Market commentary

  1. Virtual Not So Real

    Not so long ago virtual reality was heralded as the next new wave.  James Carmeron’s entirely virtual epic Avatar remains the top grossing film of all time.  But how real is this new wave?   A recent report by respected analysts IDC called out the emperor’s clothes – virtual reality (VR) headset sales were down a massive 33% in one year. So what is going on?

    October 24th 2018

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  2. Does AI Sometimes Mean Artificial Illusion?

    Artificial intelligence is a current hot topic for investors but much of what is hyped as AI may not be all that it seems. Hype is a term often seen around disruptive innovations and Gartner penned the hype cycle a couple of decades or so ago in order to describe the different stages (“peak of inflated expectations”, trough of disillusionment”, “slope of enlightenment”, “plateau of productivity”).  More recently, analyst Davey Jose at sombre bank HSBC modernised the picture, using terms like “hype mania”, “backlash” and “real application”. 

    July 27th 2018

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  3. Quantum Supremacy

    A few weeks ago Google announced that it was close to achieving “quantum supremacy”.  Maybe the machines are about to take over.   Actually, Google has just made the next stage quantum computing chip (called Bristlecone) that has 72 bits.  John Martinis, who heads Google’s effort, says it’s “pretty likely” that the new chip can achieve “quantum supremacy.” But what does this mean?

    April 27th 2018

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  4. Why Investing Isn’t One Dimensional

    Investors usually focus on buy price, exit price and perhaps how long in-between the two.  But we may be looking in the wrong direction altogether.  Earlier this year, Forbes magazine ran a headline declaring that we’ve come to a pivotal moment for investors, particularly for those in innovative businesses.  The article pointed out that some events stand out as watershed moments such as Bill Gates writing his “Tidalwave of the Internet” memo in 1995 or Steve Jobs holding up the iPhone in 2007.  So what was this earth changing event? 

    March 9th 2018

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  5. Execution Trumps Inspiration

    Many factors influence startup business success but is there one overriding factor?  Evidence seems to point that way. 

    February 8th 2018

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  6. Will Europe overtake the US for Tech?

    Earlier this year Forbes updated it’s list of the most successful tech companies. Europe is larger, more populous and arguably more creative than the US.  Yet why do we still not match the US for tech? 

    December 14th 2017

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  7. Should Interest Rates Interest Tech Investors?

    So the BoE has finally signalled its intent to return to normalised monetary policy and raised interest rates.  It’s accepted that it will not have much effect on the incoming spike in inflation - caused mainly by exchange rates – but may well have a detrimental effect on already fragile economic growth.  Adding this to the headwinds of Brexit, does this signal danger for the tech investor or opportunity?

    November 2nd 2017

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  8. Why Is Smart Money So Valuable?

    Early stage businesses and investors argue more about valuation than anything else.  But is that the right conversation to have? 

    September 1st 2017

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  9. How Long is Long Enough?

    In a couple of years’ time, the world will be marking the 50 years anniversary of the first moon landing.  Arguably mankind’s greatest technological achievement, Apollo represented the pinnacle of societal endeavour and technical advancement.  The legacy of the US’s ambitions spawned numerous technologies and a culture of can-do innovation.  Many argue that we are now too short term in our outlook.  But is this true for investors? 

    July 21st 2017

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  10. Post Brexit – Tech Blues or Blue Sky?

    UK tech is the best in Europe, but does Brexit pose a threat or opportunity?  In recent years the team at London’s Tech City has produced a healthcheck of technology across the country, called the Tech Nation report.  Even if you take some of the findings with a pinch of political salt (Theresa May wrote the Foreward), there does seem to be good news for the UK tech investors.

    April 6th 2017

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  11. Biggest may not be Best

    The brightest stars get most attention but are unicorn company returns quite so fabulous? Tech market analysts CB Insights keep a track of the world’s unicorn companies – those private companies valued at more than $1billion.  CB Insights reckons that there are now 183 such companies worldwide, with a combined value of $657bn.

    January 27th 2017

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  12. Firework or Flop?

    Selecting technology that’s going to change the world can be as simple as not choosing those things which don’t work, don’t get attention or simply flop. As the 2016 year end approaches, more people will be buying more technology than ever before – but there are losers.  A brief look at some of the largest tech flops of all time could yield insights on what’s to come.

    December 2nd 2016

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  13. ARMing for Innovation

    Within weeks of the UK’s Brexit vote, Japan’s Softbank announced that it had agreed to acquire the darling of the UK tech scene – ARM Holdings -  for £24bn.  At a stroke, not only is this the largest purchase of British innovation but also removes the independence of the last of the UK’s “super unicorn” (i.e. >$10bn value) company. With the acquisition has the outlook improved – or worsened – for UK innovation?

    September 16th 2016

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  14. Would I Lie to You?

    After his pivotal role in the war at Bletchley Park, Alan Turing was considering the almost unlimited potential of his fully programmable computer machines.  He foresaw the extreme extrapolation from the crude number crunching computers of his day to the future where perhaps a machine would be appear to be of the same intelligence as a human.

