“Icon of the year”
Podcast transcription - 29th may
Alan Cowley: We're so pleased to bring you part two of David Cleevely's Invested Investor podcast. In part one, we heard how David made a name for himself. In part two, we hear how he's built a portfolio of angel investments through the Cambridge Angels, as well as his ventures into policy and even restaurant ownership. We hope you enjoy.
Peter Cowley: So, let's just move onto investing. So, you and Robert Sansom, who lives across the road here.
David Cleevely: Yep.
Peter Cowley: Set up the Cambridge Angels in 2001. I'm now Chair of that and I've been a member for about 10 years, but of course it goes back about 17 years. So tell me about why you did that? I mean, it's a crazy thing to do.
David Cleevely: Well, Robert arrived across the road. Literally, I walk out of my drive and walk into his. So he arrived and he said, "Is there an angel network, I haven't found one?" And I said, "No, there isn't." He said, "Let's have lunch."
So we had lunch in Galleria on Bridge Street, sadly no longer with us I think, and we had a chat about it and I just thought, well, I'd already set up Cambridge Network by that point and that was an interesting piece of social infrastructure. The older I get the more interested I get in those sorts of things and I thought, "Well, this sounds like a good idea. There's a load of people around who are going to be making money and doing things, I've got this exit from Analysis, let's".
Peter Cowley: But you hadn't exited at that point?
David Cleevely: "Well, I will have an exit from Analysis. I will have enough money to do this. I'm already making a bit of money out of Analysis." So, I could afford, yes, pin money I could afford to play around with. So let's try and do this. Abcam at that point was three years old I suppose. "It's an interesting space, let's see what we can do."
And then we quickly assembled a few people.
Peter Cowley: I've seen the original email. There were 15 actually.
David Cleevely: Yeah, yeah, it was very quick. And one of the most important things about that, Peter, was that it was a bit like what I'd done with Cambridge Network and when I mentioned Cambridge Network, is it put people in touch with each other who really ought to be in touch with each other, but for various reasons weren't necessarily going to meet.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: So, the way that Cambridge Angels does things, you know with the dinners and so on, forms a great piece of social engineering about forming a group and then provides the ability to learn, because I'd learned, in the first five years at Cambridge Angels I'd learnt so much, so much.
Peter Cowley: In fact, Robert Sansom, who we will interview at some point, had been angel investing in Pittsburgh for some years before that, so he brought knowledge into the group.
David Cleevely: Yeah, Robert knew more about this and that's why he came to me and he said, "Well, where's the angel investing?"
Peter Cowley: Because he knew you do the networks here?
David Cleevely: Because he knew all that this stuff was like.
Peter Cowley: Yeah.
David Cleevely: And so, it's a great illustration of how you need people coming in from other environments in places in order to stimulate you to do things.
Peter Cowley: He'd been at Uni here, but he'd disappeared for twenty odd years.
David Cleevely: Yeah, yeah. He still has this slightly American accent.
Peter Cowley: Right, and so you started angel investing. And do you know how many angel investments you've made?
David Cleevely: Probably about 50 or 60, I would guess.
Peter Cowley: Okay. And what have you learnt from those?
David Cleevely: That the really rubbish ones are the ones where you don't do the due diligence, where you do it on emotion and you just stick a little bit of money in and then it starts to get rather more because you have to follow on and you don't want to admit to yourself that it's going to end in tears.
Peter Cowley: But there will be some that were successful where you did that, I would think as well?
David Cleevely: Well, I liken this to, if I can get a bit mathematical for a moment ... to a Markovian process. So, Markovian process is one where each step of the process is basically you roll the dice, but you can decide which direction you're going to go. If you roll the dice, you roll a six-sided dice, you can choose one of six directions to go and then you just watch where the point is moving. So, it'll cover the entire surface at some point but it may cover some bits of the surface more than others.
