Innovation and enterprise blog

24 posts categorized "Technology"

02 March 2015

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains

Last Monday’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains event at the British Library brought together founders of the Cambridge Satchel Company; Julie Deane, Ella’s Kitchen; Paul Lindley and Naked Wines; Eamon Fitzgerald to share their experiences of fast growth, including the challenges and rewards.

All three businesses went from zero to multimillion pound turnovers in a relatively short period of time, aided by digital technology.

  • Ella’s Kitchen, is the biggest baby food business in the UK, turning over circa £100m last year and sold in over 30 countries
  • The Cambridge Satchel Company, which started in 2008, has a £13m turnover
  • Naked Wines, which started the same year, has 250,000 prepaying customers, 120 wine makers on the books and a £67m annual turnover
Pictured from left to right: Richard Phelps, Executive for Entrepreneurs at Barclays, Paul Lindley, Julie Deane and Eamon Fitzgerald
Richard Phelps, Executive for Entrepreneurs at Barclays, Paul Lindley, Julie Deane and Eamon Fitzgerald

Julie Deane noted passion was important for a business' success. She was very geeky at school and no-one who knew her would have thought she would end up at the helm of a company which featured at London Fashion Week. “It shows that you can change direction if you have a passion for something."

Deane's motivation for starting a business was to get her children into a good private school, a goal she achieved with only £600. Her mum had always told her it was bad to borrow, so she never has. “Borrowing money makes you scared so you cannot be as free to do something fantastic.” The limited budget meant she had to be creative and learn new skills. She built her own website through a free tutorial and saw exporting as “a different label on the parcel.” She used her children to model the bags and paid them with a Mars bar each. They also starred in her Google advert.

The Cambridge Satchel Company, product examples.
The Cambridge Satchel Company

Deane contacted fashion bloggers who were attending New York Fashion Week to generate word of mouth and since then the bags have been seen on the shoulders of Taylor Swift and Alex Chung, and featured on hit TV shows Girls and The Good Wife.

Deane now employs 120 people, producing over 900 bags a day in a factory based in Leicester, selling to Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales.

Eamon Fitzgerald spoke about the business model for Naked Wines being built upon customers grouped as ‘Angels’ investing £20 a month in the company, in return they enjoy insider prices of 25% - 50% off retail wines prices. The longest serving customers are involved in the consultation of new ideas, with opportunities to taste new wines.

Fitzgerald recalled how Naked Wines’ ‘Angels’ raised £2,500 in one afternoon to help an independent wine producer whose stock had been vandalised. He said campaigns like these motivated staff and customers and set aside his brand from competitors.

Eamon Fitzgerald, conducting a talk at the Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains event hosted by the Business & IP Centre at the British Library
Eamon Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald had the following tips for business success:

  1. Have a product that is better than your competitors
  2. Cut out overheads for customers and build a fan base based on strong values such as supporting small wine growers
  3. Invest in talent rather than sales
  4. Treat your best customers well

Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, finished the panel recalling how he was inspired by his daughter Ella when he used games to make food fun and entice her to eat. He was working at Nickelodeon at the time, which meant he had a good knowledge of what children like and how they relate to brands. 

Lindley noticed most baby food was aimed at parents, Ella’s Kitchen is different. It is healthy organic food, but the packaging and combination of foods makes it appealing to children. The bright pouches the company uses were unique at the time, “it was important to me to engage all their senses and to think like a child.” He wanted to be “different and create the next generation of toddler and baby food. The other brands had not changed and were very functional. We created a brand that was emotional because when you have a baby you are at your most emotional.”

Ella’s Kitchens' product examples.
Ella’s Kitchen

Customer values were at the heart of his brand and Lindley’s mission was to improve children’s health by giving them a good relationship with food. Lindley is now focusing on a new start-up, Paddy’s Bathroom. It’s a range of fun organic bathroom products named after his son and the social message is much more upfront. For each drop of water children uses to wash themselves a village in Rwanda gets a drop of clean water.

Lindley’s five steps to success echoed Fitzgerald’s and Dean’s advice earlier in the evening;

  1. Strong brand values
  2. Putting the customer first
  3. Building an “awesome team”
  4. Going on instinct
  5. Promoting social responsibility

All three speakers stressed how important it was to reward their employees, for instance, by offering them shares in the business or giving them stock. Lindley said it was vital to recruit based on mind-set rather than skillset and all said their first recruits were the most important, promoting the “need to invest in recruiting the right people.” Equally important in the success of each of their businesses was story-telling. Lindley said “A story is so important to a business and telling that story is so important to the success of the business.”

