Category: tech & telecoms

How old is a tech entrepreneur?

Adam Clark

Connect TVT’s Adam Clark making a case for the Thames Valley

As most of the clients I work with are either small businesses, owner managed businesses or start ups – and my own PR business is a small business – entrepreneurship is close to my heart. I’ve been working in this field for longer than I care to remember, and freelancing for 15 years now. It suits me and the buzz doesn’t go away.  Recently I’ve had cause to think a lot more about entrepreneurship.

“Around one in five people aged over 50 is self-employed, a higher proportion than for any other age group. Indeed, most entrepreneurs are in their 50s, not their 20s. They are more successful, too: more than 70% of businesses started by people in their 50s survive for at least five years, whereas only 28% of those started by younger people last that long.”

Thus noted the Guardian on Jan 1, 2014.

I have long been ‘banging on’ about old fashioned marketing targeting age groups rather than interest groups. (How long since we were all talking ‘Tribes’ in  digital circles, but it’s made little difference!) Beyond products such as nappies or age defying skin creams, there’s no real need to talk old fashioned demographics any more.

The digital field should, by rights, as a newer industry, be more liberal, more egalitarian. We are, after all in the 21st Century. But we’re hardly ringing the changes.

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Ada Lovelace Day: Wendy Hall

It’s Ada Lovelace Day – the day to bring to the fore the successful female role models in the traditionally male dominated fields of technology and science.

I’ve chosen to blog about Wendy Hall – now Dame Wendy Hall DBE, FREng, FBCS, FIET, FCGI, FRS.  Today she’s  Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, UK, and Dean of the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences.

She probably wouldn’t know me from Adam, but my first job after graduating was working for the language lab at the University whilst I started my (as yet unfinished) PhD, scanning language texts and linking them using this new ‘thing’ – hypertext – on a project called Microcosm, which was absolutely her baby. She was one of the first people to seriously research the possibilities of multimedia and hypermedia.

For the first time, it was easy to make associations between subjects in unrelated documents. It seems almost impossible now, but we were at the bleeding edge at the University, with students using word processors!

I’ve rarely seen Wendy’s name on the conference circuit. and she’s not prolific on Twitter (@DameWendyOBE). But she became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in the 2009 UK New Year’s Honours list, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 2009.

Why? Her work has has had huge significance for digital libraries, the semantic web, and more.

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Ada Lovelace Day 2012

A quick flick flick through the programmes of most tech conferences will tell you what you already knew: there aren’t many women speaking on the tech circuit. If you can call social technologies ‘tech’, we do slightly better in that field, with advice on use coming from a few attractive, articulate women.

But when putting their programmes together, the organisers look around the circuit for people who’ve been on stage before with a degree of success, so the cycle’s been a hard one to break. Organisations such as Girl Geek Dinners  do well to address the balance, but why should the women in tech, who have to be pretty determined to break through stereotypes – only a quarter of university places on technology courses are apparently going to women, and this stat was one given out by Facebook this week, so I suspect it’s based on US figures – be confined to the niches of women’s networking and support groups.

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social technologist and writer.  Fed up with “the tech industry’s continual excuses regarding the lack of women speakers at conferences”, she founded Ada Lovelace Day – a day in which a mass of women technologists are written about, just to prove a point: women have always had place right at the forefront of technology.

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Activate London: the guy with the app as a hero

The first sessions of the morning are done. There were some great talks, and some fantastic big thinking

I’m sat outside the next lot of talks at the Guardian’s Activate conference typing this up, partly because I’ve got some things come in that absolutely need to be dealt with. And partly because I need to get this off my chest.

I love tech. I love being around technologists. I love how people use media, whether traditionally or otherwise. And I love people’s creativity and vision. And most of all, I love people finding ways to make the world a better place. There have been some amazing talks and amazing applications on show at Activate. But you know there’s going to be a but, right….?

Guardian Activate has lofty ambitions. Changing the world with technology.

But we are so in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

We’ve seen how the Government, recognising that it’s not been fully in touch with technology trends, now employs teams of 18 year olds to code for it. This is great. But at 18, you haven’t seen how businesses work. You have a narrower view of the world that you will have in seven years time. This is no bad thing if it’s managed well. Harness the ‘stupid question’ – why are we doing this? couldn’t we take it that way instead? – but not at the expense of the guy who’s been there 25 years and has seen the mistakes being made, several times over. Sure, he may be living in the past, and a bit hard to bring along with you. But his experience is invaluable and could shortcut several years worth of expensive mistakes, along with giving you some insight into how people less accustomed to newer technologies might view them. Assuming, of course, that he hasn’t got both the history AND the insight into new technologies (yes, I know – radical thought!).

Thus far at Activate there’s been a lot of focus on new ideas and applications of technologies, but little for how we manage it. Paul Clarke recently wrote an article, which suggested that we all start to think through how we make things happen. Who better than the guy who’s got the war wounds to help?

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