Archive by Author - Tom Foremski

UK Diary: Friday – Cambridge Consultants, Nokia And Microsoft Research Labs

by on July 20, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Friday afternoon the Traveling Geeks visit Cambridge Consultants and visit the William Gates III building for meetings with researchers from Nokia Labs and Microsoft Research Labs (MRL).

Cambridge Consultants has helped bring to market products such as:

Virtually waterless washing machine

The “connected patient

Low cost cellular base stations.

More here.

The Microsoft Research Labs are part of the academic community at Cambridge university and the work is open and peer-reviewed. In the video our guide is Cambridge university lecturer and successful entrepreneur Jack Lang, also Ken Wood, deputy director of MRL, Tim Regan, Research SDE at MRL, and presentations from their colleagues. The video also shows some of Microsoft’s research projects.

UK Diary: Friday – Cambridge Startups

by on July 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Friday and the Traveling Geeks are in Cambridge, the innovation capital of Europe.

After presentations by Cambridge university representatives and also from government agencies helping startups, the Traveling Geeks take part in a panel and also hear presentations from local startups:

Alert Me


Hot Prints

Magic Solver

Movie Storm

Pocket Places



UK Diary: Friday – Looking For Ghosts In Peterhouse College Founded 1284

by on July 18, 2009 at 2:26 am

After a hard-packed day of visiting with Cambridge startups, government agency representatives, Cambridge tech incubator, meeting with Nokia research labs, meeting with Microsoft Research Labs – and punting on the river Cam, the Traveling Geeks are invited to dinner at Peterhouse College.

According to my excellent guidebook “Cambridge Colleges” by Janet Jeacock, Peterhouse College features one of the finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite stained glass, by Morris, Burne-Jones, and Madox Browne. It is the oldest of all 31 Cambridge University colleges, founded in 1284.

As the rest of the TGers are shmoozing on the lawn, my son Matt and I explore the building. We’re hoping to find some ghosts. Please see the short video above.

Next: More Cambridge innovation. . .

UK Diary: Friday – Cambridge – The Innovation Capital Of Europe

by on July 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm


It’s Friday Morning and it’s an early 7.30 am start for the Traveling Geeks…

JD Lasica is the unsung hero of the Traveling Geeks. He has invested hundreds of hours in organizing this trip.

By Friday morning, his normal patience-of-a-saint is evaporating as he attempts to herd the TG cats into a coach that is far smaller than expected.

Plus, my son is with me this morning so space is even tighter. And on top of everything, last night was a late night and we are all still a little groggy from the grog and the good times at the Europa Awards (please see: ).

Soon, however, we are on our way to Cambridge and the start of another jam packed day. It’s a gorgeous day, not too hot, as we drive through the English countryside, the yellow and green fields and billowing clouds set against an azure sky.

It doesn’t take long before we are in the Pitt Building in Cambridge, the site of Britain’s oldest publisher. And the very impressive Sherry Coutu is running a very tight meeting with presentations from several government agencies and university representatives.

Next: Another panel and we meet Cambridge startups…

UK Diary FridayWatch – The Traveling Geeks Head For Cambridge

by on July 16, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Next on UK Diary: The Traveling Geeks become the Punting Geeks as Cambridge, the innovation capital of Europe, hosts with great style and class.




UK Diary so far:

UK Diary: Thursday – SVW Goes To The Europas . . .

by on July 16, 2009 at 9:09 pm

It’s Thursday evening and the Traveling Geeks are at the Europa Awards to celebrate European startups.

The place is already filling up when I get to the venue for the Europa awards in south London. Things don’t look good because I have just one invite and I have my son Matt with me and my friend Heddi Cundle. And security is very tight — they are turning away everyone without a ticket (it’s a $100 entry).

However, a little smooth talking, and a little confusion at the front, and we slip in fairly easily.

I won’t bore you with who won what. (The Europas: The Winners and Finalists)

Throughout the week I’d been hearing complaints from various startups that the awards favored the pals of TechCrunch Europe and specific VC firms but I can’t verify those claims. There were certainly lots of very worthy startups that didn’t get a mention. And a lot of the awards went to well established firms like the popular Spotify, and the highly funded SpinVox – hardly startups.

Mike Butcher, the very capable editor of Techcrunch Europe did a great job of MCing an increasingly loud and alcohol fueled event of a type we don’t get in the US.

(Throughout the trip fellow TGer Craig (Cheap Date) Newmark constantly remarked and marveled at the amount of drinking by the Brits. The ubiquitous TG companion Paul Carr said his drinking was inspired by Charles Bukowski.)

I had a great time at the event and I spoke with lots of interesting entrpreneurs. I’d like to single out for special attention Mathys von Abbe from the fast growing Dutch startup Moby Picture; also, the impressive Hermione Way, founder of Newspepper; and Alexander Ljung, founder of Soundcloud (Europa winner.)

You can see them all and more, in the short video of “SVW Goes to the Europas…” (It’s a little pixelated at first but settles down quickly.)

