Inspired by this TED interview of Richard Branson (although I don’t propose for a moment to hoist myself alongside such an eminent business leader!) I thought I’d make a list of the companies I have founded, or help found.
Since the first consultancy job to equip my Secondary School’s I.T. department at age 16 (I spent $140,000 (£70,000) of the schools money on an ICT department; specified and installed it) I have worked for many companies both large and small, boring and bizarre.
The companies below are those that I started or was influential in shaping. They are what I would loosely describe as “entrepreurial endevours” rather than jobs or contracts. Usually unpaid, involving a disproportionate amount of effort and a good proportion of passion, a trail of successful, partially successful or completely unsuccessful companies is the calling card of a serial entrepreneur; a label these days I feel I have comfortably earnt! 🙂
Rummble – share you experiences
My current company.
playtxt – the mobile social network (2002-2006)
A forerunner to Rummble, we experimented with ideas and pioneered functionality in the mobile social software space. We learnt a lot. Years to early to market as the MNO’s strangled the progression of the mobile internet, playtxt sapped resource and time but ultimately made Rummble possible.
InTraining.net (2000 – 2002)
Intraining was intended as a personal fitness trainer online. We modelled the training techniques and logic of David Morgan, Commenwealth Games and Olympic athlete. Although we developed and refined a software engine that worked well, I had to make a decision between running playtxt and my consultancy, and InTraining. The bigger opportunity of the mobile sector one over.
Telephone Wizard (2003)
I started as consultant and quickly became Technical Director of this sales technology startup. The aim was to build a telephone marketing and hardware dialler system that was both easy to use for SMEs and didn’t abuse the targets of the sales calls. We developed and deployed some successful pilot systems, but ultimately the Managing Director/CEO of the company decided to pursue and invest in his other businesses; we agreed to wind operations down.
DinnerDateAuctions – mobile dating pioneer (2000 – 2002)
DDA was -to my knowledge- the first dating/matching service to integrate mobile services and functionality. We used two-way SMS to allow users to interact with the service, using intelligent interpretation of text commands. Alongside this we build a groundbreaking site using Flash based avatars that tracked users through a site, could be personalised and assisted the user; imagine the Microsoft Office Paperclip, but infinitely less annoying!
Cambridge Multimedia Group (2000 – 2002)
After CMG plc bought worldwidecity I worked with the existing board and management team to deliver some sizeable web projects in a variety of areas; one of the most succesful was the British Pathe online video archive – long before YouTube we transcoded 3500+ hours of film stock into multiple feed qualities and made them available for download online. It was UK Lottery funded and was a huge success garnering accolades in the industry and attracting BBC prime time TV national news coverage.
Worldwidecity – web development consultancy (1998 – 2000)
A web development company which served the businesses powering the dot com boom – and subsequent bust! We were busy, office space was madly expensive, developers were like hens teeth and it was a crazy time. Looking back I cant quite understand why we were not the ones running a dot com company; but this way atleast, we absorbed a vast array of experience working on the ordinary to the absurd. A fun time but busy and stressful time.
Virtual Cities (1997 – 1998)
My first real Internet business. The concept was simple, a localized portal offering local services and information for people, targeted at a specific geographic area. In this case, UK towns and cities. Sounds obvious? It might be now, it wasn’t then! Business people just didn’t get it. “Advertise on the internet, which is global, locally?” They were confused. It was too early. A fact that wasnt alien to some of my other startups either – as I have learnt, business success is as much about timing as anything else.
Although a success with user (traffic and site visits were good) we were too early and under capitalized in this sector. Nomuera bank showed interest but I was lacked experience to pull together a strong enough management team – being based in Cambridge, England didn’t help that process.
Ultimately, the hook of this advertising platform gave us a huge number of full web development leads; this made the business a success, even if it was for a very different reason to that which was intended … again, in business I’ve learnt that isnt unusual either!