Hanging up the Code Club hat

As many people know one of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning for the last (almost) 3 years was to head into town of an early morning and put in a couple hours worth of work in the office before heading over to Derby Central Library where I would teach a class of children all about coding through the nationwide CodeClub organisation.

It is something that many who know me will recognise as being something I am incredibly passionate about – teaching children and helping shape the next generation of programmers and developers.

In recent months not only did our Code Club receive “Star Club” status, but I was also named as the “East Midlands Code Club Champion” – most likely because I never stopped talking about how valuable activities like Code Club is to young children.

It is with a heavy heart that I must (for now at least) hang up the Code Club hat and walk away from running the weekend classes in Derby – for now the arrival of my son and other personal matters mean that I need to take stock and re-evaluate where my time is being spent.

I’ve enjoyed every moment of running the club and all the children that have come through the various cohorts. I look forward to one day being involved once again but for now – I’m logging off.

Twentisphere Podcast

Article reproduced from source.

You’re a successful entrepreneur. You work 90 hours a week. 7 days a week. You suffer with depression. You find out that you’re going to be a Dad.

This week, Carl talks to self-confessed ‘recovering entrepreneur’ Sean Price, about his recent life-work choices, made at a time of suddenly shifting personal and professional priorities.

Having made a courageous decision to step away from the digital agency he founded as an 18 year old, Sean has successfully pivoted his career – and is now a Director of a multi-million pound IT company.

Recommended Books:

The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

The 4 Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris

Only the Paranoid Survive – Andrew Grove

Getting Things Done – David Allen

Recommended Apps:

Basecamp – Project Management

Omnifocus – Location Sensitive Task Management

Startup Weekend Derby

So you’ve come across this event called Startup Weekend but aren’t entirely sure what it is. This is the post for you!

What is a Startup Weekend ?

A Startup Weekend is a get together of people who want to work together and build something. They may have an idea, a dream or just a desire to help build something new. Over the weekend ideas are pitched, selected, validated, prototyped and presented. All with the help of each other and some battle hardened industry experts acting as mentors for the weekend. Finally on Sunday evening people present their business to a panel of Judges, a winner is selected and everyone celebrates to a great weekend.

Does it have to be an online business ?

NO! Lots of people do online sites etc but teams work on physical products such as food and drinks or even services. I’ve even seen a cheap water filtration system for the 3rd world being built as a social enterprise business.

Sounds interesting right! So how does the weekend actually work?

Friday: Everyone gets together for some food and networking. A wise entrepreneur will tell a tales of toil and plight that ends in ultimate triumph. This leads onto a fun idea pitching warm up that prepares people for the main event the “Pitchfire”. If you have an idea this is your chance to pitch the room and hopefully get selected to form a team. You only 60 seconds per pitch so keep it concise and let people know what you need help with.

Once everyone who wants to pitch has had their 60 seconds worth its time to network, talk and cast votes on your favourite ideas. Then the topmost ideas get to form teams where ideally you want a selection of skills such as a designer, developer, marketer to help bring the idea to life. Even if you idea did not get through you can still form a team if you can get at least three people to agree to join forces.

With a team formed its time to go home and try and calm your over excited brain down and to try and coax it to sleep ready for Saturday.

Team forming, can I go with a pre existing team? Yes, you can but the rule is you must not have worked on the idea before. Most people go as an individual though or with friends but without a set idea.

Saturday : You have and idea and a team now what. The mantra for the weekend is ”No talk, all action” so its time to get out and validate your idea. Although you do need to talk we want to make sure your idea solves a problem that people have, so you need to know what problem is that your idea solves. Who is it that experiences this problem and where would you come across them on the weekend? Its time to get out and speak to the public about the problem NOT the solution. Note down the stories and then get back together as a team to share your research.

Do people have this problem your idea solves? If not maybe the research highlights something similar that you can “PIVOT” too? If they do its time to start doing some prototyping, research on possible rivals, research, etc.

