Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Seedcamp Video

The concept of Seedcamp is not difficult to explain. What is tougher is to convey the spirit of the enterprise.
Seedcamp have recently published its video. Its a 10 minute piece edited from 80 hours of film which is worth the watch if you have an interest in the entrepreneurial scene in Europe and what practical steps people are taking to fuel it in the tech arena.

The filming, editing and production was done by Bonney and Klein (the Klein being Anthony Klein, my nephew). This post would have been up a month or two ago but I was waiting the the guys to get their website up - to give them a well-deserved plug.
Alex and Anthony are very talented film-makers who are applying their talents in a number of creative ways.
For example: FilmWorks is a film-making ‘boot camp’ developed by
Bonney and Klein Productions for companies wanting interesting and exciting training and team-building programs.

Bonney and Klein did a superb job on 80 hours of Seedcamp footage - thanks guys!

APAX and GMG bag WGSN as part of their £1bn EMAP buy

I don't normally comment on non-TAG companies but I felt compelled to write something about one of my favourite digital companies, WGSN.
WGSN (originally Worth Global Style Network!) describes itself as 'the world's leading online research, trend analysis, and news service for the fashion and style industries'. It was a pioneer in subscription based information services on line at a time when major clients required a dedicated satellite dish to receive it because the web was inadequate.
WGSN was launched by the brothers Julian and Marc Worth in 1998 and was sold to EMAP in October 2005 for £140m.
Amidst the myriad properties that APAX and Guardian Media Group (GMG) have acquired this nugget which from EMAP's public statements in March and July this year indicated was continuing to perform ahead of its plan.
I wouldn't be surprised if WGSN could recover half of the entire purchase price for Bidco. Another coup for Stephen Grabiner and his team!
APAX and GMG both have strong digital credentials and will certainly understand WGSN a lot better than EMAP did and its potential should be unleashed.
My own connections with WGSN go back to when I introduced the service to Arcadia and it became WGSN's first significant client.
Later, Marc and Julian were very keen for TAG to invest but we were never able to come to terms. Ah well ....

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Flesh on the bones ...

Apologies to the few readers of this blog that my previous post announcing the sale of Agent Provocateur was thin on detail.
You'll understand that confidentiality rules apply and one has to wait for details to enter the public domain before commenting or confirming.
On the numbers provided, a sale price exceeding £60m looks very full but the business is well primed for a classic retail rapid roll-out. The aggregate, consolidated pre-tax profits for the year ended March 07 (accounts were filed last week) were £1.9m but quickly heading north.
The brand is capable of being a global luxury brand of sizable proportions.
Many more stores are planned but the role of digital media and its viral effect has been a significant factor in the brand being far bigger than the business at this stage.

Whilst both founders remained in the business, rapid expansion was impossible. The solution found is one that is perfect for the business and the strong management team that has developed over the past 5 years. 3i have made a very good buy.

Trust the Sunday Times to add the colour - and there is a lot of it.

From TAG's point of view a very successful exit but one which we would not have sought had the unfortunate breakup between the founders occurred a year ago.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A welcome exit from AP

Early yesterday morning, TAG sold its interest in Agent Provocateur.[See FT piece which is sort of accurate]. See also 3i announcement.
TAG held its stake via an investment syndicate which it put together in October 2002 to acquire 20% of AP from the founders. At the time the company had 4 shops.
This brings to an end a most fascinating and involving investment about which we have posted on previous occasions. MBE rejected, MBEs awarded,Kate Moss for AP.
FT.com featured the sale today. I particularly like this bit: "The last published accounts for Agent Provocateur show the business made a pre-tax loss of £207,831 for the year to March 2006 on turnover of £8.9m.
Mr Corré, who warned that he did not worry about financial detail, said he thought the following year had seen the company make a “profit of about £2m” and “£15m or £20m turnover”.
No doubt there will further column inches in the coming days. This company has a penchant for headlines.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Digivate becoming a serious digital agency

Digivate is one of TAG's oldest investments. Its positively mature. TAG invested about 7 years ago. Far from getting a 7 year itch, we're pretty excited about the way its shaping up. Profitable and cash generating from its core business of building eCommerce websites on its own open source platform, Digivate has fairly recently extended its activities beyond eCommerce and database building/email marketing into search engine marketing (SEM) and particularly into SEO.

Their approach to SEO is comprehensive. Understanding the internal structures of websites through building dozens of them certainly helps but adding a really good understanding of how contextual links works and building forums, blogs and developing (writing) appropriate content for clients all go to deliver a compelling solution.

Digivate have developed their own sophisticated SEO evaluator tool that emulates the Google search algorithm and breaks down the relevant site to identify the specific areas where improvements can be made. Its tools can also provide detailed reports of competitors' weaknesses to provide an advantage for the most competitive search terms.

The next step for Digivate is to extend their graphical and UI (User Interface)design capability

The heritage of the founders lies in catalogue mail order, direct marketing, database design and development. It shows.

Digivate clients include leading high street retail groups, catalogue companies, new internet services and financial services companies.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Imagini announces its funding

Imagini the company that introduced or 'created' visual DNA with such compelling effect has announced its Series A funding round.

Imagini definitely falls in the 'intriguing' category and a year ago left many potential funders scratching their heads as to where the company would ultimately go.

By April 2m users had completed their visual profiles in a matter of months (now well over 4m) and Imagini was seen in a somewhat different light and wrapped up a very interesting group of investors fairly quickly.