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains was broadcast live via webinar and screening events in the Leeds Business & IP Centre and the Manchester Business & IP Centre. Also, featured introductions by local speakers Eric Hawthorn from Radio Design Ltd and Chris Bird from Bird Consultancy.

You can now rewatch, Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains on our YouTube Channel BIPCTV. On this channel you can further find out about some of our success stories, and also watch some of our celebrity speakers during our Inspiring Entrepreneur events.



The British Library’ Business & IP Centre offers workshops and resources for anyone looking to start a business. The Centre’s Innovating for Growth programme provides free customised help to small businesses based in London, helping them to grow and flourish.

Hanna Fayaz on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

10 February 2015

10 tips to help you start a successful business blog

Emily Hill is the CEO of Write My Site, a digital copywriting agency based in Ealing, London. Her next workshop, ‘Blogging for Business’ takes place at the British Library Business & IP Centre on Thursday 12 February at 6pm. We asked her what advice she would give to small businesses wanting to start or develop their blog. 

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Emily Hill, CEO of Write my Site

Blogging for Business

Ahead of my workshop about business blogging as part of this year’s Web in Feb, I thought it would be useful to outline a few tips for small business owners who are considering starting a blog – or indeed, those who have set up blogs on their websites but aren’t too sure what to do with them.

At my copywriting agency, we write content for all manner of business blogs, from start-up tech companies through to big fashion retailers, and while there’s a vast difference in the type of content that performs best for each client, there are some general principles that apply to everyone. Below is my shortlist of 10 considerations which I hope will help in deciding how to approach blogging for 

1)      Blogging is proven to increase traffic to your website

Let’s start with the question at the top of every small business owner’s mind: does blogging actually bring more traffic to your website? The answer, happily, is yes. Adding between 21 and 51 blog posts to your site boosts traffic by up to 30%, and when you’ve added at least 52 blog posts, your traffic increases by 77%.

A study of 2,000 businesses by HubSpot also revealed that blogging more than 15 times each month increases traffic by 55% and inbound links by 97%.

2)      Blogging generates leads

Blogging sceptics think it’s not worth spending time or money on lots of content that doesn’t generate immediate sales. These people are missing the point. For small businesses, a blog is the most valuable digital asset they can curate. Blogging does generate leads – according to a Think Creative survey, small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. However, it’s important to take a long-term approach.

At Write My Site, we regularly sign new clients who have been following our blog and social channels for months – in some cases years. Blogging is about building your reputation as an expert in your field, and you can’t do that overnight. The payoff, however, is that the clients who’ve been following your blog are the best kind of clients: they’ve already learned something from you, they already trust your brand, and they are brilliant at generating repeat orders and referrals.

3)      Small businesses get the most out of blogging

Small businesses with 1-10 employees receive the biggest benefit of frequent blogging: they can double their sales leads by increasing their number of blog posts from 3-5 to 6-8 per month (HubSpot).

That said, measuring the impact of a business blog purely by the amount of traffic or leads it generates is a limited approach because it excludes the value of developing a social media fan base, and obtaining PR opportunities (e.g. invitations to speak at industry conferences) – both of which are invaluable by-products of blogging for small businesses who must constantly find ways to compete with more well-known competitors.

4)      Writing the company blog needs to be someone’s main job

Here’s the drawback to blogging: it’s labour-intensive. This means someone has to spend their time researching and creating the sort of high-quality, original content that will stand out from the thousands of generic articles that already exist on any given topic. Most business blogs are abandoned after fewer than 5 posts and my guess would be it’s because nobody has the time to keep it up to date.

Writing the company blog needs to be someone’s main job or clearly-defined part-time role. It doesn’t matter if that someone is an employee, a contractor or an agency copywriter – what’s important is that they don’t have conflicting demands on their time.

5)      Every business has something interesting to say

Many businesses fear they are too “boring” to be able to populate a blog with regular content that people will want to read, but there is a clear reason why this isn’t so: if your business has a customer base, then it is sitting on information and advice that will be of interest to those customers.

Take net curtains, for instance. This is not a topic that automatically gets my pulse racing, but I became a customer of a small textiles company that had taken the trouble to publish articles about how to measure, select and hang net curtains. Why did I buy from them? Quite simply, because they had taken the trouble to provide genuinely helpful information that was an exact match for my needs. This made me far more positively inclined towards them than towards the other companies that simply tried to sell me their products.

