FirstCapital’s John Yeomans (Telecoms industry and now a Cambridge Angel investor) told delegates at the Meerkats and Avatars event this morning that US unemployment is now showing the earliest subtle signs of falling, although the same cannot yet be said for the UK or Europe, mired in economic crises. Yeomans suggested that now is not the time to invest in big companies, but to pick the right startups and mid-tier companies that are starting to grow. Those that survive the current crises will be stronger for it in a few years’ time when they’re implementing their “exit strategies” and cashing on on all their hard work.
Yeomans added that it is important, however, to watch out for those smaller companies getting bogged down in company ethos and behaviours at the 25-30 staff level. Such behaviours are fine in the early years but don’t usually allow for growth to the 100s, and 1000s of staff levels. He said one should also be on the look out for the boss that makes themself “unnecessary” as quickly as possible. With a few notable exceptions, such as lifestyle bosses like the late Steve Jobs (Apple), Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg, making oneself unnecessary to a business is a good plan for any entrepeneur hoping to grow a business. Moreover, it usually benefits the business in the long run as that early-stage ethos can usefully be abandoned to allow expansion. The downfall of many startups is to have the technical experts continue to run the business when their skills are so obviously not suited to management.
The Meerkats event showcased 17 or so local startups including Skalene, with their black box recorder for cars mentioned earlier, and Zappar which is looking to augment marketing reality with iPad applications that add animation and interactivity to magazine covers, tee-shirts and otherwise 2D inanimate images. Also exhibiting were Innovative Gait Products hoping to make walking sensors as essential for physiotherapists as blood pressure monitors are for GPs and Energy Reducing Products whose boss John Halfpenny told me his gadget could extend the working life of a lithium-ion laptop battery by a year as well as reducing electricity bills all the while.