Now Imagini has developed a super facebook application called Youniverse which promises further engagement with the concept of visual DNA.

Victor Keegan has written intelligently about the company in the Guardian. This is worth a read if you're still scratching your head.

Backers include Atomico, North Zone Ventures and TAG

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Bec Clarke’s website has revolutionised the jewellery world."

Today's Sunday Times style magazine ran a 2 page article on Rebecca Clarke and her Astley Clarke Jewellery business.

This type of coverage is just what new, young eCommerce businesses need and Astley Clarke are well aware of the role that PR plays in establishing credibility and inspiring trust. With prices ranging from £35 to £6000 trust is vital and the Sunday Times together with the many other column inches which Rebecca has got is certainly helping.

Congratulations, Becs!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Direct .... from China

One of the biggest impacts on the world economy and probably the biggest factor in keeping inflation low in the Western Economies has been the emergence of China as a world's manufacturer of a huge range of quality goods.
The massive importers of goods from China such as Wallmart own dozens of factories there. All the leading retailers have buying offices and visit regularly.
Now medium-sized and small scale retailers, wholesalers and eBay traders have access directly to Chinese manufacturers and traders via DH Gate.
DH Gate have solved the problem of finding, sifting the goods on offer but more importantly have developed an escrow system backed up by a buyers rating system (similar to eBay)which gives buyers complete security that the goods will be as ordered and that payment is only released on satisfaction.
DH Gate have set up a dispute resolution process to deal with transaction problems if and when they arise.
All in all a thoroughly thought through business which is already generating multiple millions of dollars of revenue monthly and listing 2.5million items. All this in only 2 years.
Accelerator invested alongside our friends at Atlas Venture.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Glasses Direct takes on the giant opticians

It is very interesting to note the aggressive price stance being taken in the latest Specsavers press campaign.
Full pages featuring "A massive range for less than £40" - at the "UK's most trusted Optician"
[Source: Readers Digest Most Trusted Brands Survey 2007].
I think this is all very flattering for Glasses Direct, the tiny eCommerce upstart founded by Jamie Murray Wells and backed by Index and TAG amongst others.
A concerted campaign by the UK's leading opticians may slow Glasses Direct down a little but a price war is probably the last thing the high street operators need right now.

The fact is that as more and more consumers start to understand that there is relatively little mystery in buying subscription glasses on the web then Glasses Direct with their - "from the factory to the consumer" approach - is likely to keep taking market share.

Jamie has built his business on a lot more than price. The range is expanding rapidly to embrace fashion products and the service and quality that he is offering is superb.

Glasses is demonstrating a most interesting disruptive approach to a market which has paid little attention to price until recently.

Koodos using FeedCommerce

It is noticible that more and more user actions are being accomodated within the browser - not requiring new web pages to load. This undoubtedly leads to a more satisfying user experience and providing greater stickiness (to use a web 1.0 term) to publishers.
This phenomenon is now moving towards eCommerce and Koodos is an early adopter of this technology with the help of Nooked. Click on the grid below and see that you don't need to leave the publishers page to get product descriptions and price. Only at the point of transaction do you call upon the Koodos site (by all means do so and place an order).

Koodos is an ideal ecommerce application because it specialises in scarce inventory which changes daily so the feed technology keeps the offer current, exciting and relevant.
[Hot tip: If you do go to Koodos before 22nd August, make sure you register for their private sale of Diesel Jeans at only £29.99!]

Edgeio (another company in the TAG portfolio) has recently launched its paid content network enabling publishers to have their content paid for 'within the browser'.

A feature that makes it easier for consumers and publishers is one we are likely to see much more of soon.

If you know of any really great applications of FeedCommerce please comment.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Four out of Ten!!

I sincerely hope the Guardian Newspaper know how to pick winners - in the tech start-up space anyway!
They recently ran a series of articles headed Top 10 Dotcoms to watch. Their picks were:(in alphabetical order)

Social networking for frequent travellers.

Intelligent search of property websites.

Online identity management.

Alternate reality gaming.

Print on demand: cards, notes and stickers.

Map-based property search.

Touch Local
Local directory services.

Trusted Places
User-created local information.

Peer to peer lending.

Recruitment 2.0.

UK based only - of course.

Like all top 10's its bound to be controversial although since TAG is invested in 4 of the 10, we naturally hope they have it about right!

Fizzback shortlisted ...

Fizzback has been shortlisted for in the 'Best Use of Technology' category for the 2007 UK Startup Awards.
This category is for companies which have applied technology to provide an advantage in a traditional market or have come up with a totally new product, solution or service.

Fizzback's idea is brilliantly simple. Consumers comment or provide feedback using digital channels - primarily mobile phones using SMS. The service provider has their finger on the pulse of customers issues and comments in real time - while they are experiencing the service.
Fizzback enables consumer facing companies to capture instant feedback from their customers and convert real time insights into improved acquisition and retention. Some of Fizzbacks clients use the service to identify 'at risk' customers and initiate intervention or communication within minutes.

The powerful Fizzback engine uses artificial intelligence to interpret free form comments and instantly analyses and interprets the feedback delivering it its clients in a format that ensures they receive a continuous and real-time view of their customers’ satisfaction levels, issues and priorities. This is done via a web interface dashboard.

