THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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8 posts categorized "Humour"

17 March 2017

Dry Patch - A BIPC success story with a great sense of humour

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Dry-Patch-logoSo many people think running a business has to be a serious matter. So it is refreshing when an entrepreneur proves the opposite.

I guess the most well known recent brand with a funny-bone is Innocent Drinks. They have included grass covered vans, a banana phone and slides in their offices, and a whole range of humorous labels on their bottles such as this one:

Innocent bottle

I first met Chris Gomez founder and CEO of Dry Patch a couple of years ago in an Advice Clinic here in the Business & IP Centre in London.

He immediately made an impression with his passion for the product, his professionalism, and understanding of his customers' needs. He also recognised he was addressing a niche market with his first product the Moto Seat Cover below. As a fellow motorcyclist and cyclist, I could see there was a lot of potential in his ideas.

Moto_GIF_grande

Once his website was up and running, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much humour Chris had used to promote his brand. Here are a few examples:

  • With a focus on innovation and lifestyle, our premium products will keep you and your stuff dry... from the bottom up
  • We're not hairy bikers or Tour de France wannabes. We don't wear leather or Lycra to and from work but we do love the freedom of 2 wheels.
  • We're not going to ask you to start hugging each other at the traffic lights, but we are all 2 wheeled commuters and suffer the same conditions - from both the weather and other traffic.
  • We know that we are just little pin pricks in the bottom of the 1.5 million 2 wheel commuters in London, but we dream of being big pricks.

I also love the way Chris spells out his brand values in such clear terms:

When it comes to our products, we have 4 key values:

  1. it's kit you want (more on this below).
  2. it is 100% functional - our kit works really well and is made of the best materials for the job.
  3. it has to look great - there's too much stuff out there that works brilliantly for commuters on 2 wheels, that just doesn't look very good.
  4. our kit will always be innovative - we believe innovation is the key to developing brilliant new products that disrupt the rest of the market.

And even better Chris makes fantastic use of the Dry-Patch blog and social media channels. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

 Written by Neil Infield on behalf Business & IP Centre

15 May 2015

5 Tips for working with Illustrators by ChattyFeet

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ChattyFeet is a quirky brand that makes people laugh with funny sock characters such as Kate Middle-Toe, Prof. Brian Sox, The Sockfather and others, and are currently participants on the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme. Here are their top tips for working with illustrators based on their own experience with commissioning work for ChattyFeet sock characters.

Funny-Gift-For-Men-Don-Cottone
Photo source: ChattyFeet

1. Find references

We look online to find inspiration and discover creative work on sites like Behance and Dribbble, or just do a Google image search on a specific topic or theme. You can also search the British Library’s images online which gives you instant access to thousands of the greatest images from the British Library's collections. It is important to define what you are searching for. Are you looking for a realistic illustration, cartoon, 3D or vector graphic? Putting the style in your search query will help you to get more relevant results. Pinterest can also be useful for collecting references. Finding a reference is important for communicating with the illustrator and explaining what you are after. We had some help from the singer Louise Ashcroft to find the best references for opera singing. This helped the illustrator Dimitra Laskou to come up with the right style for La Diva sock character.

Opera-La-Diva-ChattyFeet
Photo source: Edgar Degas WikiArt, ChattyFeet

2. Review portfolios and styles

The simplest way to get a design you like is to find an illustrator that has already created work in the style you need. However if this is not possible make sure the illustrator you end up working with can diversify their work. If they only draw in one style it can be more difficult for them to adapt the illustration for your needs. When looking for illustrators we have found it useful to go to conferences and exhibitions to meet them in person and talk about your ideas. We met Captain Kris, a street artist, at an exhibition and as a result he created the characters Commander Awesome and Venus for our collection.

Captain-Kris-ChattyFeet
Photo source: Captain Kris, ChattyFeet

We discovered another talented illustrator, Muxxi, whose beautiful designs are featured on online portfolio platform Behance and we worked with her to produce a collection of four different colorful and fun socks.

