The Internet in Real Time

social-media-logosSocial media is such an amazing development. Who knew it would have such an impact on our lives? I really enjoy talking about the benefits it can bring to start-up business in my monthly workshop at the Library.

The sheer numbers involved are mind boggling. With over 2.2 billion users across the many platforms.

The current leader-board (in millions of users) looks likes this:



But I find the slide that makes the most impact in my workshop is The Internet in Real-Time. Just click on the image below and spend a few seconds watching the various counters as they race upwards. I find it truly astonishing just how much content is being generated every single minute of the day.

The Internet In Real Time

From Visually.

My new Blazing Saddle ignited by my Burner light

Blaze logoI have been watching the Crowdfunding scene for quite a few years now. It has now grown into a important source of money for many start-ups. It is also a great way to test the market for new ideas. Following the Lean start-up approach we advocate in the Business & IP Centre.

I’ve seen lots of new exciting new products over the years, and I’ve been tempted in invest in quite a few. But it wasn’t until I saw the impressive Kickstarter campaign for the Blaze Burner rear bicycle light that I committed. The aim was to create the ultimate back light for cyclists. With 100 lumens of brightness to help make the rider visible to even the most distracted of London drivers.

blaze-bus-02-sAlso, it came from the Blaze company founded by Emily Brooke and Philip Ellisby. They had previously used crowdfunding to launch their revolutionary front safety light for cycles. The original Blaze light combines a very bright white light with a green laser, which projects a symbol of a bike onto the road several meters ahead. The idea is to make bikes more visible to cars and particularly large vehicles turning left at junctions. A high proportion of cycle accidents are caused by drivers being unaware of a rider coming-up on the inside.

The Blaze has been a spectacular success, and is about to be installed across the London Cycle Hire network – officially called Santander Cycles, but more popularly known as Boris Bikes, (despite being introduced by Ken Livingston the previous Mayor of London).

So when I saw the very professionally produced video announcing the Kickstarter campaign for the Burner, I signed up the next day. By then it was already fully funded (in just one day). And went on to raise £153,636 from 2,208 backers, instead of the initial goal of £35,000.

blaze-burner-rear-light-1Since the campaign closed, the team have been on something of a roller-coaster ride. With quite a few technical and supplier problems along the way. This meant the original production date of April slipped by several months. The team kept the backers updated with the issues and delays. So it was with great delight that I finally got to open the package above this week. Just in time for use during the dark evening rides home.

Hopefully you can see from my photos, the light is a very high quality product. Which is one of the reasons the company delayed distribution. It is innovative, in that it shows you the level of battery charge each time you turn it on. It also has a setting to turn the light on automatically when the ambient light level is low, such as in a tunnel or tree-lined route.

blaze-burner-rear-light-4It is early days in terms of usage, but so far I am very happy with the light and the quality of its components, such as the flexible mounting bracket and powerful magnetic attachment.

For me the brightest setting is actually too bright, so I am using it on the normal steady mode, which is claimed lasts 60 hours per charge via the handy USB cable.

So I am feeling triply happy with myself. I own an innovative high quality product. I got a discount for being an early backer. And I am supporting a fledgling UK company, making a great UK designed and assembled product.






Goody goody GumDrop – Recycle your gum here

gumdrop-logoAlmost every day at work I hear new names for new businesses. And sad to say, many of them would not be allowed by the UKIPO as they are too descriptive, or already registered as trade marks.

The company name may not qualify as a trade mark because, for example:

  • It is not considered distinctive
  • It is a descriptive word or term
  • It may indicate geographical origin
  • It may already be registered in someone else’s name

The following examples of company names would not be accepted as trade marks: Reliable Builders – Cheap Car Insurance Company

The important point for me, is that a name is allowed and distinctive, rather than descriptive. But I love it when I see a name that manages to capture the essence of the product in a fun way.

A great example is Gumdrop, a recycling point for chewing gum. I noticed the catchy sign outside work and snapped the photo below. I love the bright colours and the reminder of  the chewy sweet Gumdrops from my childhood. It is also a reminder that you can have the same name as someone else as long as you are not competing in the same sector.


Even better, they are recycling chewing gum into useful plastic products, making themselves a social enterprise.


On National Biscuit Day – to dunk or not to dunk – that is the question

Source Paul Bailey Flickr

Source Paul Bailey Flickr

I’m not generally a fan of National Days, for instance Trivia Day and National Dress Up Your Pet Day. But I am prepared to make an exception for National Biscuit Day which occurs this Sunday 29 May.