Let's take a better example of that. So, Markovian process where you've got a company that's growing. So every step of the way and every month it's either going to go up or it's going to go down. The bias is that it's going to go up, but occasionally you might throw three ones in row, in which case the company goes bust.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: Now, the company might have a really good idea, it might be actually on a trajectory that would go up through the ceiling, but because it threw those three ones in a row - and it's recognising that that was just bad luck versus there is something systematically wrong with what you're doing - that really is the big dividing line about investments and investments.
Peter Cowley: And have you worked that out yet?
David Cleevely: Well, I've learned to listen to the little voice inside rather more than I used to and that's steered me away from some things and steered me into the right decisions on others. I've also learnt that sometimes you need to double up. So Newell is a good example of doubling up. Newell was not going to work and was not going to work big time unless it changed tack and got a new owner - and it certainly wasn't going to work if we put VC money in, and for the original investors who put VC money in we would have been completely wiped out. But in order to get it to that exit, we had to pony up a significant amount of money at a fairly high risk and spin the wheel to see whether it was going to work or not.
Peter Cowley: And as it turns out replaced the founder with a new CEO.
David Cleevely: And do all sorts of stuff like that. Now, I wouldn't have been able to do that. I mean, they wanted me to be Chairman, I was too busy so I was a Director, but I still had quite a lot of responsibility for all of that. We would not have been able to do that, I think, if it weren't for a couple of things.
Firstly, I had learnt so much from Cambridge Angels and previous experience. How to read the rooms, understand what was going on. And the other one was, the people on the Board, I'd already worked with most of them. I already knew them. So, I could read stuff better, and we knew how to work together, that turned out to be fine. Of course, in a parallel universe, quite close to ours, it didn't.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: But there you go.
Peter Cowley: Yes, okay. So do you think you're cash on cash up yet?
David Cleevely: Excluding Abcam, clearly. You know, the amount you've invested now is actually replaced, and you've got a portfolio of companies which will go onto great things.
Peter Cowley: Oh no, that's because I've now piled in with an embarrassingly large amount of money invested.
David Cleevely: In one particular company?
Peter Cowley: In those angel investments.
David Cleevely: I don't know how much I made from those things. I mean, if I just do a quick tot up of three-way networks which was a flip, a very lucky flip but we did it, I've got more than half of the cash that, If x is the amount that I've currently got invested, I've probably got about 1/2 x so far out.
Peter Cowley: Okay, yeah. So you're not there yet? Cash on cash, not yet, but you've got hopefully some great opportunities.
David Cleevely: Oh, I've got one that will just dwarf Abcam.
Peter Cowley: Oh, really? Okay.
David Cleevely: Yeah.
Peter Cowley: Oh, right. And why am I not in that?
David Cleevely: Don't tell me you … cough.
Peter Cowley: That cough was on purpose and will be left in.
David Cleevely: The thing about investing, you know, the number of times I've told people I've got this wonderful slam dunk…
Peter Cowley: Yeah, I know, I've followed you into some things and they haven't worked.
David Cleevely: ... and it just doesn't turn out. I mean, the thing here is that if you've got the experience. If we take Einscope for example, which you know about-
Peter Cowley: Yeah.
David Cleevely: ... we made a number of slips on the engineering on Einscope which made it go backwards rather than forwards and it was absorbing so much money and it was one of those where I just wanted to get the investors' money back and I was head down, not thinking too broadly, and then brought in a new team and the new team went, "Actually, you know what? We're about connecting things in the lab." Having done that, we were able to exit to DeepMatter.
Peter Cowley: Well, first, of all you swapped from hardware to software, hardware to software, that was a major.
David Cleevely: There's a bit of hardware in labs. You need to be able to connect to bits of kit so you need hardware as well as software. We're still selling the Einscope stuff and the Einscope stuff actually still makes the most profit actually. It's a nice business. But the issue was that with new management, fresh perspective, did something different, made a transition. We were then bought by what was then Cronan plc, now it's called DeepMatter and I'm on the Board of that. That's a great company on AIM and I did a deal in which as long as the share price crosses a certain threshold, the investors who invested in the original company will at least get their money back.
Peter Cowley: Yeah.
