Founder Diary — Week 1

New Year’s Eve 2015 came and went without much noise, well that’s a lie, my former home and next door neighbour The Address Hotel Dubai Mall was gutted by fire and I spent the entire evening glued to my phones answering the vast array of texts, emails, pings, posts and calls asking if I was ok?

At final count I had been contacted by about 400 wonderful friends and colleagues who were kind enough to check I was ok. Many of whom signed off with the usual “we should catch up soon, it’s been ages, and remember to keep us posted on what you are up to”.

So with the very best of intentions for 2016 it is my plan to keep a regular 7-day diary of all that I have been up to in life, the world and the universe. Those of you who know me will know that includes a pretty full on schedule of leading, building and growing a number of awesome businesses, dashing between the UK & UAE and squeezing in time for my own training whenever possible.

This weekly review will showcase key moments during the week and I’m sure naturally evolve over time, but will (wherever possible) share the good, bad and ugly.

There will be a natural bias towards my business life which is currently focussed on leading EdAid as well as driving my other roles with Nike & JustGiving.

New Year’s Day

Kicked off with the usual run, but this time I was leaping, bounding and dashing along with a couple of herds of deer. Led by a posse of fallow stag’s and a lone sika stag it was a magical moment and one that will seldom be repeated. 2016 was starting well…

Fallow & Sika Deer

The good weather didn’t last long and after a few hours of work sorting contracts for our awesome new team members @BenToomer & Zosia Górska who joined EdAid as Data Analyst & Community/Social Media Manager respectively, I ventured out for supplies.

Unfortunately, my planning had failed and even the notoriously reliable 24-hour Tesco wasn’t open so with my tail between my legs (after exclaiming as I walked out the front-door “Pah, Tesco never closes”) I searched the cupboard for supplies.

It was pitch black by 4pm so much needed comfort food was requested by the gang at home, and within a flash it was soon ‘lasagne o’clock’, open fire lit, and a chance to watch the much, and rightly lauded BBC series Dickensian.

Home made lasagne (and yes I did make the ragu & béchamel sauce myself!

Saturday 2nd January

Back to the office, and back to business. It has been great to see friends and family over the festive period but now time to get the office sorted, and prep for what is going to be a massive Q1.

Focus for the day was a thorough review of OnMyCV. Our free, single page CV builder that provides anyone with a simple, clean and concise CV (designed by the best recruiters in the market). I will share more when it’s launch time but here is a snapshot of some of the (work in progress) #Design & #UI.

I rocked up to my gym to sneak in an evening session, after a long day of work, to discover it closed. Arrgggghh. The receptionist closing early, said it was Christmas and that they were on reduced opening hours. WTF!? It’s the 2nd January and as such I kinda lost my shit, as I had been wound up like a coil for a few days without any proper training.

Master & Apprentice

My rememdy was a home workout and a Saturday night of #StartUpPorn featuring Greylock Partners & Reid Hoffman’s final #Blitzscaling talk @Stanford with the irrepressible Jeff Weiner CEO of LinkedIn. (Watch here!)

Sunday 3rd January

Building a #startup is not as glamorous as many think and among the range of skills required on this day were cleaner, delivery driver and general gopher. The EdAid team is expanding, we will double in size over the coming weeks.

It’s important that we started the new year ready and equipped to crack on from day 1. So Sunday was an iceberg day! (NB ‘Iceberg’ days aren’t ever seen by anyone but are vitally important to building success)

New hardware for EdAid’s new joiners…

I managed to steal a couple of hours for a #WattBike session and watch my old Rugby team Harlequins beat Worcester, and then read probably the best piece of #Student #Career advice I have read in a long time from the erudite Luke Johnson Founder of Risk Capital Partners in the Sunday Times.

Luke Johnson is a straight talking entrepreneur, investor and champion of British business

Monday 4th January

Today was a day of new starts. Great to have the team back together at EdAid HQ. We formally welcomed Ben Toomer and Zosia Gorska to the team, and set the agenda for the next 4 weeks which will see us launch OnMyCV and may even see final FCA approval for EdAid.

On the latter we have been working our way through the FCA application process to operate a peer-to-peer lending marketplace. We are pro-regulation and whilst it has not been straightforward working with the FCA. We are slowly, and steadily developing a really positive working relationship that is focussed on outcomes and we are grateful for the enormous amount we have learned as part of the process.

Tuesday 5th January

We kicked off our formal engagement with KPMG who will be providing accountancy, audit, payroll and company secretariat services to EdAid. A week in and I’m stoked to say that they have been worth every penny…top nudge for any other #StartUp #Growth #Tech firms to connect with Chris Higgins at the @KPMGTechHub in #Shoreditch.

Overheard over coffee at Shot Espresso — “Risk is information and information is opportunity”.

Wednesday 6th January

Early morning coffee with Nick Marsh, COO of Splittable to discuss growth plans for 2016 — Splittable is super on point housemates’ bill, rent and everyday expenses sharing app, that does ‘what it says on the tin’ in an intuitive, practical and slick way that takes much of the pain out of coexistence & cohabitation.

#ShamelessPlug I am a seed investor in Splittable and am super impressed with the quality of the team, their work ethic and the usability of the product. Their growth track record in 2015 is a strong indicator that they have achieved a strong product/market fit. Now it’s time to scale the breadth and depth of their consumer base across 2016.

Fabulously re-modeled Treasury interior by Foster + Partners

Mid-Morning was spent learning more about HM Treasury’s appetite for innovation in the #FinTech space, how we can work together to drive more #STEM graduates and how the treasury and EdAid can partner to fund many of the outliers who don’t fit the traditional higher education funding model. A useful and informative starter session, and we are looking forward to putting some action against the ideas.

The most important part of the week was our mid-week EdAid team meeting and #BakeOff. This week was my turn to bake and as such I pulled a late one the night before to produce my ‘Double Chocolate Cheesecake’. Nothing #GlutenFree or #Paleo about this bad boy.

Double Chocolate Cheesecake. Crumbs o’clock.

Thursday 7th

I flew overnight to Dubai and despite being a little frazzled Thursday was a kick ass day. Strategy meeting with Nike to set the H1 action plan for Running & Women across the UAE, Qatar & Saudi Arabia followed by board meetings with managing director, Robert Bock of Bock Creative.

Bock is a small, but perfectly formed creative agency based in D3 (Dubai Design District) and is starting to steal market share from bigger, more experienced players who aren’t able to offer the same quality of production or service that Bock can.

#ShamelessPlug I am an investor in, and huge champion of the Bock team.

Thursday finished with a strength session in the gym after I was hit by a fairly punchy bout of insomnia. Thankfully my gym is open 24 hours a day and only a short hop away, so I had no excuses and managed to dose off about 3am.

All in all a great start to 2016.

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