For me, biscuits will always be associated with drinking tea. Because, as that memorable slogan from 1978 for Rich Tea biscuits put it, “A drink’s too wet without one”.

And some might say that biscuits are too dry without tea. Although that didn’t stop my brother munching his way through whole packets at a time as a teenager.

If you want to explore tea, biscuits and cake in more detail, have a look at the quintessential British blog nicecupofteaandasitdown. Their mission statement reads; “Well I think we should all sit down and have a nice cup of tea, and some biscuits, nice ones mind you. Oh and some cake would be nice as well. Lovely.”

cup-339864_640Thanks to last year’s Daily Mirror quiz, we know that the UK’s favourite biscuit is the Chocolate digestive.

According to Amy Lloyd, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, “The ritualistic nature of eating biscuits with a hot drink appeals to consumers, demonstrating how ingrained this occasion is within British culture but emphasising the need for the biscuit category to expand beyond the tea-drinking audience.” Biscuit sales soar as recession drives people to ‘comfort food’. And this is certainly true for my regular visits to my elderly parents.

So that leads me nicely into the whole topic of dunking biscuits. To dunk or not to dunk, that is the question (to badly misquote Shakespeare).

This is a controversial topic that has seen many articles on either side of the the debate. One was triggered by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal announcing that scientifically, biscuits taste better dunked in tea.


Who can resist a chocolate finger?

For the pro-dunkers, expert advice can be found at Key advice includes avoiding dunking embarrassment by ensuring your biscuit will fit inside the diameter of your tea cup.

There are even more articles on the search of the perfect dunking biscuit. According to teadunking, the plain digestive biscuit is the favourite. Whereas TV chef Jamie Oliver’s top three are Hobnobs (plain and chocolate) and Ginger Nuts. But according to scientific research reported in the Daily Mirror, Rich Tea is the King of the dunkers.

Then again, a survey of 3,000 dunkers in the Daily Telegraph ‘proved’ that Chocolate digestive is nation’s favourite dunking biscuit.

As with so many things in life, you have to make up your own mind. And I’m going with the Ginger Nut for the perfect combination flavour and firmness after being dunked.


Chocolate cookies run Ginger Nuts a close second in my book

Photos from Flickr and Pixabay

Books are back up – and so are vinyl records

Books from PixabayI know librarians are supposed to be book fanatics, but I have to confess that I never have been. Maybe it’s my background in computers from an early age. Or perhaps a rebellion against parents who read Proust in the original French.

Despite my enthusiasm for technology, I did not welcome the arrival of digital books and their associated e-readers. I tried a few, but always found the experience ergonomically inferior to the traditional bound printed paper form.

So, I was pleased to hear on the radio today, a report from the Daily Telegraph newspaper that book sales have risen, in contrast to ebooks sales, which have declined. Books are back: Printed book sales rise for first time in four years as ebooks suffer decline

It will be interesting to see if hard-copy continues to make a come-back, or this is a temporary blip in the relentless march of new technology.

Purple Cow coverI am reminded of a conference speech many years ago by Seth Godin, marketing guru and author of the Purple Cow, He said that his biggest selling book was in fact the one he also gave away as a free PDF. He explained that after having read the electronic version, people wanted to have a ‘souvenir’ copy to put onto their shelves. Just imagine having friends round, and as the conversation turns to marketing – you say, “Have you seen Godin’s book?”.

Scenario one would be, “Ok, let’s just walk over to my computer, turn it on, and see if I can find the PDF file for you to look at”. The second would be, “Ok, let’s just have a look on my bookshelf and show you what I am talking about. You could even borrow it, if you promise to bring it back ;-)”.

I know which of these scenarios would be more appealing to me.

Crosley Cruiser BlackAnd it’s not just books that are enjoying a resurgence. Sales of vinyl records are up this year by more than 60%, and are set to reach levels not seen since the late 1980s, according to the BBC. But, although record players such as the Crosley Cruiser (currently available from the British Library shop as part of our Punk exhibition), are selling well. It turns out almost half the people who buy a vinyl record will never actually listen to it. Silent vinyl: Buying records without a record player

So, is this another case of the souvenir copy to impress friends and family? If so, it tells us that the digital world still has a lot to learn in terms of what gives human consumers retail satisfaction.


In search of the perfect pencil sharpener

Pixabay.comThe pencils only rule at the British Library means I have become closely acquainted with the ancient art of pencil sharpening.

Having tried many different types over the years and found them all wanting, I finally splashed out on a Kutsuwa RS015BK.

The previous designs were either too blunt or too flimsy to produce a properly sharp nib. Or they broke off the end of the pencil lead just as it was on the point of being ready to use.

