I’m a partner atÂ Bethnal Green Ventures helping to create and grow new technology startups that solve difficult social or environmental problems.
I’ve co-founded three organisations so far:
- School of Everything (founded 2006) – a website that helps people find things to learn in their local area. We raised investment from the Young Foundation, Channel 4 and some great angel investors, launched the site, won lots of awards and it continues to grow today.
- Social Innovation Camp (founded 2008) – it started out as an idea for an event to bring together geeks and people who understood social problems but turned into a very successful organisation and the model has spread to 10 other countries.
- Bethnal Green Ventures (founded 2010) – my current focus. We learned from Social Innovation Camp that people need support at the very early stages of creating a social startup. BGV provides seed investment and a network of advisors to technology startups that are trying to solve social or environmental problems.
I’ve also helped dozens of other companies get going as an adviser or mentor. These include Good Gym, Guerilla Science, the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq and Technology Will Save Us. I’ve only played a small part in their growth but they’re all brilliant and you should check them out.
I also love the process of researching and writing about new things. Most recently I’ve written The Startup Factories with Kirsten Bound at Nesta but I’ve written twelve reports over the years for Demos. People often ask me what my specialism was – which is hard to say – but my main trick was to look for trends that were driven by enthusiasm and passion rather than just money. It turned out to be quite a successful way of predicting the future. You can download them all for free from the Demos website, but here’s a selection:
- Better Humans? – A collection of essays by leading scientists and commentators to explore the implications of human enhancement technologies and asks how citizens and policy-makers should respond (co-edited with James Wilsdon).
- The Pro-Am Revolution – A pamphlet, written with Charles Leadbeater about the rise of a new breed of amateur who take their pursuits to professional standards. Described by the New York Times as one of the ‘big ideas of the year’.
- Disablism – A pamphlet written with Sophia Parker and Sarah Gillinson about new methods for tackling discrimination against disabled people.
- Disorganisation – a pamphlet about why future organisations will need to ‘loosen up’ providing work that is more in line with employees’ values if they want to hold onto their most talented people. (co-authored with Paul Skidmore)
- Network Logic – A Demos collection, edited with Helen McCarthy and Paul Skidmore, on the importance of networks to modern life and governance. Contributors include Fritjof Capra, Manuel Castells, Diane Coyle, Geoff Mulgan, Karen Stephenson and Howard Rheingold.
- London Calling – A Demos pamphlet co-authored with Helen McCarthy on the challenges and opportunities that 3G phones might lead to for public services and businesses in London.
- The Long Game – A Demos pamphlet on the future of regulation which I co-authored with Paul Skidmore and Jake Chapman. It argues that the current way of regulating companies is leading to greater complexity and unintended consequences and goes on to propose ‘regulating self-regulation’ as a possible way ahead.
At Forum for the Future I helped produce a book and a conference called Digital Futures, sadly there’s no trace of either online anymore, but you can still get hold of the book second hand. It’s a pretty interesting snapshot of turn of the century thinking about the internet. I also wrote a pamphlet called Open Policy in 2002 which is a strange read today.
I’ve also written articles for various journals, newspapers and magazines including the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Independent. I enjoy it so if you’d like me to write something for you, get in touch.
I grew up in Birmingham, went to university in Nottingham and thenÂ moved to London for Forum for the Future’s Scholarship Programme. I now live in Bethnal Green in East London.
- March 2012