepreneurial career James Herbert was a Civil Servant and Local Government Officer. During that time he co-designed, delivered and led some of the most significant technology and data led transformation programs of the last two decades. 

At the Cabinet Office he worked on the original Government Cloud team as co-author of the G-Cloud Framework and Cloud First Strategy. This work has become the default standard for digital government across the world. In Local Government, as a CIO, he pioneered the adoption of cloud technology, agile methods and open data standards. He was also a member of the team that designed and delivered the world’s first Low Code Council.

Since 2015 James has founded 4 successful technology businesses delivering services across Cloud, software engineering and latterly automation. His current businesses, Not binary and Human+ were acquired by The Panoply Group in 2018 and listed on the London Stock Exchange.

James has personally advised and mentored a variety of organisations on their technology and data strategies including Haymarket Media, Salesforce, CP Plus, Cancer Research UK and Ofcom.

In his spare time, James is responsible for business development and fundraising for Lyme Disease UK.

 

Like this article? Why not read more in our latest magazine issue?

 

How to grow your tech company from zero to 100,000


Are you looking to grow your tech company from zero to 100,000? Well our podcast guest, Ivan Izikowitz, can tell you how to achieve this in just 12 months! 

Listen to his podcast to find out how, and read this article to learn more about his journey.

 

Briefly, tell us how your journey took where you are right now

As a technologist I have always been obsessed by the potential of technology to enhance our lives. Another obsession of mine is the constant drive to create solutions, teams and products. All of which have common attributes in that they require a vision and the ability to solve problems. Building a high-functioning team, for example, is like a dynamic puzzle. The profile of the next person you recruit is refined (and sometimes redefined) by the previous one. It’s a similar situation with solutions. Everything we learn during the creation of a component has the potential to inform what happens next. In summary, my career can probably be categorised as a creative engineer.

 

What was your aha moment which led you to create Double Eye?

I wish I could say that Double Eye was the result of a grand vision but, as with a number of my startups, it was more opportunistic and circumstantial. I had just come to the end of a 6 year stint of creating two start-ups (Virgin Net and Citria). Invigorated and tired and with two young children, I was at a point of re-evaluating my priorities in life. I decided to take some time out and spend time with my children. However, I was receiving calls from VCs to do some venture consulting and due diligence. The genesis of Double Eye was merely my vehicle with which to do consulting.

By the way, the name Double Eye came from Cat, my assistant at Citria, who used to call me that. Before too long I was getting calls to do digital transformation projects. The first being the London Tourist Board re-inventing itself as Visit London. It was then I started to build a team and a real business. Fast forward 15 years and Double Eye has delivered projects for some amazing clients including The O2, RSC and New York City and has a development team in Cape Town. 

 

What has been your biggest lesson learnt from growing Double Eye?

A lesson from earlier in my career than Double Eye – people! Find and work with the best, brightest and people who fit into the team. When you have the level of mutual trust in the team, capable people and everyone pulling together the same direction, you have the constant feeling that anything is possible. 

 

Tell me about your customer acquisition systems?

Not really applicable because Double Eye is B2B. Most of our customer acquisition is word of mouth or referrals. However, in Cape Town we have recently brought in a local media personality who has an amazing local network and will expand our reach. 

 

What do you wish more people knew about growing their tech company?

If you want to grow your tech company from zero to 100,000, you should always focus on the value proposition. If you are delivering genuine value and/or utility to your customers you are already halfway there. Technology is just the tool. Resist the urge to over-engineer, it just has to be good enough!

 

Thinking about your legacy, how do you want to be remembered?

A resilient problem solver who loves working with people more than technology 😉

 

About the speaker

Ivan Izikowitz is the founder of Double Eye. They are a company that develops strategic technology plans to address business challenges and then implements them.

With a degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters in Distributed Computer Control systems, Ivan has had a varied career spanning hardware and software development, telecoms, and has spent the last 25 years working on Internet-based businesses and solutions. 

Ivan’s entrepreneurial adventures started in 1995 with the founding of Virgin Net, the first consumer ISP in the UK and now part of Virgin Media. Since then, as well as creating a number of other companies, he has worked as Business & Technical Leader and Advisor across a range of sectors – from early stage to established businesses

Ivan has also developed a reputation as a “technology firefighter” and is often called upon when technology projects and/or organisations go wrong.

In the last couple of years he has started to focus on investing his energy in the green economy and activities which help tackle the climate crisis.

 

Like this article? Why not read more in our December magazine issue

New Thinker VS Risk Adverse

In our episode with Dr. Robert M. Learneywe discussed New thinker vs risk adverse – How can they work together to develop great technology”. In this article you will find out a little more about Robert and his journey. He will also tell us his biggest lessons learnt and what he wishes more people knew. 

Briefly, tell us how your journey took where you are right now

I began my career in 2003 as a medical doctor working in the NHS. I really enjoyed learning everything at University and thoroughly committed to my first few years. But I soon realised that it wasn’t for me. However, it took me many years to make the decision to leave and forge my own path. I always wanted to ‘invent things’ and make a difference on a larger scale. So in late 2009 I returned to university to study a MSc in Biomedical Engineering. This was followed by some time trying to start my own business, and learning a lot along the way. I was fortunate enough to then win funding from the Dyson Foundation to undertake a PhD. It was during this time that Bitcoin was first emerging onto the world stage.

