Before and after leaving BT I invested my own time, money and effort in building a broad range of new companies, and advising and supporting others.
Although I had learned a lot about people, technology, business and money, the very act of going independent revealed new facets, risks, strengths, and weakness of my previously secure exposure. My first start up involved super concepts, good people, a hungry market, and mature technology, but failed! Why? Because several components were almost right, but not quite! It was like a three-wheeled car on a hill that looks like it should roll, but wont. Another three failures followed until I learned a most valuable series of lessons:
By late 1998 I had learned a lot through the school of hard knocks - losing my own money - and the companies listed below started to emerge as the cream of the crop from a diverse number of directions. Things started to go right at last and at last I coined Cochrane's Law of start-ups, as follows:
Any new company in which I participate and invest enjoys a success that is inversely proportional to my involvement.
This turns out to be an obvious and a self-fulfilling law in that if I don't pay attention to the above, then I spend all my days trying to engineer a fix, or mounting a defence, later.
If I get it all right from the start, then I have to do almost nothing, the business largely looks after itself.