The Million Pound Start-Up Competition!

HOW fabulous??? The bright sparks at Digital Shoreditch have teamed up with some more bright sparks at Seedrs and created the Million Pound Start-Up Competition.

You can invest from as little as a tenner to be part of the action or apply to win the million pound investment for your start-up and aim to create a 100million pound business with cash and all the expertise that Shoreditch has to support you.

Personally, I can’t find a flaw in this particularly fabulous plan….

http://millionpoundstartup.com?ap_id=af_51d7db9f38d0e

Creating Sustainable Sales for Start-Ups

So, its been an interesting week in Start-Up and Innovation Land.  Back in the saddle after two weeks off and I felt a little like it was groundhog day with everyone needing the same advice.

Customer Loyalty isn’t Just About Sales Activity

I’m going to be brave and say this out loud – I rarely work with people for whom sales skill comes naturally.  Often I’m working with founders of technology or digital companies whose natural talent lies in their creativity.  They are fabulous at inventing clever digital products or technological gadgets and being innovative but uncomfortable selling.

The usual advice is:  you are SO enthusiastic and you SO understand your product, go out and talk about it wherever you can but don’t be afraid to ask people to pay for it.  Let’s look closely at your sales cycle and get something formalised etc

However, what I’ve discussed a lot this week is how without a similar amount of energy then being directed into account management, every contract renewal ends up being a new (and therefore scary) sales pitch with founders worrying about previous delivery despite the fact that the service they have provided thus far has been without fault and often well above a clients expectation.

RE-pitching simply isn’t necessary as often as you might think.  As good practice, make sure you stay in touch with your clients, ask for regular feedback, report on your service to them if there is an opportunity to do so and most importantly, continually demonstrate your value to their business preferably by demonstrating how your product or service is having a positive effect on their profits.

Staying in touch and subtly reinforcing your value often will have a huge impact on your client retention and your ability to up-sell or on-sell without it feeling too much like sales!

If you want some handy sales tips make sure you attend the next Barnsley Digital Media Centre Breakfast Club on Tuesday 9th July at 9am to hear the fabulous Chrissie Slater of SBC talk sustainable sales – book here http://www.barnsleydmc.co.uk/centre_events/635-dmc-breakfast-club-july-2013

22nd EBN Annual Congress – Derry London Derry – May 2013

Ah ha I’m posting when inspired rather than reflective – Yay!

I’m a reasonably regular conference goer.  As a rule you come away having met few interesting new folk, listened to a couple of interesting seminars or sessions and attended a boozy gala dinner.  Business incubation/support/innovation conferences tend to follow a well-established format and can be quite mundane, asking the same questions, exploring each other’s programs and best practice or acquainting ourselves with new funding streams.

However, the folks at NORBIC (Northern Ireland Business & Innovation Centre) and EBN (European Business & innovation Centre Network) have managed to pull off a rarity in conferences – something inspiring, something provocative enough to cause debate and make us all think, think honestly and deeply. AND they presented their City of Culture astonishingly well. I have rarely enjoyed a “work” event as much.

The theme ‘Just say YES’ to innovation, collaboration, inspiration and education was itself inspired by the video that won Derry London Derry its City of Culture status.  You can (and should) watch it  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAdeXkZZLiU&feature=share&list=FLbDPj2lANf0OPWnF8i6rddg

The showcasing of local creative and artistic talent can be a dangerous thing but this event managed to expose us to music, dance and images that re-enforced the point being made in, dare I say, quite a beautiful and moving way.  The language of the speakers included words such as creativity, honesty, authenticity, value, vibrancy and, admittedly, quite a few expletives … well from the Brits anyway!  Sir Tim Smit’s final word was “hope” something that resonated with me as I have it tattooed on my left wrist.  This was not the language of most business conferences.

I’d really like to know who thought of and secured the speakers.  At first glance an exciting but also very eclectic bunch: Steve Wozniak co-founder of Apple, Sir Tim Smit KBE co-founder of the Eden Project, Ben Southworth Deputy CEO of Tech City and Dr Richard Florida author (amongst other things) of the controversial “Rise of the Creative Class”.

