Five winning tips from tech ceos

What does it take to be a winning internet entrepreneur?

What does it take to be a winning internet entrepreneur?
The counter intuitive advice to fail – “fail fast”, “fail often”, “fail better” – is often heard from the lips of internet entrepreneurs.

Jimmy Wales, cofounder of online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, really believes it. “The first version of Wikipedia was called Nupedia,” recalls Mr Wales. “It was very top-down, very structured,” he admits.

“I beat my head against the wall for two years, I knew the system was too complicated, but I didn’t want to fail.”

Don’t invest all your money in one thing, he now advises. “Give yourself a chance to reboot.” In fact Jimmy Wales was involved in several unsuccessful internet ventures before Wikipedia took off.

If Jimmy Wales wishes he’d listened to feedback earlier on, another chief executive encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to defy the critics.

“You’ll find lots of investors telling you, ‘you need to think of the market’,” says Nicolas Brusson of BlaBlaCar, one of France’s most successful web companies.

“But if you do something truly new, your market does not exist, you are going to create your own market.”

BlaBlaCar allows users to pay to take up unused seats on private car journeys. It defied its early critics by creating a new market for digital hitch-hiking, in the emerging sharing economy.

“Creativity and integrity are everything,” advises Yancey Strickler, chief execuive and cofounder of the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, an online platform which allows anyone to give financial backing to novel business ideas.

“Pursue a solution that you feel proud of, that you know feels right and morally correct.”

“It’s a passion thing,” he explains. “You’re standing up and saying I can do this better, it needs a level of passion you don’t have in normal business.”

But Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger cautions against obsessing about work to the detriment of your health.

“We came close to burning ourselves out in the early days,” he recalls. “Your incremental extra two hours between the 12th and 14th hour of work, you are getting diminishing returns,” he now realises.

“Take time for yourself, for exercise, it sounds trivial but actually can make a big difference.” He also recommends the camaraderie of well-chosen cofounders.

“If there’s somebody you can turn to who is your cofounder,” says Mr Krieger, “who you’ll look at and say ‘alright, we’ve got this’, it really, really helps.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tinder founder Sean Rad didn’t dwell on the importance of cofounders, since the dating app’s early history is mired in personal animosity.

“Work can sometimes get overwhelming,” he admits. So he has developed a numerical coping strategy.

“It’s very important to identify the three most important things you need to accomplish, to get 80% of the results.”

Are these pioneers of the internet goldrush really a different breed of entrepreneur?

Shellye Archambeau, of MetricStream, a software company based in Silicon Valley, told us there is one important factor to consider.

“As soon as you start your company now, you can be global,” she says.

Not only does the reach of the internet allow you to think on a vast scale from the outset, but it also affects how you find your customers.

“In the old days if a customer found a great product, they might tell five people,” says Jimmy Wales. “But these days someone might tell 300 people on Facebook. So telling the story is key.”

The chief executive of a modern internet company needs to be an adept storyteller, it would seem, as well as a passionate leader. Someone who can engage social media users around the world.

December 7, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Building Businesses, Business Survival, Business Win, Digital Business, Ecommerce Business, New Business Development, Online Business Growth, Technological Businesses, Uncategorized, Winning Businesses, Winning Websites  No Comments

British academic awarded Nobel economics prize

British academic Angus Deaton has been awarded the Nobel economics prize for 2015 for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare.

British academic Angus Deaton has been awarded the Nobel economics prize for 2015 for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfareThe 69 year old professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University was previously at Cambridge and Bristol universities.

His research focuses on health, wellbeing, and economic development.

Professor Deaton had been in the running for the prize several times in past years.

The Nobel economic sciences committee said that individuals’ consumption choices must be understood before economic policy promoting welfare and reducing poverty could be formulated.

“More than anyone else, Angus Deaton has enhanced this understanding. By linking detailed individual choices and aggregate outcomes, his research has helped transform the fields of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and development economics,” the committee members said.

The work for which Edinburgh-born Professor Deaton has been honoured revolves around three questions:

  • How do consumers distribute their spending among different goods?
  • How much of society’s income is spent and how much is saved?
  • How do we best measure and analyse welfare and poverty?

