logosuk2 With all the bad news coming out of the Middle East at the moment, its good to report about something great happening in this sector – its a pity its not being talked about more in the current climate.

Israel – the start up nation

Israel’s often dubbed the start-up nation because of its unique tech ecosystem. But tech-savvy Israeli-Arabs have struggled to compete with Tel Aviv’s unique tech scene, because of the geographic distance from the centre of the country, limited funding, restricted social network access and by not being allowed to serve in the army, which funds a lot of technical research.

But despite these barriers, a vibrant tech cluster is emerging in the Arab community, centred around Nazareth. The birthplace of Jesus is also an Arab town where Muslims and Christians live side by side. Its surrounding neighbourhoods are now establishing a reputation as the hub of Arab entrepreneurship and innovation in Israel.

Coming to the UK

Organised by the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, a delegation of Israeli-Arab entrepreneurs is meeting the UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid MP, in London today, (2nd December, 2015) as part of a three-day tech trip to talk to some of the capital’s most innovative technology companies and services. Israel’s seeded 7,000 start-ups in the past decade, more than any other country outside the US. But the nation’s Arab minority faces many obstacles within this thriving sector.

The UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv is a public-private initiative investing in Israeli-Arab rising-stars, helping them develop their skills and foster business relationships abroad. By encouraging them to set the UK as their destination to grow and expand globally and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, who’ll have a better chance of becoming part of the Israeli economic mainstream.

The UK sees a huge potential within the Israeli-Arab start up space for its own economy. The Arabtech delegation mission is connecting 10 promising entrepreneurs from Nazareth to British accelerators, investors, companies and leaders from the UK’s tech ecosystem to create real business value for both sides. But its not all Arab; the diverse delegation represents a 50/50 Arab/Christian mix and features a unique balance of genders, with four women on-board.

During the London trip. the delegation will be partnered with a sector counterpart in the UK, to understand how each work. Companies like BT, Wayra and even Google, who’ll be hosting them on the Google campus. As the UK’s first Asian cabinet minister Sajid Javid will bring his own experience of overcoming cultural barriers.

British Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, said “The British economy can greatly benefit from partnering with start-ups from Israel’s Arab community. Just like other sectors of the Start Up Nation, entrepreneurs from this community bring huge amount of talent and innovation. The British Government, through its UK Israel Tech Hub, is proud to introduce the British business community to tech opportunities from this community”.

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Veuve Clicquot Business Woman awrd fro 2014 goes to Thomas Cook CEO, Harriet Green

In a time when political correctness and ticked boxes dominate business, its great to see credit going to someone who truly deserves it.

Harriet Green, the dynamic CEO of the now re-vitalised Thomas Cook holiday group has been recognised with a prestigious Veuve Clicquot Business Woman award.

Harriet became CEO in July 2012 – after having the courage to cold-call the Company’s chairman. Just 12 months later, she’d designed and launched a bold strategy that focussed on digital leadership, new product innovation and placing customers at the very heart of the business. In the last year, the business refinanced and unified its many brands under the new ‘Sunny Heart’ umbrella, with the Group’s 27,000 employees working as one global team across 80 countries to deliver the transformation. Today, the share price has risen around 950%. An incredible achievement.

“Madame Clicquot transformed her family business through belief, innovation, and a ‘can do’ attitude, which are as relevant today as they were then, and I’m honoured to accept the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award on behalf of everyone at Thomas Cook as we continue to transform our business, just like Madame Clicquot did, through innovation, belief and our ‘can do’ attitude,” said Harriet.

“Madame Clicquot was truly one of the first real businesswomen of our age. I’ve long admired her spirit, courage, and determination. She and the original Mr Thomas Cook were of the same generation and together they created two amazingly powerful brands, whose heritage and promise clearly live on today – over 170 years later.”

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FSA is no authority for bank regulation - its a waste of resources... Lloyds Banking Group is the latest shady bank to receive a slap on the wrist from the FCA. In fact, the $45 Million fine meted out for gross financial mis-selling is the biggest to date. But it won’t change things one little bit. Why do I say this?

Organic Hospitality goes to Crowdcube to fund expansion Specialist marketing agency Organic Hospitality is using crowdfunding to raise capital for expansion.