Headline speaker Steve Wozniak (whom I met J ) kicked off with a techy, futuristic talk that boiled down to a tale of his deep desire to make a difference.  To create a better world.  Not to design a load of pretty and cool tech products that made a fortune but to constantly innovate, to constantly do things that other people thought was impossible.

His comments on education and academic intellect verses thinking, working things out and “doing” were thought provoking and somewhat reminiscent of Sir Ken Robinson.  He is a lovely, humorous, terribly clever guy (odd that … not) who wants to see “centres were people are given enough supplies & tools to be able to work and develop their products” and believes that these are vital to continued innovation.  See most of the highlights of his talk and his technology wish list at Alan in Belfast’s blog http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/the-woz-in-derry-curiosity-social.html

Sir Tim Smit KBE co-founder of the Eden Project came next.  If I confess that his was the most entertaining session, would you hate me?  Whilst it was something of an honour to listen to and meet Steve Wozniak, Sir Tim challenged, amused and entertained in an entirely different way.  The man is a natural raconteur.  Lines like “Some open mines should be closed for repair” and “I believe in lying, the telling of future truths” elicited laughs with almost all of us jotting down some points from his “Monkey Business” manual, the Eden Project HR rules and governance which included saying hello to everyone every morning and learning to play the drums.

The Tinkerbell Theory was priceless.  Get three people believing in something and it will come true.  Perhaps this is a great reason to stop reading the tabloid.  Perhaps when we read that we’re about to hit a “triple-dip recession” it only happens because we all believe it will – our herd mentality was further explored and probed by Ben Southworth much to the dismay of many!

For me one of the outputs from Sir Tim’s session will be less meetings.  I may even only have them with those I don’t know after his comments regarding the “magic that is made by meeting the people you didn’t know you needed to meet”.  By those serendipitous collisions that sometimes change lives.  I’m also going to implement his “you can have 5 minutes now or an hour in 4 weeks time” rule.  How wonderful it would be for us all? How productive,to reduce the length of time we spend in meetings which could often be distilled down to “I need this….  You can help by….”? Seriously, how much more time would you have in your day?

Again though, the session boiled down to being honourable.  Doing things because they are the right thing to do. Changing lives for the better.  Whilst the theme may have been social enterprise, it was really more of if we want the world to be a better place, we have to get up and change it ourselves, find the impetus to do so.  Embrace local buying, embrace your community, do things for others.

When fund raising for the project Sir Tim was asked what his exit strategy was and his response was “death”.  How many of us have this as our first question when performing needs analysis for our clients?  Since NZ and the earthquakes I’ve actually been more inclined to ask people what they hope to achieve and I prefer to work with those who have a more complex answer than “money”.  There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with starting up a business to earn lots of money but there is infinitely more value when starting one up because you are passionate about making a difference.

Ben Southworth Deputy CEO of Tech City got what is ordinarily the worst session of the day.  That one straight after lunch where most delegates have entered the auditorium with either colleagues or some interesting person they met over lunch and continue to chat.  It’s usually hard to get an audience to listen during this session which may have been why Ben was so very provocative though, in all honesty, I hope that he’s just as opinionated and bullish in “real life” it would be a huge disappointment to find that it was all simply to keep us awake.

Interestingly, although Sir Tim told us that “Meetings are death” and to “Kill negative people. They’re alien spawn & they want to kill your dreams” it was Ben’s comments that angered some.  Not only were we told that we (and by we I mean the whole human species not just us in the audience) were stupid but that “We have changed the world and yet all we do is post pictures of cats on Facebook”.  I think many got lost in the rhetoric and missed the point which was simply – look how bloody good we are at stuff, look at how we can build and create things and yet look at how much time we waste on the unimportant.  His comments about Facebook were taken badly but honestly why?  Why, because we had all been caught out.  How many of us has the cutest picture that we can find of ourselves as our profile picture?  I have.  How many of us spend time “like”ing all manner of crap.  I agree with him despite debating his session with the lovely Mr Ian Underdown and Mr Tom Strodtbeck – we can all be guilty of “herd mentality” surely that’s why we almost “tipple-dipped” – because the Daily Mail told us we would.  Actually I still blame the Daily Mail and its “the nation is going to hell in a handcart” attitude for my ill-fated emigration to New Zealand! LOL!

