'Doing good and doing well'...an essential part of the way we try to do business at Marcus Venture Consulting, and the way we encourage the companies with which we work to do business. At MVC we receive more than 300 new business plans a month. Everyone wants to know how we choose the companies with which we work and what we hope to contribute. I reply that we are in the construction business, helping companies build strong foundations. Although we have several criteria, the overarching theme of our decision is that of intent and execution. Will these companies not only survive, but thrive?
I've just returned from a trip to the US and was pleased to see that there is a rising recognition of what they call social venture capital. It has an element of the doing good and doing well theme to it - I just call it good business. Recent surveys show that ethical investing in public markets can bring a better return than investing randomly. This demonstrates to me that companies can protect the interests of investors and shareholders, and spare a thought and action for the social consequences of their business.
I'm on the road, away from my home in Somerset, about 75% of the time. But it remains an adventure and I make new friends wherever I go. But I wish I could find better hotels for women travelling alone. Recently, when I was advising a start-up in San Francisco, staying in a fairly modest place, I checked in and was given the information - audible to the whole lobby - 'Welcome, madam. You should note that we advise our women guests not to walk in this neighbourhood unaccompanied'. I hate the feeling that I have little choice but to eat dinner in my hotel room if I want to eat alone.
On a human level, the object of Marcus Venture Consulting from the outset was to help people. I'm always conscious how people have been kind to me in my career and that I wouldn't be where I am today without their help. So we value the trust people put in us when they decide to work with us, and we've built a reputation as the nice, straightforward and reliable guys in the industry. By the same token, we work only with people who we feel have a similar way of working - a luxury, but one that makes work a pleasure. Nice guys don't finish last. They can come out first.
I've been delighted at how enthusiastically people have responded to HighTech Women (www.hightech-women.com), a forum I founded earlier this year. If ever there was a testament to the power of the internet and to the ability of people to share a good idea when they find it, HighTech Women is it. I sent out an e-mail to some friends and colleagues on a Sunday night, and by the following Wednesday we had hundreds of hits on the home-made web site I'd put together (and which, thankfully, now has had the professional touch). Almost 100 people registered for our first event and it has grown by word of mouth and mail ever since.
I look forward to my day with one of our clients, an early stage start-up called the Fat Group, a youth media and knowledge company. I love the name, I love the team and I love what it does. Designed for and by the users, it encourages people to connect online and offline, to determine their own experience and to use their voice to let the world know what they are thinking, rather than having their experience dictated to them. The founder is a former round-the-world sailor who dreamt up the idea while walking through the Jotunheimen mountains in Norway. It's respectful of its audience and built to last rather than a quick flip, so it was just the kind of idea we like to find.
A final thought... I've written this on the train into London from Somerset on my little laptop and e-mailed it to Section e via my mobile phone. As I was working away, the man across from me said to his small daughter: 'Look, honey, the lady can surf the web and go to the Disney channel on the train!' I'm lucky I made it off the train without a pounds 1,000 phone bill, but it was amazing to see a four-year-old girl so keen. A HighTech Woman in the making.