Archive for November, 2008

Global Entrepreneurship Week from the Valley…

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Last week, as previously reported, Jerome and I were in San Francisco having been invited as one of the top 50 startups from Europe, to attend the Euro Tech Showcase, part of the Dow Jones Venture Forum. For some reason, every time Jerome or I are in San Francisco, the sun is shining! We couldn’t believe our luck when we disembarked the Virgin Atlantic plane to be met with warm sunshine and blue skies! It was a stark contrast to the day before, when I was in Moscow; enjoying -1 degree temperatures whilst on a weekend catch up with friends. Jerome and I like San Fran and the Bay Area – there is something about it that makes the place feel special. May be it’s the beauty of the city and good weather, or may be it’s the vibe, and the fact that we have some great friends there? No doubt it is also because of the fact that it represents the heart of the Internet world, and thus, almost a home away from home.

Last week was also Global Entrepreneurship Week, and in partnership with Make Your Mark, Jerome and I became international ambassadors for them with the aim of reporting on all the latest happenings from the Valley, whilst our UK and International counterparts were doing other things to promote entrepreneurship in their respective communities. The folks at Make Your Mark provided us with a Disgo Video Player, which was very nice of them, so that we could become avid reporters and video blog what was going on? This turned out to be quite amusing for us, and so we started off proceedings, by recording our introductory video in the infamous diner called Bucks, which is famous for being THE place where many deals are brokered between entrepreneurs and VCs alike. There were a couple of tables occupied by what looked like your typical US VC’s in their navy blue jackets with gold cuff links, light blue shirt, beige Dockers trousers (pants), brown shoes with little thrilly bits on the front, and of course, the trademark smart phone on in the back leather pouch on their belt. For all we know, the next Google deal was taking place as they had their laptops out and were engaged in a lengthy debate. We, however, were close to closing our own deal and were going all in… To find out more, click on the following link below, and please forgive me for looking like a twit, but I was on my day off from spiky hair day and so instead was showing off my wonky fringe! 😉


We found out about Jacks from one of my mentors, Jon Gillespie-Brown, who we had the good fortune of staying with for the first few days whilst in town. Jon and his lovely wife Maria and their two kids Marco and Luca, upped sticks and moved from the countryside haven otherwise known as the Cotswold’s, to slap bang in the middle of Silicon Valley. They occupy a gorgeous house on one of the most famous streets in Woodside, just off the Sand Hill Road, and were being accompanied by their young and ambitious Sales Manager Lee, who was staying with Jon and the family for a few weeks to try and land some deals in the US as the UK market, which Lee normally covers has apparently all gone quiet. Perhaps a sign of things to come for us Brits, what with the economic climate looking direr than ever! Jon is a seasoned entrepreneur, and at the tender young age of 40 (or thereabouts) he’s done pretty well for himself having lived the life when he was ten years younger than we were, flying Concorde and driving fast cars, but he’s a bit more mellow these days (unless you get him a few wines, as we got to find out on Friday!) 😉 It’s always great to catch up with Jon and his wife and they are loving life in the Valley and I can see why…


The Euro Tech Showcase started on Tuesday, so we headed in our hired car to the Sofi Nova hotel in Redwood City, which was on Dolphin Drive (Only in America would they come up with a street name like that!). It soon became apparent at the event, that the Euro Tech showcase was very French focused, and had borne out of what was most likely a French event that grew to become more European focused as it became more successful. Or, it may well be to do with the fact that the organizers of the event, Jean-Bernard Guerree, and his financial advisory firm Avise Partners, is predominantly made up of French nationals. Their USP as an advisory firm, given that they are based on the US, is that they help French speaking companies to break through into the US market. It soon became clear that many of the other start-ups that had been invited were also French. We very quickly started to feel like one of the 50 companies that said yes to paying the 5,000 Euros price tag, rather than genuinely representing the top 50 European Start-ups. Still, we were there now, and the event was linked to the Dow Jones Venture Forum so some good must come out of it!