David Cleevely: So, you know, it might not be a spectacular multiple, but as far as I'm concerned when I had a very poor hand, I basically am going to deliver people their money back which is. as far as I'm concerned, I feel a strong obligation to do that if I possibly can.
Peter Cowley: Yeah, so if you're on the Board or Chair specifically?
David Cleevely: Yeah, yeah, you know you feel the weight of that responsibility. You really do.
Peter Cowley: So, let's move on to some other areas. So you're more over-committed I think that I am!
David Cleevely: Are you going to move into the restaurant business, yeah?
Peter Cowley: Oh, yeah, The Pint Shop and the other one, the one in London.
David Cleevely: Bocca di Lupo.
Peter Cowley: So, you, like me, because of Cambridge are mainly B2B, but you do a bit of B2C, like the one your son runs, Camuta's obviously a B2C is that right? And let's talk about restaurants. The Pint Shop, was that the first one?
David Cleevely: No, Bocca di Lupo was the first. And that was back in 2006-ish, my nephew started to talk to me about setting up a restaurant doing various things. We looked at different models, including a chain of Mexican restaurants, we did the business model on that. It's far too risky, far too risky. But we set up Bocca di Lupo, and I invested in that on the basis of the menu that he gave me. And the menu was revolutionary at the time. It was broken up, different regions, different kinds of food and small plates and large plates, which is now quite common in a lot of restaurants. Then absolutely, nobody was doing it. And I looked at this, and I thought, "Well, I would very much like to eat some of this food! Look at that - I could pick from there, pick from there, pick from there." It's proper Italian, not three courses, you know, the standard thing we have to eat everything on the plate. No, just put the plates in the middle and everybody share and take what they like.
It turned out into a rip-roaring success and then we opened the gelateria across the way, which is Gelupo, which in 2012 for the Olympics, Time compiled a list of a thousand things you should do in London and going to Gelupo was No.1. It is the best gelato in the United Kingdom.
And that took a bit of money, absorbed a bit of money out of Bocca, but we were still kind of a bit heady with all of this stuff because restaurants don't usually make money and so you don't really know what to do at this point, and then of course we did an absolutely catastrophic thing, which was to rent the huge premises on Cambridge Circus.
Peter Cowley: On Cambridge Circus. I went to that restaurant. I really enjoyed it and was really disappointed.
David Cleevely: Of course, you would.
Peter Cowley: ... it failed.
David Cleevely: Oh, no, no, no. I mean, the food was fantastic. It was absolutely brilliant but in the restaurant business it's about passing trade, it's about reputation, it's about your place in the market, it's about the number of covers that you've got in the place, how efficient you are, what your overheads are and all those other bits and pieces and the last straw when we were just kind of plodding on trying to make the whole thing work, then the business rates nearly doubled. And you know, just forget it. You're just out of there. The promised point of actually crossing the line to be able to start to make some money out of it just moved so far into the future it just wasn't worth it. We closed it.
Peter Cowley: So, you're down to two?
David Cleevely: Yeah, that's right. And I can safely say that Bocca di Lupo is doing very well indeed thank you very much.
Peter Cowley: And then of course you get a knock on the door and some guys from Cambridge.
David Cleevely: Yeah. I was maybe recommended because I'd been involved in Bocca and so the due diligence there was, okay, if you're interested in this stuff come round and bring some food and booze and talk us through how it's going to work, because I'd learned from Jacob, you know, the thing about it is the concept is about the food and how you present it and how you spin the story, the narrative and so on.
Peter Cowley: And?
David Cleevely: The Pint Shop has been fantastically successful in Cambridge, but less so in Oxford. The premises weren't really the ideal ones to choose. We've got the third one just opened in Birmingham. We will now see the roll of the dice, and you've got to hope that you get at least a three or a four.
Peter Cowley: Yes, okay. So let's just go back to networks. So you set up Cambridge Angels, which is a small network, but much bigger is Cambridge Network, Cambridge Wireless, Cambridge Ahead.
David Cleevely: Yes.
