This month NESTA published their annual report into Venture Capital. Titled "Now and After the Dotcom Crash", what can we learn about how the environment for Business Angel investment has changed? How has the market changed? And have Business Angels' expectations changed to match?
Yesterday I attended a start-up event hosted by Incubate at the University of Sydney where Bill Tai and Rebakah Campbell gave keynote speeches. I felt disturbed by two things I saw.
But first a little from the keynote speaker Bill Tai. Bill gave an overview of the waves of technology that have swept the world which certainly resonated with me:
- The Silicon Wave from the 70’s and 80’s where Fairchild’s commercialised transistors and started the process of getting more on a chip. Bill showed a slide with the company Zilog mention which reminded me of all the Z80 assembler I wrote during this time (and later): a FORTH compiler, Crossword Maker, Spreadsheet and Address Book and how I really wanted a 140K floppy disk drive but it was too expensive at 400 GBP. Tape works but it was so slow… 15 minutes to load the source for the compiler. The memories! But this is off topic.
- The Infrastructure Wave 90’s and 00’s where computers, routers, etc. were created and sold. This is when I founded the messaging company Gordano and security company DeeZee.
- The Cloud Wave of 00’s where services were provided on the web e.g. AmazonWebServices.
- The User Interface wave of the 00s to 10s where companies made it easier to access the infrastructure and services. No longer did users need to know what FTP was!
- The Data Visualisation Wave 10s to 20s where more and more data is being accumulated and mined – the Big Data we all hear about.
Bill predicts that the next waves are Genomics and Crypto Currencies. While this is all very interesting and retrospective, what was it that disturbed me?
Firstly Rebakah Campbell has achieved a lot in the last four years with her company Posse which is all about “Discover[ing] the Best Places on Earth”. I am impressed but couldn’t understand how the salary bill was going to be paid. Towards the end of the talk Rebakah mentioned that they were finally at the point where they were going to test if they could make money… I was disturbed to hear that it’s taken four years to create what I would suggest is the Minimally Viable Proposition to start testing the value of the idea!
Secondly Bill Tai asked his colleague to show a video about MaiTai which was presented as a place for Entrepreneurs to network with Investors while learning to Kite Surf. In fact Richard Branson hosted the first event at Necker Island. Bill is encouraging entrepreneurs to attend in Perth this year since he is looking for the unicorn companies of which there are around 5-10 per year created (according to his analysis). What concerned me was the image that was being sold: “Have a brilliant time Kite Surfing and get money for your venture… it’s real easy. All you have to do is attend.”
While I think it is great that brilliant people are taking their time to help other people achieve I’m not sure about the way it is being sold. I am reminded of an article in the Economist which suggested that Incubators, Accelerators and the start-up scene in general is like the Cotton Mills of the 21st century.
Do you think that 4 years to have an income stream is too long? Or too short?
What do you think of the Cotton Mills of the 21st century analogy?