6)      Longer articles are generally better than shorter ones

In recent years there’s been a shift from short and snappy blog pieces to longer, more detailed articles. This is partly because of Google’s increasingly strict quality guidelines (see point 8, below) and partly because responsive design has made it possible for long-form text to be easily read on mobile phones and tablets. Although there is no convincing evidence that the length of a blog piece has a noticeable impact on traffic, it does seem to affect links and social shares. If a blog post is greater than 1,500 words, on average it receives 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes (Quick Sprout).

My view is that most blogs benefit from a mix of article lengths. I tend to write a combination of 1,000 words plus pieces (such as this one!) and shorter pieces of no more than 500 words as these can be more easily absorbed by the busy reader.

7)      WordPress is awesome

I suggest to my clients that they get set up to an easy to use and SEO-friendly blogging platform such as WordPress. What I really like about WordPress (other than it being completely free) is the extent to which it can be customised – both on the front and back end. You can make it look and behave in just about any way you like.

8)      Keywords have grown up

More precisely, Google has grown up. Blogging used to be so easy: all you needed to do was keep repeating a certain word or phrase as often as you could and wait for Google to put you on Page One of the search results for that term. Following a deluge of poorly constructed ‘spam’ articles from companies wanting a quick win, however, Google has raised its game and is becoming better at recognising keyword spam and other cheap tricks designed to manipulate its algorithm.

Following the Hummingbird update in 2013, Google’s key interest is figuring out what people mean rather than just what they say when they run a search. The semantics of search is a huge topic in and of itself, so for the purposes of this section I’ll skip straight to the conclusion: write articles targeted at the reader and don’t crowbar your keywords into them. If you’re using WordPress (see point 7!) you can install a plugin called Yoast which will help you tweak your articles for keywords in a natural way.   

9)      Your blog needs a voice

Generic content is the kiss of death in business blogging, especially for small companies that don’t already have an established readership. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to read your ‘me too’ version of an article that has already been widely circulated. You must develop a distinctive voice, and a distinctive view on whatever topic you are writing about.

10)   Your analytics will tell you what’s working (and what’s not)

The only way you can tell whether or not your blog is doing well is by measuring it. As the saying goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to cost you a penny. Make sure you install Google Analytics so that you can track visitors and page bounces (the number of people who leave your blog without interacting) for every article. Over time you should be able to spot patterns that tell you what kind of articles are most popular with your readers. 

WMS Logo

Blogging for your business can reap huge rewards, so I hope these tips have gone some way towards helping you develop and refine your strategy. Good luck!

06 February 2015

From Google to Poet in the City: London’s Knowledge Quarter to lead the UK's knowledge economy

The Knowledge Quarter in King’s Cross is the newest buzz in London. The project started two years ago and was officially launched in December 2014. It is a partnership of over 35 knowledge-based institutions within a three-mile radius of King’s Cross, who are united by the shared purpose of creating and disseminating knowledge. 

Knowledge Quarter logo

The Knowledge Quarter’s mission is to promote the area around King’s Cross as one of the greatest concentration of knowledge institutions anywhere in the world, raising awareness of their outstanding facilities, expertise and cooperation. To find out more check the newly launched Knowledge Quarter website and Twitter feed @KQ_London.  Fran Taylor, Marketing Manager at the British Library, has also written a blog post London's Knowledge Quarter: Five things you need to know.

With the British Library as the Chair, the Knowledge Quarter includes an array of organisations such as the Art Fund, the British Medical Association, the Guardian newspaper, the University of the Arts London, Google London, Poet in the City, University College London, the Royal College of Physicians, the Francis Crick Institute and many more. 

At the official launch by George Osborne the Chancellor of the Exchequer it was also announced the  new Alan Turing Institute will be housed at the British Library. This will help to ensure that Britain leads the way in big data, algorithm research and to recognise the contribution of Alan Turing to mathematics, computing and wartime code-breaking.


That week also saw the launch of the British Library’s Living Knowledge Strategy to 2023, which will bring all elements of this to life.

What is striking about all of this to me, is that King’s Cross has seen a phenomenal regeneration in recent years. It is quite a turn-around considering the previous gradual decline from its grandeur as a transport and commuter hub in the late 1880’s, to a run-down ‘red light’ district a hundred years later.

One tweet heralded the announcement of the Knowledge Quarter with: What was once the “wrong side of the Euston Road” is now the Knowledge Quarter


Coincidently, a couple of years ago I went on an official guided walk around the King’s Cross area, given by Rachel Kolsky of GotoLondonTours. And even though I  thought I know the area fairly well, I was still impressed with the history, regeneration and investment in the area.