Muxxi-ChattyFeet
Photo source: Muxxi, ChattyFeet

3. Write a brief

A brief will introduce yourself, explain why you need an illustration and how it will be used. Be clear about when you need it to be delivered, the format, size and budget. Is the illustration going to be printed, published online or in our case knitted on socks? Do you need it to be created in specific software so you can apply changes yourself? Be explicit about constraints to avoid future frustrations.

4. Develop a contract

Writing a contract is important for making sure everyone is on the same page. While the brief explains in detail what is required in terms of the work, the contract defines the terms of the project. For example, when will the client pay? We recommend an initial stage where the artist produces a sketch rather than producing everything in one go. This will allow you to review that it’s going in the right direction. You should also agree on the amount of iterations or drafts of the work that will be included in the budget. Asking for changes is common but there should be a clear limit to the scope of work covered.

Rock-Socks-Set-ChattyFeet_grande
Photo source: ChattyFeet

5. Give clear feedback

Sometimes your intuition knows if something is right or wrong, but when working with illustrators you will have to communicate this very clearly otherwise you won’t get the result you want. If you are struggling to write feedback, a phone or a skype call might work better. Try to refer to the brief and to what has been communicated before. If you give new directions that can be very frustrating for the illustrator and you might be asked to pay more for extra work.

We hope that these tips will be useful for you when commissioning new work. You can see the work of illustrators who created funny sock characters for ChattyFeet here. ChattyFeet are on the British Library’s current Innovating for Growth Programme which provides up to £10,000 worth of support for small companies with big ambitions – just like ChattyFeet.  If you want to follow in ChattyFeet's footsteps apply for Innovating for Growth by the deadline: 9.00am on Monday 15 June 2015.

Apply for Innovating for Growth here

ERDF Logo Portrait Colour Web

Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

 

29 April 2015

A day in the life at the Business & IP Centre

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My working day at the Business & IP Centre starts as I wake up from a daydream on the tube at King’s Cross, to the announcement “Exit here for the British Library”, which is just a few minutes’ walk away from my office.

I am on ‘desk-duty’ today, so head straight out to the reading room where all our information resources are located (and freely available with a Reader Pass). The day officially starts from 9:30am Monday to Saturday (except for Mondays at 10am), when the Centre literally opens for business. We take it in turns to cover the enquiry desk, where we answer questions from customers, assist with our impressive set of business databases and give information advice. Today kicks off with an elderly customer who wants a list of contact companies who make butchers’ cutting boards. It is his first visit to the Library, but he has impaired vision and also isn’t confident using computers, so I help him use the Kompass database. It takes us about 15 minutes, but together we are able to generate a list of businesses he can contact.

BIPC Reading Room2 2007 300dpi

Today, just like every day in the Centre, half of our customers are brand new. During my two hours’ of desk duty I help 15 people with their research enquiries and download the information they require. These include showing our business databases, our hard copy market research publications, our trade and business directories and our small collection of business start-up books. I often refer people to our set of Industry Guides created by the team to help navigate our content by topic. In my experience most of our customers come in with a business idea but are unsure of what resources are available to help them get started.

Some people require help with ordering from our collection of 17 million hard copy publications using Explore the British Library, and to find publications sitting on our shelves in the reading room. Questions vary from a quick request for a login or download from a database, to a more complex enquiry that will take much longer. This is where we directly get to interact with our customers and make use of what we call the Reference Interview.

It is at this point that I meet Tg Tea Founder Sophia Nadur. She is researching a green tea RTD (Ready to Drink) product which she was planning to launch. TG Tea is an organic green tea drink that is also low in calories, so Sophia is looking for scientific and market research. I find it exciting to see the results of this kind of research in the Centre – and I have been promised some samples from Sophia so I can see what the finished product looks and tastes like. 