I started reading about this invention and everything I could learn about it, and the whole field just made complete sense to me. But here I felt I could actually try to make a difference. As a result, I co-founded a research centre at Imperial College with a Professor in Computing and a colleague from the Business school. After a couple of years of monitoring emerging projects in this space, I made the move to Digital Catapult where I could try to have a more widespread impact on the adoption of these technologies in the UK.

Why is your business relevant to the issues within the technologies sector?

Digital Catapult is a truly great place to be working on these types of cutting edge digital technologies. We have the opportunity to neutrally observe and try to gently guide where industry should be heading through deep exploration and experimentation. We currently have a broad range of projects underway in DLT. This ranges from exploring the circular economy, nuclear waste management, airspace routing, to improving the trust in your sandwich. All of these are consortium efforts. They are fundamental for anything involving distributed systems or DLT.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from working at Digital Catapult?

The world needs bridge builders. These are people who can understand the gaps between different specialisms. As well as this, they can bring parties together to build a better shared future. Working at Digital Catapult allows us to connect with academia, traditional industry, exciting and risky start-ups, government and investors. All of these contribute to the success or failure of advanced digital technologies and innovations. Our neutral position allows us to help them discover and work side-by-side.

What do you wish more people knew?

In general, I wish more people knew how money works, and how the economy works. Furthermore, I wish people know how it’s mostly all stuff that humans invented rather than deep unchanging universal truths. We made the rules and we can change them.

Thinking about your legacy, how do you want to be remembered?

As someone who helped out.

About the speaker

Dr. Robert M. Learney is a technology enthusiast and qualified doctor who studied medicine at Oxford University and Imperial College. He later left the NHS to return to research and completed a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College, funded by the James Dyson Fellowship.

In 2014, Robert co-founded the Imperial College Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering, to create a cross-disciplinary academic focal point for blockchain research in London. He has worked in this sector ever since.

As the Lead Technologist in Blockchain & DLT at Digital Catapult, he manages a team engaged in multiple collaborative projects aiming to improve the UK’s economic position through the appropriate use of this technology. These span aerospace, FMCG, food & drink, oil & gas, the nuclear industry, and construction.

 He is also a recognised international speaker on the transformative potential and uptake of blockchain technology.

 

 

Liked this article “New thinker vs Risk Adverse“? Why not read “The scaling power of a Tech Collective”?

The scaling power of entering a Tech Collective


Flavilla spoke to Kate Patton, Entrepreneurial Engagement Manager position at Tech Nation, about the scaling power of entering a Tech Collective. Here is a little bit more about Kate.

 

Briefly, tell us how your journey took where you are right now

My journey to where I am now is not a linear one. I have lived on 3 continents and held a variety of positions. These include marketing, key account management, International Business Development, and Sole trader. However, the one consistency is that all of these interactions included technology. The sectors varied, but what has held the same is the ability to be creative, resilient, and to hold onto the belief that disruptive tech is the way forward for all of us. For us to build a better future.

 

What was your aha moment which led you to create your business?

When I was a business owner, it was because I had the desire to push myself out into unknown territory. I had to learn the hard lessons in success but also in failure. Being an entrepreneur is the quickest way to know your own strength. It also lets you know how to survive despite the lack of a guarantee.

 

What has been your biggest lesson learnt from growing your business?

I always knew that customer service was at the heart of my businesses. But it taught me more than ever before that one of my greatest skills is brokering lasting relationships, listening and not just doing what I thought was best, but more what is best for my customer and myself. Finding that balance was essential.

 

What do you wish more people knew? 

I wish people knew how to say no more in their businesses as part of that listening skill. Because you need to know what isn’t best for yourself, your capacity to deliver. Additionally, that money is not the only end goal.

 

Thinking about your legacy, how do you want to be remembered? 

That I lived a life filled with passion, purpose, and never lost the ability to be kind.

 

About the speaker

Kate is a native Texan who has made the UK her home. She has over a decade of experience in the dynamic Scottish tech scene. Now, she utilises her varied and substantial 20-year experience in her Entrepreneurial Engagement Manager position at Tech Nation. Kate strives to identify tech business founders in Northeast England and to support their ambitious growth plans to rapidly scale their businesses.

 

To listen to the podcast version, Click Here

Like this article? Why not read “How to develop multiple streams of income”

How to develop multiple streams of income


Andy Ayim is the creator of The Angel Investing School, which trains professionals from all backgrounds on how to get started with investing in startups.  In this article, you will find out How to develop multiple streams of income as well as how to build your investment portfolio.

The first cohort was in April 2020 in London, with at least 70% of the cohort from diverse backgrounds. This community serves as part of the first money to support founders when raising their first round of funding.

What decision would have changed his life?

In 2015, Andy was working in San Francisco. He was connecting the VC stock portfolio to clients in Africa and in the UK. Andy had the opportunity to build his life out in San Francisco. However, he decided to sacrifice that opportunity to come back to London and start a family. Safe to say his life would have looked very different if he had stayed!

 

Why did Andy start the angel investing school?

Andy was always fascinated by technology when he was growing up. He grew up in an environment which made him appreciate culture, and think about the intersection of technology and culture. Over the years, he developed great interest in investing across asset classes as well. Andy was always thinking about how he can operate at this intersection between investing in business and our culture.

 

Tell us more about The Angel Investing School.

It was originally designed to democratize access to education so that people can learn how to invest disregarding their background.

There were two big problems.

