Ive often wondered how Id make my introduction to the world with respect to e2. Ive set out the rules for more specific e2 related blog articles, which hereafter will be the focus of the blog content, but up until the very moment of writing I failed to gain clarity on how to present myself. The quandry being, e2 and its underlying principles is in its fundament about collective action. Nevertheless Im the founder of the e2Advisory, chief architect of the e2 strategy and instigator of the nascent e2 movement, as such Im duty bound to explain myself.
Born in Stepney in London’s east end (by folklore Im a true cockney having been born within the sight and sound of the Bow Bells), but have no affinity or connections with the place other than it being my place of birth. I actually define myself as a North Londoner having grown up and spent a substantial portion of my adult life in a leafy enclave called Highbury in the borough of Islington.
My early life dreams of football stardom were inspired by boyhood heroes such as Liam Brady (see below), seeming giants who wowed the North London faithful every other Saturday, at the Arsenal Stadium 5 minutes from where I lived. Once such aspirations were thwarted I was quick to realise adventure, glamour, and ‘glory’ could be attained through the acquisition of fiscal wealth or what is more commonly referred to as money. The pressing issue then as now was how?
I am 49 years old (at the time of writing January 2017). An age at which one has seen enough of life to have experienced many of the minor, and at least begun to grasp the nature and effects of some of the greater cycles and movements which impact upon our world.
Im not formally educated and feel both fortunate and proud of that fact. While in academic environs I excelled in subjects where I was able to exercise my imagination.
This included my favoured position of central midfield (on the football field) where I was able to exercise my flair for creativity to great effect. What was clear to me then as now is that I did not need to be in those environments to engage in or enjoy those activities, nor was it a place where any meaningful benefits that were to accrue from them were going to manifest.
Im an entrepreneur. There I said it. Yeah I said it! Ive had plenty of cause to question that statement over the years, but the more I give thought to the definition of the term, reflect on my experiences, and listen to the stories told by my peers in this particular sphere of endeavour, I realise Im more than justified in labelling myself such.
definition: a person who organises and may manage any enterprise, especially a (revenue generating) business typified by considerable initiative and varying degrees of risk.
This life if lived in its truest, purest form is rife with risk, is in fact the essence of risk, where at every juncture, in every aspect there lie substantial causes for concern, which neither reduce in number or abate in their ferocity, even under circumstances which most would consider point to a venture being a success.
Not least, and if the truth be known, very often the single biggest among the impending disasters and insurmountable obstacles to progress in this arena, is the main protagonist, the entrepreneur themselves.
Its a tough life, ‘the grind‘ I think is the modern Silicon Valley derived vernacular that best depicts the long hours of often tedious, repetitive and mundane actions that go towards starting, and to a greater degree maintaining a viable, revenue generating, profit making (hopefully) commercial enterprise. It always was and will be.
Operating in a realm of considerable uncertainty, analogy: sea sick sailor, no compass, who’s vessel’s sprung a leak, amidst a rising swell, with a perfect storm on the horizon, is no joy ride, but it can be exhilarating, while waiting for the catastrophe to strike and the lifeboat to arrive (if you’re lucky), tick as appropriate. The inevitable and Id argue necessary crashes range in severity between total wipe outs to minor skirmishes with moveable objects, all of which do or should serve as valuable ‘learning experiences’.
So why do we….or as Im sure ill ask myself another billion times, do I do it?
A few years back, for a short while I had the good fortune to be mentored by the country’s leading provider of organisational psychometric assessment tools and services, one Dr Adrian Atkinson of Human Factors International. A charming, knowledgeable chap and hugely successful entrepreneur. The insights he shared regards the nature, motivations and behaviours of those drawn to and present within the realm of enterprise were invaluable and have informed my outlook and judgements in relation to this topic and others to this day.
Dr Atkinson’s prognosis, in short: the raw, dyed in the wool entrepreneur veers towards the fiercely self sufficient, independent, self obsessed, tenacious and to varying degrees despotic individual, often manically driven to create a world that conforms to their elevated view of themselves and what they fundamentally believe the world should be and do for them and others.
It is among this, in actual fact, miniscule number of individuals, that we find the ‘great wealth creators’. Not to mislead you however, not all persons of this persuasion fall into the aforementioned category, and as Dr Atkinson made clear, even in the case of those who do, were you to subtract the seeming glamour of their achievements ,the husks of the individuals of this type are often ‘difficult’ to be around.