Sunday : Time to carry on where you left off, if you have some product prototypes show them off. If you have no prototypes now is the time to build them. Try and find some people from your target market again and get some feedback. Would people actually hand over some hard earned cash for this? You get some google Adwords credits and a free domain in your pack for the weekend, use them to create a marketing site and see what kind of engagement you get.

Remember you have a presentation looming at the end of the day so you also need to start laying down some slides about the problem, your solution, the market research and how the business would work.

Try and rehearse your presentation and get some feedback before you do it for real.

Sunday evening : time for everyone to get together and marvel at what each other has achieved. Each team puts on a short presentation followed by a Q&A session with the judges. After every teams presented, the judges go off to confer and you get to eat and wait. The winners are announced and its time to relax, chat and celebrate an amazing weekend with your new friends.

Did I mention that Derby is having its first ever startup weekend this March ? We have an awesome team of mentors and judges lined up, you can buy a ticket here

Yet another data breach!

Another day another data breach, only this time its a big firm once again that gets reported on – Three – the mobile phone operator. 

Police have arrested three men in connection with a recent data breach at Three, two men from Manchester and one from Kent were picked up by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as part of the investigation. 

Arrested for suspicion of computer misuse offences the men had unlawfully intercepted upgrade devices that they had obtained details for through accessing a database of customers who were eligible for upgrade.

Three have stated that an increased level of handset fraud and retail store burglaries has occurred in recent weeks as a result with over 400 high value devices stolen.

This comes only a month or so after the TalkTalk breach which had 160,000+ customers personal data being accessed and an ICO fine of £400,000 to the company. 

The ICO has stated that a large number of bank account details including sort code and account numbers were accessed as a result. 

With more and more high profile cases (including the recent Sage case) and the data protection act & GDPR becoming more front page news – smaller firms need to pay attention to what is happening in their own businesses. 

In Derby alone in the last 3 months we have seen dozens of cases of cyber security and data breaches occur – most commonly customers of the business will find out before the proprietors themselves. 

It is time that SMEs, professional service companies and manufacturers in particular wise up to the very real threat of data breaches and cyber security attacks.

3 Essential steps to cyber security

Cyber crime can be both complex and costly to recover from particularly if you do not know where to start. Here are our 5 essential steps to cyber security and ensuring you have the basics in place to keep your company safe from the cyber threats.

Step 1 – What data do you hold and how do you classify it?

Understanding what knowledge and value you hold within the organisation through different pieces of data you store as a business is key to a good cyber security plan. Not all data is classified equally, your employees personal data doesn’t have the same value as email content nor the same value as your Sage accounts backup file.

Consider the various amounts of data your company works with on a day to day basis, how are those machines configured, secured and who has access to them, does the PA really need access to the entire file server or a HR person need access to the Sage accounts package?

Classify and categorise your data into how important it is to your business, who needs access and what the backup process is for each piece of data.

Step 2 – Protect, detect and secure

Protecting the information your business needs to run must be key to day to day operations. Encrypting your systems, restricting access on a ‘least privilege’ basis and ensuring that employees must only have access if specifically required and not by default.

You should be monitoring network activities, checking firewall configurations and ensuring proactive anti-malware protection is in place should be the minimum your business should have in place to control your networks incoming traffic and identify potential threats before they become a problem.

Step 3 – Stay ahead of the curve

Technology moves quickly, but cyber threats move quicker still – with new versions of malware appearing every day – now more than ever its crucial that systems are maintained, advanced threat detection in place and patches for all software on the network are kept up to date.

You don’t need to use the software on a daily basis for a vulnerability to be exploited, that piece of software on your desktop that hasn’t been run for a few weeks may already be out of date, exploited and waiting to infect the network.

Keep devices, both mobile and office based up to date and ensure policies and processes around these are controlled.

Review documents and information laid out by government around cyber security this gives you a good perspective of what needs to be the minimum your business should adhere to.

