On Monday 17th January 2011 I was invited to The Sky is not the Limit Event hosted by RBS at one of their buildings on Bishopsgate in the City.
We were welcomed by Ian Mason of RBS followed by Jonathan Wright of Hamilton Bradshaw Venture Partners. Jonathan has worked with James Caan on and off for the last 20 years. He described the way that HBVP will work with SMEs in the UK and this is a very hands on practical approach as opposed to the often hands off stance taken by other such investment partnerships.
Matt Brittan, UK MD of Google UK & Ireland, gave a presentation around the theme of “The Acceleration of Everything”. He gave us all reminders that :
Facebook has over 600 million users worldwide
Twitter has 175 million users worldwide
Youtube has 2 billion views per day and even more remarkably has 35 hours of videos loaded every second
And that FourSquare had over 100 million check-ins in its first 18 months of operation
And then Matt reminded us that these figures are all probably out of date by now. . .
Google UK has been looking at UK e-commerce and from their research Matt had examples of UK SMEs that were exporting all over the world with products ranging from tights to tartans. The UK is #1 in the world for e-commerce and is a net exporter of retail goods over the Internet. For every £1 of goods imported after being ordered from the Internet over £2.50 are exported. Truly then we are a nation of (internet) shop keepers. Extracting e-commerce as a whole into its own segment then it becomes 7% of the UK’s GDP at £100bn and is forecast to be between 10 and 13% by 2015.
Some more numbers about the internet
2010 2020 (estimate)
800 exabytes 53 zeta bytes
Of information of information
4.6bn mobiles connected 10 billion mobiles connected
1.8bn connected PCs 5bn PCs connected
My #1 takeaway was the reminder that experimentation on the internet should be the norm and not to be afraid to make changes. Matt using the different shades and then measuring which one had the fastest user click responses – then this became the shade to be used (for now I guess.)
We were then introduced to James Caan who gave a relaxed presentation covering a wide range of topics about how he had set up or bought companies and eventually sold them.
The description of how he came to sell Alexander Mann, I found particularly interesting. This is the company that I have the most experience of, as it supplied contractors to my Division at ICL with their staff onsite as part of my team. James was offered a price which on consideration by him he decided overvalued it and that was the trigger to sell.
Similarly this was the experience of buying and selling other investments in property and UK banking shares for example. I do think that doing the opposite of advice from Goldman Sachs (on the property and shares for example) was definitely tongue in cheek but very funny nevertheless. In summary, these investment decsions were made after observing the masses and doing the opposite and just as important going by gut feel.
These successes were balanced by an anecdote about a recruitment business for the construction industry. This market had been booming before the recent recession but then using the hands-on examples, described by Jonathan earlier, the company was switched to other markets and is now very successful.
In the question and answer section Matt used examples of Google Insight to help understand how searches and more particularly patterns of searches could be used to look at markets. Inexplicably he used Maxi dresses as the example for this charting of queries. Both he and James predicted that next year’s Olympics were a great opportunity for us all in the UK.
The evening was capped off by one lucky attendee winning the lottery for an hours consultation with James – unfortunately this was not me.
1) Photographs are from HBVP’s Page on Facebook
2) Apologies if I have misquoted anyone in this blog – the quotes come from my notes and from my memory of the evening