Author Archives: usual


Twettle (tweeting kettle) is not a new concept in fact Ben Perman came up with the idea back in 2010 and had some concept designs completed, see the story. However despite amazing media coverage the project never got off the ground.

I had the same idea in 2011 and began research only to come across Ben’s twettle and thought I had been beaten to it, but on further digging it looked like the project had been abandoned. So in 2012 I picked the project up and began research, I had the very simple graphic produced to give people an idea of how it would work. I purchased & and started to talk to Warwick University about helping with the development, unfortunately that offer of support faded away.

After a gap of a few months the project is back on. Here is the plan:

– Designs completed

– Electronics designed

– Proof of concept device built

– Kickstarter project launched


BladeMail – The mail monthly subscription service for razor blades, get your weekly allocation of blades delivered straight to your front door. Razor blades at 20% less than supermarket prices.

I came up with the idea back in 2011 and after some initial research it looked like a viable service. I found a local supplier of the blades which were significantly cheaper than retail. There was a bit of competition in the UK including which has been running since 2000 but the website is terrible and they don’t have a subscription service.


My initial idea had been based on a bunch of assumptions that were from my personal experience. They were

– I buy blades or my wife does but its always with the weekly shop

– I quite often ran out because I forgot to ask the wife to put it on the list for the weekly shop

– I was using one blade per day and not re-using them, but was shaving every other day so going through about 3 blades a week of 12 a month

So my assumptions were that other people were also buying blades currently with their food shop and that they were using blades just once then chucking them. Well assumption one appears to be pretty spot on but assumption two was way off. I spoke to a few of my male friends and found that they used each blade for at least two or three shaves so I was just a bit weird by only using them once. This brings down the blades required per month to approx 8.


While I was still pondering the business concept the Dollar Shave Club launched in the US with an amazing brand and edgy marketing style. This has been followed by some European startups.

Dollar Shave Club

Kings of Shave

Morning Glory



With some experience of online subscription services through Urban Coffee Company & inbizvest I know how hard it can be to make them work. The main challenge is acquiring customers at a cost effective price, this typically requires a great virality to the service and a bag of cash to spend on pay per click.

I am also not sure I buy into the race to the bottom with the price ($1, €1 per blade) or that the convenience issue is strong enough to shift people onto the service. Time will tell if I should have pursued this one or not?

This is what the economist thought about razor blade subscription services







New Year Resolutions 2013

Last year I had ambitiously set 12 resolutions and achieved 6 out of them and had a stab at the rest. Not really good enough but plenty of excuses could ensue as to why the other 6 were not met but I will save it for someone who cares.

2012 Resolutions

Completed- Get to a fighting weight of 96kg
Failed – Two exercise sessions a week
Completed – Get Urban Coffee to a 500k revenue
Failed – Get Urban Coffee to a 10% Net profit business
Completed – Visit a European capital city
Failed – Take part in an adventure race
Failed – Complete draft of book (although had a chapter published)
Failed – Dress smarter
Completed – Do something for charity
Completed – Eat more fruit
Completed – Be less grumpy (quit my job, that helped)
Failed – Wear more fancy dress

2013 Resolutions

– Get Urban Coffee to 750k revenue
– Visit a European capital city
– Do something for charity
– Learn to code/electronics – Internet of things stylee
– Complete draft of book

Yellow Hackney Carriage

Birmingham should have coloured Taxis

Everyone is familiar with the Black cabs (Hackney Carriage) that we see in London but you may not know that other cities across the UK have decided to dictate the colour of their cabs.

Bristol – Blue Portsmouth – Silver
Derby – Yellow
Durham – White Cabs
Nottingham – Green
Bournemouth – Jamaican yellow
London – Black

That got me wondering why Birmingham doesn’t have a colour and should we have a set colour for all our black cabs, it is within the power of the Council as the licensing authority to force cabbies to change the colour of their cabs. Now based on other cities that have done this the cabbies have not liked it at all which you can kind of understand because they are forced to incur the cost of re-spraying.
However, if you think bigger picture it helps build an identity for a city, think yellow cabs in NewYork.

I think we should do it but what colour?

Lickey Hills

In June last year we moved from the hustle and bustle of Birmingham city centre to the tranquil foothils of the Lickey Hills which is south west of Birmingham but still inside the M42/M5. We have been visting the Lickeys for years both running, walking and picnicing but are still discovering new bits all the time.

The hills had been a royal hunting reserve belonging to the Manor of Bromsgrove. Free public open access began in 1888 when Rednal Hill was bought by the Birmingham Society for the Preservation of Open Space. The Society then presented it to the City of Birmingham in trust. Pinfield Wood and Bilberry Hill were then leased at a nominal rent. Cofton Hill, Lickey Warren and Pinfield Wood were bought in 1920. The final stage in restoring public access to the area was the purchase of the Rose Hill Estate from the Cadbury family in 1923.

The Lickey Hills consist of two parallel ranges with a valley between. The Lickey Hills Country Park of 525 acres (2 km²) belonging to Birmingham City Council and a golf club covers part of the hills. The summits of the Lickey Ridge consist of three hard quartzite hilltops in the higher range – Rose Hill, Beacon Hill and Stock Hill, while the three lower hills are Rednal Hill, Bilberry Hill and Cofton Hill.
If you have not visit the lickey hills then you should, you can get the train to Barnt Green or drive and park at the licky hills visitor centre. The area in perfect for running, walking, mountain biking, orienteering or just a picnic.

New Year Resolutions 2012

– Get to a fighting weight of 96kg
– Two exercise sessions a week
– Get Urban Coffee to a 500k + revenue
– Get Urban Coffee to a 10% Net profit business
– Visit a European capital city
– Take part in an adventure race
– Complete draft of book
– Dress smarter
– Do something for charity
– Eat more fruit
– Be less grumpy
– Wear more fancy dress

The Next Revolution

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.

The TEDx program is designed to give communities, organisations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

TEDxs are amazing events and its great news that finnally we are having one in Birmingham, why it has taken this long for the second city to run a TEDx event is anyones guess.

The event will take place on the 24th March 2012 and this years theme is The Next Revolution.
More details can be found on the TEDxBrum website

Death of the high street

It wont have escaped many peoples notice with the media covering it almost everyday over christmas but the high street is on the decline. Bricks and Mortor is fast becoming clicks and mortor as more move online.

If I was a betting man I would say anything that can easily be posted to your house will move online and we will be left with a high street that combines those things that need to be tried on or are huge, such as furniture. If this comes true then we can expect HMV, Game, GameStation, PC World and the likes of Waterstones to disappear from our high streets over the next few years.

Download Streaming will kill any of the content providers, we have already seen music retail change and we are pretty much left with just HMV which has been hanging on through games and peripheral sales. Once it becomes normal to download movies, music, books and games these retailers will find their business model broken and the game is up, this day is no more than 12-18 months away.

Mary Portas report into the high street pretty much tell us what we already knew which is its on the decline, on life support and in some towns it has flat lined. I have watched the Birmingham high street shrink over the last 12-months, while the bull ring continues to be strong the rest is suffering. Corporation street has been shrinking and moving closer towards New Street, with only the larger retailers holding out (Gap, Rackams). When a retailer closes they are now often replaced by a cheap retailer (pound shop, baguettes for £1), which just speeds up the decline as any surrounding quality retailer see the footfall decrease and the demographic change.

While I do agree with Portas recommendations I feer little can be or will be done before its too late. I think we need to make high street retail into an experience.