I work on early-stage startups. There have been many. Some were sold, some IPO'd, some merged, some failed.
This page is about me, but if we chat, it'll be about you. Contact me on my social pages if you have ideas.
Born: August 20, 1945.
Citizenships: UK, Switzerland.
Work: hands-on experience in the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
Tech: first digital experience 1965, online since 1970s.
Fluent: Standard English, Scots English, Posh, French, Italian, Spanish, German.
Partial: Portuguese, Catalan, Portuñol, Europanto, Alpine dialects, Ladino.
Music: flamenco, ranchera, latina, tejano, country, delta blues, afro, levantine, schlager, alpine.
Hobbies: growing things, inventing things, reading wikipedia, music, dance, etymology.
Past nick-names: Don Mike, Mikey, Beduino, Sandu, Micu țigan.
Swiss School, Milano, Italy (primary)
Merton, Penmaenmawr Dwygyfylchi, Wales (preparatory)
Malvern College, Malvern, UK (secondary)
Duke of Edinburgh's Award (gold)
Academia Ladislao de Berzeviczy (cavalry)
Cambridge University (Spanish, Latin American and Francophone Studies)
West of Scotland University (textile engineering)
Clyde Explorers Club (mentoring gang youth in Glasgow area)
Chavannes-des-Bois Fire Brigade, Switzerland (volunteer fireman for many years)
Civil Protection, Switzerland (nuclear, biological, chemical detection)
Until age 10, I lived in Italy, where my father was rebuilding some Scottish textile mills that had been wrecked during WWII. The mills were my playground and I have always been happy around textiles and derelict factories.
I attended the tri-lingual Swiss School in Milano where most of the kids' Swiss parents were in textiles or sewing machines (Italy was rebuilding after WWII thanks to its textile industry). In Tuscany my father was a friend of bicycling champion Gino Bartali, so I got the bicycle bug, and a custom signed frame, very young. Much of the time I traveled across Europe with my eccentric grandmother and aunt, who would create chaos in grand hotels (very cheap after the war), playing soccer in the empty corridors in vintage hand-knitted bikinis.
SWITZERLAND 1st chapter
As a kid, when my father was rebuilding a textile mill at Intra on Lake Maggiore near the Swiss frontier, I loved traveling into Switzerland on the yellow Swiss Post buses (kids alone was normal then), to stay with farm families in the Alps. I became attached for ever to deepest Switzerland, to long hikes in the high forests, to reading animals' feelings, to cold nights in cowherd huts, and loved trying to communicate in the old dialects spoken by these taciturn mountain people.
At age 8, this was a bad year. School-friends in Milano died, I spent weeks in solitary quarantine with a contagious illness, I was told that my affection for Italy was misplaced because I had a new queen in a place called Britain, and I was sent to boarding school in Wales where, thanks to a slight Italian accent I was nicknamed Wop. At boarding school I went into revolt and got daily physical punishment. Due to this violence, to the constant showing of war films at the school, to the pain when my friends died, and to a few other unmentionable horrors, I took the irrevocable decision to not have children. North Wales brought endless hiking in beautiful mountains, wild horses to talk to, incredible wildlife, and a lot of rescuing of exhausted sodden sheep stuck in mountain bogs.
At age 10, my parents moved to Glasgow, which I loved. As a hobby, I apprenticed with a master-gardener. At age 12, I did my first startup with some entrepreneurial Scots girls, washing found golf balls and painting "Champ !" on them. For a kid with a fast Italian racing bike, Scotland and its dramatic scenery was an exalting place to live. The beginning of a life on a bicycle.
At age 13, we moved to Spain. Spain was still recovering from the recent Civil War and transitioning straight from the Middle Ages into the Swinging 60s. There was lots of work to do and pocket-money to be earned by kids with languages and travel experience. For weeks we lived in tents in the dunes along deserted beaches. Rich people would pay us to exercise their fancy horses and teach their kids everything from Latin to history. Later I studied across Spain in musty old colonial libraries and became an expert on explorer and proto-anthropologist Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca whose path I have mentally, and geographically, crossed many times during my life. I have a deep emotional bond with Hispanic culture, literature and music.
At age 18, inspired by a sojourn in Andalusia, I went to Cambridge to study Arabo-Hispanic and Latin-American history and literature, but soon realized that without immersive exposure to classical Arabic, I would not reach degree level. So I added French literature, discovered the beauty of alexandrines, and got the degree. At 21, I got a job with Coats in Glasgow, the world's largest thread company. They sent me to West of Scotland University at Paisley to learn engineering, production management, and ergonomics. After that I worked in their mills in Spain, Scotland, Italy, Germany, and Austria.
SWITZERLAND 2nd chapter
At age 24, I married a Swiss girl whom I had met at Cambridge, and got a job with DuPont de Nemours in Geneva in their new products group, working with Nomex para-aramid, Kevlar aramid, Teflon PTFE, Kapton polyimide, and Tedlar PVF. These products were so revolutionary that they often required the companies who used them to re-invent their business models. This was good training for my later work with startups.
SWITZERLAND 3rd chapter
After 10 years on the road worldwide for DuPont, at age 34, I opened an office in Geneva and started advising companies on modernization of their technologies, and soon became very involved with startups (see Startups page) for the rest of my life. About the same time, the Swiss village where I had lived for many years gifted me a Swiss passport which I received with incredible pleasure after so many years of being in and around the Alps as a kid and as an adult.
My technical knowledge is varied but generalist.
I have specialized knowledge of technical materials, of industrial design, and of creativity optimization.
Career landmarks at Coats included:
a. Refurbing vintage silk hank-winders to slow-process knot-free embroidery threads, expanding the market for automated high-speed embroidery in ethnic fashions.
b. Speeding up 3-D spectrophotometry and automated dye mixing for thread-dyeing, facilitating the market for 24-hour color-matched thread delivery.
c. Using the UK's first industrial mainframe computer to map 3-D color-space, so that every color could be given a numeric co-ordinate, leading to better color reproducibility worldwide in many industries.
Career landmarks at DuPont included:
a. Developing dyeing of para-aramid fibers to open new markets in worker-protection and fire brigades.
b. Developing quilted para-aramid clothing for F1 motor-racing, extending fire-protection times.
c. Organizing the first European Hot-Gas Filtration Symposium in Düsseldorf, leading to improved filtration of pollutant emissions at asphalt and TiO2 plants.
d. Creating a club of German industrial laundries to develop high-tech calender felts, reducing waste.
e. Developing the first Kevlar vests and helmets against armor-piercing munitions.
f. Working with Louis Vuitton and designer Clino Castelli on futuristic luggage materials for the America's Cup Challenge trophy. The fabrics used a Kevlar/Polyamide wrapped-core yarn technology, originally developed for the first Lycra swimsuits, woven and 'locked' by heat-fusion. The concept was later used for fused racing sails.
g. Working with the European Space Agency on ultra-thin polyimide film with vacuum vapor deposited gold coating, used to wrap satellites, significantly reducing payload weight.
h. Working with polyimide and PVF films in many industries (electronics, architectural, horticultural, aeronautical).
i. Working on some of the first ultra-light drones (yes, in the 1970s !), made viable for the first time thanks to the lightness of Nomex paper honeycomb and Kevlar/Carbon composite structures. This is a very long story.