The Gig Economy – and the Unions

I wrote this for the Irish Times on November 3rd.

“The black market was a way of getting around government controls”. So asserted Milton Friedman, a Nobel prizewinner in Economics. Last Friday, the Central London Employment Tribunal came to a somewhat similar conclusion regarding the behaviour of Uber, a ride-hailing app company. GMB, a trade union for private drivers, successfully took a test case on behalf of two Uber drivers. The union asserted that Uber was acting unlawfully in that its drivers were not self-employed but in effect employees. Continue reading

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Ireland’s drone opportunity

This was published in the Irish Times on the 31st August 2016.

“Life is too short for traffic”. Poorly set traffic lights, few encouragements to keep traffic flowing, hardly any red light camera enforcements, and sheer volume of traffic all conspire to make driving in Irish municipal areas more inefficient than perhaps it could be. The immense waste of kinetic energy and particulate pollution caused by frequently stop-starting thousands of multi-tonne vehicles, each in mid-journey, damages our environment and our health every day.

Is there a better way? We need real automobiles: automatic machines for transport. Continue reading

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What kind of start-ups, and what kind of investment ?..

This column piece was published on 10th August 2016.

What does a venture capitalist do? Answer of course: invest in start-ups! But what kind of start-ups and what kind of investments?

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Raising capital in start ups

This column piece was published on 27th June 2016.

Sometimes things do not quite work out as planned.

In September 2012, the then Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton announced a €90M microfinance scheme which was expected to benefit 7,700 businesses over the following 10 years. Up to €25,000 worth of credit would be offered to sole traders, and businesses employing up to 10 people, with turnovers less than €2M, and whose commercially viable loan applications had nevertheless been refused by the main street banks. Significantly, start-ups would be eligible to apply for these loans.

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Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn

I was asked to write a short commentary on the purchase of LinkedIn by Mircosoft by the Irish Times.  This was separate from my usual column,  and was published on the 14th June 2016.

In a daring move yesterday, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella announced his intention to acquire the professional relationship site LinkedIn for $28.2 billion, less the $2 billion which LinkedIn already holds in cash.

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Big Data

I wrote this piece as a perspective on the emergence of Big Data.  It was published on 6th June 2016.

Francis Beaufort from Navan invented the scale of wind strength now named after him, in 1805. He had been shipwrecked at the age of fifteen, and devoted his career to the development of maritime charts for safe navigation.

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Secret Sauce and Tasty Temptation

I wrote this piece when contemplating the interplay between barriers to entry (against competition) and barriers to adoption (by customers and the market).  It was published today in the Irish Times.   I had spoken on the same topic way back in 2012 and more recently at a breakfast event for Invesco on ‘managing risk’..

After the investors have patiently listened to you explaining your product and underlying technology, you just know they will ask: what is to stop a well funded competitor reinventing your product and capturing the market from you, particularly once you have some customer wins and so have proven that a market actually exists for your product?

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