In through the outfield blog

8 posts from August 2012

22 August 2012

Our YouTube channel is now up to 341 thousand hits


Back in October 2011 I wrote Our YouTube channel gets 250 thousand hits.

This has proved to be a very popular topic on my blog recently, so I feel obliged to point out that the number is increasing rapidly, and today stands at 341,492.

Our BIPCTV channel has been going since the Centre opened in 2006, when we began posting recordings of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events, and our success stories.

The most recent upload was From Battlefield to Business, and run in partnership with Heropreneurs, Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, British Legion, Franchising Works and Help for Heroes.

The wonderful Levi Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce still tops the charts with 25,541 views, but he has stiff competition from Success Stories Guy Jeremiah of Aquatina Ltd, and William de Lucy from  Amplify Trading.

However my favourite remains Sam Roddick, founder of the ‘erotic emporium’ Coco De Mer, and daughter of Body Shop legend Dame Anita Roddick. She describes herself as an activist first and accidental entrepreneur second.

Levi Roots

20 August 2012

The Hovding® airbag helmet invention

Two Swedish women have designed an airbag helmet as a university project. It is meant for cyclists. Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt had their World patent application System and method for protecting a bodypart published as long ago as May 2007. Below is the main drawing.

Airbag helmet patent drawing

The Hövding® (“Chieftain” in Swedish) is a collar containing an airbag, helium as the inflating agent, and a sensor including gyroscopes and accelerometers. It only looks rather like a helmet when inflated. A USB port is used to charge it, and the act of putting it on activates it. This is quoted from Wired in the Guardian article, Would you trust an airbag helmet ?

Priced at about £300, it is hoped that the helmet will be on sale in the Spring of 2013. The Hovding® website looks like a fashion shoot, reflecting perhaps the fact that the designers are women. The site mentions that there is a Swedish law that cyclists under the age of 15 must wear a helmet, and that there was the possibility of extending it to adults. This dismayed the inventors and many others, who thought helmets impractical, awkward, etc. The inventors said that the product needed to change, to in effect an invisible bicycle helmet. I was pleased to see this -- they were telling their story, accompanied by their photos.

This video clip shows the product in action.


15 August 2012

Make it in Great Britain exhibition

London’s Science Museum has a free exhibition until the 9 September, Make it in Great Britain.

I visited it yesterday. It features numerous products, some huge such as a Lotus sports car or wheels from civil airliners, others small. The idea is clearly to stimulate the imagination of young people. Detailed explanations accompany the exhibits on show. The emphasis was normally on the science or technology behind the products, with no mention of intellectual property that I could see.

I feel that more could have been made of it. I would have liked to have seen more on the stories behind them – why did the company develop the products ? – and how specific problems in making the right product at the right price, and perhaps in marketing them, were overcome.

Above all, as it’s called Make it in Great Britain a mention of where the products were developed or made would have been interesting (this was rarely mentioned), and why it was considered important that we continue to innovate in product design and in production – a comparison with Germany, perhaps ? Voiceovers or films featuring the engineers would also have been welcome.

I suspect that the ideal visitor is probably a clever 14 to 16-year old who finds science fun and who is already interested in a career in design, or production technology.

There are certainly plenty of things to look at, and I learned about a number of products that I hadn’t heard of before. There was an explanation for example of Johnson Matthey’s autocatalyst, made at their plant at Royston, Hertfordshire. They have numerous patent specifications in this sector.

11 August 2012

Sugru®, the silicone blob

I’ve just come across what is apparently quite a success story. It’s a “brightly coloured smelly silicone blob” called Sugru®. That’s how an informative article on the Financial Times’ Entrepreneurship pages describes it.

So what is it ? A pliable substance which quickly sets to form a firm repair or mount or grip for equipment or any other article awaiting attention.

