Bright

LONDON: July 4th, 2017

Bright Network, the graduate careers business, has today announced the acquisition of WEXO, , the paid internships platform, for an undisclosed sum.

Founded in 2012, Bright Network is a ground-breaking careers network which uses data and technology to connect its 120,000+ members with over 300 employers including Google, Dyson and HSBC. The acquisition of WEXO will help expand its footprint into smaller growth-oriented companies.

As part of the deal, Bright Network will integrate WEXO’s commercial relationships, technology platform and candidate network. Co-founder, Robin Kennedy, will join Bright Network as an Advisor to bring his over ten years of entry-level recruitment experience to the business.

According to research by Octopus Investments, of the 5.3 million companies that exist in the UK, just 22,470 of them (less than 1%) are ‘High Growth Smaller Businesses’ (HGSBs). Despite this, they contribute 20% of Gross Value Added and create 1 in 3 new jobs in the UK, three times the number created by FTSE 100 constituents.

WEXO started out as an online work experience network and evolved into an acclaimed internships portal with a skew towards the creative industries. Launched in 2009, it has worked with disruptive start-ups including Fever Tree, Made.com and Skimlinks, as well as larger companies like Ralph Lauren, Condé Nast and Sony Music.

Over the last five years, latterly with joint venture partner Step, WEXO has worked closely with the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising), to help the industry recruit more talent from BAME and STEM backgrounds. This has generated paid internships at IPA member agencies including BBH, Karmarama, McCann, Mindshare and OMG.

James Uffindell, CEO & Founder of Bright Network, commented: “WEXO has established strong links with dynamic businesses across the UK and built up a wealth of knowledge that we’re looking forward to tapping into.”

Robin Kennedy, CEO & Co-founder of WEXO, commented: “We’re delighted to be joining forces with Bright Network. They have a strong, longstanding track record; they continue to innovate; and they adhere to our original vision – to democratise access to opportunity”

Recent press:

Young Gun-founded Bright Network acquires millennial-focused platform WEXO – startups.co.uk
Why You Need To Pay Your Interns This Summer – Forbes
Ad Agencies Turn to Paid Internships to Attract STEM Graduates – Evening Standard
Ad agencies offer STEM students paid internships through IPA Admission programme – IPA
Step and WEXO eye merger – Recruiter
Does your degree matter – Huffington Post
How to tackle online job application forms – live chat – Guardian
Recruiters’ candidates can get work experience from WEXO – Recruiter
How to save money on…Recruitment – Evening Standard
Boost for graduates schemes – FT
WEXO on BBC London Television News – BBC
Graduate jobs crunch calls for experience – Sunday Times

Further information: Robin Kennedy: +44 (0) 203 286 8133 / robin.kennedy@brightnetwork.co.uk

Step

LONDON, Jul. 27, 2015

Step, the UK’s leading provider of high quality student and graduate internships, today announces a joint venture with long term partner WEXO, the matchmaking network for paid internships and jobs, with a view to merging the two businesses under the Step brand in the coming months.

The move will bolster Step’s prominent position in a sector currently dogged by negative perceptions around unpaid opportunities and lack of fair access. Step was the first internship organiser in the UK to insist on fair remuneration for its student and graduate interns (equivalent at the very least to National Minimum Wage)

The Step programme currently delivers around 600 internship opportunities per year, with around 80% of these leading to permanent graduate jobs. 50% of Step placements are in STEM related disciplines and 50% in general business areas.

Together, Step and WEXO will continue to target high growth smaller businesses that lack the reach and resources of their larger counterparts. Existing clients that have already committed to development focused internships range from Puma to tonic makers Fever Tree and Ralph Lauren to tech innovators, Skimlinks.

The merged business will also build on existing partnerships with universities and professional bodies like the IPA which recently licensed WEXO’s technology to find interns for agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi, OgilvyOne and Karmarama.

With the tie-up, Nottingham based Step will license, co-develop and integrate WEXO’s technology. Co-founder Robin Kennedy joins the Step board as Commercial Director and will head up the new London office. The combined entity aims to raise investment to expedite growth and further democratise access to opportunity.

