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Mobile Internet Exits hit $100B – But is this the end of growth in this sector?

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The latest analysis from Digi-Capital shows that Mobile internet exits hit $101B in 2015, which is fantastic news for the industry. However, looking back on our last analysis of Digi-Capital’s Mobile Internet statistics from q4 2015, it is clear that, while there is still plenty of life and money in the industry, the unprecedented growth that we were seeing before is no longer prevalent, with consolidation, and the odd failure, being the order of the day.

This is not to say that there is an impending bubble. In fact, this could be a good thing. When valuations are skyrocketing, it can be disconcerting, as it can seem like people are hopping on a bandwagon, rather than valuing companies at levels that more truly reflect their worth. In the latest analysis, there is reference to four mobile unicorns that have fallen below the $1B valuation mark, showing that some companies were indeed overvalued, and are now struggling to justify that valuation. Despite that caveat, however, the report also states that 102 mobile unicorns added $130m value in the fourth quarter of 2015, making the combined value over $1T for the first time.


One interesting difference between the two reports, is the different sectors of mobile internet that saw Exits. While both saw a large spread of different areas, the main sectors in the year up to q4 2015 were messaging, games, and Social networking (with messaging given a large boost from Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp), with the three sectors making up almost 2/3rds of exits. The latest figures show that mCommerce (just 1% in the previous figures we analysed) and Travel/transport (1.3%) made up almost half of exits. This perhaps shows that the Messaging, Games and Social Networking spaces are saturated at the top end, whilst there is still seen to be room for growth in mCommerce and travel. Part of this might be due to the broad nature of mCommerce, which differs from Social Networking or Messaging as there are countless different uses for mCommerce, whereas people will only use a certain amount of messaging or Social Networking.


Digi capital investment returns 2 Digi-Capital-Mobile-Internet-Stocks-LTM-to-Q4-20152-1024x576

The mobile internet stock index of 92 publicly listed companies shown in the Digi-Capital report shows that it was broadly flat in 2015, with navigation companies growing by 48% and Entertainment shrinking by 31% being the biggest variables. Overall, value was down 0.5% over the year, which again tallies with our analysis that it has been a year of consolidation rather than massive growth. It will be fascinating to see how 2016 turns out.

5 Tech Gadgets For Your Startups Secret Santa 2015

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Once again, it is that time of year. The leaves have fallen, the decorations are up, and the rush to get a secret santa gift for your colleagues is intensifying.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you will have noticed that there is a new Star Wars film coming out. If you’re feeling generous, treat the Star Wars fan in your office to a Millenium Falcon Drone, allowing them to re-enact iconic scenes from the films. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far, these Light Saber chopsticks will do the trick, turning a bowl of noodles into a battle against the dark side. May the force be with you!

Millenium Falcon

For the loudmouth in your office, who enjoys the sound of their own voice a bit too much, the world’s smallest voice changer is here to keep them occupied. It will certainly give them hours of fun, but be sure to give it to them at the end of the day, so they can irritate somebody other than their workmates!

Voice changer

If there is an aspiring Picasso in your team, the Creopop 3D pen with cool ink could be the answer to help them on their path to creativity. It’s the world’s first pen with cool ink, meaning your creations can be ready immediately, and you can show it off to your colleagues without hesitation!


For those that like to keep up with the zeitgeist, Virtual Reality has been a growing sector in 2015, likely to become more mainstream next year. A headset like this would be a great gift for somebody that would like to ride a rollercoaster, or bungee jump, from the comfort of their own living room.

VR headset

And for the petrolhead in your team, this remote controlled motorbike is perfect. Thanks to a mechanical stabilisation system, this motorbike can reach speeds of 10kmh, and it has a range of 20 metres. If there are two competitive people in your office, you could even buy two, and set up a racecourse, to settle competitive arguments once and for all!