It was on this walking tour with fellow information professionals, that I first heard about Google’s UK Headquarters moving to King’s Cross. I remember looking at the vista from the temporary viewing platform - I could see buildings housing the Guardian, The University of Arts, the Crick Institute, the amazingly rebuilt St Pancras Station, and of course my workplace the British Library. There are too many planned developments to share here, but I have written a blog post all-change-at-kings-cross which serves as a nice memoir. It also acts as a guide for those of you who haven’t visited as yet even for a leisurely stroll or to dine out in the area’s many eateries.

Business clusters and cultural hubs like the Knowledge Quarter can be a good way to give organisations with a common vision, opportunities to collaborate, connect and co-locate. Some other examples of ‘quarters’ are the Cambridge Science Parks, the ‘City of London’ Financial district, the Jewellery Quarter in Hatton Garden, the Inns of Court in Chancery Lane and Holborn, print and publishing in Clerkenwell and the Southbank for cultural activities. Tech City hub, also known as Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch has been well documented. And in the north of the country is  Liverpool Knowledge Quarter. London Council’s report on business clusters attributes this clustering to the “critical mass in skills, services, knowledge and institutions which can underpin economic competitiveness and advantage”.

In an internal British Library presentation, I was pleased to hear that another objective of the King’s Cross Knowledge Quarter project is to increase local community engagement. Other targets are to develop further local schools engagement, apprenticeship, internships and training with organisations, such as with digital skills.  We also heard that by 2020, up to 50,000 people will be studying, and working in Kings Cross, and that the population of 225,100 is expected to increase by 2023 to just under a quarter of a million.

Without a doubt,  one of the main objectives of the Knowledge Quarter is to increase economic growth and development in the area, but also to reach out beyond London and the United Kingdom. In our digital connected world, it is a lot easier for organisations to be collaborate, connect and innovate across national boundaries.  So to say that the Knowledge Quarter’s ambition is global is not an understatement.

Here in the Business & IP Centre we have been doing our bit over the years to help companies start and grow into international businesses. And we have been using internet technologies to deliver webinars and our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events to an international audience. This month we have a host of events on ‘The Web in Feb’ and we have a London Business Information Guide to assist you to find information about setting up or doing business in the capital.

Welcome to the Knowledge Quarter from Knowledge Quarter on Vimeo.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

28 January 2015

Top tips: Pinterest as a visual bookmark for your business

Pinterest thought leader Vivienne Neale gives us her top tips to master Pinterest for your business. Vivienne will give a workshop on the same topic on 18 February 2015 in the British Library, Business & IP Centre for which you can register here.

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Using Pinterest for business

The world of social media is a crowded place. Many new social networking sites are popping up and trying to compete with giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Deciding which social media tools are right for your business can be a challenge. Thus, it is crucial to learn from experienced practitioners when delving into the social media sphere.

Once you take the plunge it is not enough to have a presence online, you must also stand out to make a worthy return on your time investment. Pinterest is a fast growing social media platform that is used as a visual search engine by businesses and consumers alike for inspiration, research and for shopping. 

Vivienne writes regularly about Pinterest, develops Pinterest strategies for companies in the UK, Europe and the US and beta-tests Pinterest-related products. We had the chance to ask her some key questions about Pinterest in anticipation of her workshop.

Hi Vivienne! Why do you think Pinterest has become so successful when Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can also manage images?

Pinterest is unique. It taps into our scrapbook passions. It allows us to collect ideas in a very easy to manage place, grouping pins into boards and creating a thing of beauty. Pinterest’s main advantage is a direct link to the image source the user can visit. Here lies the strength for marketing!

How can small businesses use Pinterest?

The key to using Pinterest as a business tool is to share images and content your customers love, related to your niche. If you are a florist, you may want to create an account about flowers with boards on wedding ideas styles, garlands, church decorations etc. Pinterest is about aspiration and inspiration - visualising the ideas and concepts behind your brand.

A bed retailer might have pins grouped under heading such as, “10 tips on getting a good night’s sleep”, “Bad Back Fixes” or “Foods to avoid before bedtime”. Use your creativity but ensure your pins are optimised to their full potential. With the introduction of Pinterest’s Smartfeed in 2014 you can enhance your account easily. You can also share content marketing on Pinterest by creating an infographic or a photo collage.

How can you measure the impact of Pinterest on your customers/business?

Analytics software can measure what is happening on your page. Pinterest offers some basic analytics, but there are many other existing software packages that provide more depth of information. For example, Tailwind and Ahalogy are great Pinterest analytic tools. Never underestimate talking to your customers either - ask them if they have been to your Pinterest site, what they thought, what they liked and what they hope to see in the future.

