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Autonomy’s Mike Lynch gives inaugural lecture

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More than 50 top UK entrepreneurs came together on Wednesday night to hear Autonomy founder Dr Mike Lynch give the inaugural Real Business Lecture and launch the Real Business Network.

Mike Lynch first appeared in Real Business radar back in 1997, as an early-stage technology business. Lynch was the inaugural “Entrepreneur of the Year” at the Real Business/CBI Growing Business Awards in 1999.

Since then, Lynch (described as “Britain’s Bill Gates” by admirers; as “combative” by analysts in the City) – has grown Autonomy into an international, $7bn-cap, FTSE 100 business. It’s a world leader in “meaning-based computing” and, with ARM and Sage, a rare UK technology company that’s moved into the global major league. Lynch is a true British technology giant, whose views are increasingly being sought by the highest levels of government.

Mike Lynch enthralled his audience with anecdotes about Autonomy’s rise, and gave his prescription for “rebooting” the UK economy in the wake of global financial crisis.

You can watch and hear the full video of Mike Lynch’s lecture early next week on RealBusiness.co.uk, but until then, some key points:

  • When Mike Lynch first launched Autonomy in Cambridge, he was afraid that potential customers would be turned off by the one-room start-up. The solution? He hung an “Authorised Personnel Only” sign on the broom cupboard door, giving the impression Autonomy was much larger than it was. “It hid how small we were.”
  • Explaining his views on stockmarket valuations and being a public company: “After the Dot Com crash, we were performing to budget but were being valued for less than the cash we held. When you’ve got a public company, it’s not about running the business, but about dealing with external situations.” He did also explain how access to institutional funding, as a public company, had enabled Autonomy to raise billions to fund its growth.
  • On managing technical staff: “The art of managing technical people is convincing them that what they are doing is practical, and that it matters. And make sure you also send them to see customers.”
  • And the line of the night, repeated by guests afterwards: “Always take a gun to a knife fight – make sure you always have the unfair advantage”.

Held in association with Deloitte at the Deloitte Academy in the City, entrepreneurs also had time to mingle while sipping Potocki Vodka (the Skylark cocktail, laced with balsamic vinegar, fresh tomatoes and basil, particularly caused a stir).

Guests included Sofa.com’s Rohan Blacker, Timpson chairman John Timpson, Jim Harlow of distribution group QLog, leisure entrepreneur Stephen Less, furniture owner-manager Jan Cavelle, Janan Leo of Cocorose London and Hungry House founder Shane Lake.

Sofa.com’s Rohan Blacker said: “Thanks indeed for what was a fascinating and enjoyable evening – you never know who you’re going to meet at a Real Business event, and it’s always stimulating.” Furniture entrepreneur Jan Cavelle described it as a “great event – lovely people, inspiring speech and wonderful cocktails!”

Check back on RealBusiness.co.uk early next week to watch Mike Lynch’s lecture in full, plus a Q&A session. Find out more information about the Real Business Network here.

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