Kutsuwa Co., Ltd. was founded in 1910 as a stationery wholesaler in Osaka, Japan. In 1965, they started to design and manufacturer its own branded products. The model I chose came in a range of vibrant colours as one might expect from a Japanese manufacturer, but I went for the boring black model.


It is still early days, but so far I am very happy with the way this machine produces wonderfully sharp pencils, easily and quickly, as well as collecting the messy cuttings in a waste box.

So the lesson learnt here, once again, is if you want a good pencil sharpener you need to pay that bit extra.

Perhaps I should have researched this topic more thoroughly before spending my money. The Pencil Revolution contains many reviews of sharpeners. Or I could have read The art of sharpening pencils on Mathew James Taylor’s blog. Where I would learnt about the standard point, the chisel point, the needle point, or the bullet point. Although I definitely wouldn’t have chosen his favourite rather disturbing sharpener below.


I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover the ultimate sharpeners on the Manufactum website, as they specialise in goods made with traditional manufacturing methods and materials. They include the beautifully simple Dux Dual Pencil Sharpener Aluminium and the outrageously expensive but indestructible Caran d’Ache Steel Pencil Sharpening Machine.

Dux Dual Pencil Sharpener Aluminium

Dux Dual Pencil Sharpener Aluminium

Caran d’Ache Steel Pencil Sharpening Machine

Caran d’Ache Steel

A tree surgeon by any other name would smell just as sweet – or would they?

PixaBay sourceSorry about the slightly dodgy play on words in the title above. I must have been influenced by some of the silly names I recently found that tree surgeons call their companies.

The obvious naming ‘branch’ to choose is the species closest to your heart. So Acacia, Acer, Alpine, Beechwood, Monkey Puzzle, Sequoia and of course English Oak all appear on the list below.

However, my favourites are the more playful, and importantly, the more memorable names, such as; Cut Above Tree Management, Top Notch Tree Care, Greenfellers, Special Branch Tree Care, Out On A Limb Tree Services.

The best of the best for me are Tree Amigos Limited and Tree Wise Men. But how about  Hollywood Tree Surgery as an unexpected name?

Don’t forget to register your name at the UK IPO to keep it safe.


1st Call Trees Ltd.

A Cut Above Tree Surgery Limited

Able Tree Services Limited

About Trees Ltd

Absolute Tree Care Llp

Acacia Tree Surgeons Limited

Acer Tree Surgeons Limited

Acme Tree Services Ltd

Acorn 2 Oak Limited

Aerial Tree Specialists Limited

Affordable Tree Services Ltd

All Things Trees Limited

Alpine Tree Surgeons Ltd

Apples & Pears Landscapes Limited

Arboreal Ltd

Axmen Limited

Beechwood Tree Care Limited

Blue Sky Tree Care Ltd

Branching Out Tree Surgery Limited

Branchline Solutions Limited

Broadleaf Tree Services Ltd

Bumblebee Woodland Trust Limited

Clearwood Limited

Cut Above Tree Management Limited

Cutting Edge Grounds Maintenance Limited

Down To Earth Trees Limited

Eco Tree Care & Conservation Limited

Eden Woodland Consultants Limited

English Oak Tree Services Ltd

Evergreen-Services Ltd

Field & Forest Limited

Forevergreen Ltd

Four Seasons Forestry Limited

Fresh Skies Limited

Go Stump No Stump Limited

Goodwood Tree Care Ltd

Green Cuts Limited

Greenfellers Limited

Heartwood Tree Surgeons Limited

Hollywood Tree Surgery Limited

Landmark Tree Surgery Limited

Love Trees Limited

PixaBay source

Mad About Trees Limited

Majestic Tree Care Limited

Monkey Puzzle Tree Surgeons Ltd

Nature First Limited

New Leaf Tree Surgery Limited

Oak Leaf Tree Services Limited

Out On A Limb Tree Services Limited

Out There Trees Ltd

Pinewood Treecare Limited

Poplar Tree Services Limited

Redwood Tree Services Limited

Roots Upwards Limited

Rowan Tree Surgery Limited

Sequoia Tree Services Limited

Silverwood Forestry Limited

Special Branch Tree Care Ltd

Stickmen Limited

Stumpbusters Uk Limited

Stumpie Ltd

Stumpman Limited

Tally-Ho! Landscape Contracts Limited

The Tree Gp Limited

The Tree People Limited

Timber Tim Limited

Top Branch Tree Care & Landscaping Services Limited

Top Cutz Ltd

Top Notch Tree Care Limited

Tree Amigos Limited

Tree Heritage Limited

Tree Heroes Limited

Tree Monkey Tree Care Ltd

Tree Trunk Limited

Tree Wise Men (S.E.) Ltd

Treecreeper Arborists Ltd

Woodpecker Tree Surgery Ltd

Woods For All Limited

PixaBay source

Walking the tightrope to fulfil your business vision

The Walk posterI have just finished watching an amazing film based on the true story of Philippe Petit who crossed the 200 foot gap between the 110 story twin towers of  the World Trade Center in New York in 1974.