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How can a services company, who does not have a product, use Pinterest?

Services firms can greatly benefit from Pinterest too. For example, an architecture firm can showcase their work and inspiration; a psychologist can create boards with stress busting images and inspirational quotes. Just consider “What would be useful, interesting, entertaining or educational for my customer?”

How much time should a business invest in Pinterest to make it a success?

For many, Pinterest is a joy and can find it difficult to log out! I post 100 pins per week spread over seven days and schedule them using a management tool. It is a time investment but it pays off. If it is in your budget you can pay experts to manage your social media account too.

How can I protect my copyrights and intellectual property (IP) rights on Pinterest?

There have been a couple of cases in the US where brands have made a complaint to Pinterest about the violation of intellectual property, but there have been no prosecutions. If a brand or business does not want its content being pinned then it must insert a line such as: ‘Content on this website is considered to be intellectual property of ********* and cannot be shared, published, printed without authorization’. To find out more about intellectual property you can also attend a Beginner’s guide to intellectual property workshop in the British Library, Business & IP Centre.

What are your top tips on using Pinterest for business?

  • Put a ‘Pin it’ button on your website – making it quick and easy for anyone on your site to pin your images and information
  • Use engaging board titles
  • Use a business account and not a personal account. Verify it and ensure your profile and board details are completed in full
  • Use good quality images, portrait orientation
  • Get familiar with Rich Pins; they include extra information right on the Pin itself
  • Come along to my workshop in the Business & IP Centre to find out more and ask any questions you may have. Register here

07 January 2015

Business & IP Centre webinars - learning wherever you are

Here at the Business & IP Centre we strive to assist businesses looking to start up and grow in a number of ways: they can explore the research resources in our reading room, attend our events or book in for a 121 session to discuss their idea. One of the most popular services we offer are our workshops - run by centre staff and expert partners, they help start-ups, inventors and entrepreneurs get to grips with a number of crucial business areas, from intellectual property to social media. 

Most of our workshops are held onsite in our dedicated workshop rooms - however, we recognise that busy entrepreneurs aren't always able to make it into the Centre in person. So, like the businesses we see each day, we strive to be innovative, harness technology and adapt to our customers' needs, and therefore offer a programme of free online webinars accessible to anyone - in any location - from their computer. Alongside the National Network, the webinars are a way to reach beyond our presence in London; helping entrepreneurs across the country and even the world – we’ve had attendees from New York to Newcastle.

Attendees simply need to book online and log in on the day, and one of our team will talk you through an online presentation, with an opportunity to ask questions at the end.

Over the next few months, with funding from the Intellectual Property Office, we are running a series of intellectual property webinars, covering patents, designs and copyright. These webinars will introduce the different forms of intellectual property protection, guide attendees through searching for previous registrations, and show them how to protect their work. Wherever you are, if you've ever wanted to learn about IP while still in your PJs, these could be for you!

Webinars are displayed on our 'Workshops and Events' page - a taster of what's coming up online is below. 

  Webinar image

Introducing Patents

Friday 16 January 1pm – 2pm

A patent protects new inventions and covers how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made, and can be a key asset in business. This webinar will explain the basics behind patent protection and registration, and how to use internet databases and resources to search for patents. The session will include a live demonstration of a patent search to guide delegates through the process.


Introducing Registered Designs

Friday 13 February 1pm – 2pm

A registered design protects the appearance of a product. This webinar will explain the basics behind registered design protection and registration, and how to use internet databases and resources to search for designs. The session will include a live demonstration of a registered design search to guide delegates through the process.


Introducing Copyright

Friday 13 March 1pm – 2pm

Copyright protects original creations, from literary and artistic works to software. This webinar will explains the basics behind copyright protection, including eligible works, duration of protection, and an introduction to protecting and managing your copyright as well as using the work of others.


Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre


25 November 2014

An umbrella with style and strength - the Senz° XL storm-proof

Senz umbrellaIt's looks alone were enough to demand the attention and curiosity of my colleagues. And it was certainly easy to spot amid the forest of standard umbrellas, drying in a corner of the office after a particularly wet morning commute.

And I have to admit one of the reasons for buying the XL storm-proof umbrella from Senz° was its unusual shape. It reminded me of a stealth fighter jet or perhaps something Batman might pull out if caught in a downpour.

The other reason - and the cause for the umbrella's striking silhouette - was the company's claim that it is capable of withstanding winds of up to 70mph without turning inside-out - or inverting to use the technical term. This was backed up by an impressive and, at times, hair raising demonstration video, which indicates it would handle anything that our weather here in London could throw at it. Although I do not recommend that anyone try the test at 1.48 minutes.

