Publishing a Learning Blog on various aspects of my doctoral research into the characteristics of entrepreneurial teams, was not what I expected to be doing at this stage in my life. I certainly never expected to have any involvement in academia as my performance at school was sadly lacking. However, this was not for the lack of trying. At the time I was considered by one of my teachers as “an enthusiastic student that seems to struggle with the written word”. It was not until some time later in that I discovered this was due to my Dyslexia; a condition that has proved to be a gift rather than something generally considered to be a learning difficulty (see Entrepreneurship and the gift of Dyslexia). As a consequence I left school at sixteen with a single O’level in technical drawing. I actually wanted to become an architect, but I was not in any way qualified to gain a university place to read architecture. I therefore started my career as an electronics apprentice with the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Bedford where I learnt about wind tunnel instrumentation, flight simulators, air traffic control equipment and aircraft communication systems. As soon as I completed my five year apprenticeship I moved on to join Unilever Research Laboratories, where I worked as a R&D engineer, developing research instrumentations and pilot plant control systems for manufacturing food stuffs and cosmetics.
Although I enjoyed electronic engineering, I had always had an ambition to run my own businesses but realised that techies were probably not best placed to do this without some knowledge of sales, marketing and finance. So in my early twenties I joined the UK subsidiary of Dana Laboratories Inc., an American electronic instrumentation company as a Field Sales Engineer, in an effort to start developing these skills. After a year successfully selling digital voltmeters, frequency counters and function generators to universities and research establishments in the Home Counties, I was head hunted to go and work for Data Technologies Inc., another American instrumentation manufacturer. As the company’s second UK employee I was able to gain some valuable experience on how start-ups work and after just three years had progressed to the position of European Sales and Marketing Manager, only to be head hunted once again. This time Fairchild Test Systems hired me to set up and manage their European channel partners for microprocessor board testers.
When Schlumberger acquired Fairchild in 1979 I decided that it was time for me to try and start up a business of my own. My idea was to set up a specialist channel for selling and supporting microcomputer interface cards into scientific and industrial applications. These included data acquisition, image processing and array processing applications based on DEC LSI-11 and Intel Multibus microcomputers. One of my prospective U.S. channel partners, Data Translation Inc., liked the idea and decided to fund the concept in the form of an independent UK subsidiary.
When IBM launched the first PC in the early 80’s, its open architecture soon became a popular platform for specialist interface manufacturers and software developers, giving me an early appreciation of the impact this would have on the IT industry. In the same time frame Xerox announced its Ethernet LAN technology, which I felt at the time would become “the next big thing”, and subsequently added some of the first LAN products available in the U.K. to the company’s product portfolio.
By 1988 Data Translation Ltd had become a market leader with a separate division selling and supporting LAN products. After a failed attempt to acquire this business I left Data Translation to found Logical Networks plc, a network systems integration and services business, having raised initial venture capital funding from 3i plc. Over the following nine years Logical Networks grew rapidly at a CAGR of over 55% to £50million in sales and around 200 people. The company was subsequently acquired in 1997 by Datatec, a South African networking and IT services company (JSE Top 40 public company operating across five continents with annual worldwide sales for 1999 of US$1.1Bn). In 2005 Datatec changed the Logical brand name (Logical Networks’ network systems integration business) to Logicalis and its networking distribution business, Unity, was absorbed into Datatec’s Westcon division. I remained with Datatec for two years as a main board director responsible for European Acquisitions and Business Development based in Brussels.
In 2000 I returned to the UK and founded Intermezzo Ventures as an investment vehicle for technology based start up companies. I am lead investor and non exec Chairman of Creating Careers, the UK market leader in online learning solutions for further education. Intermezzo has subsequently evolved into an entrepreneurship research and consultancy services business. This involves me in a number of business activities including the roles of Business Angel, non exec Director, Business Mentor, Executive Coach, and member of the interview panel for Chartered Director accreditation. I am also a Visiting Executive Fellow at Henley Business School, University of Reading where I’m conducting doctoral research into the Characteristics of Entrepreneurial Teams, and an Honorary Senior Visiting Fellow at Cass Business School, City University London.
My academic and business achievements include:
MA Company Direction
– Leeds Business School/Leeds Metropolitan University
Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Management Consultancy (ADipC)
– Henley Management College
Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD)
Chartered Director (CDir)
Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM)
Visiting Executive Fellow Henley Business School, University of Reading
Honorary Senior Visiting Fellow Cass Business School, City University
Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists
Freeman of the City of London
Member of Europe’s 500 Dynamic Entrepreneurs (1995)
Nominated by 3iplc for the FT/Cartier Venturer of the Year Award (1998)