Following the integration, Step’s full service recruitment and employment offering will be supplemented by ‘SaaS’ options enabling companies to pay monthly to distribute opportunities, create talent pools and cherry-pick candidates using WEXO’s matching algorithms.

Step Managing Director, Philip Donnelly, commented: “The combination of WEXO’s technology alongside Step’s heritage and unique position within UK Higher Education as a proven and trusted programme, will position us as the provider of choice in the growing UK internships market, with the potential for expansion internationally. Agile small businesses require agile talent solutions: our aggregated platforms will offer smaller businesses sophisticated solutions, once the preserve of the largest graduate recruiters, but at a fraction of the cost.”

Robin Kennedy, Founding Director of WEXO said: “We’re delighted to be joining forces with Step. For a long time, they have set a national standard on the most productive way to engage interns whilst finding innovative ways to work with universities and government to help companies find the best talent. Together we can help even more young people find compelling opportunities in areas where there is high demand.“

About Step
Since its launch in 1986, Step has evolved from a small corporate social responsibility programme for Shell UK, to a UK-wide programme. In 2009 Shell UK transferred programme ownership to Step Enterprise Limited, allowing it to invest in new infrastructure and expertise and to create a commercially sustainable foundation on which to grow the Programme further. Consistently cited as a model of good practice by Government reviews into Higher Education-Business links (Dearing, Lambert and Milburn, for example), the programme is also supported by leading employer groups like the CBI, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses. (step.org.uk)

About WEXO
WEXO started out as an online work experience portal that has evolved into an acclaimed graduate recruitment and paid internships business with a skew towards the creative industries. Founded in 2007 by former HSBC derivatives broker come ski instructor, Robin Kennedy, and London ‘fixer’, Harry Becher, the company quickly developed a strong client list of over 500 companies including Sony Music, Conde Nast and Working Title as well as many start-ups, charities and SMEs. In blending the benefits of a job board with a platform that can rank, manage and filter candidates intuitively, it was a finalist in the 2009 LSE Recruitment Awards and has been featured on BBC London Television News. (wexo.co.uk)

Case studies: step.org.uk/my-step-experience

Alternative release: step.org.uk/blog/jv

Recent press:

Does your degree matter – Huffington Post
How to find your first graduate job – Huffington Post
Experience is essential for getting your foot in the door with potential employers – Mirror
How to tackle online job application forms – live chat – Guardian
All mapped out: Internships, placements and experience key to landing dream role – Mirror
Recruiters’ candidates can get work experience from WEXO – Recruiter
How to save money on…Recruitment – Evening Standard
Small business paid internship plea – Daily Mail
Boost for graduates schemes – FT
WEXO on BBC London Television News – BBC
Graduate jobs crunch calls for experience – Sunday Times

Further information: Philip Donnelly: +44 (0) 115 9775 030 / p.donnelly@step.org.uk

HR

I have spent the last four months working in the Talent Acquisition department as an intern at an international fashion corporation.

After the teaching side of my Human Resources Masters finished in May, I was looking to get some practical HR experience over the summer while I completed my dissertation. Although I knew this would be hard work, I was really ready to get out of the classroom and get stuck in to the practical side of HR. It is important to me to be interested and passionate about the company that I work for, and so when I saw the advert for an HR internship at an international fashion house I knew I had to apply! I received a voice mail from Robin at WEXO 10 minutes before I was due to sit my final exam to confirm that I had secured an interview – safe to say that was the exam I did the worst in as my thoughts were entirely on the interview . Thankfully, all went according to plan and here I am, having just been offered an extension of my internship from 6 to 12 months.

So far, the internship has been absolutely brilliant. I have been given much more autonomy and responsibility that I ever thought I would have and have really been able to get involved with the company and the job itself. My days are made up of a mix of telephone interviews, CV sifting, advertising roles, face to face interviews, and helping to design and run assessment days. I really feel part of the team and am definitely proud to be where I am. I have attended town hall meetings to discuss the successes of the business as well as international HR meetings to discuss the future of the department. Having now completed my Masters in HR, I have definitely been able to use the skills and theories that I have learnt, and this has been an absolutely amazing experience for me.