Peter Cowley: You have a soft spot do you for setting up institutions which are going to help ecosystems. Would that be fair to say?
David Cleevely: Well, yeah. The whole of my life has been dominated by serendipity. I remember doing a project before university. And I actually put a little paragraph in the project about serendipity, and how it just has made my entire life. The reason why I started on all of this stuff was I was walking down the school corridor in a break, and they were short of somebody to go in and hear a pitch by somebody from Post Office Telecommunications about sponsorship at university.
Peter Cowley: So, you got dragged into it?
David Cleevely: Dragged into it, and my entire career has followed from what was a 30-second conversation with the careers master. And you think back on that and my great conversation with Jonathan. Had I not been sitting with Jonathan at that dinner, and interested in him, finding out what he wanted to do, and then understanding how the business model worked, Abcam wouldn't have been formed. Well, it might have been, but that's another set of parallel universes that I don't know about.
It's always occurred to me. I worked with people at Analysis, and then they came back to me and went through a network which we sold to an American company that wanted to be floating on NASDAQ. All, of those things resulted in these chance encounters.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: In fact, I suggested to the impulse programme, the Maxwell Centre, that chance encounters make great ideas possible, or something I've read about. I suggested that to Alexander.
Peter Cowley: Talk to, you give.
David Cleevely: Well, as their slogan. As their by-line. Because that, for me, summarises this stuff. Just go meet people. I've got 11-12,000 people on this phone and I can't keep in contact with everybody. But it's the links that then just enable you to do things.
Peter Cowley: But you've got to make your own luck. You've got to make your own connections.
David Cleevely: There's a wonderful passage, which I quoted someone recently. It's in Pride & Prejudice, and it's where Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy have a conversation, and Darcy says, "Well, I'm basically a very shy person. I'm not very good at conversation." And Elizabeth says, "Well, I regard myself as not a good piano player. But I always put that down to the fact that I don't practise enough."
Peter Cowley: Haha. Clever.
David Cleevely: I paraphrased. Austen does it much more elegantly than that.
Peter Cowley: Good, okay. And of course, Sense for Science and Policy, that's a fatefully connecting government and academia, isn't it?
David Cleevely: That is kind of the distillation of everything I've learned about networking. Being encapsulated in a single organisation. So, they've been trying to set up this thing, which was a success, thing called the Cambridge University Government Programme. So, they've not found the right person. And they've been having grand ideas about setting up institutes and so on. And so, they phoned me up, and I had a chat with them. I got an email where I said "I'm not sure I'm the right guy for this". And they insisted. And I went ahead, with what was quite a different approach.
I had 1.6 million pounds given to me from donors and various other people. So I was sitting on this money, and of course the academics wanted me to spend this on doing research. And then the research would produce reports which you could then use to beat up policy-makers with. It didn't strike me as very good for two reasons. One, I looked around this university. There's hundreds of millions of pounds of research being done. My stuff isn't going to make any difference. And secondly, if I were a policy maker, some academic coming to me with a report just goes down like a lead balloon, really. So, I thought about it. I spent a year, not exactly spinning wheels but I did things. I went to Harvard and MIT. I experimented. I did loads of business plans. I talked, talked, and talked and talked. Sessions, various colleges with academics. Some of those sessions brought beads of sweat to my forehead. Because I was right out of my environment.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: Trying to learn how this stuff worked. Listening for the clues that they were going to tell me how to make it work, even though they didn't know how to do it. And it was a conversation with a chap who was the head of the Judge Business School at the time, that just, going back to my favourite quote pastor again, Charles Favours the Prepared Mind. I had done all this work.
It was December after a long period, when I was been thinking about it. And I went to see him, just before Christmas. And he talked about the way in which he had the Belgium Minister of Health, who was a personal friend of his, come to the Judge so that she could have that as a base and go to White Hall. And he said, "Look, the reason they're doing it like that, is you can send researchers into industry, and they come back with a better idea about industry. But actually, they just go back and do more research. You send people from industry into research, they get their eyes open to a whole series of things that they didn't know about. They go back with a network that they can use then to further their career." And I just went, "Got it."
