Money makers: the Jamal Edwards effect

When Jamal Edwards said he wanted to be an entrepreneur, his school told him to start out by working in a shop. But the teachers had not reckoned with Edwards’ tenacity, nor with the new possibilities opened up by the internet. Now 26 and reported to be worth £8m, the media entrepreneur’s SBTV music platform is credited with bringing artists like Ed Sheeran and Dizzee Rascal to mainstream audiences, says Eleanor Lawrie on ThisIsMoney.co.uk.

More recently, SBTV has diversified into other areas, including interviews with public figures such as David Cameron and Prince Charles. Edwards owes his success in part to the internet: his career took off in 2011 after a Google Chrome advert featuring SBTV led to his name being googled more than a million times. That led one marketing agency “to coin the phrase ‘Jamal Edwards effect’, which means that anyone with enough tenacity can be successful in the digital age”. But he also stresses the importance of being dedicated to what you do.

“When I talk to a lot of young people now, it’s like they need all the money in the world,” he says. “But I tell them it’s about passion… Don’t start your business just for money – or you are going to give up. Money should not come in to it – you will get paid [eventually]… I was working in Topman for four years before my money from YouTube came in. It took a good few years of doing lots of things.”

Growing crops in the Australian desert

The “dry, dusty” earth around Port Augusta in Australia “supports little more than patches of saltbush plants”, says Jamie Smyth in the Financial Times. Water is scarce and in summer temperatures can climb above 40˚C. But that doesn’t stop former Goldman Sachs banker Philipp Saumweber from growing vine-ripened tomatoes there. The 36-year-old German national has traded in his banking career to run Sundrop Farms, which uses the energy generated by a solar thermal plant to cool the tomato greenhouses and desalinate seawater.

“You don’t see many others growing crops on the edge of the desert,” says Saumweber. Yet he produces 16,000 tonnes per year at his 20-hectare facility, thanks to this advanced agricultural technology. “Agritech” has “blossomed in recent years” as start-ups push everything from driverless tractors to big data as ways to combat food supply problems.

Saumweber thinks that pairing solar with desalination could be a way to grow crops in hot, arid parts of the world. Not everyone is convinced. Saumweber’s former business partner, Charlie Paton, split with him over his high-investment, high-productivity production model, which cannot be applied to poorer parts of the world. “Africa needs a much simpler lower-cost model,” says Paton. But Saumweber maintains that Sundrop’s approach “can play a small part in solving the problem the world faces in feeding an ever-growing global population”.

One swipe that changed everything

Everybody does it. You walk into a room and start scanning the new faces, thinking “yes”, “maybe”, “not bad”. We’re making a “cognitive swipe”, a snap judgement based on experience and intuition
about who it is worth getting to know better, says Jonathan Badeen, co-founder of hugely popular dating app Tinder, writing on Business Insider.

That’s why Tinder doesn’t give users much information about one another save for a few pictures and a tagline, unlike other dating services. The app feels more like a game than a dating website because user profiles resemble a “stack of playing cards”. Users simply swipe each profile to choose whether they are interested or not. This is the most revolutionary aspect of the app’s interface, yet it came about by chance, says Badeen.

He was wrestling with other clunky interface designs when he forgot to turn on the fan one morning while taking a shower. “I wiped the mirror clean, but within a minute it was fogging up again… I saw a familiar face looking back at me in the clear sliver of the mirror that my hand had just… swiped.” It seemed so simple: “Swipe right to like. Swipe left to pass.” For Tinder and its users, “the swipe changed everything”.

A $250m taxi ride to nowhere

“Even by the standards of tech start-ups that fail more often than not, Karhoo’s demise is extraordinary,” report Adam Satariano and David Hellier for Bloomberg. The taxi booking app “grabbed headlines last year when it reportedly raised $250m and said it had plans to bring in more than $1bn” as it sought to challenge Uber’s dominance in the ride-hailing market. Yet it was “bleeding money” and getting little in return. “In its two-year life, Karhoo generated about $1m net revenue.”

“The odds were always heavily stacked against Karhoo,” says Simon Duke in The Times. “To coax traffic from Uber, Karhoo had to offer large subsidies to drivers. Some users found ways to game the system, receiving hundreds of pounds worth of free rides by accumulating fistfuls of the promotional codes offered to new customers.”

However, “Karhoo did not fail to deliver rides or suppliers, it was run to the ground by a ludicrous lack of corporate governance”, one former senior employee tells Madhumita Murgia in the Financial Times. These include exaggerated claims about how much money it had raised from investors to fund its growth as well as “suggestions of profligacy — the company had leased prime real estate in London and Park Avenue South in the Chelsea neighbourhood of New York City”.

Questions will be asked about how the firm “burnt through millions of dollars in months”, says Duke. It certainly didn’t help that “Karhoo picked up the tab for [chief executive Daniel Ishag’s] designer clothes, shoes and haircuts — and even footed a $6,000 vet’s bill”.

But this extravagance was a sign of a “deeper malaise”, as Ishag failed to control cash flow in his rush for market share. “Daniel was a great entrepreneur but a terrible businessman”, one employee tells The Times. Given the abundant evidence of that, “the real question is why investors handed over their money so readily in the first place”, says Duke.