Feedback can give companies a real insight into what their customers are experiencing at the front line. Senior management can’t possibly patrol all their shop floors, train carriages, or hotel foyers. So they rely on feedback to tell them what’s going on. And yet it is often something that companies seem to dread receiving.

If you get to a customer quickly, at the point of the experience, you can not only stop that customer defecting to a competitor, but can actively convert them to loyal advocates. But you have to know that they’re having a bad experience in the first place.

Traditional methods of capturing customer feedback are deficient in many ways. Questionnaires, on or offline, are notoriously unreliable for gathering a real understanding of customers’ future intentions. The feedback form that tells you that a guest at a hotel was ‘satisfied’ with the service, but is it enough to get them to return? What would have changed that view to ‘excellent’?

Fizzback’s research shows that companies using this system have reported a 67 per cent drop in issues and complaints from customers (up to 73 per cent in the retail sector) coming via other methods such as letters of complaint. The immediacy of feedback stops disgruntled customers defecting to a competitor. Some companies use it to identify common problems, for example, with suppliers. If they receive a number of complaints about a particular supplier, it may be that the contract needs reviewing.

Some of the companies using Fizzback - on trial or as part of their ongoing operations and customer experience monitoring are:
Barclays Bank, The National Health, Phones4U, National Express, Bourne Leisure, First Capital Connect.

Interested in reading further, read DM Weekly article

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Seedcamp Sprouting

Saul referred to Seedcamp on Thursday last at the Library House Event, Essential Web.
The Seedcamp website went live on the same day and some of blogs have picked up on the story - as did the Guardian on-line.
There is quite a lot that isn't conventional about Seedcamp and perhaps this post will help to elucidate.

The theme of why we need to keep seeding European start-ups is a well covered one.

Like the Opencoffee Club, Seedcamp is essentially designed to promote entrepreneurship in the tech community in a down-to-earth, direct and practical way.
Like Opencoffee it is aims to be collaborative, inclusive and participative.

The idea is simple, Seedcamp will help to kick-start the best of European ventures through the provision of a small amount of money but more importantly by providing direct access to the best mentors in the ecosystem.

The website explains it in some detail.

Seedcamp will be owned by a wide range of VCs, Successful Entrepreneurs and Professionals.
Announcements will follow soon of those who are backing it.

In just a week and a bit - since Essential Web - rapid progress has been made on a few fronts.

1) 3 days ago, we had 12 fully submitted applications and 96 signed-up users. I am amazed at this given the application form only went up 4 days previously.

2) We have a number of backers on board. Our plan is to make a public announcement about our 1st group of investor/supporters in the coming week.

3) We started up a Facebook group around Seedcamp. There are 411 members today! Word-of-mouth and blogging is very active as we can tell by the links on our website and the emails we are getting

If you think you can add to Seedcamp as Investor/Sponsor/Mentor or you have a business plan which needs support please go to www.Seedcamp.com and contact us via the blog or the email.

If you can help spread the word, that too will benefit the community.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Moveme wins best new business from NMA!

Congratulations to Mark, Keith and the team at Moveme! This is a real accolade. They were up against some very stiff competition. Also shortlisted were Oodle and Viagogo.
I report from NMA verbatim below - the links are mine.
Best New Business
"Moveme.com is a specialist website providing a support and planning service for home movers. Its objective is to be involved with 20% of the approximately 500,000 house moves a month.

Launched in June 2006 as themovingserivce.com, the site was rebranded and relaunched in January 2007 as moveme.com. The company has attracted strong backers including venture capitalist firm Advent Venture Partners, seed investor The Accelerator Group and serial entrepreneur Brent Hoberman.

The site features a resource for the booking of removal services, utility suppliers and the automatic generation of letters informing appropriate parties of your change of address. Moveme is launching an active push in brand-building and awareness campaigns over the summer, but currently the only spend beyond software development is in the form of PPC with Google and partnerships with Findaproperty.com. Moveme.com also intends to launch a nationwide marketing, PR and viral campaign to drive traffic to the site and establish it as the main player within the online property moving market space.

Currently moveme.com caters predominantly for purchase moves, but is in the process of developing solutions and software specifically targeted for rental and student moves. The company also plans to offer a white-label service to compliment the existing web strategies of the leading estate agents and property portals.

According to a recent GP Bullhound Research report covering the online lead-generation sector, the home-move market will be worth in excess of £2bn globally in 2007. This is a growth rate exceeding 70% annually, making it the fastest growing segment of online advertising.

The judges said that the service had a great interface and practical useful tools, and that it was clear where the founders were driving the business as a facilitator."

Oodle was launched in US in early 2005 but is new to the UK and Viagogo is a UK version of Stubhub in the US.
Moveme is an original and clever solution to the universal challenge of moving home.