  1. People didn’t know what angel investing was or how to get started
  2. People are not making educated investment decisions, and therefore they are  taking risks that they don’t understand. So this is why he wanted to create a way to teach people on how to make better investment decisions.

 

What opportunities people are missing out on?

People are confusing the term being rich with the term being wealthy. Being rich is when you earn a good amount of money through a job or something that requires your time. Whereas being wealthy means that you use wealth to create wealth.

For example, imagine you were to create an eBook and sell it for £11.99 online. It may take time to create that eBook originally, but now free promotion and word of mouth is selling itself. You no longer need to exchange time for that value. 

People are missing out on this opportunity. They can invest in education on how to make smart decisions, rather than taking unnecessary risks.

 

Where can someone start?

The first place to start is always around self-awareness, being introspective and learning. A great way to do that is to ask questions to your friends, family, colleagues, and other people you know. This is because once you have that self-awareness, then that gives you an indication of what you should do. Step one is really about self-awareness. Step two is about thinking about long term goals.

 

What British people can learn from American mindsets?

Americans have a philosophy that has been designed around the American dream. The American Dream says that anyone, regardless of their circumstance, can become something. A lot of people genuinely believe that over there. 

For example, Donald Trump has been bankrupt a number of times. However, he was then an entertainer, he had his TV shows, and he became the president of the United States.

When you set a vision down, it’s important for you to:

  1. Firmly believe that you can undoubtedly do it.
  2. Surround yourself that will support you throughout your journey.

 

What are Andy’s different streams of income?

Andy has published eBooks that are free online, but he has also published eBooks that are paid. Another stream of income that he has is that he gets paid to speak at events. Previously, Andy has been paid to blog. He has published over 200 blogs over the last five years. 

Moreover, he has been getting paid ad revenue on YouTube based on subscriber and view count based on the content that he is putting out to the world.

Three days a week, Andy runs his productized consulting service. This is where he goes into large corporations in highly regulated industries, such as FinTech or Life Sciences and healthcare. He then creates manuals on how to do Product Management at work. 

Additionally, he runs The Angel Investing School that charges £495, plus taxes, for up to 30 people. He does a six week pop-up school, which is live online training by experienced angel investors, operators and founders. Currently, he is considering doing in-house training for corporates, as well around angel investing. Moreover, Andy has started getting small payments to collaborate with brands on Instagram.

He has long term value investments such as a few one or two stocks and shares. However he is not a big believer in investing in stocks and shares because of the concentrated risk. But despite this, he also has investments in index trackers, and some investments in mutual funds. 

Finally, actually, Andy has earned equity from working for companies.

 

How has the Angel investing academy impacted it’s students?

The students were asked for the most beneficial thing they got from the course. Their answer was that the academy gave them a window to be part of the financial systems that’s previously been dark for them. The knowledge, as well as the network, is what enables them to have the confidence and the knowledge. This then allows them to know the practical steps to take when getting started with investing. There was one person that actually said that this is “definitely not another online course for investing”. In fact, they weren’t aware they could get this kind of good quality knowledge in such a short timeframe.

 

How to find the right balance between investing in the community and making the right investment.

  1. The first value that Andy shares is that Angel investments should not be the first investment you make. The first investment you make should be in yourself, learning and education
  2. The second value is playing the long game and embracing the downside. You need to set up your mindset for that discipline to play the long game.
  3.  The third is really to take your time, be patient and do your due diligence.
  4. The fourth value is about getting all the information regarding taxes and tax relief. In the UK, you can get something called SDI. These are tax reliefs that give you up to 50%, with 30% back on the investments that you’re making into start-ups.
  5. The fifth thing is that when you invest in a business and are founding a team, you become an extension of their team. So you should nurture a long term relationship.
  6. The last one is really investing in things that you understand. If you don’t understand it, either you learn it or you stay away from it. 

 

Thinking about legacy, how does Andy want to be remembered?

Andy has democratized access to opportunities, networks and capital that exist in this world of tech and tech enabled companies. He wants to be remembered as someone who is passionate about helping people. Especially those who grew up working class like himself, and are really interested in investing in themselves and going on this journey to create prosperity and create wealth. There are a lot of people that can relate to that. So he wants to be a relative motor that people can look up to.

 

About the speaker

Andy Ayim is the creator of The Angel Investing School. They train professionals from all backgrounds on how to get started with investing in startups. He also runs a Productized Consultancy that creates Product Playbooks for large corporations in highly regulated industries.  He enables them to set up new product teams to work with agility, and create products that customers love. 

 

 

Like this article, why not read “How to become a lucky tech millionaire”?

How to not fail your digital product launch

Knowing how to make your app stand out from others, and how to get users addicted to it can be difficult. When launching your digital product, this is what needs to be taken into consideration in order for it to be successful. Flavilla spoke to Kyle Whittington, founder of the design and development agency, Bad Dinosaur. They discussed the points to consider in order to not fail your digital product launch. 

 

Kyle’s Journey

Kyle is a software developer by trade, and it is also what he studied at university. In his younger years, he was always selling something related to tech.  At school he sold CD’s to his classmates because he was one of the only ones who had a CD burner. From here he started to make custom built PC’s, which went on to be his first company.

After he had finished his degree, Kyle was able to get involved with some of the animation studios in South Africa where they were using a technology called ‘render farms’  to do all the 3D animations. He was involved in the set up and maintenance work for these render farm’s, in a handful of studios. This was the basis for his second company called ‘HOWTOfarm’. From here, he went on and got a development job. At this stage he was keen on starting his own company again. 

