My names is James. I was born near Chelmsford in Essex, in England, but I now consider myself a Londoner after living there for more than half of my life. My base is still in London, but since 2014 I have been travelling the world full time.
My company is called The Two Percent. It’s a random name that’s suitable for my random mash of businesses. The phrase came from an old design and print business I ran where I would take delight in judging the artwork sent in to our company – everything was crap, apart from just a couple of things – the 2%! The good stuff. Later I discovered that there is an adage known as Sturgeon’s Law, where “ninety percent of everything is crap”. Clearly I have higher standards. But The Two Percent stuck so there it is.
I’ve been an entrepreneur before I could even spell the word. They say the “dream team to make a company succeed is the hipster, hacker, hustler” combo. I’ve always been a hustler, seeing angles, seeing the business. I’ve always been a hacker, fixing stuff for the quickest, easiest, efficient route; and I like to think of myself as a bit of hipster, always first on the latest trends, making sure the latest design and technology advances are exploited for satisfaction and growth.
I have ran several of my own businesses, some really successful, some that had potential I didn’t realise, a few failures. I’ve been formerly employed by a lot less companies – I think my spirit of “disregarding formality” (as above) doesn’t lend me to working inside other companies unless the leash is long. I prefer consulting and this works even better when I believe in the company, the mission or the people. If I’m going to do something, I want to do it properly and I want it to be the best.
According to CrystalKnows – I’m a “direct communicator that makes decisions independently and objectively, often disregarding formality or existing standards”. So to translate that – I’m fairly blunt, give honest opinions disconnected from personal connections, involvement or emotion, and I have little care for official rules if it gets things done.
Sitting in a pool in Koh Lanta, we were discussing why it was so hard to buy good fresh coffee. All the local supermarket had was old crap coffee. Inspired by Pact Coffee in UK, 2 weeks later I had set up a coffee subscription business, shipping freshly roasted or ground beans out to customers all over Thailand and SE Asia. The market was small, but customers were loyal, and it took 5 mins to run every week.
A business mastermind retreat for entrepreneurs. Born out of my need to travel but be surrounded by high-level minds, I built this travelling retreat so I could explore new places alongside great people.
Don’t Eat Alone
The more travelling I do, the more I find that people discovery is an issue. Don’t Eat Alone is trying to fix the problem of eating alone in a city near you. I couldn’t get traction on this project in its current form, but would like to revisit it where possible.
Simple ecommerce analytics for busy store owners to keep their sales on track and not get distracted by vanity metrics or jargon. A SaaS business model that can help any store grow (yes, even yours!).
Get curated professional freelancers working on your projects instantly. Designed to fit between a traditional agency and an outsourcing site, Airborne allows companies to get top talent working on their high-end design, development and content with simplicity, transparency, trust and safety, saving time and budget without compromising on quality.
A Xiaomi-funded smart home company focusing on smart home and bringing intelligence to everyday objects, Yeelight manufacturers a range of smart LED lighting. Top-rated and stocked across numerous UK etail outlets, Yeelight is a key player in smart lighting.
The International Breakbeat Awards was setup in 2001 to recognise the best talent in the breaks scene. Due to my involvement with NSB and knowledge of UK club scene, the original organisers asked me to run the annual awards from 2007 onwards. Attracting up to 4800 people over 2 events ever year, Breakspoll has been held at some of London’s top venues, including Fabric, Matter, and Cable. In 2009, we even took the concept to Spain for a massive Breakspoll Festival, attracting 10,000 people to a stadium in Seville.
A leading player in the smart home and internet of things space, HomeMonitor is a Wi-Fi camera that keeps people connected to what they love from their iOS or Android devices. Focused on simplicity with a cloud platform backend, the product has been a huge success, even without funding. Multi-award winning, HomeMonitor has been featured in the likes of The Times, the LA Times, TechCrunch, Engadget, T3, Wired and more.
BabyPing was a Wi-Fi baby monitor for iOS, I was heavily involved with all aspects of this app-connected wifi camera. From concepts, to design, to hardware, to user testing, to UX, to UI, to marketing, to launch, to retail. The product was a huge success in the media – multi-award winning and highly praised – including being covered by BBC News, however the market was not as big, or as fast growing as expected, and the product was spun off so the team could focus on bigger markets.