I really can’t thank Robin and the WEXO team enough for their support and for contacting me about this opportunity in the first place. They have been extremely helpful with any query I have had and I would definitely recommend WEXO to others. The STEP scheme is absolutely brilliant for anyone looking to gain invaluable experience with the benefit of the training allowance which ensures that you are able to support yourself.

Nena, Human Resources Management (MSc), KCL (2014)

Tom

Belltown Power is a company which builds, owns and operates renewable energy sites in the UK. Furthermore, it is a company with an outstanding team of employees and it has been lucratively successful in its first two years. Couple these factors with tax-free earnings for interns via the STEP programme and you have an unrivalled place to be an intern. I was fortunate enough to spend 11 weeks this summer doing just that. But let’s take a step back for a moment.

I have to admit that Belltown Power was by no means my first choice; but I reckon the process I went through when looking for an internship may have been similar to that of some people reading this blog entry now, and so I’ll include it here: I’m in my penultimate year of university, and want to spend my summer holiday doing an internship – get paid, get something good on the CV. Right, what internship do I want to do? I’m interested in a career in Energy, and that module about finding oil and gas was quite interesting. Cool, let’s apply to one or two big oil companies. Damn, unsuccessful; they led me on for quite a bit there and now I’m back to square one. Must look elsewhere than companies I can think of off the top of my head. This WEXO site looks useful…

This is where WEXO was absolutely invaluable. They explained to me how 90% of applicants for internships and graduate jobs apply to only 10% of the places available, and that WEXO can help open up the door to the rest of the available places. WEXO looked at my CV and spoke to me on the phone and based on my experience and aspirations, advised me to apply to a certain renewable energy company called Belltown Power.

Belltown has grown considerably since Lucy wrote in the WEXO blog about her time as the company’s first intern; and naturally some of the intern’s roles and responsibilities have changed since then. I was Belltown’s fourth intern, and now the company has over £70 million in assets and over 50 megawatts of capacity under management. Despite the economic growth of the company, its philosophy is such that the team remains relatively small, relying on a mix of competency and efficiency in its operation. This lack of micromanagement means that during my time there, I was handed a wide array of tasks and responsibilities. One day I would be using the in-house financial model to calculate a bid for a 500kW wind turbine, the next day I would be using government data to look for trends in the energy market. I was significantly involved in the due diligence phase of a £20 million solar PV transaction, including the final investment committee meeting – this experience of seeing an asset purchase first hand was invaluable.

A particular highlight was being invited in a professional capacity to attend a solar-powered fund-raising party in Hoxton, attended by the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Hince.

The internship that WEXO found me has inspired a new career path for me and has gifted me both friends and business contacts at Belltown Power. Therefore I can only thank unreservedly both WEXO and everyone at Belltown for a great experience this summer.

Tom, Geological Sciences (MSci, BA), University of Cambridge (2015)

September 2, 2014
Sam

As part of my 8 week internship at Guinness Asset Management, I was part of a team involved in managing funds invested in new issuance companies joining the AIM market. The team also undertakes a series of private equity projects for renewable energy firms; an area of the business that has grown substantially over the last few years. Guinness focuses on growth companies that offer long term value for investors, but at the same time qualify for tax relief that may reduce the overall risk that comes part and parcel with investing in start-ups. Therefore Guinness is uniquely positioned in the market to take on responsible risk while delivering growth led value for their shareholders.

I have previously interned at Santander, my first day there was a tour around the building, lunch with fellow interns, a series of presentations and a lot of standing around. At Guinness, the tour was around two modestly sized rooms, no presentations or lunches; it was all hands to the pump working on my first assignment which involved populating a database of client information. Whilst this may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the day to day role of an investment manager it was certainly one of the most useful. The problem with working with a big corporate is that you are thrust in front of a computer screen, forced to crunch numbers for a client you will never likely know the name of. This is unlike at Guinness where essentially you perform an ‘operations’ role alongside being an investment analyst. This means you can benefit by working on all aspects of the client interaction.