When visiting Edinburgh on a work Visa, he fell in love with the city. He was only supposed to stay in Edinburgh for a year, however, he is still there today. Whilst located here, he tried to build a company called ‘Tutlings’. This was a product aimed to help students at school find a private tutor. This platform gained good growth and Kyle wanted to work full time on this company. However, there was not enough money coming from it so he decided to start contracting his services, and thus came about Bad Dinosaur.

 

Biggest mistake people make when creating a digital product.

The first thing that everyone seems to do is get ahead of themselves. They are always thinking about what they will do when it reaches a million users, and so on. But at the start of a product’s lifecycle, these are not the questions you should be asking. It is not worth getting caught up in this as it can put a huge strain on the development process. You need to have the basics and foundations first, and then build upon this.

Over complicating the initial version of a product is also a common issue. At Bad Dinosaur, they are all about Minimum viable products. This is the idea of distilling the product down to the core problem that is trying to be solved. When people start adding all the bells and whistles on top of their core product, they spend a lot more. However, they don’t know if these extra bits are needed until they put it into the hands of the users. “What is the problem you are trying to solve?” is the question Bad Dinosaur asks at the start of client meetings. This immediately enables them to lay out the options available in order to solve their problem. This saves them adding lots of unnecessary features and wasting money.

 

What makes a digital product  really addictive?

If you are offering an app that is solving a problem that users really find value in, then those users are more likely to put up with any initial problems within the app. If users really want that app to do something for them, they will put up with it. These users can also give the early feedback in order to find out what changes need to be made.

Brands are always finding ways to make the user open the application after the first use. Whether it is push notifications to communicate with the user, or an assistant at the initial use of the app. But again, it is important not to focus on this at the early stages. Remember, if you are solving a problem, users will come back to it.

 

What else do we need to know in order to not fail a digital product launch?

One big piece of advice to remember is not to feel embarrassed if it does not look perfect. Do not try and follow in the footsteps of the companies that seem to have had the perfect journey. Yes, they have been lucky in terms of achieving this. But companies such as Apple have had plenty of perfectionist leaders in order to do so. However, there have been many thousands of companies that have tried to replicate this and have failed.

Bad Dinosaur really try to get founders to be ok with having something that isn’t perfect in the initial launch. It is a journey. If you try to achieve that perfect app right off the bat, a lot of money will be lost. Many struggle with this idea and worry about users dismissing their product and them losing months worth of work. However, they need to remember that if this app is targeting a problem. It will be used regardless of the minor issues which can be fixed later on. Don’t compare yourself to the big ‘unicorns’.

Some people also get caught up in tech details such as the platform you are building on etc. Again, in the early stage of building your product you do not really have to worry about that. Once you get traction and there is an appetite for what you are creating, you will most likely  have to build several versions anyway.

 

Don’t forget about the importance of marketing

Marketing is also important in terms of not failing a launch. Many people just assume that once it has been released onto the app store then that’s it, it sells itself. But when was the last time you sat and scrolled through your app store looking for something to download? That rarely happens, and so advertising your app within the market is so important in order to gain traction. On the initial version you release, start immediately promoting it.

This leads on to another important point. There isn’t really such a thing as a ‘launch’ date for an app. On day one it is usually quite slow. You may only get a few users that have come through adverts from other apps, or your marketing campaign. Launches realistically happen over a few months or years because of the new versions you are constantly releasing.

 

Some successful businesses built by Kyle and his team

Some of the more recent businesses they have been working with are small-medium enterprises. There have been big changes during the pandemic in terms of purchasing patterns and in the demand from the market.

One of the more recent digital product’s they have been working on launching is around enabling distance purchasing of drinks and food inside bars and restaurants. This has now become a lot more of a requirement due to Covid, rather than just a luxury. This app should get a lot of traction due to this recent need. 

A few years ago, some applications Bad Dinosaur had launched for small businesses completely changed the way those businesses worked. They did so by turning manual processes into fully automated ones. 

 

At which point of your journey should you reach out to Bad Dinosaur?

Even if you already have your digital product, it is not too late to reach out. Kyle and his team help people at all parts of a product’s journey. For entrepreneurs who have just thought of an idea in the shower, as it were, Bad Dinosaur have a link on their website in which you can look for types of funding avenues you can go down. Alternatively, you can call or message them to start a conversation. 

They also have clients who have had an idea formed for around 6 months and have already looked into funding. Some even have an investor who is willing to go in on it with them. The other client they get is founders who have fallen out with developers, or there is something that has not been done right. Kyle and his team look at the existing software and see if there is anything they can build on.

 

What should people know when reaching out to Bad Dinosaur? 

One of the biggest assumptions clients make is that it costs a lot to build initial versions of their products. Maybe around 15 years ago when coding needed to be created from scratch it might have cost more. But nowadays, a lot of existing frameworks are readily available to us. Therefore, many first prototypes can be within the range of a few thousand pounds rather than a few hundred-thousand pounds. 

Some founders will approach Bad Dinosaur asking for development in a certain framework. However, it only really matters what software will get your product out the fastest. Whatever makes it cheaper in terms of skills and releasing onto the market, that is what you should use. This is because you can then change this once it has an audience. 