Wonga.com emerges from stealth mode

Wonga.com came out of stealth mode on Thursday at the Library House Event, Essential Web. Wonga offers same day cash to borrowers. In fact the alpha trials demonstrate that transferring cash to approved on-line applications should take no more than 30 minutes.
The system that Errol Damelin, Jonty Hurwitz and the team have developed has about 20 complex system integrations but using the power and speed of the web makes the whole experience for the user clean, simple, clear and quick.
Wonga is a simple solution for personal debt management, designed for anyone who occasionally wants a short term, unsecured, same-day cash loan to help them out when unexpected expenses or urgent cash requirements arise.
Wonga aims to build social contracts and trust ratings with all its customers, as well as carrying out standard and innovative credit checks. Once their trust rating is fully established, Wonga allows its customers to borrow up to £1,000 at any one time.
We also announced the first funding round of $6m for Quickbridge Ltd (the owner and developer of Wonga.com) by Balderton Capital (formerly Benchmark Capital Europe).
Read some of the blogs referring to the announcement here: mashable, e-consultancy, venturebeat and P2P Banking

Monday, June 25, 2007

Daylife raises its Series A in London

Upendra Shardanand's Daylife in which TAG was the largest seed investor back in July 2005, has raised $8m from Balderton Capital (previously Benchmark) and Arts Alliance.
See FT.com's coverage.
The company's news aggregation tool, which sits on partners' websites, allows customers to search for a term and see results from articles, blog comments, pictures and other online sources displayed similarly to a newspaper front page rather than the results lists favoured by Google and other search engines.

This round brings the amount raised for Daylife to around $11m.

Ynon Kreiz of Balderton and Adam Valkin of Arts Alliance said the group had sought European financing because it was a global business with customers on both sides of the Atlantic.

From the outset, Upe and his team have determinedly positioned Daylife as global with its news gathered from every corner of the world and seeing it from every angle.

Upendra was one of the founders of Firefly, an early online community site and recommendation engine sold to Microsoft in 1998.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Can Getty do for music what it does for images?

Getty Images are going to start making a real difference to the way in which film, TV and web creatives source their music in future.
In our multimedia world with digital content being becoming richer all the time and being distibuted across so many platforms, Getty has made what looks like a profound strategic move. They announced the acquisition of Pump Audio last week for around $42m.
For years, Pump Audio has been providing major media companies such as MTV, NBC, CBS and the BBC with a proven, legal way to access great independent music for their commercial productions.
Getty will help Pump make this same licensing solution directly available to everyone.
Getty Images now has a platform that allows customers to license pre- cleared, original professional quality music to enhance their broadcast, film, video, advertising and online projects. The music will, over time, be integrated into the various web sites of Getty Images, as well as being made available by the sales force of Getty Images.
"Getty Images has powered the forward momentum of the visual content industry over the past 12 years, delivering most of the major innovations and bringing new opportunities to our partners and customers. Today there is wide agreement in the music industry that the market for commercial music licensing is fragmented, inefficient and confusing, just as the imagery market once was,” said Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO of Getty Images. “We are confident that bringing our digital distribution, e-commerce expertise and our customer relationships, as well as our understanding of intellectual property, to the music industry will have a similarly positive impact.”
There have been a series of moves on Getty's part to expand beyond photography and into the digital media sector. Last month, it launched a new division to license video footage and other multimedia content, and over the past few months has made a string of acquisitions, from amateur photography site Scoopt to fast growing photographer driven portals like iStockphoto.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

MBE rejected

No sooner had I posted with pride the recognition that Agent Provocateur had received in the award of MBEs to the founders, than Joe Corre decided that he didn't want his. What followed was a tsunami of media coverage the likes of which brands cannot buy.
The entire front page plus page 2 of the Independent plus every other major newspaper plus news at ten on the BBC etc etc. Our press office received dozens of interview requests and emails through the website (most by far supporting Joe's views) came flooding in.

The fact that Serena was delighted to accept hers and that Joe made clear these were his views and not the company's has helped the brand's positioning significantly.
Agent Provocateur's brand is a blend of Joe's anarchism and Serena's style and glamour.

Business and politics don't mix ...come to think of it nothing much mixes well with politics.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

AP founders awarded MBEs

What a wonderful tribute to Joe and Serena to be appointed MBEs for their services to fashion in today's honours list.
They started Agent Provocateur in 1994 from a tiny store in Broadwick Street, Soho. "When we began Agent Provocateur we wanted to create this beautiful place that only existed in our imagination. We had always hoped something similar existed somewhere else, but it didn’t."
Rees and Corré introduced their vision of lingerie avoiding the prudery that insists on categorising anything to do with sex as sleazy or smutty. The aim was to create an availability of high quality designer lingerie with creative flair.
TAG invested in 2002 when the company had 4 stores and was about to open in New York.
Today we have 29 stores (20 own stores and 9 franchised) in 13 countries with many more planned.
The website has been named "the world's sexiest site" by Vogue and it is the company's largest single store - outstripping Selfridges London, New York, Las Vegas and the rest.
AP's most recent award was for New Fragrance of the year for Maîtresse given at the Fifi awards in April. The FiFi Awards are put on annually by The Fragrance Foundation to honor the fragrance industry's creative achievements and is considered the 'Oscars' of the fragrance industry.

The couple are supported in the building of the brand by an oustanding management team built up over the last 5 years who are infused with passion for the brand and what it stands for.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Saul on why Europe needs to keep seeding

Saul Klein was one of the speakers at the recent NextWeb conference in Amsterdam. His theme was one that is talked about regularly in the Euro tech venture scene. It co-incided neatly with the LastFm exit helping re-inforce Europe's credentials in enabling the creation of global tech companies
Take a look at Fred Destin's blogpost on the subject.
In addition to the debate, there is a lot of practical action going on. In case you haven't noticed, The Open Coffee Club, started by Saul is now an international phenomenon.
Now established in 50 cities in the world, it was envisaged only 14 weeks ago as a means of stoking the European ecosystem. London alone has 579 members.

