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    From bathtub 2 Boardroom - Web Wonders - 28th March @ The Adam Street Club

    Malcolm Bell is here tonight because he recently co-founded Zaggora, makers of the famous HotPants, which help their owner lose weight in comfort (by sweating more). The brand has had a phenomenal start, with 2 million unique visitors to the website in the first three months, 300,000 of whom bought a pair of the wonder shorts. Zaggora has 164k facebook fans into the mix. Malcolm set up the company with Dessi, his wife and the inventor of the shorts, who needed a way to shed the pounds ahead of her wedding. However, this is just one of Malcolm's tales.

    Malcolm worked, during his twenties (and prior to a change of heart), managing various investment portfolios for family offices and ultra-high net worth individuals, making large investments into real assets - often property - and financial instruments. He was an early starter and spent his high school holidays learning how to buy buildings with Rotch Property Group. While still studying at the LSE, he not only founded a Russian Business Society but became director of a Moscow-based company managing $300 million of commercial real estate assets.

    However, as Malcolm approached the age of 30 he had an early mid-life crisis...So now he is investing his own money into 'disruptive' web technologies and consumer brands – brands which create new markets and disrupt existing ones - via his company Dessinka Ltd. Zaggora is one in-house company in which Dessinka has invested; another is Fonication, a social app development company focusing on creating multi-player online social games across web and mobile platforms.

    “The Internet, everyone loves it, but I would marry it if I could!.” thus speaks Hermione Way, dubbed “Britain’s answer to Mark Zuckerberg” in the latest edition of Company magazine. Appropriately, Hermione has joined us today from her normal pitch in Silicon Valley where she is well on her way to being a leader of the New Media industry.

    Hermione began her first venture,, in 2008 while completing her degree in journalism. It supplies clients looking for sharp, innovative video content with graduate filmmakers seeking their first big break. It was inspired by Hermione’s own experience as a budding journalist as she realised that getting her foot on the media ladder would involve months upon months of unpaid work experience. With, media graduates can get paid, vocational experience while their clients get the benefit of low cost video content and expertise in the viral nature of the internet. It is now doing phenomenally well with clients such as the BBC, Channel 4 and Facebook. Hermione also acts as founder, writer and anchorwoman for, which is an online video channel designed specifically for technology-minded Europeans; she has developed a following of 35,000 viewers a month. TNW is the Silicon Valley version of, hosting content for the tech-minded there. It is hardly  surprising that Hermione is also director of their video department and co-hosts their annual conference.

    Hermione entered the world two and half months early, all part of her in-born enthusiasm for life.

    Jonathan Grubin is a true Web Wonder from Newcastle. He is currently head of product at The Sand Pit which finds cool bits of technology and puts in the commercial structure required. It's a fusion of an investor and an incubator, providing money and mentoring to get the technology to market: The Sand Pit take a hands-on approach in the development of a product. Perhaps their biggest project to date is the social media dashboard SoDash which uses Artificial Intelligence to filter through social media and find relevant engagement with the brand in question, which is pretty clever.

    Jonny plotted his first web-business during GCSE physics lessons. ForFree4U proved a popular website for incentivised sharing of products (like recommending on facebook, but do it enough and you get a free T.V.) In its first year Jonny's company turned over £75,000. Interviewed at the time, Grubin said 'I have about ten ideas a day, the problem is not taking on too many new ones'. This proved tough.

     Over the following years, Jonny set up and was involved in various projects aimed at inspiring young enterprise and collaboration in the North East. By the time he had taken his a-levels, Jonathan had launched Live Newcastle, a project designed to support independent retail and leisure businesses in the North East.

    Next, Jonathan worked with Hermione's brother Ben Way and was CEO at SendSocial Ltd until June 2011. launched in November 2009, and allowed individuals to send anything, anywhere, without an address.

    Following these years of entrepreneurship, Jonathan doubted his path and sought employment in a frozen yoghurt shop. However, Simon Campbell, the founder of The Sandpit intervened...


