What I'm doing right now
As well as my position with AltViz (CFO) and Tech Nation (on the Visa team), I'm currently investigating a variety of roles, all with a technological/startup flavour with a view to adding one or two additional advisor positions. I also occasionally advise on how large organisations can innovate and what might work best for them. I have previously worked with Lloyds Banking Group, Hasbro, Aviva, Unilever, Soho House & Yahoo and Reckitt Benckiser.
CFO AltViz | Founder Touchpaper.org | Tech Nation Tier 1 Visa Scheme Advisory Partner | Startup Advisor | Mentor for the Royal Academy of Engineering LIF programme | Chair at Tenterden Counselling Service
Co-Founder/Director at 3beards/Unicorn Hunt (acquired 2017)
COO The Bot Platform
A bit more background...
I excelled at school (academically at least), then dropped out of college. I started work in the finance department of an oil company (Tramp Group Ltd) where I trained to be an accountant. I qualified in 2002 and moved on when the company was acquired. After that I had a couple of jobs as Financial Controller, for a motor racing group and then at Touch Clarity, which was my first experience of a tech startup. This was where my startup life began. I'd always been the entrepreneurial, self starting type, but working with a great bunch of innovative tech types really inspired me. We were acquired in 2007 by Omniture (now owned by Adobe) and I left to go to another startup. However, this one was so badly run/structured, I quit after only 4 weeks and went back into oil as a CFO.
The CFO role was great, we rapidly expanded the company (up to $2.5bn turnover) but after a few years the politics of being part of a listed company started to get to me and that entrepreneurial itch really needed to be scratched. I left in 2012 and struck out into the wilds of East London to see how the tech scene had changed since my first foray in 2006/7.
I went to a huge variety of meetups, including London Business Angels, London New Finance and of course, Silicon Drinkabout. I got to know Ben, Bryce and Mike (the organisers of Silicon Drinkabout) over the coming months and the rest is history! At the same time I also met and started to work with Martha on ToBeSeen.
I spent nearly 3 years working day to day at 3beards, before handing the reins over to the team we had put together. You can read more about that here and the end of 3beards here. We sold the last part of the company, our tech job board Unicorn Hunt in 2017 to Tiny, the owners of Dribbble, MetaLab and Crew amongst others.
Over the summer of 2015 I spent a short time as Head of Entrepreneur Relations at Tech City UK, but ultimately decided a portfolio of roles and projects best suits the way I work. I continue to support the London startup community, contributing my thoughts and actions wherever I can help and add value. I have previously judged for Mass Challenge, Innotribe and judged at Unilever's ReHack event. I also do ad-hoc mentoring with various people and companies I meet.
In June 2017 I launched Touchpaper.org - a not for profit on a mission to make it much easier for startups and corporates to work together. I spent 18 months researching and working with the Touchpaper Founding Members (Google, Capgemini, Grant Thornton, Bristows, Nesta, Tech City UK, Multiple and Digital Catapult) and we released a free toolkit on how to make these collaboration run a little smoother than they usually do.
At this time, I also started working at The Bot Platform, who specialise in Facebook Messenger and Workplace by Facebook bots. The technology is great, and the concept of bots and how humans interact with them is a fascinating topic - the future is certainly going to be very interesting!
At the end of 2019 I left The Bot Platform to start 2020 with a fresh outlook and to apply my experience across a variety of opportunities. I have joined Alt Viz as their part time CFO and have begun advising startups on an ad hoc basis whilst continuing my work on the Tech Nation Visa Programme.
In September 2020 I joined Tenterden Counselling Service (TCS) as the Chair of the board. TCS is a local counselling charity, providing professional counselling services to support the mental well-being of those who live in Tenterden and the surrounding area.
New to startups? Don't know where to start? Here's some tips...
Not only can you meet a lot of people at events, but you can learn a lot too.
From the simplest networking events such as Silicon Drinkabout, which is just about getting together with like minded people, to more content-led events like Hacker News, events are an invaluable way of expanding your network, getting to know how the ecosystem works and learning towards whatever role you're hoping to play.
