Cycling: Liege-Bastone-Liege Challenge never prepared

May 8, 2014

Oh dear its been a good while since I last blogged and I’ve just written my 1st ever post on my cycling experiences, which I’d thought I’d share with you:

For those that don’t know the Liege-Bastone-Liege (LbL) is the oldest of the one day professional cycle races known as the Classics. It’s celebrated its 100 year this year. The organisers allow the public to ride the 279km course (and shorter versions) the day before the actual race. After cycling one of the Tour De France stages, The Etape, a few years ago I decided to do what the professional cycles do and cycle all 5 ‘monuments’ (most famous) one day races. This post is about my successful but hard completed LbL experience and why you can’t anyways be prepared for every eventuality.

Liege-Bastone-Liege (LbL) very hilly route profile


Liege-Bastone-Liege (LbL) very hilly route profile (photo)

A solider once told me what the Seven P’s were – Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I thought I was prepared for this year’s LbL sportive challenge after training hard, two UK sportive’s, a nice new bike and a week cycling in the Majorca sun with The Kenilworth Wheelers. But I was not! I successfully finished the long route in 11 hours and 53 minutes, including breaks, in lovely weather conditions for cycling. However, it was a really, really hard ride. One of my hardest ever rides, along with the Paris-Roubaix sportive Classic I rode in 2008.

Cycling Weekly describes the LbL: “In purely physical terms, this is probably the toughest classic: the climbs are long, most of them are pretty steep as well, and they come up with depressing frequency in the final kilometers.” God knows what the LbL would have been like in the rain or snow as, 5 times Tour de France winner, Bernard Hinault famously won in 1980 and got frostbite. See Dennis’s nightmare post (Kenilworth Wheels) doing the 2012 sportive in the cold and rain.

Bernard Hinault in the snowy 1980 Leige-Bastone-Leige

Bernard Hinault in the snowy 1980 Leige-Bastone-Leige

Everything worked well – the getting to Belgium with Russ and Nick from the Beeston Cycling Club (BCC), registering, being a good boy and not drinking alcohol the night before, etc. The nine of us from the BCC riding the long route got to the start at 6.30am after riding up the big Leige hill to the starting point. There was a little confusion if we had started as 100’s of us weaved through the industrial streets of Liege. As soon as we were having our pictures taken up the first climb by photographers I knew we had started proper.

The BCC Long 279km route LbL riders

Up at the crack of dawn
The BCC Long 279km route LbL riders (me the odd one out! 3rd from left)

I love the start of these sportive events – everyone ready, excited and a bit unsure of the day ahead. A cracking pace was being set as we started. A pace which was a little too much for me with such a long route but that’s the way these rides can go. As we climbed up the rolling Belgium Arden hills I thought how beautiful it was and how much I was enjoying cycling with Trio and the others from BCC in the gorgeous sunshine. I don’t remember in detail all 10 categorized climbs but I do recall the hardest ones!!

The first marked climb, cote de la Roche, hit us like a wall. It just reared up like a wall of Tarmac without any bends in the road ahead. It was a stiff average ascent of 6.2%. Oh dear, I thought, I ‘d used up all my gears already and I was only on the first categorised climb. Later I looked at my watch with five hours into this and another 6 odd-hours to go and wondered if I could finish. My legs were heavy with lactic acid after the fast pace and many uncategorised hills.

Cote de la Roche Tarmac wall Climb

Cote de la Roche Tarmac wall Climb

Then the categorised climbs started to come think and fast. The idea of this 100 year old pro cycle course is to wear you down. I found the cote de stockeu really hard, particularly as we went straight up the hill and then down again on almost the other side of the road. The first timed climb on the Col du Rosier came soon after and I felt tortured by this monitoring as I wanted to ride a good time. It did spur me on, but that burst of speed also wore me out further.

