I’m in California at the moment on a road trip. It’s great I’ve always loved America - it’s the only place in the world where I really look forward to breakfast. And whenever I’ve been here in the past it’s usually spawned a new idea to get really excited about.
My list of business ideas that almost made it off the drawing board includes a ski company in Vail (before Brits cottoned on to how good the snow is), importing bagged salad from LA (before anyone in the UK had heard of Caesar salad) and finding the world’s best tortilla chip in Denver.
As usual, I came this time looking for the next big idea. And over the past two weeks a new reality has dawned on me: food ideas back home are way better. Over the past 10 years, the brands that have come out of UK have been more interesting, innovative and exciting. And it continues. Over the past month in my coaching business, I’ve come across a cool halal cuisine concept, a funky coconut idea and a very interesting RTD cocktail brand. Although we don’t give ourselves credit for it, we are the silicon valley of food and drink. So let’s give ourselves a big American high five… and then work out how can we stay ahead of the pack.
I’d like to see supermarkets embrace small, innovative suppliers much more. Small companies are where the majority of the new good ideas come from. Today’s niches are tomorrow’s mainstream categories and small companies are much better at finding niches than big ones. Why? Because big companies only get excited about £50m-plus opportunities.
Secondly, I’d like to see a much greater appetite in the private equity community for good start-up ideas. It’s very difficult for an entrepreneur with a good idea but no money to raise capital… and if we’re going to maintain our silicon valley status we are going to need to address this.
Finally, I’d like to see universities get a lot more involved in helping small companies spawn unique technical innovations in food manufacturing - and sharing that with smaller companies. We have a lot of knowledge in UK but it doesn’t trickle down nearly as well as it should. I’ve been to several universities and been gobsmacked by the state-of-the-art ideas they are sitting on. Wake up… let’s get them out there!