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About Richard Godfrey

CEO of Bath-based iPrinciples and KoodibooK. Back in 2007 I left the comfort of 9 years working for Microsoft and started iPrinciples, originally at the Bath Innovation Centre. Software is our passion and we’ve built some amazing applications over the past few years including stuff for the BBC, Bank of America, Microsoft and other big names. However, we mostly love incubating our own ideas (like www.koodibook.com) and working with local start-ups to create something innovative that is going to change the world.
Author Archive | Richard Godfrey

SPARKies Finalist Profiles: Best Start-up

The SPARKies Awards Party is getting closer day by day, and this is the next instalment in our series of finalist profiles. This time it’s the turn of the Best Start-up category…

Artolo

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I met the Peter Dickinson and Tom Brereton, the guys behind Artolo, almost exactly a year ago and immediately saw a potentially explosive mix of entrepreneurship, passion and market knowledge. Artolo is about you and me and the art all around us – everywhere is a gallery!

While still ‘under the radar’ to a large extent, Artolo have some really fantastic design concepts and a clear vision for making art accessible to everyone, as well as enabling purchasing at the touch of a button. I really want to see this take off big time!

Bardowl

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I’ve always thought that Bardowl has the potential to be huge and I guess this nomination means I’m not alone. Imagine having pretty much any book you want available as a streaming audiobook on your smartphone. For a single monthly subscription you can get access to all the self-help books you can eat plus some great fiction for when you’ve had enough! The app has been developed by the infamous Chris Book (of Big M and openMIC fame) in Bath – well worth a try when it launches real soon now!

Catchy Agency

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While not your traditional tech start-up, Catchy Agency has attracted some great attention since moving to Kingsmead Square in Bath. It’s not uncommon for developers to think “I’ll create an app and put it into the marketplace and bob’s your uncle” – but, unfortunately it rarely works like that. What about discoverability, promotion, integration with other marketing campaigns and social media?  Richard and the team are pulling the whole package together for people who want a mobile channel through some great connections with app developers, operators, handset manufacturers, etc.

meanbee

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Meanbee is a great example of what happens when some talented Bath Uni Computer Science graduates decide forgo the draw of the banking sector and decide to set up their own company. Tom and Nick have got an infectious enthusiasm for ecommerce and have built their business on being the best Magento folks around. I met them for the first time this week and was really impressed with their clear focus yet fun attitude to business.

As well as producing ecommerce sites for customers the guys are building add-ins for the Magento platform and have already released a bunch of free and paid-for modules.

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The power of networking…

If I had a pound for every time I heard “Sorry, my business cards are being printed” or “Ahhhh, I didn’t bring any with me” I’d be at least a few hundred quid better off.

The thing is, I didn’t hear any excuses like that when we took a number of Bath-based startups on a trip to Silicon Valley (BubbleBath). Everyone I met gave me a business card (some nicer than others – the cards that is!) and, what’s more, followed up via LinkedIn or an email in the next few days. How often do you do that? I know I don’t do it often enough as I’ve still got a pile of cards in front of my monitor right now.

This is another one of those fundamental differences in attitude between the UK and the US. Everywhere you go is seen as a business networking opportunity in San Francisco. But why is that any different than here? Bath is a city where there’s only a couple of degrees of separation (especially if you like Rugby), so it’s got to be easy to make useful business connections here, right? And with all the digital tools at our fingertips now there really is no reason not to have hundreds or thousands of friends (BTW, I know they’re not really “friends”!) who can help your business grow faster.

Perhaps it’s time to brush off that LinkedIn account and to think of Facebook as a fantastic business tool? Oh… and actually get 1000 of those business cards printed and stuffed in all your jackets pockets so I don’t ask you for a quid next time we meet up…

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Bath ‘City of Ideas’ Enterprise Area

Did you know there are plans for something called an ‘Enterprise Area’ in Bath?

Bath Enterprise Area (Courtesy BANES Development & Major Projects)

This space alongside the river and running from Manvers Street in Town all the way to the Newbridge industrial estate has been designated as a key zone for economic growth. Apparently it has the ability to deliver 65% of the District’s growth by 2026, concentrating on the high growth sectors such as creative industries, software and technology.  The aim is to encourage new businesses to settle in this area of Bath by focusing resources, investment, infrastructure, etc.

B&NES have also set up an ‘Economic partnership’ that spans council, education and private sector representatives who, amongst other things, should oversee the Economic Strategy for B&NES 2010-2026.

So… Will this help? What would you do as well/instead?

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#Fail

Fail Road Image

image by FireFlyThe Great http://www.flickr.com/photos/fireflythegreat/

So… (apparently all West Coast folks start a new sentence with so…!)  learning #2 from BubbleBath 2011 was about the West coast attitude to getting things wrong. You know, getting things wrong so much that you lose the company and have to sack your friends and colleagues.

In Silicon Valley, failure just means you’ve probably learnt something – if nothing else, not to do that mistake again!  Pretty much every entrepreneur we met has some serious screw-ups under their belt and some even seemed to think you can’t be a ‘proper’ entrepreneur without some carnage being left behind you as you clearly can’t have been pushing hard or fast enough! As an example, one company we met have “pivoted” (one of the “in words” from the lean startup approach – essentially meaning you failed!) after investments of tens of Millions of dollars and genuinely see that as a positive move for the business – after all, why would you carry on with Plan A if it isn’t going to bring the out-sized returns you need?

