It’s my money!

Sometimes you enter a market and existing competitors don’t like it.

Unfortunately for them it is a free market economy that we live in and I can spend my hard earned money on whatever I want!

There are lots of areas that I don’t invest in and OK, like everyone we don’t get everything right on day one, but if we focus on our customers, deliver a great service and product then we will succeed.

If the market doesn’t like our products then we won’t, but without listening to customers and getting feedback we will never know what is wrong and go on to fix it.

Product-Market Fit is something that is very important to us, but it generally doesn’t start with getting everything right. It starts by understanding what is wrong (using measurement, not gut feeling) and fixing it!

I can look at companies, investments or competitors that fail to listen to the customer, most successful ones do listen.

So I am listening, but unless you are a customer please don’t tell me how to do things. If you want to take up the challenge and make a difference to a market we operate in apply for a job.

Fringe performance versus Startups

We have had fun sponsoring Confessional by Tennessee Williams in the 2015 Fringe Festival.

It’s an interesting story of a show that nearly didn’t happen as the sponsors pulled out at the last minute, leaving a large financial gap for the theatre company. Through crowdfunding and our sponsorship we filled the gap, but it got me thinking about running a fringe show and running a startup.

If you have been to the Edinburgh Fringe you will realise the massive amount of theatre, comedy, poetry and art that is on over 4 weeks in Edinburgh. Since I live in Edinburgh you notice the sudden swelling of the population, the busy restaurants and general improved vibe.

It’s a great time to be in Edinburgh and I am sure most performers think this is what it is like all the time.

Anyway, running a fringe company and grabbing attention is really hard, you are fighting for every single bum on seat for your show and the competition is stiff.

There is a massive amount of flyering happens during the festival. I am not overly convinced that this form of marketing really works (especially if you look on the ground around Edinburgh).

Marketing is around making emotional engagement and although most actors can captivate their audience, doing this on a busy high street while competing for attention is particularly hard.

In addition social media and PR have become a big part of the festival, creating content and sharing this does help get the word out – but the twitter blitz of Edinburgh Fringe makes that hashtag #edfringe pretty useless.

So are we consider channels for marketing at Brewhive, we do think the same way a theatre company thinks – how are we going to stick out from the crowd of other startups in our space and do something different. A great little video above shows that each day you need to get up and start again!

First pictures of Brewhive


So after exactly a year of planning we are launching Brewhive this week.

This is a pure play direct to consumer beer brand.

We have gained a lot of experience over the past decade in FMCG goods to consumers. We are excited about the opportunity and certainly the reaction we have from friends and family when talking about Brewhive has been very positive.

The core concept around Brewhive is still based on convenience and provenance. We let the hops do the talking rather than just letting them be a single line on the ingredient list.

Our core focus over the coming weeks is to gain approx 3,000 customers to test the proposition with. We want to gain feedback on what is good and bad about delivery, range, systems and pricing.

We have already lined up some interesting partnerships for later this year and plan to spend aggressively on customer recruitment and referral over the first 12 months of the brands life.

Interestingly we are avoiding subscriptions. Having tested Subscription v’s No Subscription we have seen a doubling of conversion rate without subscriptions. Products like Diet Chef lend themselves to subscription elements to keep you on track, but most consumers don’t like being tied in to subscriptions.

Brewhive update


So we launch early August (it has been a long journey and there were points we were going to give up!) but we are really pleased with the results.

  • We have a great launch range of beers
  • We have really spent time and effort to make sure the experience for our customers is fantastic.
  • We have done cardboard engineering beyond belief to ensure that the product gets to you in tip top condition

In addition we have made sure that our logistics operation is in place to deal with volume and speedy delivery (next day in most parts of the UK)

The journey to launch Brewhive has been quite a long one. We first spoke about it in July 2014 and it has taken over a year to get the brand and products to a stage that we are happy to launch.

To celebrate we have sponsored a fringe show Confessional by Tennessee Williams which runs from next week.

In an interesting bit of history my first job when leaving college was running 5 bars in the Assembly Rooms. Little did I know that many years later I would be launching a beer brand during the Edinburgh Fringe!

Edinburgh Scotland is now a tech hub!


© Mrdoomits | - Edinburgh Castle Photo

The recent announcement that Fanduel has raised over $275m in investment brings new hope to technology startups in Scotland.

It has been a long time coming but a few “unicorns” are appearing with Skyscanner and Fanduel leading the way.

The great thing about this is that this tech revolution will inspire others to take the leap to startup themselves.

