Archives for category: mentoring

Reposted from Angel Academe:

Last night saw the fifth of our networking events, and a return to the City offices of our sponsors Thomson Reuters – and what a packed evening (and for that matter packed room) it turned out to be.


As ever, I kicked off the evening with a general introduction to the Angel Academe mission, and a round up of what we’ve achieved so far. The real step change for us came with the establishment of an investment group of around 40 angels that’s met four times since September; we’ve screened 50 businesses and 10 have pitched to us. At the time of writing we have two in the investment pipeline.

But we had big news to announce as well: we have just closed our first investment in Buddybounce, the online tool to engage the “superfan”. Later in the evening Buddybounce founders Emma Obanye and Giulia Piu chatted about their experience of working with us and we were really gratified that to hear them talk about the value we bring as a network – beyond the money (though that’s nice too, of course!)

Our other bit of news – which we announced here last week – is that we’re working with the City of London to deliver a year-long mentoring programme for female entrepreneurs working in the City’s neighbouring boroughs. If you’d like to enter the programme, you can apply here, and if you feel you can offer your skills as a mentor, then please get in touch here and tell us how you think you can help.

I was followed by Arthi Thana, from Thomson Reuters’ Global HR IT Services team. Arthi talked about the mentoring at TH and succinctly summed up the crucial two-way nature of mentoring: “What is key to success is the level of commitment to the relationship that each party puts into it. Just showing up and shooting the breeze isn’t useful”. Quite.

We then had our usual “inspirational angel” slot – this time ably filled by Angel Academe associate Kerri Mckechnie, who used a mindmap to show us how her life comprises juggling some very different spheres: being a finance director, angel investor, entrepreneur (she’s the co-founder of My Wild) and a mother.

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And then, of course, we had two pitches, from two very different businesses.

Vicky Brock is CEO of Clear Returns. She talked us through the enormous impact that returns have on e-commerce; something like £20 billion a year internationally! Clear Returns helps reduce this burden through the use of big data and predictive algorithms.

Debbi Evans is founder of Libertine, a smart magazine “for interested women” that dares to believe women might be interested in reading about anything other than fashion and beauty. Debbi is currently looking at taking the publication online and establishing it as a multimedia brand.

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Naturally, we finished the evening off with wine and plenty of chat. I was delighted with what a great turn out we had – and a real mix of new and familiar faces. Many thanks, as ever, to Thomson Reuters for hosting the event. We’re already looking forward to our next one on May 13th.


We’re delighted to report that our friends Brand Embassy have closed a $1 million round of seed investment with two funds and are opening six new offices globally. We first got to know Brand Embassy and its founder Vit Horky when acting as mentors on the Start Up Yard accelerator in Prague; it was clear from the get-go that Vit had a great business on his hands and we’ve watched its progress eagerly ever since.

Here’s how BE have made the announcement:

Brand Embassy equips companies to answer customer service inquiries through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, enabling them to provide “social care” for their customers with its SaaS platform. it has moved quickly to establish its niche in the evolving customer service industry. “Our platform has been used by over fifty large international companies across the world,” says Vit Horky, Co-founder and CEO of Brand Embassy. “They’ve handled over 7.5 million service issues via Brand Embassy since 2012. Currently our strongest sectors are with telecoms and financial groups – two sectors where customers demand a fast and accurate response to their queries.”

Congratulations to Vit and the team; we look forward to watching where the business goes next.

For more information, go to the News page on Brand Embassy.


We were “between companies” over the summer, having left Unthinkable but not yet launched Turner Hopkins. We ended putting some work-related material up on our “other life” tumblr, Death Metal Aprons. (Don’t ask – take a look and you’ll get a feel for what it’s all about. I think.) Over the next few days I’ll be re-posting here anything which I think is relevant.


We’ve just returned from a few days in Prague, our second trip in a year. We’d been asked back to mentor once again on the excellent Start Up Yard business accelerator, whose inaugural stretch we attended last year.

This year we saw seven companies:

CSS Hat have got a remarkable little piece of technology, a Photoshop plugin which can convert PS document items or layers into CSS 3 with one click. They already have a strong customer base and I think we all felt they’ve got a potentially very bright future.

iMenu supply tablet-based menus to restaurants; where they differ from others in the area is that they actually build the tablets into the top of dining tables, underneath a glass which still allows manipulation of the touch screens. Smart!

