community building

An Interview with Mateusz Nowak  TEDxWarsawPresidentialPalace Curator and TEDxWarsaw Team member

Mateusz Nowak
By Richard Lucas   April 2014
As a way of recognising people who are making contributions to the TEDx community, I’m taking the time to interview people who have taken action, or had a role, big or small. Mateusz Nowak was nominated by Ralph Talmont TEDxWarsaw Curator. Despite his busy workload, Mateusz took the time and trouble to answer my questions.
Please introduce yourself, who are you, what do you do and where are you from ? An elevator pitch for me? I guess I’m a social activist and finance guy who always looks for inspiration and people to learn from.  Though an obituary would more look like: Born in the Northern Tri-City, Warsaw School of Economics alumni and management consultant by trade. Passionate about aquatic sports, Oxford debates, travel and social entrepreneurship.
How did I learn about TED? It was my second year of studies when my friend, who at the time was a neurocognitive major student, entered a room and asked: “do you know what TED is?”. From that day, I started my day for the following 3 years or so with a breakfast and a TED talk.  
Why did you decide to get involved? I went to the first TEDxWarsaw as a participant and during lunch with complete strangers I reached a point in a heated discussion, that I wanted to pause, pause for long. It was my first of many TEDx zen moments. I had this lunch among others with Patryk, with whom we are working on TEDxWarsaw team now.
what was the most unexpected outcome? I have met my mentor, who coached me for years to come.
What are you most proud of? That despite quite a successful road so far all of the organizers stayed friends and team churn was very small.
What did you the find most challenging? Overcoming my shyness and stepping over the predetermined, but nonetheless expected by society, roles – team of mostly twentysomething yearolds demands from successful and experienced scientists, politicians, business people and artists to excel and go beyond what they consider good. We have to be demanding of them to build the best TEDx talk possible and this was not an easy thing to get used to. In fact TEDx taught me, that before you look at someone’s business card and his/her title, it’s better to look someone in the eye and see a human instead – with both all his/hers flaws and quirks and marvelous blessings. It taught me to look at all of as beings, that undergo the same stress during rush hours, the same hunger, cold and insomnia effects. Rock star or not, we all hate that the cold shower in the morning…
How would you describe your role? It changed over time, from afterparty organiser to one of the core team leaders. In fact, my role these days is all about enabling other team members and sharing the best practices from last 5 years. TEDx is very entrepreneurial, so any stiff structure would be a mistake and would make the community bored as too few new ideas would flow around.
What tips would you give about Speaker selection? Have a varied core team of people, who will do the picking and have a trust in them to pick up a few interesting people from their domain. If they are true experts in their fields they will know the right people for the lineup. There has to be a curator of course, to make the right connections and trim the choices, but it’ll influence only 20% of the speakers. To tell you the truth I disagree with circa 30% of choices for the lineup, but having trust in the rest of the team and their insights I agree to their speaker choices being on stage for the benefit of community.
How do you aim to build a sense of community and loyalty among team members ? Making sure that everyone in the team has fun doing TEDxWarsaw and being truthful all the way, no matter if we have ups or downs. I don’t know how we do that, there is no recipe here I suppose.
How do you aim to build a sense of community and loyalty among attendees? We don’t aim at that. We do the event for ourselves, we are happy to share it with others, but what makes it such a fun for the team, it’s the fact, that everyone can see his/hers hero on stage. (Richard Lucas comment “building community among attendees of events (including TEDx-es is a personal mission –  see here  )
What are the biggest elements of the workload that are not visible to outsiders? Speaker scouting and talk preparations – scouting is ongoing throughout the year and direct work with speakers takes over 2 months of intensive contact, polishing the idea worth spreading, building up the storyline and polishing public speaking skills. What sort of practical support do you get from Very limited. There are guidelines to follow, but we treat them rather as licence limitations, than as support.
How did you feel when you were awarded the licence?  I have a licence for TEDxWarsawPresidentialPalace. It is a unique licence and took a lot of time and energy to obtain. It was a mixed feeling of a relief and excitement. What’s the most stressful thing that happened? It’s always a mixture of underfinancing, huge community expectations and a few speakers who are sometime a challenge to work with
What do you say when you meet someone who hasn’t heard of  or TEDx? I bring up a topic of one or two TED talks, but nothing else, no nagging etc. It’s a journey that everyone has to take for oneself.
How do you persuade people to speak?  It all depends on whether they know about TED. If yes, then it’s plain and easy. We invite, they say yes. If not, we explain, and we wait for the answer. We do little convincing, because to endure the long and painful preparation process our potential speakers need to have quite an amount of inner motivation.
What do you say when people tell you they want to speak on It never happened. Some people approach me to speak at TEDxWarsaw, I always listen to them, but rarely put forward to the team. Most of people want to sell something more than a pure idea from the stage.
Which are your favourite TED talks and why ? No idea, there are so many of them. It probably changes with the mood. There are some so profoundly touching and I would call them as my favourite. Maybe the one here:
What’s your funniest TEDx experience that happened?  Last Christmas the team got together and we baked some cookies for a meeting and as hours passed by the shapes of our cookies were increasingly weird and making thereof was increasingly fun. prodigyciastka in making 2ciasteczka in making
How did you feel when you woke up the morning of your first event/and when it was all over? Exhausted, but whole. A sense of fulfilment. I have no others words to depict it.
What would you say to anyone who is considering getting involved in TED or TEDx ? You either do it 100% or don’t do it at all. Being a volunteer doesn’t mean you can do it unprofessionally. If you however do it right, it will be a truly transformational experience. You’ll learn a lot, you’ll meet awesome personalities.
What funny interesting and/or strange facts can you tell us about yourself than most people don’t know about? Besides my MA in finance and my pending MA in management I took up violin lessons at age of 21 and had a brief moment at physics department at Warsaw University.  
What are you working on at the moment? In TEDx? Integrating speakers’ community. In my professional life? Career in consulting, with R&D commercialization twist. Beyond that? You need a bigger bottle of wine 😉  (Richard  ‘ next time you are in Krakow it’s on me’)
What is the biggest impact TED and TEDx has had on your life? From an introvert daydreamer I became a leader, with a drive to change reality around me.  You can find out more about Mateusz here  
community building