As to the whys, the factors that underpin the traits and behaviour of these individuals? There are relatively few. Invariably it’s to do with any or all of the following: circumstances in childhood and or later life that lead to isolation, outsider status, a retreat to a real or imagined zone unperturbed by others, high levels of creative imagination, a character trait which may have been stifled, a general feeling of dejection at the cards life had dealt them and an obsession with ideas, combined with a willingness and recklessness in pursuit of bringing these ideas into being.
Many of the aforementioned can be summed up in the experience of first and second generation immigrants to a new country.
I thank Dr Atkinson because with great skill and dexterity he allowed me to not only understand and appreciate myself but to see the value in the traits in others who can, have and do bring about the innovations, upgrades and paradigm shifts, in understanding, experiences and culture that where correctly applied improve the world and quality of our lives.
For all their merits, creativity and drive are best utilised where fortified by other often harder to acquire attributes such as patience, focus, discipline, perseverance, empathy, cooperation and affability.
It is exceedingly rare indeed, that those who by default or design are inclined towards the life of an entrepreneur during the early stages of their lives, are equally possessed of or eager to attain those supplementary qualities of character, that in most cases are necessitous to ensure they maximise their potential.
Id argue that it is for this reason above all others that this entrepreneurial, self determined, vision driven life can be so tumultuous and gives cause to such high rates of failure. After all, the outside world, ie those circumstances, events and things that we create with our thoughts and feelings, that manifest as actions, are of our own doing, or ought I to say being?
7am midsummer 1982 thud, thud, thud the sound of a football pounding against a back garden wall on a leafy avenue in Highbury. It’s Emile Emiabata obsessive and alone, training hard, shooting with both feet, aiming at multi coloured, wooden targets hung from the cross bar of a home made (by me) goal post.
That summer’s holiday to Italy had been exciting and exotic, but in truth a bit of a hindrance. This was what it was all about, this was where it was at, fresh, dew sodden grass, ball at my feet, mastering the craft.
Loved football. Really wanted to make it. Believed I would. I was skilful, tricky and creative. I had vision, good technique and understood the game. All I had to do was focus on my positional play, off the ball work and temperament, the more cerebral aspects. So that’s what I did all summer long; eating right, correct foot care, runs around the park, and always, always with the ball at my feet.
Bombshell! Two weeks into the professional season, the final growth spurt of puberty condemns me to flat feet and misaligned hip flexors. First sign of trouble was one week out from the return to school, had just finished a 3 hour marathon of a game, the traditional Sunday afternoon, local enthusiasts mega match. As I start to jog back home my right hip gives out. The only thing you know is you’ve never felt anything like it before, but something about it tells you this is something to be concerned about. You just know when you know, the body never lies.
I was right. My hips were in seizure and would literally give out without warning during strenuous walks, while jogging and even after I thought they’d repaired themselves and Id returned to playing football, pop! The pain was shocking and terrible, locking the hip and pelvis out of position, making it impossible to carry on.
There is considerable data indicating that as summer draws to an end around September each year the suicide rate peaks, especially among young men. To say I was considering ending it all is a little far fetched, but recalling the feelings that arose in me as the days shortened and my season of hope and glory faded before it had started, provided sufficient insight as to how and why those eventualities can come about.
That was it, my first real life changing catastrophe. It was gut wrenching, persistent and I suffered it alone. The lights went off that year and didn’t come back on for quite a while, and when they did, they were never quite as bright as they had been.
“Champagne tastes and Coca Cola money, that‘s your problem son.” These famous words were uttered by an exasperated Petticoat Lane tailor as I drove a hard bargain for a bespoke leather jacket modelled on one Id seen in an upmarket outlet in London’s West End.
‘Needs must‘ as they say. By the early Spring of 1983 and nearing my 16th birthday my most pressing needs, along with those of a large swathe of Mrs Thatcher’s rapidly deregulating, council house buying, pre and post Big Bang society, were centred on fiscal wealth acquisition and materialist vanity. In my case the internal drivers and external focus of this vanity being my growing interest in and seeming appeal to members of the opposite sex, which brought with it the equally persistent requirement for perceived or actual ‘high status’ among peer group members of my own gender.
There were many distinctive fashion and cultural trends that found expression among the inner city youth of the late 1970’s early 1980’s. Memorable among the denizens of Islington’s melting pot were Punk Rockers, whose main place of worship was The Hope And Anchor pub, a stone’s throw away in Upper Street; Two Tone, a latter day rejuvenation of the music and fashions of the Jamaican derived Ska movement of the 50’s and 60’s;
‘Casual’, spanning all racial groups. Icons: Glen Hoddle, Sevvy Ballesteros. Whose adherents sported a mix of classic men and women’s wear encompassing brands such as Burberry and Aquascutum (raincoats and scarves), Farah (slacks), Giorgio Armani, Pringle (sweaters), combined with ‘sports derived clothing’ with brands like Sergio Tacchini, Fila, and LaCoste (tracksuits) which were highly prized. Many of those who espoused these trends and patronised their stores were, to be frank, the polar opposite of those whom the brands would choose as their ambassadors.