Tea
Source: TG Green Teas

Although the majority of our customers are business start-ups, we still have visits from plenty of patent researchers looking for current and historical inventions. We also provide help and advice relating to the other intellectual property strands of trademarks, copyright and registered designs. And our customers range from sixth form pupils, undergraduates, MBA students, academics, inventors, start-ups and growing small businesses.

I always feel proud to be a part of the Centre when I see our busy networking area open for ad-hoc working, small business meetings and of course networking. There is definitely a buzz in there today as I walk through on my way back to the office.

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After my reading room duty I return to the ‘hidden’ part of the Business & IP Centre.  There we work on telephone, email and Questionpoint enquiries. Today I answer questions on a variety of topics, and sometimes have to refer for help to other subject specialists within the British Library, partners and even externally. One example of a query received by telephone was an older lady asking for evidence of the ‘Iron Cows’ she remembered in her childhood. They were milk dispensers available from high-street shops, out of opening hours. Generally though, the queries are business or intellectual property related.

I check my emails throughout the day for queries received by the Business & IP Centre’s Research Team, who offer a priced research service mainly for patent searches (prior art), business information and Public Availability Dates (PADs) for use in legal cases. The client base for this service is international, ranging from start-ups and IP specialists to legal firms. Today I respond to a request from a regular client from a pharmaceutical firm in Italy for some patent-related information.

Lunchtime has arrived, so I stop for something to eat and head to the British Library’s staff restaurant. It is a good time to catch up with colleagues from across the Library. Today I end my break with a visit to the British Library Shop to see what merchandise they have in store to buy a present for a friend.

I head back to the office. Throughout the day there are various tasks or projects going on behind the scenes. I spend quite a bit of time sharing information I hope will be useful to the rest of the team. I share information, knowledge and best practice with other colleagues, departments and partners who deliver our services and projects. Each member of the team also run workshops in the Centre and are sometimes invited to run them at external events.  We offer workshops such as ‘Beginner’s Guide to Business Information’ and ‘Beginner’s Guide to Intellectual Property’ to help customers understand and access information. We also host webinars which can be accessed by a national and global audience. 

Sage_IPcentreshoot-9825

I respond to a customer who would like to book a Business & IP Clinic, and so pass this request to a team member who coordinates the clinics. These clinics can be really helpful to early stage start-ups, as a place to talk through their ideas in private with an impartial listener. Together we can get a clearer picture of what they want to do and the next steps they need to take.

It’s about 3pm in the afternoon and as I work with information, part of my day is used to keep abreast of the news, current affairs, business subjects and online content on social media. Social media platforms are one of the drivers of Open Innovation and collaboration that our team has championed in our Open Innovation international project. I frequently collaborate and connect with others to share information on hot topics, events and useful contacts. Social media tools are great for inspiration and marketing, and they allow us to share knowledge, insights and stories from both inside and outside the Centre. Today I share a story on ‘How to Run a Chocolate Business’ relating it to one of our Innovating for Growth programme clients Amelia Rope, who coincidently has a chocolate-making business and is featured in one of our success stories videos.

 

Occasionally my day ends late when we have evening networking events and talks.  The Business & IP Centre Inspiring Entrepreneurs events have been running for a number of years and they take months of organisation. Usually it is all hands on deck to pull off these events and tasks are delegated to us to organise, host, attend, usher, register, network, market, tweet, blog and answer any queries that delegates may have.  We have had a back catalogue of archived past Inspiring Entrepreneurs videos available to view on You Tube, along with screenings in our Business & IP Centre’s around the country and anyone can join in via our live webcast.

So now I have told you about my typical day in the Centre which makes me reflect on the perks of the job.  Working at the British Library, I also get to see our exhibitions and our current one is celebrating the 800 year anniversary of the ‘Magna Carta’ and occasionally I have a wander around the Sir John Ritblat Gallery of Treasures (did I mention that this gallery is free for everyone?). I also enjoy attending an interesting evening (or weekend) talk on any topic under the sun, but mostly I love the sense of satisfaction I get when meeting fabulous interesting people, including the seasoned and budding entrepreneurs that come into the building.

