Why Culture Matters

Ask ten managers what their company culture is and they’ll probably send you to the HR department. Frankly, I used to be one of them. Recently, I went through a turning point following which I now consider culture building my No1 priority as a leader. Here’s why.

To set the setting: my company has grown almost three-fold in headcount in the last six months. We went from just over 15 people to now about 50. Naturally what happens at this pace of growth is the controls and processes you had in place are no longer able to give you the same level of grasp on the business as before. There’s just too much going on.

The natural inclination of most managers in this situation is to inject more process, more rules and manuals, more middle layers of management to delegate to so as to ensure that things run as efficiently as they used to. Whilst some of this is necessary, if this is the only thing you do you will – at best – have an efficient machine that simply ticks on. If you’re lucky you’ll stay in business. You wont game-change.continue reading »

Bubble or paradigm shift?

I’ve finally decided to write my two pence on what’s become quite a bubbly discussion in itself: are we in another tech bubble?

Let me start by saying rather controversially that first I think this is the wrong question to be asking. Great companies have emerged out of bubbles as we’ve seen in the Web 1.0 phase. Yes there were a lot of failures, busts and losses in early 2000’s; but what we forget is that there have also been big winners whose collective gain outstrips those losses. Companies like eBay, Amazon and Cisco all came out of the first tech bubble and have proven to have strong and sustainable businesses which are still growing. So focus on what YOU are doing not what the herd is doing I say.

And what is a bubble anyway? There are tonnes of text book definitions which ultimately focus on technical definitions like valuation. Are things over-priced and is there too much liquidity being pumped in a sector or asset class? To me these are the wrong definitions. We are at the onset of a paradigm shift (which I explain below) so almost by definition existing valuation models will be wrong, So for me multiples being high means very little. What it comes down to is people getting ahead of themselves and investing in things they don’t fully understand or appreciate – and why? Because someone else is. “Oh I have to jump on this bandwagon…everyone’s doing it” That’s what leads to irrational exuberance . continue reading »

Why startups fail – Part 2

A while ago I wrote a post called ‘Why Start-Ups fail ” and kept it to Part 1 for two reasons. Frist, for the sake of keeping it short, but secondly, I was keen to see how the craze that we are seeing in the startup world evolves. Are we in a bubble again? What’s driving it and when will it burst? And what will drive failure and success this time around? These are questions that every VC and entrepreneur are – or should be – asking themselves.

So here’s my ‘Part 2’ with what i think are reasons to failure/success that are – in times like these – especially more relevant.continue reading »

The amazing journey of building a startup

Building a startup is an amazing journey. You get to innovate, see your baby go from infancy to walking, talking and – in time – jumping through hoops. It’s an experience that opens yours eyes, teaches you a tonne about yourself and others and rewards you more than anything through the people your product touches and changes their lives.

But its tough work. Its tough and lonely. You have no one to turn to other than your co-founders (which is why its key to have one at least). You need to be a loner of sorts, have nerves of steel and the stamina of a bull.

There’s much talk and fluff around the phases a startup goes to become successful. I’ve read a lot of them and in my view they miss the best bits. So here’s my two pence from my experience in the journey:continue reading »

Facebook and the future of search

One of the things that the film ‘the social network’ has done is raise a lot of controversy over the valuation of Facebook. Most people who are not in the web space find it astonishing that a company that young which has barely turned a profit is valued at a whopping $25bn! I am one of those believers that Facebook will become the biggest technology company in the world surpassing Microsoft, Apple – both of which have market capitalisations over $200 Bn – and yes even Google (who lags a bit behind with a market cap around $190 Bn) Here’s why.

First lets take a step back. On the face of it companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have little in common other than great tech people and fanatical users. But fundamentally they are enablers of the same thing: allowing people to communicate in easier and better ways and accessing information more readily.continue reading »

Why startups fail – Part 1

Ask someone – especially an accountant, management consultant or an MBA (God forbid NOT all three in one) – “why do startups fail” and in all likelihood they will give you the text-book answer: “because they ran out of cash”. Wow, thanks! Glad to see your $180k education taught you something dude! It’s a bit like asking a doctor “how did he die?” and get a reply “because his heart stopped beating!”

The question of course is “WHAT leads to that point?” Ask them again and they will probably say “Ooooh.. you mean the causes that led to that ?! RIGHT. Bad cash management? Gotta be it”. Imbeciles!continue reading »

PPH in the Wall Street Journal

We had a fantastic piece published in the Wall Street Journal yesterday – you can read it here

The piece features on of our US freelancers – Todd Browndyke based in Dallas – who juggles 9 ½-hour days as a senior Director for a marketing agency, two kids, studying part-time for an MBA and does freelancing on the side working nights and weekends on our site PeoplePerHour.com

Now that’s some schedule! And I thought I was busy!

Read the full article and the blog post online.

How the public sector is trying to bullsh** us !

Today we’ve had two national newspapers – the Guardian and the Telegraph – both cite research released by PeopelPerHour.com on how the public sector is overspending.

The research was based on a request we put in to every council in the UK back in February to disclose the amount they spend on web-related services which under the Freedom of Information Act they are obliged to provide (yet only 70% of them did!). We then compared those figures with the spend of companies in the private sector running similar sites (or in most cases much more sophisticated).continue reading »

What defines entrepreneurs

After almost a year and a half of absence (and fans screaming and shouting for my return of course !! J) I decided to revive my blog, the URL now changed to my name and the full one no less (seeing as I have such an easy and memorable name!)

I don’t know where to start in my effort to summarise the last 18 months or so. So much has happened. My last post was December 2008 which was one the toughest of tough times my company – PeoplePerHour.com – has gone through, and therefore one of mine. Which may be why my blogging fell in the back burner – or no burner at all as it may be.continue reading »

The move to a cottage economy?

Something interesting is happening in the world today. Whilst the first big step in technological evolution – the industrialization of the early 20th century- pulled masses of people out of their cottages and organised the workforce around large centralized institutions, the second wave underpinned by Information Technology revolution is seemingly reversing that trend and driving people back to their ‘cottage’. How is that?

Let’s take a few innovations that have become integral parts of our personal and business lives. Relatively recent yet ubiquitous innovations – the internet, social networks, the PC even and the mobile phone, or more lately the blackberry – what do all these have in common other than a few microchips? They are increasingly making us more connected, more mobile, more interdependent yet more independent in terms of how where and when we work. And ultimately more in control of our own time and space. So is this rendering the traditional office as we know it obsolete?continue reading »