Senz° joins a long line of anti-inversion brollies (a quick keyword search for "windproof umbrella" in Espacenet found close to 200 patents), each with their own take on how best to resist the elements. Senz°'s offering is unique in that its asymmetrical, aerodynamic shape channels wind flow across its surface: preventing wind resistance that would flip a normal umbrella inside-out. It will also automatically twist into the best position for it to battle the wind - as long as the handle is not gripped too tightly.

The invention was the 2004 brainchild of Dutch industrial engineering student, Gerwin Hoogendoorn. In classic inventor style, he decided there had to be a better way after the frustration of experiencing three broken umbrellas within a space of a week.

Video: The dream of making Senz - IDE TU Delft from IDE TU Delft on Vimeo.

Having made the initial drawings and producing a prototype on his grandmother’s sewing machine, Gerwin approached fellow students of Delft University of Technology, Gerard Kool and Philip Hess, to brainstorm bringing it to the market. Within nine days of the umbrella’s launch in 2006, they had sold all 10,000 of their initial production run.
It has since won numerous awards, including:
•         Red Dot award for design 2007
•         Dutch Design award 2007
•         IDEA (gold) award 2008
•         Good Design award 2008
•         Gold International Design Excellence Award 2008
•         ICSID Star of the Observeur award 2009
•         iF product design award 2009

Sexy Senz

So much for the theory, but how has the XL storm-proof umbrella served me against London's ever changeable weather? After six years (by far the longest any has lasted) and some fairly testing storms later, it has held up well with only a few scratches on the top cap from the times that I had used it as a walking stick (which Senz° explicitly state in their care instructions I should not do... sorry). More significantly, it has not inverted once during the six years I have owned it.

So a case of style and substance, rather than style over substance? In this instance, I would say definitely yes.

William Davis on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

08 August 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction - Intellectual Property in disguise

Transformers Age of Extinction Movie 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.

1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara, figure 1

1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara, figure 7

1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara, figure 5

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

10 July 2014

Make a Date with Business


A few months ago dating business Lovestruck was headlined in the business news for winning Best International Business at the British Young Business Awards.  Lovestruck was not only a success in the UK but their Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder is quoted as saying “Many felt that the odds were far too stacked against us when creating a new premium online dating brand to challenge the entrenched, resource rich competition, so we are delighted that our growth abroad in particular Hong Kong and Singapore has been recognised”.

Soon after this award announcement I noticed Business & IP Centre customers looking for this topic in our collection and it seems our customers also have ambitions to create dating businesses.  I too began to investigate the subject on our resources and databases for news and market research that are available free in the centre helping me to understand the industry and landscape for dating and matchmaking businesses. 

The dating and matchmaking business is not a new business idea and old adverts in printed format and business models have been around as long as the classifieds in newspapers.  In this BBC article there are examples of dating sites going way back in history.  As recent as the late 1990’s , I saw in printed copies of Your Dog magazine held at the British Library that pet owners advertised details of their dogs – but with the owners personal details for a match made in dog harmony.  However, with the growth of the web, there have been many changes both on setting up dating businesses and on using the sites in the dating game. There is little or hardly any stigma left for using sites and services.  The current market is prolific and was valued at £170million in the UK by Swedish company Metaflake. This is a trend that is also replicated in other regions of the world as demonstrated by this world map.

Source: Wikipedia Online Dating Services

Dating service businesses are formed usually on their own genre, with a unique selling point (USP) based on clientele, such as Lovestruck, eHarmony,, My Single Friend and Christian Connections.  Newspapers and even radio stations aim for their own readership and audience with their sites such as Guardian Soulmates by the Guardian and ‘The Dating Lab’ by The Telegraph.  Some of these businesses are steering an industry on issues for the benefit of their customers and their own future standards.  There are two main bodies that are a good starting point for researching the industry and they are the Association of British Introduction Agencies (ABIA) (see also their directory) and Online Dating Agency (ODA).  Some of the concerns are authenticity and fake profiles, data privacy and security and consumer protection. The associations are set up to be used by premium brands to put together a code of conduct to protect the industry against poor practices and to uphold high standards of behaviour by the dating service providers in the UK. If you are thinking of setting this type of business, these two sites are useful for tips and best practices for consumers and providers.

