Monday, 26 December 2011

All in all a decent year

At the beginning of 2011 I set myself three big challenges. All were in train as I went in to 2011 but I knew I had to stretch myself a bit to achieve all three. In fact I was a bit nervous that I had overreached and I wondered if I would be able to pull it off.

Fortunately, with a lot of help from a lot of people I managed to tick off all three, and in the last few days of the year pick up a bonus point too. So, all in all it was a decent year.

First on my list was the African Gifted Foundation. This is the charity that I set up to seek out and educate exceptionally gifted African children, particularly in the arena of mathematics and computer science. It is a big ambition and one that I will be devoting a lot of time and money to over the next decade and more. After much planning  and preparation we finally ran our first ever African Gifted Academy in January 2011. We took 25 incredible young people from across Africa to a two week session held at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. We flew in tutors from Cass Business School, from Bletchley Park and from the Space Academy to teach the young people about financial markets, codes and ciphers and space science. We invited Harold Wanyama, the East African Chess Champion, to run a chess masterclass and play all 25 students in a simultaneous match (all of which he won - just!).

Second was the opening of Hammersmith Academy, the new secondary school that opened its doors in September 2011. I came up with the idea for Hammersmith Academy in 2005 and led its creation over six years and I am incredibly proud to be its chairman. Hammersmith Academy is the UK's first secondary school with creative and digital media and IT specialisms. It is an amazing school and houses TV and radio studios and technology to die for! We paraded in the Lord Mayors Show in 2011 and a couple of weeks ago I spoke to the 240 students at our end of term assembly after our first ever term. Magical.

Third was the launch of my new venture, Nodddle.  After taking a break in 2010 I got back in to the start up game towards the end of the year as part of Callcredit, the private equity backed credit reference agency. Starting from a blank sheet of paper, we decided to shake up the consumer credit report industry by announcing free-for-life access to your credit report. We researched consumer needs, looked at what the competition were up to, came up with a knock out proposition, created a new consumer brand, build the technology, gained support for the investment, ran a 6 month trial and finally in the week before Xmas launched Noddle in the market in partnership with the UK's largest price comparison site, Moneysupermarket.

Oh, and days before Xmas, Garlik the company that I founded back in 2005 was acquired by Experian. Sitting alone in a small, serviced office with two desks, a flipchart and some coloured pens I created a brand new type of company, with a brand new brand, using brand new technology, attracted and recruited an excellent team, raised the venture investment, rode the venture through its ups and downs over five year, taking it to the point where we were recognised as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer. To have it sold to a great home is an excellent result and I hope the guys there will build it in to the international consumer business that it deserves to be.

So, in 2011 I launched an African charity, launched a secondary school, launched a new business and exited my last one. I am not always good at patting myself on the back, but I think on this occasion I am going to give myself  a "Good effort, lad".

Now bring on 2012 !

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