Can technology change the world?

Half a century ago we put a man on the moon.  Half a century before that Henry Ford revolutionised the world with the Model T, the first mass produced motor car.  And the Wright brothers took to the air, shrinking the world.

Technology, when I was a kid, was the stuff of dreams.  We devoured stories about inventors, superheroes, and imagined that one day we’d be flying around in jet packs.  Science was what the smart kids studied, and the boffins in lab coats were going to save the world.  We all wanted to be Dr Who.

But something went wrong along the way.

Science seemed to lose its sparkle.  Suddenly the technological marvels were causing more troubles than they solved.  Road deaths.  Health scares.  Cyber crime.  Climate change.

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I was obviously delighted to see Australia performing at this year’s Eurovision.  In fact we nearly won – the wonderful Dami Im was leading the voting for most of the night.

What on earth was Aus doing anyway, performing at the Eurovision?  Shome mishtake shurely?  Well, no.  Australia was invited to enter last year as a one off, to celebrate Eurovision’s mission of ‘building bridges across the world.’  And it went down so well that the committee invited us back a second time round.

But well done Ukraine for pipping everybody else to the post.  And bad luck Britain, although to be fair I don’t think you Pommies were taking it very seriously this year, as usual.

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I always enjoy reading Matt Ridley in the Times.

Lord Ridley, as he is correctly known, is a clear headed-thinker on science, the economy and the environment.  He’s well known as a promoter of shale gas and fracking.  In fact he was one of the first people to draw attention to the importance of shale gas, saying in 2011 “shale gas will undoubtedly prove to be a significant new force in the world energy scene, with far-reaching consequences.”

Today in the paper he’s talking about broadband and the countryside.  The government has just decided to halt the rollout of superfast broadband to the last 5% of the population.  Big deal?  His Lordship certainly thinks so.

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Ever been on a cruise?

No nor have I.  Can’t say the idea appeals to me, but obviously some people like it.

On Monday evening the first cruise ship in nearly 40 years arrived in Cuba, from Miami, with 700 yanks, and 6 Cubans on board.

It has now joined the 2 regular cruise ships that visit Havana weekly from the Caribbean. More tourists jamming the old town coffee shops.

When I asked one of my Cuba partners what they thought of the cruise ship from Carnival arriving, the response was –  it’s the first “ferry service.”  A cruise is it not. Maybe there’s something in that comment?!

The ship very nearly didn’t sail.  A big fuss blew up because of a historic Cuban law that banned people born in Cuban from arriving on the island by boat.  To comply with the law the cruise operator Carnival refused to sell tickets to Cuban Americans.  And this prompted a flurry of protests, a discrimination lawsuit, and eventually John Kerry waded into the debate.

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Apart from the fact that Gatwick Airport is floating on a mega pool of oil (at Horse Hill 1.2 miles away) bold and visionary thinking is urgently required by the UK Government on airport expansion.

Before it’s too late.

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I’m extremely proud that Lenigas Cuba has been announced as one of Britain’s top 100 companies in Mishcon De Reya’s Leap 100 award for high growth companies.

It’s called The Leap after President John F Kennedy announced in 1961 that an American would walk on the moon within a decade.  That audacious ambition was realised in the Summer of 1969 when Neil Armstrong announced “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The award was set up to shine a light on those companies that can demonstrate bold and audacious vision and the ability to make it happen.

Of course it’s a great honour.  In particular it gives recognition the dedicated and hard working team in Cuba, and in London, who have made Lenigas Cuba the dynamic and fast-growing business that it is today.

We’re the first specialist investment company in the world to focus on Cuba. And so far we have invested in five Cuba-based companies.

Lenigas Cuba is interested in tourism, accommodation, infrastructure, transport, commercial and residential property, technology, communications, manufacturing, retail, services, leisure, agricultural and natural resources.  We’ve already done a lot of deals in Cuba and are looking at many more. And there’s no doubt in my mind that as one of the last frontier markets, Cuba’s potential is extraordinary.

But the reason I think The Leap is so important is that it brings together like-minded companies, founders, and CEOs – the very best of British technology, leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Companies totally committed to growth and dynamism.

Leap is a fantastic network and Leap companies are companies to watch.  I shall enjoy getting to know them all during 2016.



Your average management consultant wouldn’t know a Kimmeridge limestone if it cracked him on the bazzer with a cricket bat.