 

About the speaker

Kyle Whittington is the founder and Managing Director of Bad Dinosaur. Kyle is an expert at understanding how to deliver lean products that can be tested in the market. He has over a decade of experience in starting businesses and building tech products. Kyle has gained knowledge and expertise from over 50 early stage product journeys since he started Bad Dinosaur in 2013.

 

Get in touch via their website or email at hello@baddinosaur.co.uk

 

 

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Reducing financial struggles improves wellbeing

Having to wait for your next payday can have a negative impact on your mental health. Stressing over financial issues like whether you will be able to afford your next weekly shopping is a very common issue. Lee Bowden is the co-Founder and CEO of fastP.A.Y.E. This tool allows employees to access their already earned money. This is their solution to reducing financial struggles improves wellbeing

How Lee’s journey took him to where he is right now

After an early experience in publishing & telecoms, Lee’s first tech business (a mobile marketing/comms platform) was sold to a NASDAQ listed company. It was this that gave him the passion for tech. So Lee, along with a couple of partners, built a WFM/T&A platform. Reason being that there were only big players of ERP systems available, and neither was commercially viable for at least half of the businesses that needed them. That catalyst served him well when they identified serious and damaging challenges for WFM clients across various sectors. This included retaining and motivating staff with unsociable hours or with traditionally high attrition rates, in Retail Hospitality, Leisure, Call Centers etc. 

So Lee’s latest project, fastP.A.Y.E, is about delivering a flexible wage solution for all sectors. It offers organizations a financial wellbeing strategy, as it is closely linked to mental health. It simultaneously helps normal working people avoid the pitfalls of short term expensive credit like PDL’s, overdrafts and credit cards.

What was Lee’s aha moment which led him to create his business?

Lee was cheeky and offered two. We thought we would be kind and grant him this generous offering. 

They built a WFM prototype for a client in a previous business to test. After a couple of months the client says…”my figures are suggesting a 15% reduction in costs”. Lee told him that must be incorrect. So Lee presented the solution to a very well known high street brand. They said, “that’s exactly what we have been looking for”.

The second moment was when they first offered staff a flexible wage offering. They had a huge amount of positive feedback as you would expect from staff that used it for emergencies etc. But employers witnessed a transition between more shifts than staff, to not enough work for the staff.

 

What do they do that matters?

fastP.A.Y.E try to make ordinary people’s lives better with their technology. 

EVERYONE runs out of money. Yet, technically they are waiting for wages that they have already earned. So why are they borrowing or using short term expensive credit? Lee and his team make the process easier for employers to adopt and then deliver multiple benefits for both parties. Reducing financial struggles and improving wellbeing. 

Why is  fastP.A.Y.E relevant to the issues Lee has identified?

Debt levels are running at unprecedented levels for ordinary working-class and professionals. Also in discussions with the prominent homeless & debt charities, they have substantiated that this is partly due to the antiquated lengthy pay cycles that include 4 and 5 weekends between paydays. Everyone can last a couple of days, but not everyone can last a couple of days and a weekend. So they want to deliver a more flexible approach to people receiving their earned wages, without stressing companies or going back to a weekly pay scenario.

fastP.A.Y.E has been designed to be accessible by all. Allowing employers to configure any model they wish, but more importantly, one that doesn’t impact or affect existing processes, or create further work internally. This reduces the financial struggles to improve the well-being of workers.

What has been Lee’s biggest learnings in growing his business

Lee and his team underestimated the educational process required. Even when the offering is so progressive. Especially in an area where there is a high level of resistance to change, and towards looking at new possibilities. They are still learning and dealing with this today.

 

fastP.A.Y.E’s customer acquisition systems

Lee was a big believer in certain trade shows and exhibitions. Unfortunately, they just haven’t managed to deliver that live experience on zoom. 

Lee has a team that works extremely close in Marketing, Product Owner, Biz Dev & Customer Success. They started with and invested a lot of time in HubSpot. They are big advocates of this company as they use a whole range of their digital automation. 

Everyone uses all of the typical campaigns via email, social media, Google and so on. Lee’s company tries to specifically target sectors with relevant topics. They are also big advocates of using video to deliver complex elements in sub 60 seconds. They request the intended recipient just sit back and enjoy!

 

What does Lee wish more people knew?

What a difference a company makes when they make available a few hundred pounds to their staff, irrelevant of what they do, or what they earn before pay day. The difference it makes to their lives is profound. Whether the car is broken, new stuff is needed for school, money for the weekly shopping, or getting to work. You could help them eradicate their debt cycle, or even stop someone from seeking credit. As a result, they can hopefully retain more of their hard-earned wages.

 

Thinking about his legacy, how does Lee want to be remembered?

Great Dad, good friend, generous and not quite as stupid as he looked!

About the speaker

As a founder of WFM business ShopWorks & new flexible wage application fastP.A.Y.E, Lee Bowden was at the centre of winning and developing the commercial partnerships of some of the most well known global brands in Retail, Hospitality & Leisure. His new venture enters a previously un-encountered world of Fintech, where he firmly believes that he can make a significant contribution to reducing the debt and improving the wellbeing of workers.

 

 

Like this article? Why not read about big data?