Limatte enables medium-sized retailers to embed pop-up surveys on their websites, with automated handling of all the back-end stats-crunching. They’ve also hit on the somewhat why-has-nobody-thought-of-that-before idea of putting the survey at the end of the user visit.

Pizzatime are aggregating a number of different food delivery offerings across Prague into one convenient, user-review-based mobile service. call themselves an “online translation marketplace”. If you have a website or set of documents, you can submit it to their site and enter an auction with various translators and find the best solution for your needs. They also offer a rigorous copy editing service to verify their results.

SpaceTeacher were in the middle of a pretty major pivot, so we’re not sure we can say much about their offering. But we liked them a lot, and feel that their contention about language learning – that the missing piece of the puzzle is practice time – is well observed and a great point from which to start a business.

Tab Foundry, meanwhile, have built an on online wysiwyg editor which social marketeers can use to make media-rich Facebook pages easily. We were very impressed and would dearly like to use it for our little Abyssal Labs project.

But, you know, the businesses and ideas are really only the half of it. What was really inspiring here – and we really mean inspiring – was the energy and intelligence of all these young teams. And yes they were young; the average age seemed to be about 21, which given that many of these guys were on their second business was extremely impressive. We were left with the impression that there is a lot of great software talent, as well as entrepreneurial drive, in the Czech Republic.

Thanks to Nikola Rafaj (@techsquarecz) for inviting us out to the event and to both him and Lenka Kucerova (@lenkakucerova) for being such warm guests – and in Lenka’s case an indefatigable one too!

The team we went out with from the UK was slightly different to last year, but great: thanks to James Fulforth, Bob Schuckai (@iammobilebob) and Tony Sheehan (@anthony_sheehan) for such great company over a long day and a couple of very enjoyable evenings, during which Simon well and truly fell off the slow-carb regime (Prague and beer are virtually synomymous, it turns out).

More generally, we got to see a lot more of Prague this time and came away with an overwhelmingly positive impression. We were especially taken with Prague 5, well away from the tourist centre, an area very obviously “at work”, and, with hipsters cheek-by-jowl with ordinary working class people, definitely a creative quarter in the making. We were introduced to the area by Matt Butler (@mattbutlercz) of Brand Embassy, one of the star companies of last year’s Start Up Yard) and went there a couple of days later to see the fabulous co-working/incubator space, Node 5, instigated by Lukas Haducek – which looks to us like a huge success in the making.

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Not much cultural activity on this trip. The weather was quite lovely and anyone who’s experienced the “summer” here in the uk will understand why we wanted to spend as much of our spare time as possible in the open air. We did see a small exhibition of delightfully creepy but exquisite pieces by the children’s illustrator Markéta Prachatická, at the small but excellent Galerie Lazarská.

But the most fun of all was almost certainly the most touristy thing we’ve done in, well maybe ever: taking a pedlo out on the River Vltava. How many other world capitals can you do that in?

A couple of weeks back, Simon and I went to the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury to attend a training workshop put on as part of the government’s Get Mentoring campaign. GM was announced by Vince Cable at BIS about a year ago as an initiative to stimulate growth in the SME sector, and to drive entrepreneurship generally. In the words of its website, “Get Mentoring is an initiative to unlock, train and support a community of enterprise mentors across the UK. Our aim is to recruit and train thousands of mentors from the micro, small and medium-sized business community.”

The morning-long session was given by a truly excellent trainer, John Sunderland-Wright (of Ultima Performance), whose boundless enthusiasm and wide-ranging field of reference truly brought the subject to life. We covered areas like the role of coaching methods in mentoring, blockers to personal and professional growth (chief culprit: interruptions!) and the degree to which we overestimate our ability to truly listen. Along the way, we touched on “the circle of control“, the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Way forward), and principles drawn from Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game.

The session was highly interactive and finished off with a chance to mentor one of the session’s other attendees. Needless to say, I didn’t mentor Simon. (In point of fact, one of the pleasures of the morning was to be in a group of such varied backgrounds and professions; nary a geek nor a tech entrepreneur among them – most refreshing!)

We already do a fair amount of informal mentoring between us, on programmes such as Springboard, BBC Worldwide Labs and StartupYard and find it just as stimulating and enjoyable as mentors as we hope our “mentees” do. So we’re looking forward to following up this Get Mentoring training by involving ourselves in the programme as it enters the next stage – the actual mentoring.