Good management consultants are few and far between.  The world famous John Caswell of Group Partners is one of them.  John’s brilliant – better than brilliant.  That’s why he advises the bosses of some of the biggest corporations on the globe as well as world leaders.

And I’ve also been impressed by Ernst and Young over the years.  So I read with interest the latest EY report on the now famous Horse Hill oil strike at Gatwick Airport..

Ernst and Young are the third big global consultancy to look at Horse Hill and what it all means.

When somebody smart, in a suit, with a degree from MIT or Harvard pipes up and says it’s 124 Billion barrels of oil in the UK’s Weald Basin, what do these numbers actually mean?

They’re just numbers.  Or are they?

Numbers are important because they inform and guide important strategic decisions, management plans and operational considerations.  But they’re still just numbers.

The experienced oil men will put these into the context of the bigger picture.  Is it recoverable?  At what flow rate?  What’s the quality of the oil?  Project forwards?  What are the long term strategic, political and economic factors?  Bottom line – what is the potential upside for the business?  And the risks?

But at the end of the day it’s also about more than that.

It’s about jobs.  People’s livelihoods.

EY reckon 300- 1,500 jobs in the Southeast of England, and 990 – 5,600 jobs nationwide as a direct consequence.  And the multipliers that attach to real jobs. Just think about that for a moment.  We’re talking about real people and families like yours and mine, folks.  Families sustained, mortgages paid, children educated, dreams realised.  These aren’t empty numbers.  This is wealth created.  Real impact.

I’m sick and tired of whingers moaning about how shitty the economy is or how expensive things are.  Get out there and generate wealth.  Create something new. Add value.  Make it happen!

EY reckon the tax man’ll get £2 – £18Bn in tax.  Think about that!  That’s money going into the exchequer – to every man, woman and child in this green and pleasant land.  Funding the NHS.  Paying for kids’ education.  Helping the next generation.  Best case scenario is £18Bn which will help pay for schools, hospitals and pensions.  So when the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that Brexit will leave a £36Bn hole in the public finances (a highly dubious claim by the way as I think any hole will be short term) – I say let’s fill that hole and generate new revenues.

And let’s not forget about community impact.  We’re not talking about shale and fracking.  This is keyhole surgery.  Low impact.  £70m – £550M worth of community benefits.  It’s about being a good neighbour and actually enhancing the community in which the oil industry operates.  The industry has done this admirably for decades in Scotland.  If you want a good example go and look around Aberdeen – it’s a beautiful city, well kept, with a myriad of community projects all benefitting from the economy and the input of Aberdeen people contributing something – not only for themselves and their families but also for their county and country.

So next time somebody tells you there’s between £7.1 billion and £52.6 billion ‘GVA’ – Gross Value Added economic impact sitting under The Weald just stop for a moment and think. That’s the prize.

But it’s not just a number.  It’s people’s lives.





As soon as I heard that Cuba was running out of beer I knew I had to get out there to help.

Beer is akin to a basic human right.  It provides health and happiness to billions of people around the world each day, lubricating conversations, slaking thirst, and bringing communities together.  A nation starved of beer is no nation in my book.

I knew something was amiss when I checked into my hotel.  (No I’m not going to reveal which one, it’s hard enough getting a room at the best of times.)  Ernesto, the night manager, welcomed me with a gloomy expression.  Hucksters had been coming round and offering three times the going rate for cans of Bucanero.  “But sir, it’s OK, I have kept some back for you, especially.”

That’s my man.

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So my Brexit post at the start of the week kicked up a bit of a stir.

As I said on Monday, I’m an Aussie so it’s not for me to tell you Pommies how to vote.

But as an Aussie I do have views on our great shared institution The Commonwealth.  And as a businessman I understand the economics, and see the trade implications of EU membership first hand.

It beggars belief why any country would choose to shackle itself to a declining economy such as Europe, in a relationship that acts as a straight jacket.

Because that’s what EU membership does.  It prevents Britain from forging more meaningful trade relations with other more dynamic countries and trading blocs around the world.

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You can’t sit in a London cab, go to the pub, or sit down at a posh dinner party these days without the dreaded Brexit coming up.

I’m an Aussie, with a non-British EU passport, so it’s none of my business really what the UK decides in June.  But as a businessman, with investments and staff on virtually every continent in the world, I’m interested in people’s views on the matter.

My pal James (the English spook) is obsessed by the new EU rules on toasters.  Apparently the French and the Germans have conspired to reduce the power of toasters so we’ll all be chewing warm soggy bread when they have their way.  That nails that then!

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