UK Food Tech: On The Up

After our founder Rosemary Forsyth spent a warm June Friday evening on the panel of the Food Of Genius event, put on by the Food Startup School, we thought the time was ripe to analyse the growing food technology startup scene. The event involved 3 Food Tech startups presenting to 20 key industry influencers (including Rosemary!) and receiving feedback on their ideas, with the influencers remaining anonymous so as not to cloud their judgements.  The food tech space is an area that perhaps hasn’t had the same giddy excitement around it as other areas in technology, but with events like this, and increasing journalistic coverage, all the signs are pointing towards this changing.

One of the most visible areas where there has been an intermingling of food and technology is in the food subscription area, where companies like Graze and Pact have made a real impact. Graze is one of the earliest examples of a food company using technology, having been founded in January 2009. The online snack delivery company raised $1.4M in July 2009 from DFJ Esprit, JamJar investments and Octopus Ventures, and has recently overseen one of the most successful ever launches of a British food brand in the US. The company have sales of $35M per year in the US, and the business is already profitable, having only launched last year. Pact, which is a real favourite in our office, is a similar concept, replacing snacks with coffee. Their emphasis is very much on the freshness of their coffee, with all bags being sent within a week of the beans being roasted, and the beans ground moments before shipping. They also emphasise the fact that as an ecommerce company they are able to respond to demand much quicker, with guaranteed next day delivery if ordered before 1pm. This attempt to create a strong bond with their community follows current food trends, with people taking much more of an interest in knowing where their food comes from, and where it is sourced. The success of this is proven by the £2M Series A round raised in August 2014.

Another interesting food tech startup is Winnow Solutions, a smart meter that enables restaurants to know exactly how much food they are wasting. In the UK alone, over 920,000 tonnes of food is wasted every year, worth over £2BN, and with Winnow systems’ meters, kitchen staff can now use a touch screen tablet to work out exactly what they are wasting, with a simple to use interface, and an electronic scale to measure the weight of the wastage. Winnow Solutions claim to have saved over £1m in food waste already, with The Breakfast Club, for example, having already reduced waste from pre-prepared food by 80%. This product is really exciting, as not only does it help restaurants with their notoriously tight margins, but it is also good for the environment.

Grub Club is another food tech startup that we really like. The concept is simple, with Grub Club connecting chefs with unusual places, such as disused tube carriages, and bringing together a community of food lovers, who share the same passions and interests. This is a great way to help chefs to get a name for themselves, and for people with a passion for food to have a different experience and enjoy a unique evening with like-minded people.

Deliveroo is an interesting food tech startup that has had a lot of publicity recently. After raising a $25M Series B round led by Accel Partners, the UK based startup has expanded into Berlin, Paris and Dublin, and continues to grow in the UK. The concept is a great one, with the idea being that restaurants that don’t usually do takeaway sign up to the service, and Deliveroo deliver food from these restaurants to hungry punters. People who have been dreaming of a takeaway Nando’s or Byron Burger can finally make that dream a reality! This is also a great way for restaurants to get more business, and there is minimal risk, as the overheads associated with the takeaway business are Deliveroo’s problem, with Deliveroo merely taking a percentage of the order, and charging £2.50 to hungry punters.

The fact that the examples above are all completely different types of businesses, but all food technology related, shows the breadth of opportunity available to entrepreneurs in the food industry. We’re looking forward to seeing what comes in the future, and in the meantime will continue to enjoy our Graze snackboxes and Pact coffee!

Cultural DNA: The Hidden Key to Start-up Success – Part 2

The Exponential Power of Values

In highly successful companies the internal company values overlap with the values of the team members, resulting in a strong psychological contract being developed between the individual and the company. Shared values create greater engagement, dedication, and commitment, and these combine to produce better results. Shared values build trust; trust in the strategy, trust in the leadership and trust in the team. When the values of the company do not match the values of the team, you create a dysfunctional, distrustful, and ultimately destructive environment.

 Zappos 10 Core Values

A company’s cultural DNA is a social system that is enhanced and strengthened if new employees have similar overlapping values. With the Zappos 10 Core Values you know exactly where you stand in the company and as a potential new employee reading the list below you clearly understand whether you do or do not fit in with the company values, one of the pillars of cultural DNA. There is no doubt about the type of individual Zappos are trying to hire and the type of cultural DNA the company continues to build.

