Before and after leaving BT I invested my own time, money and effort in building a broad range of new companies, and advising and supporting others.

Although I had learned a lot about people, technology, business and money, the very act of going independent revealed new facets, risks, strengths, and weakness of my previously secure exposure. My first start up involved super concepts, good people, a hungry market, and mature technology, but failed! Why? Because several components were almost right, but not quite! It was like a three-wheeled car on a hill that looks like it should roll, but wont. Another three failures followed until I learned a most valuable series of lessons:

  1. Make sure every single facet of any business you wish start is in place and fit for purpose: technology, design, product, plant, production, market, marketing, sales, delivery, support, aftercare, people, finance etc must all be 100% at the same time. If any one element fails then so does the whole.
  2. Never assume people understand 100% anything you say.
  3. Never assume people do anything 100% you ask of them.
  4. Never believe or trust a customer 100%.
  5. Never believe or trust a financier 100%.
  6. Never neglect (4) & (5) - they both need care and attention.
  7. Identify all your competitors - and their state of play.
  8. Look out for oblique threats from outside your immediate sector.
  9. Don't be blinded by enthusiasm for a technology or idea - especially if it is yours.
  10. Don't let pride get in the way.
  11. It is never too late to shout stop!
  12. It is never to late to rip it all up and start again.

By late 1998 I had learned a lot through the school of hard knocks - losing my own money - and the companies listed below started to emerge as the cream of the crop from a diverse number of directions. Things started to go right at last and at last I coined Cochrane's Law of start-ups, as follows:

Any new company in which I participate and invest enjoys a success that is inversely proportional to my involvement.

This turns out to be an obvious and a self-fulfilling law in that if I don't pay attention to the above, then I spend all my days trying to engineer a fix, or mounting a defence, later.

If I get it all  right from the start, then I have to do almost nothing, the business largely looks after itself.