Sunday, 31 January 2010

African Gifted Foundation takes shape

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a dinner for the Trustees and friends of the African Gifted Foundation. The charity is really beginning to take shape now and I am excited about the coming year.

The dinner was held in honour of our guest from Uganda, Professor Paul Mugambi, President of the Uganda National Academy of Science and Vice-Chancellor of Nkumba University, Uganda. Prof Mugambi from Uganda will be joining our Board of Trustees as will Andrew Alli, CEO of the Nigeria-based $Bn fund Africa Finance Corporation and Lord Avebury, the renowned human rights peer and a respected member of the House of Lords.

We are also delighted that the eminent South African campaigner, academic and businesswoman, Dr Ramphele has agreed to be Patron of the Foundation. Amongst many other achievements, Dr Ramphele was a Managing Director of the World Bank and Vice-Chancellor of University of Cape Town.

So, the Foundation, which will be pan-African from the start, has senior support from South, East and West Africa as well as strong UK and international connections.

Over the past couple of months we have worked through the process of setting up and registering the charity in the UK, appointing bankers, auditors and lawyers and we heard last week that the Charities Commision has just issued us with our charity number, so we are now formally established as a UK registered charity.

In 12 months time the African Gifted Foundation will hold its first 2-week Academy residential session for children gifted in maths and IT from across Africa and we are now working towards bring together the young people at a leading University in Africa, with experts from Africa and the UK. We are working out the programme and raising the funds right now. If you can think of anyone I should be talking to about becoming a donor please let me know.

Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened last week though was an unexpected package that arrived in the post via a very talented author that I met recently. Apparently a number of schools in Botswana have heard about the Foundation spontaneously assembled a dossier containing a list of their most academically gifted young people, complete with school reports, identity documents, achievement certificates and letters of recommendation. This is before we have even gone out there to tell people what we are doing! The achievments of these young African gifted children are very impressive, despite the odds some of them face, and I am certain that there will be no shortage of extremely bright young people for the Foundation to work with.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Meeting Royalty

Watching Prince William tour New Zealand and Australia last week reminds me of the my first meeting with a major Royal. In my case it was the Princess Royal, Princess Anne. But I have to confess that I made slightly less of an impact than the young lady in Australia who managed to plant a cheeky kiss on William!

Nearly 20 years ago I organised some charity work that resulted in money being presented to one of Princess Anne's charities. Along with a number of other people who had done some very impressive fund raising things, making my efforts pale into insignificance, I attending a reception to be presented to Princess Anne.

We were coached on how to stand, how to smile, how to bow, what to call her. My head was getting dizzy with all the instructions.

Then came the moment.

Standing in the line. Flunkies floating in front of her, I found myself looking down at my feet, chanting "yes, ma'am, no ma'am, yes ma'am, no ma'am".

Then I looked up and to my surprise there She was, right in front of me.

Princess Anne (posh voice) "And who are you?"

Tom Ilube "Errrrr, ermmmm, errrr, nobody really"

Princess Anne (posh voice, slight pause) "You must be somebody?"

Tom Ilube "Errrrr, mmmm, not...I mean...not really"

Princess Anne (quizzical look, pause, posh voice) "Ok, well, well done and keep it up"

Tom Ilube "hahaha.....yes...quite...thank you...errr Ma'am"

And with that a hole in the floor opened up and I disappeared forever, banished to dark places to wallow alone for eternity in my shame.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Board meeting or Bored Meeting?

This week we had Garlik’s monthly Board meeting. We gathered in the hallowed office of our venture capital investor and updated The Money on how the business is performing. The Many Headed Money hangs on to your every word. They miss nothing. Woe betide you if your numbers don’t add up!

In my experience you can think of your monthly Board meeting as a right pain in the behind or you can use it in a positive way. As a busy entrepreneur, you work flat out on ten things at the same time, wrestling with the day to day challenges. But once a month you are forced to press the pause button, take a step back and look at your business. To me that’s a good thing.

A good Board meeting is down to two things. Firstly a Chairman who knows how to chair, keeps to time and to the agenda and makes sure that the key decisions get made. It is very useful to have someone other than the CEO chairing the meeting. I am not a fan of being both CEO and Chairman – they are two very different roles and this really shows up in the Board meeting.

Secondly, preparation, preparation, preparation. I spent a half a day preparing for our two hour Board meeting The week before the Board meeting I produce a 3 or 4 page written Board note, including a half page Executive Summary and a section on each major area of the business. We add to this a “dashboard” with the key business metrics, the monthly management accounts and the minutes of last months Board meeting. That Board pack goes out to all attendees a few days in advance.

Preparing the Board pack is a great way of forcing me to take stock of the business as a whole and think about what direction things are moving in. Even though I have to put aside at least a half day (generally a Saturday afternoon, groan!) it is actually a very useful discipline to get into.

So, if you tend to avoid having a proper Board meeting or you leave them to once a quarter, I would strongly recommend that you put a bit of rigour into you free-wheeling business and subject yourself to the discipline of the monthly Board meeting. Or perhaps I’m just a masochist !

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A picture of me, Naked

As a result of the latest terrorist attempt to bring down a plane with exploding underwear, it appears that we are all going to be subjected to x-ray airport scanners that can apparently see through clothes.

I am torn between a strong desire not to be sitting next to a guy with combustable pants on the one hand when I board a plane and a strong desire to hold on to the last vestiges of privacy. But the momentum towards installing these scanners and the frequency with which I fly means that my naked image is going to be stored on Government databases all over the world within a few years.

And Governments have been known to lose personal data. So I have to assume that at some stage pictures of me, naked are going to appear on the internet for all to see.

It is possible that due to the poor quality of these so called x-ray scanners, the body images may not be as clear cut as they could be. One may get the impression of flab around the midrift when in reality no such flab exists. This would be most unfortunate for one's reputation. Afterall I am not known as "Iron Body Ilube" for nothing. Apparently there is even an emerging market in "enhancers" that can be appended to ensure that the image presented to the diligent airport security operatives will be appropriately impressive.

Therefore, in order to retain some degree of control over my own sense of privacy and identity I have taken the unprecedented step of pre-empting this situation by publishing my own, 100% authoritative picture of me, Naked.