Digital

10 things crowdfunding investors want most from digital media investments

Tim Brundle presenting at Culturetech

There was a lot to like about last week’s CultureTECH festival held in Learning Pool’s hometown of Derry.  So typical of Derry that our city’s event managed to combine both culture + technology.  Many attendees agreed it was the culture element that elevated the festival way above the millions of other web summits that every man, woman & dog hosts.  A lovely taster of some of the magic we expect to see for 12 months during 2013 when Derry becomes the first ever UK City of Culture.

I enjoyed listening to many of the speakers on Friday (especially Andrew Dubber (who advised us to invent the future rather than trying to predict it), Fiona McAnena, Sir Nicholas Kenyon and of course lovely Ben Hammersley) but the speaker who gave me the most insight into one of the topics I’m most interested in was Tim Brundle.  Tim is Director of Innovation at the University of Ulster where over the past few years he’s made investments of between £5k & £328m in over 60 tech companies & seen returns on investment of 0.8x to 42x.  I suppose what I’m trying to say is that he knows what he’s talking about.

It’s a well known fact that everyone suddenly wants to be in digital.  According to this presentation, by the end of 2011 87% of the top 100 VC firms had digital media funds or portfolio investments.

For the purpose of this blog I’m going to share with you the 10 things Tim believes people investing through crowdfunding schemes are looking for in digital media investments.  While Tim was talking I thought about our own company and how attractive we would have been starting out if we’d been scored against these criteria.

  1. Business Model is first up and most important – people want to believe that they’re going to get money back.  Giving thought to your business model & revisiting it from time to time is something every business should do & I’ve written on this topic before.  For new businesses and teams seeking investment it’s incredibly important to spend time getting it right as a small change in your business model can make big differences in the shape of and priorities within your eventual company.
  2. Location – most people seeking a project to invest in via crowdfunding look for something that’s local to them.  With the internet I’m not sure why that would be.  Even if you’re close by you won’t be able to influence what they do – but I guess it’s something to do with local knowledge & familiarity.
  3. What Tim calls True Grit in a team.  I heard him say a few times during the course of the day that early start up success does not necessarily guarantee success in subsequent ventures and because of this crowd fund investors want to try out with newbies.
  4. Goes without saying investors look for a Smart Idea.
  5. More interesting is that they look for an idea that will generate a Big Splash.  This means something that people think can be rolled out quickly, catch on fast & generate rapid user adoption.
  6. Investors look for a product that is Beautiful – doesn’t everyone?
  7. Kentucky Windage – a term which originated in rifle shooting & is about compensating for your shot when using a hinky shotgun by trying to second guess where the bullet is going to go.  In this instance it’s about how people try to second guess what the route to market of a new product is going to be.
  8. Personalisation – people base attractiveness of the investment around what the product or idea means to them, how it appeals to them & how they imagine use of it would enrichen their lives.
  9. The product itself is quite low down in the list of considerations but crowd funding investors are interested in whether or not it appears to be Authentic and Real.
  10. The last one I like.  Does the idea or product have a Future & Enduring appeal.  Tim told us the well known story about Zhou Enlai’s take when asked about outcomes of the French Revolution 200 years earlier – of course he believed it was “too soon to tell”. 

I’ll leave you with this pic of Tim & me taken on Friday night after a fabulous day at CultureTECH.  We’re very lucky to have someone like this in and around the Northern Ireland investment scene and so accessible to companies starting out.  I know Tim has been a great help to many fledgling startup tech businesses and like me, he love, love, loves to see teams pitching.

I’ll finish by expressing my thanks to Mark Nagurski and the entire Digital Derry Action Team for giving us such a great event last week and for sealing the exciting twinning deal with London’s Tech City.

From Wall Street to Hollywood – everyone wants to be in Northern Ireland

Jay_roewe

Last week I was lucky enough to be at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC to listen to the great and the good pitching Northern Ireland as a business destination.  I was in Washington as part of the St Patrick’s Day government delegation and my role was to be part of the team promoting and celebrating Northern Ireland’s many treasures for businesses and tourists alike.

The on-the-road double act conducted these days by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is an impressive effort.  Both Ministers competently and in a single voice extol the benefits of starting or basing business in modern day Northern Ireland listing our young and well educated workforce, the fact that 60% of our population is under the age of 40, our good transport links with the rest of the world, our cost effective operating environment, our focus on the important emergent digital sectors, our high speed connectivity (especially to the US) and our soon to be highly competitive corporation tax rate.

The photo above is of Jay Roewe (Senior VP of Production from Santa Monica based HBO).  Also speaking at the event was Brian Conlon (CEO of highly successful indigenous company the Newry based First Derivatives).  Although Brian’s story is a great one, it’s Jay that I’m going to focus on in this blog – as I thought everyone might be interested in knowing the reasons he gave for selecting Northern Ireland as the place where HBO based and filmed their new series “Game of Thrones”.  Some of his reasons may come as a bit of a surprise to you.