This is just an overview of my day in the life at the Business & IP Centre and only scratches the surface of what we do. I hope to see you around the Business & IP Centre London in the near future and please do say ‘Hello’!

Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre 

26 September 2014

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Movers and Shakers

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Monday night’s event in partnership with Barclays and screened in the Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester Business & IP Centres, as well as Exeter and New York, aimed to inspire entrepreneurs to create new markets and take the UK by storm!

Barclays logoThe speakers talked about their journeys in creating some of the most exciting new products and services on the market today, and re-imagined existing markets in the world of digital, beauty and food.

Michael Acton-SmithFirst on stage was Michael Acton-Smith OBE, CEO and founder of Mind Candy, creators of childrens phenomenen Moshi Monsters.

Michael has been described by the Daily Telegraph as "a Rock Star version of Willy Wonka" and by the Independent as "a polite version of Bob Geldolf".

 He shared his roller-coaster ride over the last fifteen years and some of the lessons learnt. When he first started in business with his school-friend partner, he imagined his life would be something like Tom Hanks in the movie Big in which he gets to spend his days playing with toys. They decided the newly emerging World Wide Web would be the best place to sell gadgets and toys to adults. The online world was so new they had very little competition, but sadly for the same reason they also had very few customers in the beginning.

 Chess-setTo help raise money to fund the venture they sold their bodies to medical science (for a week anyway) and raised £400 each. A big early lesson learnt was being careful about the name of your business. They soon discovered that although HotBox.co.uk was a nice catchy web address, HotBox.com was a well-established pornography website in the United States.

This led to some embarrassing conversations with friends and family. A name change to FireBox  soon followed and the business began in earnest with their first best-seller a shot-glass chess drinking game.

 PetRock1Michael was a fan of video games on his ZX Spectrum computer, and this inspired the creation of MindCandy. Their first game was based on Masquerade, the best-selling book and treasure hunt by Kit Williams. Sadly PerplexCity turned out to be a commercial disaster, with the lesson learnt, to do market research before you pursue a personal passion.

He explained how Moshi Monsters was inspired by the success of the simple idea that became the Pet Rock phenomenon. After a slow start during the first two years, growth became rapid, leading to the 80 million PopJamregistered users today.

The brand now has now expanded offline to include books, toys, music, trading cards, video games and even a big screen movie. Understanding the temporary nature of all internet services, Michael is now looking to his next project PopJam, designed for mobile devices.

 Michael’s tips for success included, think big - but start small. And look at the opportunities the disruptive power of the internet and new technologies create for business.

 

 

 

Vanita PartiNext up was Vanita Parti founder of Blink Brow Bar. Vanita pioneered walk-in eyebrow bars and is largely responsible for bringing the ancient technique of threading into the 21st century.

Her ‘lightbulb’ moment came in 2004 after many happy years working as a brand manager for British Airways. But the time demands of two small children and full-time work were not compatible. Starting her own business was the answer to having more time for her family, and she recognised a gap in the market having to travel across London to get her own eyebrows threaded.

The initial phase involved trying to find and speak to the right people in department stores. This proved very tricky and resulted in lots of negative responses. This is where tip no.1 comes into play - be unashamedly persistent. Fenwick’s of Bond Street was the only store prepared to try out her idea. And with just one chair, instead of the relaxing coffee lounge Vanita imagined. From this small beginning, thanks to word-of-mouth marketing and loyalty cards, the brand grew gradually into other department stores.

Protecting her trade mark and brand were some  of the issues that Vanita felt she needed help, with the onset of competition. But for Vanita maintaining the premium level of the brand was crucial, and this involved turning down quite a few offers along the way. Ten years on Blink Brow Bars are now in 25 locations, and are just about to launch in the USA. In the early days Vanita was upset when staff she had recruited and trained left to set up rival brow bars, but she realised that competition is a fact of business. The key is to keep on step ahead, and to always maintain the quality of the brand. Her brand promise is to take the pain out of beauty regimes and leave women looking and feeling fabulous.