Each feed station become more and more of a goal. A chance to stop, stretch the legs, have a pee and generally feel sorry for myself. The most memorable of the five feed stations was at Savelot at 184km. We all look absolutely knackered. Mind you we were still in good spirits, joking around. The feed station was located in a lovely courtyard building. After the food we had to endure an extra tiring uncomfortable bone shaking, teeth rattling stretch of pave (cobbles).

still fresh at the 1st Feed station

We’re still fresh at the 1st Feed station

When we hit the famous cote de la redoute it had been painted with ‘Phil’ dozens of times to help the professional cyclist Philip Gilbert on his way up to the top. Then the categorised climbs were coming one after another, four within the last 50km. I again questioned if I could make this. I was really doubting myself. Thank god a huge peloton auto bus picked me up and delivered me to the last feed station where I re-joined my cycling buddies.

The Pro’s on the cote de la redoute

The Pro’s on the cote de la redoute

Slower and slower I crawled up the last big climbs. I started to think I wanted to give up cycling after all this pain. What is the point I thought! Pull yourself together, focus on the next few kilometres one at a time. Then like a mirage the Red Bull stand appeared at end of a road. Got to stop… got to stop… I said to myself. After three cans of the Red stuff and some new wings I felt full of fizz and slightly sick, but that took my mind off the worn out body.

Food on these big rides is a strange experience. You tend to eat small and often all day. Mainly sweet things like cakes such as Belgium waffles, which I like a little too much sometimes, fruit, caffeine gels of various sickly flavours, all washed down with either water or sports drink. In the end you can’t face eating but your body needs it, so you have to force food down.

No forcing the beer down at the at the end

No forcing the beer down at the at the end
Russ (left), Paul, Trio, me & Nick (right)

A few scary moments cycling cross motorways at the end and at I last had made it back into Liege. I did it! I bloody well did it!!! The last climb up the Côte de stain Nicolas was not too bad – I knew I was home and dry!!


This is how they do it…

The next day we stiffly walked up the Côte de stain Nicolas to the finish line where we watched the pro’s ride from a bar and on a big screen. It was wonderful to see the pros do the same route as we had. They were travelling so so fast. But you did see them crack on the climbs also. A breakaway group lost their momentum on the cote de la redoute and were soon after caught by the main group. It was all very exciting.

Day of the Pro’s with us under the 1km banner on the Côte de stain Nicolas

Day of the Pro’s with us under the 1km banner on the Côte de stain Nicolas

Then at last the pros came up the last climb in Liege, the Côte de stain Nicolas, with Dan Martin last year’s winner rapidly  moving up the field into second place with only 150 metres to the finish line. But as he passed me on the final corner, he slipped and fell. I have hardly ever seen anyone as disappointed as Dan was that day. He did not know what to do with himself. My heart went out to him. It looked as though he was going to make a podium place, if not first again. On closer inspection the road was not cleaned having patches of gravel on the corner. Poor Dan! But that’s life. The Seven p’s don’t always work when life throws all manner of weather and challenges that we cannot be completely prepared for.

Dan Martin at the end of the 2014 Liege-Bastone-Liege

Dan Martin at the end of the 2014 Liege-Bastone-Liege 

On reflection I’m not going to give up cycling just yet. Although, I did think about it briefly. It was a fantastic well signposted route. One of the best routes I’ve ever ridden with wonderful fast sweeping descents. And we were so very lucky with the weather. I’d like to thank both the BCC for so warming welcoming me into their club, giving me such as good time on/off the bike on the LbL, and the Kenilworth Wheelers for being really supportive and helping me with train for LbL in Majorca. Now onto the preparation for the next classic!

Kenilworth Wheels in Majorca preparing for the LbL

Me (far right) with Kenilworth Wheels in Majorca preparing for the LbL



What am I on..?

November 13, 2012

It’s been a good while (too Long) since I’ve blogged last.

I’ve been a little busy. I love cycling. And Lance’s indiscretions (yet to be admitted or truly evidenced) have not gone un-noticed. I was told by several to burn his book. A little too ‘war’ like I felt.

But where there is smoke there is fire they say. This situation brings me to a strong memory of Lance and an Nike Ad where is said:

“What am I on, I’m on my bike six hours a day busting my arse, what are you on…”

If it’s all true, which seems likely at this point, then what a total hypocrite!! I understand the need to achieve BUT not turning to cheating.