There were a number of panels that were discussing, you’ve guessed it – how to survive in the downturn, what opportunities still exist for start-ups and what corporate development executives are looking for in the current climate when buying or partnering with start-ups. The ‘big sell’ for the event was supposed to be all of the one-on-one meetings that they organize on our behalf, which was actually quite a good concept, albeit slightly too short in their length. Each session lasts about 12 minutes, which makes it feel like a speed networking event, but it gives you enough time to give your elevator pitch on both sides and explore whether there are any synergies on both sides. We had sessions lined up with Facebook, AT&T, Verizon, a few VC’s and a few other interesting companies, and also gave a presentation to those that attended our session. We also got to catch up with David from the Filter – a top lad who has was sounds to be a great business specialized on filtering recommendations and preferences for media and entertainment related content such as videos. Definitely one to watch! The other founders we enjoyed meeting were Glen and Alex from a company called, which interestingly enough, is a site aimed at being smarter with your favorites. You can view our interview with them at the event here:

In between sessions, we took the opportunity to visit an old haunt that we once met Emily from DFJ in for drinks, called the Left Bank, where we were greeted by a very friendly Spurs loving General Manager from Detroit who had fond memories of his old town, referring to it as a “s*** hole”! Whilst enjoying a glass of red, Jerome gives a good summary of the feeling we were getting of the mood in the valley, which you can check out here:

We also took the opportunity to interview Dean Takahashi, one of the lead reporters / writers from VentureBeat, a leading online news provider, who covers the internet space. You can find the interview here:

To see what advice Baris Aksoy (an Associate from Intel Capital, one of the leading international private equity houses) had to share with budding entrepreneurs, check out his brief interview with Jerome here:


Mediatech and the success of micro transactions?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I attended the Mediatech event in London yesterday, hosted at the Russel Hotel and WAYN was fortunate to be part of the top 10 companies being featured at the event – a crowd made of quite a lot of VCs / Angels and a few internet startups – needless to say the tone was rather negative and most of panelists reiterated what many of us in the space have heard in the last month or so: Get back to basics and ensure you have at least 12 to 24 months of cash to go through the tough times (in Sequoia’s words: Get Real or Go Home) – those that are not capitalised will struggle and valuations expectations and time to completion for any deals will certainly be major barriers for most entrepreneurs…Happy days!

The company that impressed me the most was by far flirtomatic (

Mark Curtis, CEO of the company delivered a very good pitch and has to me one of the most convincing models – one that brings cash over and above advertising revenues – they are very close to profits (from what I gathered from his presentation) and deliver over 100m impressions in the UK per month on the mobile alone! That’s a very impressive number. The site allows its users to search for a flirt and rate each other as well as sending virtual gifts – users just top up their accounts with credits that cost a very small fee – all of this being based on the main trait that most online communities get founded on: ego.

Users want to know who have rated them and pay for the priviledge to find out. Users want to send that Super Rate to express how much they like the other user or equally how much they dislike them (they have a Freak rate!! which users can pay for to remove – how clever!) . This is a model that others have adopted (faceparty) but not always in the dating model but purely the micro transactions side: this is not a new concept but one that seems to be florishing – Facebook in fact recently announced 2 days ago the launch of a credit system allowing users to top up their account to purchase virtual gifts. 

It will certainly be interesting to see how such models evolve over time and whether these bring true revenue diversification – especially in an online advertising environment where many start feeling the pinch!

For those who didnt get the slide I presented (despite the initial technical glitch!), here it is:

Be well!




Top Hotels Award

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

We have just received the pictures of the event so thought we would post them there – nice to see the funky WAYN Bar in there 😉 This an award we created in conjuntion with HotelClub (part of Orbitz) thanks to a survey we conducted on the site, via 70,000 voters around the world.