Because of its size, working at Guinness has given me a top down perspective of how an asset manager is run. From daily admin duties of issuing share certificates to working on pitches to potential investee companies, an analyst at Guinness does it all. Therefore, I can’t think of a better place or size of company to work for than Guinness for 8 weeks, it gives you a true insight in to the industry, client exposure straight away and the opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility quickly.

The project I worked on besides my day to day tasks was to analyse the AIM market looking at companies to potentially invest in for the launch of a new fund. This involved narrowing down a universe of all 1100 AIM companies by building financial models that filter for various performance and valuation metrics. The first part of the process is purely quantitative to see whether the company has a history of delivering exceptional shareholder value. Then, once seeing that a company has delivered on its promises, it is necessary to assess the potential of their projects going forward. In all, I learnt the basics of how to analyse the health of an investment opportunity and being able to apply this knowledge in the space of 8 weeks has given me a practical understanding of the theory. This emphasises the importance of an internship as a natural step from your studies into industry.

WEXO have been incredibly supportive throughout, setting me up on the STEP programme which pays a training allowance commensurate with the cost of living in London which has also allowed me to have a social life outside of work.

Sam – Economics Graduate of the University of York (2014)

August 5, 2014

Adam+Pacitti

Many of you will have just started to sink your teeth into the world of job applications. Here at WEXO we’ve been hearing more and more stories about people who on the brink of giving up have instead resorted to some pretty creative and in some cases bizarre ways of gaining their dream employers’ attention.

  1. 1.    The Hirer Adam Campaign

Back in 2012, media graduate Adam Pacitti was seriously struggling to find a job. His brave solution was to spend his final £500 on a billboard with the simple phrasing of “please give me a job”. Along with the billboard, Adam ran an entire media campaign which included social media and a video CV. After the campaign Adam was quickly offered a job, and as a thank you he used his first pay check to hire another billboard to thank everyone who had shared, liked or viewed his

campaign. Uber creative and a nice guy –  who wouldn’t hire him?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGNxic8JG7o

  1. 2.    The Hacker

In 2006 Chris Putnam managed to hack into Facebook and alter thousands of accounts to look like MySpace. For those of you who don’t remember, MySpace was in many ways the older, riches-to-rags cousin of Facebook. Of course, Facebook could have probably set the types of lawyers that come with owning a 13 billion dollar business on to Chris. Instead, they hired him. Well done Zuckerberg, showing us yet another reason why the Winklevoss’s  could have never done what you do.

  1. 3.    The Card Board Cut Out.

Now if anything, is going to grab your attention, a human life size cut out delivered to the Google head offices is bound to do it.  But for Matthew Epstein this was just the beginning. The cut out then directed you to an entire online media campaign. Matthew had even organized planes to fly over the Google head offices during his interview. Now although Google decided he wasn’t for them, Matthew wasn’t jobless for much longer and received a variety of job offers.

  1. 4.    The Christmas Light Application

We all love Christmas and personally I am a big big fan of Christmas lights; as far as I’m concerned, the tackier the better! Liz Hickok from the US ( where else) took her love of Christmas lighting to a whole new professional level. Liz decorated her entire house in Christmas lights, but instead of the casual reindeer and santas, Liz lit up her house with her CV.  With her new job I’m sure it was a very merry Christmas for the Hickok family.

  1. 5.     Buy My Face.

Finishing uni with mounds of dept and no job was just not a viable option for these two guys in the USA.  Instead they launched “Buy My face”. This involved them painting on various companies logos and walking around town as a living, breathing and walking advertisement. Yep I think this is bonkers as well. However, it was obviously just the right amount of crazy as the boys have managed to pay off their student dept and create a pretty impressive business at the same time.

 

  1. 6.    The Reverse Job Application.

This particular job seeker was obviously fed up, and probably quite frustrated with applying to endless vague job postings and not even getting a reply (obviously he had never come across WEXO).  Instead of continuing with his search, he set up a website whereby companies could apply for him to work with them. This unbelievably cheeky bit of ingenuity was a success.