“His research has uncovered important pitfalls when comparing the extent of poverty across time and place,” the committee said.

The award includes prize money of 8m Swedish kroner (£637,000).

The economics award was not created by Alfred Nobel in 1895, but was added by Sweden’s central bank in 1968 as a memorial to the Swedish industrialist.

The Nobel prizes will be given to winners on 10 December at ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo.

November 22, 2015  Tags: , ,   Posted in: Business Finance, Business Win, Finance Business, Uncategorized  No Comments

Bridgend wins for £181m new Ford engine project

Ford’s Bridgend plant will build the company’s new generation of petrol engines in a deal worth £181 million.

Ford's Bridgend plant will build the company's new generation of petrol engines in a deal worth £181 million.The investment is backed by nearly £15 million from the Welsh government with production due to start in late 2018.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart said the deal would “safeguard more than 750 skilled Welsh jobs for many years”.

“In a climate of stiff global competitiveness, we have been actively seeking to win a share of this investment for Wales,” she said.

“Ford’s decision to manufacture its new innovative engine here in Wales is a tribute to the reputation of the local management team and the quality and loyalty of the Welsh workforce,” she added.

The Ford Bridgend plant opened in 1980 and has fought fierce competition to win successive investments in the past worth more than £2.8bn.

The company has said its presence supports around 10,000 jobs in south Wales, with 1,860 employed at the plant itself.

Ford said technicians based in Essex and Germany had worked together on the design and development of a new fuel-efficient range of engines.

A letter from Ford to workers in June said that to win the investment there would need to be a change to working conditions at Bridgend to make the plant more competitive.

Welsh Conservative shadow economy minister William Graham said Friday’s announcement was a sign of “confidence in the UK government’s efforts to rebuild the economy”.

This is good news for workers at Bridgend as the new production will begin in 2018, just as the manufacturing of Jaguar Land Rover engines at the site will be coming to an end.

It secured hundreds of jobs that may otherwise have been in jeopardy. Two hundred fixed contract workers were let go at Ford Bridgend this year when it stopped manufacturing engines for Volvo.

There are concerns, though, that the new investment will mean that Bridgend can only manufacture a third of the number of engines it does at the moment.

Some question why the Welsh government should be contributing £15m to the investment of a multinational company in a plant it owns.

Bridgend was in competition with three other European Ford plants for this work, all with governments offering financial support as standard.

The automotive industry is so competitive internationally that without government backing, companies are likely to go elsewhere.

November 11, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Business Exports, Business Growth, Business Jobs, Business Sales, Business Win, Exporting Businesses, Global Businesses, Growing Business, Growing Jobs, Growing Sales, Technological Businesses, Uncategorized  No Comments

Banksy’s Dismaland gave Weston-super-Mare a £20 million boost

Over the past five weeks, more than 150,000 people have visited the Dismaland theme park in a derelict Weston-super-Mare seafront lido, which had been shut since 2000 and reopened in a blaze of publicity on 20 August.

Banksy's Dismaland gave Weston-super-Mare a £20 million boost
The temporary art show in Weston-super-Mare has sold 4,000 tickets a day online, plus 500 more to people willing to queue for hours, often in pouring rain.

Dismaland describes itself as offering “entry-level anarchism”, and satirises the tourism and theme-park industries.

But, it is the town’s tourist businesses that have reaped the benefit – to the tune of £20 million, says Visit Somerset, more than three times what the trade body initially suggested.

“The show has gone way beyond our hopes”, says John Turner, of Visit Somerset. “This has been a global phenomenon of major importance for the region and underlines how important tourism can be in the local economy.”

The biggest boost has been to hotels and B&Bs. September is usually quiet, with most only half-full. But throughout the Dismaland show, almost every bed in Weston has been sold each night.

Hotelier Keith Fearn, who also runs the town’s Hoteliers Association, said his two establishments have “been full every night”.

“Hotels have been much busier than normal, and foreign visitors are from everywhere which is fantastic,” he said. “Mexico, Thailand, China, America – everywhere.”

