Missed opportunities: Jack Kaye

Serial entrepreneur Jack Kaye has gone from running Southern Cellular, to supplying breast cancer screening technology. He tells GrowthBusiness about his learning experiences along the way.

Back in 1986 when I was running Southern Cellular, one of my business partners invited me round for dinner one day saying that his son’s best friend, who was a bit of a whizz in the kitchen, was going to cook. I went round to eat and a few days later got a phone call from my partner, who asked if I wanted to invest in this boy, who he believed would grow to be a great chef, and I declined. That chef was Marco Pierre White.

Three years later, my business partner then set his own son up with a new restaurant and I turned down a second opportunity to invest. Let’s just say my partner’s name was Stephen Blumenthal.

Missing the boat

I’ve had some other opportunities that didn’t quite work out. In 1988 at a subsequent company, Telecall Communications, we were developing a type of interface box. We spent about £250,000 on this and we were about three months away from finishing it when Sony announced that it had just built exactly the same thing for about a third of the price.

The problem was that a lot of the stuff we were doing wasn’t patentable; we were bringing two or three things together that were already on the market to make something new, but we came unstuck in the end. Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t compete with the big boys, and you have to take the loss and move on – but it’s not pleasant.

If you are a smaller business, you have to work hard to make sure that you pay special attention to your presentation and image in the marketplace. We found that the larger companies used always to deal with other large companies because of trust issues. At one point Telecall tried to do a joint venture with BT but they declined, saying we were far too small. In later years we made sure that we presented ourselves in a way that made us out to be bigger than we were, but we didn’t do that in the early days.

More recently, I was developing communication technology with some friends, a small group of private investors. We were coming to a point where we had quite a lot of tech developed but we had no market for it, and we didn’t have the resources to go out and generate opportunities.

Therefore, I decided to take some of the technology we had and put it into a plc, Technis International, which we quoted on PLUS in the last quarter of 2009. We came on to PLUS with great hopes but it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.

Finding funding

The problem right now is that when you look at PLUS or AIM, it’s almost impossible for a UK company to list on a UK market and raise anything from £1 million to £20 million – there’s just no interest around. We delisted from PLUS and were approved last year to move to the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange.

Going onto the public markets with a pre-revenue company was another mistake. It’s difficult to get people enthused about something that isn’t physically finished. Also, because the company wasn’t generating revenue at the time, we were relying on any funds raised to support the business rather than pursuing growth opportunities.

Three overall lessons I have learned: read the small print; the deal is never done until the money’s in the bank; and never take as gospel a deal done on a handshake.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

Related Topics