Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

3 posts from December 2013

20 December 2013

Learning is Progess: welcome to the world of Lean Startup

When starting a business, you invest large amounts of your personal savings in developing the product and the infrastructure, you mortgage your house to access the finance to launch it on an unsuspecting market…and, regardless of indifferent and negative signals from the market, you battle on regardless…’s dogged determination and blind faith that counts….RIGHT!...

The message from this workshop is that NO, NO, NO that is totally…. WRONG!   Welcome to the world of Lean Startup.

Leanstartupbookcover_smallLean Startup, introduced by Eric Ries in his book 2011The Lean Startup, provides a model for developing a business idea based on exposing your product/service to the market as early and as cheaply as possible. This enables you to start a process of learning and iteration which increases the likelihood of developing a product/service with features that customers actually want, or to identify the lack of demand for such a service before time and money is wasted.



A number of key quotes underpin the approach; one is to prevent you from being in a position in which you wistfully say ‘I wish I’d known that sooner’. The other is to ask yourself, ‘If my business idea is to be a success, what things need to be true’. The latter quote allows you to establish a set of hypotheses which you can then test through talking to potential customers, experimentation and using information resources like those held in the Business & IP Centre.  

The ‘Introduction to Lean Startup Workshop’ was delivered by Jordan Schlipf of Founder-Centric at the Centre in December. Jordan took the delegates on a lively journey introducing the 3 key Lean Startup tools: 

  •  Customer Development
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Minimum Viable Products

Jordan contrasted a perception that developing a business was a linear process with the reality that it was full of twists and turns and was more like a ‘bowl of spaghetti’.

His presentation was peppered with relevant and entertaining case studies such as the case of When the founders looked at the potential for selling shoes online they took photographs of shoes from a local shoe shop and presented these on a simple website. When an order came through they manually bought them from the shop and sent them to the customer. This supplied them with plenty of information on customer behaviours around which to develop their business model. This is a classic example of the application of lean.

The workshop was part of the BL’s contribution to the Open Innovation Project funded by Interreg IVB NWE and Lean will be a major focus for us in 2014.

A final word on Lean StartUp is a quote from Nick Imrie: ‘We used to have lean startup in my day too..we called it common sense’.

Keep an eye on our Workshops and Events calendar for our next Lean Startup workshop in 2014. 

Nigel Spencer on behalf of the Business & IP Centre  

09 December 2013

Helping to make a success story - Children's Qur'anic Pop-up Book

Elephant_imageCrowdfunding is all the rage these days, as it has proved a real alternative route for funding a new idea or product.

The current top three are Kickstarter, Indiegogo and RocketHub, with new players appearing almost daily.

So I was not surprised to find that one of our customers had taken this approach to get funding for her Children's Qur'anic Pop-up Book and 3D app. Hajera Memon is the Managing Director of Shade 7 Limited and has launched their funding campaign this week on Indiegogo.

I don't really need to tell you too much here about the project to fund their first book Story of The Elephant: Surah Al-Fil, because the funding page is pretty comprehensive. But their aim is to become a global, multilingual publisher of premium pop-up Qur’anic educational story books and digital apps that help children learn about Islam in a fun way.

It was great to hear that Hajera was invited to the Small Business Saturday launch event at No. 11 Downing Street in early December:

I had the amazing opportunity to meet Chancellor George Osborne and show him the pop-up book – which he really liked!

Even nicer was to read her comments about the Business & IP Centre:

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all so much for your extensive time, patience and support with the development of this project and for getting us to this exciting stage!

You’re a really special group of people whom I’m very grateful to know and you make me feel so pleased with the decision to try and join the entrepreneurial world, regardless of how things turn out! You’ve all added your own special contributions to my start-up journey and I really wanted to say thank you.

It is with your encouragement that I have had the strength to continue with each stage of the business and I really appreciate the efforts and invaluable advice you’ve all shared with me throughout. I pray this venture is successful and will be something you can all be proud of!



Neil Infield on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

05 December 2013

Neoshop – Boutique de L’innovation France: Collaborating, Connecting and Showcasing

I visited the city of Laval in France to attend the official opening of the Neoshop which is a unique concept store entirely dedicated to innovation and is part of an EU (Interreg) funded project on Open Innovation, of which the British Library and Neoshop (run by Laval Mayenne Technopole) are both partners.

Nowadays innovative startups often have difficulties with selling their products and finding the right audience. Neoshop was set up to make these business goals reachable.

  NeoshopPhoto Source: Neoshop

The Neoshop is located in a fresh new boutique shop on one of the main shopping streets with nearby ‘boutiques’ and a market square in Laval. They were especially busy for the Laval Festival in September and the area is known for its Christmas market so the next couple of weeks are due to get busier. 

Project partner Christian Travier pointed out that, “The difference with the Open Innovation project is that companies can give us the products – the Neoshop sells it – the companies get paid.  This is the difference to selling normally. For the companies there is no cost at the beginning”.

For interested companies, there are reports on customer feedback and management sales information for the products.  It was truly exciting to see, feel, interact and even smell some of the innovative products in the Neoshop such as:

Brumes Gourmandes - a collection of premium alcohol-based cooking sprays.

Ma P’tite Balise - the Geolocation system which enables parents to monitor their children while they are playing outside.

Papado – award-winning easy to clean toilet seat.

e-Motion - 3D e-Motion Tech from Toulouse.

   Neoshop 2

Photo Source: Neoshop

Besides a selling space the Neoshop is multifunctional with spaces which all provide:

  • Guidance and networking: Creators will get assistance with commercialization of their innovative products and help with forming connections with distributors and manufacturers depending on their needs
  • Regular customer feedback for the continuous improvement process
  • Co-working space: designed to provide inspiring workspace for independent workers or collaboration with other companies
  • Promotion of innovation: conferences, product presentations, meetings with creators
  • Fib Lab and Living Lab: designed to manufacture and test innovative products
  • Café: a friendly space created to enable customers to enjoy their time and to help them develop professional network.  This space an also be used for corporate events

In addition, there were products from our Flemish Voka Ghent Partners and London-based Innovating for Growth companies that were invited to test and showcase their products at the Neoshop.

SpyLamp2 - bicycle GPS tracker disguised as a bicycle tail light.

Paper Tango – London based company specializing in origami inspired gifts but with Parisien designs too.

Cath Tate Cards – humorous selection of cards and gift designers.

It was exciting to showcase and report on these in person to our partners and some of the benefits for international businesses are:

  • The possibility of testing the sale of your product abroad
  • Promotion of the product in France
  • Cost and time reduction of the international implementation of the product – Implementation of the product abroad is really expensive, both in terms of money and time.  With the Neoshop you can reduce the costs to minimum
  • Creation of the new revenue streams for your company – If your product is well received in France, you will enjoy higher revenue
  • Networking – The Neoshop will help you to network with B2B and build connections or interactions if required.

The opening was ‘Un grand affaire et fete’ attended by the Mayor of Laval, Government Minister with local dignitaries, designers, Neoshop companies and press in attendance for the official launch.  It was a super opportunity for me to meet everyone, represent the Centre and to understand the practical aspects of the open innovation boutique. 

Collaborating on this project, there were obvious synergies with other products and the initiatives at the Neoshop and with our international partners.  I brought a couple of items bring back to showcase in London and our Voka Ghent partners hosted a ‘Bicycle’ themed event whereby we were able to send the Spylamp 2 there too.  They were extremely excited about the product for Ghent as numerous bicycles get stolen all the time – they didn’t need any prompting to show and tell there too!  

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre