My half Australian, half English upbringing has made me a relentless experimenter and innovator. I had a peripatetic teenage life, spent either on my grandparent’s cattle ranch, Kildrummie, in New South Wales, Australia; at boarding school at Eton; in a tiny house in Saint Raphael, France with my mother; or on my own in London. This concoction has made me eternally curious. I love creating new products, services and businesses. I love disrupting and changing cumbersome old fashioned industries, but equally cherish great art and architecture. And when I find something I believe in, I am passionate at seeing it through to the end and delivering a positive result.
I am a very creative commercial thinker, with the ability to innovate across any industry and reinvent business models and ideas.
- As a founding Director of Ink Publishing (http://www.ink-global.com/), we reinvented the contract publishing business model, offering to produce the magazine for free in return for taking all the advertising revenues, and in doing so, became the world’s largest publisher of inflight media.
- As a founding Director of Whycatcher a one stop shop for market research, we democratised the best market research techniques that Corporates use. Our mission was to give every business the tools to know as much about their customers as Unilever or Google do
- As CEO of Edengene, (http://www.edengene.co.uk/), an innovation consultancy, I helped many companies including Leonard Cheshire, Coca-Cola, Unilever, GSK, O2 & J&J to innovate
- As a founder of Living With, I am building a digital health company with a condition management platform, which makes it easy and cost effective for healthcare providers to connect to and monitor their patients remotely, saving costs and improving patient outcomes.We have several products in the market including Living With Pelvic Health, Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis and the UK’s top paid medical app, Squeezy.
- As a founder of Propagator, I have helped organisations like Bloomsbury Publishing to find new ways to make money from their content, including selling the Churchill Archive online and turning printed books into digital businesses, like the Writers and Artists handbook.
- I have written a book, Confessions of an entrepreneur, published by Pearson, which has sold 10,000 copies. I turned my entrepreneurial experiences into an unique story about surviving the highs and lows of start-ups (Buy it on Amazon) It was in the WH Smith Top 20 books for 2 months
Over 20 years, I have demonstrated the ability to build £multi-million technology and marketing companies, including:
- Setting out a vision as CEO of digital agency, syzygy (http://www.syzygy.net/), to float the company and over 4 years, building a profitable Pan-European business with revenues of €18m, offices in the UK, Germany and France and 230 staff, and then successfully raising €55m on the Neuer Markt in Germany in Oct 2000 (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuer_Markt ) with a valuation of $240million. The dotcom boom was an amazing time. There was an incredible sense that the world was changing forever and that anyone could build a company and become a millionaire in a couple of years. New clients flooded in every month and we were building websites for companies like Boots, Mercedes Benz, Barclays and PepsiCo as well as start-up visionaries with VC money.
- Coming into Edengene and turning around an unprofitable but highly talented innovation consultancy. I repositioned and restructured the business, providing a new vision and plan, hired new capability, introduced new consulting products and won new clients including Coca-Cola, Unilever, GSK and RBS. This converted a loss of £0.5million into profits of £1.2million.
- Helping to set the business agenda at Ink as it grew a global business with offices and clients across the world
- Conceiving and engaging business partners in new ventures in market research (whyCatcher?) and legal services (Law in Order)
I love creating, packaging and selling ideas and have had considerable success in so doing. I guess I have always loved selling, but perhaps it was helped the day that Marie Helvin tipped me £5 for my heroic efforts packing shopping trolleys in Sainsburys – an unfeasibly large tip for a student at the time!
- Winning £25m of sales as New Business Director at DMB&B
- Successfully selling and marketing syzygy AG for the IPO on the Neuer Markt in 2000 with an offer that was 16x oversubscribed and raised €55m
- Winning and overseeing the delivery of £1.5m Boots business at syzygy
- Raising £750k in Angel investment to fund Law in Order to provide white label “one stop shop” legal services to companies to sell to their customers.
- Selling 11 licences to Propagator’s content monetisation platform in 12 months
I have been interested in social, political and media change since I was a teenager and have got actively and innovatively involved in a number of initiatives over the years, including:
- Working for Matthew Parris, MP, organising his backbench committees in Parliament in 1983
- During my final year at Oxford, I became very active in trying to help Afghan refugees, needing support or fleeing the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. I started working with the Afghan Relief Committee, which had been established by former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Robert Neumann and Mary Ann Dubs in 1980. At the time there was virtually no coverage of the war in Afghanistan, apart from sporadic reports by Sandy Gall and a few others. This was after all, way before the Iron Curtain came down.
- In 1986 I set up the Oxford University Afghanistan expedition to film the war and publicise the plight of the Afghan people. I persuaded a Polish friend, Radek Sikorski, to join me and together we raised £5500 to report in Afghanistan. After a serendipitous encounter with someone from MI6, we found ourselves in Peshawar, waiting to join a Mujahideen group to go into Afghanistan with and eventually were taken in by a Jamiat-e-Islam group. Radek was the first person to photograph Stinger missiles in action, winning a World Press Photo award. It’s hard to reimagine that world, before the advent of AL Qaeda and ISIS. Yet there were people who were motivated to try to make a difference. In Afghanistan, I met, a Frenchman, Jacques, who worked for France Telecom and during his summer holidays would go to fight the Russians. Here is part of my interview with him in 1986.
- In 2003, before You Tube, I set up, On The Frontline, an online video portal to champion freelance cameramen and women all over the world and bring video news to the consumer from hidden parts of the world. This early example of citizen news was merged into the operations of The Frontline Club, owned by war reporter, Vaughan Smith, in 2004.
- In 2004 I was on the Conservative Party candidates list in the UK
- In 2010 I set up Who gets my Vote. This was an online voting platform, giving every UK voter an easy means of making an informed voting choice in the 2010 General Election. The insight for this company was a frustration with having to vote on political parties rather than policies. Who Gets My Vote enabled voters to select the policies that they most cared about and vote on a specific policy statement for each one, without knowing which party was promoting it. They then submitted their ballot paper to see which party best matched their selections. The often surprising results showed them the make-up of their perfect Cabinet, with whichever spokesmen and women from the parties matched their interest areas. We licensed the idea to ITV who ran it during the election, where it received considerable press coverage and provided fascinating results for many voters.
I am interested in disrupting established industries and monolithic landscapes to improve society.
- I saw an opportunity in the rapidly de-regulating legal industry to help consumers find good legal services and for companies to cross-sell another valuable service to their customers. I co-founded Law in Order, with Kennedy Cater, an innovative legal broker.
- I worked as Interim Commercial Director for an innovative start-up, Icomera (http://www.icomera.com/), the first company in the world to put wireless Internet access on trains.
I have a love and interest in leisure and hospitality
- With some Oxford friends I ran a nightclub, The Generator, 2 nights a week, at Roberto’s on the Kings Road in London
- I ran the party committee for several years at DMB&B and ensured that many outlandish and entertaining events were staged for staff and clients.
- I wrote my first business plan for a new theme park, called “Thirst for the Past”. Thirst for the Past would let the visitor have a full sensory experience of what it was like to have lived at key moments in history. This was to include being on the Titanic as it went down, in the trenches in WW1 or in a market in Samarkand in the time of Genghis Khan. This was an expensive idea and it was clear to me that It wasn’t yet possible to create and operate such scenarios profitably. I see now that 20 years on a Chinese company thinks they can make a viable business from this idea. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/14/travel/china-titanic-replica/
Along the way I have had my share of ups and downs. I got Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious neurological disease, which hospitalised me for five weeks, a few years ago and forced me to learn to walk again. But I have also been blessed to have great friends, an amazingly talented producer, creative mind and beautiful wife, Jo, and many astounding experiences. I have now embarked on my first novel. More news on that in time.