I greatly enjoyed our Round table breakfast on 21 November to discuss Intellectual Property in the Digital Age hosted by our Chief Executive Lynne Brindley.
Tracy Chevalier author of Girl With a Pearl Earring gave a concerned speech asking how authors would be paid in an increasingly digital age. She referred to a cousin who never pays for music as they can download everything they want for free from the Internet.
One of the speakers pointed out that Intellectual Property is not a actually property in the sense that it can be shared without loss to the author or creator. Compare this to a house or a shoe and the difference is immediately apparent. He claimed that much of the confusion around IP law stems from this fundamental difference. This was a completely new insight for me.
Lynne Brindley said that the debate on intellectual property is too heavily focussed on teenagers, music and the consumer industries, and that we should realise that many areas of our society, culture and economy are impacted by IP law.
Rufus Pollock from Cambridge University, who was in the audience, described a study he has undertaken which showed that the optimal term for copyright should be around fourteen years. This is substantially shorter than any current copyright term and implies that existing copyright terms are too long.
The evening after the Teenpreneur event we held one focussing on Social Enterprise.
The speakers were Tim Campbell, founder of the Bright Ideas Trust, Sophi Tranchell, managing director of Divine Chocolate, Zarine Kharas, founder and CEO of Just Giving, Kresse Wesling, director of EAKO, Babaloo and Bio-Supplies.
All four speakers were truly inspiring, starting with Tim Campbell racing through his talk and questions before rushing of to speak at another event. He was very complimentary towards Sir Alan Sugar, and explained how supportive he had been during their two years working together after winning the first Apprentice series.
Sophi Tranchell explained the story behind Divine Chocolate, a brand I can personally vouch for as I buy it regularly from our British Library shop. From it’s foundation nearly ten years ago it experimented with a new business model in which the co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana owned shares in the company making the chocolate bar. These farmers now own an incredible 45 per cent of the company since The Body Shop made the decision to donate its shares to them.
They are now ambitiously taking on the American market in primarily to generate more sales which will bring more benefits to the farmers who grow the cocoa pods.
I have finally found time to catch up on the events I attended during the hectic Enterprise Week 12-18 November.
The Teenpreneurs event was fantastic with Fraser Doherty, founder of Superjam, Emily Cummins, inventor of the solar-powered refrigerator, Ben Way, serial entrepreneur and founder of The Rainmaker, Wilson Chowdhry, CEO of AA Security.
The most memorable story was from Ben Way who recounted the time when venture capitalists knocked on his door wanted to know how much money he wanted to start a web shopping comparison site. His mind racing but with a cool demeanour he asked for £25 million. The investors said that was the amount they had to offer, so the deal was done. Even more remarkable was that Ben was 17 years old at the time. However with the bursting of the dot com bubble of the late 90′s he ended up with nothing. On the same day he appeared in the Sunday Times Rich List under Robbie Williams he could not afford to buy a tube ticket.
The most impressive speaker was Fraser Doherty who had begun experimenting with business ideas from a young age. By 14 he had persuaded his Gran to share her jam secrets with him and soon started making it himself. He is now 18 years old but came across as the most mature person in the building that evening.
He described some of the ups and downs of his business progress, including having to go right back to the drawing board after Waitrose rejected his initial brand and packaging.
Fraser has a blog to enable us to follow his remarkable career.