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: And I said, "Right, I'm going to call them policy fellows". And he said, "What are you going to have them in for, three months? like my friend from Belgium?" I said, "No, no, five days. Five days. They see 30 people, they do it in five days. This is going to be absolutely compressed." And what we have with the Sanford Sons & Policy now is one and a half thousand researchers and experts. I think you've been one of them.
Peter Cowley: I haven't, no.
David Cleevely: You haven't? Oh, we should get you on the list.
Peter Cowley: Thank you.
David Cleevely: And then there's about 350 policy fellows. Each of whom sees about 30 of these people. We've had over 9,000 meetings between them. The result is that the networking now between the University of Cambridge and policy-makers in government and, slightly more generally, is everybody's in contact with each other. And those bits that are useful will stick.
Peter Cowley: And have you seen any outcomes which you are proud of?
David Cleevely: Oh, look, it doesn't go down terribly well if government wants to claim policy breakthroughs and changes in policy. And you go and say, "Well actually, that was my idea." does it? So, I'm not going to do that, okay? But I will tell you, there are several things where government policy has shifted as a result of those meetings. And there's been a lot of change as a result.
Peter Cowley: Well done. So David, I actually invested a little bit of money in that very first amount of money that was needed. Just as a donation.
David Cleevely: Thank you very much. Thank you.
Peter Cowley: Not very much, but I feel like I'm part of the journey.
David Cleevely: No, those early things really counted.
Peter Cowley: So, tell us about your involvement.
David Cleevely: On the periphery, when you were doing that, I was somewhat on the periphery of the thing. I talked to people, get a bit of advice, and so on. But when they'd actually got this stuff back into Jack's garage, and it started to fly out and get ordered, they realised they were going to actually have to have a training board. So they had the training entity. And they asked me to join the training board. So, I think I joined there in 2013. Something like that.
Peter Cowley: So that's independent from the charity?
David Cleevely: It's independent from the charity. So, these bunch of trustees I knew nothing about, and they did their trustee stuff with the charity. And I was on the training board. And so, trolled along doing that for a year or two. Increasingly frustrated, I had conversations mostly with Sherry, to say, "Not really sure what's going on here." And I started to get a little bit more, chatty with David in particular. But Ebon as well. And just talking about things. And then David took me out for lunch at Japas, the Japanese restaurant which I like very much. And said, "We'd like you to be chairman of the training company and of the foundation." These things are always a bit of a surprise to me. So I thought about it, and I kind of went back and talked to Rose and said, "If you're asked to do this kind of thing, you really can't refuse." So I took him up on that, and started. I'm trying to remember, was it 2015 I think? Must be 2015.
Peter Cowley: Was it? That was doing hundreds of thousands of units? Or even millions of units?
David Cleevely: Yeah, hundreds of thousands of units.
Peter Cowley: Yeah.
David Cleevely: It was obviously going to hit a million units. From the training point of view, that was going on. The other thing, which you need to understand, is on the charity side of things. Money was now coming into the charity. And the charity was beginning to give money away to people who wanted money. Now, in my book, you need to be very careful with a charity. You need to understand, is your money really making any difference or not? So, I did do quite a major shakeup at the charity after I arrived as chairman. We rewrote the article of association. We changed the management. We did a whole series of bits and pieces, and recruited a chap called Calligan, who has turned out to be possibly the best recruitment I've ever made. And he's a CEO of the charity.
I then spent, I suppose, two or three years just helping get the whole thing so it can scale up.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: And to give you some idea, Phillip was the seventh or eighth employee into the foundation. Now I've got 130. It's about 30 or 40 in training, so 90 or 100 or so in foundation.
Peter Cowley: Is it in the public domain how much money is the charity distributing?
David Cleevely: Oh, charities need to declare everything. You've got to be transparent. We're doing, spending about 7 million a year or something like that. A large chunk of that is with Code Club and Dojo. Originally, when we started the charity, Code Club was the biggest single recipient of our money. We did a lot of other things too.