I loved Ben but maybe that’s because I’m currently reading Alain de Bottom’s “Religion for Atheists” which takes the position that we’re flawed and inclined to be lazy, gluttonous and greedy etc (amongst other such vices) hence the need for all that religion offers with regard to creating an utopian community, the virtues of tolerance, forgiveness, charity etc but without God and the supernatural.  Like the speakers at EBN there are some priceless lines but its not exactly easy-reading!  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Religion-Atheists-non-believers-guide-religion/dp/0241964059

Ben challenged us to have more meaningful conversations, to learn to code, to innovate ourselves in order to be able to innovate our businesses.  While striding across the stage looking like a cross between a Rockabilly and an Amish fellow with his perfect quaff and natural-look big beard, he appealed to us to engage, to commit to action rather than “sit and tweet the apocalypse” with regard to the challenges we are facing here in the UK and across the globe.

The final session of the day was Dr Richard Florida professor, editor, writer – generally very intelligent guy who preferred the use of words such as “holy moly” rather than the expletives used by the Brits.

Theories on the “Creative Class” and his honesty with regard to the realisation that all of his earlier work had been flawed was refreshing.  His ideas for the necessary ingredients of an innovative place being talent, tolerance and technology were eloquently delivered and I think we were all somewhat amused at his slight attack on his critics.  The Creative Class, those who create for a living (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_class) are, he states critical to the economy and its recovery.  After WWII they made up c5% of the US workforce but now almost 30%. Creatives are those that drive change, that drive innovation and do these things because of passion, the love of it (whatever “it” is) and the benefit of it to others.  Again the same theme that echoes the other speakers and the other book I’m reading which I’d also recommend, Chris Guillebeau’s “$100 Start-up” http://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Startup-Fire-Your-Better/dp/023076651X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370119168&sr=1-1&keywords=%24100+start+up

The sessions ended with a fabulous rendition of Snow Patrol’s “Just say Yes” by a local choir and the day by an excellent Gala dinner complete with all manner of local musicians, local whiskey and lots of dancing.  All in all a fabulous day and one that NORBIC and EBN should be proud of.

Talks from the 22nd EBN Annual Congress – Derry London Derry – May 2013 can be found at:

http://audioboo.fm/tag/ebncongress/recent

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How did it suddenly become May?

Me in the Ideas Shed

It would appear that the only time I make time to write a blog post is when I’m feeling reflective – which I’m concerned may make me sound overly morose!

So.  What’s happened in innovation-land since the last one?  Way too much to plonk all in one post (you’ll be glad to hear) so edited highlights only….

The first quarter of 2013 saw lots of events and activities at DMC and some interesting conversations with the Cloud City folks at the Sheffield LEP. Great plans and cunning models to enable connectedness and exploit an opportunity to be curators of information, create a cluster of complimentary and supportive knowledge based businesses – do some cool stuff basically as as demonstrated by the Dotforge Accelerator that has attracted international applicants.

Conversations with the controversial, but in my humble opinion the lovely, Lee Strafford also offered some fab insights into the business case for building data centres, which let’s face it don’t employ many people, for a piece of research commissioned by ORION (Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network).  If the world is moving to the cloud – should you be a cloud owner?  All very cool and groovy (said in a very Austin Powers voice).  Surely if information is power, then those building the repositories for that information, the keys to curation are the new lords and masters…?

As far as Big Hairy Audacious Goals go (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Hairy_Audacious_Goal) I think our Barnsley Digital Media Centre Ideas Shed has been a huge success.  I basically plonked a very designer-led shed (thanks to the fab Lee Bestall of Inspired Gardens (http://www.inspiredgardendesign.co.uk/)  in the atrium of the building and asked business leaders, entrepreneurs, speakers, business support folks, digital folks and creatives to do some stuff in it that would either a) support business growth or b) inspire creativity.  The results have been fab.  We’ve had Lee delivering “Sowing the Seeds of Enterprise” workshops to students which considered the business of horticulture, Jonathan Straight of Straight PLC offering insight and advice, SEO specialists, PR workshops, App developers and a truly fabulous “What is Creativity?” workshop that considered what Aristotle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle) would think of social media and other such issues!  BBC Radio Sheffield devoted an entire hour to the workshop and engaged listeners too.