One way or another, time now or later, justice will be severed.

Damn shame!

Sleep well Lance…

Steve Jobs wonderful Stanford Commencement Speech

December 12, 2011

What  a wonderful speech from Steve six years before he died:

“I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.”

Positive dots

September 9, 2011

One of our business advisors sent this out recently and I’d thought I’d share the story with you:

This is Good

A great tale I came across this week tells the story of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up.  The friend had developed a habit of looking at every situation in his life, whether positive or negative, and remarking simply, “This is good!”

One day the king and his friend were on a hunting expedition.  On such trips his friend would load and prepare the guns for the king.  He had had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, because, after taking the gun from his friend and pulling the trigger, the gun misfired and his thumb was blown off.

Considering the situation, his friend remarked, as usual, “This is good!”

To which the king replied, “No, this is not good!” and promptly ordered friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in a region he should have known to stay clear of. The local tribe of Cannibals captured him and took them to their village.  They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake.

As they prepared to set the wood on fire to cook up their catch, they noticed that he was missing a thumb.  Being superstitious, they wouldn’t eat anyone who was less than whole.  So they untied the king and sent him on his way.

When he returned home, he remembered how he’d lost his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend.  He went directly to the jail to speak with him.

“You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.”  And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened.  “And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long.  It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied, “This is good!”

“What do you mean, ‘This is good’?  How could it have been good that I sent you, my friend to jail for a year?”

“If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you, wouldn’t I?”

The moral…

Things may not always seem pleasant while we’re experiencing them, but then it depends the way you see them…or reflect on the later.

 Like Steve Jobs said in his wonderful 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

– Think positive thoughts and positive things will happen 🙂

Startup CEO: The GOOD, BAD & UGLY

August 5, 2011

Being the CEO sometimes really sucks! It really does…

I’m a newbie CEO. In fact most startup founders are first timers. When I started I did not know exactly what was expected of me. Afterall, it’s not the typical job title and description. I looked around and found some marginally useful corporate descriptions. But what I’ve recently found is much more helpful!

The job of a startup CEO is:

“A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.”, Fred Wilson

These key responsibilities were reiterated by Jason Goldberg and Jason Baptiste, so there is a solid basis. However, what they don’t tell you is what an enormous challenge it is building and running a startup as CEO.

In my experience over the last three years of being a startup CEO and meeting other startup CEO’s, it isn’t as glamorous as glorified by the press. It’s a job that sometimes really sucks!!


Responsibility... What could be worse – everything is the CEO’s fault. Yes, everything! It’s the only way to get a company moving forward. Someone has to make the final decisions. Unfortunately these decisions are often ‘between a rock or a hard place’. And one wrong turn and the startup is toast. To make matters worse the CEO often doesn’t have all the information needed to make informed decisions. There is also too many things to do, in too little time in a startup. It’s all a heavy weight to bear.

Founder CEO’s are not perfect and mistakes will happen. Of course, no one is perfect, including the people who work for the CEO. If the CEO has done their job well, they’ve found ‘grade A’ employees. But employees do not have the undying love a founder has for his/her startup. A founder will often want to keep re-writing, re-designing or re-developing something until its perfect.

However, there’s not luxury of time in startup and employees are not always willing to repeatedly go over and over the same thing. So, the CEO has to let somethings slide. There is no other way. They cannot grow on their own as a one/two-man business. Businesses are about people. People are about trust and creating a culture. And culture is about the founder letting go. So let go!


CEO ego... When things are going well the CEO starts to believe in his or her own words a little too much. They think they know everything! It becomes poison to the company. They start saying everything is down to them. They made this company. The founding CEO worked damn hard and now its time to bask in their own glory.


Yes, their passion and determination was needed to start the idea but in reality their narcissism becomes their cage. And a prison for the company. A business is built upon people, and not just the CEO. It’s all about the people.