Cyber Essentials is the certification and audit process RDS Global can support your business with, taking your company and its key members of staff through a training and auditing process to ensure that hardware, software, policies and procedures are all brought in line with GDPR and Cyber Essentials.

With over 2,000 small businesses in the UK already Cyber Essentials accredited – now is the time for you to demonstrate to customers and suppliers that you take cyber security seriously.

Social media isn’t really a job

I’m just going to go out there and say it…..social media is NOT a job, its not even something you should be spending your valuable time on.

Oh and I hear you:

  • “But Sean – what do you know!”
  • “You ran an agency that had social media as a paid service”
  • “My marketing agency/PR person say XYZ”
  • “You clearly haven’t seen the ROI””Why do you use social media at all if your time is so valuable?”
  • “Its part of our marketing / PR strategy / content play {insert BS marketing buzzwords}”

And thats great folks – but the fact of the matter is – social media, which we pretty much called Web 2.0 some 5+ years ago, and before that we just called it ‘the web’ or ‘the internet’ is just that – its just the internet, nothing has really changed.

Or the best one ‘we generated over £150k for our clients in the last 3 years through social media’…..its bullsh*t…no you haven’t….your ‘clients’ made a conscious decision with or without your help to put marketing spending or ‘time’ as we can also refer to it – into an app/website and look for sales leads.

Does that mean at the previous agency I ran where we sold social media as a service between £600 and £6000 a month was wrong of us? Not at all, just as all the other ‘agencies’ will tell you they delivered ROI, so did we. But ROI isn’t the point because no one is calculating that properly at all (trust me – paying your social media agency £500 a month and generating £2000 a month ‘direct’ isn’t ROI).

We had a small social media team at the previous agency – that turned over more money than any dedicated social media company in the local area – because we didn’t just teach businesses how to fish, we did the fishing for them with a temporary licence.

One thing is to teach someone they must do A, B & C on twitter to land business (chances are you won’t by the way) – its 100x more effective to become a part of the clients organisation and act on their behalf – fully integrated with who they are and how they operate. Driving £10k a month of sales through Facebook that can be tracked, reported and then guess what – allowing the client company to bring that fully in house rather than paying you a sum each month to keep that water flowing.

Right now there are too many 18-25yr old ‘digital marketing experts’ who have less than 2 years of experience, because having a Facebook and instagram account does not qualify you as an expert. Too many people writing short form blog posts (~300/400 words) because they read an article from 2015 about how Google loves fresh, short content or they took a course 4 years ago in ‘SEO’ which tells them they should do ‘keyword research’. The world loves a shortcut and too many businesses are relying on these ‘kids’ to make returns they just cannot do.

Unless you have relevant industry experience, time actually doing the work, learning the craft – you cannot pass yourself off as any form of expert. Remember that whole 10,000 hour thing – some of these ‘experts’ haven’t even done 10,000 hours of work in their ‘careers’ yet, not even adding up the hours spent flipping burgers at Mcdonalds before they started their ‘guru’ level of digital marketing 3 months ago!

Social media is NOT a job, social media is just another word we use now for ‘the internet’, your 20k tweets, 400 instagram posts and 6 years of Facebook counts for NOTHING. A real business has a real plan, which involves sales and marketing – ‘twitter’ and the other ‘social’ sites – are just pools of attention, ‘eyeballs’ as we used to refer to them – where your potential customers are spending their time.

Market to those attention pools – but you would be amazed what you can achieve by not paying £25k a year for a ‘social media expert’ or a ‘expert 20yr old digital marketing exec’ – but instead by applying 20% of your marketing budget (cash+time) to these pools and making them work for you, not costing your business every month in time and marketing spend.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but over ten years in agency world tells me that there are a lot of businesses out there who are on a regular basis paying for an unnecessary service, wasting away valuable funds that their businesses could re-invest elsewhere for a far better return.

World Mental Health Day (Entrepreneur Edition)

“I’m Fine”…….How many times have you heard that said?