Peter Cowley: That's computing, education and schools.
David Cleevely: Yeah, it's for kids up to about the age of 11 or 12. And it's staffed mostly by volunteers, I mean, on the ground. And we provide all the curriculum development, all the projects, and all the assistants and so on. And that means that through Code Club, we're educating about 200,000 children a week.
Peter Cowley: In the UK mainly?
David Cleevely: No, less than 100,000 probably in the UK, but it's maybe a bit more. But, throughout the whole world. Places like Australia are particularly strong. And because of the system, the way we have done it, was we set it up. It costs us about 35 to 40 pence per child.
Peter Cowley: Per week, yes.
David Cleevely: Yes. So, I like things that scale like that. And I get the costs down. It's a bit like Ab Cab. Whole point is get the thing so it scales. So each unit costs you less and less. So, the foundation side, going back to how that actually works. So the foundation then, with Phillip, shifted its emphasis away from giving any money. We stopped giving money away. Instead of which, we said, as Phillip says, "We've got a plan. It's a great plan. Get with the plan." So, Point Foundation is pretty, close to being 50% other people giving us money, because we've got competence.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: To be able to do projects and execute on things that they feel are valuable. It's a bit like, a fool who has himself for an investor, that old adage. It's very good for a charity.
Peter Cowley: Discipline will be quite different.
David Cleevely: Discipline is utterly different. If, what you need to do, you don't do anything unless some third party, at arms, length thinks it's also a good idea.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: And you've convinced them. But all of that has happened, and the whole thing has grown, usually. And on the technology side of course, which is another matter. We've just released three plus. Obviously, it wouldn't take a MENSA genius to work out that if you've got one in a pie, two in a pie, three.
Peter Cowley: Four's on the way.
David Cleevely: Who knows. Who knows what might be next.
Peter Cowley: Yes.
David Cleevely: So, there are a lot of technology challenges. And making sure the ecosystem that is built around pie is supported. People talk about pies being educational, because of course in the charity side, it is. But most pies are not used for education.
Peter Cowley: Industrial electronics, aren't they?
David Cleevely: Go down the escalators in the underground, all those video screens are powered by Raspberry Pi's. They're just absolutely, everywhere.
Peter Cowley: And they all generate a bit of profit, which then goes into the charity?
David Cleevely: Exactly.
Peter Cowley: The model is phenomenal, yeah.
David Cleevely: Yeah.
Peter Cowley: So, David, you've been at Cambridge much longer than me. You support it strongly, promote it, you try and put it on the map in a great way, Cambridge network originally. You've got to get through other institutions you've said. Cambridge you've had, and also this report you've done recently.
David Cleevely: Yeah.
Peter Cowley: Can we talk through that?
David Cleevely: Yeah, at Cambridge Ahead, I was quite sceptical how I felt about it, but it's turned out to be, really, quite an impressive organisation, to be honest. Its remit is to get the business community together to think ahead 20 or 30 years. So it then addresses things like transport and housing and skills, education.
Peter Cowley: Communications?
David Cleevely: Communications. Yeah, now, brand has been a real bug bear for me about Cambridge because we don't market Cambridge effectively, really. There's no joined up marketing of Cambridge. There's a project currently going on with the university, which I hope will finally solve that.
Though I've peeled off from three failed attempts to try and get Cambridge marketing as an entity going ... And I thought to myself, well, actually, what Cambridge is really suffering from is not the marketing per se. What we really need is the infrastructure.
So what we need is a project that will demonstrate why Cambridge is important to the U.K., European, and world economy. And will, therefore, draw to the policymakers' attention what actually needs to be done in terms of infrastructure, and how infrastructure is defined very broadly.
Part of that is informed by work I've done for government, and some of the stuff that I've done for the Centre for Science and Policy. So I then wrote the terms of reference for this, and was originally thinking about it in terms of just the greater Cambridge area.