Creativity… By now you’re probably thinking it’s all bad to be a startup CEO. There are huge upsides that make the responsiblity and challenges so worthwhile:

  1. Opportunity – As an old friend said to me a startup is an MBA for life. Startup’s brings the opportunity to learn so much about: yourself, your friends and customers, your market, your competition, and more. It is a learning fest! CEO’s are in a position to help everyone around them stretch their capabilities and learn.
  2. To create – A startup brings the opportunity and perfect platform to make something new. We humans are made to pass on knowledge (learn from each other) and to create. A CEO steers the company strategy and executes a vision to create something new.
  3. Love –  We all want to feel appreciated, be in a caring environment and have fun.  As founder and CEO they start and set the tone for the culture of the organisation. However, remember thatas an effective leader you can’t aspire to be loved by everybody”

With such Bad and Ugly things surrounding the CEO it is so easy to see why CEO’s give up and startups fail. Paul Graham said, one of underlying causes for startup failures is usually people getting demoralized. Ben Horowitz puts so well:

“As CEO, there will be many times when you feel like quitting.. Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweat. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say: “I didn’t quit.”

Ultimately a startup is not about the CEO, it’s about the people! And the CEO needs to bring hope. Startups are damn hard for everyone. It is the CEO’s role to create faith and willingness to believe there is a chance that things will come good, against all the odds. And help everyone to keep going!

Loving the Underdog! PART3 – Why we Love ’em

July 18, 2011

This is the final part to my Loving the Underdog blog series, with previous posts: PART1: The 800lb gorilla and PART2 – City of creation.

I’m continually amazed by the support and help my startup gets from other startup founders and company employees. They seem to go out of their way to help and support us without expecting anything in return. I’ve previously called this support Startup Karma in my ‘5 shocking things founding a startup’ post. This help is core to our economic innovation and creativity. Without startup karma we would be ruled by the same corporations forever!

Getting by with a little help from my friends
Nottingham Young Entrepreneurs Event

Startup Karma surprises and shocks you when it happens. Other founders survived to tell their tale and know exactly how hard it really is. Employees have recognised or have seen what a challenge a startup is. These people introduce you to others, give you valuable advice or become your early customers. They give you assistance when you really need it. They even sometimes put themselves into a difficult position to help. The catch is, startup Karma can’t be forced. You can’t ask for it. It just happens.

The reality is few people really want to work for a faceless corporation or company – see my post “Running a start-up is like being punched in the face repeatedly… but working for a large company is like being waterboarded.”. In our hearts we want to feel free to choose the things we want work on. The things that motivate us. In a big process driven organisation you are often told exactly what to do. Your creativity and entrepreneurial spirit is gradually worn away.

We see the potential, the creative spirit in younger companies and sometimes we’re in a position to help them along the way. We believe in hope. ‘They just might beat the big guys..’ This little v’s big scenario is played out time and time again in business and in stories. Think:  Apple v’s IBM in the 80’s; Virgin Atlantic v’s British Airways; and Dyson v’s Hoover. Over and over again the cycle continues.

So why do we love and want to help the underdog so much..?

  1. Passion – It is easy to become enthused by the passion and determination of the underdog. They believe, have faith and are willing to sacrifice much.
  2. Control – Individuals, especially in the West don’t like the idea of being dominated by large companies or organisations. We have a long history of fighting for independence and freedom. Underdog’s help keep freedom.
  3. Making a difference – We all want to make a positive difference to the future. By helping the underdog we can influence the future. And we know helping the big companies will have little effect.
  4. Influence – By helping the underdog you can have much more say into how the product or service works.
  5. Innovation – The underdog is far more likely to innovate. They have no choice. A differentiated product/service has to be produced. This is good for everyone, especially those that have helped them on the way.

Of course, every dog eventually has its day. When a successful underdog inevitably becomes the dominant player the tables are turned and the whole cycle of little startup v’s big company then starts over again. It’s the great virtuous circle of our evolutionary economic system.

Me, I love being the underdog! It gives you something to fight for.

Success isn’t about the money…

June 16, 2011

In my continued theme of having a rewarding life without money-making you happy, here are three fantastic videos of entrepreneurs to illustrate the point.