    'Is University Worth It?'

    Andrew Day is a member of the senior leadership team at The Philosophy Foundation, a charity which brings Philosophy into schools. The idea is that teaching children philosophy has a profound effect on their ability to learn and think independently; the charity also encourages and aims to sponsor non-privileged children to study Philosophy at University.

    Andrew's father raised himself out of poverty to become a university professor, while Andrew went from a comprehensive school to read Philosophy and Social Anthropology at Cambridge. Andrew is interested in the role of language in the development of thinking. Indeed, he has a background in language teaching, as he is currently the director and author of Avalon Book Company, which publishes English Language Teaching resources based on speaking rather than writing. For two and a half years he ran the Avalon TEFL school, which employed 50 staff; under Andrew's care it expanded its overseas partner-schools from four to thirty.

    Andrew also enjoys the story-telling aspect of his philosophy teaching, which ties in with his free-lance work as a writer. He is currently writing a play for the Charity Only Connect, a theatre charity that works with men who have been through the criminal justice system to produce shows of professional quality and original content. He also works for an enterprise called Protege, which reintroduces excluded young people to education through arts and media projects.

    Ellie Howard currently runs Visiting Women at Work, a social action project that introduces school girls and victims of domestic violence to women in the workplace. She also works one day a week at the think tank Civitas assisting with research into education and family matters.

    Ellie describes herself as enormously passionate about aspirations and personal goals. But while she is academic, she has taken a rather unusual approach to her own higher education. For the last 18 months she has experimented with a range of different positions to 'find her niche'. Ellie attended a state school on Hayling Island, followed by a nearby sixth form. Because of her initial financial motivation, she did not think that she would attend university.

    After working in real estate, sport, PR, corporate film, financial lobbying and spending a short time running her own business, as well as travelling to Brussels, Ellie changed her mind.  She spent an 'awful lot of time' experiencing internal conflict and greatly missed the rigour of learning and inquiry, realising some of the enormous benefits of university. Ellie has now accepted a place at Kings College to read Politics of the International Economy and will start in September, she also has a masters in sight.

    Bruce Mclean is one of the major figures in contemporary British art. He has obtained international recognition for his paintings, prints and sculptures, which often use humour to confront the pretention of the art world, institutional politics and wider social issues. It was while studying at St. Martins between 1963-66 that he first started to rebel (alongside others such as Richard long and Gilbert and George) against formalist academicism - the doctrine that an artwork’s form is more important than its narrative and relationship with the surrounding world. In 1965, he abandoned conventional sculpture in favour of temporary sculptures which involved performance of an often-satirical nature. One such piece (Pose Work for Plinths 1, Tate, 1971) was in reflection of Henry Moore’s reclining figures on plinths. Bruce's initial intention was to take art off the plinth; in the end, to be ‘perverse’ he warped his body into different shapes on the plinths and took a series of photos. Later in his career, his focus turned to painting where once again he parodied the expressionist styles prevalent at that time with a bold and confident approach which has influenced his contemparies and younger artists.

    Bruce is a teacher as well as an artist. In the seventies, he lectured at the Croydon School of Art, where he taught sculpture. More recently, he was professor of fine art and head of graduate painting at the Slade.



    'Building a Brand' - Wednesday 29th February

    Monique Drummond is a caipirinha-loving mother with Kiwi roots and a penchant for diving, entertaining friends and getting into a good novel. She likes to be lazy almost as much as she likes to busy and booked an earlier train back from Leeds to join us this evening. 

    Monique is also Senior Partner of Relish Research, which helps brands make the right decisions by offering consumer insights and perspectives on anything from advertising to new products, to branding, packaging and pricing. Her thirteen-strong team have offices in London and Leeds and pride themselves on their fresh and flexible approach. They have provided qualitative and quantitative advice to the likes of L'Oreal, Virgin Media, Vodafone, EDF and The Body Shop. The tightening of budgets for market research seems to be leading to fewer projects of larger-scale; this has in fact favoured Relish's thorough approach.      