As far as innovation is concerned I guess the outputs from the Ideas Shed is that it has opened the door for some interesting collaborations, has spawned debate and enabled connections that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred – hopefully we’ll see some great ideas executed as a result of it.

Talking of innovation – Leeds LEP have some exciting opportunities to exploit local expertise in health devices and health informatics with their plans for the Enterprise Zone and Medi Park.  The Oxford Innovation commercial model for innovation centres that ensure they don’t remain reliant on public funding forever may well pay a part.

AND, talking of innovation centre models – seriously why are we still seeing stacks of public cash poured into University lead innovation centres which have a model entirely based on facilities/service sales? Please note, innovation isn’t about selling space!  If people don’t understand your rent structure (as someone complained recently) its because they don’t understand your product. You should be relationship focused NOT transaction focused!  Sorry … rant over…kind of.

Innovation Centres need to be run by folk that enable innovation and assist  commercialisation – nurture it, connect the dots.  Operational budgets are crucial to ensure opportunities for collaborative effort are created but people and relationships are the critical success factor.  Centre staff need to be of the right personality type and have the right experience – its not about them having PhDs and Masters degrees, it about them having contacts that are useful and an understanding of ACTUAL revenue models not theoretical ones.  Its about them being “enablers” (http://www.efacets.co.uk/about.htm) that is folk who understand an entrepreneurial mindset and can motivate, coach and support it.

Innovation Centres, as demonstrated by the Oxford Innovation model, do not need to be equity based or dependent upon public funding forever, they can be sustainable as long as the product offer is properly understood and articulated, the pricing policy is correct and there is a full and professional marketing strategy that has identified potential clients/market segments and that can be deployed rather than simply sitting like a nice piece of interesting literature on a dusty shelf.  This is the same list we expect our entrepreneurs to address for their own businesses/services/products so how can we expect not to do it ourselves and yet offer a viable and successful service? Its not rocket science folks so please, leave the researchers and rocket scientists to do what they do best – the academic stuff.  There’s a fabulous book by those fabulous Ideo folks (www.ideo.com)  http://www.amazon.com/Ten-Faces-Innovation-Strategies-Organization/dp/0385512074 on those personality traits required to build really good innovation teams.  I loved it and highly recommend it.

Finally then, because this post has ended up being WAY too long, I’d like to say a big “thank you” to all the people who made the DMC Ideas Shed a success.  Please contact them if you’d like any help with your own projects coz they’re all talented, professional and fabulously dedicated;

Grand Designs 2011 winner Lee Bestall of Inspired Gardens for giving us the very excellent, designer Ideas Shed http://www.inspiredgardendesign.co.uk/

Jane, Elizabeth & Lucy at Cream Consultancy for fabulous PR and stacks of help project managing (seriously couldn’t have pulled it off without them) http://creamconsultancy.co.uk/

Rich & Andy at Crazyhorse for stepping in and producing a fab graphic with no notice, little information and no time!  http://crazyhorsecreative.co.uk/

Darren and team at Team Activ and FitIn Network for organising games and beers  http://www.teamactiv.org/ http://fitinnetwork.com/

All the contributors, speakers, presenters (not noted above):

Innovation Futures at Sheffield Hallam University http://www.shu.ac.uk/business/how-we-can-help/independent-consultancy/innovation-futures

Louise Wilkie – Think, Create, Move – www.thinkcreatemove.co.uk (fabulous creative workshops)

Rob &  Simon – Cogwork Studios –  http://www.cogworkstudios.com/ (excellent App devs)

Richard & Malcolm – CDI Alliance http://www.cdialliance.co.uk/ (business support for creative and digital businesses)

Lindsey & Mark – Bigfoot Digital http://www.bigfootdigital.co.uk (SEO and other clever stuff)

Jonathan Straight of Straight PLC http://www.straight.co.uk/ (our highly successful, homegrown entrepreneur and businessman

also:

Michelle at http://www.bloomvc.com for crowdfunding

The fabulous Nicky Pattinson http://www.nickypattinson.com/

Sue at http://www.littlevalleybrewery.co.uk/ for donating excellent boutique beers (definitely recommend them!)

