Yes, it was the sixth Noah show in London on Thursday and Friday last week. The poet may have referred to them as “brokers roaring like beasts on the floor of the borse”, but seeing Europe’s investment bankers, VCs and PE funds filling three floors of Old Billingsgate (surely over 2000 this year) was a joyous sight. These people clearly love Noah, and the way they tolerate two days of constant bombardment is testimony to this: they eat and drink and meet and… roar at each other all day long and go to the Noah party at night, but from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm they absorb some 200 presentations on three stages in a positive orgy of claim, comparison, analysis and counter-argument. Presiding over this like a genial Godfather is Marco Rodzynek, and having attended these shows since the first in 2009 in the Hilton, Park Lane – only 100 or so people but the catering was excellent – I feel, from a TMT perspective, that it was almost worth Lehmann going down to get this show started in the sector.

Of course, much has changed. Huge global volumes of devices and users have altered the meaning of our early definitions of proof of concept and usage as a measure of success. You can now have sector and geography specific plays that command larger audiences than the global marketplace in 2009. NOAH covers Europe, with a strong flavour of the stand-out start-up cities – London, Berlin and Barcelona, as well as a useful input from the influential Israeli industry. There is also a NOAH event now in Berlin and I shall hope to cover that in 2016. These events are simply the best way I know of touching the pulsating heart of innovation in Europe, at all the stages covered from start-up to near-mature businesses looking for the next investor. Because there is always a next investment stage, and NOAH, as leading advisers in the sector, are crucially aware of the work-in-progress aspect.

I could generalize about innovation for the rest of this blog, but it may be best to give you a flavour from some extracts from my notes. Bear in mind that these come from a few hours on one day on one stage: I would hesitate before trying your patience with the full output!


Inquisitr Every service vendor now has a news service, from Google to Facebook Notify. This is a response to these new ways of presenting breaking news. Requirements – speed, luck and authority!…..
Mubi Quality -based video streaming. Began on PlayStation in 2007. Now in a JV with Sony delivering quality movies to PlayStation. Founder says it took 149,000 nights to become an overnight success!….
TeamViewer. Fremium model in which private viewers go free and corporate viewers (now integrated into Outlook) pay. Remote support software aimed at remote access, monitoring and sharing services. 1 billion installations, 20 million online at any one time, 200m corporate customers, 300 million accounts, 30 languages. Customer range – from a hospital group sharing images to an artist mounting a global exhibition of his work….
Pipedrive (a NOAH investment) CRM for SMEs. “aimed at the salesman and built for mobile use”. “42% of CRM software is never used” Gartner. Developed for people who never had CRM before. Estonia, and now US….
Scyti Barcelona-based global supplier of election software. 42 countries Online voting platform with 24 solutions ranging from registration to results tallying. Security is key element. Market worth $500m Has done 4 rounds of VC investment, raised $100m last time…
Deezer streaming music 6 m customers. 35 m tracks. Subscription model. Big business in cars. Some ads but subs is future 2007. Collects 240 m data points from customers daily. Sends lyrics. Download is dying, discs are dying…
SimilarWeb. Visitors and performance of every web service. Rank. Like Nielsen for websites .Not downloads but usage. Alexa but better and global. Multi source data…
Statista. Largest market research portal 20 m Rev 35% margin. Market research bigger usage than Nielsen, lpsos. Info graphics is marketing device….
Mall of Africa. ECommerce goods for aspirational markets. Address verification. 300 m middle class internet users on mobile. Amongst 1.2 bn people. Nigeria and Kenya as hubs… MoovIT, 90min. Israel
(soccer, user created)….
Badoo Largest dating social media? 270m registered users generating 40m messages a month. Transition from web to mobile. Founded 2007, profitable 2009…

Just a flavour, but also i hope an indication of why this is so fascinating, and why the wide differences between different styles of venturing , and widely different results in different geographies makes this important, not just for investors, but for everyone of us as creators of network – based services of some sort or another.

“Well, they still make a profit”, said my friend. And indeed they do, but at what a cost! The few daily evening papers are now weeklies, and the weeklies are going free. Advertising and circulation are in monotonous annual retreat, and we were debating whether automated journalism, in the form of Narrative Science or Automated Insights, could be deployed to shave even further cost off these pared and scraped budgets. And would even that save them from joining Yellow Pages and telephone directories in the pulp recycling mill of history? Three hundred years almost exactly from the launch of the Daily Courant, I find this tinged with sadness… and anger at the gross mismanagement that speeded the demise.