Jane ni Dhulchaointigh is an Irish citizen who while studying product design at London’s Royal College of Art came up with the idea. She admits that her first efforts were terrible. Most products in this area first appear and then a use is sought: here Jane knew what she wanted, and the problem was making the right combination of substances. FormFormForm was founded in 2004, and a £35,000 grant from NESTA was a big help. A couple of years of studying chemistry followed.

It was not until Christmas 2009, though, that they got a break, with publicity from articles in technology magazines such as Wired. Then Time Magazine put it on their list of 50 top inventions of 2010. More than a million pounds has since been raised from investors.

Very unusually, the article gives details of company sales, gross profit and so on. Sales in 2012/13 are projected at £3.9 million with an EBITDA of £800,000. They are based in an old factory in Hackney, in London’s East End.

The company website has a charming “Partial visual history of Sugru”. I always encourage inventors or designers with a passion (most certainly have that) and an interesting story to tell others about it – and why not a video or at least a voiceover ? Part of the appeal is the struggle, but there's also the fact that  the product didn’t come from a multinational’s lab. Comsumers are more likely to feel a connection to the product. Being somewhat artless as on the website is a good idea if it suits the marketing strategy, so long as you keep the finances firmly in mind.

As usual I checked for a patent. No published patent specifications were listed for Jane ni Dhulchaointigh, but for FormFormForm there was a granted European patent, Room temperature curable silicone elastomer composition. Jane Mary Delahanty (presumably her legal name) and three others are named as inventors. An American patent application is pending grant.

I would suggest that the ® symbol be added to the name Sugru on their website, packaging etc. to make it clear that it is, at least in the UK, a registered trade mark. Sugru itself is a good example of a word such as the trade mark Kodak where any mentions on the Web are likely to be of the product.

10 August 2012

The cold fusion "patent"

Martin Fleischmann, co-inventor of the notorious cold fusion patent application, has died, and his obituary is in the Daily Telegraph.

The claim to have achieved cold fusion in a glass jar, rather than by spending a stupendous amount of money, was extraordinary enough, but what also ruffled a lot of feathers was that he and Stan Pons announced their apparent discovery at a press conference. The customary route is publishing an academic paper in a journal.

Four inventors contributed to the invention published as World patent application Method and apparatus for power generation in 1990, with 110 pages of text and drawings. The University of Utah was the applicant. The main drawing is given below.

Cold fusion patent drawing

The search report at the end of the application lists three items of prior art – forerunners – with only the first marked as an X, highly relevant.

The first two pages of the description list four properties for an “ideal energy source” such as utilizing deuterium and ensuring it could be produced in a small, even portable scale. The claim was that the invention produced more energy than was consumed – which is of course what any power plant is meant to do – but others were unable to reproduce the results.

A European patent, EP463089, was granted in 1996 but was revoked in 1998 after opposition by Clean Energy Technologies, a Florida company. I have not looked into their arguments – patents are supposed to be new, and of a patentable nature, but do not have to work in order to be granted. A patent was not granted in the United States. In 1998 the University of Utah stopped trying to defend patent rights (according to New Scientist, 21 March 1998, page 23).

It seems that Clean Energy Technologies was working on rival lines, as they, according to an article in New Energy Times, demonstrated a 1300 watt cold fusion reactor in 1995 at a trade show.

This is the sort of topic that can be researched endlessly, especially as many on the Web still believe that cold fusion is possible. For example there is Harold Aspden’s complaint about how his cold fusion invention has been treated by the US patent office.

This inventor, from Southampton, England had a British patent granted, for which Thermal power generation by electrically controlled fusion is the published application.

09 August 2012

Guy Kawasaki ‘Enchants’ SLA Chicago 2012 conference

Guy_KawasakiGuy Kawasaki was the keynote speaker at the recent SLA annual conference in Chicago, and here are my notes from his talk.

Kawasaki started by talking about his time at the Macintosh division of Apple Inc. He described them as the largest collection of egomaniacs ever assembled in the US, until the creation of the Facebook development team.