    Following a degree in English literature, Monique started life in consumer research. However, she was lured over to the dark side and worked as an advertising planner for a number of years in New Zealand and the UK before returning to qualitative research. At the start of 2011, Monique bought out her business partner and re-branded to form Relish. Senior Partner sounds rather hands-off; in fact, Monique spends her time leading groups and gauging Great British opinion (her pet-hate is the unwilling participant in it for the sandwiches!).

    Monique is a member of the Market Research Society and the Association of Qualitative Researchers.

    George Olver is the founder of Pendragon Productions Ltd, which he founded in 2000. His company creates and places videos telling brand narratives. So far, they are going great guns and have quite a list of clients: Google, Vodafone, Virgin, Aldi, the government of Abu Dhabi...Examples of their recent work include a video for the Vodafone Business homepage explaining the 'One Net' service; a short film about the Vogue jewellery editor's recent Fashion for Jewels book; and a documentary for Channel 4 investigating the rise of East Africa's marathon runners.

    Before all this, George took a degree in Film Studies and Media and Cultural Studies at Bristol UWE. His talent for film-making was spotted early and his dissertation project won best documentary at the Moscow International Adventure Film Festival and the Peter Bird Memorial Prize at the Dijon Film Festival. Meanwhile, he began earning on the side by filming weddings. It was this Pendragon Weddings enterprise which eventually funded the full-blooded affair.

    Olver produced and directed Tenacity on the Tasman, which was the first independently-produced film to premiere at the Leicester Square Odeon (to a capacity crowd). The film charted the efforts of Olly Hicks on the Virgin and Google sponsored Global Row. Hicks was attempting to be the first person to row around the antartic, passing through every ocean. Rough conditions led the expedition to flounder in the Tasman sea, where George Olver dramatically comandeered the maori-owned fishing vessel Shangrila and towed Hicks to the safety of New Zealand's south island. To make films, says Olver, "All you really need is a camera phone".

    Susie Willis is the creative director and founder of Plum Baby. Susie is a mother of three and when she felt frustrated by the lack of a high-quality, off-the-shelf baby food option she did not hang around. She founded a company to provide an equivalent to 'homemade food, not tasteless paste'. Before her Plum brainwave in 2004, Susie had worked for Jeffrey Archer, organising his infamous shepherd's pie and Krug soirees, before running her own cookery school. She once did a stint as chef at the Savoy; now she can come and speak around the corner!

    Plum moved rapidly from its conception to the supermarket shelves. Within nine months, Susie had the requisite capital; some of it she raised  from  investors, some from her life-savings, and some by remortgaging her house and taking bank loans. She assembled a team of nutritional experts and skilled workers (such as Bavarian cereal makers – traditional millers). There was no pottering around in farmers' markets, first stop – miraculously – Sainsbury's. Contracts with other supermarkets followed. The company began trading in 2006, enjoying a turnover of £1.6m in its first year. It grew voraciously thereafter, doubling it's yearly turnover in both 2007 and 2008, shrugging off the recession to establish itself as a UK baby-food giant alongside main competitor, Ella's Kitchen. For this astonishing feat, Susie won the Startups award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year, 2007.

    The company was bought in 2010 by Darwin Private Equity; Susie stayed on as creative director. She has built a thorough-going brand trusted by mothers: among other projects, Plum has comissioned research by top nutritionalists and developed a series of television animations called 'Plum Vision' which are designed for developing young minds.

    Susie is currently working to develop a line of make-up with a British edge. She admires Liz Hurley's style and would never wear white shoes.



