My Week: Gavin Starks of AMEE

The man who wants to measure the Earth's carbon footprint is on a Mission in San Fransciso...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As part of a delegation of the UK's top 19 CleanTech companies, we were honoured this week to be supported by UK Trade and Industry, and the Technology Strategy Board, in a productive trade mission to San Francisco.

An extremely hard-working team of organisers and sponsors delivered an intense schedule (Saturday-to-Friday, 8am-midnight) of presentations, meetings and networking events.

In the UK we focus on our inventions and their supporting business model. Although the US seeks innovation and commercial execution, focus is also on the vision and execution teams.

However, far from being a "busload of British inventors", the mission demonstrates that the UK has leaders in vision, innovation, and execution. Many in our group have superb technologies and teams that can succeed at a global scale.

Having just closed a $5.5m VC round, our company AMEE (a carbon accounting platform, is fortunate to have investors in both San Francisco, New York and London - we are familiar with the expectations and cultural differences between the UK and "Valley" communities. The mission aimed to, and succeeded in helping our delegation understand this dynamic. The results were obvious, with meetings turning into proposals and/or contracts.

You can never make too many reputation-led connections, and I certainly benefited from the pre-qualification that came from both the organisers, and being part of the delegation.

The network impact of the mission is obvious: local companies turn up because (1) credible marketing: they get to hear of the event due to the promotion of credible sponsors (2) efficiency: they turn up because it's more efficient to meet a group.

Any UK company wanting to engage with the US needs to build its network effect before it will be seen as credible. In today's world, where your reputation is a click away, social networking is a key component of this reputation. I personally use services such as Twitter to socialise AMEE: this has helped immensely in qualifying our reputation to stakeholders. With over 3,000 "followers" (@agentGav, @ameeHQ) our second-tier social network reaches over 1.5m - people often hear of us from their own networks, so when we make the call, we're "known".

Reputation networks online and offline are crucial to our business development process. There is no single solution, so it's important to make the time to develop the right networks, in the right places at the right time. I made time during the mission to keep my online network updated - and this led directly to meetings as people discovered I was in town.

I would urge our world-leading UK entrepeneurs to watch "Micro Men" which was screened recently on BBC - and documented the rise and fall of Acorn and Sinclair. We are at a similar point: the inventiveness within the UK may not realise its full potential on a global stage unless we up our game.  

As Brits we have a tendency to be modest about our achievements. This is not an advantage in the US market where business can build their brand before the business. There is a difference between "bold" and "brash".

In the words of a colleague of mine: "let there be no poverty of ambition".

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