Above: Commonly referred to as the black cloud or the monster in your head…

You can read about it online, you can listen to the radio or watch the TV and hear about ‘depression’ or ‘bi-polar’ and many other of the types of mental health problems that are discussed albeit still very much away from mainstream medias attention. 

But what does it actually mean…

It means that for men in England and Wales aged 20-49 – suicide is the most common cause of death at present. Of course suicide is not a mental health problem per se – it is very commonly linked to mental distress however.

It’s always best to speak about what you know about…for me thats entrepreneurship and depression. Both of which have been the leading factors of my life story for as long as I can remember.

Entrepreneurs, those ‘crazy’ individuals who go all out in an effort to create and build something spectacular, to change the way we do things, bring something new to market or disrupt existing sectors are of the most common sufferers of mental health issues. 

Starting a successful business is not something you just do, its something that you livebreathe and becomes your entire existence…there isn’t a 9-5 element to entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur tends to merge their own self worth and existence with that of their business and personal goals until there are no blurred lines – until work/life balance no longer exists. 

Work/Life balance is bullshit.

Entrepreneurship in essence is an obsession. It stems from control over your destiny, the direction and details to grow and innovate…all at the hands of the entrepreneur. Add to the mix 3, 10, 50, 400, 3000 employees who’s livelihood is also in your hands – the pressure mounts up even further. Investor money burning every month, further pressure. Your friends don’t understand? Your wife leaves? The deal fell through? Cash in the bank burning too quickly? No one to talk to?….thats right, no one to talk to….because who else could possibly understand? 

Why are 1 in 3 entrepreneurs suffering with depression?

Simple – its expectations. From others and most importantly from their self. Because of course….you’re not where you thought you would be by now are you?

I started on my entrepreneurial path very young – several little ventures along the way until starting my previous company over ten years ago. Which grew and grew, made more and more money, both the business and I were one and the same. To those ends we made a lot of enemies (people hate to see you succeed), we did incredible things in the community and for charities, we seen and heard at every event and publication. For ten years the business ran successfully – but depression rode along with me EVERY DAY. That black cloud that follows you around no matter what you do, “smile for the camera” – great another piece in the paper meanwhile in the back of your mind depression keeps chewing away or the million other times of the day when you just want to lock yourself away and escape. Best sales month every? Who cares….Landed a fantastic project with a new client? Great, but it wasn’t big enough….Hired 2 new staff to boost development…yes but X Y and Z.

Eventually I found my ‘divider’ – the piece I needed to separate life and work….when I found out I was to become a father. That gave me what I needed to step down, walk away and breath for the first time in over a decade. Get away from expectations and the 120mph life.

The cost of entrepreneurship is high, when we see so many of our brightest entrepreneurs committing suicide (Jody Sherman, Ovik Banerjee, Matt Berman, Aaron Schwartz and so many more) you have to step back and take stock as to why this is happening and what we can do to help.

World Mental Health Day & What you can do

It began in 1992 as an initiative by the World Federation for Mental Health – a global organisation who every year with a different theme aim to bring attention and awareness to mental health issues around the globe.

As to what you can do…that varies on an individual basis….but most importantly….speak to someone….anyone.

Find a way of dividing your time between work and life….a hobby….thats what they used to tell me…find a hobby to distract you. Easier said than done when you are obsessed with work. But find something that can ease the pain.

Take care of your mental state, your body and your family – every piece is crucial, look up Brad Feld – a well known VC who suffers with depression who talks openly about it, or Jerry Colonna – the entrepreneurs ‘therapist’ that suffers and helps those who suffer get through the hard times.

Drop me a message, an email a tweet, whatever…entrepreneurship is hard.

Read more here about World Mental Health day and how you can support: http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/09/world-mental-health-day-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-important-6181925/

You were most likely hacked last week

You don’t know about it and why would you – the fact is that studies show over 74% of UK small businesses had a security breach in the last 12 months. The remaining 26% most likely just haven’t discovered the threat yet.

