Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

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The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

These fallow periods are very dangerous for kitchen capitalists. When nothing's happening, something ought to be happening. I don't like things not happening. Hang on, let me turn off the the radio and the CD player, and the television needn't be on, I suppose. Let's just try to do one thing at a time.

One thing at a time. If God had meant us to do one thing at a time he wouldn't have given us two hands. This hyperactivity is, in fact, psychologically dangerous. It got me in terrible trouble last summer. My designer went away for a week and instead of revising the punctuation on the website copy for my gadget... I conceived a daily parliamentary newspaper. Brilliantly, I might say. I digested a 250,000-word day in Parliament to a fifth of its size and was amazed at how interesting it was. All we had to do was digest every parliamentary day and sell subscriptions to parliamentarians (which the state would pay for).

When the designer came back he put together a big, fat searchable website. We were to launch when Parliament returned in two months' time. Advertised for staff. Got half-a-dozen brilliant young graduates. Made the website work by sheer willpower. Put up a month's worth of proceedings. Called it Parliamo ("Let's Talk"). It looked terrific. Five hundred clear-cut photographs from inside the House of Lords. Towers, spires, windows, and carvings decorating the edited text of that day in Parliament.

It broke even on two subscriptions a day. There was no need for pre-launch research. The reaction was so thunderingly good. The peer in charge of "connecting voters with the political process" said it was practically in the Labour manifesto.

The marketing was ingenious. I could send a little card to anyone we'd quoted. Who could resist? The day we launched from an office off Parliament Square its future was certain. Not only did no one phone for a subscription, no one phoned to enquire what it was. No one phoned at all. Ever. (You can admire its mortal remains at www.parliamo.info).

It turns out that MPs are like sharks. They move forward. They are very little interested in yesterday. And less interested in each other. They want to know everything about two things (themselves and their special subject) and rock-all about anything else. They are the producers of Parliament, not the consumers of it.

The psychological blow this failure inflicted was profound. I concealed it manfully, of course, by lying on the floor and gasping for three months. The idea that I had so little idea of what would work hit me at a profound level. I had absolutely no idea!

I really must try to do nothing until my components arrive. But I fear I am not succeeding.

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