Plant fewer seeds

The life-cycle of a startup has never been more complex. Where previously ambitious twenty-somethings would bootstrap their way to legitimacy, new businesses now have a fundraising maze to navigate, from angel investments and seed money, to rounds one through “n” to IPO.

The poster-child for this changing landscape is the seed round, which has grown significantly in size and popularity:

Peeling back Silicon Valley tech deal activity since 2009 reveals that seed investments have seen a massive increase over time. In fact, seed deal share in Silicon Valley has jumped from 7% in 2009 to 29% in 2013 year-to-date – CB Insights

Presented by this new and in-vogue opportunity to take on capital, it is hard for businesses to know quite what to do, and in particular when to say no. When would you ever turn down a big fat cheque?

The answer is clear, in the eyes of this seasoned venture capitalist – small businesses need to spend less money on seeds and focus more on their core business.

Since when did so many startups have a side-interest in horticulture? I am as green-fingered as the next man, but I don’t necessarily see the benefit of raising a fund to keep you well-stocked with sunflower seeds, however good they are for your cholesterol. And don’t even talk to me about your home grown kale, as I almost certainly don’t want to hear it.

Now that is not to say that your home-grown green beans aren’t delicious, and your pumpkins do look fantastic, just in time for Halloween. But as much as I appreciate the desire for vertical integration, there is no need to plant your own. Weed out the seed rounds, and watch your business grow.

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The end of corporate stakeholders

After a seeming eternity of struggle, mankind has finally defeated the Undead. On a momentous day for humanity, the forces of goodness and light at last succeeded in banishing the Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies from the face of planet Earth.

This has led to widespread celebration, as the world renounces its collective fear of the dark, however there is one small segment of society who actually find themselves out of a job. Business stakeholders, stalwarts of commerce for decades, have all been made redundant.

“I never thought this day would come,” explains Stakeholder Trade Union President Peter Henderson. “When I went into Stakeholding 35 years ago, I thought it was a good stable profession, I thought businesses would always need people with stakes to protect against vampire attacks. Turns out I was wrong.”

Indeed this sentiment is widely observed across the industry. Once a key commercial focus, stakeholders would be situated all over organisations, and were regularly consulted and considered when decisions were made. However as vampires have become a less regular threat in recent years, the need for stakeholders’ services has been declining.

“We just haven’t had that many attacks recently, let alone attacks requiring a stake through the heart,” said one CEO, who asked to remain anonymous. “It was always good to have Stakeholders around, mainly for team morale, but for the last couple of years they’ve mostly been decoration.”

Consulting firms have also felt the effects. Strategy Consultant Jennifer Sibthorpe explains: “Interviewing the key stakeholders in the business used to be one of our core competencies, a real way we could add value, but as Count Dracula’s forces dwindled in number, that became less and less useful for our clients. It’s a shame, but businesses have moved on.”

Stakeholders maintain that they perform multiple other services, citing their expertise with both Garlic and Holy Water, but these services have struggled to gain traction outside now-defunct Undead protection departments.

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Business Interest: Suggestion #4

HBR has written previously about the current low rate of interest in the UK’s economy.  In this series, HBR investigates the British public’s lack of interest in business, and tries to work out what is best to do about it

In our research on business interest, we focused on the level of interest amongst the general public. We were working under the assumption that interest amongst business leadership must be high. However we have recently become privy to the shocking revelation that even those in positions of power are not interested in the business world.

I am talking, of course, about Bored Members. A requisite part of any company, the Bored of Directors is responsible for overseeing a company’s activities. How can you possibly expect the man on the street to be interested in business, when you’ve got such a disengaged group of individuals in positions of power?

This fix is quick, and easy – scrap Boreds, stop hiring Bored Members, and start hiring Engaged Members, to the Engagement Committee. In business, as in life, you’ve got to lead by example.

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Business is Awesome: Forecasting

Business is Awesome.  You know it, I know it.  This series is where I write about it.

It’s hard, being a person. As soon as you think you’re on top of something, the future comes along and surprises you. Like Alice in Wonderland, you’ve often got to keep running just to stay in the same place.

How do businesses cope with this future uncertainty? The answer is that they don’t have to! Every year, businesses are able to predict, or “forecast”, precisely what their sales and profits will be many years in the future. I have come across many businesses, and they can apparently all do it! I don’t know how, but what a wonderful weight off the mind.

It might seem like magic, but it’s just businesses being businesses. Isn’t business awesome?

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Reducing Burn-out

Employee burn-out is a constant worry for the modern day manager. Distracted by the day to day business of sales and profitability growth, it is all too easy to forget about the human costs of doing so. But how does one avoid employee burn-out?

The most important thing is to understand the risk factors that contribute, and where you sit on the spectrum. When you look around your office, how many open fires can you see? If the answer is more than one, then maybe you should reconsider, as our research indicates that the number of fireplaces in an office block is directly proportional to the number of employees who catch on fire. Open fires increase burn-out. It reads like a truism, but it is amazing how many modern day offices operate multiple hearths in the open plan.

However that is not all you can do. Many offices don’t even have a single open fire, yet experience regular employee burn-out. This is because of hidden risk factors that may exist. I know that pile of kindling will be really useful for the next company retreat, but do you remember when it started that electrical fire? (RIP Frank). And as much as I understand the importance of the barrel of diesel (I know it saved Barry a trip to the petrol station a couple of weeks ago), it’s not only pretty flammable but is stinking the place out. These are easy wins that can reduce the number of employee fires that happen every year.