Mr Fearn calculates that compared with the same period last year, an additional 50,000 nights have been sold in the town’s hotels, with each guest spending an average of of £150 a night, allowing for dinner and drinks – ultimately generating about £7.5m.

Restaurants have been busy too. In her contemporary Italian eatery on the seafront, Victoria Upward showed me her reservations diary.

Every night has been full, even midweek, which is normally unheard of at this time of year – and attracting a much wider range of customers.

“Traditionally, we would have small families or coach trips,” she said. “But we’ve had Americans, Germans, hipsters, new age travellers, you name it.”

Anyone with a small plot of land on the seafront has opened temporary car parks, often charging £5, which is more than the £3 admission to Dismaland itself.

Thousands have come by train. Great Western Railways report a doubling of numbers on the Paddington to Weston line, equating to about £4.5m extra revenue.

Everyone has noted the irony of the anti-capitalist art show boosting business.

But, Banksy said he chose Weston because “I went there every summer until I was 17”, so perhaps he would feel a little less animosity to small local traders than multi-nationals.

For Mr Turner, the event shows Weston can laugh at itself. “It’s just like the British, really,” he said. “We never take ourselves too seriously. Banksy has ripped the Michael out of us, but it’s brought a great deal back into the local economy.”

October 22, 2015  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: Business Sales, Business Services, Business Win, Growing Jobs, Growing Sales, New Business Development, Uncategorized, Winning Business  No Comments

Lidl to pay recommended living wage

Lidl has said it will become the first UK supermarket to implement the minimum wage as recommended by the Living Wage Foundation.

Lidl has said it will become the first UK supermarket to implement the minimum wage as recommended by the Living Wage Foundation
Lidl UK employees will earn a minimum of £8.20 an hour across England, Scotland and Wales, and £9.35 an hour in London, the supermarket said.

The Foundation will announce a change in its recommended rates in November. The rate is different from the National Living Wage as set out in the Budget.

Lidl said that if the Living Wage Foundation raised its recommended rate in its annual announcement in November, Lidl would adjust its minimum wage accordingly.

Currently, Lidl pays its staff a minimum of £7.30 an hour and £8.03 an hour inside London.

The Living Wage Foundation’s current recommended minimal hourly rate is £7.85, and £9.15 inside London.

The National Living Wage as required by the UK government, which was set out in George Osborne’s July Budget, is set to be £7.20 an hour from April 2016 for people aged over 25.

Lidl said its new pay rate would amount to an average wage increase of £1,200 a year, “with 53% of Lidl UK’s 17,000 workforce and all age brackets benefiting from the rise”.

The chief executive of Lidl UK, Ronny Gottschlich, said: “Lidl employees will be amongst the best paid in the supermarket sector.”

“Recently we announced we could easily imagine another 280 stores in London alone and between 1,200 and 1,500 stores in our store portfolio. “

“There aren’t any patches where we can say we don’t want to expand anymore. There is potential in almost every single town.” Mr Gottschlich added.

The director of the Living Wage Foundation, Rhys Moore, told the BBC: “We are thrilled. We’ve been working with and trying to persuade the retail sector to commit to pay the living wage rates rather than National Minimum Wage now called the National Living Wage.

“None of the big four supermarkets currently pay the living wage rates, and the BRC [British Retail Consortium] are very behind the curve on this.”

The Living Wage Foundation’s rate is an informal benchmark, not a legally enforceable minimum level of pay.

It is calculated by academics as the level of pay that will give workers enough for a basic standard of living.

October 7, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Business Growth, Business Jobs, Business Sales, Business Win, Growing Business, Growing Jobs, Uncategorized  No Comments

Kingfisher to build 200 more Screwfix stores

DIY retailer Kingfisher- which owns Screwfix, says it would build another 200 stores in the UK.

DIY retailer Kingfisher- which owns Screwfix, says it would build another 200 stores in the UKKingfisher currently has 412 Screwfix UK stores, which supply tools, plumbing and electrical equipment.

As part of previously announced restructuring plans, the company said it was on track to close about 60 B&Q stores by the end of its 2016-17 financial year.

Statutory pre-tax profits dipped 1.8% to £386 million in the half year to 1 August. Total sales fell by 4.8% to £5.49 billion. Kingfisher shares dropped around 2% in early trading.