 

7.  Ebay Auction

Josh Butler took his 100% Ebay satisfaction rating and decided to auction himself for a years pay on the website. Along with a colorful description Josh certainly received a fair amount of media attention. Although this may have been a unique idea at the time, this kind of self promotion is probably not advisable.

  1. 8.    The Social Media Guru

Employers tend to not want to see pictures of you on wild nights out. However, some companies are now hiring people based on their social media presence.  In fact some companies such as Fab, a design company, claim to only use Instagram when hiring new employees. Luckily for Hannah Perrine Mode her Instagram seriously impressed and she is now a Creative Manager.

  1. 9.    The homeless Sign

When Ex radio presenter Ted Williams fell on hard times, he  resorted to standing at a motorway junction with a sign asking for help with his career. A local radio station cottoned on to this, interviewed him and with his smooth sounding radio voice he was snapped up immediately

10. WEXO Success Story

When one of our candidates rang up 3 years ago to complain that she couldn’t see the value in WEXO and why we were any different from any o

ther recruitment companies, we rose to the challenge and so did she.  On understanding why she needed to upload her CV AND create a profile, we helped her tweak both and on applying for a paid internships at an award winning skincare products company, she got the job. She now works in the marketing department of one of the UK’s most celebrated fashion designers and recently approached us to find recruits of her own.

So just remember if you’re getting nowhere with applications think outside the box. Creativity and ingenuity will always grab a forward thinking company’s attention.

admin @ 10:56 am
July 8, 2014

yellowbrickroad

Many of you will be saying goodbye to your student digs over the next few weeks. The home away from home, but with excessively more piled up plates and old beer bottles. You’ve partied, socialised and endured the all-nighters that have become a rite of passage for all students. You are now at the end of what many call “the 1000 best days of your life”. The university bubble is about to pop and what you’re going to do in the outside world is becoming an ever more scary reality. For those of you who’ve known what you’ve wanted to do since being able to talk, you’re more than likely to already be on that yellow brick road of work experiences and internships that will lead to the emerald city of graduate employment. For those of you who haven’t been so sure, the path can seem a little bit more confusing and you will often find yourself thinking “I swear I’ve been here before”.

If you’re in this confusing position, or about to be, we have one piece of advice: GET A JOB. It doesn’t have to be an amazing jazzed up internship, although we would definitely advise going for them as well. All experience is valuable. Whether it’s as a sales assistant, a bar tender or volunteer work with a local charity, it’s all useful. It may not be in the direct path to your dream job, but it will certainly get you there quicker. A lot of the (‘soft’) skills required in the above roles can be represented on your CV as being fundamental for your dream job. Often these days you have to take ‘the scenic route’. It’s all about being able to tell a story and as ever it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.

Of course you’ve heard all of this before. Schools, colleges, universities and anyone else that you’ve met in-between will have banged on about the importance of work experience. Although the typical speech may have bored you, they’re not at all wrong. Graduates with work experience are three times more likely to land a job than those who have none. So please move beyond the compulsory work experience that you were made to do when you were 16. When you graduate you will be at least 21, 5 years without any work doesn’t exactly look impressive on a CV or in an interview. Just earning some money will make you feel a lot more confident about yourself.

So get out there. Email, send letters, call up, use a carrier pigeon if you think it will help you, and you’ll find yourself on that yellow brick road in no time. Fortune favours the brave.

Generation Citizen

They were the generation that brought us the tea bag, the zip and even pilot communications. They’ve been hailed as the generation of heroes, inventors and hard workers. We on the other hand with our inventions of the LOL, the OMG and the YOLO have been bundled with the titles of chavs and hooligans, plus our obsession with social media has made some argue that society and human interaction as we know it is falling apart. But are we really that bad?

Many of us would find it pretty damn difficult to see the similarities of a generation born 100 years ago and ours today, even our surroundings are pretty unrecognizable. Our parents saw man’s first step on the moon which was meant to be “a giant leap for mankind”. We have lived through the social media revolution, mass technology upheaval, a world economic crash that we will be paying for and even Russell Brand’s calls for “a joyful revolution”. Rather than apparently sitting on our bums and playing COD or GTA, instead we are the most career minded generation for 100 years, earning us the title of “Generation Citizen”. According to the Sunday Times 79% of young adults now cite their career as one of the most important aspects of their future. We understand where we have fallen before, but instead of seeing things through our parents’ eyes we are the generation that are looking for new ways to get around old problems. We are making the “giant leaps for mankind” here on earth and not in some galaxy far far away as our parents envisioned.

