Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas TED&TEDx

Does anyone know anyone in…Canada…?

Richard Lucas August 2021


My application to go to TED in Vancouver in April 2022 has been accepted. I am thinking ahead about how to make the most of my visit. I’ve a number of non-profit projects with positive social impact that I may be able to get started while there, if I have the right local support. I started by asking my friend and business partner Peter Cowley for introductions, and am reaching out to TEDx-ers I know personally, and looking through other distant and close contacts I have in that part of the world.

This blog post is dedicated to my friend Mel Rosenberg who always encourages me with his wit and wisdom

Mel hearing about the dedication of this blog post

Why should you read on? This blog post has

  • a “copy paste” of my “email suitable for forwarding”. Maybe one day you will want to send an “email suitable for forwarding”.
  • an explanation of why I think “emails suitable for forwarding” are a good idea, and a note why some people don’t agree.
  • a description of the processes I am initiating in preparation for my visit. Carol Dweck argues convincingly about the importance of focussing on process over outcome in her ground-breaking research into the “growth mindset”. As someone who has set up literally dozens of businesses, I expect my process will encounter a lot of rejection, and lack of interest. But rejection is the price of creating the possibility of success. I hope that by sharing this I will highlight the risk and uncertainty of this process. It is both better and more fun to work with a few people who really want to make things happen than a large group of those who have been pressured into action out of a sense of duty.

Maybe you (that’s you – the reader) can help me help others. – Thank you in advance for forwarding this to people who might help me with one or more of the projects I want to move forward during my visit.

What are “emails suitable for forwarding” and why are they a good idea?

What are they? – there is a hint in the name! They are emails that the person you send it to can forward to suitable people in their network. The main features of such emails are that:

  • they are written with the fact that they might be forwarded in mind, so to the extent they are personal they are not private.
  • They are written in with the expectation that the person reading might be interested in what you do, but they don’t know the author.
  • They give control to the recipient. She or he doesn’t have the feeling of being spammed.
  • Ivan Mazour of Ometria wrote a blog post in 2014 about the benefits of the tech industry’s approach to email introductions here that is still relevant. He highlights there are people who do not live by the tech industry standards of being helpful without an immediate return. I’m aware that some people may react by thinking “what’s in for me?” and do nothing.

An “email suitable for forwarding” takes time to write, and is respectful of the time of the people you are asking to help you.

The author has to explain what they want, why they want it and convey the benefits for the people reading it, or some third party who might be worth helping.

It is easy for the forwarder and “the forward-ee” to reject any call to action – if they do not feel inspired or moved. There is no pressure.

The ease with which such an email can be ignored is a a valid criticism of the methodology, I would not recommend sending “emails suitable for forwarding” without fully exploiting other ways of using your network of personal contacts. If you know people well in the region or domain area where you need help, take the time to make contact with them directly. If you already have social capital and a credit of trust with individuals in the area you want help, this is the time to draw it down. They too may be able to forward on your email to people who can really help you.

The projects I am working on are ones with benefits for others: be they helping others acquire education/skills, inspiration, mindset change, fighting social isolation, building community, leadership development, and helping people make new friends and contacts.

As one of the projects I want to execute is a “pre event” before TED in Vancouver next year, it made sense to reach out to past participants of other TED events that I have attended in the region. I am systematically messaging all my Canadian contacts in the TED/TEDx world with a version of this via Linkedin.

My “cold” Linikedin messages

Here is the email

Dear xxxx xxxxx,

 I’m going to TED in Vancouver/April 2022, and am looking for introductions to people to help me make the most of a 3/4 week visit to Canada (and the US if it makes sense) . Please forward this email (cc me when possible) to people who you think might be able to help, or are worth having a meal, coffee, drink etc, or who might invite me to interesting parties or events. It’s going to be a blog post too. 

As you know, I am not the sort of person who likes going to places to take pictures of other people doing interesting things. I like to get involved, engaged and make things happen. I find that it is good to be in touch with people well before I go places as it increases the number of beneficial, serendipitous, random meetings,  contacts and outcomes. 