In the UK we naturally think of business failure in a completely different way. For those few who actually take the risk of moving out of a paid job to take on the start-up world it’s usually a one-off. It tends to go something like… “I’ll give it a jolly good go, and if it all goes tits-up I can always go back to a 9 to 5 or contract for a bit”. Silicon Valley on the other hand is pretty much “I’ll give it a go. It’s bound to work and even if it doesn’t I’ll learn from it and do it better next time”.

Then there is other people’s view of failure. Instead of the attitude I sometime perceive here of “hmmm… she failed last time, so perhaps we should use someone else” we saw more of “Guess it failed but she got over it and now she’s got that to learn from. That’s gotta deserve another try”.

 

 

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Light up your life tonight

Illuminate Bath 2012

Anthony Head (@anthonyohead) is the Creative Director of Illuminate Bath which has its last showing tonight (28th January 2012). I’ve had the pleasure of working with Anthony over the last year or so, so I thought it would be good to get a brief overview of Illuminate Bath from the “horse’s mouth”…

Let’s start with you telling us a bit about who you are and what you do?

By day, I’m a Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University in Interactive and Digital Media, by night I’m the Creative Director of Illuminate Bath festival (and often in the daytime too!). I’m also a software designer, computer artist and person who likes the power of coding and the creativity that it can unleash.

So… what is Illuminate Bath and why might it be interesting to BathDigital readers?

Illuminate Bath 2012 is the second festival we’ve run, the first being in November 2010. It’s a light festival, who’s aim is to transform buildings and spaces with intriguing and engaging artworks. We’ve commissioned some external artists, and also asked students and staff at Bath Spa University to take part by creating installations, or participating in events, such as the live drawing wall. Specifically relevant to BathDigital is the fact that most of the artworks are digital, in the sense that they utilised computer software, and many required specific programming to make them happen.

How much does it cost?

It’s a free festival. Yes, absolutely free! Even the programmes are free. This is because it has been funded by a Legacy Trust project called RELAYS and is part of the Cultural Olympiad. There’s been a lot of in kind support to make it happen, as well as Bath Spa University, BANES Council have been very supportive, and we’ve had to enlist the cooperation of local businesses too, mainly to get permissions to set up some of the events (e.g. BHS granted us access to create the Light Grills piece in Bath Street).

What’s the best bit as far as you’re concerned?

As the Creative Director of the festival I’m not going to point out a specific artwork, as I think they are all great. But the best thing about the festival is the fact that people have come out specifically to see it, and Bath, which usually goes to sleep at 5.30pm when the shops shut, has been kept awake this week, in the coldest and gloomiest time of the year. Then there is the power of engaging people through interactivity and digital media. Compared to a painting, where people spend longer reading the description than they do looking at the painting, digital work can really engage and keep people’s attention, as they immerse themselve’s in it. There’s also a strong element of play that I’m really glad is in the festival. If you’re going to make the effort to come out in the cold, you might as well enjoy yourself as well as be inspired to consider the possibilities.

How long has it taken to get it all together?

We’ve been planning this for a year. The last festival was two weeks long and we decided that this festival should be shorter, but higher in impact. The the work has physically been produced over the last two to three months.

What happens next? Any plans for 2013?

I’d love to do another, I have ideas brewing already. But it all depends on funding to make it happen. These things aren’t cheap to put on (even with volunteer help), artists deserve to be paid and the equipment to show projected artworks is really expensive to hire (let alone buy). The RELAYS funding runs out, as its associated with the Olympics. So for many arts organisations and events, there is a new era dawning post-2012.

My hope is that we’ve made people stop and notice the festival, and that the public have enjoyed it enough to want more, and the businesses and other sponsors will realise the benefits of helping keep the festival going. Let’s see what we can do.

 

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As Bob the Builder says… Can we do it?

We can do it!

Rosie the Riveter

Back in November, I led a ‘Mission’ of 7 Bath start-up companies to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. We called it BubbleBath as there is such a ‘bubble’ of amazing Bath-based software businesses at the moment.

The plan was to do just 3 things: 1) Understand how to export to the US, 2) Meet potential investors and partners 3) Learn form other start-up experiences. The good news is we achieved all of them and everyone came back enthused and keen to put Bath more on the technology map as a result.

The trip highlighted some real differences in attitude and approach from those we tend to see day-to-day in the UK, so I thought I’d start with one that jumped out at us all.

“Everything is possible”. No… seriously… EVERYTHING!

Some call it “glass half full” vs “half empty”. Perhaps it’s something to do with the “American Dream” aspirations where supposedly anyone can make it big? Whatever you call it, it’s the expectation that unless you try you fail automatically. And if you try, and assume that if you put everything you can into it, then it’s bound to work – indeed how could it possibly fail?!

Yes, Silicon Valley is an unusual place with it’s own unique ecosystem of tech start-ups and they have other challenges. What they don’t lack is positivity and confidence. British business could do with a good dose of both, so let’s start thinking of what is possible rather than what is stopping us and why we can’t fail rather than what is bound to scupper us!

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