Paul Miller

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

BGV becomes a B Corp

We’re very pleased to announce that Bethnal Green Ventures has been certified as a B Corp. If you haven’t come across the idea before, it’s a voluntary system for companies to show that they meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Corps are required to change their legal documents so that employees, communities and the wider environment rank alongside shareholders in decision making processes. We’re joining companies like Etsy,, Kickstarter, Patagonia and our friends over at Fairphone as well as a whole host of companies who are newly certified in the UK. We first talked to the UK B ...(Read More)

Tech for good opportunities email

As the tech for good community grows in the UK and Europe, we get loads of opportunities sent to us at BGV which we try to send on to alumni and other people we remember to but we’re not particularly systematic about it. So I thought it might be worth collecting them together in a very low-fi way and sending them out to people who are interested. The idea is that I’ll put together a little email newsletter with three sections: Funding and competitions Events Jobs The only criteria is that they have to be opportunities relating to technology startups that are ...(Read More)

Managing small and micro teams and experimenting with holacracy

How to manage yourself as a team is a perpetual issue at BGV. Most of the ventures we support through the accelerator are micro teams (2-3 people) and then grow to be small (4-10 people) before hopefully going on to be huge – the BGV team itself is now six people and we’ve tried quite a few techniques. When you have very little in the way of person hours available to you as an organisation, it’s vital that you get the best and the most out of everybody if you’re going to get to where you want to be. But ...(Read More)

This rat is incredibly smart

There’s a great episode of Invisibilia about how expectations affect reality. It goes back to an experiment done by psychologist Bob Rosenthal where he got some lab rats and put them in separate enclosures marked ‘incredibly smart’ and  ‘incredibly dumb’. He then asked people to train the rats to navigate a maze. The ‘smart’ ones did twice as well as the ‘dumb’ ones – despite the fact that they were actually all the same. It’s an effect that has been seen in lots of different contexts. People behave differently depending whether they think they’re with clever or not so clever people. ...(Read More)

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)


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)