Quiet man making a noise about growth
There was a nine-month stint as an actuarial student and a brief spell running his father-in-law’s bookshop in Edinburgh’s High Street.
Danny Meaney was unsure where his working life would take him as he bought and sold businesses, including a publisher and an advertising agency.
“There was no plan, no career ambition. I suppose you could say I was just restless,” he says. “I considered myself a bit of an outsider.”
He saw a video featuring Sir Alex Ferguson in which the former Manchester United manager delivered a message that stuck with him.
“He said you need bit of talent, but mainly a good work ethic, and I have always had a work ethic.”
Meaney realised that doing it for himself would be the driving force behind whatever he decided to do, and building businesses has become the focus of his activities.
A serial entrepreneur, then?
“I’m not sure about that,” he says, looking slightly embarrassed at the term. “It sounds a bit dangerous!”
Indeed, Meaney has emerged as one of the quietly successful entrepreneurs and business growth advisers who, in spite of his relatively low profile, has put a significant marker on some major international projects.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of his New Media Partners business, made up of a small team of specialists who have worked with corporate finance teams and technologists in developing a string of media cities around the world.
As advisers to some of the world’s biggest companies and organisations NMP was involved in producing feasibility studies for the BBC’s move to Salford, the development of the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and the Cardiff Media Village. Others are in Seoul, Singapore and Sydney.
He’s just back from Qatar which is preparing to host the 2022 World Cup and needs to build its media infrastructure.
“They also need to wean themselves off oil and gas. It is early days and we have to develop a narrative. The World Cup is a driver because it has a hard deadline.”
Closer to home, Meaney is focusing on the new City Deals and the opportunity they present to apply his UP Accelerator programme to business growth.
Having built a network of contacts and financing skills, he decided to carve UP out of the NMP business to develop a programme helping growth companies. It works with the private and public sectors, identifying potential businesses that can bring solutions to the client. In the case of private clients, UP’s investor community will usually take an equity stake in the contracted company.
In Manchester, it worked on the Future of Health Programme with Bupa and Salford Royal NHS Trust. Eleven companies were involved, generating 220 business development meetings. Eight received new equity investment during the programme or within six months, from £500,000 to £17.5m, which was Europe’s biggest single Series A investment this year.
Meaney has just delivered another programme, a public-private crossover in Inverness through the City Deal.
“Because of the City Deal involvement it is easily replicable in Edinburgh,” he says.
He has his eyes on the plan to turn Edinburgh into the Data Capital of Europe, a key plank of its City Region Deal.
“We are talking to the university about getting involved and hopefully we can introduce our programme.”
He echoes the familiar mantra of Scotland having a well developed eco-system for start-ups, but a gap in support for next stage growth companies.
He has worked closely with Steven Morris who is launching a growth fund through ESM Investments in Stirling.
“Steven is trying to address this gap and we’re helping with the due diligence process.”
“The angel syndicates are quite strong in Scotland…London, Edinburgh and Cambridge are the best.
“But there is a deficit in growth capital. We can increase the chances of success in reaching the growth stage.”
Occupation: Chairman, New Media Partners, Majority shareholder in UP
Education: MBA from Napier University
Do you have any business heroes?
Brian Souter, because of where he started. Bill Gates, because of what he has done in the health sector.
Not a businessman, but Joe Baker [former Hibernian footballer]. The best centre forward I have ever seen. Could you imagine another Hibs centre forward playing for England?
What annoys you?
Inequality of opportunity.
Do you have a motto?
I once had a sign behind my desk which said “No More Problems”. I wanted my staff to bring me solutions. I also find myself saying “Get on the pitch.” It means, just do it.
Favourite place to hang out?
My garden in East Lothian
If you could invite three people, past or present, to a round table chat, who would you choose?
John Lennon, because of how he had a major influence on our culture.
Bill Clinton, who everyone says is hugely charismatic.
Sir Alex Ferguson, whose public persona is different t the real guy.