Back in 1991 the Michelangelo virus would infect systems and lay dormant until the birthday of Renaissance artist Michelangelo on March 6th, before erasing a user’s hard drive. It should be no surprise therefore that today’s virus, worms, ransomware or general malware are as smart as they are.

A single piece of malware is most likely sat somewhere on your network today; collecting passwords, copying sensitive data to a server in eastern Europe or perhaps simply waiting for a moment to encrypt your files and resell them to you.

It is perceived by many that big companies are commonly hacked by foreign countries. This is a misconception. The reality of the situation lies in the millions of really smart (and curious) teenagers just looking to figure out systems and networks, how to access, bypass and login for fun. The motivation for these attacks goes beyond making a profit and it would seem that this profile of ‘attacker’ are of the most common variety within the industry today.

Article featured in Insider Magazine October 2016.

Selling your time for pennies


On the internet, they like you should spit it
I’m like you should buy it, n**a that’s good business
 – Jay Z

Hourly, salary or shareholder getting paid dividends in a business – it matters not how you get paid but the fact that you do. You are no matter how you look at it – selling your time for pennies (some more than others).

That doesn’t bother me so much, rather its when we swing the pendulum too far the other way that we need to adjust our focus. When folk won’t go past 5:01pm to do their job, or perhaps worse still take take take and don’t give back – namely to those who would most benefit from that time.

Ditching agency life earlier this year where I committed a good 70-90hrs a week of my life for ten years – means that now I do have more time to give back.

That said anyone that knows me will know that even at the busy agency times I was still able to give back with being active on Derby Councils Enterprise 4 Education board, mentoring a number of fantastic secondary school pupils through STEM, mentoring & supporting students at Derby University (such as DrivenMedia), developing training academies and the list of boards and charities goes on.

I rarely promote the majority of entities I am involved with but after a thrilling conversation today which lead me to feel more comfortable with being as active as I am in so many fantastic ventures – I feel like I may just shout a little more from time to time about the companies and individuals I work with.

For we all sell time for money in one way or another – wouldn’t it just be great if perhaps a few more of us left money on the table to give a little more back. I’m not perfect by any means – but putting an hour to one side now and then to sit down and help others is the bare minimum I can accept from myself.

Pokemon Go and how marketers will ruin it

Marketers ruin everything and we know this without a shadow of a doubt. So it only makes sense that given the fact that Pokemon Go has become more viral than flappy birds and angry birds (remember those games?) did means that with the augmented reality (AR) element that marketers will undoubtably take hold of the AR sphere here and start making some dollars out of it.

Some clever folk already have created fantastic side apps to Pokemon including chats, mapping and social networks that work side by side – but the big step is local marketing opportunities. Not only are US ride sharing companies jumping on this by offering discounted trips to those trying to find pokemon around the city, but tourist attractions in the states are offering money off tickets to popular attractions and local restaurants adding Pokemon lure modules are reporting an increase in business…

This is all very obvious when you think bout it but because you don’t own a restaurant doesn’t mean your own business can’t benefit from this new fad. I say fad because like many others before it – there will be the typical curve bell of interest and attention before the next big thing comes along but unlike oculus rift – Pokemon Go has made some form of AR available to the every day human being out there trying to catch em all!

Once a fully baked advertising platform becomes available within Pokemon Go – marketers world wide will be able to jump on this and execute like never before. Your going to see further AR with museums and cafes opting to have rare pokemon in their halls or exclusive extras found at your local eatery. Never mind the fact that incubating your pokemon at the local pizza restaurant for 2 hours will most likely give you some extra kudos and prizes.

It won’t be long before marketers figure out the next couple of steps in AR and how this Pokemon craze some ~15 years later has become a hot topic all over again will inevitably lead to marketing channels like never before. I for one see an enormous opportunity for snapchat and pokemon go to team up to deliver some unique AR opportunities.