 

How can 3D support brand experience

3D has been a significant tool in providing brand experience. But did you know it can make even more of an impact on a customers’ buying decision during lockdown? More and more people are choosing to buy things online. This gives companies the chance to stand out over competitors by introducing 3D technology. To explore this subject, Flavilla was joined by Mike Charalambous, the co-founder and CEO of Threedium. They specialise in 3D experiences. In this article, you will discover how 3D can support brand experience online as well as developing a successful funnel. If you want to listen to the podcast, click here

 

Mike’s tech journey

Mike is a passionate entrepreneur with international experience in the launch and development growth of new innovative businesses. His parents influenced his career to become an entrepreneur as they run their own business. Back in 2015 when he worked for Frenzi media, which specialised in Interactive advertising, he came across 3D technology. The company collaborated with a team doing 3D projects for high end brands. This experience thrilled him. Involving other 3D experts, they did some initial 3D advertising for well-known brands such as Starbucks and BMW. The results were insanely good. He realised a potential opportunity in combining 3D display with interactive advertising to get people so excited about the product. 

As he was given advice by investors, Mike tried to form a strategic partnership with Dusan Lode and Xose. They were the initial founding members of Threedium. Both Investors of Frenzi Media and Threedium suggested merging the two companies together. They could foresee huge synergies and a massive growth potential by bringing the two teams together. This was how they formally formed the new Threedium entity, which consisted of five founders including Mike. 

 

The success of Threedium

Threedium is the Shopify for 3D and AR. This was set up to make 3D and AR technologies much less complicated to develop and launch. It allows you to launch them much faster, and  launch them without breaking the bank.

Mike has seen many different brands and agencies across different industries reaching out and using their technology deployed within their online buying strategies. Because the company has made the entire process so simple, streamlined, and automated, their platform gained hundreds of Shopify users in a matter of weeks. On top of that, big brands including Sainsbury’s, BMW, Mercedes, Disney etc. started to use their technology.

Mike told us that the platform is very multipurpose-focused and it’s applicable universally. This is regardless of what kind of budget you have as a company. 3D technology has always been perceived as only accessible to a certain size of businesses. But Threedium has been changing that by enabling anyone to use it, and making it easier for 3D to support brand experience. 

 

Why 3D is important in this pandemic situation

The industry has been seeing drastic changes in consumer behaviour since the pandemic outbreak. People are now more reluctant to walk in high streets and go into shops, instead they tend to favour shopping online. Now what makes 3D and AR a perfect tool for the online shopping experience?

Well, we know that we are not really able to explore a store and see if a sofa matches our space, or if clothes match our body type, for example. Everyone is restricted to only making a purchasing decision online. That’s where visual support from brands comes in. Brands should help customers feel more confident to press the buy button without actually seeing products physically.

3D and AR can give us an almost 100% like to like representation of the product. Threedium don’t just swipe back and forth and see different sets of images, but actually, we see a product physically in front of us using those technologies. We can see the shoes on the feet, or see the T-shirt on the body. We can see a perfect armchair within our living room space or a barbecue grill outside on our balcony. 3D and AR help make this process much more reliable, giving us a boom. 

 

Does 3D impact product returns?

If we can see products more precisely from different angles or try them on virtually, we won’t be disappointed when we see the actual products at home. Does that happen? Although Make said that they can’t promise a massive reduction in product returns, they’ve been seeing an average of 8% drop on their product returns from various case studies of their clients. This shows that 3D has some support on brand experience. So it has positive effects, not only across your cash flow, but also the fact that you don’t need to spend extra on resources to ship them back. 

 

The process of developing a funnel

Like every other company, Theedium also found it quite hard at the beginning to truly nail down their target audience. When they started out, they wanted to sell to everybody as they believed their solution was really good, and they could imagine everybody wanting to use it. The team used to go to different yachts and high end luxury exhibitions. They showcased exhibitors their advanced technology and tried to convince them to invest in it.

However, they realised that they needed to be much more efficient and shorten the sales cycle even more. Then they develop different 3D solutions, knowing that most of them potentially would never be used. However, this gave them a robust profile showcasing different potential examples of how 3D and augmented reality display of products in different industries could be used to bring results. They reached out to different people via Linkedin, at exhibitions of different industries and showed more related examples in each industry. As a result, people could finally relate with the product and how it could be used for their online strategies.

Different industries have different challenges. For example, for some industries 3D and AR make great marketing and sales tools, whereas CPG and FMCG see it as a great tool to enhance their product sampling packaging as well as their quality assurance operations as a back office. Therefore, Mike thought it should not be perceived from one specific angle, but the company should always be more receptive and be able to try and accommodate every challenge so clients will see this feed it into their strategy. So, they refined their marketing sales development strategies and created a media deck.

 

The success of developing a funnel

They gave examples to clients, such as how 3D can be used in 3D banner ads to increase brand awareness, how it can be used in supply chains and how people can scan objects in 3D to see them in the AR environment. The media deck proved to be very powerful and it has helped the company minimise their sales cycle from an average of three months to one month.

Along the way, the team realised that they spent an awful lot of time chasing different clients which included enterprises, but also lower budget types. Then they decided to only reach out digitally to clients who had an average contract value between £1000 – 10,000 per year. For enterprise clients, they kept it a bit more manual. They continued their own personal search, tapping into their own network to reach out to the clients or collaborated with various field agents. They even utilise their network of investors and business angels.

With all this tied together, they’ve successfully brought famous brands on board, as well as receiving requests from basic users who want to launch 3D and AR. Now they are constantly optimising this funnel. Threedium set different objectives around both basic and enterprise clients. Once they meet the objecives, they optimise or revisit the marketing strategy for the clients. It took them two years to shape up this funnel, but Mike sees it now finally working. 