Saul's presentation at NextWeb is here.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Moo celebrates one year in MooStyle

It was a party disguised as a product launch - or is it the other way around?
In typical Moo fashion they organised a MeetUp in SF on Tuesday where an "exhibition of cool MOO stuff, loads of freebies, a rockin' DJ and drinks" were available.
to customers, partners, friends and fan of MOO.
Following the success of the moo minicards, the company has launched the Moo NoteCard. This clever bit of paper design is a greetings/note/invitation/ card which can be mailed (16 envelopes provided in the pack of 16 cards) or desk displayed using the folded section.
Of course, the NoteCard can be fully personalised by uploading pictures or graphics from your hard drive or Flickr stream.

Royal Mail benefits from the Web

While email is killing - or has killed - peer to peer letter communication, many web companies seem to be more than making up for the damage.
Amazon has given an enormous boost to the Royal Mail's parcel delivery service but the biggest impact to its letters business has undoubtedly been the on-line DVD rental services.
The Evening Standard's This is London in a piece about film state that "LoveFilm will reportedly soon become the Royal Mail's single biggest client".
Personally, I am a little sceptical of this statement the source of which is not attributed.
Yes, with an estimated 1m discs going to and from LoveFilm (Royal Mail gets paid there and back) each week its pretty good business for Her Majesty's postal service.

No wonder other home delivery services like Deutche Post are eyeing Royal Mail's UK stranglehold.

Royal Mail delivers 84 million items every working day and has a network of 14,376 post offices. Revenue for the year was £9.056 billion, and profits before tax were £312 million.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Local Globe in action

When Saul coined the name LocalGlobe he showed profound understanding of the web.
We are seeing some really exciting examples of how this all works in practice.

Stardoll [for those unfamiliar, watch eNews on the Stardoll phenomenon], is now available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish and Hungarian. A look at the Alexa rankings for Stardoll shows how the effort of localising is paying off.
Another great example is TAG's latest announced investment, Netlog.
Netlog is the least known of the social networking giants see LocalGlobe's brief piece on it recently and the press announcement of the Index led round.
Countries where Netlog sites have been established include UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Romania and there is a real local flavour to each. You'd expect a user generated site to be so but Netlog have really facilitated this process.

Netlog Facts: 18.1 Million Members
2 Billion Monthly Pageviews
25 Million Unique Monthly Visitors

It will be interesting to see how Imagini evolves since it uses few words and images tend to be fairly universal in their interpretation. Certainly the 2m VisualDNA profiles which Imagini have collected will throw up some interesting national differences.

Little Moo has not started localising but the comment from one of their customers, Dennis Howlett says a lot:
"Along with a certain scepticism that I might not receive the product given I live in the back of beyond.
Imagine my surprise when my Moo cards turned up - exactly on time.
Although Moo is a tiny company, it has reached 143 countries. A perfect example of the Global Microbrand."

In the big Euro/Valley debate the one advantage Europe and London in particular has is its awareness and readiness to internationalise and localise.
Of course localising is not simply a question of translation it often implies local customer service and cultural nuances.
As broadband penetration grows globally, we are truly seeing the WORLDWIDE WEB emerge.
Let me know of other Euro companies really doing a great job at localising...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Interested in eCommerce? Keep an eye on Digivate

A relatively low key part of the TAG portfolio, Digivate is demonstrating clearly that deep domain knowledge wins in the eCommerce agency space. The founders, Lysander, Will and Mark were all schooled in direct-marketing, database analysis, catalogues and merchandising while at Innovations together. They were all involved in Innovations doing the first UK consumer transaction on the web in May 1995.
They left to set up Digivate and built an eCommerce platform using open source technology. This proved to be a great long-term decision. It was tough in the early years to persuade larger clients who wanted IBM or Microsoft platforms. Not today!
Digivate has expanded its offer from Managed eCommerce service to eMarketing in all its manifestations and their deep knowledge of how to get and keep customers and how to drive conversion, analyse email marketing campaigns really does deliver.
Their latest client is the Pier - site by Digivate not yet released.

Their etails newsletter is worth reading if you are interested in eCommerce - they always have interesting observations about what is happening in the US and they watch the multi-channel retail scene closely.
I'm delighted for the team that they are growing so well, are very profitable AND that they are paying their shareholders good dividends!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

moveme starts buzzing ...

MoveMe has attracted a lot of media attention recently. This morning's page 3 of the business section of the Sunday Times is just the start of what we are expecting to be some great coverage for the service.
MoveMe has developed a simple to use but comprehensive planning tool for managing house/flat moves.
With databases and prepared letters covering everything from parking permits, utilities, removal companies, credit cards and the dozens of other chores one has to do - this site is a real godsend to people moving home. The testimonials coming in from the users of the site attest to the fact that MoveMe is a really useful web service.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spotplex - a better Digg?

We at TAG are betting it is. We've made our 4th US investment with our participation in a seed round of Doyon Kim's Spotplex.

The others are: Daylife, Edgeio and Spotrunner.

Spotplex provides internet users with real-time ranking of blog articles based on actual impression count.
In other words, you can find what is the hot news today, this week, or this month in real time at Spotplex. This is not a list of articles people recommended or voted for, but a list of articles read most in a given timeframe.
Bloggers can track and analyze their blog traffic with a simple Spotplex code or widget. Not just how many people visit the blog, they can even find which articles people read most and how many people read them. Whenever an article of the blog is read, it will show up at Spotplex in real-time and get noticed by Spotplex users.