In hindsight he realised that enchantment was a key part of his life, dating back to his first job in the jewellery trade.

His two recommended essential reads are:
How to win friends and influence people, published in 1931 by Dale Carneigie, and Influence – The Psychology of Persuasions by Robert B Cialdini.

Kawasaki has observed many hi-tech speakers over the years, and with the exception of Steve Jobs, they all ‘suck and go long’.

He always uses the 10 point model for presenting. So he told us if he ‘sucks’ today we will be able to tell.

1.    Achieve Likeability
-    Have a great smile – not just using the jaw, but also the eyes. So crow’s feet are good. Needs to be a Duchene smile
-    Accept others for what they are
-    Default to ‘yes’ – How can I help the person I just met

2.    Achieve Trustworthiness
-    Trust others first
o    Amazon – have a policy of returning an ebook in 7 days if you don’t like it
o    Zappos – buy the shoes online, if you don’t like them we will pay the return postage
o    Nordstrom – you can return anything to them at any time
-    Become a baker not an eater – a producer not a consumer
-    Find something to agree on with customers – it doesn’t have to be a big thing
o    Example of a dislike of Opera

3.    Perfect what you do
-    Do something DICEE
o    Deep
o    Intelligent – they understand my pain / my problem
o    Complete – the totality of the service you offer
o    Empowering – they make you more creative and productive
o    Elegant – someone has thought about the user interface

4.    Launch
-    Tell a story – a personal one, not a marketing one
-    ‘My girlfriend wanted to sell Pez dispensers online’ – the story behind eBay
-    Plant many seeds
-    The key to bottom up marketing – make them available to everyone
-    Use salient points when you talk about your services
o    Calories vs Miles to burn them off
o    Dollars vs Months of food for a family in Eithiopia
o    Gigabytes vs X thousands of songs on portable player

5.    Overcome resistance
-    Provide social proof of success – the white ear-buds that came with iPods were a visual indicator in the streets
-    Use a dataset to change a mindset
o – review of number of children and longer lives across the world
-    Enchant all of the influencers in the family not just the ones with the money, e.g. children.

6.    Make your enchantment endure
-    The Grateful Dead provide a space for people to tape their concerts for free
-    Build an ecosystem of the totality of your service
-    Invoke reciprocation
o    Don’t say ‘you are welcome’ say ‘I know you would do the same for me’
o    Enable people to pay you back in their own way
-    Don’t rely on money (e.g. price offers) – it is not the core of enchantment

7.    Great enchanters are great presenters, so:
-    Customize your introduction
-    Sell your dream
o    iPhone = $188 of parts manufactured in a factory in China, but is more than the sum of its parts
-    10 is the optimum number of slides
-    Delivered in 20 minutes at most
-    A 30 point font size is optimal – so you don’t read your text out to your audience

8.    Use technology
-    Social media is free and ubiquitous so use it
-    Remove the speed bumps for your customers
-    Capta reduces the number of customers
- – Uses your home address to mock up installation using satellite imagery
-    Provide added value
o    Information
o    Insights
o    Assistance
-    Example of website – aggregates information by topics
-    ‘Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant’. i.e. take little – give a lot
-    Use a lot of sources and spread the information.

9.    Enchant Up
-    When your boss or partner asks you to do something – drop everything else and do it.
-    Prototype fast
-    Deliver bad news early

10.    Enchant Down
-    Book by Daliel H Pink – Drive
-    Provide a MAP
o    Mastery – if you come and work for me …
o    Autonomy – if you come and work for me …
o    Purpose – if you come and work for me …
-    Empower action
-    ‘Suck it up’ – be a boss who is willing to do the ‘dirty job’

Kawasaki summed up Enchantment as having;
The Quality of Apple – the trustworthiness of Zappos – and the likeability of Richard Branson.