Do you have a product that will be used differently for different types of customers? Do they have a bigger budget or a smaller budget? Identify and categorise into groups and develop strategy around each group. This will help you approach your clients more efficiently and grow your tech business. 

 

The future of Threedium

The company is now trying to scale more aggressively in the market. This will allow them to gain a bigger and faster market share within the industry. In the next five years, they aim to accommodate more than 60,000 different users who use their 3D. Their vision is to be able to fill every single online shop globally with a 3D display of products. 

Let’s see how the world of online shopping looks like with AI technology and 3D to support brand experience. 

 

About the speaker

Mike Charalambous is the Co-Founder of Threedium, a company that bridges the gap between online and in-store experiences by making immersive shopping experience tools. A passionate entrepreneur with international experience in the launch and development growth of new innovative businesses. He has worked with startups and multinational companies globally in sectors ranging from retail, to food & beverage, tourism and telecommunications. Prior to commencing his journey with Threedium, he had two successful exits from his past ventures in entertainment and AdTech.

 

To visit Threedium’s website, Click Here

Building a venture portfolio is essential for survival

Are you looking to boost the success of your company? Who isn’t!

This week, Flavilla spoke to Julian RitterAssociate Partner at Corporate Venture Builder Stryber. They discussed “Why building a venture portfolio is essential for the survival or large companies”

 

Briefly, what aspects should be considered when building a venture portfolio?

For a corporate, the main aspects to consider when building a venture portfolio are the corporate’s strategic and financial goals. A venture portfolio can be a powerful means to establish new business models generating new future revenues as well as a means to fight and win strategic must-win battles. But in order to do so successfully, a corporate has to define those goals in detail and get the necessary buy-in from all key stakeholders first.

Another key aspect to consider are the people involved in the corporate’s venture building efforts. Building high-growth ventures is completely different from managing a large, well-established corporate. So a corporate should not assume it already has the right talent in place to drive such initiatives but look for the right people outside their organization.

 

For companies who want to start building a venture portfolio, how should they go about it?

The first step is to develop an innovation framework. This will underpin the building of venture portfolios as a way to successfully drive corporate innovation. A good innovation framework includes a clear vision of the future, strategic goals, the right selection criteria for what ventures to build, as well as a quantitative analysis of the desired goals, investment levels and innovation strategies. Furthermore, the right corporate governance setup needs to be defined. This is to ensure the innovation unit developing the venture portfolio is managed differently to the core organization. In addition, it should be judged on a different set of KPIs. The reason being that building new ventures is a completely different task from managing a long-established large corporate. When all of this is established, a company can start to put the right people in place to build its first venture. 

 

Julian’s journey to where he is now

Julian started his career at strategy consulting firm Bain & Company in London. While at Bain, he worked across various industries including private equity, financial services and utilities. This was across various geographies including the UK, Germany, the Nordics, Eastern Europe and the United States. 

In 2016 he decided to leave Bain to found his own startup in the sharing economy and vacation rental space. Julian grew his startup to several million euros in revenues and expanded to three countries after raising a few rounds of venture capital. Julian had to sell his business in early 2020 after growth had slowed down in 2019. Great time to take a break and go travelling, right? Well Covid didn’t think so and thus Julian enjoyed a few months of London lockdown instead (and of course became a pro sourdough bread baker). 

In June 2020 he then joined corporate venture builder, Stryber, as an Associate Partner to open up their London office. Stryber builds high-growth ventures (i.e. startups) for and with corporate partners. This helps drive innovation, establish new significant revenue streams and put corporates on the path towards a successful long-term future. 

 

What drew Julian to this field?

In a time of accelerating disruption, Stryber strives to help established organizations overcome the innovator’s dilemma. They do so with the goal of preparing those organizations to face the future and to be successful in the long run. That is an ambition Julian himself is very passionate about. As a corporate venture builder, Stryber combines strategy consulting and venture building expertise. This not only builds ventures together with corporates, but to also put them in the right context. Consequently, it reduces associated risks and increases their long term impact. 

Julian’s professional background in strategy consulting and as a startup founder is therefore well aligned with what Stryber delivers.

 

What have been Julian’s biggest lessons learnt from growing his business?

From Julian’s experience in building up his own startup, the first piece of advice he gives to new founders is to aim big. Secondly, find the right balance between stubbornness and understanding when you need to change course. Finally, assemble a team of people who are willing to work hard and who complement your skills well.

 

Thinking about your legacy, how do you want to be remembered?

“I will be happy as long as my family and friends remember me as a loving and interesting person, who brought joy to their lives”.

 

About Julian

Julian is an Associate Partner at Corporate Venture Builder Stryber. He is an entrepreneur and former strategy consultant. After several years at consulting firm Bain & Company, he founded a hospitality tech startup in 2016. He grew this company to over 100 employees across 3 countries. After selling the business, he moved to Stryber where he helps established organisations innovate successfully by building a strategically relevant startup.

 

Stryber website, click here

Stryber LinkedIn, click here

Julian’s LinkedIn, click here

To listen to the podcast version, click here

Infrastructure 101: behind the success of the largest tech companies

Do you think your company has an efficient infrastructure? Do you believe there are ways in which your company’s infrastructure can be improved? In a recent interview, Flavilla spoke to Matt, the Co-Founder and CEO of Jetstack, about the importance of establishing and maintaining an effective infrastructure within your company, and how it can enable your company to scale up and stand out within a competitive market.