1. Deliver WOW Through Service

2. Embrace and Drive Change

3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

4. Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded

5. Pursue Growth and Learning

6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

8. Do More With Less

9. Be Passionate and Determined

10. Be Humble

Values are deeply held views of what we believe to be important to us as individuals. Values reflect a person’s sense of right and wrong. Values can originate from many sources: parents, religion, schools, peers, people we admire, and culture. We learn values over time as children and later as adults. Values tend to influence attitudes and behavior. It is therefore imperative that a company’s values overlap significantly with their employees values.

How aligned are these value sets?


Note, there is nothing wrong with the above employee’s values. The employee’s values are simply different to the values of the team and the core values of the company. In high growth start-ups it is vital that decisions are taken quickly. The employee above will, in a high pressure situation, use her values as the baseline to make decisions and there is a strong chance that the decisions she takes will not match the decisions that would have been taken by the rest of the company because her values don’t match.

Values based hiring

If you understand the predominant values in your team you have a better chance of hiring individuals who match the job description and more importantly match the values of the company. If the hiring process is designed and handled correctly, the values of the new hire will match the founding team’s core values, which in turn are strengthened and enhanced as they add more team members. The best management teams realize and take action quickly if a new employee’s values do not align with the core values of the team. It is therefore critical to a successful hiring strategy that the founding team clearly understand what they value and how that translates into the company’s cultural DNA.

Team Values Analysis and Development

Use the list below to do a simple analysis of the values in your founding team. Ask each team member to select ten of the following values/behaviours that most reflect who they are now.

This is a great first step to understanding the individual values and combined values of the team.

•             Review each of the individual results as a team.

•             List the values, highlight the values that overlap.

•             Discuss amongst the team what the overlaps and the different values indicate

•             Use these to define what your values are and what your values should be in future.

Cultural DNA: The Hidden Key to Start-up Success

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 “For us, our #1 priority is company culture. Our belief is that if we get the culture right, most of the other stuff — like delivering great customer service, or building a long-term enduring brand and business — will happen naturally on its own.” Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

No matter how elegant or well thought out a company’s strategy is, it will only succeed if it’s aligned to the culture of the company. As Peter Drucker wrote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. One of the most important factors for the success of a start-up is to build a robust cultural DNA, where cultural DNA refers to the combination of values, motivation, team spirit and behaviour shared by the team.

At its most basic, cultural DNA is the collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes the members of one start-up team from another. Cultural DNA exists within a start-up, whether the founding team takes the time to clarify and define it or not. The values, beliefs, motivations, and behaviour of the founders are the first genetic strands that form the backbone of the company’s cultural DNA. A company’s cultural DNA develops from the initial social structures inherent within the founding team. It is a product of such factors as orientation to life, behavioural conventions, policies/processes/procedures (or lack thereof), how the team communicates and works together, how the company deals with failure, mistakes and learning, and even national culture. It is counterproductive to try and borrow another successful company’s cultural DNA because the founding team consists of unique individuals, and therefore the cultural DNA of each company will be unique.

As a start-up gains traction, the team will spend an increasing amount of time focusing on growth, expanding the business and bringing in new employees, so investing time in shaping an attractive cultural DNA will make the start-up more effective, a great place to work and increase the company’s chances of building the best possible team. Cultural DNA should be treated like a valuable asset within a start-up, an asset that will appreciate over time if it is managed and developed correctly. Cultural DNA can be strengthened or weakened by adding new team members. If a team member acts in accordance with the fundamentals, then that culture resides in them; if they do not share those values or behaviours, then they do not share that cultural DNA.

The first strands of a start-up’s cultural DNA are defined by the founding team, yet the cultural DNA is not static; it develops over time and it is critical that the founders invest time to develop and nurture their cultural DNA. To build the strongest foundations for their start-up, the founders first have understand what their cultural DNA actually is, decide how they want to develop it, and then start to move the team towards the desired culture. The first step in that process involves understanding the values of the founders, the team and the company.

Part I of a multi blog post.

Next blog – Cultural DNA and Values.



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