Graeme Kerr, the Glasgow entrepreneur behind Organic Hospitality, is using Crowdcube, the commpany chosen by TV’s Kevin “Grand Designs” McLeod recent £2 Million pound investment plans.

Graeme is looking for £150,000 to grow Organic Hospitality as a specialist marketing agency for the exclusive four and five star boutique hotel and tourism market in the UK and abroad. His company already lists prestigious hotels such as Mar Hall and Sherbrooke Castle as clients and undertook a large branding and web design project for St Andrews last year.

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zen strategy - the new direction for LANZen! You know, looking back I guess we’ve all come a long way over the last decade. Few could have imagined the rise of the Internet-driven business.

The dot-com bubble didn’t slow the launch of new devices and faster connectivity. Most of my work was in infrastructure design – data centres and desktops. Corporates saw the Internet as something to be tightly controlled and restricted – filtered out of existence. Barclays had 256Mb in 2003. In total.

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welcome to zen strategy

How dare I question. What right do I have. If I know so much, I should start a bank! What had I done – collapsed the economy, started a bank run or something?

No. This stream of vitriol was for suggesting, “maybe people like bank branches.”

Earlier that day, MovenBank’s Brett King gave me his view about bank branches, having read my piece about the psychology of financial services buying.

We hadn’t agreed, but valuing his view, I printed it. People should have both sides. But by arguing, I’d upset someone. And the smelly stuff hit the proverbial…

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You know, no matter how much you explain, some people never manage to get it. Take Wonga and the thorny question of APR, for example. Wonga - the acceptable face of credit. Now I’m not going into compound interest’s mysteries and related technobabble. Let’s just look at the reality of how life is and take it from there.

Before the crash, we trusted banks and most of us funded our lifestyles with credit. Nowadays, most people are recovering from first-degree finger burns and avoid credit like gasoline on bonfire night.

But life still bites. You still get unexpected bills that threaten the next meal’s arrival. And if that happens – and you’re smart – you’ll appreciate Wonga…

Here’s a question for you. Imagine all four banks merging. What would we lose? OK – so they wouldn’t share one trough – and no one makes one that big. four brands - yet nothing to choose between any of them. Are we being served?

If our high street merged, what would you take from each to form one super bank? I’ll leave you for a minute to have a think about that one.

For all banking’s “talent” and money, why so little to choose between each one? Why can’t we find a killer product or even one differentiator?

How can this be – in other sectors key differences exist. Why not in banking?

A writer who I follow was bemoaning the lack of change in banking the other day. Now the point was perfectly valid – until he took a pop at P2P lending. True disruption. the effect may be massive but the true percentages are surprisingly low! As I follow social banking – and as one of its great supporters, I had to disagree. But it raised an interesting question. How do we measure disruption?

The writer in question was James Gardner, who’s the general manager of Spigot, the leading business process software vendor in the innovation space.

In theory, he should know. But then he suggested that it could be “nearly 100%”. That sure had a disrupting effect on me – because that’s plain silly…

Business as usual for the global auditors. Its just like there was no banking crash. Pricewaterhouse Coopers – PwC – has just published its results. What did you do last year - before you audited my bank? Three things jump off the page to me. And each mind-numbing fact reminds me just how stupid banks and enterprises really are.

Firstly, PwC two main businesses turned over £900 Million and £650 Million each. The next is that UK Chairman Ian Powell will net a bonus of £3.7 Million.

And thirdly, they took on 1,200 graduates – average age 24 – to work with clients. Congratulations. That waste-of-space intern is now costing you £2,500 a day…

Ever stopped for a moment to consider exactly what is banking really all about? Could a lawn mower be the key to change?Could  a mower teach our failing banks a valuable lesson? Not any old lawn mower. But Bosch lawn mowers – and how they came about. Because this is about re-invention at a very dark time. A time not unlike now.

About how a company faced with a collapsing market found the vision to change. Emerging stronger and able to cope with an even greater challenge to follow.

