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Steve's ITK: Not so tough

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Steve's ITK

July 23 · Issue #29 · View online
Steve's In The Know: Everything I published recently, commentary you won't find elsewhere, write-ups of events I attended or spoke at, and industry rumours.

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Opening thought: A working holiday
My two weeks leave has almost come to an end, and in some ways it feels like I never left work at all.
That’s partly my own fault for agreeing to a couple of, albeit fun, work-related things (see below), and the fact that I’m pretty bad at switching off. But it’s also a symptom of a journalist’s innate fear of missing out or not being on top of their beat, meaning that I’ve felt compelled to keep an eye on the tech news cycle, as well as making calls to sources as I brought home one successful scoop and for another I’m working on.
Related to this, I’ve yet to find the discipline required to not play email whack-a-mole while I’m on leave. Instead of facing the prospect of hundreds or possibly thousands of unread emails when I return, I’ve been trying to clear my inbox each day, including replying to a few messages, if only to let the person know I’m on leave. Inevitably, this has encouraged even more email, including being asked to commit to numerous stories when I return – which, of course, also means I’m being asked to switch into work mode in order to make that decision!
Interviewing Robin Klein at the Startup Grind London Summer Party
The working highlight during my time off (that really doesn’t scan right) was definitely the fireside chat I did with investor Robin Klein at the Startup Grind London Summer Party. The event was completely sold out, with close to 300 attendees.
As I’ve written before, I never quite know how these things have gone until I check Twitter afterwards or speak to members of the audience. The overriding feedback was positive, although people seemed to be split between whether or not my questions were too soft or unusually tough.
Before I give you my verdict and link to the YouTube video of the fireside, here’s a bit of context: About 15 minutes before we went on stage, I had a chat with Robin. He assured me he was up for a robust discussion and that nothing was off limits, with one exception: Robin never talks specifically about any of his failed investments, out of respect for the founders he has backed. I was still free to ask, but if I did, he’d have to politely decline and explain the reasoning behind his stance.
We also discussed how my recent piece on LocalGlobe, the seed investment firm Robin founded with his son Saul, had been received. Amusingly, considering how it was a relatively tepid piece, a number of people had told Robin how tough on the VC firm I had been.
The takeaway: if that’s the standard, tech journalism can only get tougher.
So, how did the fireside with Robin go? Well, it definitely started off quite soft (and somewhat slow) but warmed up nicely a little way in.
The most robust parts were probably when I asked what he thought about Rocket Internet’s track record of building, investing in and acquiring companies that appear to be operating in the same or similar space, and how he could square investing in controversial payday loans company Wonga.
We also talked about what LocalGlobe look for in the founders and startups it backs, what founders should look for in VCs, how to resolve conflicts between founders, Robin’s reputation in the industry, and more.
The very end was especially fun, too, when I asked him to confront rumours that he may be retiring soon. ‘No chance!’ he told the audience emphatically.
Brilliant.
You can watch the entire fireside here, and I also encourage you to read this interesting take by Iain Alexander, a flack at PR firm FieldHouse Associates: ‘Startup Grind: adding difficult questions into the mix makes for a superior interview’.
Over 500 people attended our TechCrunch London Meetup
TechCrunch London ‘Meetup + Pitch-off’: an all-female lineup of judges
The TechCrunch London ‘Meetup + Pitch-off’ was fun, and absolutely jam packed. Over 500 people showed up to watch the pitches, and network, and we had a stellar all-female lineup of judges, putting to bed the idea that it is prohibitively hard to improve the representation of women on stage at tech events.
They were VCs Carolina Brochado (Atomico), Suzanne Ashman (LocalGlobe) and Sitar Teli (Connect Ventures), as well as TechCrunch’s International News Editor Ingrid Lunden. I elected not to be a judge, as for once, and given I was supposed to be on leave, I simply wanted to sit back and enjoy the show.
It was also good to finally meet Bryce Keane, one of the original 3beards and a long-time tech PR. I have had a lot of dealings with the Australian Bryce over the years – which usually consists of him being relentlessly enthusiastic about whatever it is he is pitching, and my responding in typically sardonic and British fashion – but, as far as I can remember, we had never met until last week. He recently became Head of Comms for Atomico, the VC firm co-founded by Skype founder Niklas Zennström, and I understand the Aussie spin doctor is already proving popular with portfolio companies.
Things I wrote
Confirmed: London fintech Curve raises $10M Series A
Marley Spoon launches ‘affordable meal kit’ Dinnerly
Vertu is dead
Closing thought: In session
Recording session at New Rose Studios in Camden
Progress on the album continued at a pace during my leave, including a session recording with percussionist Lenny Edwards at New Rose Studios in Camden, the recording studio my defunct band used to rehearse at back in the day.
Edwards’ (pictured top-right above) recent credits include the 2012 Madness record ‘Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da’ and Holly Cook’s ‘Twice’.
I’ve yet to get my hands on the ‘stems’ (the exported multitrack files from the session) but from what I remember on the day, it’s going to sound great. Most of all, it was a reminder of how music, or any intensely creative endeavour, really does bring people together, many of whom become long-lasting and close friends.
Fireside with LocalGlobe's Robin Klein
Watch my interview with the UK's 'godfather of VC'
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Till next time,
Steve
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