But when we got the elected mayor coming along, I went off to have a chat with them, and persuaded them to part with some money. Cambridge Ahead funded quite a lot of it. We produced this report, which is a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough independent economic review, which basically gives you the economic, and a lot of demographic baseline for what's happening in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Then it lays out how the area is going to, or could unfold. It talks about different ways in which you can work, and then talks about some of the infrastructure deficits that we've got. Most importantly, I think, to draw from that report, firstly, Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire is two-thirds of all of that. It's far less in terms of population. In terms of economic activity, it's two-thirds. The mayor has a target of doubling GVA. If he's going to double GVA, he has to make sure that that engine keeps on delivering.
Number two is the growth in this area; it is enormous. It is the fastest growing city that the United Kingdom has ever seen, and that includes the whole of the 19th Century in Barnsley and other places that I thought were faster growing. When I went back and looked at the stats, Cambridge is outpacing them.
Now, Cambridge is enjoying the same kind of rate of growth that Silicon Valley saw in the 1960s and 1970s, when it went from the apple orchards in the '30s, through the beginnings of the foundations. Then in the '60s and '70s the Silicon Valley that we know was actually laid down, and it was that growth rate. We are at the same point on that curve.
Peter Cowley: Except we're tiny compared to Silicon Valley, which is probably, what, about 90 miles?
David Cleevely: Oh, okay, so Peter, a lily doubles in size every day, and on the 28th day it covers the pond. At what point was the lily only a centimetre across?
Peter Cowley: Oh, I can't do it. It's actually the 28th root of two. I can't do that in my head!
David Cleevely: Well, the 28th root of two, you couldn't see the lily. Even after a fortnight you can't see the lily with the naked eye. By about day 22, if you looked very carefully, you might be able to see the lily. By day 28 it covers the pond right?
Exponential growth is counterintuitive. Cambridge is growing at over 7% a year. It's doubling every 10 years. That means that over the next 20 years we will be four times the size we are now; 130,000 people becomes ... getting on for over half a million, 600,000 people.
And actually, some of the employment and revenue growth, if you go back slightly over 12 months to look at the previous year, the growth rates were in double figures, right? Now, you can't have an antiquated transport system. You can't have the education system, we're near the bottom of the league for spending per pupil, partly because when you have fast growth rate, you have more people.
Peter Cowley: Yes, you can't keep up.
David Cleevely: And you’ve not got a big enough budget. What's happening to the health system? What's happening to all those bits and pieces? That's what this report is about, saying, look, if you want this engine of growth, as Greg Winter, who got the Nobel Prize earlier this week said, the biggest single blockbuster drug that has even been in the history of the world came out of Cambridge, right?
He got the Nobel Prize for the precursor to the work.
Peter Cowley: That's Humira, was it?
David Cleevely: Yeah, Humira, they produced all of that. Okay, if you want this massive goose continuing to lay golden eggs in an ever-increasing rate, you better feed it and you better make sure that it's got a decent nesting box.
Peter Cowley: So where will this go to? Do you think this report will actually lead to change.
David Cleevely: I suspect so. The mayor is tasked with, and he's publicly stated he wants to see this area successful. We take a balanced view Peterborough, Huntington and The Fens, as well as Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire. I think about the whole thing.
So I think, largely, we've got things aligned. It's going to be a repeat, in effect, of what we did with Cambridge Network and all the other things with the networking, getting people working together. We don't under rate it in Cambridge. The rest of the world, actually, there's quite a lot of competition out there.
People don't generally have these chats and mentoring sessions, and do these other bits and pieces. I think we need to spread that culture a bit because it's been part of what has enabled us to grow so successfully; so spreading that a little bit, getting people to exchange ideas. Understanding how you can improve productivity. Learning what's important, why people need to raise their eyes from the dull and mundane to aspire to better things.
All of that stuff we can do. We just need to make sure that the local authorities, and the political will is there, that everybody's then working together. I've got great faith in human beings. Just let human beings have sight of a vision, and they will do fantastic things. You don't need to do everything for them. They will do that stuff.
That's part of what this report is about, saying, right, here it is. Now let's get on with it. We can actually achieve great things here, and not just for the few within Cambridge, but for the whole of the region; that's really important.
