Richard Lucas December 2020
This blog post will change my life and may change yours. It contains information about what I will be working on in 2021 and beyond, and an invitation to "work with me" by filling in the form.
The projects I am looking help with are in the areas of
Why Que Sera Sera? Why is my plan and this blog post called Que Sera Sera? I often cite Dori Day's "Que Sera Sera" (what will be will be) when teaching "gateway" entrepreneurship workshops. The message of the song, that the big things in life are out of control, is both wrong and depressing, but also potentially inspiring.
Why inspiring? Because, despite the lack of agency in little girl's question "what will I be?, life does not just happen to people. We have choices.
In entrepreneurship classes, I encourage participants to reflect on the fact that the fewer the entrepreneurial risks they take, the more control they have, at least in the short run. If someone chooses to do nothing, they will succeed. In my "Tough questions from a potential investor" I argue that what really matters about any innovation or new project is what the users and clients of an idea/project think, not how passionate the founder is about it.
The life of the entrepreneur is full of possibility and yet "out of control". No matter how hard you work and how committed you are, if the market is not interested, you will not succeed.
Que Sera Sera for me next year will be in the hands of others because it depends who decides to work with me on the projects described later in this blog post. I'm putting my future in the hands of others.
I've decided to spend more time replicating the ideas and projects I have worked on over the last 30 years into new geographies and sectors. But I'll be doing that through and with other people, hence the form. But to devote more energy to some projects means spending less on others.
What I'll be doing less of
I've exited some businesses and reduced my engagement with non-profits. I am not longer a shareholder Everuptive Group sp. z o. o., Untitled Kingdom sp. z o. o and Vantage Power Ltd. I stopped teaching at the Tischner Eurporean University, and being a student at University of the People. I'm migrating my Project Kazimierz podcast to the New Books Network, in which I recently became a shareholder. I am stepping back from the leadership of TEDxKazimierz, the end of an eleven year TED and TEDx Journey. I am not investing in new businesses, unless there are very special reasons why I want to. I wrote about the TEDxKazimierz decision in this blog post.
What I am continuing to do?
I will continue to support the businesses I am a shareholder in on an ad hoc basis. Some of them are market leaders, and highly successful businesses. My level of engagement varies, in some cases I'm a former CEO and a key shareholder, in others, my shareholding is tiny and the company gets on fine without me doing much. I continue to supporting entrepreneurship, through NGOs, teaching, podcasting, public speaking and occasionally investing, and to support non- profit projects focussed on community building, and spreading ideas.
How will I be doing it? The projects that I planning to work on are described below. I apply the organisational philosophy of TED to TEDx. This means that I go into action when I have a local leader. As you read this list, I ask you to ponder "am I interested or do I know someone who might like to explore making something like this happen". If this answer is yes, please fill in the form or tell the person you know about the opportunity.
The broad areas are:
Replicating tried and tested low/no cost pro-entrepreneurship meet ups in new cities.
Here are the projects I want to replicate to new cities
Krakow Enterprise Mondays - free events with a strong focus on participant engagement where three entrepreneurs (established, startup and social) give short talks about of about five minutes in length with another five minute for questions. Their talks are to a format answering the four questions: 1 Who am I 2 What does my business do? 3 what lessons have I learned 4 what advice would I give someone (a student) starting out on their entrepreneurial journey. Each speaker gets an "office hours" table during the networking so that people who want to talk to them afterward the speaker session can easily approach them. There are structured "meet someone new" icebreakers, before, during and after the speaker sessions so that everyone gets to meet plenty of new people. Gatherings last two-three hours, in a venue like a bar which welcomes extra revenue from bar sales on quiet evening (typically Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays) . Past events are here
Pre the 2020 pandemic these events happened about once a month in University term time, often focussed around alumni entrepreneurs.. KEM was run by student volunteers and post-grads. I estimate that KEM took about 2-3 hour /month + the event time, it had spread to one other city before the pandemic hit.
