Paul Miller

Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures helping technology startups working on stuff that matters.

Decks matter

I liked this piece by Bill Gurley ‘In Defence of the Deck‘. The great storytellers have an unfair competitive advantage. They are going to recruit better, they will be darlings in the press, they are going to raise money more easily and at higher prices, they are going to close amazing business developer partnerships, and they are going to have a strong and cohesive corporate culture. A great presentation about a business is a brilliant thing and a huge amount of work goes into the best ones. Of course, a pitch is no use on its own – and nobody ...(Read More)

Seveneves

There’s some great science fiction around at the moment. I’m not sure what’s going on but something about the present is inspiring great writing about the future. One of the best books I’ve read this year is Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – minor plot spoilers ahead so beware. The novel starts with the Moon blowing up. It does so in a fairly matter of fact way – one minute it’s there and the next something (we never find out what) has caused it to disintegrate into many smaller parts. It takes a short while for scientists to realise that this ...(Read More)

Impact investment versus positive investment

Every discussion about impact investment tends to includes somebody asking ‘what do you really mean by impact?’ or it focuses on the potential returns from impact investment compared to ‘conventional’ investment – the assumption being that there is a trade-off when you make social investments. The first is a live issue for us at the moment because we’re designing something new at BGV and deciding who we should pitch it to and how. So I’ll be having lots of discussions about this in the coming months. I’ll come back to the other one in another post. At one extreme, impact ...(Read More)

Tama the stationmaster cat

We were in Wakayama prefecture in Japan a couple of weeks ago but unfortunately didn’t get to see Tama the stationmaster of Kishi station who has sadly died. She has a full obituary in this week’s Economist. She kept strict hours: 9am to 5pm on weekdays, with only Sundays off. In exchange she was given a stationmaster’s cap in her own size, always worn at a jaunty starlet angle; a stationmaster’s badge; as much tinned tuna as she could nibble at; and eventually her own office, with basket and litter-tray, in an old ticket booth. The work was not demanding; ...(Read More)

The ups and downs of Chinese stock markets

Chinese stock markets are on a roller coaster ride at the moment. There’s been a huge rise in private middle-class investment pumping more money into stocks and plenty of alleged misinformation too. James Surowiecki has a great piece in the New Yorker about some of the billion dollar companies that don’t seem quite right. I was in Beijing a couple of weeks ago for the first time in three years and you could tell that the economy and wealth had grown and at a local level business was booming. On the train into the city we also saw masses of ...(Read More)

The optimist, the pessimist and the realist

I’ve started to think that every good impact investment decision needs an optimist, a pessimist and a realist involved. The optimist instinctively thinks what’s the best that could happen – often imagining the venture developing in ways that even the founders haven’t yet considered. At BGV, unless we can think of an optimist’s case for something becoming huge and having a large positive social impact, it’s not for us. The pessimist thinks of all the things that could go wrong. If the pessimist’s case is so strong that we would be wasting our money then we won’t make the investment. ...(Read More)

Charles Handy on the way we work

Catching up on podcasts the other day, I found Peter Day had one of his World of Business programmes where he interviews one person for the whole show. This time it was Charles Handy who is one of my favourite management thinkers. Charles has seen more change in business than most. He started work at Shell back in the 1950s and has watched organisations change ever since, writing 17 books about it. One of the points he makes in the programme is that while we still organise everything (especially policy) around the idea that most people work in full-time jobs in ...(Read More)

Train times

We spent a lot of time on trains while we were away, so coming back to news about the lack of progress investing in UK railways was a bit depressing. Lots of people have said this before but the model for all countries should be Japan (despite the horrible news today). The peak being the Shinkansen which we used to travel between Tokyo and Osaka. I’d never been on a Nozomi Superexpress before, which is the fastest of the lot. It’s not just the speed (max 320 km/hr), it’s the pride and level of service – the trains are always ...(Read More)

Formula-e revs up

I went along to my first Formala-e race at the weekend, spending Saturday afternoon in a very different looking Battersea Park which had been kitted out with concrete barriers and steel fences to turn it into a leafy street circuit with narrow twisty turns and a couple of long (fairly bumpy) straights. It was great fun and there was a pretty big crowd but it did feel like very early days for the organisers. The e-Village was a bit sparse (only BMW seem to have grasped the opportunity to show off their road cars) and the food was a bit ...(Read More)

Back and at ’em

Just back from the longest break I’ve had in ten years I think. Anna and I got married in May (yay!) and we’ve spent the last two and a half weeks on a honeymoon adventure taking the very slow way to a very relaxing time in Japan via Russia, Mongolia, China on the Trans Siberian railway. We had an amazing time and learned quite a bit about what’s going on in those countries. I’ve come back determined to do a bit more blogging so this is just a marker for that. I’ll share a few of the highlights from our ...(Read More)