An erstwhile colleague who does the numbers for a living provides this analysis of Enterprise Value:

Regional Press players (largest only, all in pounds sterling)

Trinity Mirror 308 m
Johnston Press 295 m
LocalMedia 150-200 m (based on current earnings)
Newsquest 400 m

In other words, an industry value of around 1.2 billion. Then he looked at the major classifieds players in the key regional press markets, and at their Enterprise Values:

Rightmove (homes) 3.36 bn
AutoTrader (cars) 3.86 bn
Total Jobs (now part of Axel Springer, so this is an educated guess) 800 m

In other words, the 7.9 billion pounds represented by these services is 6.5 X the regional press. And you can complain that we have left out Tindle or that the second or third level online services are not included, but it does not fundamentally alter the unarguable conclusion: the regional press has gone down the pan.

Perhaps that was inevitable. The tide of history. They did not see it coming. But the fact is that they did see it coming, they took very appropriate action, and still could not manage the outcomes. In 1995 my then company, EPS, was retained to come up with suggested solutions. This led to a project called AdHunter being hosted in our offices. The idea was to bring together online all of the classifieds from some 800 regional papers, comprizing 80% of UK regional press outlets. Within three years we had cracked the upload problems, built a database, and, with a brilliant management team, the project was launched on 13 October 1999, under its new title of Fish4 (Fish4homes etc). Within a year it was at least number 2 in these key markets, and probably the leading jobs site. I was still closely involved at this stage as Chairman.

Now stop history there for a moment, in the year 2000. If, as my analyst friend indicates, the regional press players, who had all invested both capital and content in this activity, had continued along this track for another fifteen years they would have had an asset, even if it was No 2 in these markets, worth around 75% of 6.5 billion. (And, with commiserations, he reminds me that the listing, when it came, would have yielded the Chairman 60 million!) So why did the newspaper companies fail to follow up this initial breakthrough and create a self-sustaining future online – or even turn into Schibsted or Axel Springer? Basically, for a few simple reasons which were not obvious at the time. They did not know who their customers were, they did not know anything about the behaviour of their readers/users beyond the fact of purchase. And they had no conception of who the competitors were, insisting to the bitter end that other newspapers, and especially their co-investors, were the old and ever present enemy.

This latter characteristic became the bane of my life as Chairman, and after five years I was glad to escape the board room wrangles about who was doing better than whom from the original deal. Investment decisions became trapped in jealous debate, with the farce factor re-inforced by the fact that all of these newspapers were local monopolies, fiercely guarded but without, except in three small towns, more than one newspaper in each community. But the obsession was the idea that a rival group might use the service to grow at the expense of the others: the threat of AutoTrader moving out of print, or their estate agent customers forming their own service, or of Monster eating their breakfast, seemed to be of no consequence alongside this fear.

And they did hate their customers. Estate agents and used car dealers and the jobless did owe them a living. I recall vividly one regional managerial grandee, when it was suggested that we might secure our positioning in the car market by distributing free software for managing inventory and uploading selected vehicles for sale to our site and the local newspaper, expostulating that all car dealers were crooks and criminals, and he had no intention of sanctioning investment to subsidize their nefarious practices. Estate agents were equally wicked, so it was a real shock that a service derived from the market – how come estate agents could collaborate and newspapers couldn’t? – eventually supplanted them. And they saw absolutely no benefit in the fact that an online searcher could search regionally or nationally to great advantage, and that selling this advantage to advertisers was worth a premium.

Only one “manager” of that period now remains in office, and that is the Chairman of DMGT, Jonathan Harmsworth, who inherited his father’s position during this period . He has arguably learnt the lesson, since he sold the group’s regional holdings and has concentrated his company in B2B data services markets. But I often think of Jonathan Turpin and his brilliant management team at Fish4, who were denied the opportunity to shine by obscurantist and blinkered investors. And of an industry which never did accomplish the re-invention of “local” in the network, a task which still remains to be achieved in a smartphone world. I am often told that it is the BBC who destroyed the regional press, or the advertisers, or even the government. But the truth is simpler: management climbed inside the bunker and pulled the roof in on their own heads.

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