Live At Leeds

Live at Leeds album cover

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I had the opportunity to speak to a group of entrepreneurs in Leeds yesterday evening. It was a friday night in August (the summertime blues), but the turnout was excellent and I totally enjoyed the evening.

On the way down on the train from Edinburgh to Leeds, I started to put together a deck to anchor my talk. But I stopped myself and decided to select six topics to riff on (like the six amazing tracks on the original vinyl version of Live At Leeds).

But I had a tough time on the train figuring out what the six topics would be. So I did something new (for me) that worked out really well. I opened the 1:20 talk with about ten minutes on me and our firm. Then I opened up Microsoft Word on the big screen and went around the room and asked each person to suggest one topic for me to talk to. Each person had the option to pick a new topic, add a vote for an existing topic, or pass. I put each and every one of them up on the big screen. I wish I would have saved that word document because it’s an interesting collection of the issues facing entrepreneurs these days. But from memory, here are the six topics that got the most votes:

1) How do you evaluate a new investment opportunity?
2) What is going on with the US economy and how will it impact the global economy?
3) What do you make of technology platforms and software as a service business models?
4) How do you evaluate management teams before and after you invest in them?
5) What’s next for the web and web-based businesses?
6) What are the limits of advertising based business models and are they sustainable?

That’s from memory. If anyone has a better recollection of the topics we chose last night, please leave them in the comments and I’ll update this post.

There is clearly a great deal of unease in the entrepreneur community about the economy and the reliance on advertising based business models. I got a distinct sense that everyone is looking for other areas and business models for inspiration.

This talk was the finale of my summer ’08 tour of web entrepreneurship in europe. It further reinforced my view that web/tech entrepreneurship is a global phenomenon these days and that being in the US (or Silicon Valley) is no longer the huge advantage it once was. Entrepreneurs all over the world are on top of the latest technologies, companies, and business models. They see where all of this is going as clearly as we do in the states. They face challenges for sure like capital availability, awareness, marketing, travel distances, etc that entrepreneurs in the US don’t face as much. But I expect to see more and more innovation and cutting edge technology coming from outside the US in the coming years. I hope some of it comes from Northern England because I really enjoyed the people I met last night.

I’d like to thank Carl and Imran for their persistence in getting me to come to Leeds and their help in arranging the evening (and the Sheffield Wednesday match today!)


Guy Dickinson’s notes from the talk

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