Monday, 30 December 2013

Backscratching: The Future Fifty

The Future 50

Today I stumbled across The Future Fifty, a government backed initiative designed to help support high growth companies by matching "qualifying companies" with "publicly funded schemes and incentives".

Now that sounds like a good thing to me.

Here's the thing though; I was browsing the companies on the list wondering how they were selected and I noticed that there seemed an unusual correlation between the constituents of the "Advisory Panel" (or to quote the FT, the "Independent Panel") and the companies on the list.  So I did a very quick online check against the Advisory Panel's companies' portfolios and the Future Fifty constituents and this is what I found;

Robin Klein, Partner at Index Ventures who have 12 companies on the list (Farfetch, Funding Circle, HouseTrip, Just Eat, Mimecast Services,,, Onefinestay, Photobox, Secret Escapes, SwiftKey) and Robin Klein sits on the boards of another 2 (Zoopla, Skimlinks)

Tim Bunting, Partner at Balderton Capital who have 5 companies on the list (Achica, HouseTrip, Medicanimal, Worldstores, Zopa)

Sonali De Rycker, Partner at Accel Partners who have 5 Companies on the list (Calastone, Hailo, Housetrip, Lyst, Mind Candy)

There are other links (e.g. Antony Clavel of Summit Ventures & Acturis, Jonathon Goodwin of PROFounders & &  but I got bored at this point and remembered I have proper work to do.

So What?

Eliminating double counts (e.g. HouseTrip is involved with Balderton, Accel and Index) this quick search showed direct links between the Advisory Panel and 23 of the 50 "qualifying companies".  I am fairly confident that a little more digging would find other links as this was just a quick piece of Google based research.

Now this means either;

  1. The Advisory Panel has been very well selected as they have direct links with roughly half of the companies in the UK that are most qualified to receive this support.  In fact Robin Klein alone has links with 14 of them, 28% of all "qualifying companies".

  2. The Advisory Panel is not "independent" but is biased towards companies they are involved with. This would mean that in finance and politics it's all about backscratching and who you know.

It's probably the first one.  I mean there's no way that this government would allow a bunch of well networked people to funnel exceptional governmental support towards companies in which they have a direct personal interest.  That just wouldn't happen. 

matches qualifying companies with publicly funded schemes and incentives relevant to their stage of growth and specific needs

Monday, 15 April 2013

A Rather Self-Indulgent Way of Announcing Some News

This is post I wrote long before engaging in the Independent Referendum debate.  I offer it as a light sorbet for those tiring of the political stodge.  I place it in amongst my Referendum links because I realise now an appropriate title might well be:
A Scottish Love Story

University was over and it was the end of my last summer on Islay. As I remember it now it seems as if the sun had shone every day for weeks.  I was fit, healthy and carefree.  I’d heard I’d got my top First, I had been offered the job I wanted and was excited about the prospect of embarking on my adult life proper.

It was 4am and I was sat in my battered old ford escort, parked on a single-track road, looking out over a moon-lit Loch Gruinart.  Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was playing on the in-car cassette and I was sharing a joint with my best mate George.  We sat in contented silence and I smiled to myself as I ran through the evening’s event in my mind.

I’d fancied Anne from my school days but as a painfully insecure teenager I had never before had the confidence to do anything about it.  Something had clicked that night though.  I’d met her in the pub and we’d chatted; we’d gone down to the beach at midnight and I’d carried her piggy-back out into the sea.  We’d compared suntans (my legs were browner but my feet were white compared to hers),  we’d laughed and gently flirted.  Nothing more happened but nothing more needed to happen; it was enough to thrill me.  I think maybe I realised then that I was no longer an awkward teenager, that I had finally grown into myself and become comfortable with who I was.

As the 20 year-old me sat there I was struck by the realisation of how truly happy I was. I turned to my mate and smiled: “You know what George? This might just be as good as it gets … and I’m OK with that”.

I've often reflected on how lucky I was to realise that at the time, to recognise the fleeting and never-to-be-repeated nature of that moment and enjoy it all the more for that realisation.

I'm now 45 years old.  I've been married and divorced, I have two wonderful children. I've had a successful career and been lucky enough to spend the last 13 or so years satisfying my entrepreneurial urges.  My life has been interrupted by some serious illnesses. I've been lucky enough to recover from cancer and to have emerged from having my colon removed largely unscathed.  At times I've been scared and I'm certainly emotionally and physically scarred; but ultimately I've been very lucky.

I work a bit too hard, I ride my bike less often than I’d like, I find I can’t really cope with running for fun any more.  I'm trying to find more time to let myself be happy, but up until last week I thought that the 20 year-old me had been right; that that moment in time was as good as it would get.

But last week I visited the Island of Harris in the Western Isles for the first time.  I was with Jane, my best friend and a unique woman who demonstrates an incredible capacity to tolerate me and my irritability, intolerance and many irritating habits.  Jane possesses reserves of compassion and an ability to care for others that I can only marvel at.
Despite it being the end of May and much of the country suffering sleet and snow we were treated to clear blue skies and bright sunshine.  There was a chill Easterly breeze but the scenery was so breath-taking we didn't really notice the cold.  I managed to ride my bike a few times. We saw golden eagles being dive-bombed by rooks and white-tailed eagles soaring on thermals, we walked on spotless and deserted white shell-sand beaches, we sat on the machir and watched porpoises playing in the Atlantic waters, we watched gannets diving for fish as we sipped gin & tonics on the rocks (on the rocks).

One evening we were walking along the beach at Scarista.  Waves were lazily breaking as they reached the beach, creating a fine spume of spray lit by the setting evening sun. The low sunlight created shadows and accentuated contours on the long deserted beach.  I have never seen a more beautiful sight.
My eyes scanned across the shells at my feet and found one that formed a natural ring shape and picked it up.  I got down on one knee and with tears of happiness streaming down my cheeks I asked Jane if she would marry me.
She said yes; I've never been happier.