Vanita’s top tips were:

  • Understand what a brand is
  • Have a vision and don’t give up on it
  • Don’t be distracted from your ‘main thing’
  • Be unashamedly persistent
  • Have a financial plan - you need to make money to protect your business
  • Keep it interesting - repackaging something existing be a successful strategy

 Sam BompasFinally we had the flamboyant Sam Bompas co-founder of Bompas & Parr, who specialise in flavour-based experience design, culinary research, architectural installations and contemporary food design.

From 2007, when Bompas & Parr was founded as a craft jellymonger, the studio has rapidly grown from just Sam Bompas and Harry Parr to its current complement of ten - a team of creative specialists, designers, architects, cooks, technicians and administrators who work across a wide range of projects.

Projects include a fruit salad inspired jelly boating lake in Kew Gardens, multi-sensory fireworks for London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations and a neon jelly chamber.

Sam strode onto the stage in his shiny shirt and colourful trousers and immediately asked for a volunteer. After a rather lengthy pause, a brave member of the audience came forward. His job was to time Sam’s talk. But instead of holding a stop-watch, he was asked to hold a small piece of Gallium, on the basis that it would take about 15 minutes to melt in his hand. There was the slight problem due to the poisonous nature of Gallium, so a rubber glove was added.

Sam started his talk by telling us he has never taken on investment, and doesn’t really aim to make money - just to have fun with new ideas.

He skipped through a set of intriguing slides, ranging from architectural jellies to a breast bouncy castle recently installed in the New York Museum of Sex for an erotic themed event.

Sam’s ‘lightbulb’ moment was eating an expensive jar of mushroom pate from his local Borough Market, and discovering it only contained about three percent mushrooms. He reasoned the same principle applied to Jelly, except on a more extreme level, and with water instead of butter. How could they not make lots of money?

Unfortunately the jelly stall project got off to a bad start as they couldn’t afford the moulds, discovered jelly making is actually really difficult, and Borough Market said no. But the jelly idea stuck and they combined Harry Parr’s architectural training to produce a jelly mould of St Pauls Cathederal.

Jelly St Pauls

They learned the tricky technique of jelly making the hard way, with regular outbreaks of the dreaded ‘jelly finger’, But sadly never mastered the ambitious ‘wobbly bridge’ jelly.  Another lesson was that it very difficult to make large sculptures made of jelly even with the best made moulds.

The next step was to hold an architectural jelly banquet, for which the tickets sold out in days. The only problem was the high expectations of their customers, which they met by making the banquet an experiential event.

As you can probably tell, Sam is always thinking about the next project. His most important tip was to do something you love, and that stories are crucial in business.

He wouldn’t leave the stage without a quick demonstration of his current obsession - gherkin light-bulbs. He plucked three from a jar and pushed them onto a rather dangerous looking contraption. On the count of three from the audience he plugged this device into the mains. At this point I was glad to be sitting at the back of the room. However, there was no explosion, and after a short delay the gherkins glowed brightly.

Later on during our Questions and Answers session, moderator Matthew Rock mentioned that Bompas and Parr’s financial records seemed quite healthy, and all this talk of Jelly and parties were on a profitable business.

 

Neil Infield and Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

08 August 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction - Intellectual Property in disguise

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Transformers_Age_of_Extinction_PosterSpoiler alert! Unfortunately it was difficult to examine the IP mentions below without revealing a little of the plot, so if you haven’t seen the film yet and plan to, look away now.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the film Transformers: Age of Extinction. I was interested in the film as Ohyo, one of the Business & IP Centre’s Success Stories, has produced a limited edition of their bottle to tie in with its release. As well as being a very entertaining - almost three hours of robots, aliens, and robot-alien-dinosaurs, the IP geek in me also found much to enjoy in the many mentions of intellectual property within the film.