The Walk is worth watching just for the vertigo inducing scenes of his perilous and spectacular high wire walk. The film is also an amazing recreation of the world famous towers I climbed during my gap-year trip round the USA in 1980. And which were of course destroyed by the terrorist attack on that terrible day 11 September 2001.

But for me the story also parallels many aspects of starting a business.

Perseverance – The first time the story’s hero sees tightrope walkers in the Circus as a young boy, he is determined to learn the skill. He spends his teenage years practicing his ‘calling’, by first walking on five ropes, then four, then three and two, before getting down to a single line tied between two trees. I wonder how many times he fell during those years of apprenticeship.

Overcoming failure – Petit’s first public outing is a humiliating disaster in which he falls into a lake due to performance nerves. It would have been easy to understand if he had chosen to end his ambition at that point.

Finding your audience/customers – Petit moves to Paris and develops his skill as an entertainer. He learns where the best places to perform are, and how to manage his audience.

Having a vision – Philippe is always looking for new and more audacious places to hang his wire, and spots the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral. He sneaks in at night and sets up his cable,  before giving the early morning tourists something of a surprise view. According to the film, he chances across a photo of the World Trade Center towers in a dentist waiting room. In a close up scene he slowly draws a thin straight pencil line between the two buildings and immediately this becomes his obsession.

Notre Dame ParesThe passion to keep going – The training, planning and preparation required to walk between the twin towers before they are completed appears to be impossible, but it is Petit’s passion that drives his small team of ‘co-conspirators’ on.

Having a mentor – Philippe persuades high-wire expert Papa Rudy from the circus to teach him everything he needs to know to be able to walk between the towers. Including the most dangerous part of any wire walk, the last three steps.

Detailed planning and research – The walk is illegal, so the team have to do an immense amount of research on the building-site of the twin towers to work out how to get the equipment needed up onto the roofs in time for the crossing at first-light.

Valuing your team – There is a moment in the film, the night before the adventure begins, where Philippe is reminded by his girlfriend that he has not thanked his team for their contribution. He immediately wakes everyone up to express his appreciation.

Adapting to changing circumstances – During the night while setting up the equipment for the walk, Philippe and his accomplice Jeff have to hide for three hours balanced on a steel girder from the security guard. This prevents our hero from checking the cables on the other tower as originally planned. He decides to go ahead anyway and trust in the work of his team.

Celebrating success – Once the police release Petit and his team from custody they celebrate their incredible achievement with a champagne and a Chinese meal. Many entrepreneurs are too busy rushing onto their next goal, without stopping to recognize an important milestone or success.

Achieving the impossible – Most of the people Petit met in the build-up to his walk said it couldn’t be done and that he was mad. He proved them wrong. He believed in himself and his abilities in the way everyone starting a business needs to.

The Walk and jet plane


TrollyBag – the shopping bag of the future with a patent

Logo_packingsortedMy dad has always been something of an early adopter, keen to try out new ideas and inventions. He bought a Sharp EL-801 one of the first pocket calculators, a Sinclair ZX 80 computer, and VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find a shiny new set of Trolley Bags in his cupboard the other day.

A little research shows the colourful product was invented in Ireland by Paul Doyle in 2010 and is protected by a patent for A Re-usable Bag System.

With the imminent charge for plastic bags in England, the time is right for Trolley Bags to clean up. The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015 comes into force on 5 October. And the order requires sellers who employ more than 250 people to charge 5p for a “single use carrier bag” which is less than 70 microns (0.07mm) thick.


Espacenet screenshot

trollybag patent drawing


A name that is well and truly tasty

On my regular drive to my parents house I pass several food vans catering to the hungry driver.

Their names vary from the mundane Joe’s Food Shack, to the humorous such as Mrs Doyles, which alludes to the iconic character appearing in the legendary Father Ted comedy series.

Source Channel 4

But my favourite is a tiny little white van with a bright red Yummy’s logo and a 1950’s style waitress winking out at the passing motorists. When you add in their strapline Well Tasty, I think they get credit for an effective promotion in a competitive market.