Wayne at http://www.haywood-padgett.co.uk/ for donating some wonderful scones

Andrew at http://www.armitageresidential.co.uk/ for donating the Pimms!

Ben at http://www.gozapi.com/ for time and contacts

All the team at http://www.horizoncc.co.uk/ for playing out with us.

That’s it.  Done! Now we just need to start organising the next events – hackathons, workshops and we need sand and ice-cream….!

Have fun

Ax

PS OMG forgot to thanks Gareth and the DMC team for putting up with my hair-brained ideas and their help.  If you want a creative,  fun and supportive place for your business to thrive, come and see us at www.barnsleydmc.co.uk

Professional musings….reflections of 2012

I guess one of the things I REALLY need to consider next year is some WordPress training! My level of skill in this regard is low to say the least.

So, this time last year I was lucky enough to have landed back in the UK, have my feet planted on terra firma (a wonderful thing that solid ground) and had secured a great research project with ORION, Canada courtesy of the fabulous Dr Darin Graham. At least I didn’t have to worry about paying the bills and, given my somewhat more fragile state than is the norm, also didn’t have to leave the house or even my PJs. Don’t ya just love research projects.

The project was all about trends in high performance computing – which I know next to nothing about. In all honesty, I tried to get to grips with the technology and then decided to concentrate on what Darin had in fact actually wanted me to focus on – the business needs and user requirements (which is why he chose a non-techie for the project!) – which of course have little to do with the actual tech – just what folk want to achieve with it.

The conclusions would not surprise you in the slightest – the market is rapidly expanding across almost all sectors (especially academic – the sector of interest) as accessibility increases both as a result of reduction in cost and new models – cycles on demand for instance. The challenges as far as increases in use by academic users were again no surprise;

– financial. how do higher education (HE) organisations move budget from capital to operations in order to take advantage of cloud options that are WAY more cost effective and available? how can they manage their cashflow in order to support bursts of activity? whats the cost implication of owning a data centre vs outsourcing to the cloud? Oh and then of course there’s that HUGE debate on security of data/IP…
– folk. how do we change the culture to encourage real collaboration when historically academics are incentivised to work alone and keep their stuff secret until they publish? how do we encourage the IT departments of HE organisations to embrace new models of service instead of feeling threatened by them and how can HE retain the computing talent they need when these same geeks are seen as rockstars within IT organisations?
– future. Well this year panned out exactly as expected – even the fabulous human genome folk in Cambridge HAD to move to the cloud. By the time their data centre expansion had been completed they ahd out grown it.

So what are the implications for Yorkshire with regard to data centres and South Yorkshire’s ambition to be “Cloud City”? Personally I’m struggling to see the benefit but maybe I’m simply not knowledgable enough. Data farms don’t employ that many people but do suck up a HUGE amount of energy (though I appreciate that there have been some really interesting developments regarding greener data centres this year) but seriously, by the time we’ve it built what are the chances of it being obsolete? I guess the fact that Amazon Web Services are involved at least brings expertise but hey I’m not convinced….

What else.

So, I also spent some time trying to raise capital for some start-ups. There are some great ideas and entrepreneurs in this region. I also believe that there is plenty of money. However what I found, even with those funds that have targets such as Finance Yorkshire and Screen Yorkshire, and with regard to the angel investors that I met as a result of working with Angels Den, is that finance is taking much longer to secure and Ts and Cs more onerous than ever before. One telecoms entrepreneur I know was offered a number of deals some for realistic equity stakes but with SO many constraints he was unable to agree to any. I also saw my first “time sensitive” offer this year. One entrepreneur literally had 4.5 days to take advice, do his own due diligence and decide whether he was taking the money! For me, deal sizes were the same but more often syndicated than previously – so whilst the region isn’t completely risk averse, it is spreading that risk more than it used to.

As for the banks….I have NatWest coming to see me in the New Year and to deliver a presentation to the Barnsley DMC which will apparently show that they ARE open for business and ARE lending…given the above the question should really be “at what rate? My first born child?”.