Techcrunch broke the Spotplex story 6 weeks ago and other commentators like Dave Parker at Daily Internet News seem to like the approach that the company has taken which avoids the probelms that Digg has had in relation to 'gaming' site popularity ratings.
To overcome the problem of the posts from large blogs dominating the popularity stakes in the early months, Spotplex have introduced a neat 'relative measure' as well as an absolute.

With Blogging showing no signs of slowing down [BBC have an interesting article on the subject], Spotplex is aiming at a huge market.

Technorati is now tracking more than 60 million blogs, of which it believes around 55% are 'active' - updated at least every three months....and Chinese is now the third most popular language in blogosphere.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Astley Clarke - Luxury Brand of Tomorrow!

The champagne corks were popping down in Notting Hill when Astley Clarke was named one of the luxury 'Brands of Tomorrow'.

Walpole (the British luxury brands association) put together a panel consisting of John Ayton, Chairman of Links of London, Annoushka Ducas, Creative Director of Links, Sarah Elton, former MD of Smythsons, Lucia Van Der Post -luxury commentator and Demetra Pinsent, strategist at McKinsey to create The Walpole Brands of Tomorrow Programme.

This was announced in The Sunday Times this weekend past.

Congratulations to Becca Clarke and team on yet another accolade. The last of which was being named 'on-line shop of the month' by Marie Claire.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Koodos starts taking shape ...

Miriam and her team have really started to get Koodos on the fashion map. Getting the top luxury brands onto Koodos was always going to be a challenge but in the last 3 weeks some really big names have joined and they are now getting loads of inbound enquiries.
Featured on Koodos right now are Gucci, Prada, Chloe etc and great British brands such as Amanda Wakely, Georgine Gooman and the like.

The new Koodos Blog will help provide a point of view on fashion too.

Interestingly, the biggest issue from the consumer's perspective appears to be: "Are these brands genuine?" I guess the prices challenge the idea that they are the real thing and unfortunately conterfeiting in this market is rife.

Koodos has also introduced the notion of the 'private sale' to the UK. Already very popular as a retail format in France, Koodos is pioneering it in the UK.

Look out for some great promotions over the coming week and a site makeover, following early learnings will also be coming soon.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another busy OpenCoffee Club

Saul wasn't able to be there this morning so I promised I'd blog some impressions and observations.
The numbers of attendees has held up very well. I'd estimate at least 80 over the 2 hours.
Interesting to see that new networks are are starting to tap into the facility. The London Business School was well represented for the first time.
There were headhunters: - BYT (Agnes Greaves) and The Forsyth Group (Bretton Putter);
VCs: Nick Brisbourne of Esprit, Kevin Commoli of Accel, Danny Rimer of Index
Ad agencies, bloggers, experienced entrepreneurs and first timers.

Lots of serious looking meetings, presentations and demos were taking place.

Agnes has promised me that there are many more female entrepreneurs in London than are turning up at OpenCoffee so I've challenged her to get them there.

Friday, March 16, 2007

LOVEFiLM offers DVDs to Burn

LOVEFilm this week announced its "DVDs to burn" service. The first in the UK. In my judgement, at the current stage of mass adoption of the various technologies, this is the service film-loving consumers are going to enjoy.

LOVEFilm have been offering downloads (up to 2500 titles now, to buy or to rent or free) for a year but you have to watch on PC and 'lean forward' viewing is still a minority pastime.
The announcement co-incided with its national TV campaign following a very successful test in Scotland.

Simon Calver and the team have pulled together Video Island, ScreenSelect and LOVEFiLM into a powerful and comprehensive entertainment company.

Key facts

* Europe's leading online DVD rental and movie download company with nearly 500,000 active household subs.
* In the last 2 years, launched in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Germany
* c.20% of UK and 10% of Sweden total DVD rental market
* Top 3 Most Visited UK Site in Entertainment and Movies
* UK’s largest range - Over 65,000 titles
* World class partners with exclusive relationships
* Lowest-cost DVD rental platform in Europe
* Market leaders in digital film delivery with the largest movie download catalogue in Europe

Monday, March 05, 2007

Moo checks into the Habbo Hotel

Moo's latest parnership is with Habbo. Following hard on the heels of Bebo, Little Moo will be printing away those cute little cards with cute little Habbo folks on them.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A phenomenon! 120 attend The OpenCoffee Club

Have just got back from attending the first OpenCoffee Club.

Saul posted this idea last Friday 23rd Feb.

As far as I know he did nothing more than that. Well, at 10am there must have been 30 people waiting for the doors of Esprit to open. The staff were bemused, the Starbucks team confused (perhaps they thought Howard Shultz had sent us all) and then over-run. By 12.15 when I left, there had been 120 attendees and some 40 were still deep in conversation.

If entrepreneurship in London is not alive in London today, it never will be.
There were VCs, entrepreneurs, angels and press all networking and enjoying.

Saul's idea is to make this a completely self perpetuating 'club'. Anyone who wishes to will simply turn up between 10 and 12.
The quietest Starbucks in the UK becomes the busiest for these 2 hours.

