So you failed. What now ...

Failure is an experience that no entrepreneur wants to encounter, yet one that pretty much everyone will. On Monocle 24 Radio's The Entrepreneurs show I was asked what happens when your luck runs out and the best ways to bounce back, and boy I should know ... 

I'm Mark Jennings, the founder of Shaken Cocktails, a cocktail-subscription start-up. Shaken, however, no longer exists, we shipped our final box back in June. Shaken had a growing customer base, secured promising deals with spirits brands and went through a number of successful funding rounds. So what made the company go under? And what did I learn from the experience?

Listen here to find out.

Lewisham is changing, and I feel fine.

I loved Lewisham as soon as I moved here.

Then, 6 years ago, this part of South East London looked like a bomb had hit it and torn the centre out, leaving in it’s wake a lazy copy of Brutalist architecture that was dated as soon as it was finished. I later found out that’s exactly what happened, many bombs in fact, as the Germans tried to hit Greenwich docks nearby.

I still loved it.

The everyday bustle, literally every day, not just during the weekend.  The market stalls, which mostly sold food I'd never seen before; and still to this day am scared to ask what they are. The Turkish cafes and barbers where the owners and friends stand and smoke rolled up cigarettes with course, noxious tobacco -  malevolence in the gathering, but you soon realise it's simply fraternity, of problems solved in the old way. The occasional Irish cafe or pub, staffed by someone who remembers when it was unpopular to be Irish. Especially the sturdy older Jamaican women on the way back from church, resplendent in colour and motherly decorum. This has been my home all the time I have been in London, and for the last 3 years that of my now wife. All of this is home. Yes the chicken shops too. The butchers who, of course, don’t stock pork, the mobile phone unlockers. The traffic, the noise, the occasional feeling of dread late at night.     

It's changing.

It's more mixed. Eastern European communities and those priced out of east London, or those spawning are all blending with the English, Turkish, Indian and and West Indian communities that represent this wonderful arrondissement.

Little by little it’s changing and I don't mind. Change happens; no one holds it back. But it is changing and I wanted to record some of it: my little spaces, memories, the nooks and crannies that will unlikely survive what's to come.

These are some photos of how it is.




Social Business - Using Social Media for Business in Africa

I was asked by an energy business to speak at their annual conference in Marrakesh, Morocco on Social Business - Using Social Media for Business in Africa.

Here is an updated version including my voice-over included as new slides: 

Campaign Review – The Glenlivet Guardians’ Chapter

In 2013 one of my favourite engagements was to work on The Glenlivet account for Aesop, and on their biggest campaign to date ... The Guardians' Chapter.

In the role of Digital Director I wrote the digital strategy, advised on social media strategy, content curation and measurements and built up the development team. It was a great example of fully integrated planning and delivery, mixing the best of on and offline engagement to create a true world first.   

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What is it?

When a whisky brand usually creates a new whisky it is up to the master distiller to choose from the aged casks which spirit will make the perfect dram. He does this pretty much alone and the customers’ only interaction is to buy the whisky once it has been bottled. We set out to change that.    

The objective?

Instead of the whisky fans being at the end of the process, switch it around and put them at the start. Give The Glenlivet’s fans the chance to choose the whisky that would be bottled, rewarding their loyalty and creating a world first along the way: appropriate for “the whisky that started it all”.

How?

First, The Glenlivet’s Master Distiller Alan Winchester created three expressions: 3 different whiskies, all with their own characteristics, flavours and tasting notes.

Now, the hard part, how to get over the barrier of “participation inequality”. There are hundreds of thousands of people who want to taste the whisky, but unless we gave it all away for free, precious little of it to go around. How can you vote on a whisky you haven’t tasted?

The solution 

We created a personality for each of the three whisky expressions, relevant to their taste and ingredients of The Glenlivet’s history and brand: Classic, Exotic, and Revival. Read more about the specifics of each whisky here.

As well as Global Tasting events in America, UK, Canada, India, South Africa, Japan and beyond, we also created a content space online called the Guardian’s Hub where each of these three expressions was brought to life, with articles including the likes of Classic Bars, Exotic tailoring or Revival architecture, were regularly served up, giving those who might not get to actually taste the whisky, a chance to define their own taste. They were then able to use this journey to help vote on the expression that most represented them.

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Through voting apps at events, and on the Guardian’s Hub online, participants could vote for their favourite expression, or change their vote if they were so persuaded, and with your vote being made public, you had added incentive to share with your friends to help support the dram you most wanted to see bottled.                

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The results

The campaign ran for 4 months and had massive interaction on the Guardian’s Hub, at the events and through social media. People voted in 39 countries around the world and at the end, celebrated the final winner ... The Exotic, in shops in March 2014.  

UPDATE: IT'S LAUNCHED!

Conclusion

A good brief and client is one thing, but you need a great team to pull it off. On this project I was involved from the very start and worked closely with a brilliant planner. We gelled immediately and in one room over just a few hours managed to shape and reshape then define the core of the idea in a way that would both look and feel right, but also be technically profound. This ensured that everyone else involved on the project had a clear focus. I have to say was a joy to work on.        

