Case Studies

Having worked successfully on nineteen separate ventures, across a diverse series of industries, I believe my biggest asset to be my collated experience, Neil Barnfather, strategist.

Whilst at Nokia’s NRC facility Neil learnt to think from an engineers perspective, reducing problems to their constituent components and thinking through each part until the reassembled task presents a real-world solution.

Neil has taken this methodology and nurtured it in his many subsequent business ventures, believing the core principle of business is problem solving—utilising these ideals to help inspire and encourage the people he works with.

Nokia Research Centre

Neil joined the research and development department at Nokia Research Centre (NRC) Finland in 1998. Debuting as a member of a small team of only seven people within two weeks, he found himself promoted to team leader. Two months later, he was head of research overseeing the development of the NRC6 and leading a team of 80 product experts.

Leadership acumen and a combination of both technological and business savvy propelled Neil rapidly up the ladder until he found himself vice head of New Technologies. In this role, he was responsible for a team of 117 setting out to develop, among other innovations:

  • vibrating technology
  • LTE (later to become 4G)
  • new mobile standards for WiFi on frequencies B, G and N and,
  • call quality development.

He finally became acting vice president of R&D, interacting with government departments across Europe and the US for frequency licensing and other policy matters. At that time, Nokia Research Center (NRC) had a budget of $15m per year and held a patent portfolio estimated at $41bn. Nokia had 10,000+ employees, and the NRC’s VP office employed 520 people.

During his time at Nokia, Neil was required to work across regions, unions, developing nations, cross platform technologies, and in secondment between divisions and even companies. He managed huge budgets, recruitment, marketing response, product / service design, and market research. He also experienced the need to reduce human resources.

Several of the core technologies that Neil helped develop are still in use in mobile phones today, including vibration, WiFi frequency response and call quality.

  • 1998 joined NRC
  • 15 million spending budget
  • 520 employees
  • 41 billion patent portfolio


In 2001 Neil set up AutoBarn, to supply vending machines across Kent, Essex, Surrey and Middlesex, as well as south London. In only twenty-three months, he grew the company from its foundations into a saleable concern. He did this by negotiating site rights, recruiting and building an effective sales team, building relationships with manufacturers and negotiating favourable contracts, designing and developing customised vending machines to fulfil specific customer demands, implementing efficient stock and quality control and managing a full delivery fleet with customer-led service delivery protocols.

  • 2001 set-up AutoBarn
  • 1,000 vending machines
  • 78 employees
  • 1.7million annual turnover

eHosting Limited

eHosting saw Neil once again take a company from start-up through to a successful sale. Neil founded eHosting, a full service, UK-based hosting company, in 2002. Within two months, the company was serving international customers, had a fully functioning management team and worked within the tightly controlled assurance, compliance and financial structures necessary for a hosting company to remain competitive.

When sold in early 2015, eHosting offered: a UK-based data centre, delivering three tiers of hassle-free hosting packages and association service and support to a large international customer base.

  • 2002 establised
  • 58 countries
  • 5,000 + customers
  • 150,000 domains

Barnfather vs. Vodaphone

In 2010, Vodafone announced its intention to discontinue the Wayfinder satellite navigation software in response to overwhelming competition from Google Maps and Nokia Maps. At that time, Wayfinder was being used by many thousands of visually impaired users to access GPS information about where they were, where they were going and points of interest such as coffee shops along the way using speech software on their mobile phones. As a reseller of the Wayfinder Access software through TalkNav, Neil felt responsible for ensuring his customers were adequately compensated for the breach of contract between software provider and users.

Sold on the basis of a lifetime licence Vodaphone had failed to consider the longer term use a blind user would expect from a mobile phone. Following a nine month international campaign, culminating in a head to head with Caroline Dewing, Vodaphone’s chief marketing officer on live national radio, Neil finally secured a substantial financial settlement from Vodafone to compensate visually impaired users appropriately for the loss of access services.

The lifetime licence was sold to users—it’s a lifetime licence of the user, not of the product. So a user buys the licence—on the day they make that purchase they’re entitled to use the public release of the software on that day for a lifetime on any of the supported devices.

Now there’s the snag. So in effect you can use this product for the rest of your life if you have a supported device. You can change from supported devices free of charge. So in effect it wouldn’t technically last a user the next 60 years or so because the supported devices won’t be around in that time. But a user could happily expect to get at least five or so years out of the products on that basis, given the fact that most blind users keep their handsets for a greater amount of time as opposed to their sighted counterparts. Most sighted users keep their phones for approximately 12-18 months, changing periodically on their contract.

Blind users, due to the fact that they get used to the phone, they feel more comfortable with that particular device, and indeed the expenditure of switching—blind people can’t pick up a low cost handset straight from any store, they require high end powerful latest state of the art devices to run the screen readers they use. Effectively can’t change their phones as often. So they keep these handsets for a lot more time.