Open Coffee Krakow
As per here and here Free bi-weekly morning meetups since 2012. Open Coffee is a friendly informal networking event for entrepreneurs, professionals, people in the startup community, and students in Krakow. What is the BIG idea? To help people creating useful connections. Everyone is welcome to our meetings, and we especially love first-timers. We want to make sure that if somebody coming from an unsupportive background/ country has the courage to join, they will notice that we are glad they came because we welcome them. Everyone who comes is important and gets 1-2 minutes to present their idea. We usually use this structure, to make it easy for everybody: 1. Who you are 2. What are you doing 3. What you need/are you looking for 4. How you can help others. The host of the meeting usually puts the webpage, linkedin or other info about the person speaking on a screen so everyone there can see who they are. The structured part of the meetup starts at 8:00 sharp and close at 09:00. After the ending of the official program, people stay for as long as they want to talk to follow up one on one with people./projects that interest them the most.
Venue Typically a coworking space Cost minimal (We had coffee if a sponsor paid for it) Organised & Run by a leader who I recruited. A host is needed.
Open Coffee High School Edition Similar to Open Coffee - but run by and for teenagers.
See Magdalena's TEDxKazimierz talk on the project. https://www.ted.com/talks/magdalena_blyskosz_it_s_time_for_networking_meet_ups_organised_by_and_for_young_people
Obviously needs a leader
To support business and social entrepreneurship among Cambridge University alumni, current students and others. We organise free (or donation based) meetups in cities where there is a local leader. If that's you get in touch. Format similar to Enterprise Mondays, leverage the Cambridge name to do events with other Ivy League type organisations (Harvard, Oxford etc) but in fact are open to everyone with the right mindset.
One off entrepreneurship workshops and talks, in school, university, accelerator and other settings
I've led 100s of pro-entrepreneurship workshops everywhere from small state and private pre-schools in Poland, through to MBA level face to face and online in the world leading universities and business schools. I'm good at it, enjoy it and believe it is important. My workshops are highly interactive, and I operate on the the "give more/expect more" model. For example I often make participants record video introductions of themselves, before my class starts so I know who I am dealing with and have a class "Live document".
Whenever I am planning visits to new places I like to investigate if there are people and organisations that are interested in having me do something like this. I often am ready do this free of charge and cover my own expenses. If the organisation is for profit and/or usually pays, I charge whatever they normally pay for someone like me.
Examples are listed here. They include:
leading workshops in business schools,
talks at tech conferences,
classes at summer schools,
hosting events in co-working spaces,
inauguration talk to new students,
working at high schools, primary and pre-schools.
The school I was at as a teenager has created a Centre of Entrepreneurship and innovation and are recruiting a director. I've written to the person who is involved in the process with suggestions of what I could do to help build and strengthen the entrepreneurial culture of the school.
Entrepreneurship and leadership podcasting
For many years I've been interviewing interesting people about entrepreneurship and leadership on the Project Kazimierz podcast
In January 2021 I am started a new channel on Entrepreneurship and Leadership on the New Books Network - the largest non-fiction podcast network in the world, which has more than a million downloads a month. I'm always on the lookout for new interviewees. If you know anyone who you think is suitable ask them suggest them to me - I use this form. NBN was founded by Marshall Poe.
Organisation of one-off meetups to link different communities I am connected to, for example Polish ecosystem in Poland, Cambridge eco-system anywhere in the world, Polish entrepreneurs abroad, random vertical where I have a contact. These take a bit of work but can be valuable.
Investing in startups/mentoring - I don't do much of this but on occasion I do. If people ask me for investments, I send them this http://www.richardlucas.com/2013/09/questions-from-a-potential-investor
If someone wants to work for or with me I encourage them to go fill in the form. One person who filled it in is now CEO of a company I invested in, another is working for and with me on multiple projects.
Apart from pro-entrepreneurship activities, I support several Community building projects, often but not always these have been featured on my TEDxKazimierz stage in the past and now I want to devote myself to helping the ideas grow and develop.
There are several types of community building activities/Projects I am either working on or trying to work on
Village in the City
Village in the City aims to support. sustain and start micro-communities with village like characteristics in cities all over the world.
See Mark McKergow's TEDxKazimierz talk about the project here
I'm on the Advisory Board of Village in the City, and am helping Mark McKergow grow and help this idea spread. Maybe there is room for a village or two in where you live?