    July 8th 2016

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  15. Visioning Our Future

    In 1984 Apple aired a TV ad that introduced the Macintosh.  The ad borrowed from Orwell’s 1948 vision of Big Brother and featured a rebellious athlete throwing a sledge hammer into the status quo.  The catchline ended ‘…and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984”’.  Apple revolutionised the way we work with computers but how many other visionaries have had such an impact?  Recent work by GoBankingRates points the way.

    June 10th 2016

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  16. Worn Out Wearables?

    Ever since we realised that computers were really getting smaller, pioneers and visionaries have been trying to make them wearable.  As far back as the 1975 Pulsar produced the first watch calculator and in the mid 1980’s these devices were in their heyday.  Of course more recently, there has been a surge of smart watches but even Apple has failed to make a device that has really caught public interest.

    May 13th 2016

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  17. Expecting the Future

    When a new CEO starts with an organisation or project he or she often has a “90 day plan”.  When particle physics researchers at CERN started a project in 1991 to share information, they forgot to have such a plan and introduced the internet into a brave new world.  As we’ve reached the 100th “90 days” since that launch, how does the Internet cornucopia stack up against Pandora’s box?

    April 15th 2016

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  18. The Innovation Champions League

    The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has just released it’s latest report on entrepreneurial behaviour and attitudes.  It’s an impressive piece of work – almost a quarter of a million interviews across 100+ countries with countless institutions and academic establishments contributing.  And they’ve been doing it for 17 years so it’s a well established and objective process.  It shows how well the UK is doing – and why innovation is key.

    March 17th 2016

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  19. Bulls, bears and unicorns

    Is the market turmoil making it harder for innovative companies to IPO – or providing opportunity?  In March 2014 King Digital, the makers of the hugely popular Candy Crush game, launched it’s IPO.  All the signs were good and the market was in stable bull territory.  However, in the first day prices tumbled from the IPO guide at $22 to less than $18.  For a $7bn company, it was the largest IPO failure for a tech business for some years.  The stock further declined to $12 over the next few months.  Yet today, those early investors may be thinking how smart (or lucky) they were when others are losing their heads.  So what is going on?

    January 29th 2016

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  20. Innovator of the Year

    The Christmas season is seeing the usual increase in online shopping activity as each year the impact of the internet eats more in our lives.  According to reports from McKinsey and more recently the Boston Consulting Group, the Internet sector contributes 5.5% of the GDP of developed economies. Which country ranks top in terms of innovation and internet impact?  Not the US – somewhere closer to home.  

    December 21st 2015

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  21. Evolution of the Unicorn

    Forbes magazine runs a yearly Midas list – a set of 100 venture capitalists, investors and commentators who apparently have the knack of turning otherwise ordinary investments into gold.

    One of the consistent names on the list is Bill Gurley.  You’ve probably not heard of him, he works at Benchmark, one of the many Silicon Valley VC firms.  However, Bill has some notoriety as recently he’s been talking about the rise – and imminent fall – of unicorn technology companies.

    November 13th 2015

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  22. The More the Merrier?

    Crowdfunding is coming of age but choosing the right route can be an issue.  How can you be sure that the crowd does know best? You know when a sense of maturity is approaching a market when suddenly a number of review sites spring up.  So it is with crowdfunding.  

    October 9th 2015

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  23. Why Some Bubbles Burst

    Nick Woodman is one of those rare breed of golden geese that have made more than $1bn through a technology innovation.  In Nick’s case (he founded GoPro in 2002 to take action surfing shots) it wasn’t that he even made a technical breakthrough – he simply took existing technologies (firstly 35mm film and then digital cameras) and used them in a new and disruptive way.  GoPro was once the darling of investors but why did this tech hit a bad wave? 

    August 7th 2015

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  24. Disruptive is the New Norm

    Investors like disruptive businesses because they can potentially lead to outsize returns and the term has been around for a while now – it was first coined by Clayton Christensen in 1995.  But how do you identify the winners?

    July 3rd 2015

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  25. Keeping Control

    One time Harvard Business Review editor and now general contrarist Nicholas Carr argues that much of today’s technology imprisons rather than liberates users.  In his book, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, he argues that the invisibility of our high-tech snares gives us the illusion of freedom. 

    May 21st 2015

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  26. Inventing Innovation

    The respected Boston Consulting Group surveyed 1,500 senior global executives and discovered that innovation is consistently amongst the top three priorities for their companies.  Such results are not surprising, given that innovation is seen as the key means of staying ahead of competitors.  Everyone likes an inventive organisation but where do the best ideas come from and can you build-in innovation? 

    April 24th 2015

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  27. Wearing Thin

    Apple became the largest publically traded company just over three months ago so there’s been a lot of expectation around it’s recent Spring Forward event.  Many of the announcements were as expected – the iPhone6 is enjoying phenomenal success with customer satisfaction at an incredible 99%, the new 12” Macbook is only 2/3 the volume of the earlier 11” version and so on.  However, most of the mainstream news centred on the Apple watch.  But despite the frenzy, are wearable technologies a solution looking for a problem?  