Matt’s tech journey

Matt Barker is the Co-Founder and CEO of Jetstack. Matt’s dream has always been to start up his own business. He wanted to do so without taking any funding so that he is able to experience what making real profit feels like. Having no money from the get-go meant that Matt and his business partner had to come up with a way of generating some to kick start their company. They decided the best way to do so would be through education. They built a couple of training courses, and Matt spent all day everyday convincing people to join them. 

The biggest mistake people are making

When it comes to infrastructure, companies are not thinking about the future problems they may face when creating it. Think of it like building a house, you start with the foundations and work your way up. A lot of businesses make the mistake of not getting the infrastructure of their tech company right in order to optimise their brand. There seems to be a lack of awareness on the subject. They need to be asking themselves questions such as; “Will it scale properly?”, “Is it going to be secure?”, “Are we going to need to migrate data from one environment to another?”, and so on. There are plenty of companies out there that are struggling with their infrastructure. However, with a new ecosystem that is built on Kubernetes and containers, comes new opportunities to refresh the difficult infrastructure they might be looking to overcome.

All about Jetstack 

Jetstack have taken the cloud infrastructure world by storm. Their project cert-manager became one of the biggest successes in the cloud native ecosystem. Jetstack was created to help companies gain value for the cluster manager communities. 

During the 90’s, building infrastructure for your company was a difficult task due to having to invest your time and money into doing the process yourself. Whereas nowadays, it is much simpler and faster to build a business as you can do so via the public cloud such as website builders. The problem usually comes when your business begins to scale and is becoming more successful. The question about how to manage and make your developers productive when you are running at such a large scale arises. Well, Google found a way to solve this and built an internal platform called ‘Borg’. In 2014, Google open sourced a version of this platform, enabling the creation of Jetstack.

Why is it important as a tech company to work with them?

Businesses that benefit most from using companies like Jetstack are tech focused companies and online businesses with very strong engineers. At least, these were the companies most interested in Jetstack when they first started their company. Earlier clients include Monzo bank, Compare the Market and Babylon Health. Jetstack are now finding that larger enterprises are coming to them for help. They started to realise that if they don’t, they will become outrun by their faster moving competition. 

Those large companies were heavily invested in looking to make changes to their infrastructure and development practices in order to create more effective ways of bringing their products and services to the market. By doing so, you could get your offerings out into the market quicker and potentially beat your competitors. If you could scale quicker, you could make more money quicker

On the other hand, there are times when the infrastructure may be too complicated for smaller businesses. This may just create more work and difficulties for them. However, many of the cloud vendors, such as Amazon and Google, made it easier to implement the software by running Kubernetes as a service. The goal is to reach a point where the infrastructure is almost invisible and therefore the company can focus on creating the product itself.

What we can learn from companies who have successfully implemented an effective infrastructure?

A lot of these companies have come to a realisation. In order to remain competitive within the market, they had to have the best engineers that are working as productively as possible. Previously, IT was almost seen as a financial function and not too much thought was given to it. However, nowadays a large proportion of businesses are online and put technology first. The most successful businesses are making their developers more productive so that they can work quicker. As a result, this enables them to scale up faster, and beat their rivals. The top companies are going that extra mile and are looking to do this in a safe and secure way. They are able to do so by using the software that Jetstack is helping them implement. 

 

How to see if your company would benefit from implementing this infrastructure

The most common time in a company’s lifecycle in which Jetstack is reached out to by companies in need is at their breaking point. These breaking points range from websites going down resulting in a loss of income for a certain period of time, to major losses of data. This indicates how important getting your infrastructure right really is.

To see if your company could do with an infrastructure refresh, look for a consultant (or someone who knows the field well), or CNCF partners such as Kubernetes companies, to carry out a review of your company infrastructure and provide a third party perspective. If your company does not use Kubernetes, then you could contact Matt himself!

In order to maintain a good infrastructure within your company, Matt recommends ideally including it within your day to day practices. Chaos testing is a practice being used which involves switching infrastructure and turning it back on again. This tests to see if anything would go wrong and to highlight any potential issues. Jetstack has come up with testing scenarios. They take a company’s infrastructure and break it in certain ways in order to train the engineers how to respond to those issues.

 

Advice from Matt

Putting your head down and working hard on the customer can help you grow, but in this day and age, it will only get you so far. Taking advantage of your voice and excelling at marketing gives you the tools you need to go even further with ease.  This is because you become a lot more visible and it gets everyone talking about you. 

 

About the speaker

Matt Barker is co-founder and President of Jetstack. It was founded to help companies gain value from the cluster manager Kubernetes. Open sourced by Google in 2014, Kubernetes has taken the cloud infrastructure world by storm, quickly becoming ‘one of the biggest success stories in open source history’ (opensource.com).

Recently acquired by Venafi, Jetstack are the creators and maintainers of cert-manager. It has grown to become the standard way to secure machine identities in Kubernetes. It is downloaded more than a million times a day.

Prior to Jetstack, Matt was an early employee of Canonical, the company behind the world’s most popular cloud linux distro Ubuntu. He was also an early employee of MongoDB, the Nasdaq-listed open source NoSQL database which went public in 2017.

 

Contact Matt via email: hello@jetstack.io or LinkedIn

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