The areas I am active in are business and social entrepreneurship, and usually I am most effective with people who are pro-active themselves.  So anyone who might be active in the areas below, or might know people who are, would be great to be in contact with:   

The projects I am keen to develop are:

CAMentrepreneurs  – which supports business and social entrepreneurship among Cambridge & Oxford Alumni, current students, and others.  I founded it, we have had gatherings in Cambridge Dubai, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Helsinki,  London, New York, Sydney, Warsaw, and launches are planned in Brazil, Houston,  Mumbai and Oxford in 2021 (Covid permitting). Ideal introductions are Oxford and Cambridge alumni or students who are based in Canada, or West Coast US, who are into Entrepreneurship and Community Building. I hope to launch Vancouver, Toronto and San Francisco if I find local leaders who want to do a pilot event. (This is really just FYI (for your information), as I am reaching out to them directly).

Open Coffee Youth This project led by Magdalena Błyskosz is run by and for teenagers/university students around the world.  Any contacts to people who can help her reach teenagers directly (Youth leadership programmes, student societies etc) are most welcome.  Hear her describe the project here .

Village in the City   This project is run by Mark McKergow and is supports people who want to build micro scale village- like communities in the places they live. I’m on the Advisory Board  Any contacts to community builders, community support organisations are most welcome.  See Mark talk about VITC here.   Mark wrote the book about Host Leadership I was telling you about.

Happy to Chat Benches – The project is leader-less but barely needs one. The founder of the idea spoke on my TEDxKazimierz stage here, and we have (at the time of writing) a Polish language website,  Google map, and a Pinterest page  showing some of the benches. Contacts with people involved in pro-community building public space design are welcome.   

Chatty Cafe Scheme  The founder spoke at TEDxKazimierzWomen about this idea. I am keen to sign up additional venues (which can be bars, cafes, libraries, coworking centres). 

Open Coffee Krakow  I’ve hosted over many hundreds of bi-weekly Open Coffee meetings in Krakow since 2013, and I know our format is much better & more efficient than most networking meetings. I’m happy to work with community leaders to pilot our format, see whether our format could “take” in a new context.   
There are also things that I do and enjoy doing/I could do as a one off guest that don’t require a project.

Areas where I have experience and could take on extra one off AMA/ talks/workshopsEntrepreneurial/ Startup/Community gatherings, workshops, AMAs and talks on leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovation  – I’m usually happy to do these, with a very strong focus on community engagement and activation. I’ve track record in two types of scenario: 

1 Gateway workshops “Is entrepreneurship for you?  For diverse audiences who are not necessarily aware of the choice – soldiers leaving the army, primary school kids, doctors, law students, historians, musicians, prisoners…  Contacts with people who are working in or with these communities are welcome. 

2. For those already interested in entrepreneurship, focussed on some key fundamentals based on my decades years of experience of failure and success since I started my first business aged nine.I’d be happy to discuss with your graduate the pluses and minuses of choosing an entrepreneurial track, or answer any questions.Business School classes:  I’ve done many of theseJudge Business School, Cambridge University, University of Economics Business School in Krakow, WSE in Krakow, Asbiro in Warsaw.   With sufficient preparation I could do more, though if it is part of the curriculum it needs careful planning.

Pre, middle high school community group workshops. I can and do this type of thing, where it makes sense.

OMGKRK Foundation  – This is Southern Poland’s major startups support foundation. I’m a donor, informal ambassador and on the board. If equivalent organisations want to chat about potential co-operation, I’m happy to initiate the contact.  

TEDx and TED Pre-events I’ve done pre-events (events before events) before TED and TEDx events in Calgary, Cape Town, Edinburgh, Krakow, Rome, Taipei, and Warsaw. I’ll be following up with TEDx-ers in my network about trying to do something before TED so 9th April in Vancouver, and maybe other TEDx-es if the timing is right.

New Books Network I’ll probably organise a pilot event with Marshall Poe and Owen Bennett-Jones  and our NBN podcast listeners at an Ivy League University or somewhere in New York. The NBN is the world’s largest non-fiction academic author interview network, producing 12 podcasts a day. If you know nice venues that are potentially available at low cost/free in return for academic celebrity stardust, that’s of great interest.

I also am happy to talk about business on behalf of the companies I’m involved in. If business people are reading this then you can see almost all the companies listed on my Linkedin profile.

Over to you