Peter Cowley: So, David, we all know that diversity in entrepreneurs and Asian investors is poor. What's your view?
David Cleevely: Oh well, yeah, diversity is hugely important. It makes companies, organisations, much more effective and much more efficient. I remember somebody from the Foreign Office, bring one of the Greek Prime Minsters some places to see the analysis.
I was very proud on the way out, and I stopped at the reception desk, and I said, "Look, you've met seven people here. As far as I'm aware, only two of them were born in the United Kingdom". I didn't say at the time about either ethnic background or whether they were male or female, but there was quite a variety of that as well.
I was very proud of that analysis, in particular. We had people from all over the world, and we had a good split of male and female. Looking back on it now, I would've done some of the things a bit differently, but you learn. You learn.
When Bob Driver took over as head of Cambridge Wireless, and I sat, actually, in this very garden at this very table. I said to him, "Bob, you only have one strategic objective for Cambridge Wireless, and that's diversity". The reason is that as organisations, and take something like Cambridge Wireless, which is a membership organisation. If it's middle class white male, stale; it might feel nice and comfortable, but it's not going to get anywhere, certainly not in the modern age.
Peter Cowley: Well, if he does, he's going to go in the wrong direction. He's taking the wrong direction.
David Cleevely: Actually, we made a huge effort after that. We diversified the board. As far as diversity, I remember we got some really interesting women on the board. We have a decent ethnic mix on the board. The board meetings are orders of magnitude better than they were.
It's much more lively, much more interesting. I just feel this isn't political correctness. This is simply if you want organisations to function properly and be effective and efficient, you'd better look after diversity. In order to do that, you actually have to make a bit of an effort. I feel about this stuff very strongly.
Peter Cowley: Yeah, I was on stage in Toronto last week, exactly addressing this issue that, the actual investors, women are probably only about 10% or less. Entrepreneurs are probably up about the 20% mark.
David Cleevely: Yeah, the trouble is it's a long pipeline. If you're going to be a founder, and then do an exit and start to do angel investing and so on, you've a couple of decades, probably. So it's going to take a few cycles before we can correct this.
Peter Cowley: Well, cycles ... It's even longer, but yes, it's certainly going to take at least 10 years before we get anywhere near.
David Cleevely: Oh, yeah, we're beginning to see some of the fruits of stuff that was done more than 10 years ago. It's beginning to come through, but you're not going to be able to just change this stuff overnight. On the other hand, that should not stop you doing it. You do need to push and push and push on this.
Peter Cowley: Yes exactly, yeah. Quotas?
David Cleevely: Yes, well, quotas are useful. I've used them at Raspberry Pie. We have members at Raspberry Pie who help us select trustees, and they're ambassadors for us. When I redid the articles for Raspberry Pie, when I first became chairman, one of my first acts was to put in some minimum quotas.
Those minimum quotas were about female participation in membership, about ages, about diversity of backgrounds, about diversity of industry sector they came from. Because, of course, with Raspberry Pie the tendency would be to select people in computer science. Since a lot of women have been discouraged from going into computer science, you then inevitably end up with males, right?
So you actually had to set up a framework in the first place that said, if you violate these percentages you've got to stop. You've got to not select anybody whose male anymore. You've got to go and get somebody else. I think that kind of positive discrimination in that sense is really, important. You don't have it forever, with any luck. You use it to engineer change.
I'm particularly pleased with Code Club. For example, Code Club, is younger kids, but we're getting over 40% girls at Code Club. So there's hope for doing these things, I think. I think it makes for a better environment.
Peter Cowley: Yeah, no excellent, David. So, just to apologise to the listeners who probably heard that small aircraft flying overhead occasionally during this. Great to have it outside. We're in the sun. It's autumn. It's a lovely day.
David, again, as always, every time I spend time with you I learn from these conversations, and thank you very much indeed.
David Cleevely: Thank you Peter. It's been a great pleasure, thank you.
Peter Cowley: Thank you.
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