Mixed in with the capital raising were another couple of interesting projects that were essentially illustrations of how folk do and should work together to find common goals and mutual benefit – where this is lacking, targets are irrelevant, it’ll all go horribly wrong. Products and services need to be client focussed, when they are the KPIs sort themselves out. Leveraging relationships should = how we work together to the benefit of all concerned and NOT = how can your networks be useful to our targets…! Business has changed its face. With perhaps the exception of the financial sector (coz anyone who know’s me, know’s I’m certainly no fan of insurance companies and as for the banks et al – well in my opinion they’re still WAY too Gordon Gekko), business is now all about client/customer retention. About doing the right thing, building a mutually beneficial relationship with your client that will last beyond this one sale and that’s a great shift – long may it last. And for those companies lagging behind – well they’ll either refocus and retrain their staff or they’ll go out of business because buyers, whether they’re the public or professional are less tolerant of poor service and quite frankly have more options.

Since the summer, I’ve been “professionally meddling” with Oxford Innovation Ltd (OI) on their Barnsley Digital Media Centre (DMC) contract. I’ve known OI for many years but never envisaged working with them previously. Since I’ve been away though they’ve been through a massive period of change and the company now has an interesting and, as I’m beginning to appreciate, great structure for innovation centre management. They completely separated out facilities management and the “added value” business support stuff so that Centre Managers literally take responsibility for the centre by owning the P&L, and regional directors, such as myself, concentrate on aligning centres with local or regional economic development and inward investment strategies, design business support initiatives and manage the delivery of that. Of course we also get to peacock around the region flashing our tail feathers engaging in all matters business LOL!

As mentioned earlier as a result of all of the above I’ve met some great entrepreneurs this year for whom I really hope 2013 brings everything they wish for:

– Vanessa at Quiddle – fabulous platform to encourage financial literacy and management to tweenies and teens
– Sam and the team at Stashmetrics – excellent workflow tool (can’t say anymore for fear of reprisals!)
– The fabulous and terribly entertaining Martyn Gould with LEESA
– Those interesting folks at Valley Telecom (special thanks to David Longstaff and Ian Dabson for their patience and advice)
– All the great businesses in and connected to the Barnsley DMC with whom I am currently and professionally meddling including Cream, Bigfoot, TeamActiv/FitIn, AffliSearch, Elite-Bods oh and a particular site that, whilst challenging is a fantastic opportunity to do some really great collaborative science.

There are many more – best wishes and heaps of good luck to you all!
Ax

2012 winding down….

This has been a funny year. When I say “funny” I’m not exactly meaning funny hahaha though at times life has seemed more like a comedy of errors than a box of chocolates.

I returned to the UK (Yorkshire in fact) at the end of 2011 after a challenging four years in New Zealand.

New Zealand had been challenging on all fronts – personal and professional. As a professional business commercialization consultant I had found it hard appreciating the completely different culture despite the common language and ambitions. Personally – well nothing was the same – marital trouble and strife, a teenager pushing boundaries, an expat existence and then to cap it all – a number of earthquakes and aftershocks that destroyed everything we had worked for, for the last decade and a half. Challenging to say the least.

2012 though has been different. Don’t get me wrong its still been awfully challenging but in part that’s because of the insurance battle we find ourselves embroiled in rather than any “settling in” period here.

I think its fair to say that as a family we were all completely relieved to have our feet firmly back on British soil. Everyone we meet says “Oh my god! I can’t believe you’ve come back HERE from New Zealand”. As a nation, we have SUCH a poor opinion of our country and our own ability. We assume (quite wrongly in fact) that we’re the world’s worst at everything from engineering to innovation to capital raising, and having experience of other countries with regard to certainly innovation and capital raising (Australia, New Zealand, North America and some parts of Europe), I really believe we’re not. We’re actually very good at what we do.

Our economy is in poor shape, unemployment is high, our financial institutions have been rewarded for failure – there are umpteen reasons to be down in the mouth and perhaps I have the luxury of being able to look through the eyes of a prodigal returned – we’ve had a great year as a nation – the Jubilee, the Olympics, renewed national pride that we shouldn’t allow to fade away.

