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Egypt: Detained Al Jazeera journalists appear in court as trial opens

February 27, 2014

Egypt: Detained Al Jazeera journalists appear in court as trial opens

Three Al Jazeera journalists were among eight whoappeared at a hearing in a Cairo prison court Thursday, accused along with 17 other defendants of spreading “false news” and having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt declared a terrorist organization in December.

I helped out on this story for CNN.

Viral drinking game kills 5 people

February 27, 2014

Viral drinking game

An online game of “drink and dare” called “Neknominate” is fueling a deadly, worldwide craze.

I helped produce this story for CNN.

The risky game of credit card technology (Feb 14)

February 27, 2014

The risky game of credit card technology (Feb 14)

In poker, and in the world of payments, the cards you have in your hand matter. 

I helped produce this story for CNN.

29 arrested in child porn investigation (Jan 17)

February 27, 2014

29 arrested in child porn investigation (Jan 17)

A global operation has busted an online sex abuse ring targeting children in the Philippines. 

I produced this story for CNN.

Queen partners with QIPCO for Royal Ascot (Jan 17)

February 27, 2014

Queen partners with QIPCO for Royal Ascot (Jan 17)

The Qatari ruling family has been allowed to sponsor the royal races at Ascot. 

I produced this story for CNN

London gets a new black cab (Jan 6)

February 27, 2014

London gets a new black cab (Jan 6)

Nissan unveils a new version of its taxi which reflects the rich history of London’s black cabs.

I produced this story for CNN

Modern farming in London’s Underground

February 5, 2014

A modern farming experiment in disused London Underground tunnels grows eco-friendly food. Its backers are hoping to grow the business as well.

I helped produce this report for CNN.

Language skills deficit costs the UK £48bn a year

December 11, 2013

With foreign language skills increasingly important in a global economy, monolingual Britons risk being left behind

Read this in The Guardian

Deficient language skills and the assumption that “everyone speaks English” are costing the UK economy around £48bn a year, or 3.5% of GDP, according to research by Professor James Foreman-Peck for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Poor language skills act like a “tax on growth”, hampering small to medium-size exporters, who are unable to employ the language specialists brought in by global companies, says Foreman-Peck, professor of economics at Cardiff Business School. It also deters non-exporters from trading internationally, he adds.

Foreign languages are crucial in all areas of business, says Bernardette Holmes, principal researcher of the British Academy’s Born Global initiative – whether you’re tailoring a product to the needs of a particular country and marketing it in a culturally sensitive way, or entering new markets and building relationships. A lack of languages can get companies in legal trouble too, she says: “Businesses can fall foul of all sorts of regulatory issues and cultural misunderstandings.”

A British Chambers of Commerce survey, published this year, backs up Foreman-Peck’s claim of “a substantial negative effect on exports that must be attributed to language complacency”. It reveals that 62% of non-exporting companies looking for international opportunities regarded languages as a barrier to doing so, while 70% of exporters had no foreign-language ability in the countries in which they operate.

“English is fine if you want to buy things, but it’s not the right language to use for people who want to sell things,” says Nick Brown, CEO of Nikwax, a UK-based manufacturer of cleaning and waterproofing products that exports to 50 countries and produces print materials in 48 languages.

Despite ensuring every export and sales employee is a linguist, Brown says not knowing some languages has damaged business opportunities. “We’re doing a little bit of work with China and we’re very aware that we’re behind there. One of the reasons is the language problem – we don’t have a Mandarin speaker.”

Only 30% of firms say they have no need for foreign language skills, according to a 2013 Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey. But Foreman-Peck notes that the amount of problems a company encounters is largely dependent upon how bold it is with its export strategy: “Firms that say they haven’t experienced any cultural difficulties in exporting, export much less than those that say they have experienced cultural difficulties.”

Despite most companies highly rating language skills, many find it “almost impossible” to find bilingual UK employees, says Holmes. The same CBI survey showed that only 2% of companies were “very satisfied” with the foreign-language skills of graduates.

This inevitably means companies employ foreign workers to plug the languages gap. Richard Hardie, non-executive chair of UBS, says that for jobs that require fluency in another language, UBS very often takes “expats seconded to London at some expense – and that’s a cost we would rather do without”.

Foreign languages are becoming ever more important in the global marketplace. If companies continue to be forced into looking abroad to fill key roles, it won’t bode well for UK employment prospects.

