Had a very grown up evening last night at the FT ArcelorMittal ‘Boldness in Business’ awards at the Tate Modern. We were up for the ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ award for the company that has broken through in the last 12 months and has the potential to grow into a leader in its industry. The newcomer bit felt a little ironic as we are about to celebrate our 5th birthday - quite old by Internet standards if not in comparison to most of the businesses at the event, but the rest of it sounded good to me!
The evening was hosted by Lionel Barber, editor of the FT and Lakshmi Mittal, two rather important men in their own ways. I felt enormously privileged to be sitting next to Internet royalty in the shape of Jimmy Wales, who also gave an impressive speech about Wikipedia, and as a motor racing/car nut, Nigel Kerr of the Mercedes (formerly Brawn) F1 team which was up for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ award after their astonishing achievements in the last 12 months. He gave a great account of that extraordinary story as well as enough juicy insider stuff to keep me thoroughly entertained. I was disappointed they didn’t win.
A highlight of the evening for me was Sergio Marchionne winning the ‘Driver of Change’ award and speaking passionately about the Fiat turnaround, the boldness of the Chrysler deal, the response from the US administration and most importantly the commitment shown by the unions and the Chrysler staff (to whom he dedicated the award) in fighting for survival. I wish him all the best with that one – he was honest enough to admit he didn’t know how it would play out.
So why am I telling you all this? Sadly not because we won - we lost to Twitter, which doesn’t feel too shameful. I had to pinch myself that our company of 22 people was being included in the same room as not only Twitter but Spotify and in other categories Vale, the world’s biggest producer of iron ore, Suntech, the world’s largest solar module manufacturer and Tullow Oil, the oil and gas explorer, amongst other great businesses. I thought of my late colleague Richard Duvall as I sat there, the boldest businessman I have ever worked with, and the pride he would have felt. I felt it too.