The first is a TED video from entrepreneur Richard St. John, who focused too much on the money and lost everything. The 2nd is from Morton Lund.

Morton invested in many, many tech startups, made a pile of cash and then lost it all on a newspaper. Morton is a very charismatic, colourful and entertaining character.

The final video is a video diary from Mitch who’s just lost everything and is starting over again.

Richard St. John: “Success is a continuous journey”:

Morton Lund on ‘focus’:

Mitch lost everything and is starting again:


Here’s a great quote to finish on: “Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.”Mike Ditka (American Football Player, b.1939)

Desperately seeking happiness!

May 16, 2011

“The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase; if you pursue happiness you’ll never find it.”
– C. P. Snow (1905 – 1980)

I’m fascinated by the idea of happiness. I have been since I read that the south Pacific island of Vanuatu as the happiest nation on the planet and the UK is ranked 108th by the Happy Planet Index. The UK Government is now even trying to get us happier!

My question is: what is happiness and how do you make it..? There are many recommended books out there on analysing and finding happiness, including:

  1. The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living by 14th Dalai Lama
  2. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
  3. And Stumbling on Happiness

However, I’ve not read any of them because I don’t think the answer is in a book. It is in us and our relationships..

Of course pondering on happiness is nothing new. Philosophers have been thinking about it for centuries! Aristotle, 384 BC – 322 BC,  said “Happiness depends upon ourselves” and  Thucydides, 471 BC – 400 BC, “The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage”.

Money Love

It seems more and more money does not make you happy. I remember my mother wisely saying “Money does not make you happy, but it does help”. And I think she was right to an extent. A survey of 1,000 Americans found that “happiness rose in line with salary, but only until people earned $75,000 a year, the equivalent of around £50,000”.

So perhaps Benjamin Franklin is correct, when he said in the 17th century, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way…” 

True Love

As a company founder I love to think this as the answer: “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort”. – Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), which comes from the courage and freedom to make your own company. However I think and feel it’s a little more than that. Afterall, Franklin’s wife Eleanor Roosevelt did say, “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”

I believe Aristotle when he said almost two and a half thousand years ago, “Happiness depends upon ourselves” and Bronnie Ware quotes today in her wonderful REGRETS OF THE DYING  post, “I think I wish that I had let myself be happier:

5. This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness”.

I think the answer to being happy lies in Bronnie’s first four points:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. – Fulfill your dreams while you can!
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. – Simplifying your lifestyle and work to spend time with children and partner.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. – Become who you are truly capable of.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. – Give time to and enjoy your golden friendships.
  5. I think I wish that I had let myself be happier. – You can, so start now!

“It all comes down to love and relationships in the end”. – Bronnie Ware

P.S. Thank you to @tewy ( via @trepca @paulg) for sharing Bronnie’s post many months ago through Twitter 🙂 And to Bronnie for her post!

“Startups are damn hard”, but rewarding..

May 9, 2011

I read Jazzy Chad’s emotional and brutal ‘Startups are hard post‘ and wanted to add my own comments. I don’t know Chad but in my opinion he’s being very hard on himself. His lack of reaching his goals and achievements seems to be tearing him apart and making him frustrated and bitter. Yes I agree startups are damn hard, but they are also rewarding, fun and fulfilling. Let us not forget this.

I’ve drawn out and condensed some of Chad’s text and added my comments. I thank Chad for his passion, honesty and putting this in the open.

Startups are hard. No, startups are damn hard.

“Startups that die rarely talk about it publicly because it is frustrating, embarrassing, and most of the time the people involved want to forget the whole mess and move on rather than sit around talking about the fact that they failed.

Most people don’t want to admit that startups are hard, either, because to admit something is hard is to admit that you don’t know everything there is to know about a certain topic and to display weakness.”

I whole heartily agree (admit) that startups are damn hard. I’ve always said this 5 ‘Shocking’ things founding a startup, Startup vs Home Life, Entrepreneurs: Beating the employee out of you.. You have to admit something to truly embrace it. We failed when we started.

My co-founder and I spent seven months and a pile of cash building something that went nowhere. It took us time to get over it but we did. There were lessons to be learnt from this experience, they just take time before you see all the dots join.