A leader in building innovative remote monitoring equipment so people can stay in touch with whatever is important to them from anywhere in the world, I headed up the Marketing team for this small startup that quickly grew in to a powerful company with products being sold by top retailers in over 35 countries and saw OEM deals with the likes of Vodafone, Gigaset and o2.
I completely rebranded a cocktail bar in 2007, putting my stamp on it and becoming near-enough a full time marketing consultant there. Profit targets were set and smashed consistently, month in month out, and we were lucky enough to attract regular clients such as GQ, Vogue, ITV, MTV, Dazed & Confused, and Channel 4, eventually seeing a successful exit for the business. Mixmag now run the venue.
Shut Ya Mouth PR
Music industry promotions and PR. I started what can only be described as a guerrilla marketing company, combining my print, web, and email experience, laced with some genius creativity, to pull off some amazing street promotion campaigns for the likes of Roll Deep, Matter Nightclub, Glade Festival and Breakspoll. We used innovative techniques like reverse graffiti combined with the latest web trends to really grab peoples attention and get real interest and viral spread.
A printing company with the web at its core – I transformed a 25-year old small business and took it to the forefront of supplying litho and digital print to the music & entertainment sector within 18 months. Over the five years I was with the business, I was wholly responsible for the rapid expansion of the companies marketing and sales activity – direct and indirect marketing, overseeing massive developments and improvements in e-commerce, CRM introduction and development, SEO, PPC campaigns, sales targets, promotions, business finance and acquisition, employment and much more, eventually seeing a successful exit for the company.
A subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, I was working on web marketing for clients such as Massey Ferguson, Jaguar and Rover, where I learnt all about Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing (so I can honestly say I was in to lean way before Eric Ries…) and where I developed a real taste for internet marketing playing a wide role in the complete marketing landscape.
Music industry promotions. Paradox allowed me to work with email marketing, a first in the industry we were in, using cutting-edge design and delivery techniques, combined with SMS broadcasting and data capture. I worked with world-class companies such as Ministry of Sound, Universal and Warner Music, and was featured in a magazine article entitled “Pioneers of Email and SMS marketing”.
Club night and website. Marketing itself across three different musical styles (Hardcore, Drum and Bass, Old Skool), Epidemik saw crowds of 500 – 2500 people at their event, filling major UK venues like The Fridge, Bagleys Film Studios, The Rex, the Junction and Ministry of Sound to name but a few. The web operations of the company involved building a large online presence, with a respected events listings page and regular news.
At the age of 14, I became a weekly columnist for the Braintree & Witham Times newspaper, writing a computer games column. The newspaper had a weekly readership of approximately 30,000 people.
Things I don’t remember
I seemed to get business and opportunity from an early age – one of my earliest memories of this is probably at age 10 – selling ice poles in the summer at school for a tidy profit. I loved computer games and writing, and my attitude to getting ahead got me writing for a local newspaper with a circulation of 30,000 at age of 12, complete with a weekly supply of free games, TV appearances and getting backstage at launch events most journalists couldn’t even get in too. At 13, I worked on a fruit and veg stall earning great money every Saturday; I used to shout out our deals and offers across the market. At 16, after failing to get in to journalism school (as I didn’t agree with the dissection of Shakespeare for the required English GCSE) I spent my days putting together business plans to open up my own computer games shop and arcade.
I basically spent my late teens living, breathing and dreaming about computers and business. I was creating my own programs, running up huge phone bills on bulletin boards, typesetting my own fanzine (about games, and of course I sold it at school for a profit), creating primitive websites, hacking apps, pirating games, designing graphics, and much more, but always promoting what I was doing – through something that I later learned was marketing.
I embraced my business passions and at university from 1998 to 2001, I was lucky enough to combine business, marketing and IT with my degree. Much of my uni spare time (and some not so spare) involved me starting, growing and helping businesses – I was at uni in the dot-com bubble, and I was involved with lots of projects, money flowing in full swing (unfortunately flowing out, not in!, and not very often to me!). Minor successes, a lot of failures, a helluva lot of stuff learnt. I can’t even remember the names of the “multi-million pound investment” companies I worked with that disappeared without a trace.