Personally, I met 4 new companies and a number of old friends and acquaintances.
Hope to see you there one of these weeks.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Giving customers a real voice

Read any consumer facing Chairman or CEO annual report and you'll see the phrases: 'listening to customers' 'responding to and serving customers needs'..... or similar.
I once asked Andy Higginson, CFO of Tesco over a drink what the real driver of Tesco's success was. 'We genuinely and obsessively listen to customers and give them what they want'.
The Tesco listening takes lots of forms. Market research - sure. Polling in-store and out-of-store. Focus Groups. ...and of course the biggest voice of all, the ClubCard.

IMI - Instant Market Intelligence - was conceived of by Rob Keve back in 2004. TAG was an early investor and close friend of the business. My son-in-law, Jonathan Morris joined the business in 2005 and it has narrowed and concentrated its focus on a superb product (branded Fizzback) which enables real-time, actionable customer feedback via digital channels.
SMS via mobile phone is particularly effective for the growing list of clients who are using the Fizzback service. This enables consumers to feedback - in real time and ‘at the point of experience’ whilst the issues are still top of mind while using the service of the provider. The data is analysed and interpreted by Fizzback and presented to the management of the company in a variety of forms via a web interface.

We are announcing, this week an investment of Euro 4m by Advent in the business. This has enabled the technology to be developed further, to grow the team and will enable Fizzback to go to market confidently.

Clients already using or trialling the service include: National Express, First Capital Connect, Bourne Leisure Group, one of the National Health Trusts and and many other major players in health, financial services and retail are in the process of signing up.

Fizzback offers a significantly improved way of brands obtaining unsolicited and valuable customer feedback. Its likely to make a big impact on those companies striving for greater customer loyalty and improved customer experience.

This biz moves me ..and could move you too!

About September last year, Frederic Court of Advent asked me to meet an interesting company. The business, called 'The Moving Service' was much more than initally met the eye. Mark Cunningham and Keith McNeilly who know the consumer data market inside out have been developing the idea for a while.
Moving home is one of the most traumatic events in people's lives.
The proposition is simple: moveme.com makes it easy - and saves money in the process.
These days one needs to write about 27 different letters informing service providers (banks, credit cards, utlities, local councils etc) of change of address. Moveme does all of that. You need to get a new residents parking permit, find and organise the removal company. Moveme does that too. Get your mail re-directed .... yes, that too. etc etc.
The databases sitting behind the planner which moveme provides are extensive and have taken many months and an intimate knowledge of the moving process to construct.

What a simple and brilliant idea - all free to the customer.

Its also refreshing to see a new web business whose business model and revenue sources are so clearly defined and so large. U-Switch is proof of just one of the streams.
There are 3.4m house moves made in the UK alone - each year.

Accelerator and Advent have been joined by Brent Hoberman in seeding moveme and a series A will be underway soon.

If you are planning to move house anytime soon, sign up at www.moveme.com and see what I'm excited about. Of course, the site is in beta and comments for improvements will be consumed with relish!

Building a Business for the long term

I have been meaning to do a post on Jonathan Klein and Getty Images for some time. Its unusual to have a a kid brother as a hero but what Jonathan has done with Getty is a great example to anyone setting out to build a sustainable, valuable and widely respected business.
He and Mark Getty started out 13 years ago with an idea to build a global, sustainable business for the long term. A rare ambition these days. Most seek an 'exit' within 5.

Jonathan was the youngest ever director of Hambros Bank and Mark was part of his team.
They had no idea what kind of business it would be but had some clear criteria. Global potential, large margins, owning core assets (preferably intellectual property).
They saw that the digital age would herald a fundamental change in the way that imagery would be stored and distributed and set about acquiring stock-photo libraries. Starting in London with Tony Stone Images in 1995, they made dozens of acquisitions, integrating and consolidating and digitising the images as they went.
Getty Images is what has resulted.
Jonathan moved the company to Seattle some 6 years ago following the acquisition of Photodisc in Seattle and the company's listing on Nasdaq. Today it is listed on the NYSE and is valued at over $3bn. The stock has been volatile but not the company's earnings which have increased steadily every year.
Today, gettyimages.com serves an average of 3.2 billion thumbnails, 7.3 million visits and 4 million unique users in addition to an average of 175 million page views each month. Nearly 100 percent of the company’s visual content is delivered digitally.

Financial Facts

NYSE ticker symbol:


Revenues (FY 2006):

$807.3 million

Earnings per share (FY 2006):

$2.10 (fully diluted)

Net income (FY 2006):

$129.5 million

So much for the dry facts, but this is a personal post. One about Jonathan and the kind of business he has built. His vision is clear. His communication of that vision internally and externally is equally so. With a string of awards and a company which is universally admired, he has done a remarkable job.

The recent acquisition activity marks a restatement of intent following a difficult period where the street had marked Getty down as 'ex growth' and the share price had taken a whack.

I expect to see more from Jonathan and Getty!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Saul joins Index

It was announced today that Saul Klein has joined Index as a venture partner. Saul and Danny Rimer go back a long way since his Firefly days (back in 1996). They share the enthusiasm for European technology start-ups and the belief that very strong ideas are coming out of this part of the world. There is a vibrant , active and professional set of VCs and experienced angels available to support European entrepreneurs.
In some respects, the outward looking, international and multi-lingual European entrepreneurs have advantages over their US counterparts and I'd expect more 'Skypes' to come out of Europe in the coming years.

Now the hard bit ....of course, I declare my bias up front, but must add that Saul has extra-ordinary vision and his partnership with Index should be a powerful combination.
Read his thoughts on linking up with Index on his blog.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Is the PerplexCity Cube about to be found?