In terms of the market research available into this sector, there is a useful Key Note Singles Market report in the Business & IP Centre – produced a couple (no  pun intended) of years ago but the analysis, facts and figures are still insightful for understanding customers behaviour.   For example, I discovered that 11.7% of the surveyed Singles Market confirmed that they had met their partners online. Regionally, those in the North (27.2%) were most likely to have met dates or partners online, while there were no respondents living in the East Midlands, South West or Wales. Personally, I find this is hard to believe!

When asked ‘What is the worst thing about being single?” they provided amusing answers which in highest ranking are “No one to talk to”,  “Having to Do the Household Chores all by Myself”, “Having to Go to Places on my own”, “Lack of Physical Contact” ,“People assuming you have a Partner”, or “Money Worries”. With answers like these, there are 32.2% of the single population actively dating. 

Another interesting fact is where people like to meet. When asked the question “Where have you met potential dates or partners?” the respondents gave the following answers in ranking order – Place of Education, Pubs and Bars, Club and Work with the least favourite places for meeting people are surprisingly Online, Dating Agencies and Speed Dating.  This doesn't actually distract from the fact that the dating business can be profitable and online with people still using these sites. Speed Dating may not be popular according to this survey but in this similar format, we hold regular events at the Centre called ‘Speed Mentoring’ sessions with experts to give you advice on the topic of day.   This works really well for networking and making contacts.

If you use the London Underground trains, you cannot avoid noticing the ‘Tube’ adverts aimed at this same single market in the city. You can see advertisements with various agencies vying for the competition to gain some market share with some eye-catching adverts appealing to commuters. The adverts also show the various brands on the market, the differences in their target audience and inner aspirations in a partner such as the Christian Connections advert tailored for Christian customers. 


Source: London Underground Advertising campaign by Christian Connections

Big Data generated by online business are also used to market businesses and to understand client preferences and behaviour. Data can be useful to push adverts, to create apps and for further innovations but they don’t seem to guarantee success in relationships as mentioned in this BBC article.

In a discussion with one of our Innovating for Growth delivery partners, Christopher Pett, who is a Product Development Consultant at Makerco, observed that "this is a great example of a service offer that is expressed from the customer's point of view, which people so often forget to do. In one advert, the guy was saying how he listened to his prospective partner's favourite album before their first date. That's such a simple way to demonstrate that users will establish meaningful relationships with each other before they meet and take time to get to know each other. It's a tacit offer that has an emotional impact on potential customers”. 

The customers are at the core of these businesses.  Their buy-in to your service or product will help you gain more of the market and in turn, run a successful business.  Don’t waste anytime – make a date to use the resources such as the Cobra reports on Dating Agencies or Speed Dating Organiser in the centre to research about your particular idea.  The British Library is also an ideal place to spend time socially such as looking at our exhibitions and as a meeting place with someone in our restaurant for a date!

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre

Follow Seema on Twitter: @SeemaRampersad

25 April 2014

From Rock Stars to Orchestras – making music in the Business & IP Centre

Flashback to a few months ago, and I was really pleased to help a leather-clad American rocker in the Business & IP Centre. He was here to research the School of Rock franchise (not to be confused with the School of Rock film).

Both names are registered as trademarks on the UKIPO’s website – the former as a music school and the latter by Paramount for the film. Our customer reminded me of David Coverdale the lead singer from UK Rock band Whitesnake – it’s not every day that a rock-and-roller comes into the Centre. Although we do have a wide range of musicians from Disc Jockeys to Death Metal guitarists to classical orchestras, using the Centre for their market research.

School of Rock logo

Photo Source: School of Rock Trademark - “Inspiring the World to Rock on Stage and in Life”

Our Innovating for Growth programme has advised the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), one of the most successful free-lance orchestras in the UK.

The Orchestra prides itself on its diversity, and ability to give crowd-pleasing performances with a small group of musicians to an intimate audience, or a full 80-piece orchestra at an outdoor event. The National Symphony Orchestra is also Katherine Jenkins’ orchestra for live concerts and UK tours.

They are regularly invited to perform in Russia, Scandinavia and across the rest of Europe.Their aim  is to introduce symphony music to the masses.
National Symphony Orchestra

At the heart of these businesses is the music itself, which has seen unrelenting innovation in the way we produce, consume, and enjoy music over the last ten years. By 2012 there had been nearly a billion digital tracks sold.

If you are looking for more statistics on the music industry, see our Music Industry Guide. This is a very useful starting point for anyone researching the music industry or starting a business.

Included in the guide is ‘Music 3.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age’ by Bobby Owsinski. He covers changes from sheet music in the 18th century through to vinyl and the present day digital formats. Owsinski describes in detail what he calls the ‘Six life stages of Music’.