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06 August 2012

Arganic Oil a niche Success Story

Arganic_Argan_Oil_product_img_0Despite being a ‘jack of all-trades and master of none‘ librarian, I have to admit to not having heard of Argan Oil before. But thanks to Dana Elemara the founder of Arganic I now know much more than I did.

According to Wikipedia Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the Argan tree. It is found in Morocco, and is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties.

The Arganic Oil website expresses it more evocatively:

Argan oil is one of the healthiest and rarest oils in the world coming from the UNESCO protected argan tree. Often nicknamed ‘liquid gold’ this oil was the Berber people’s secret for centuries

It takes approximately 15 hours and 30kg of fruit to produce just 1 litre of argan oil. This lengthy process involves skilled handwork that has been passed down from generations.

In late summer the argan fruit ripens and falls to the ground where it is gathered. It is then laid out in the sun to dry. To make the oil, the dried outer fruit is first removed, then, using traditional artisanal techniques involving stones, the seeds are extracted from the hard inner shell.

Argan TreeUp to this point everything is done by hand, furthermore it is only women involved and this employment provides not only a good source of income in a poor region but an opportunity for them to gain independence. The process is governed by cooperatives who also give these women access to free education, and use some of the profits of the argan oil trade to benefit the local tribes and communities.

The seeds are then cold pressed to extract the oil. Nothing is wasted in the process, the fruit pulp is fed to cattle and the leftover seed pulp is used as fuel. At Arganic we have strict controls at every stage of production.

Dana had attended a couple of events and courses at the Business & IP Centre, but is still relatively new to the library. But it sounds like we have already been of help.

‘I trademarked my name only after being aware of it through the free IP seminar at the British Library and it was one of the best things I could have done at the start of my business as I have come across and won IP issues since.’

Here is her story:

Dana had heard about argan oil through relatives that were raving about it but found it difficult to get hold of in the UK. It was then that she decided to leave her mathematical and corporate background behind and the idea for Arganic came about. Luckily Dana had friends living in Morocco who put her through to the right people and the more she learned about this oil the more she fell in love with it and the important social impact it plays for women in Morocco.


I’ve just received this exciting update from Dana:

What a lovely post, thank you so much. There have been so many things happen since we last met, details on my last newsletter here, including TV appearances. Also last week my argan oil won a gold award from The Guild of Fine Foods, and today I found out that I won a Shell Livewire Grand Ideas award which gives me £1000 and free PR. They said I achieved the highest points in my category, and am now in the run for Young Entrepreneur of the Year which is announced in November. So I am extremely pleased right now.

I am still visiting the library and recommending the business centre constantly.

All the best, Dana

Arganic founder Dana Elemara

Arganic founder Dana Elemara

03 August 2012

The patent for synthetic running tracks

The athletics events start today at the Olympics, my favourite sport at the games. Something that has helped athletes run faster times is the ability to use rubbery synthetic all-weather tracks rather than grass, or the dreaded cinders which I remember from my schooldays in the 1960s. It really hurt if you fell down.

The 1968 Olympics was the first to use synthetic tracks. To avoid damaging the surface too much running spikes have to conform to rules, with a common one being that the spikes cannot be longer than 6 mm.

3M, the Minnesota-based company, originated such tracks with its Paving material and paving surfacing patent, filed in 1962. The technique involves urethane elastomers being poured in situ and hardening. The drawing page is shown below.

Tartan synthetic running surface patent drawings

The story goes that the head of 3M was a keen horseman, and wanted a rubbery surface so that horses would be less likely to get injured. The patent stresses its possible use on racecourses. The cost turned out to be too high for racecourses with their long circuits, while athletic tracks at 400 metres were shorter. Hence it is mainly used for running tracks.

The trade mark 3M used for the product was Tartan®, presumably in homage to Richard Drew’s Scotch Tape®, who also worked for 3M. The original patent for that product was filed as long ago as 1928 as Adhesive tape. Drew himself was named as one of the three inventors on the 1962 patent -- some 34 years later.