Here’s a list of my “good stuff” this year. We came back broken – physically, financially and emotionally, however in 12 months;

1. The earth HASN’T moved for me. Not once. This is great!
2. We’ve managed to make a home – its rented admittedly and I can’t see us owning a home again for sometime, but we do have a roof over our heads and it’s a nice one.
3. We have an income. I’m lucky enough to be working on a couple of projects with Oxford Innovation who are a really great company with a perfect structure for running successful innovation centres – they’ve separated the facilities management and “added value” business support stuff which isn’t rocket science but does make all the difference. The team is fabulous and I’m enjoying the supportive, ambitious and forward thinking environment.
4. My husband has been able to set up a new business – with seriously limited funds this really wouldn’t be possible in some other areas of the world. It has a way to go but is at least breaking even. He’s working hard and mentally it’s given him the focus he needed.
5. Both my husband and daughter were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2011 but thanks to the support and kindness we’ve received from family, friends, school, doctors, health workers – both are in a much better place emotionally now.
6. We have a FABULOUS dog. She is one of the best decisions we’ve made since coming home and she has really helped us all to heal. I understand from a good friend though that she is a canine version of me – bit bonkers, only 2 gears (fast and stop) and she shifts from terribly intelligent to utterly stupid with lightening speed.
7. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really great entrepreneurs with fabulous business ideas. Some of whom I’ve been able to help in a tangible way, others I hope I’ve helped by just being a sounding board or by encouragement.

Coming home has allowed me to re-connect with people and “things” I hadn’t necessarily realised were important to me. I actually missed the British weather – today is a beautiful winters day, frosty and cold with a silvery sun shining. I live a two minutes from a pretty market town complete with riverside walks and nice cafes. I had missed the architecture, access to decent sized cities, our history, our drive and ambition – I guess what makes Brits British.

We live in a beautiful country, its one of the few countries in the world where you can come from nothing but achieve everything and yet sometimes, most of the time if fact, we don’t appreciate what we have until we no longer have it – until negative change enables us to measure what we had previously. I have that ability now – perhaps that was the lesson.

I am blessed. I lost everything my husband and I had worked for but I didn’t lose the people I care about – we weren’t permanently damaged. My heart does go out to those who really did lose. The families who suffered the loss of a loved one in the earthquakes/aftershocks and those that have had relatives and friends take their lives as a result of the huge amount of constant stress since. My son has lost two teenage friends as a direct result of the Christchurch earthquakes though not actually in the earthquakes – there has been a staggering amount of tragedy related to it that most people are completely unaware of.

I am however optimistic about 2013.

Professionally, I’m now re-engaged with the regional and national innovation community and am keen to get more involved – with UKBI maybe. I’m looking forward to bigger more audacious projects, with assisting Oxford Innovation to grow in this region and to helping grow some great new businesses and entrepreneurs.

Personally, it would be great to get a positive resolution with regard to our earthquake insurance claims (and for others also), though if I’m honest I’m not hugely hopeful. Insurance is big business, not fair business and perhaps that’s a lesson the UK Government needs to consider before it agrees to underwrite the flood risk here.

The lesson from New Zealand is that it doesn’t matter if the Government underwrites the risk – the insurance companies will still hike premiums and make claiming harder. Their business is to keep their profits not pay them out regardless of how that impacts upon a person’s life – its not about ethics or morals or even honouring contracts – its about paying shareholder dividends and Board bonuses.

On a final note though – I am optimistic with regard to a positive and fruitful 2013. Don’t hold that 13 against it – I’m hoping that it will be a lucky year for everyone. I’m looking forward to having some fun, enjoying the company of friends and acquaintances alike and adding value in some way where ever I can.

Wishing you love, luck, health and happiness in 2013!

Amanda

Getting Started

I suspect I should give up now.  Clearly I’m no where near as innovative as I thought as setting up the theme etc was like pulling teeth – in fact I’m convinced I’ve not only lost an hour of my life but quite possibly terminally exhausted a number of brain cells and synapses!

I had intended to warble on about innovation, business centres and micro-managing but will have to save that for another day….