    March 20th 2015

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  28. Technology Takeover

    This month Apple reported a net profit $18bn, topping ExxonMobil’s previous quarterly record of $15.9bn in 2012.  And if this wasn’t enough, the record profit was a huge 37 per cent up on the previous year.  Apple has now shipped more than 1billion iPhones, iPads and iPods. With Apple posting the largest ever corporate profit, is technology ready to become the lead sector across the globe?

    January 30th 2015

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  29. A Vintage Year?

    The Business Insider publication has a bit of a reputation for putting together lists as well as choosing 14 as its favourite number.  So this year we’ve had The 14 Trends that Will Make Someone Billions of Dollars and The 14 Best Companies and so on.  But the latest list – The 14 Most Exciting Tech Launches in 2015 - are leaving some lukewarm and it seems that we’ll have to find the next big thing from elsewhere.

    December 19th 2014

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  30. It's life Jim but not as we know it: How to Make Science Fiction Reality

    Is the science fiction of old really making it into reality?  The lure of big prizes seems to be making a difference.  The X Prize Foundation has in many people’s eyes done more to bring the ideas of science fiction into our everyday lives than anything else.  And it’s latest milestone is more Star Trek than Star Wars.

    November 28th 2014

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  31. Revealing more than you’d Like

    When you press the Like button on Facebook, you may be revealing more than you thought.  The Like button was first released in 2009 and since then well over 1 trillion Likes have been registered.  According to work from Cambridge University and Microsoft Research, it turns out that what people choose to “Like” on Facebook can be used to determine a whole host of personal characteristics.

    October 24th 2014

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  32. Perils of Investing in Our Own Image

    Every investment note on the planet contains a profile of the management team because the received wisdom is that execution matters more than inspiration.  Meeting the management team of a startup or growth company is de rigeur for almost every investor – yet it may be their biggest mistake.

    September 19th 2014

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  33. Digital Adolescence

    Why is the digital generation proving the most cynical as far as mobile payments are concerned? The use of mobile devices to make payments is not new (think Africa) but it wasn’t until April this year that the UK launched Paym.  According to the Payments Council, these sorts of transactions will become second nature.  Yet the very people who should be adopting this (15-25 year olds) are apparently the most reticent.  What’s going on ?

     

    August 15th 2014

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  34. Why Technology Investments Shine

    Every index has its ups and down but on 11th April this year the technology focussed Nasdaq fell 3.1 per cent, the worst one-day percentage loss since 2011.  Why?

    July 18th 2014

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  35. The Internet of Things Casts Shadows

    With 6 billion new internet devices being rolled out in 2014 alone The Internet of Things is upon us, but how aware are we of the risks? The number of devices connected to the internet is growing about as rapidly as the total amount of data the worlds holds.  To date, we have learnt to live with the security risks associated with desktop operating systems, even managed to treat our phones the same way but always felt that proprietary systems (such as electricity systems) are just more robust.

    June 20th 2014

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  36. Why Every CIO/CTO is a Venture Capitalist

    Crystal ball gazing in the search for disruptive technologies is a favourite pastime of investors, analysts and futurologists.  Predictions range from the obvious to the science fiction.  However, a recent report by Deloitte came up with a disruptor that was not a technology at all.  They said that every CIO and IT manager should stop focussing on keeping the lights on and minimising risk and instead should think like a venture capitalist.  Isn’t this is a recipe for disaster?

    June 6th 2014

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  37. Being Individual in a Connected World

    Authentication and identification are part of the critical foundations of modern life, particularly as we connect in as individuals.  Yet the vast majority of identification events are still by simple PIN or password – from credit cards to office login.  The number of stronger authentications – such as using dongle devices - is much less and physical attribute (biometrics) even more so.  

    May 15th 2014

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  38. When Single Minded Works and When it Doesn’t

    Almost every investment proposition includes a section on the business team, confident in the knowledge that a team will always outperform an individual.  Teams are considered almost sacrosanct and we all seem to believe that working in teams makes us more creative and productive.  But what really is the optimum team for a tech startup and growth business?

    May 2nd 2014

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  39. Better Than Average

    Are you better than average at spotting which are the best tech investments to make?  Almost every tech investor believes that they have a particular insight or edge than make them better than the norm.  In reality, believing you’re better than average is all psychology and not based in reality at all.  However, more data from what really makes successful investors is starting to pop the self belief bubble.

    April 25th 2014

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  40. How Startups Can Avoid Failure

    Startups and small companies are the engine room of the economy.  In a report commissioned by Santander, SME’s also proved the most resilient during the recession and were by far the biggest job creators in the private sector, accounting for a full two-thirds of new UK employment.  Yet, with so much replying on startups, why is it that 90% of tech startups fail?  After years of work, real data is now becoming available.

    April 4th 2014

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