I was lucky enough to be the first angel investor in Fanduel way back in early 2008 when it was called Hubdub (they then changed the focus to daily fantasy sports). What always impressed me was the team of Nigel, Lesley, Tom, Rob and Chris. They had a very good shared vision and a great working relationship with clear leadership from Nigel.

One of the first things that I love to invest in is good teams, and it was clear from every conversation in a coffee shop on Marchmont Road (which unfortunately isn’t there anymore!) that this was a great team.

Late 2007 and early 2008 was not a great time for tech investing. Most of the angels had l”left the building after nursing losses during the dotcom bust. Luckily I had a few great contacts to share the first angel round with in Ian Ritchie and Andy Allan who both were impressed by the team as much as me.

It is still early days for Fanduel and there is much to do in a much more competitive landscape than a few years ago (Yahoo and Pokerstars both are entering the space).

I am really hopeful that we will see more activity from other tech companies such as TVsquared (I am also an investor here), Mallzee and a bunch of other companies at Codebase. Good luck to them all

The Angel Investment Diet

I was lucky enough to be invited to join the table of Startup Grind Edinburgh at the EIE15 conference this week.

I talked to Phin quite a bit about investing and some of the selection criteria I use.

The most important tactic I have found for angel investment is “less is more”. I am sure this will not be popular with angel syndicates, crowdfunding site or gatekeepers but I certainly have found it to be a very important part of my investment strategy.

So a simple rule of investing in one company per annum has certainly been good for me. I mainly decided to do this as a way of me being able to cope as an angel investor. If you invest in a company the founding team do expect you to help – and being a full time executive means I have very little spare time. Investing in multiple startups at the same time is the same as starting multiple companies – a big no go to investors.

The reason investors spend time pulling together shareholder and employee agreements to restrict the number of things you do is the same strategy I use in angel investing.

So the next time you get a plan or meeting request across your desk, think if this was the only thing I could invest in for the next 12 months would I do it?

Just like dieting – less is more!

Brewbot is coming


I was lucky enough to be introduced to a great company by Sandy Mckinnon at Pentech Ventures called Brewbot.

I was instantly hooked and ordered a brewing robot straight away.

The concept is pretty simple, brewing from your iPhone. The reality is that brewing is a very technical process, much more complex than the beer kits that my local Boots used to sell in the 1970s. In fact, the level of tech and science in a brewing robot is quite immense.

Brewbot is designed for the amateur brewer and also the expert who really wants to experiment with brewing in one device. I liked to call it the “Nespresso machine for Beer”.

“Real brewers” will probably turn their nose up a little at Brewbot, just as Baristas don’t love Nespresso, but for me convenience is the key to any internet device like this. The access to information about usage is incredible and you should be able to run automatic replenishment of hops etc based on usage.

I am really looking forward to getting this device – it’s only a few months away – but I am excited already – I have bought some great books including Clone Brew which allows you to brew your favourite pint at home.

Growth Hacking

I spoke on Friday at a great event titled “Growth Hacking” in Belfast. Around 100 people crammed into a room to listen to a few speakers talking about managing growth.

It was mainly focused on SaaS and gaming, so I was there to talk about what Diet Chef did.

What was fascinating is that Growth Hacking as I can understand it is Direct Marketing in a new cloak. It’s about measuring and managing customer recruitment, retention and reactivation, something any catalogue or direct business has been doing for years (think Readers Digest!)

It got me thinking about measurement and including an ecosystem measurement metric with your “business mode”

This would be the best balance of New, Reactivated and Retained customers to achieve your business growth potential. If you don’t want to grow you can focus on retained customer more, but that can be quite a short term measure.

To stop people gaming things you need to measure these metrics in balance, but it was fascinating to see that the CRO of OMGPop (Draw Something) thought about marketing in a similar was to how we handle it at Diet Chef!


If you make the $1b valuation club you become a Unicorn.

There are not that many UK based (or even Scottish Unicorns). It looks like Fanduel is driving it’s way to join this club.

I met Nigel, Tom and Rob in Black Medicine in Parchment in around 2008. I will dig out exact dates, but I was instantly impressed by each and everyone of them. Rob and Tom were friends from Wales that had design and coding experience, Nigel was a St Andrews grad that had worked at McKinsey, Betfair, Flutter and Johnston Press.

They had the drive and vision to build something big. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that 6 years later they would be joining the $1b club.

I visited Nigel and Rob recently at their UK offices in Edinburgh. The facilities were up there with any other silicon valley start up I have visited. The drive and confidence has grown over the years and they are at the top of their game.

It just shows that a small amount of funding can be the baby step to building an amazing business in a few short years. It is truly amazing!