An interview with Marcin Szeląg – Open Coffee Krakow Partner

Marcin is a familar face in the Krakow Start Up Community, and we are both shareholders in This blog post also appeared on the Open Coffee Krakow blog

I decided to draw attention to contributors to and participants in Open Coffee Krakow in a series of interviews. Marcin is first so thanks to him for that:-)

Please introduce yourself, who are you, what do you do and where are you from

Marcin Szeląg
Marcin Szeląg


My name is Marcin Szeląg, I’m a Partner at Innovation Nest – an early stage VC fund focused on SaaS. My main area of expertise is online marketing and sales in SaaS and eCommerce. I am based in Kraków.

When did you first hear about Open Coffee Krakow ?

Winter 2012

Why did you get involved in Open Coffee Krakow related activities. What is your primary motivation?

I liked the idea. Being an investor always looking for new opportunities to invest, my main motivation was to meet new startups/founders.

About how many meetings have you attended

too many to remember. I am a regular at Open Coffee.

What did you do to support Open Coffee

Innovation Nest is one of the sponsors of Open Coffee.

 What do like most  and why do you keep on coming back

I like the whole idea of starting the day with an open meeting where you can meet new people. It is also a great motivator to get up early in the morning. What I like the most about Open Coffee is that is very viral and it constantly attracts new people.You can always meet new people.

what is your most memorable moment from the meetings

The pitch by Maciek at przedszkolowo.

Is there anything you’ed like to happen at OCKRK? if we could change something what would it be ?

There is nothing that comes to my mind. It is fine the way it is.

 What do you say when you meet someone who hasn’t heard of OCKRK to encourage them to come.What would you say to someone who is considering getting up early in the morning so that they can come to an OCKRK meeting?

I would say that if you are new to the startup community, Open Coffee is a great place to start meeting people in this community.

What funny interesting and/or strange facts can you tell us about yourself than most people don’t know about ?

I used to live in Australia for more than six years. This time has shaped my character in a way that most of the time I am relaxed and it is really hard to get me stressed out. It is something I adopted from the Aussie culture.

What do you hope you will be doing in five years from now, and what should be happening at Open Coffee Krakow meetings

I hope I will be working less and travelling more. As for Open Coffee, I hope there will be many more people attending.