UK Diary: Thursday – Ecoconsultancy At Shakespeare’s Globe – Why Innovate?

by on July 16, 2009 at 7:03 pm


Thursday afternoon the Traveling Geeks are at The Swan, which is attached to the recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre on the Southbank.

The event is organized by Econsultancy , a digital marketing firm, and led by Ashley Friedlein, CEO and Co-Founder (See my photo above.)

There are about a hundred people gathered in a large room. I’m sitting at one of several tables, crowded with people and bottles of water, and we’re talking about innovation.

There are many people from large UK firms at the table, all talking about how they try to encourage innovation within their companies. It’s not easy.

I make several points about innovation. The most important one is that large companies want innovation badly but they can’t innovate. But they want to innovate because there is no end of consultants that tell them they will die if they don’t innovate.

Well, they will die anyway. There is a finite lifespan to large organizations and that’s just the way it is — innovation or not.

An organization is successful because it knows how to monetize a particular business process. Each organization is very bad at changing its culture of monetization. Much better to buy-in the innovation.

Afterwards, I talk with Mathys van Abbe, the founder of Moby Picture, a fast growing Dutch startup (and one of my current favorites.) “Why don’t corporations just concentrate on doing what they do better? They can’t innovate and they don’t need to.” I agree.

UK Diary: Thursday – A Visit To Accel Partners – UK Is Tough On Startups

by on July 16, 2009 at 5:11 pm


Thursday morning the Traveling Geeks head to Accel Partners, one of the top European VC firms, to hear presentations from:


  • Errol Damelin, founder and CEO of Wonga


  • Kristian Segerstrale, founder and CEO of Playfish

Alfresco Logo

  • John Newton, founder, Chairman and CTO of Alfresco



  • Michael Smith , Founder and CEO of  MindCandy


[Please see Susan Bratton: ]

Accel is still making investments, which is very rare among European VC firms (and Silicon Valley firms too).

I chat with John Newton, an American based in London and CEo of Alfresco, and also Joe Cohen from Seatwave, about the UK startup scene. Here are some highlights:

– It is much harder to found and run a startup in the UK.

– Government policies do not favor startups, there are unfavorable tax provisions for stock options. And the government doesn’t get the digital economy.

– It is hard to find the right people with the right skills in the UK and they cost more.

– Government buys software from the large vendors, very little from startups, 85 per cent of government spending on IT goes to the top 8 US vendors.

– Large US companies headquartered in London tend to tie up much of the top local talent.

– Some UK startups are restructuring outside of the country to take advantage of more favorable tax and other conditions.

– London has a huge number of foreign nationals. You can run a foreign office from the UK by hiring any nationality, it reduces need for larger staffs in local regional offices.

– Risk taking in the UK is changing for the better.

UK Diary: Wednesday – Time-Off For Good Bad Behavior

by on July 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Following lunch with Skype, the Traveling Geeks have the rest of the day off.

I spend a good chunk of my free time posting and catching up with my online persona. Then I’m off to the Southbank Centre for a cup of tea and a couple of glasses of wine with some friends from my university days.

In the evening Renee Blodgett invites me to “Calendar Girls” at the Noel Coward theatre just off Piccadilly Circus. Robert Scoble and his sidekick, producer Rocky Barbanica, join us part of the way through the play.

Afterwards, Renee complains of a scratchy throat and heads back to the hotel. (We learn later that one of the panelists at the Guardian media event the prior night came down with swine flu. Renee and fellow Geekettes were sitting in the front row.)

Robert and Rocky head off for a taste of the old country (McDonald’s) then come back and join me for late night drinks with an old pal from San Francisco now living in London, Heddi Cundle (@HeddiCundle).

I like to say that Heddi makes you dizzy. After the initial shock of contact it doesn’t take long before they are big fans of the Cundle experience.

After closing down one pub we walk the cobbled streets over to Covent Garden where we find another one that’s still open.

The next morning, a rather slower moving Robert says to me “I’m blaming you!”

Don’t miss Thursday on UK Diary: The absolutely mental experience of the “Europas Awards.” All hail Mike Butcher!

UK Diary: Wednesday – Humpday – Lunch With Skype

by on July 15, 2009 at 1:46 pm

It’s Wednesday and all we have on the Traveling Geeks schedule today is lunch with Skype then we get the rest of the day off. Phew!

That’s a welcome break after our hit-the-ground-running start to our trip since Sunday.

Even better, lunch with Skype is in our own hotel.

I wander down into the basement dinning room of the Malmaison hotel and sit next to Sky. Already, he has accumulated several of our laptops and wireless comms dongles, and is trying to figure out some of our connection problems.

I pay particular attention as he attempts to debug Susan Bratton’s dongle because I have the same connection problem.

Renne Blodgett says that top executives from Skype were scheduled to join us but had to rush off at last notice for a board meeting. I wonder what’s brewing.

Renne Blodgett has an interview between fellow TGer Robert Scoble and Skype’s top blogger Peter Parkes.

Renee Blodgett interviews Peter Parkes and Neil Dodds, Windows Experience Manager at Skype:

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