Will someone claim the £100,000 reward which has been offered?
The final clue of the Perplexcity season one is about to be issued.
According to the Independent who ran a double spread article on the phenomenon that is Perplexcity, ARGs and Mind Candy.
Sales of over £1m have been made of the puzzle cards which Mind Candy so brilliantly devised and enthusiasts will be looking forward to the second season and any new puzzles that come out of the Mind Candy imagineers.
If you're looking for some back issue cards, they are actively traded on eBay

Personally I am hoping the puzzles in the new season are going to be a little easier to crack. Give us a break Michael, some of us have day jobs!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Beboers get to Moo

The tens of millions of members of Bebo can now make Moo Minicards using their own uploaded imagery on Bebo.
I can quite see the many thousands of bands who create home pages and upload music finding the cards a really cool way of creating their 'business cards' for distribution at gigs and elsewhere.

The superb print interface which Moo have created is attracting a number of content and community sites to want to partner with them. ....and users absolutely love them.

The mini cards are a superb example of a high quality, personalised product created on the web ........watch out for some new Moo products before too long.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Astley Clarke named by Harpers as second most stylish website!

Calling it the "Net -a -Porter of the Jewellery world with a brilliantly edited collection of gems from contemporary designers", Harpers Bazaar has put Astley Clarke in great company.
Hard on the heels of TomFord.com and ahead of Handbag and Net-a-porter, this is a great accolade for an embryonic business.
Bec Clarke is steadily building Astley Clarke into a web brand with real character.
Congratulations, Becca.
BTW: You could do worse than visit the site before Valentines Day!! Great stuff for Men and Women.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Imagini sees the world in pictures

I have been working with Alex Willcock and his team for over a year now. Alex has invented what looks like a simple and obvious idea. [The best ones often are].
Imagini profiles consumers using something they call their visualDNA.
Demographics of all kinds - geo, psycho and lifestyle have been used extensively to segment and understand consumers. Behavioural, attitudinal and transactional analysis produce interesting results and refine targeting significantly.
Now, after more than a year of developement, Imagini has demonstrated that understanding consumers' emotional preferences can be done very effectively using imagery and a set of tools they have developed.
The applications for the technology are very exciting indeed. Visual content can be served which matches consumers, new insights can be delivered. Advertisers and marketers will no longer need to constructing mood boards and tear sheets using their instincts as to how particular cutural and age demographics are going to respond. They can now add empirical data to back up assumptions.
The consumer applications which Imagini is working on are engaging and fun. Take a look at the Beta site and my widget below to get a flavour.
I'd be surprised if they haven't built up a global database of millions of VisualDNA'a within the next 12 months.
The Wall Street Journal have picked up on Imagini in a major piece featured on 19th January.
MSN and Nectar have both run trials which have been very illuminating.
Great start guys.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Daylife is live!

Upendra and team have lifted some more covers off Daylife. They set out to build the world's best news analyser and aggregator complete with an awesome API enabling great applications to be built.
From a commercial point of view, Daylife seeks to be a page inventory machine for its partners. Generating thousands of news pages automatically with no need for human editors it is a no-cost means for sites of all shapes and sizes to extend their service and inventory by adding Daylife modules, pages, or using its API on their pages.
The first partner site, the Huffingtonpost.com, went live just before Xmas. Go to the front page of their site, and see the Newsranker module, powered by Daylife which contains a customisable, embeddable widget like this:

If you click on any bar, it takes you to full topic pages powered by Daylife.
Google Ad Network can give a publisher ADS, they cannot give a publisher INVENTORY – and that is where Daylife come in.

More features and more partners to come ...soon. Set an alert for Daylife.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Moo's expanding ...

MOO has grown rapidly since September launch. Now, with customers in over 100 countries and clients including Skype and Flickr (with many more on the horizon), the little team needs backup, so Moo's hiring a number of key positions.
If you're looking for something a bit different, or know someone who might be then please check out the job specs at http://www.moo.com/jobs/ or forward on to anyone who you think would be interested.

All positions include stock options, liberal use of the office cappuccino machine and the chance to change the world;)


MOO is a new kind of printing business that creates products and services to help some of the biggest and most vibrant communities on the web take their virtual lives offline. Founded in April 2006, with investment from Index Ventures and Atlas Venture, MOO is headquartered in London, with partners in the UK, USA and Europe.

MOO’s first product: MiniCards, a reinvention of Victorian calling cards, are designed to help people share their virtual identities offline. MiniCards have already proven to be a global phenomenon, with orders for more than a million cards from people in over 100 countries in the first 3 months.

MOO’s partners currently include Flickr and Skype and have plans to launch new products with these and several new partners in 2007.

Find out more ... click: MOO

And check out how people are using their MiniCards in MOO's group page on Flickr


A shooting Star!

Stardoll continues to make rapid progress. The latest Alexa rankings show Stardoll is ranked 483 on the Alexa traffic rankings - up 269 places in 3 months.
With 4.5m members globally, Stardoll has captured the imaginations of young girls in dozens of countries.
Some of the outfits that the girls are putting together show great flair and smart fashion brands will be looking to see what millions of teenagers are voting for.
A popular facility on the site is the ability to put together an album with your favourite celebrities dressed the way you'd like to see them. These albums are voted on each week and the winner is featured in the stardoll magazine.