Jay was at pains to point out that HBO is first and foremost a business and that all decisions the company makes are carefully considered in terms of the business benefits they generate.  These were the reasons why HBO selected Northern Ireland ahead of any other location:

  •  Our senior politicians were willing to travel to HBO on the US West Coast to make the case in person and this helped Jay “sell” Northern Ireland to his senior team
  •  The Northern Ireland film industry workforce is young but keen and very willing to learn quickly
  •  Belfast gave HBO easy access to UK & European crew and actors
  •  Belfast is a small city and this made the logistics of moving 200+ people around on any given day very straightforward
  • The cost analysis exercise carried out by HBO showed Northern Ireland provided the best value for money
  • Belfast’s Paint Hall in the Titanic Quarter (where ship components were once painted) is a unique venue with extraordinarily high ceilings.

There were a few more points that to me were less predictable or expected:

·         HBO liked the fact that Belfast has great restaurants and comfortable lodgings for its West Coast staff.

·         Jay also added that the warm spirit of the Northern Ireland people and the warm welcome given to HBO was a positive factor.

I’m sure HBO was also swayed by the availability of Martin McGuinness’s brother as an extra for Game of Thrones.  Martin described his brother as having long grey hair and standing on the back of a cart – we’ll all keep an eye out for him Martin.  I know I for one can’t wait to see Game of Thrones and it makes it even more exciting that it was filmed here.

 

A blog about appreciation

Matt_with_tuttle_group

Today’s blog is an appreciation blog.  Often we find ourselves just taking people for granted and not giving them enough appreciation for what they do for us – so this is an attempt to redress that balance in some small way.  I’d just like to say a big thank you on behalf of all of us who work in Northern Ireland’s emerging digital and online content sector to Matt Johnston (@cimota) for the tireless work he does on behalf of us and to promote our sector and our companies. 

I’ve spent the last two days in London with Matt.  We decided it was time to go and tell a few more people about the many talented people and small businesses that work in our chosen space in Northern Ireland.  Over the course of those two days we’ve promoted Digital Circle and its companies to:

·         The Technology Strategy Board

·         A group of social entrepreneurs

·         The Royal Society of Arts (RSA)

·         Everyone present at Friday’s Tuttle Club in London’s Centre for Creative Collaboration

·         The gathering of entrepreneurs and start up companies at Dominic Campbell’s City Camp London get together at the Hub King’s Cross

We’ve been blown away by the amount of interest there’s been in Digital Circle and at every event Matt’s had a stream of people wanting to ask him about the workings of the Digital Circle, how it started out, what the future plans are and what the Digital Circle members have gained from being part of the community.  It appears that what we have in Northern Ireland is quite unique in terms of small and micro businesses actually engaging, collaborating and helping each other out.

So this is my way of saying we appreciate you Matt and all you do for us.  The non-stop networking, the liaison with our government departments and Invest NI, the constant promotion of our companies, the search for opportunities for all of us and the signposting, the bright ideas you have, the introductions you make, the tweeting you do (I couldn’t believe how many people at Tuttle nodded when you revealed your Twitter name – they’d all come across you), the sheer volume of stuff you wade through so that we don’t have to and the dry good humour with which all of the above is delivered.

Please join me in appreciating Matt and post up your story in the comments of how he’s helped you or your company.

If you’d like to know more about the Digital Circle or join our community, you can do so via this link http://digitalcircle.ning.com/

 

Mark Nagurski, Derry’s own Martha Lane Fox – 10 things the two Digital Champions have in common

This week Mark Nagurski started his new role as Derry’s first Digital Champion.  There’s been a lot of interest in and around the appointment and it’s become a whole lot bigger & more prestigious since Derry’s win of the UK City of Culture 2013 competition.  “Digital Champion” is a job title we’d never heard of 5 years ago but it’s becoming increasingly popular.  Other job titles of a similar ilk and in the same type of space would be Brian Halligan’s appointment as “entrepreneur in residence” at MIT or the appointment of Lloyd Davis as “social artist in residence” at the University of London’s Centre for Creative Collaboration.

Mark’s remit is to spend the next two years promoting the burgeoning creative digital sector in the North West of Ireland.

Now I realise that Martha’s job as the UK’s Digital Champion is on a much bigger scale than Mark’s but I thought it would be a bit of fun to spot some similarities between them beyond their shared job title – so here goes:

1.       They are both internet entrepreneurs and have been deeply steeped in the internet and what it means for business and society forever

2.       Neither of them studied a technology subject at university – Martha studied Ancient & Modern History at Oxford and Mark studied International Relations at the LSE

3.       They were both born in the 1970s so they’re both still “young”

4.       They’ll both talk to anyone

5.       They both write extremely well & are articulate in conversation

6.       They love starting things and are serial entrepreneurs

7.       Neither of them have sisters

8.       They are both grafters and will work their backsides off for a cause they believe in

9.       They believe in themselves and their own abilities

10.   They know what they’re talking about and command respect from their audiences and peers.

Good luck in the new role Mark.  I for one am delighted with your appointment and I can’t wait to see the success and opportunity you’ll bring to Derry and the NW in the next couple of years.


Mark_nagurski
Mlf