As news on the economy goes up and down, and the saddening fact that 50% of recent graduates are going into non graduate positions, it’s about time we started to think differently. The dream job is a dream for a reason. It’s mystic and sometimes unattainable. What about the jobs that are yet to come, the jobs that will be the next generation’s dream. In 20 years’ time 70% of the jobs on offer do not even exist today. These opportunities won’t just disappear, they will be replaced. 20 years ago you would have probably been laughed out of a room for mentioning an SEO manager or a CRM analyst. So if you think the job market is depressing, or boring, O boy are you looking at it the wrong way. There is never one route into an industry. So go out there get your foot on the ladder, and with a bit of creativity, hard work and ingenuity the only direction you’re going is up.

So think about the zip, the tea bag and pilot communications, what will our generation be the creators of. We have finally been hailed as the best generation in 100 years let’s not let them down.

Keep your eyes peeled on WEXO for some great opportunities coming up.

Charlotte Swead – WEXO Marketing Assistant

March 26, 2014

Supply & Demand

As well as being a Director of WEXO, I also do some freelance business consultancy and a friend of mine recently approached me asking for advice on a new business idea.

I’ve started 3 businesses in my time, one of which (Ski Key) I folded at a small loss (and which ultimately failed) one of which runs fairly smoothly and WEXO which has been up and down but is currently on a strong trajectory. My time in the City also taught me a few things so I thought I’d share a few home-truths and tips for anyone else that’s interested (as well as my buddy!)

The problem with business advice is that most of it is based on previous experiences and a series of events that are never likely to replicate themselves in the same way. There are too many ‘How to build a great business’ books from entrepreneurs who have been very successful but where this has often been a function of luck and persistence rather than applying a particular logic or adhering to a foolproof roadmap. These people conveniently forget that their own success might have had something to do with serendipity. There’s an adage with Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists (VCs) that you’re not worth investing in until you’ve failed 3 times. An experience or understanding of failures and successes are equally valuable to the wannabe Richard Branson.

So my advice is to take as much advice as possible but treat it all (including my own) with a pinch of salt. However, I’ve managed to wrap up some gut feelings on all this into the acronym, B.U.S.I.N.E.S.S:

1) BUSINESS PLAN: To some this will sound foolhardy, but in my experience spending months writing a 30 page business plan before you’ve even tested the theory is a waste of time. What you really need to do is get ‘proof of concept’. When we started WEXO we were told by potential investors we approached that we needed to sign up 100 companies actively interested in offering work experience. Only once this was done were we able to understand the forces at play and raise some money. You still need a plan (and something to show people) but I would suggest a 2 page executive summary (that you can send to potential investors and business partners – don’t underestimate building relationships with other companies who might be able to help you in return for commission or other benefits) and a 7 page bullet point presentation that you can have on your iPad or printed in A3 focusing on the key themes of What (the business is) Who (is it for), Why (is there a need for it), Where (will you be doing it), How (are going to make it happen – particularly marketing), When (are you going to do it) and How Much (is it going to cost / generate). As soon as you’re on your way, a full Business Plan can become indespensible but plenty of successful entrepreneurs have never written one.

2) USPs: What will your Unique Selling Points (USP) be? If you’re say a distribution company, it might be all about connections. If you’re manufacturing something, you might have a revolutionary product, a cutting edge inventory system or something else that distinguishes you from the competition (perhaps you give 10% of your profits to charity) – the USPs will help investment (if required), speed to market, marketing and importantly help erect ‘barriers to entry’ which will stop competitors from taking your market share. This is key.

3) SWOT: Doing a basic SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis will help you establish your USPs and decide what you are lacking and what resources you need to hire in (designers, accountants, office space, laptops). Once you have worked through this you will either think that the idea no longer has legs (no bad thing – nothing worse than getting shouldered with a business that doesn’t justify the investment of your time or money – even if it’s just the opportuntiy cost) or you will be feeling very excited about things.