Building a mobile ad market shows that Fetch can deliver

December 10, 2013
Hard graft: James Connelly spotted a market gap but admits it was “bloody difficult” starting up his business

Hard graft: James Connelly spotted a market gap but admits it was “bloody difficult” starting up his business

Read this in the Evening Standard

A football injury may have put James Connelly’s foot in a cast but it hasn’t slowed him down. The founder of mobile marketing company Fetch only launched the business four years ago but already customers including Debenhams, Expedia, Taco Bell and pay anything from £50,000 to £1 million a month for its technical wizardry.

Fetch’s office in Shoreditch has been joined by one in San Francisco. Another is opening in Berlin later this year, and Connelly is scouting for potential offices in Asia. Meanwhile, 27 staff were hired this year alone, bringing Fetch’s workforce to more than 60. Turnover is £34 million and growing.

Some of his old classmates may only be a few years into their first job but the 27-year-old from Croydon was never going to go to university. “I just wasn’t really a studying person,” he says.

His dream was to go into advertising, and he worked in that industry at  IPC Media for four years in London  and Sydney. While there, he was involved in mobile content until the recession hit and his business idea  was born.

“I needed to find a new way of driving revenue, so I looked at mobile advertising which was very, very nascent at the time,” he says. He spotted a gap in the market. “There was a huge opportunity because people were purchasing things from clicking on an ad on a mobile device but very few firms were actually running ads.”

So in 2009, aged 23, Connelly went into partnership with his old boss Declan Reddington and set up Fetch. It was niche, he says, but the upside was “nobody knew anything about it”. That year the first iPhone was unveiled. He quickly recognised it as a game-changer, and the realm of possibilities for mobile advertising exploded. Privately funded, Fetch quickly evolved from buying ads on mobiles to helping clients establish a mobile presence, something few brands knew anything about at the time but for which they now pay big bucks.

For many of Fetch’s clients, such as William Hill, mobile marketing is a rapidly expanding source of revenue. “Up to 40% of their business and bets come through on mobile devices right now, and that’s only going to go one way,” says Connelly.

The majority of the business is still buying ads, now in 41 countries, but Fetch has branched into running mobile campaigns, creating apps and websites for clients, and working with start-ups on their mobile strategy before they’ve launched a product. Connelly admits that starting the business and making it a success was “bloody difficult”.

His first big break was with Polydor Records, which was the result of one of the 40 to 50 daily cold calls he made. It spent £20,000 on a campaign for Love the Way You Lie, Eminem and Rihanna’s single release in the UK, and mobile sales helped pushed it up the charts. The single went to No 1 in 26 countries.

Connelly has had to make personal sacrifices: “At the age of 23 when everyone’s going clubbing, going to festivals, going on holiday and doing all these great things you simply can’t do it. People think I’m 27 going on 37”.

His business ambitions lie with Fetch but ultimately he would love as diverse a career as possible. “I do feel like I’m on the start of my entrepreneurial career,” he says.

He adds that he has hardly taken any money out of the business in a desire to see it expand. “I live in a two-bedroom place in Shoreditch and I drive a six-year-old car,” he says. He’s a Chelsea fan with season tickets, but to take clients, not friends. Almost the only time he gets to switch off is on flights, because there’s no Wi-fi, “which is brilliant”, he says. With Fetch’s rapid global expansion, he’s bound to have plenty more opportunities for that.


Founded: 2009

Staff: 62

Turnover: £34 million

Business idol: LoveFilm founder Saul Klein: “He’s inspiring and has done fantastically well.”

General Motors on track but ‘not out of the woods’, while Chrysler trucks on

November 1, 2013

A dramatic improvement in General Motors’ European operation was the only silver lining in the troubled car manufacturer’s third quarter results, as global profits fell 53 per cent to $698m (£434m) from $1.5bn in the same period last year.

Losses in GM’s European business, which includes Vauxhall and Opel, narrowed to $214m from $487m last year. The chief financial officer, Dan Ammann, yesterday declared the company “well on track” towards its goal of breaking even in Europe by the mid-decade, although he cautioned: “We’re not out of the woods yet.” Just two days ago the US Treasury announced taxpayers had so far lost $9.7bn on its bailout of GM, thanks to sales of stock at prices below the government’s cost basis.

Read the full article in The Independent