One of the main characters, Cade Yeager (played by Mark Wahlberg) is pretty much your standard action hero – rugged, wisecracking, good with a gun. But he’s also a struggling inventor, and as such is rather more au fait with the concepts of intellectual property than you’d expect from your average blockbuster protagonist. He jokes about IP, and worries about ownership of his creations.

Discussing an invention with his friend near the beginning of the film, their main debate is over intellectual property rights. And his reaction on using a huge alien gun is ‘Oh, man. I'm so gonna patent this sh*t.’ (It’s doubtful, of course, that he actually could, but then this isn’t really a film built on gritty realism.) And it’s not just Yeager: in another scene, during a battle between Bumblebee (an Autobot robot) and Stinger (an apparently new and improved Decepticon copy of his opponent), the former comments ruefully: ‘I hate these cheap knock-offs’. (Then he feeds his rival’s head to a two-headed robotic pterosaur, not an approach we’d normally recommend in regard to IP infringement). 

Perhaps the scriptwriters are simply demonstrating a healthy dose of self-awareness, as there is, of course, a huge amount of valuable intellectual property contained within a brand like Transformers, spanning as it does a multitude of media. From the film to the merchandise to the name itself, Transformers will be covered by a variety of IP protection, from trademarks and copyright to patents. Below is the 1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara.

US4516948-1

US4516948-6

US4516948-4

The film also offers some good advice for all would-be inventors out there, in a scene where Cade Yeager confronts a scientist whose creations have had dire repercussions for the world: ‘You're an inventor like me, so I know you have a conscience. Don't let your creation take control.’

Whilst, of course, most good inventions have positive outcomes, you can take control of – and learn to protect - your ideas by learning more about intellectual property here at the Business & IP Centre. 

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

25 July 2014

Book review - The Name of The Beast by Neil Taylor

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Name of the beastNaming your business, brand, product, company etc should be an easy and simple process but getting it right seldom is.

Neil Taylor was a senior naming consultant at global brand consultancy Interbrand - the company behind such household names as Prozac, Expedia, Hobnobs and Viagra - and states that the name is the one part of the brand that you hope will never change as it is the primary means of identification for a brand.

Brands change logos, straplines, headquarters, people – some of them even dramatically change what they do (Nokia started off making forestry products and rubber boots). But often the name is the one common thread that runs throughout the entire history of a company or product. So getting the name right is imperative and most hope never to change the name.

That means that when brands do change name, it’s a big and often costly deal. Remember when Opal Fruits became Starburst? When Marathon became Snickers? Oil of Ulay became Olay? Jif became Cif? All names that are still around today.

But what about Consignia – the new name that The Post Office-Royal Mail opted for? There was such a public fuss about the name – “Doesn’t sound like the national institution that Royal Mail does”, “Sounds like a brand of anti-perspirant (Insignia)”, “Consignia means (appropriately) lost luggage in Spanish”, “Unfortunately they forgot that a more common use of “consign” is to consign to the rubbish bin” - that the name Consignia has now been consigned to history as a massive failure.

The Name of the Beast (The perilous process of naming products, companies and brands) looks at the practical aspects of naming. How do you come up with names in the first place – what sort of name should you go for, what makes a good name etc? How do you make sure it doesn’t mean something awful in another language? How do you make sure that you don’t steal someone else’s name by accident (and then get taken to court)? How do you convince cynical colleagues, customers and journalists that your name isn’t worthy of the usual frenzy of devilish derision?

Within this humorous and easily readable book are tales of big brands, naming disasters, a smattering of insider knowledge and how 21st century super-brands like Google and Starbucks have built their empires on names with strong stories behind them.

