Orange Different Business – win investment for your new idea (Sponsored Post)

I don’t often write about competitions and promotions, but the fact that Orange is offering up to £200,000 of investment capital for a new business idea was worth sharing, particularly as it also comes with legal and business planning advice, plus mentoring and marketing consultancy.

They’re looking for creativity and innovation in your idea, and it could be a great chance to get a handy kickstart in pursuing something you’ve thought about for a while. Thinking about the last 18 months, it’s certainly assistance that might have made starting my own business a lot easier, rather than trying to slowly bootstrap my way up. And it’s also not a bad brand to be associated with given that Orange have always done things a little differently, including with some memorable advertising and promotions.

The examples of how to be different are interesting, as they cover everything from a revolutionary new product, improving an existing one, communicating or working in a different way, etc.

Aside from the fact you’ll need to be 18 or older and your business will need to be UK based, the criteria for entry is massively open. There’s a checklist to help hone your pitch on the Win Your Business website, along with a more detailed entry guide.

Orange Win a Business Image

It could be particularly brilliant if you’re currently in a job but dreaming of doing your own thing. If you’ve got a mortgage or family commitments, it means a no risk way to get financial and business help to get started with slightly more of a safety net. Certainly it should help you avoid the kind of mistakes I’ve made, whether it’s getting your finances straight from the start. If nothing else it’s good practice for crafting a business pitch.

Being sneaky, there’s also another good way to benefit – if you’ve got a friend who is always coming up with unusual ideas, why not send them the link to Different Business. That way, they might either end up running a successful business which you could benefit from in the future (They’d at least owe you a nice meal or some drinks as a thank you!)


Sponsored Post

Age is no barrier to success…

One of the blogs I subscribe to, The Blog Herald, recently carried a fairly standard story about an company acquisition. In this case, it caught my eye, because it’s Teens in Tech acquiring The Youth Bloggers Network.

The CEO of Teens in Tech is 16-year-old Daniel Brusilovsky, while 15-year-old Patrick DeVivo runs the Youth Bloggers Network. And they’re offering ad revenue split between publishers and host, custom domains, pro accounts, increased storage space etc.

Image by daedrius (CC Licence)

Image by daedrius (CC Licence)

It suddenly reminded of a quote (Thanks to @andjdavies, @neilperkin and @Rtyrie for reminded me of the source where Google failed).

It’s from the recently published and much discussed ‘Newspapers and thinking the unthinkable‘ by Mr Clay Shirky.

One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.”

The point isn’t that 14, 15 and 16 year olds are doing these things, which would suggest it’s solely the preserve of the young – the point is that there is no reason why the very young or old can’t become CEO of their own business. I talked with someone recently whose salesforce is way above the age you’d associate with internet businesses, but who is incredibly effective at what he does. It’s about the attitude, rather than skills, and the reason it’s more prevalent amongst the young is due to the access to technology, and changes in culture, which are more familiar, and not challenged by legacy practices.

Which means you’re not just going to face young rivals, but old rivals, middle-aged rivals, experienced rivals, inexperienced rivals, and your existing competitors.

And, as Mark would say, expert predictions aren’t very reliable, so the only real defence is to have a clear vision and aim on how you’re going to best use new and existing technologies and techniques, and start making yourself different right now.

Help me win a Twitter challenge for charity!

I’ve just been issued a friendly challenge by @digitalmaverick, as we both have around 1700 followers.
After wondering out loud whether it’s wrong to be a little excited by the thought of reaching the 2000 followers mark, he’s issued a friendly competition to see who can get there first…
So if you know anyone who might get some value or entertainment from following me, please recommend they add asap!

Update: We’re just agreeing a forfeit for the loser, such as volunteering for charity work on Christmas Day – plus I’ll donate 2000 pence (£20) to the charity of choice of the 2000th follower.

One, two, three and I think it too!

A couple of conversations on Twitter had me dreaming up a great Twitter experiment.

  1. Organize two very large groups on Twitter and make sure they have very few common links at the outset.
  2. Now give one group red shirts and other one blue shirts. Don’t tell the red shirts that the blue shirts exist, or v.v.
  3. Then after a while, get some red shirts to follow blue shirts and v.v. – but don’t mention the shirts. You are the only person in the know!
  4. Check how many red shirt people start to wear blue shirts, and v.v.
  • Network theory suggests that we mimic what other people do, without realizing we are doing it. So red shirt wearers are likely to wear red shirts more and more often. As are blue shirt wearers.
  • When we introduce red shirt wearers to blue shirt wearers, they will wear each others’ colors without thinking.
  • Network theory also tells us that we are affected by what our friends’ friends do. We don’t need to know our friends’ friend either!
  • So if some red shirts start talking to people who wear blue shirts, other red shirts might start wearing blue shirts.

It is fairly alarming that we are so easy to influence. But there are two sides to the coin. It not three!

  • We influence back. if you want a tidy room, make it tidy! People who come in will be tidier than if their first look is an untidy room.
  • We also have many influences competing for our attention.

I think the key is that we have to budget for competition. How much work do we have to do to win? And what will we do if we come second? Toby Moores, the CEO of Sleepy Dog, budgets one successful commercial idea out of 200. How well do we understand the processes of creativity, innovation and group influence? How can we give kids experience of the give-and-take of creativity, innovation and group decision making?

Any experiments for that?

Is Twitter vs Plurk a repeat of Myspace vs Facebook?

It’s easy to compare the current and growing rivalry between Twitter and Plurk to the rivalry experienced by Myspace and Facebook. And with Facebook recently becoming the biggest social network in the world, could Plurk pull the same trick with microblogging?

Well, for starters there are some slight differences in the two rivalries. Although Myspace became the biggest player in social networking, it didn’t have the first player status Twitter has – that honour belonged to the infamous and yet still running Friendster.

Twitter and Myspace do both fall foul of the fact that user customisation sometimes leads to profiles looking like a car crash, but as Twitter tweaking is more limited, it’s escaped the worst excesses. And while Plurk takes a more stylish route, perhaps in the spirit of Facebook, it’s far more overwhelming, with the horizontal timeline, Karma and cartoon icons.

But the biggest difference between Facebook, Myspace , and even Plurk at this stage from Twitter, is that Twitter is powered by mainly third party applications and integrations. It may be the reason the database is unreliable at the moment, but around 90% of queries come from external applications – not direct via the website. There’s just some of the many, many Twitter tools listed here. It isn’t like Facebook or Myspace, which uses applications as a way to add interaction and entertainment to the network. In this case, the applications can be the only entry to the network for many people.

And yet it’s this that makes me think Twitter will remain the leader in microblogging for a while yet, and is a way from peaking. There’s a limit to how many networks people will join, but Twitter apps can increasingly use the technology for their own devices, and can start to utilise Twitter within other websites. For instance, Chirrup uses Twitter to power blog and website comments.

Imagine more companies using Twitter to converse internally, now that more and more people have grown used to Instant Messaging and Facebook. And more public users of Twitter applications, and aggregators like FriendFeed.

I don’t want to overhype Twitter, despite my addiction (@badgergravling). There’s still a need for social networks, forums, Instant Messaging, email, telephones and even snail mail for different functions. I wouldn’t have started a blog about microblogging otherwise! But just as it’s now a rare event for me to use the postal service, and my email influx has waned, microblogging means IM and social networks are replaced by semi-instantaneous Twittering…