Once upon a time, we thought US financial policy was decided democratically. That concept was blown away like a dollar bill in Hurricane Katrina. How Standard & Poor really decided US financial policy

The US government in reality is no more than some crude Punch & Judy show, the strings being pulled by a financial Mafia run by Wall Street and its lobbyists. Everything neatly stage-managed by a company called Standard & Poor.

Standard & Poor was perceived as the US financial world’s steadying influence. The trusted hand deciding the efficacy of decisions taken on Wall Street.

The banking crash revealed a startling fallibility – but was that the real story?

They must have made us buy millions of wallets. I’m talking about plastic cards. They became an obsession – even something we collected. What's in your wallet - a lot less plastic, these days... Colourful, pictorial, themed, silver, gold, platinum, even black. We had them all. Pushed by banks and card companies desperate to part us from whatever cash the Government hadn’t taxed us on, we let them cause our own credit crunch.

But finally, the tide is turning. Its not just consumers who are abandoning them. The banks can’t wait to get rid of their dried up cash-cow too.

This is one of those flights of wonder moments. An idea that came out of the blue. What I’d like you to think about is – what places us apart from other animals? Why doing something for no reason defines us as real people... Sounds easy at first. Is it our use of tools, how smart we are – even our reasoning. But those aren’t definitions, they’re just more shades of the same colours.

Every animal will have those qualities to some extent, some smarter than others. Just what is it we have that animals really don’t – and what should we value?

Just think about it – It might just make you look at people differently…

How come most companies think having PowerPoint more important than CRM? CRM comes last, after email, office productivity and accounting. Salesforce is great, but here's something that will get you similar beneifits right away, too... Everybody knows, we’re told often enough, that looking after customers is vital. But as a process, many companies don’t see it as that important.

In fact, most companies don’t think about managing the relationship with their customers until something goes wrong and they find they can’t.

Ironic, really. When you consider that CRM will start to deliver benefits instantly, the moment you roll it out to your users. Let’s take a look…

Just a few months ago, I had high hopes for what Tesco bank might achieve. Even with Fred Goodwin fan-boy Benny Higgins in charge. How a new bank deals with customers will make or break it. Tesco seems badly broken. But the recent prolonged outage for so many customers has been handled badly. And Benny Higgins has shown his old-school banking colours.

Given the opportunity to show strength and courage, he chose to make excuses. Instead of holding his hands up, he chose mitigation.

Every new venture has a wobble. He could have shone, but he blew his chance. Not only does Tesco have the wrong boss, it has the wrong staff. Here’s why…

OK, regular readers will know I’m not buying the hype around SmartPhone NFC. This is for a number of reasons and none of which are about it being new. for NFC mobile payments to work, it must reach all it market... and it won't. I’ve talked about security, why quick isn’t a good reason, but that’s not everything. The real show-stopper to me is market reach. NFC just won’t fit the market.

Every other payment system before NFC reached its market cheaply and quickly. Now I’m going to show just how far NFC will fall short. Time to wake up…

Paying huge bonuses to retain top people in banks has long been controversial. Distasteful certainly – but maybe even counter-productive. Karl Duncker shows us paying bonues for ideas doesn't work. Let me tell you about a test Karl Duncker did just after the Thirties banking crash. You could be surprised. And even more angry with the banks…

Can anyone tell me what message RBS is using for its current media campaign? Sure, NatWest’s you may know, but what about RBS? RBS - will the Royal Bank of Scotland brand disappear - and would will replace it?

Although owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest isn’t as hated as its parent. Strange, because really NatWest’s no better – some may even say its worse.

I’d like to talk a little about NatWest, but lets concentrate first on RBS as a brand. What can be done with a brand so damaged it’s lost the trust of its market?

I love it when I come across great ideas. Like game changing, eureka moments. But it frustrates me when solutions appear for problems that don’t exist.NFC - a great idea - but what was the problem it fixed? Take NFC payment systems, for example. A clever use of the tech in our pockets. But who said we had a problem at the cash-out?

We, the consumers don’t. The retailers like the short delay as they get to up-sell. Maybe its the payment system providers who have a problem. Like card fraud?

Here’s the crazy thing about NFC. The security is actually weaker. Much weaker. NFC presents a far higher risk profile than any other system…

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