Beginnings

So, this is the story of how I left the BBC, rejected Tesco, and got more involved with society. Or at least, it’s the start of that story.

I’ve spent much of the last 12 years growing things – digitally. First there was eBay, a small handful of people in a room above a furniture shop trying to launch the UK site on a shoestring and wondering if it would ever catch on… It did, and I spent 5 busy years helping it grow.

Then, when it was clear that eBay was here to stay, I thought I’d get involved with developing radio for the digital age and joined the amazing team at BBC Radio & Music Interactive. Seeds I helped to plant and nurture there included blogs for radio, the podcast service, radio in the iPlayer, programme segmentation, and in the last few months the start of a new Radio & Music product.  But there are a lot of keen digital gardeners at the BBC, and the products they’re developing are pretty huge, so after 7 years I felt it might be time to find something smaller.

I thought about “The Big Society”… I started reading about “social enterprise” and “social entrepreneurship”… I started following the work of The Young Foundation… and I wondered about what happens when the power of the web is harnessed to meet social needs, particularly as the state retreats. But then I got distracted…

I was approached by the enthusiastic people at BlinkBox, who needed a Product Manager ASAP, and were certainly set to grow. I thought it would be a good transition – out of the Beeb and into something smaller. I thought I might learn something useful about running a small business.  So I handed in my notice and was all set to start.

Then came the news that BlinkBox was being bought by Tesco and that changed things.

My first (and enduring) thought was that I couldn’t and won’t work for Tesco. In fact, I don’t even use their shops if I can help it, and they stand for a lot of things that make me uncomfortable.  Also, even if it hadn’t been Tesco, the acquisition is bound to mean big changes at BlinkBox – great news for them (and I wish them well!) but less good news for me in my quest for something small and useful to grow.

And so I made a decision – don’t start at BlinkBox, don’t stay at the BBC – use this as an opportunity to really find out how technology might change society for the better. Find those people who are already doing small, interesting, important things with the web; find out how they are getting on, and whether I might get involved.

So that’s where I am, at the end of April 2011. I leave the BBC at the end of May, and the project starts in earnest on 6th June. If you’re interested in finding out how I get on then follow this blog and I’ll keep you posted!

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