Certainly good to see that London did shine again as the results got announced recently: Claridges and the Strand Palace Hotel took top honours alongside favourite The Gleneagles Hotel







The complete list of winners in the HotelClub Hotel Awards 2008 is as follows:
Top Three hotels in Great Britain and Ireland
The Gleneagles Hotel – Perthshire
Strand Palace – London
Claridges – London

Top Three hotels in England
Swissotel The Howard – London
Shaftesbury Premier Paddington – London
The Chester Grosvenor & Spa – Chester

Top Three hotels in Ireland
The Westbury – Dublin
The Merrion – Dublin
Ashford Castle – Cong

Top Three hotels in Scotland
The Gleneagles Hotel – Perthshire
De Vere Cameron House – Glasgow
Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa – Edinburgh

Top Hotel in Northern Ireland
Europa – Belfast

Top Hotel in Wales
St David’s Hotel & Spa – Cardiff

Top Family Hotel
Royal Garden – London

Top Business Hotel
Hilton Trafalgar Square – London

Top Service hotels
The Gleneagles Hotel – Perthshire
Hayfield Manor – Cork County
Swissotel The Howard – London

Top Bar and Entertainment Hotels
Dylan Hotel – Dublin
Sanderson Hotel – London
The Landmark London – London

Notes from my travels for WAYN…

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Evening all,

I thought I’d share some of my musings from recent trips we’ve made on behalf of WAYN, and some thoughts on the journeys ahead. Jerome and I recently upgraded to Gold card status on our favourite airline – Virgin Atlantic, which if you’re going to travel – you have to fly with, as they are by far the best airline to travel with. You have to take your hat off to Sir Richard Branson… He certainly knows how to run an airline!! Hopefully, we will get to sit next to James Bond on our next trip! 😉

Why do we travel so much? I guess it would be rude not to, having helped build what is now the world’s largest travel and lifestyle focused social network with almost 15 million members globally. :) However, it is an important part of our business, given that we run a global social network and run an internet business that has offices in both Poland and the UK. It is one of the few jobs that allows you to work remotely, whilst on the go, which can often mean you get a lot more work done as well, with less day-to-day distraction.

eTourism Africa event – Nairobi, Kenya

A few weeks ago on 13th – 15th of October, I was kindly invited to Nairobi, Africa by Dominic Cook – the ex-presenter of the Really Wild Show in the UK (remember that??) who is now living in Nairobi Kenya and has made it him and his wife’s goal to help people and companies across Africa to better take advantage of the opportunities that the internet and online travel have opened up.

In the opening address, which was made by the Minister for Tourism in Kenya, it was clear that a lot was still needed to be done (the internet connection in Kenya is still awful!) but they are working on fixing that and are desperate to invest more, and are installing a faster internet connection early next year (although the locals were telling me they will believe it when they see it!). This doesnt seem to dampen the resolve of those attending (who had come from all across Africa) to learn all about how they can take advantage of  the internet the coming technological waves…

Here was me espousing the virtues of social media, web 2.0 and what’s coming next, and most companies can still not provide online booking for either their local or international customers!! The feedback however was very positive as those attending were keen not to miss a trick! I also managed to meet with some interesting companies, both big and small, who seemed very keen to work with us. I’ll be following up with them in the coming weeks and showing them how they can engage with people from around the world in a much more impactful and cost-effective way compared to adevrtising on CNN, as the perception here is that EVERYONE is watching CNN, simply because it is the main international news channel showing in hotels across the continent. It’s amazing how people’s perceptions are skewed towards they experience themselves!

A talk with students at the CocaCola centre – Nairobi, Kenya

One of main reasons I was invited to Nairobi, was to address an audience of 300 university students from across Kenya, to share the WAYN story and hopefully inspire some of the next generation of entreprneurs. It proved to be a unique and remarkable experience! Never before have I found such warm collection of people with a keenness to learn about how to be successul! What I didnt realise is that the event was literally orchestrated around my talk, and that it was attracting strong media attention as a result! :)

It became apparent to me that not many entrepreneurs from Europe or the US have make the effort to journey over to share their experiences in person. That is the only reason to justify their enthusiasm for what I and the WAYN team had achieved thus far. So, if there are any fellow entrepreneurs reading this from the Valley or your your start-up headquarters – I strongly urge you to put yourselves forward to visit Africa and find out how you can help inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs – they really need your help!!

I was interviewed by the two leading radio stations in Kenya and also appreared on the fornt cover of their main lifestyle magazine that is distributed with their highest circulation newspaper called the Nation. Here is the article in full.




