So farewell 4IP, the great hope of the UK’s digital startup scene when it was first announced in 2008. A public investment fund to the tune of £50m to encourage the creation of new digital initiatives for the greater good; a digital replica of Channel 4′s initial analogue TV birth in the early 1980′s, designed to ignite a new wave of innovation in the tech space.
Doubtless a FOI request is already logged to see how much of that promised cash actually got spent on investment. Probably far less than £10m on a back of the envelope scribble we’ve just done. As is often the case, a change in management at C4 following David Abraham’s appointment as CEO some months ago meant there was no cheerleader left for the project, particularly as, in retrospect, it was just one part of Andy Duncan’s appeal for some top up cash from the BBC following the switch off of digital.
Audioboo loved 4IP. Really loved it. That had really nothing to do with the cash we got from them (not much – £30k to launch, £15k after signing away our firstborn after launch and the rest squeezed like blood from a bloody hard stone when the servers got hot or the staff couldn’t be paid). It had nothing to do with the significant lack of leadership qualities from Tom Loosemore (when we offered equity for further funding, he declined, stating we were not revenue generating. That was just 2 months after launch).
C4 went on to convert their funding into equity a year later – a process Tom was, to my knowledge, not involved in or particularly interested about.
4IP was ultimately badly led within an institution that didn’t understand its remit or appreciate the opportunity it could have seized. It tried to mimic a TV model of commissioners – sifting through the ‘best’ ideas and then attempting to untangle the politics of personalities, regional funding and pet projects to invest in them (disclosure – Audioboo was a pet project of Dan Heaf when he was at C4 Radio. The only reason we got cash from 4IP was that he was shifted sideways to 4IP when that project closed down).
What 4IP should have done is liberally dispersed small amounts of cash to the most ridiculous ideas it came across and been proud when the majority of those ideas failed. £1k, £5k – heck even £30k – sent to digital lunatics without a business plan or ROI spreadsheet. True, public spirited, seed funding. Scattered widely in the hope one or two would grow strong. As, hopefully, Audioboo has.
Instead, they seemed to absorb the disturbingly conservative values of their parent company, declined to assert their independence as a new entity within the corporation and ultimately failed to deliver on any of the bold promises we were all so excited about those 2 years ago.
RIP 4IP. You could have been great. We will miss sorely that promise of change.