The reptile brain rules. No amount of rationale and ideology based proselytizing by older, supposedly wiser, predominantly left leaning and as such (during that era at least) entrepreneurially ignorant, see diametrically opposed, persons who were present in one or more spheres of my life could combat the heady cocktail of hormones and pride that fuelled my many ill thought out and reckless attempts to generate the money to support my own aspirational tastes.
Quote: Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; what you can do or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Only engage and the mind grows heated. Begin it, and the work will be completed. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Being possessed of a rapid growing and notoriously unruly head of hair that demanded hourly combing, patting and primping with the necessary “oceans of lotions and potions” <– not cheap, just to retain a semblance of presentability, constituted a major (fiscal and sartorial) challenge to a budding slickster and would be womaniser.
Through personal connections Id come into possession of some keys to a recently evacuated council flat on the 18th floor of a high rise block.
The Black Hair Care Market was seeing a craze for an American import known as the Geri Curl. The demand was high, but a drawback of the Geri Curl was the length of time required to undergo the process, added to which were two to three hour waits at the salons before being seen. This meant that for men and women alike an entire day would have to be put aside just to get one’s hair done. Even for the vain this was a stretch. In today’s entrepreneurial parlance this is what we refer to as the ‘pain point’.
There were three usable rooms. We would have to run hose pipes from the bathroom and kitchen sinks along the corridors. If I could get a few dryers, sets of rollers, mirrors and chairs I could in effect operate a rent free salon in the interim period between the local authority and or the utility companies being aware that the premises were no longer occupied by the authorised tenant.
I would get word to the many budding hair and beauty practitioners who would pay me a set fee from the amounts they charged customers.
Enquiries among neighbouring Hackney’s host of Arthur Daley types, as to the availability of the required operational inventory, brought swift confirmation that the desired items were indeed ‘in stock’ and could, I was assured be purchased at a fraction of the recommended retail price (RRP).
Having convinced an equally money hungry cohort of the fail safe nature and potential monetary upside of the escapade, the pair of us, fuelled by copious amounts of high grade Ganja, smoked from a homemade bong (a habit I thankfully grew out of very quickly due to its tendency to make me paranoid, lazy and de-motivated) spent a couple of days in various dream states, which from faintest recollection involved being spattered with specks of light blue paint, 3 hourly trips in the elevator down all 18 floors (hauling detritus from the apartment to the dump) to the local Kebab shop, replaying the same Kool Moe Dee album until the tape warped and melted, guzzling black coffee – to counteract the weed – wolfing Doner Kebabs, debating the merits and flaws of strategies for attracting the opposite sex, laughing hysterically at the others attempts to disguise the noises emanating from the lavatory as the Ganja, black coffee and Doner Kebabs took effect, while making slow progress at decorating and fitting out the soon to be patronised 18th floor salon.
By some strange and inexplicable force we actually achieved our goal.
Its a warm evening in early summer 1999. Im making my way along Upper Street in a bit of hurry. The reason being I was attending an event that was being hosted at the Sadlers Wells Theatre, bang smack at the heart of my neighbourhood. The event was called First Tuesday and it had been making waves throughout London’s burgeoning ‘entrepreneurial community’. Id read about it in the mainstream press, which told of frenzied gatherings where young hopefuls with nothing more than a business plan would walk away waving huge cheques handed to them by people called ‘investors’, who had at a whim after glancing at said business plan decided to take a punt on an idea based around this new fangled thing called the internet, which had taken America and in particular its entrepreneurial and investment communities by storm.
Id been aware of the internet for some time. Back in 1992 I had offices above Goodge Street Station. On occasion at lunch times Id drop in to this quirky little place round the corner called Cyberia, chiefly to purchase a range of hard to find beverages they happened to sell. There sat in chairs with their backs to the room sat rows of people, not communicating with each other but ogling computer screens. Cyberia it turned out was the world’s first public facing internet cafe`.
The internet has had a major impact on all our lives and none more so than mine especially as an entrepreneur. That initial late 90s internet fever was catching. I came down with an all consuming bout of it from which Ive never fully recovered. As far as I was concerned it was a clear case of a paradigm shift inducing phenomena.
A month prior to submitting my first serious internet related business plan – which incidentally raised the best part of £1million in seed funding – I was stood for 5 hours on a street in Holborn counting the number of cars and people that passed by an outlet I was considering using for a retail bakery goods service. In my business plan for that enterprise I estimated I could attract 25-30 customers per hour. My business plan for what became CareandHealth, a digital thru print social and health care sector focused publisher, estimated a user base of 300,000 regular users.
