November 27, 2009

On leaving Channel 4

Channel 4
About 18 months ago I was made an offer I could not refuse: to help shape the startup of a £50m innovation fund, 4iP, with Europe's most creative public service broadcaster, Channel 4.

As 4iP's first recruit in the summer of 2008, I worked at opening the route to over £7.5m of that public co-investment funding, building on the initial legwork work of Director of Nations and Regions, Stuart Cosgrove, and colleague Claire McArdle. I've turned Letters of Intent into over £1m of real green money invested in digital media companies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North East. I've helped stimulate everything from some of the finest Twitter-bashing to some of the most serious digital media debate I've ever seen, on the growing 38minutes community.

The model works. And now it has come for me to move on, and try something different.

4iP has been simultaneously a hoot and one of the most demanding gigs out there, but I'm happy with what I've helped achieve. Besides making the vision a reality, I'm most proud of the products I've shaped from their 20 word elevator pitches into working, clickable, running code. I'm currently in the middle of an announcement and product launch spree running right up to Christmas:

This week I was frankly delighted with the reaction from the political, journalistic and social media savvy echelons about our investment in Slugger O'Toole, one of the most 4-like means through which to open the political debate. In the same breath we've let MirrorMe out of the lab and into Facebook, showing what the broadcaster of Embarrassing Bodies and Ten Years Younger can do in the same space with a standalone web app.

The arts platform Central Station was a concept on which 4iP was explained and sold, and this month we published the code that makes it a real, living and vibrant community of both aspiring and Turner-prize-winning talent. When we started out in earnest looking at how this thing would actually function it was a far cry from the nascent but impressive collections and communities we see there now: not all two-week old projects can claim a Turner Prize winner as one of their first supporters and members.

FestBuzz was, by four days at least, the world's first Twitter crowdsourced review site, and I'm still convinced this technology from the leading School of Informatics in Edinburgh will be the focus of innovation throughout 2010. Sentiment detection went mainstream this summer thanks, partially, to FestBuzz.

I was not-so-secretly keen to engage its competitor's creators, Blonde, in helping build discussion around and use of the You Booze You Looze iPhone app which we hope to launch next week. Along with MirrorMe, both are designed to cajole, shock and laugh us into thinking seriously about what we're putting down our throats and up our noses this Christmas.

Nearly all the companies I've worked with share something in common. With the exception of Central Station's ISO, who are big enough and ugly enough to fight their corner in a London-based commissioner's office, none of them would have had an easy time getting under the nose of a traditional broadcaster. Having a commissioner "down the road" has led many more people through Channel 4's doors in the digital media space. A minority, of course, were actually commissioned, but most left with some feedback, encouragement or a contact elsewhere who would be interested. I know of at least one major investment in a product that was too young for us, but which was perfect for another broadcaster and is now in early stages of a major commission. Having the chance to have informal chats with a regional commissioner, passionate about independent commercial production of media with a public purpose, has been a boon.

Both represent what I think 4iP has achieved most in a recession-bound digital economy. Digital Goldfish, discovered in January in a Dundee office too titchy for their 7" CEO, has now quadrupled in size and in confidence, claiming one of their games as Apple's Top 30 all-time bestselling. Ideonic is a games company out of the unlikely setting of Middlesbrough (Channel 4's Phil and Kirsty declared this the worst place to live in Britain not so long ago). They still wanted to work with us, and we were delighted to make a significant investment in a firm where no member is older than the CEO - and he's only 25.

I am going to spend the next four weeks wrapping up one of my most exciting commissions to date, before going on to do something just as exciting, but with fewer 4.30am starts, fewer 400 mile commutes and, regrettably, fewer airmiles.

As someone once said, it's been emotional.


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Good luck with all your future endeavours; it was a pleasure meeting you.

Wow. Big decision Ewan but I'm sure for the best. Great finish with a flourish and best of luck with your next move!

And I take it that means more Edinburgh Coffee Mornings? ;)

Unbelieveable. All the very best Ewan, You've achieved so much at 4iP. You had better keep blogging and tweeting with the same ferocity.



Lots of impressive stuff in your post. But the most impressive thing is that none of it is hyperbole. You genuinely have achieved a lot in a short space of time, in the process giving some deserving local talent a break that they may not otherwise have had.

I hope that what ever you do next has you bouncing out of bed each morning - just not at 4.30.

Good luck.


Ewan, Channel4's loss is Edinburgh Coffee Morning's gain says I.

All hail: #EdCmEMc

It'll be nice to have one of our founders back as a regular.

(And my guess is now we'll have more start ups, MD's and ceo's turning up, and I'll get fewer "Will Ewan be there this Friday" DM's)

Know your innovation and enthusiasm will keep feeding the education and learning space - where ever you end up next

Keep on truckin ;-)

"If you, or anybody you know has been affected by the contents of the post, please ring the Edinburgh Coffee Morning Helpline, in confidence, and speak to one of our advisers."

They've been lucky to have you, and we to share in the fruits of you labour. All the best with the next big thing, and here's hoping it leaves time for blogging :)

Good luck Ewan - looking forward to catching up soon. Ollie

Congrats on your immense achievements, Ewan, and my very best wishes to you on your next project.

All the best for your future endeavours, Ewan :-)

There once was a fella called Ewan
Who spent his life fro-in' and to-in'
He called it a day
and went on his way
with Londoners loudly boo hoo-in'

I won't wish you luck Ewan, you clearly don't need it!

Congratulations on what you've achieved Ewan, and good luck with what ever you do next. (I, for one, will be watching with interest to see what that might be!)

wow - they must be mad to lose you - hope the new thing is fab too, and as ever if I can help in any way - just ask.

I think the early starts and away-from-family had to stop though. I'm just amazed you did so so very much in so little time.

Ewan - you've done great work in record time and I hope that whoever takes over from you has even half your energy and ability.

Congratulations - Now, onward and upward!

Amazing stuff Ewan, looking forward to gasping at whatever you get up to next, good luck (not required in your case)

Good luck with it all Ewan!

Looking forward to hearing what you get up to :-)

Tess :-)


Good luck with whatever comes next.


Best of luck with whatever you do next Ewan...

Congratulations on achieving so much Ewan, especially in such short time.

Good luck with your new ventures and it goes without saying that you'll enjoy spending more time with your family.

All the best,


Wowsers. To watch you do this has been inspiring & unattainable at the same time!

WIshing you all the very best to you and yours for the future.


Slugger will certainly miss you. Don't stop taking our calls in four weeks time will you? We'll still want to pick your brains....

Congrats on everything you've achieved in the past 18 months - looking forward to seeing what you do next...

Best of luck for the future, I have every confidence you will go from strength to strength.

Looking forward to finding out what you are up to next and hoping our paths will cross again.


Sorry to hear you're leaving but I look forward to hearing what you're up to next. Thanks for everything you did for Affect Labs and FestBuzz!

Wow - as ever an eye for the opportunity and not scared of change, I wish you all the best and will endeavour to keep up to date with your next venture. Good luck.

Oh dear late on the news here, bit of a shock to the system to find this out at work today but the next endeavor will be very lucky to have you Ewan.

4iP seems extremely vibrant and healthy after all the sweat you've put in, and it's been fun to see everything coming out.

Sad as this is at first, I'm happy for you getting a sane schedule back and am looking forward to the next thing up your sleeve =)

Ewan sad news - but just wanted to use this public forum to wish you the best of luck. And also to thank you for your support of Government 2010 - and for speaking at our inaugural event in October. Please let me know where you land. Would love to work with you in future.

Jeff Peel

All the best for the future, Ewan.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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