Author: Pete Loughlin

Change is often accompanied by changes in language. Not just new words to describe new things but old words change their meaning as their original meaning becomes less exact. The evolution of language is natural but like all change, some find it harder to deal with than others as they stubbornly cling to old terminology. Those who remember the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s will certainly have heard old fuddy-duddies saying “but ‘gay’ means happy”. I used to think they were feigning confusion in an attempt at humour but no, they really were struggling to come to terms with the evolution of language as the world moved on. The mobile telephony revolution of the last twenty years has been accompanied by characteristic evolution of language. Whole new words and acronyms joined the English language as abbreviations were developed as SMS shorthand. But still, the fuddy-duddies insist on grammatically correct text messaging, refusing to embrace it or worse, trying to use it and getting it wrong. David Cameron famously thought “lol” meant “lots of love” – it’s a common mistake amongst SMS fuddy-duddies. One of the worst social media faux pas I know was the fuddy-duddy that sent the text message: “Just heard the sad news about your mother. Sorry for your loss. lol”.

The great thing about uncontrolled environments is they’re not controlled. Change becomes easy and innovation abounds. Business improvements are only limited by your ability to imagine. The sky’s the limit. Of course a business environment with no controls is a dangerous place. Mistakes go undetected and fraud can thrive unless there are pragmatic business controls in place. But working within a tightly controlled environment requires a different way of thinking in order to ensure that change isn’t stifled completely.

"What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive" Walter Scott I am a fan of supply chain finance. Executed properly it can allow buyers to optimise their DPO without painful extensions to payment terms for suppliers and it can lower the cost of working capital to suppliers. But it doesn't always work like that. There isn't a simple definition that covers all interpretations of supply chain finance but at a high level it involves the collaboration of a strong buyer extending their superior financial strength to their buyers to allow them to borrow on the strength of approved invoices. That sounds very worthy doesn't it? But let's look at what can really happen. Let's listen in to the conversation between a buyer and supplier. The supplier is on 30 day terms and his his generous customer offers to allow him to borrow money for 30 days at a favourable rate.

Most software sales people are like ventriloquists. They demonstrate software that looks the part but is often pretty dumb. They make it look clever by presenting it professionally and filling in any gaps in actual functionality with promises and distractions. We've all seen it before - software solutions that run best on PowerPoint. But occasionally you get to see a solution that stands up by itself and delivers. It just works.

Startups and young businesses thrive when their people do their jobs because they want to change the world, they want to get rich or they want to do what they love to do. But as they grow, founders execute their exit plans, hopefully happily, and the accountants move in. The business drivers change. The raison d’etre becomes about numbers and regulation. They’re either fixated on quarterly earnings figures or obsessed with compliance. They get third parties in far flung places to run their back office, even core business activities get outsourced and offshored. The business stops being about the hopes, dreams and ambitions of its people. They even outsource them.

[caption id="attachment_6736" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Bertram Meyer - CEO Taulia[/caption]

The British can make strong claims to the invention of the computer (Babbage) and the World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee) but examine the DNA of the modern world of technology and it's mainly American with a strong Northern Californian flavor. Ariba, Oracle, Google, Twitter - Silicon Valley born and bred.

But it's not just Americans that are behind this innovation. This phenomenon has more to do with geography. Two of the most interesting innovators in the P2P space, Taulia and Tradeshift, although San Francisco based, are European - well their founders are. Why is it so important, indeed, is it important, for tech start-ups to have a Bay Area address? I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and took the opportunity to speak to Christian Hjorth, Head of Sales at Tradeshift and Bertram Meyer, CEO of Taulia to understand why Silicon Valley is still important.

The cost of credit to many businesses is so high that it threatens their continued existence – that’s if they can get credit at all. And it’s not just a problem for them – it affects their customers and their suppliers. The full extent of the supply chains within their industry is affected. But it need not be like this. By taking a fresh view of risk, that cost of credit can be reduced significantly. We’ve taken a detailed look at OB10’s Express Payment offering to understand how this new way of trading can work in practice.