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Cambridge rules

Yesterday I enjoyed an interesting #smartchat on Twitter on the subject of “Urban Entrepreneurial Ecosystems”. I mentioned that the “Cambridge rules” we often use are an important part of why my own city of Cambridge, UK is such a successful UEE. But I realised that I have never seen the rules written down…

Cambridge rules are an informal alternative to non-disclosure agreements. They rely upon trust, so a close-knit entrepreneurial community is key to their use. It’s likely that everyone’s understanding of the rules is slightly different, but here is my approximation. Any suggestions for refinement greatfully accepted. So, here is my first attempt:

Information learned under Cambridge Rules

1. …may not be repeated to others except under Cambridge Rules, and may not normally be disclosed outside the Cambridge entrepreneurial ecosystem.

2. …may only be disclosed to other parties when it is likely to be of use to them, and not likely to damage the interests the originator.

3. …may not be used to damage the interests of the disclosing party, nor (in the case of relayed conversation) the interests of the originator of the information.

CR conversations may happen at any level in an organisation. Sometimes CEOs or CTOs chat over dinner, sometimes development engineers help each other to solve problems. In the case of multinationals with Cambridge offices, the management hierachy might be horrified if they knew what had been shared.

Relationships which are sufficiently trusted to allow CR conversations usually involve two-way flow of information. It is common for participants knowledge and expertese to be freely offered in such conversations. This allows SMEs to have occasional access to useful skills not posessed by their own organisation, and increases the rate of building of the general body of knowledge in the ecosystem.

As an example, I have in the past few months been quizzing contacts as to their views on competing home control network technologies. People working on and with different solutions have been open with me about the advantages and disadvantages they have found. This feedback goes far beyond anything I could find in the literature or by talking to salesmen, and gives me a significant market advantage when chosing a technology for my own application.

To sum up, Cambridge Rules conversations are a very significant part of the magic which makes Silicon Fen the successful Urban Entrepreneurial Ecosystem that it is.

Posted in Future Cities.

2 Responses

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  1. Chris Thomas says

    I like the concept of Cambridge rules as it appears to be a practice many good networkers adopt instinctively. My query would be whether these are also sufficient to treat conversations as private, with respect to UP, I.e.will not result in invalidation of a patent.

  2. The Smart Home Man says

    That’s a good question, Chris. My instinct is that at a pinch it might be enough to avoid invalidating patents, but I’ll ask my tame lawyer for an opinion. On the other hand, if you know you’re going to patent it, I’d always plump for a formal signed NDA. And anyway, Cambridge Rule conversations should only ever be with people you really trust!

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