The Judge MBA dissertation of Justin Hayward, written in 2001, sponsored by CIR, the local strategy consultancy and technology conferences company, tackled the question of who were the most influential people of the “Cambridge Phenomenon” and how did they interact. This document was placed in the library of the Judge Business School, and labelled as confidential, except after consultation with the author. The author felt that this was right, since the information in the document was in part commercially valuable, and also sensitive to those in the lists and those that might have been on its peripheries. As Hermann Hauser has said at the Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) fantastic Cambridge Network talk on 8 September 2011, the new list is also a matter of profile, sine qua non, as well as merit.
The Cambridge Business Magazine, with the support of three large companies, has released an update to part of this, the actual list of Top 25 most influential people for Cambridge Business. This piece considers how many of the new list in 2011 were in the old list of 2001 and to draw any acceptable inferences from this small study.
It is worth bearing in mind, here, that the list obtained in 2001 by CIR was different from the 2011 list obtained by the Cambridge Business Magazine (CBM) in the following ways:
(1) CBM used a panel of 3 people heading up large companies to decide the list, whereas CIR interviewed an initial group of 25 people of prominence in the cluster (by its own reckoning), but then asked each of them (and others that they had named as influential) to list the people that they thought were most influential, so that hundreds of votes were ‘cast’. This process is a little more democratic, and certainly less “oligarchical” and susceptible to bias, yet not “perfectly democratic”.
(2) The CIR list was an “all-time” list, rather than a “now” list. It also potentially included people who were full-time academic leaders for example. This means that there were already names on the list that were inactive in 2001, and clearly some have fallen inactive between 2001 and 2011. The CBM list appears to be those who are still active (for the most part). This point needs clarification.
In numbers, the CIR 2001 generated a list of 117 unique names, from 237 names listed across 25 interviews in answer to the question: “Please give me your list of the most influential individuals for the Cambridge high tech business ecosystem”.
9 people (36%) were on both lists (CIR, 2001 & CBM 2011):
Alan Barrell, Nigel Brown, David Cleevely, Peter Dawe, Hermann Hauser, Walter Herriot, Andy Hopper, Mike Lynch, Michael Marshall.
The 2011 list can be analysed as follows:
16 are entrepreneurs, 8 in ICT, 4 on the biotech side, 2 in industrial areas, and 2 are entrepreneurs (one ICT one on financial services) who’ve moved long since into formal venture capital areas. There were 15 entrepreneurs in the 2001 list. A further 7 in the new list run key business networks. Finally, 2 are consultants, albeit very successful ones, one of whom I’m aware is an active business angel, who has invested in at least one of the other influential entrepreneurs on the list.
There are a few straight swaps: Warren East taking over from Sir Robin Saxby, present and past CEOs of the quintessentially Cambridge success story, ARM, a story that is yet to unfold and whose importance in the world cannot be overstated. Another straight swap was Billy Boyle, of Owlstone, for Adam Twiss, whose Zeus was at the time soaring. Without checking, Billy is probably the youngest person in the list of entrepreneurs. Brian Moon replaces Paul Auton on the CCL side. The “new entry” of Redgate and Neil Davidson, is welcome, as it shows an element of marketing skill which many (including one other person in the list) have suggested are lacking in the cluster as a whole.
If there is a concern, it would be that there is a dearth of first-time entrepreneurs on the list. On the other hand, the “infrastructure” for helping them must be stronger than ever. It is at least quite clear from the profile of these lists, who one might go and talk to for angel and VC money and mentorship.
If there are silver linings, they are the “game, set and match” success of ARM, and the recent success of Mike Lynch with Autonomy. Some will use this as an example of another “British sell-out”. But Mike Lynch has broken into the “billionaire order of magnitude”, which I don’t think we’ve seen in Cambridge before.
Thank you to CBM for this interesting 2011 update.
CIR hosts a marker map of all high tech companies in the Cambridge cluster at http://www.cir-strategy.com/markers.htm. If you are a new company with IPR or working on innovations in product or service, and not yet listed, please contact CIR via http://www.cir-strategy.com