“I am pleased that we have delivered a solid first half of the year,” said chief executive Veronique Laury. “There remains a lot to be done, however.”

Earlier this year Kingfisher announced a change in strategy that involved scaling back its B&Q stores while opening up new Screwfix outlets.

Other plans include cutting back on some of the 393,000 products sold across the company. Only 7,000 items – amounting to 7% of sales – are sold in at least two of Kingfisher’s operating companies.

The beefed-up Screwfix “continues to deliver strong growth” in the UK, Kingfisher said.

In the first half like for like sales at the chain rose 16.5% to £494 million. It said 60 Screwfix stores would be opened by the end of 2015-16.

Sales were driven by strong growth from trade desks for plumbers and electricians, digital and mobile growth, new and extended ranges, and new outlets, it said.

It added that a trial of Screwfix in Germany “has been well received”, with signs of repeat custom in store and online.

Like-for-like sales at B&Q rose 0.7%. The majority of the 30 B&Q closures planned for this year will fall in the second half, the firm said. Over two years, the restructuring is expected to cost it about £350 million.

The firm also runs the Castorama and Brico Depot chains in France and other countries. It announced two store closures in France, and one in Russia.

September 27, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Building Businesses, Business Growth, Business Win, Growing Business, Uncategorized  No Comments

Williams accelerates it’s revenues

The Williams Formula 1 Grand Prix team has reported a sharp rise in revenues.

The Williams Formula 1 Grand Prix team has reported a sharp rise in revenues
Overall revenues for the team’s holding company rose by £19.1 million to £63.2 million for the six months to 30 June.

Losses before interest, taxation and other costs were £1.4 million – considerably better than the £19.6 million loss reported in the same period last year.

The division that sells Formula 1-derived technology and expertise, had a strong half-year.

Williams Advanced Engineering generated revenues of £10.9 million, £3.1 millon higher than last year, with profits up £200,000 to £1 million.

Chief executive Mike O’Driscoll said: “Our first half results represent a significant improvement over the same period in 2014, with strong revenue growth and positive cash flow.”

“The improved performance of our Formula One team on the track is now reflected in both higher commercial rights income and increased sponsorship revenue, bolstering our financial results.”

The team finished third in the constructors’ championship last year and success had continued into 2015, the company said.

Felipe Massa is currently in fifth place in the drivers’ championship with 82 points, while Valtteri Bottas is sixth with 79 points. However, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton leads the pack with 227 points.

Williams is in third place on the constructors’ leader board with 161 points for this season, but that is some distance behind Ferrari on 242 points and Mercedes on 426 points.

Mr O’Driscoll said the recent agreement of a multi-year contract with global defence firm General Dynamics underlined the progress being made by the engineering division.

But he added: “We face continued cost pressures due to the spending levels of our major Formula 1 competitors, and this challenging environment will undoubtedly continue in the near term.”

The team faced an uncertain future following the financial crash in 2008, with a lack of investment, rising costs and spiralling debts.

As well as setting up the engineering division in an attempt to create other sources of income, Williams created a hybrid power business. It worked on adapting F1 technology for buses and trams, and was sold last year to GKN.

Other teams have also diversified, with McLaren creating a large and growing road car operation.

September 14, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Business Sales, Business Win, Global Business, Growing Business, Growing Sales, Technological Businesses, Uncategorized, Winning Business  No Comments

Personal insolvencies at 10 year low

The number of people being declared insolvent has fallen to its lowest level for nearly a decade, official figures show.

The number of people being declared insolvent has fallen to its lowest level for nearly a decade
The Insolvency Service said 18,866 individuals became insolvent in England and Wales between April and June.

That is a fall of 29.3% on the same period a year ago, and the lowest total since the summer of 2005.

The number of companies going bust has also fallen to its lowest in more than seven years. Altogether 3,908 firms became insolvent over the last three months, the smallest number since the end of 2007.

Experts said the news reflected increasing strength in the economy, and the return of real terms increases in wages.

At the same time, there has been a jump in the number of people taking out mortgages to buy a flat or house.

In the month of June, 66,582 homeowners took out a new mortgage, according to figures from the Bank of England.