The book covers the pros and cons of recent developments, and includes interviews with leading industry figures. Owsinski also looks at the use of social media as a marketing tool, as well as for distribution and brand development.

If you are looking to find answers to: What has changed? Who are the new players? What are the new technologies being introduced that will influence how you sell or market? This is the book for you. To quote one of his reviewers - “I own close to a dozen books on the topic of the changing landscape of music and how musicians of the new era might fit in; and while some of these books were helpful, “Music 3.0″ was by far the best and most useful of them all”.

Musical Inspiration

However, if you are looking for inspiration to create music, we have that in abundance too. From across the British Library, you can listen, see and feel music from our Sound and Vision archives and at our events. I recently visited our Listening Service, ordering items from the catalogue, where we have a collection of 3.5 million sounds, including LPs & singles from the 1950s to the present.  ‬‬‬‬Why not have a look yourself?

Jazz for moderns by Joe Harriott Quintet, album cover
You may also be surprised at what you find on our events page, and you can read more on our blog, Inspired by Vinyl. A few weeks ago I attended a talk at the inaugural symposium ‘Keeping Tracks: Music in a Digital Age’, where Sacha Sedriks Creative Director at BBC Future Media, spoke about the ways the BBC have had to innovate. Sacha also showed a video on the new ways users are consuming music, and how they are using technology to make the experience interactive, immersive and personal. The presentations and talks have been published and will give you insight from experts, as well as the clues to the future of digital music.

Needlessly to say, we have quite a few resources in the Business & IP Centre that provide insights and statistics on the worldwide music industry, including digital music trends. Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of BPI, sums up the future in Digital Music Nation

“The music consumer in 2013 is dramatically different from the music consumer of 2003 and it is to the credit of everyone in this ecosystem – labels, artists, publishers, digital services, technology companies – that the platforms are in place to meet their growing expectations.”

For businesses and consumers, the landscape is changing, and so are the formats and channels. But reassuringly, our love of music remains the same.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre
Follow Seema on Twitter:@SeemaRampersad

13 March 2014

How to use social media for your business

Everyone seems to be talking about how social media can raise the profile of your business.

TwitterDuring this year’s WebinFeb we invited our followers to tweet questions using #askbipc about how to use social media as a business tool.

Neil Infield, Manager of the Business & IP Centre Reference Team who runs the Centre’s Introduction to social media workshop used his expert knowledge to pass on some of his top tips in just 140 characters!

Here are some of the most popular questions and how to address the issues  

 @HelenMacCar: How often should an organisation be tweeting?

If you have something interesting to say you can tweet many times a day. If you are selling or repeating it is spam.

 @KimberContracts: What is the best way to optimise social media for business use?

I suggest using a tool to manage your channels. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are the best currently.

@ttdrinfopost: Which mobile marketing channel works best commercially - social tech like Twitter, AdSense or more OS specific e.g. iAd?

Twitter is currently the king of social media reach, but their advertising model is still unproven.

@AmieMuiLee: Is there a way to add a link on your twitter profile to enable people to subscribe to newsletters?

You can add links into your twitter profile

 ‏@ttdrinfopost: What are the main challenges, advantages & disadvantages of integrating social technology into a business model?

Wow! Where to start? How about my monthly workshop?

@cog_design: Is LinkedIn really a valuable business tool or just a place for others to trawl for data to sell me stuff?

LinkedIn is an amazing business tool for finding customers, partners and promoting your expertise. 

@AmieMuiLee: Is it a good idea to link your personal Facebook account to your personal twitter account?

I think it is good to link all your accounts where possible. To make you easier to find and contact. 

 ‏@AmieMuiLee: What are time best times to schedule tweets at?

You should experiment and see what works for you. A blogger here tweets at 4am.

 ‏@nomvuyo: How do I access cheap and easy designers for my social media accounts? Do I need an HTML course?

For most social media platforms you can use the standard templates they provide.

@CamberwellArts:How many blog articles should I write in a week to make it engaging?

That depends on your readers and your topic. A minimum of once a week, up to a maximum of one a day.

@nomvuyo: What social media sites should I concentrate on using over others?

It depends on where your customers are. E.G. LinkedIn for professionals and 30-50 age group.

 ‏@nomvuyo: What's the first step I should take to build my brand using social media?

You should create an account for each of the main social media and add your identity and biog.


If you missed out on the Q&A but still need some help in using social media to raise the profile of your business, come along to the next workshop or have a look at Neil's slides.


Noma Siwela on behalf of Business & IP Centre

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