Ziaad Khan on behalf of Business & IP Centre

04 March 2014

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons: Tuesday 25 February

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A highlight of our ‘Web in Feb’ Business & IP Centre series of events in February was an evening with Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons in partnership with Barclays. The speakers were Nick Robertson of ASOS, Kathryn Parsons of Decoded and Nick Jenkins of Moonpig.  Frances Brindle, Director of Audiences at the British Library, introduced the evening and informed us of the prediction that 25% of all retail sales will be online by 2016. Shopping via online and mobile channels is becoming the norm and, according to eMarketer, over 90% of internet users shopped online in 2013. Retail sales on ecommerce sites have reached £45.5 billion.

In the spirit of online, the audience of 255 in St Pancras and another 200 across 4 live screenings in Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield, and on computer screens across the world via webcast.

Internet Icons

First up was Nick Robertson, co-founder and CEO of ASOS.  Nick co-founded ASOS.com, a fashion and beauty retailer pioneering online fashion in the UK, and now increasingly the world, with sales approaching £1billion. Starting his talk with a glitzy video of the last six months of ASOS, Nick's story began with the ups and downs of building a fashion brand without a high street presence. He stressed the importance of being ‘laser focussed’ on what you do. But also staying flexible and being prepared to ‘to kiss a few frogs’.  His final tip was, don’t sell out too soon; if you have a great idea – stick with it online and it will grow.

Next up was Kathryn Parsons, founder of Decoded, who wants to teach 'Code in a Day' and is pioneering global code education. Recently nominated as one of the top five most innovative companies in the UK, Decoded launched Data in a Day in 2013, aiming to demystify big data for business, and Code Ed to empower classroom teachers. Kathryn told us she used the Business & IP Centre in London to plan her business three years ago. She is keen for ‘women to claim their digital vote!’  She amazed the audience by revealing Decoded had spent just £27 on marketing, instead using imagination and creativity to get their message across. 

To end, she spoke about the reality of women programmers who are doing business in the tech industry in the UK. She then showed us the list below of ‘5 Things I have learned about Programming’ from a seven year old girl.

Girl programmer of 7

 The last speaker, Nick Jenkins was a wonderfully entertaining whilst being surprisingly informative and wise. Nick claimed he would now be a boring lawyer now, if he hadn't failed all his A levels, which meant he studied Russian at University. This was followed by eight years in Russia trading sugar for Glencore.

He chose to use the internet as his primary basis for a business due to the low cost of starting up. To start Moonpig.com all he needed was a website, a printer and two sets of plain card in stock. Initially he relied on word of mouth to spread the message about the service.

Nick kept an eye on their main competitor by ordering a card from them once a quarter and comparing the order number on the receipt to see how much it had increased. He used this technique to measure the successes of his rival’s television advertising campaign and saw that it made economic sense. This led to Moonpig gradually increasing their screen advertising until they were spending £800, 000 a year. Nick realised Moonpig were open to the same form of competitive intelligence, so introduced four random letters in the middle of their order numbers. In a classic case of the law of unintended consequences, this led to complaints caused by some of the rude words produced.

 

 Nick confessed that initially the price he set for their cards was set too low. But he very was reluctant to increase it until his finance director gave him two choices. One, leave the price as it is and definitely go bust. Two, increase the price and maybe go bust. After increasing the price by £1 they were pleasantly surprised to see that the sales did not go down, and they went into profit.
Eventually the business grew and became stable and as Nick mostly enjoys the growing phase, he decided it was time to move on and look for his next startup venture.

Nick stressed the importance of hiring staff that will be as excited about the startup as you are, they will be happy to weather the storm the early days bring.  His final pieces of advice were; be decisive, allow staff to make decisions, and the importance of luck in business success.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre

02 September 2013

My favourite brand is complete rubbish

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My new favourite trademark was spotted on my way to work today, and is rubbish.

More accurately, it is What a Load of Rubbish! And I was pleased to see they have registered both their logo and text at the UK Intellectual Property Office at UK00002525927.

I love their combination of a cheeky but memorable name, which is reinforced on their website whataloadofrubbish.com.

Rubbish_trademark

Their trademark registration page.

Rubbish_lorry

The lorry in question.

Neil Infield on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

Neil Infield on behalf of the Business & IP Centre