For those on the speaking circuit, spring is always a busy time. For me, this will involve a ten-date tour for the Federation of Small Businesses, major public events in Liverpool and London plus numerous random events, involving everyone from students to senior management.
A life on the road would not suit everyone, especially the budget flights, second-class rail travel and three star hotels typically favoured by the finance departments of my clients. There are times when I wished I was turning left when getting onto an international flight, appreciating the tranquillity of first class rail travel or enjoying the luxury of a five star hotel.
Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if I had made a different decision in 1991. At the time, I had just exited from a successful start-up, and it did cross my mind to emigrate to the USA to seek a new and even more substantial fortune.
I might have returned to my apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, bumped into Mark Zuckerberg and given some sales advice to the nascent Facebook. If I had, I might now be looking at a $200million windfall, like graffiti artist David Choe, who painted a mural in Facebook's offices in exchange for stock rather than cash.
Someone who did decide to sell up and head west was David Richards, who originally built and sold a UK-based SAP software consultancy. He has since been involved in several venture capital backed software start-ups that were successfully acquired by publicly listed companies in the USA.
Today he serves on the boards of several technology companies and advises the NEC software group in Japan on their open source strategy. His latest start-up is Silicon WANdisco, which provides enterprise management for software development teams in large organisations.
As a veteran of many high-tech software start-ups, I was fascinated to learn that he plans to float WANdisco on AIM in April with the staff and strategic investors still retaining 100% of the company before the public offering.
His strategy now is to find a way of building around 80% of any software product for as little as possible. He then finds a customer willing to fund the rest of the product development in exchange for early access to the technology.
The first time a client rumbled that this is how the product was being developed was whilst Richards was at a different firm. He expected to be given a severe dressing down but instead, the client roared with laughter, especially when they were offered a piece of the action as a strategic, rather than venture capital investor.
Richards is also the ideal person to explain why the UK does not have its own Silicon Valley. He says it is not the reasons usually quoted, such as the larger indigenous market size, the large pool of homegrown software developer talent or a more positive attitude towards failure in the USA.
He says the real reason is that most of the UK's venture capitalists are accountants, not 'yahoos'. The term yahoo was originally coined by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels for repulsive, animal-like creatures, but was later adopted by Jerry Yang and David Filo for their company after the frosty reception they received from old-fashioned venture capitalists.
Richards is now creating his own yahoos in his hometown of Sheffield, where WANdisco's software development is now based. He hopes that these industry-disrupting software engineers will one day be able to fund their own local start-ups without having to kowtow to a room full of accountants.
Richard's only challenge is to explain to these yahoos about stock options and make sure they all receive them. Fortunately, he has plenty of stock to work with.
WANdisco can be found at www.wandisco.com