You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

“In the Valley, you are a Nobody until you are a Somebody. Trying to launch a new product as a Nobody is hard. Trying to get press as a Nobody is very hard because nobody knows who you are and so they don’t care about your product.

Raising money as a Nobody isn’t just hard, it is nearly impossible. There are a few major factors that investors look at when making an investment decision. Two big factors are Traction and Revenue.”

We’re not in the valley, so I can’t comment on this location, but I know nobody is listening to us where we are! In my mind the only people that real love comes from is your customers. We prefer to focus on them.

“Jealousy… is a mental cancer.” -B.C. Forbes

“Am I jealous of other companies’ success? I would be lying if I said no. I am slightly jealous when I wake up and read another story about some company raising a million dollars for some idea that makes absolutely no sense to me, or seeing an acquisition of a company for a product I did not feel was particularly well executed.”

I do also suffer from this sometimes. My ego gets in the way. But then I remember the reality: it’s not easy and that mostly everyone will have been through many, many challenges to become a success!


“Startups demand sacrifice… Has it all been worth it? If you are expecting me to say “Yes, of course!” you would be wrong. The truth is, it hasn’t been worth it at all… yet.

Financially speaking, we are much worse off now than when I took the plunge. Of course the goal is for it to be worth it someday, but it is unclear how long it will ultimately take. In other aspects of my life, it may have been worth it so far, but it is hard to quantify those things.”

Yes, startups demand sacrifice! Has it been worth it for me, hell yeah. I’ve said this before: “You have to let it all go…fear…doubt & disbelief…Free your mind! and Life, death & startups. Why’s it been worth it – because startups aren’t just about the money.

They’re about life. More specifically life experiences with people around you.. Don’t get me wrong money is vital. It’s the lubricant for our companies. But money is not the heart and soul of an organisation, a company. It’s in the people: co-founders, colleagues, friends (including your customers).

Startup Depression

“…The ultimate reality, though, is that we failed utterly at fundraising. We ended up wasting a lot of time. We had dozens and dozens of intros which led to about 40 or so meetings. After spending 3 months and hearing “No” 39 times we decided to just give up raising money. We looked around and felt like everyone around us was raising insane rounds with no problem. The net effect was that it killed our morale dead.”

After hearing, “UR DOING IT WRONG!” so many times, it’s hard to think that you’re doing anything right. At that point it’s very hard to soldier on. We had made a terrible mistake; we had given control to the investors, and they weren’t even giving us money!…

The lesson here is, if you are having trouble putting together a round in the first few weeks of actual investor meetings, just say, “screw it,” and get back to working ASAP.”

Every time I go into a conversation with an investor or investment adviser, all I hear is demand after demand.. This has happened right from the beginning of our startup. They want a solid product, more revenues, more customers, longer term contract, etc.. On and on it goes.

On the other hand you have customers. They are different. Yes, there are demands but they are willing to pay if you’re of value. Don’t get me wrong investors are vital but customers come first and I think Chad is getting that wrong way round.

Going Forward

“Which leads us to: so what now? Paul and I are not ready to quit. I personally don’t really know how to quit. When I make a commitment, there is very little that will stop me from following through, even in the face of adversity. I believe you have to adapt to play the cards you are dealt. We are willing to see this through to the bitter end if necessary. If this means changing course and trying something new, then sobeit, but while there is money in the bank we will continue on. We have some ideas and are investigating them further.”

For me knowing when to quit is the hardest question for any startup founder! Unfortunately startup founders often become obsessed by achievement at any cost. They become like sports people who over-train and leave little time for recovery. This leads to burn out or diminishing returns. A vicious circle of in frustration and bitterness is then formed. Sometimes you have to take a break to see the bigger picture or quit to succeed!! 

Music Industry: Creatively destroyed!!

April 21, 2011

What an stunning graph this is – it clearly shows how the music distributors/labels were making massive reveneus and why they have been fighting so hard to hold onto them.

Thing is, change is inevitable, and you can’t fight it!

The chart is from Business Insider