What became clear very early on was that the key variable for a full internet business was capital and serious amounts of it. This meant one had to now move away from core entrepreneurial ie revenue generating activity and become accomplished at for starters: business plan writing, pitching and presentation, recruitment, learning a whole new set of Silicon Valley derived jargon and protocols, and worst and most grating of all familiarise oneself with a strain of humanity who up until then one barely new existed, Im talking about those whom in 1980s US teen movies such as Lemon Popsicle had been referred to as ‘geeks’.
Ill not dwell on the subject of my early experiences involving our technologically inclined brothers because it does one no good to revisit episodes where ones state of being was such that it could really only be described as parlous.
As Ive extended my network it’s become apparent that sudden and drastic mind and personality disorders arising from the presence and factors associated with this new phenomenon were not uncommon, all the more so where those concerned had been in close proximity to those who were the recent recipients of immense wealth created where success within the field had been achieved. To give you an idea of the kind of vista that was opening up before before us, if we’d achieved half of the 3 – 5 year profitability forecast of our original business plan, after the business was sold, based on on a single figure multiple of the profits I would personally have netted in the region of £7million – £10million. Contrast this with the 3 year gross profit target of £100,000 I’d hoped to achieve with the bakery business.
For reasons which essentially equate to irreconcilable differences I parted ways with CareandHealth quite early in its journey, which in total lasted about 6 years, during which it consumed a further £5.5 million of investment, but to no avail. Failing to fully grasp the power and potential of digital, the management had reverted to a pre-digital mode of operation where scale was nigh on impossible to achieve and meaningful margins were even harder to come by. Its eventual, but inevitable demise came 2 months after finally making a small monthly profit. You can imagine how galling it was for me to hear the former chairman, – subsequent to the sale of what amounted to Lastminute.com’s database, for nigh on £600 million – state that had we stuck to the original, digitally focused business plan, that we’d all have walked away minted, well beyond the figures I quoted above.
By 2001 as the initial fervour around internet stocks abated along with the appetite and overall optimism around and about the internet, I remained convinced that it would become a major force for change. What was also clear after my experiences in raising money and insights as to the truth surrounding that activity in the UK at that time, was that going forward, the growing body of entrepreneurs (myself among them) and those that supported and backed them, were going to require more sophisticated, efficient and effective means of tracking, communicating and transacting around enterprise investment. In this instance and I believe should always be the case for entrepreneurs considering new enterprise ventures, I was seeking to scratch my own itch. The result was NuNetworks.
More than any other venture NuNetworks served to bring me into direct confrontation with what amounts to the entrepreneurs perennial dilemna, ie living or to be more exact existing in circumstances of extreme uncertainty. Operating under such conditions over an extended period while trying to maintain a meaningful relationship, deal with unreliable income, pay a mortgage, eat, sleep and exercise the required amounts for a healthy existence, remain focused on the core objective, master new skills, write copy, conduct customer discovery, remain cordial with programmers (multiple) who disappear without warning for weeks at a time three months into the latest version of the build, which Id promised to show interested parties, prepare and deliver presentations (multiple times), being offered and having to consider onerous terms from a rapacious investor offering a fiscal pittance, just to be able to pay the mortgage for a few months, takes its toll!!! Result? Mild mental breakdown 18 months into the journey. Who knew? Only me and a friend whose office I wound up occupying in a trading estate on the outskirts of West London for nigh on three years thereafter.
Earlier I used the term ‘manically’ to describe the trait based behaviour exhibited by many entrepreneurs in pursuit of their dreams, however crazy they may be. Suffice to say, while living <–? (ensconced in a windowless studio room) and exhibiting behaviours that ossilated between manic and maniacal, I kept going managing to raise a tranche of money from a group of consultants who were going to provide supplementary support and compliance services to companies who were going to list on the platform and due to the timely arrival of a lump sum I received from the sale of my flat in Highbury via auction, to a property consortium based at the trading estate.
Here’s the kicker; and its the experience that’s stayed with me and serves as the perennial pointer to what I believe is the critical factor facing the UK in its attempts to transform itself into a modern economy and society as a whole, the solution to which underlies my approach and vision concerning e2.
Through a networking event hosted by a major Investment bank, Id met with a firm who undertook to develop the latest and what was to be the final version of the platform. It was deluxe, professionally branded – thanks to Inaria Design who incidentally delivered their services for equity – (see image above) sporting features and functionality designed to surpass the then current sector heavyweight, The Library House.