4) IDEA: Ultimately a good business idea (like any good vocation) will incorporate something you’re good at and something you enjoy doing. When the chips are down, you need to driven by a passion for what you do. There is often a reluctance with entrepreneurs to discuss their ideas with other people for fear that they will be stolen. A basic Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) can reduce the risk but they often don’t stand up in court. My belief is that the benefits of discussing ideas openly (and selectively) often outweigh those of keeping things secret. Only at the beginning can you iron out core inconsistencies in the idea (which you often overlook in the early stages) and if your USPs are strong enough, then the idea won’t be easy for others to replicate anyway. When you’re finally ready to name the idea, I was once told that company names need to be 1 or all of memorable, descriptive (this helps Search Engine Optimisation – SEO – when people are Googling your product / service), or short. When I was managing the band ‘Mano de Dios’ there was no end of misspelling and anyone that Googled them came up with reels of Maradona videos!

5) NUMBERS: How are you going to finance your idea? What is the return for you / angel investors (often penned as friends, family and fools)? This space is littered with acronyms. How attractive your business is (or how much money you make and what price you can ‘EXIT’ at) will generally be measured by one of NAV, P/E multiples or DCF with reference to what an investor’s required ‘ROCE’ is and the CAGR! You’ll also want to feel comfortable with the 3 key financial statements: Cash Flow, Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet and what they all ulitimately mean for you. Don’t worry, all these terms aren’t as scary as they sound and can be Googled or explained by an accountant or adviser who can help you understand the key importance of each (and also advise you on what you need to register for: VAT, PAYE, EIS, Employer’s liability insurance etc). I’m happy to admit that it was only when I started a business that I really understood various of these terms properly because you start to feel what e.g. EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation) feels like rather than what it is defined as.

6) ELEVATOR PITCH: Once you’ve generated a Business Plan (see above), you’d be advised to have a compelling 30 second summary of what your business does (you will get bored of people asking!). Sometimes carrying a business card that helps explain it with a catchy strap line or even having a short video on your smartphone will help. Certainly a few slides on a tablet will come in very useful. You never know when you’re going to meet someone relevant and a picture tells a thousand words.

7) SALES: Despite what I’ve said about Revenue being vanity, it is the single most important indication of the success of your business (certainly in the early stages when you are yet to generate economies of scale). Do spend time thinking about how you can grow revenue – a good start-up might look to double Sales, Turnover or Revenue (the terms are interchangeable) every year. You need to know how big your market is (research it well) to know what your market share could be and what marketing and advertising strategies you will use to conquer it.

8) STAFF: I’d rather use the term ‘Team’ here but running a business can be very lonely and I strongly recommend everyone has a Business Partner or at least a mentor who they discuss the business with regularly. The failure of my first business was partly because I didn’t have a local partner (who was fluent in the local language and understood the way things worked in Switzerland). I would add of course that using unpaid interns to run your business only really implies that you don’t have one; and your decision to work for free (or equity reward) does not justify grads working for nothing. When Sir Alex Ferguson invested in Toptable.com he said that he wasn’t a businessman but what he did know was how to build a team (he knew how to pay them too and Toptable sold for $55m in 2010). Drafting in friends to fill roles might feel like the right idea but your team will become an asset and will largely dictate your success or otherwise. Resources like WEXO are a cost efficient way of finding people. A good team is balanced in make-up and consists of incentivised individuals with strong contrasting but complimentary skills. There’s no point having 11 goal keepers.

These are just a few thoughts but I hope they’ll help you kick-off too.