What I found quite amusing is the fact that they showed a picture of me with Michael and Paul Birch (the Bebo brother) taken when we were at the Web Mission 08 in San Fran, and said that it was Jerome and Mike (the other WAYN co-founders). :)

It was a privileged occassion for me as I was welcomed by the Vice President & Misister for Home Affairs: Dr Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka who actually stayed to listen to my talk! I also had the pleasure of meeting the President of CocaCola East & Central Africa: Nathan Kalumbu, who were kind enough to host the event in their new ampitheatre at their headquarters.

I think the part of the event I enjoyed the most was my second talk with the students where I was able to really focus on them and how best to motivate and hopefully inspire them to go on and achieve remarkable things as entrepeneurs. Time will tell I guess. Hopefully this wont be the last time I am over, and I look forward to more opportunities to come. As an aside, I am confident that my trip will have not been in vain, both for those who heard me talk, but also for WAYN, as apart from the media exposure, I am confident that that some good partnerships will come from it. Jerome attended a similar event a month or so earlier, in Jo’burg, which was also organised by Damien, and involved him doing a similar talk to businesses in the travel industry and budding entrepenerial students. We have since build some very positive relationships with some of the major tourist boards over there and hope for many more positive things to come!

Introducing the Founders

Introducing the Founders

Last week, Jerome also attended a conference organised by our ad agency partner in New York, which was a great opportunity to update our sales reps over there of the upcoming opportunities for advertisers to take advantage of on WAYN both today and in 2009. Despite the market turmoil, we remain bullish of the potential to expand our advertising growth, with Octiber being our strongest month ever!

This week, I was invited to address leading executived from a selection of the leading European online travel agencies (OTAs) at the Amadeus headquarters in Sofia Antipolis, not very far from Nice. It was a fly in, fly out job, but was a good opportunity to establish some partnership opportunities in the European landscape.

Amadeus Event in Sofia Antipolis, France

Amadeus Event in Sofia Antipolis, France

Next week, I am off to the iMedia Brand Summit in Silverstone, UK, to engage with many of the top online marketing directors and brand managers from leading companies such as Unilever, Cocacola and Sony Ericsson. In the meantime, Jerome and many members of the WAYN team will be attending the World Travel Market event here in London, which should be a great opporunity to meet with other leaders in the travel industry and share ways in which we can work together.

To find out more, click here

Next week, Jerome and I will be attending the Euro Tech Showcase in San Francisco, having been selected at one of the top 50 European Start-ups.

As it is Global Entrepreneurship week, we will be doing our bit to highlight what is happening in the Valley, and will be video blogging, courtesy of the folks at Make Your Mark, who have provided us with a disgo video recorder to capture some of the highlights, so watch this space!…

In the meantime, check out our Global Entrepreneurship Week WAYN profile dedicated to unleashing new ideas, which will hopefully encourage WAYN members to help put their creative ideas to the test, and also help solve problems faced on a global scale.

Thanks for tuning in!


WAYN voted #1 Travel site for keeping in touch!

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Another good morning with another good surprise – WAYN being voted as top travel site for keeping in touch in the Telegragh yesterday – Suzy Bennett picked 25 of the best so congrats to CruiseCritics, Tripadvisor and LonelyPlanet and the few others who made it to the list! here is the intro from Suzy below, and the full article can be found here:


 ” Researching a holiday used to be an uncertain experience. Prospective travellers were generally confined to three resources: brochures, travel agents and guidebooks. The pitfalls of relying on the former two are obvious – there’s a vested interest in signing you up – while guidebooks are often out of date. Outside the Telegraph travel sections, the chances of getting balanced, up-to-date information about a holiday were pretty limited.

The digital revolution has changed all that. Thanks to the wealth of blogs – “web logs”, or diaries, on the internet – we can access thousands of travel reviews and commentaries from travellers who provide candid, up-to-the-moment and on-the-spot reports. They are a great place to unearth local gems, get news updates and read about specialist topics.

Armchair travellers, meanwhile, can pick and choose whose adventure they want to follow, be it one person’s account of a year abroad, a circumnavigation of the globe or an expedition. And the ultimate antidote to saccharine tourist-office films and advertisements are video blogs – vlogs – anonymously filmed by paying customers and then published on travel websites.”