That was up from 64,826 in May, and just 1,469 short of the recent peak in April.

But the same figures show a significant fall in lending to businesses. Total borrowing by UK non-financial companies fell by £5.5bn in June, the biggest drop for four years.

The fall in personal insolvencies was welcomed by the Money Advice Trust (MAT), which runs National Debtline.

However it warned about increasing debt levels.

“Many households will be able to accommodate this extra borrowing as the economic recovery continues – but we are concerned that many will turn to credit to plug gaps in their budgets,” said Jane Tully, head of insight and engagement at the MAT.

She said the situation could be made worse for some people by the changes to tax credits in the years ahead.

Household debt is forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility to reach 169% of household income by 2020.

September 4, 2015  Tags: , ,   Posted in: Business Survival, Business Win, Growing Economy, Uncategorized  No Comments

Barclays reports 25% rise in profits

Barclays bank has reported a 25% rise in pre-tax profits to £3.1 billion for the six months to the end of June.

Barclays bank has reported a 25% rise in pre-tax profits to £3.1 billion for the six months to the end of JuneProfits last year were £2.55 billion. The bank also set aside a further £850 million to compensate customers – including further claims for mis-sold payment protection insurance.

The results come less than a month after new chairman John McFarlane sacked chief executive Antony Jenkins.

In total, Barclays has now set aside £6 billion to compensate for PPI mis-selling.

In April, Barclays set aside a further £800 million, largely to cover potential further legal action and penalties for alleged foreign exchange manipulation.

That resulted in Barclays reporting a 26% fall in its first quarter statutory profits to £1.34 billion.

But Barclays made a £496 million gain on the sale of assets bought following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

It also said it intended to maintain its dividend at 6.5p this year – the same as it paid in 2014.

Barclays’ share price was 2% higher to 285.10p in early trade on the London Stock Exchange.

Mr McFarlane, who took over as executive chairman of insurance giant Aviva in 2012 after sacking then chief executive Andrew Moss, believes Barclays’ turnaround is not happening quickly enough.

As he did at Aviva, Mr McFarlane, who only joined the bank in April, will take on executive duties, spearheading a quest for higher returns until a replacement is found, which, it is thought, is unlikely to be before early next year.

Barclays also said it had set aside £250 million for customer refunds and associated costs in response to complaints received relating to its packaged bank accounts. These incur a fee, but often come with added extras, a typical example being free motoring roadside assistance.

Mr McFarlane said Barclays needed to accelerate growth in earnings, return on equity, and capital generation.

The bank has already announced 19,000 job cuts.

He said: “There is more that can be done to deliver better returns for shareholders, faster, and that work has begun.”

Mr McFarlane also announced the bank would speed up the process of mothballing or selling the bank’s non-core divisions, to reduce them to a value of £20 billion by 2017.

August 27, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Business Finance, Business Profits, Business Win, Uncategorized  No Comments

Burger King gets boost in sales from chicken fries

Burger King has credited the return of its “chicken fries” for helping to drive a better than expected rise in second quarter sales.

Burger King has credited the return of its chicken fries for helping to drive a better than expected rise in second quarter salesThe deep fried chicken strips, first launched in 2005, were taken off the menu in 2012, but were reintroduced after customers demanded their return.

“The ongoing guest outcries reached a point where they could no longer be ignored,” it said at the time.

Global sales in restaurants open at least a year rose 6.7%, it said.

Parent firm Restaurant Brands said new burgers, store improvements and special offers also helped to drive the sales increase.

Restaurant Brands was created last year, when Burger King’s majority shareholder, 3G Capital bought Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons for £7.3 billion.

Burger King’s performance helped profit at parent firm Restaurant Brands hit £6.2 million for the three months to the end of June.

Sales from both groups totalled £690 million – again slightly higher than analysts had expected.

Its results come just a few days after fast food rival McDonald’s said sales had fallen in the second quarter.

The firm said it had opened 141 new Burger King restaurants in the period, and 52 new Tim Horton ones.

August 7, 2015  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: Business Growth, Business Profits, Business Sales, Business Win, Uncategorized, Winning Business  No Comments