t h r e e m i l l i o n

[ 16:03 tuesday 20 march – marriott hotel, san mateo, california ]

i’m presenting two sessions at the dow jones webventures conference here in san mateo. the first is done, the second commences in twenty minutes. i’m sitting alone at a big round table in the main conference room now, catching up on my email. the room’s almost empty, just a handful of people whiling away time between sessions or desultorily chatting on their cell phones. easy listening music putters at an inoffensively low volume from hidden speakers, which is getting on my nerves. the carpet has a hideous diamond pattern in dark blue and lime green. the plastic rubber plants have seen better days. back in europe the technology community can’t stop fawning about silicon valley but it appears that silicon valley mostly boils down to places like this. it’s all rather depressing.

last week trampoline systems completed an investment deal bringing in three million pounds from a large american financier. this is what i’ve been working on since last november. it’s been one of the strangest and most intense experiences of my life. right until the last moment i couldn’t believe it was going to happen, i was just waiting for something to make the whole thing unravel. but week by week the pieces came together until finally there were no pieces left and the deal was done.

it’s six and a half years since i sat in my studio in johann hicks’ house on st agnes and had the idea of an electronic information system that mimicked human social behaviour. i remember the first time i sat around a table in victoria park square trying to explain it to james and craig, and shortly afterwards to warren. it took eighteen months from that point to raise £20,000 of grants and get to work on a prototype. by that time i was living on stromboli. it took another eighteen months to complete the prototype and raise £125,000 of seed investment, which is when i set up the company and moved back to london. three and a half years elapsed between that point and completing this £3,000,000 investment.

these are big spans of time, a significant chunk of my life. probably no entrepreneur ever realises how much time and effort will be required to get their business off the ground, at least for their first venture. when i made the decision, reluctantly, to come back from stromboli to london i told my friends i’d be staying for six months to a year. i sincerely believed that’s how long it would take to build the technology, get it into the market, raise a large investment round and hand over to someone else. in retrospect my naivety seems shocking. if i’d had a more realistic idea how long it would take i doubt i’d ever have left stromboli so perhaps that naivety was a blessing. i wouldn’t have missed this adventure for the world.

now that the fundraising is over and the money’s in the bank i emerge dazed and blinking into a subtly different world. i’m too tired to feel excited now. that will come later. i had to come straight over to california for this conference so i’ve scarcely had time to think. then next week i’m doing a presentation with mike at the o’reilly emerging technology conference in san diego which i haven’t even started work on yet. after that i’ll do a week in london and then, finally, i’m going away for two weeks’ holiday. no prospect ever seemed so idyllic.

: c :

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