But what if the worst happens, and burn-out starts happening in a busy city office? This is where burn-out protection comes in. Everyone in the office should have a personal fire extinguisher, and should know how to use. Using espresso cups to throw water when Jamie’s coat caught on fire was as successful as you might expect, so do attend your quarterly extinguisher training course.

As a closing note, what is most important is constant diligence, as this is not just a quick fix. If you see an employee playing with matches in the office, suggest that they do it at home instead. If a colleague is spotted purchasing an office blowtorch for the break room, indicate that a Nintendo Wii might be better. By working together, and following these basic steps, your employees will be happy, and most importantly fire free.

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Entrepreuninsight: Ant-esocial

One of the internet’s greatest gifts is its ability to connect people. Anyone with an internet connection can communicate with the whole world, give or take local censorship laws, which would have seemed inconceivable not long ago.

However mankind, unused to such a vast social vista, has tended to form tribes in corners of the internet, communities tied together by a certain webpage, and sometimes also by real-life experience. These are social networks, and in many cases they have outgrown their virtual corner, with Facebook and Twitter sprawling greedily across cyberspace.

The central tenet of all such sites is communication, between members, the site and the advertisers who (oftentimes) pay the bills, and websites are always trying to increase their user engagement. However for some people, this constant communication is a real turn-off. Ralph Arkleton was one such user.

“It was just a bit much, or that’s how I felt,” explains Ralph. “Why did people keep contacting me, or projecting their opinions on me? I wanted to be on Facebook, but I didn’t want to have to deal with all of that. That’s why I started Ant-esocial, the internet’s first antisocial network”

Founded in early 2013, Ant-esocial closely resembles Facebook, but you soon notice the subtle differences. Instead of a newsfeed, the Ant-esocial homepage simply reads “Nothing to see here, do whatever you want.” The messenger function is conspicuous by its absence. And while you can see other people on the site, if you click on anyone’s profile, a pop-up reads “Easy there, give them some space.”

“I’m an introvert, really. So is half of the population of the US. This site is for them,” says Ralph, as he stares contentedly at his No-newsfeed. “People ask why be part of a network at all, and that’s a good question. I don’t know either, but I do definitely want to belong. I just don’t want to have to talk to people.”

Ralph is not alone, with socially reserved users signing up in droves. “We have no idea who they are, of course,” says Ralph. “I would never be so forward as to ask them to fill in personal information. I’m just glad that they’re there, and that they’re not trying to communicate with me.”

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Investment Guru: Gold

We at Simeon Partners have recently happened upon an incredible commodity which we are piling into as fast as we can. It’s called gold, and we believe that it’s really worth its weight in gold.

In fact, we have tracked the data back as far as we can, and gold has never been worth less than the equivalent weight in gold. It’s unbelievable! We have never come across a commodity that holds its value so consistently relative to the gold standard.

At Simeon, we are dedicated to making investment decisions on the basis of archaic sayings. So get in touch with one of our client liaison officers, and we can get you some gold for your retirement.


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Business hires PR PR firm

Simeon Software, an analytics software provider, has appointed Meetoo Media as its Global PR-PR partner. This does not affect its existing relationship with PR firm Able Agency, who currently hold a global multimedia mandate with the software company, responsible for all consumer and corporate messaging.

Ralph Simmonds, CEO at Simeon, explains: “We felt that we weren’t getting our message across to our PR partners at Able in a cohesive way, so they were struggling to do their job. Now, with Meetoo’s track record, we fully expect to increase engagement with our PR firm, across all social media channels.”

This is the latest in a long line of successes for Meetoo Media, who have built a “third sector” within advertising, helping businesses better communicate with their existing advertising and PR agencies. “Too many businesses these days rely purely on email to work with their PR agencies,” said Meetoo MD Lesley Lemon. “Instead, we work with our clients to engage their PR agency via Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and traditional media in order to better tell their story.  We’re really excited to start doing that with Simeon and Able.”

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Dear Reader*

While we would hesitate to presuppose that this little nook of the internet occupies your thoughts beyond the approx. 30 seconds it takes to consume, we am going to be so bold as to apologise for not writing more often. We are ever so sorry.

How often, we hear you ask, all too eager to Ctrl+T on your journey across the internet? Well we haven’t written since the 2nd of August, which we think has been our longest drought since starting, and it was pretty sparse before that too.

Has there been a shortage of business goings on? Well you might have noticed that it has been the summer, and as is customary round our neck of the woods, people go on vacation or “annual leave”. So there has been some of that. But by all accounts business has been booming – have you heard that the iPhone 6 is coming out?

The greater worry, we suppose, is that there is no more satire to be had in business, that they’ve got it figured out and are beyond reproof! We will be the first to reassure you, that as long as there is synergy, there is almost certainly satire.  Fear not.

So here we go. We must spend less time doing deals, and more time trying to write in full sentences. With grammar, and without made up words. So easier said than done.

*We say reader, because we assume that our audience = 1. Hi Mum.

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Business is Awesome: Monet-ization

Business is Awesome.  You know it, I know it.  This series is where I write about it.

Stating the obvious, tech is hot right now.  The latest and greatest entrepreneurs are filling up the app store and the wider WWW with tools that are changing people’s lives and / or making it easier to pass the time while waiting in queues. The current growth formula is generally pretty similar across all such businesses – first achieve scale, and then worry about Monetization.

Isn’t that awesome? I was sitting here thinking that art was dead, when in actual fact Impressionism is alive and well in the modern-day tech industry! Quite why all these entrepreneurs have chosen this particular French painter as their muse escapes me, but Monet-ization is a major point of concern for founders and their VC backers.

I’m all in favour, indeed the great man’s waterlily series includes some of my favourite works of art. I can only hope that Pointillization, Picassification and Pollocking gain similar traction in future.

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