You can also attend Hackathons, these are weekend long working events that aim to hack together a business (Minimum Viable Product - MVP) or a solution to a certain brief. I started at Startup Weekend and if you're interested, I suggest you do too!
Reading - Stay up to date
Get your finger on the pulse and keep it there.
Twitter, Hacker News, Reddit, Techcrunch, The Next Web, Tech.eu any number of blogs, the list could go on and on. Things can change quickly and if it relates to what you're doing, then you'll need to know about it as soon as possible.
Reading - Medium.com
Medium is a successful blogging platform, popular amongst tech people
I read a fair amount on medium.com, there's a lot of good tech people on there and the site itself is lovely and sends you suggested things to read, based on a recommendation system and also who you follow.
It's also good to write on too, I currently use it to blog occasionally, you can see my scribblings here.
Reading - Texts
As well as keeping up to date, there's a huge amount of wisdom between the pages of a large number of books.
I don't read anywhere as much as I'd like to, but here are a few recommended reads that I have got around to, or will do very soon:
The Lean Startup - Eric Ries
Startup Communities - Brad Feld
ReWork - Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
The 4-Hour Work Week - Tim Ferris
Hackers & Painters - Paul Graham
The Mom Test - Rob Fitzpatrick
Things a little Bird told me - Biz Stone
Founders at Work - Jessica Livingston
Creativity, Inc - Ed Catmull
Reading - Newsletters
What's better than sources of information? Digests that come to you.
Here's a bunch of things I find useful
I do a lot of varied things currently, so here are some of the tools and resources I use.
Easy to use real-time web analytics, I use this more than once a day, every day. Excellent for keeping tabs on traffic, where it's coming from and how successful your social media efforts have been.
Get information on businesses, directors and shareholders for free, plus credit reports and other services (not free). A genuine game changer for anyone that used to order company reports/account.
Even more resources!
Here's a bunch of other stuff that I think is pretty useful too!
Some observations from Sam Altman - Interesting stuff from the President of YCombinator.
List of investors and how to approach - Nice guide and resource from Techstars
Be more productive - Some good tips on getting more done
Startup are hard - it's really not for everyone!
Startup tips from the dog guy - Great insights from Ted Rheingold
A great big list of startup ideas - from Y Combinator
Venture Hacks - General startups tips from Angel List
Things that aren't progress - Great post on focussing on the things that matter
Social Media & Marketing stuff
Export twitter lists and followers (for free)
Copywriting tips - It's not about you!
Marvel app - Mobile and web
Flinto - Mobile app
submit.co - Hundreds of publications, what they cover and how to contact them.
Compete against the best for talent - How Coursera does it.
Unicorn Hunt - the 3beards former job board (acquired in 2017) brings you direct access to the community, no recruiters to be seen!
Onboarding guide - Give your new employees the best landing.
What to include in monthly reporting to investors - Handy hints from Jason Calacanis
Equity & Fundraising
If you're going to fail your startup, make sure you learn from it.
Here's a collection of brave individuals who have prepared a Startup Post Mortem, for you to learn from...
Tab (previously Subscrib) was a web-based prepaid loyalty app that started in the basement of Campus London in late September 2012 by Shawn Zvinis, Christoph Sassenberg and Gary Luce.
Dinnr was an ad-hoc, same day ingredient delivery service. Select a recipe on our website, and we deliver everything you need to cook that recipe at home, all the items pre-measured with printed instructions.
Microcosm was a community CMS as a platform and service, a Tumblr for forums. It allowed non-technical people to create and run a community site hat would comfortably scale from small groups of 50 people to very active communities of 50k people.
As this is predominantly a informational website, I don't have formal legal T&Cs, if you have any queries please contact me at email@example.com. The most important thing here is to do thorough research on whatever you're doing, be that looking for office space, researching startups or using any of the tools I link to. I cannot be held responsible for any liabilities created through your actions though, that's on you :)
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