    'Community Matters' - Wednesday 15th February 2012

    William Alsop OBE RA was born in Northampton in 1947. Aged 6 he was already desigining a house for his mother to live in, which he specified should be built in New Zealand. Alsop left school aged 16 and took a foundation course in architecture. His tutor, Henry Bird, taught him one of the most valuable lessons of his career when he forced his pupil to draw a single brick for two weeks to bring home the importance of discipline and economy of line. Therefore it is not surprising that Mies van der Rohe and le Corbusier are among his other major influences. Alsop, like both of these great architects, focuses on the spaces around his buildings and the atmosphere they create as well the buildings themselves.

    Alsop came to notoriety  while still studying at the Architectural Association. He entered a competition to design the Pompidou Centre in Paris  and his design came second only to the winners Richard Rodgers and Renzo Piano. By 1984, Alsop  had opened  his own practice. Among his early commissions were Sheringham swimming pool and the visitor centre in Cardiff Bay. Among his most reknowned buildings are the Hamburg ferry terminal and 'Le Grand Bleu', the seat of the regional government in Marseille. Alsop now runs practices across 3 continents and is a keen promoter of artistic contribution to built environments. He has himself been a tutor of sculpture at Central St. Martin's College, as well as holding other academic posts. Some of his paintings have been shown in the Sir John Soane Museum; they take pieces of his bigger buildings as their subject matter. A work representative of Alsop's ambition is his ‘Bradford City master plan’ which remodels the city centre around a park, making use of the natural lay of the land.

    The Observer commented that Alsop's approach to architecture could broadly be defined by his statement: "I like people. I hope it shows."

    Naomi Colvin is a supporter of Occupy the London Stock Exchange (‘Occupy LSX’ or ‘Occupy London’) and a free-lance journalist. Over the past year, she has been at the heart of the campaign supporting Bradley Manning, the U.S. Soldier imprisoned in Kansas for allegedly passing classified information and footage to WikiLeaks. Naomi spotted that Manning was technically a UK citizen due to his Welsh mother and alerted the press and government. She campaigned for the U.K. government to insist on improved prison conditions and for Manning to be given consular access. His trial finally begins in earnest on 23rd February and a guilty sentence would mean life in military custody.

    Prior to this, Naomi worked in publishing and was not in the habit of campaigning. In the last year, however, she has campaigned tirelessly for greater accountability. Principally, she has lent her eloquence to Occupy LSX, where she assists on the press side, representing the movement to the papers as well as writing articles for the Guardian and other publications. Occupy began on 15th October 2011, inspired by the ongoing occupation of Wall Street, which was a protest against the ‘corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process ’ (in the UK, the power of businesses to lobby government) and the role of financial institutions in the crisis. Three sites were occupied: Pater Noster square outside St. Paul’s, the empty UBS building and Finsbury Square. Naomi has been outspoken in the working groups of ‘Tent City University’ outside St. Paul’s, which hosts an astounding programme of lectures directly and indirectly related to Occupy. The protesters have been evicted from UBS, and an order issued for the eviction of the St. Paul’s site. Naomi has been working to communicate the legal particulars to the press.

    Tea Pot Queen Emma Bridgewater and husband Matthew Rice run one of the largest and most recognizable pottery companies in the country. Emma graduated from London University with a degree in English Literature. Her first and only job was working for knitwear designers Muir & Osborne. She became involved in every aspect of this small fashion company and it gave her the taste for doing something for herself. Emma’s father built up a publishing company which he eventually sold, another insight into entrepreneurial life. 

    One day, Emma was unable to find any good Birthday presents to give her mother, so sat down at her kitchen table in Oxford and drew a few sketches.  Now, she has a factory on the banks of the Cauldon Canal in Stoke-on-Trent. It employs 180 people and produces 30,000 hand-made pieces of earthenware each year. The company has grown steadily but surely and the products are now sold online, through five dedicated Emma Bridgewater shops (the London ones are in Fulham and Marylebone High St.) and by a plethora of stockists. The use of traditional techniques combined with the pair’s unique style has forged a brand which represents the manufacturing for which Britain was once famed. This, she says, is the key to the couple’s success. Yet their brand vision is very clever, as a visit to the shop reveals: Royal Wedding last year, Diamond Jubilee this – artful designs which steer clear of kitsch and appeal to tourists and Brits alike.

