My journey into the unknown world of tech startups began in my early twenties. I was an aspiring product designer at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London when I first stumbled across the Internet for the very first time.
In 1994 I Co-founded London-based iCollector Plc (www.icollector.com) the first B2C online auction platform world-wide, a good few months before eBay! My mother worked for a leading auction house in London so my business partner and I decided to pitch auction houses across London with the idea of putting their catalogues online so that collectors across the world could search, find and bid via the Internet.
By today’s standards, the website was incredibly basic and very very slow but what we had created was truly revolutionary. Very soon after launch the website received a great deal of publicity. Even Forbes wrote a feature article about us!
I traveled extensively as my role was to encourage auction houses, antiques dealers and art galleries to list their inventory on our website. Before long hundreds of companies signed up and we aggregated billions of dollars worth of product listings.
In 1996 iCollector Plc successfully raised funding through an Initial Public Offering of company shares via the unregulated exchange OFEX. We then initiated a strategic alliance with eBay to list live auctions on the eBay Premier platform via iCollector’s real-time live bidding solution. At the height of the dot com boom the company was valued at 100m+ and employed hundreds of people. Lehman Brothers were appointed prior to a full listing on The London Stock Exchange and life was good.
Then the promise of vast life-changing riches started to evaporate and that fairy tale exit that every start-up entrepreneur dreams about looked uncertain. Sentiment changed almost over night and consumer Internet stocks took a sudden tumble, plans for the impending IPO abandoned, iCollector then became acquired by AbleAuctions Inc and continues to trade in the USA so things worked out in the end but what a roller coaster ride!
So that is how my journey into the world of tech startups began.
After a successful exit from iCollector, I indulged my passion for motor racing by acquiring the rights to the FIA’s premier classic Formula One Championship with a view to establishing the first Masters series for semi-retired F1 drivers.
After crossing the Sahara desert with Richard Noble OBE (the land speed record legend) in 2007, I decided to return to the world of technology and became an entrepreneur in residence at The School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, embedded within the ‘Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute’.
In 2008, while still at Edinburgh, I founded my next tech startup Vibio UK Ltd which was a social commerce network for people who enjoy sharing their passion for trading unique and interesting items. After closing a seed round of $1m+, I established a US subsidiary (Vibio Inc) and opened an office in San Francisco. For several years I commuted between my dev teams in Scotland and California. Unfortunately this venture did not scale due to the US entity not being able to obtain “specialty occupation” visas for key British personnel. This meant that Vibio Inc was starved of vital skills and know-how at a time when the company desperately needed talent. Anyone who has tried to scale a business in Silicon Valley will know, there was at the time, and still, is a serious ‘war for talent’ which makes the recruitment and retention of talent a huge challenge!
After returning to London in 2013, I became an Innovation Specialist at 5350 Ltd (Fifty-Three-Fifty Limited) where I develop innovation strategies for startups and established companies.
I especially like the challenge of working with early stage companies to help them develop their product road maps but also enjoy working with established players to help them develop new market opportunities for both new and existing products.
Although I work with clients throughout Europe and North America, my primary focus is helping Silicon Valley based technology companies access European markets via our partners in San Francisco and the company’s London HQ, hence the company’s name (5350 is the distance in miles between San Francisco and London).
Current projects: Aerospace and Defense (Structural Health Monitoring, Self-Healing Materials, Big Data, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence), Pharma (Advanced Planning & Scheduling Software), Auto (Planning & Scheduling Software for crash testing).
I hope you enjoy reading my blog and please feel free to leave comments or get in touch. If you are responsible for innovation within your organisation, I’d love to hear from you!
Extensive Network – Within the tech clusters of London, Edinburgh, Dubai and Silicon Valley (Software Engineers, Startup Entrepreneurs, CIOs and Investors).
Sector Expertise: Early stage Venture Capital, early stage B2B & B2C Web Startups, Ecommerce, Social Commerce, Social Media, Mobile, Technology IP Transfer (R&D). I’m becoming increasingly fascinated by The Internet Of Everything (IOE) and the Internet of Things (IOT).
FashionTech, FitTech, WellnessTech, FinTech, Formula1, CrossFit
Social Media Profiles
Blogger: http://www.techinthecity.co.uk (Personal/Fitness/Tech)
Guest Writer: (Techcrunch) http://tcrn.ch/12uiY2Y