Robin Kennedy is a WEXO Co-founder and Director and also offers freelance business consultancy. You can contact him at info@bobsyouruncle.co.uk

February 25, 2014

Supply & Demand

It’s been a while since I delved into an economics theory book to understand why the supply curve slopes upwards. I’m no longer examined on why Ricardo didn’t simply live in a country with less rain rather then obsess with its comparable advantage in producing a certain good or service (perhaps we unconsciously choose rain and misery?). At school I recall that the beloved texts of Richard Lipsey were best used to help keep the windows open so that we could smoke out of them. However, following this morning’s GDP figures, it occurs to me later in life that there is a clear reason why productivity in the UK labour market is not picking up with falling unemployment and that Q4 GDP growth is only 0.7% (as expected). It’s actually a shame that Mark (Carney) the new Canadian boss at The Bank of England recently abandoned linking interest rate policy with unemployment (because the rate moved back up to 7.2% – marginally away from the previously key 7% level) but for me, 3 of the key features of last week’s ONS employment stats were as follows:

1) There are now 580,000 unfilled jobs in the UK economy, levels not seen since 2008.
2) 4.3 million of us are now self employed, a figure that has grown 15% since 2008-9.
3) Youth Unemployment (16-25 year olds) dropped 48,000 from the previous quarter to 917,000 – moving further away from the worrying 1m+ figures at the depth of the recession – but most worryingly, 250,000 of them have been out of work for longer than a year.

I don’t currently have the time or inclination (old excuses die harder than memory) to delve into figures and theory much further (perhaps you do in which case we welcome your comments) but there is a view emerging that there is an explanation for a recent economic paradox.

Economists warn us that, ceteris paribus (how I miss using those 2 words), productivity (output per unit of input) weakness (0.6% this year versus 5.6% in 2009) and spare capacity (factors of production not being used to their fullest capacity – think of a drooping sail) in the economy will lead to higher (wage) inflation (too much money chasing too few goods) which would mean interest rates (the price of money) will have to go up sooner than we thought (in time for the next election in Q2 2015 as the markets suggest). An interpretation becoming more common though is that the relationship between productivity and ‘unemployment’ has broken down for structural reasons. More and more people are self employed (as many as 38% of net job adds in the last 12 months) and underemployed (89% of those who have become self employed since the recession work – or generate pay to work – less than 30 hours a week). So perhaps there is room for the economy to grow without a risk of (excessive) inflation. This is substantiated by looking at the space we know best: an ONS report on Graduates in the UK Labour Market in November 2013 suggested that 47% of graduates who had completed a degree in the last 5 years were working in non-graduate roles. Many are also working in paid or unpaid internships. Underemployed graduates should start to earn bigger wage packets but we continually quote a stat that every £1 invested responsibly in graduates generates a Return On Investment of 530% over 3 years – now that’s productivity. UK inflation figures came in below the Bank Of England target of 2% last week and many still worry about deflation but wage inflation is a real concern (though National Minimum Wage rising to £7 an hour is more than necessary).

The government’s focus on entrepreneurialism (an easy way to wash their hands of the ‘lost generation’) has only exaggerated the productivity problems to date. Underemployment of UK graduates and the proliferation of part time and self employment masks the harsh reality of an economy that looks stronger on the face of it than it actually is and employment figures that are actually worse. I used to work at the same bank as the respected economist Stephen King (not that one but it is a horror story of sorts) who warns in his book ‘When The Money Runs Out‘ that the irresponsible flooding of the economy with cheap money in recent years will soon come home to roost (when the punch bowl gets taken away and the hangover commences) and turmoil will result. When rates do eventually rise (as sterling strength of 10% in the last year implies) given a booming housing market and at least the threat of inflation, then trouble could loom. But real unemployment or underemployment is still high and inflation is still (relatively) low so interest rates could arguably remain low for a while longer yet. The government has done well to stick to its knitting and stimulate economic growth (6 year highs and some of the strongest in the Western world) but it is still below pre-recession levels and perhaps obsessing with supply side solutions (Ricardo himself explained why the supply curve slopes upwards – because producers choose to supply more when the price is higher) isn’t the only solution. Keynesian thought suggests that we should not be obsessing with cutting borrowing and flooding the economy with cheap money (King might agree); rather we should be using demand side tools including increased government expenditure (and not just on HS2) to address structural issues in an ever changing economy, help the lost generation to find itself and boost productivity. Our calls for more subsidised internships (first made in 2010) remain.

Robin Kennedy, WEXO Co-founder