 After the campaign finished I was given a set of the three very rare Chapter Whisky Expressions as a momento

After the campaign finished I was given a set of the three very rare Chapter Whisky Expressions as a momento

 Nice feedback from Ian, The Glenlivet's Global Ambassador

Nice feedback from Ian, The Glenlivet's Global Ambassador

I even appear at 43 seconds into this video

It's going to hurt, but it's a good kind of pain

In September, as the weather turns cold and wet, I will be on a bike, in shorts, cycling 70 miles a day for 3 days.

Why?  To raise money for a charity I believe in so strongly that it is worth the cuts, bruises, strains and drenching.

Last year we did this and built 2 schools and a library through Room To Read, with your support we can do even more - please donate to me to achieve this goal.

Please support me - I promise, I won't let you down http://bit.ly/supportmark


10 minutes on the essential ways to ignite a digital sector (or new company)

If you’ve started either, you’ll see yourself.  

Speaking recently in Margate at the GEEK conference to local businesses, academia, local councils and the government I had 10 minutes to cover the topic cultural and social conditions that create networks within the digital sector, how to enable growth and how to support it.

So I spoke about STORY, BELIEF, LUCK, NEED and ENCOURAGEMENT.  It’s something I’m really passionate about and hope many of you see yourselves in this.

What did Techbikers achieve?

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Well, more to the point, what did you acheive? If you sponsored me for the recent Techbikers Paris to London 200 mile cycle then you are of course awesome, but this is why ...

We will fund the following 2012 projects in Nepal:

  • One two room School Construction project at 22,000 USD (Brand new school built)
  • One constructed Library at 20,000 USD (brand new library built)
  • One School Library at 5,000 USD (re-purposing of an existing room in a school with no library, filled with books)

I could not be prouder today, and this extends to each of you who supported me - thank you with all my heart.

The plaque text will read: This school/library was established through the cooperation of the local community, Room to Read and TechBikers. TechBikers (40 entrepreneurs in East London) were inspired to support this space and hope that it similarly inspires the local community to dive into a world of creativity, initiative and curiosity that was opened up to us by books and learning.

A Moustache for Life, Not Just Movember

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I was asked by Freestate to write for their Themepark blog, I chose a subject close to my heart, well, my nose really ...

The moustache of legend is a sign of strength and manliness, but beyond  the bravado, is the ritual of moustache cultivation more powerful than  we realise? Why through history has overt personal grooming been seen as  effeminate, while the cultivation of a moustache is revered as the very  symbol of masculinity? I posit that what is missing from men's lives is  the ceremony of grooming that a moustache brings. Yes, there has been a  resurgence in the moustache lately, but where once the moustache was  described as having a "wonderfully powerful effect upon a man's whole  expression" it now most usually adorns the ironic lip of hipsters of  Dalston or Willamsberg.

Read the rest of my article here

Stacks - this is something you should know

Bruce Sterling is a bit of a hero of mine, and here is a quote from his closing speech at SXSW this year that I've been meaning to post for a while ...

"[There's] a new phenomena that I like to call the Stacks [vertically integrated social media]. And we've got five of them -- Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. The future of the stacks is basically to take over the internet and render it irrelevant. They're not hostile to the internet -- they're just [looking after] their own situation. And they all think they'll be the one Stack... and render the others irrelevant. And they'll all be rendered irrelevant. That's the future of the Stacks.

People like the Stacks, [because] the internet is scary now -- so what's the problem there? None of them offer any prosperity or security to their human participants, except for their shareholders. The internet has users. Stack people are livestock -- ignorant of what's going on, and moving from on stack to another. The Stacks really, really want to know you're a dog.

They're annihilating other media... The Lords of the Stacks. And they're not bad guys -- I'd be happy to buy them a beer. But really, a free people would not be so dependent on a Napoleonic mobile people. What if Mark Zuckerberg trips over a skateboard?

This structure won't last very long... But you're really core people for them and their interests. You are them. I'm them. And your kids are going to ask embarrassing questions about them. And there are voices here and there complaining about them, [like] Jonathan Franzen. He says Twitter is destroying literature. And he's right. So don't make fun of him. He's telling the truth."

Powerful.

Innovation & opportunity:When I became a man, I gave up childish ways

First published at the Like  Minds Conference October 2011

Our greatest moments of innovation are long behind us. This may sound harsh but it needn’t be, as long as you recognise it and stop trying to grow up.

I was talking with a mother recently, she was amazed that her young son could pick up a knife and fork and with absolute conviction craft a story of good and evil, of both battling it out where there could only be one victor. I remember how a white sheet draped over boxes could become a snowy wilderness for toy soldiers to scale, chilling me to the core to live their struggle as I played.

One day I read a verse from the bible that scared me until, without realising, it became true: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways”.  Eventually all I knew seemed childish.  

Innovation is something we as adults strive so hard for, but often miss out that it is the opportunity taken that we need, not to think harder, but almost to not think at all. Like the children we once were, free from the inherited pressures of growing up, with space to fail, to learn, to embrace and to grow – not up but out.

So I challenge you – are you truly more innovative now than then, or happier even? If not, maybe the opportunity you need is the one in front of you.