    You can go on a tour of the Stoke factory to see the casting, fettling, firing etc. and make your own ceramics, so Emma Bridgewater also attracts tourists to the Stoke area. She has undertaken other charitable initiatives in Stoke to address the unemployment-related problems accentuated by the recent welfare cuts.


    'Inspiring yound minds' Wednesday 25th January

    Emily Kerr is the co-founder of Unlocked Guide Books for Kids. No poxy little 'family' sections here - these guides are based entirely around children. The guides cover all corners of the UK from London to Edinburgh to Devon and Cornwall. They are written in a bouncy tone and littered with fun facts and illustrations ('Originally Big Ben was really the name of the big bongtastic bell inside the tower'). They've got stickers, and are beautifully laid-out. 'Don't  be boring, go exploring!' they implore. Unlocked has had a great beginning. In the first year, it launched 6 titles and sold 10,000 copies. The books are distributed by Amazon, Waterstone's and WHSmith among others.

    Emily's love of kids, travelling and books come together into 'the perfect job'; she often works from a laptop and travels the world scaling peaks and treading untrodden white sands.

    Business woman? Well, emphatically 'yes'! Emily worked in Financial PR for 3 years at Brunswick before doing an MBA at INSEAD Business School. Thereafter, she spent two years at Bain as a consultant, project-managing in UK, South Africa and Brazil. One day, when volunteering for a children's camping charity, she and her friend Josh Perry had the idea for Unlocked. Now, Emily balances contractual consultancy work with running the business. We're wondering what she's bad at...

    Joe Craig is already bracketed alongside Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider) and Charlie Higson (Young Bond) as one of "the best spy kids authors… outstanding at both writing and plotting" (The Times). His creation is Jimmy Coates, who appears to be a quite normal boy, but is in fact genetically engineered to grow into a ruthless government assassin. Free will comes in somewhere though, as Jimmy is the protagonist of a series of eponymous spy novels. So far there are six, and children can look forward to Jimmy Coates: Blackout and Jimmy Coates: Genesis in the near future. The books have been highly acclaimed: on the one hand, they have been called a good preparation 'for Orwell and Huxley', on the other, a force to combat computer games. They're aimed at everyone aged 8-13. Joe's grasp of what engages kids stretches beyond the stories to the covers, which feature bold, dynamic silhouettes.

    Joe is a very communicative writer, and the Jimmy Coates website shares his plans and craft with fans. He publishes his notebooks to show how the plots and ideas came into being. The site also offers points for teachers to discuss.

    Charlie Astor & George Whitefield aka ‘Sharky & George’ are big kids doing what many kids dream of doing; they are their own boss and run their own business. They met in the same house in Eton where they spent plenty of time playing 40-40 and designing inventions, one of which was a pod that could travel through the earth, which they named the ‘Virgin-sponsored Nodule.’

    While they were both at Bristol University, they put on their first few children’s parties at the weekends to make some extra cash. Although it struck them that this might be scalable, they sensibly finished their studies and headed for the city to get an intuition for business.

    After several years of George working as a financial headhunter and Charlie doing marketing for Volkswagen, they decided to give the parties a proper go. Despite identifying a gap in the market, they kept things simple with a thorough business plan and no overheads until their third year as a Ltd company, when they moved into their first office. Slow and steady (like ToMax).

    Soon, Sharky & George were booked up at least 3 months ahead. Now they run parties from £300 and up. They also run more unusual kids events, such as 'home holidays' where they arrange a week of activities in and around children's houses.

    More recently, they have teamed up with Hart brothers of Quo Vadis Soho, where parents can enjoy a delicious Sunday Lunch while their kids are entertained in the upstairs room. They have also been working on a handbook about how to find fun in everything and are in the early stages of working on a TV series aimed at inspiring kids to do stuff for themselves.