I had paid two thirds of the agreed rate for the platform when, you guessed it (all the more ironic it being a fundraising marketplace), despite frantic efforts to raise more I ran out of money. Prior to this the platform had been and in fact was still online and had received rave reviews from all those who were going to use it. I relayed these facts to the developers and made it clear that I would pay the outstanding sums from revenues earned as they came in, and fully well intended to do just that. They point blank refused to allow me to progress and duly removed the NuNetworks application from the server. That was it. Dead. Cold! No flexibility or lateral thinking in how to resolve the matter whatsoever. No matter how much I pleaded the need for prospective customers to be able see and register to be able generate revenue, the zero sum mindset prevailed.
What this points to is a dearth of the fearless enterprising characteristics that underpin the more dynamic, sustainable and ultimately successful entrepreneurial cultures around the world. This is just one instance and one strand of a deep seated macro cultural flaw that will result in the UK remaining a third rate economy and increasingly fragmented and socially dislocated nation.
It goes without saying the demise of NuNetworks after so much time, effort and money invested and so close to breaking through certainly did my mental health no good at all and was the only time I ever questioned the validity of the entrepreneurial life and my place within it.
Even after the many trials and tribulations that beset me on my quest to bring it to fruition, NuNetworks was it transpired 10 years ahead of its time. Only with the emergence of Crowdcube and more latterly the highly rated Seedrs did something akin to what I was attempting come on stream.
I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.
The above quote is in essence what I am endeavouring to achieve with e2. In short the spreading of a macro cultural meme that inspires the shift from the reliance on legacy socio-political institutions and hierarchical, dysfunctional corporate infrastructure, to one where enterprise – enterprising people participating and benefitting from an enterpriser economy operating in adherence to enterprise culture protocols – underpins the outlook and behaviour of the individual regarding their approach to both providing and extracting value within the wider society.
Enterprise, or to be enterprising, to my mind is a state of being, where the default is to recognise oneself as a creative entity and as such seek expression of that innate and fundamental characteristic as the standard modus by which one approaches life. Where the wider social paradigm and its elements are anchored in such a way as to support this way of being, the individual and by extension the collective is truly empowered, needing only to look within and among themselves for solutions to any problems, adopting symbiosis based means by which to resolve issues and achieve desirable outcomes in any sphere they may arise.
The e2 Advisory goes beyond just the spreading of the ideas however. Our services are centred on enabling the individual to partake in society in such a way as to enable them to realise, contribute and benefit from the value they constitute as a person.
For those seeking to deliver services and value via organisations such profit or non profit making commercial enterprises we specialise in providing comprehensive operational blueprints specifying every detail and aspect of how to set up and run a wide range of enterprises in any sector, so that the operator need only take tutelage, prior to going ahead and putting the operation into practice.
Drawing on my experience in the early days of my entrepreneurial journey, where it became clear that successful operation of an enterprise involved a significant number of highly specialised disciplines, which no one individual could master, but which most high achieving businesses had incorporated into their operations.
Our approach to our design and delivery of the products and services we offer is what we term ‘Plug and Play’. Taking Apple computers seminal product the iMac as our inspiration, its introduction to the consumer internet market saw the overnight transformation of what had been a complicated and often arduous task, fraught with problems, so massively simplified that the layman, with little or no knowledge of computers, could simply plug in the mains, plug in the internet connection and begin surfing the internet.
We therefore adhere strictly to the rule that regardless of who the customer is or which sector we are serving, or the tools and services on offer, the user experience must be simultaneously simplified and elegant, while being efficient and effective in achieving its purpose.
The objective of course is to provide the macro cultural digital, physical and socio-cultural infrastructure that enables mass access to and inclusion in the commercial markets, along with participation in and towards the culture at large, regardless of the stage or modus a person is at in life.
To this end myself and those I work with, and I hope dear reader this includes you, are committed to explore, discover and execute on the means by which to facilitate the society wide recognition of and engagement in what we term the ‘enterpriser economy’ and more broadly ‘enterprise culture’. Our ethos of self realisation and mass inclusion we have termed Me2. As you follow us on the social platforms please be sure to include the hashtags listed below in your comments to and about us, and share them among your peers, to enable the conversation to take hold and progress.
It is my sincere pleasure to have shared my story with you and sincerely welcome the opportunity to connect, share and work together with you for our mutual bnefit and betterment of our world.
This is the e2 era. A time we intend to be characterised by the empowered individual, who uses but is not governed by technology, who creates and utilises systems but is not subservient to or subjugated by them. e2 is all about YOU!
#enterprisereconomy #enterpriseculture #Me2