The Chatty Cafes project
The idea of Chatty Cafes is very simple, having a marked table in a cafe designating it the "Chatter and Natter Table". People who sit at that table are signalling that they are happy to talk to others in the cafe they don't know. It is doing well. The founder, Alexandra Hoskyn, was on the TEDxKazimierzWomen stage in 2019 here here https://www.ted.com/.../alexandra_hoskyn_connecting_in_cafes.
Chatty Cafes are a great form of community building. Maybe I could something to help if I am coming to town.
Happy to Chat benches
Happy to Chat benches are benches that have a special sign indicating that people who sit on the bench are happy to chat to strangers. It is the same idea as a Chatter and Natter table but on public benches. This simple idea is described in this TEDxKazimierz by Allison Owen-Jones
I have a vision of a makeover of some public space: to introduce suitable street furniture, a community noticeboard, a happy to chat bench, a chatty cafe in a Village in the City area. Maybe you can label a bench in your area.
Yorkey Dads and Menfulness are mutual support groups set up by men and dads to help each other in an engaging, tolerant and non-judgemental environment.
Once it is legal and safe I want to visit Jack Woodhams and his team in Yorkshire to see if I can help them scale the wonderful projects they have got going.
Jack gave a talk about this on the TEDxKazimierz stage in 2020.
TED and TEDx have been a big part of my life for more than a decade. As and when it is possible to travel again, I hope to visit and help with other people's TEDx-es around the world. Different TEDx-es have different needs, contexts. I do not assume I will always be able to add value. There are three areas where I could help if the local licence holder wants me to.
1 Doing pre events, I've done 11 pre-events before TED and TEDx events, in US, Canada, Israel, Poland. Scotland, South Africa, Taiwan and the USA. I gave a talk about pre events at TEDxShenkarCollege as per here.
2. Volunteer/audience experience training. I did a workshop at TED Summit in Banff about community building at events, and always made it a key part of the TEDx-es I ran. For TEDxWarsaw and TEDxTarnow I did training for their teams on how to make sure participants were really engaged and feel important. This blog post explains my approach.
I know that not everyone 'gets it', or even wants this approach implemented. I've heard from so many people over the years what a difference putting the participant centre stage makes. I'll continue to evangelise for participant focussed events.
3. Speaker preparation Depending on the speaker and the topic, I could probably support and coach a speaker or two on content and structure, (not voice, posture, body language).
My TED profile reveals just how engaged I have been in the TEDx and TED community.
I'll do my best to support the new leadership of TEDxKazimierz if I can.
I'm going to carry on doing TED Circles with Mel Rosenberg about once a month. TED Circles are a like a book club, based a around TED content.
I may be getting involved in a new promising "green" heat battery company which has the potential to greatly reduce the energy needed to heat homes, and usually at least one of my businesses has something to offer in most countries, so I always look out for new opportunities, investments, clients, and people while I am there. Check my Linkedin profile to find almost all the businesses I am engaged in.
Mentoring A few months ago Magdalena Błyskosz asked me to mentor her and we came up with a plan that I would do so with her publishing the results, so that others can benefit from the process. We think it is going well. Once the posts start going online I'll add a link to it here
Conclusions/Next Steps/Calls to Action
I have never written a blog post like this. I thought that I was going to write a plan, but it has turned into an approach to my future.
As Reid Hoffman (founder of Linkedin) said in his 22d December - Review of 2020 - Masters of Scale podcast - "the upside of entrepreneurship is almost unlimited." A lot of positive and valuable things can happen as a result of the blog post.
I really do not know what is going to happen - it is exciting - and in the hands of people reading this blog post - who decide to help make one or more of these projects happen.
As those who know me will tell you, I'm pro-active. I won't be waiting for people to approach me passively but like a head hunter, approaching people who I think are suitable, suggesting pilot projects. Many people will say "no", or not reply. That doesn't bother me. I built my businesses because I don't worry about rejection.
My way of finding out if an idea is any good is to try it. That includes this blog post. The same applies to anyone reading this blog post. My calls to action are:
If you are interested in any of these projects, fill in the form, or get in touch directly. If you have any questions, or something is not clear, questions and comments are welcome. If you know someone who might be interested, let them know as well or share this post in whatever way you want.
Que Sera Sera.