Don’t fake it til you make it..- and other advice for teams pitching at KMS “ KRK Pitch Contest” in May 2022
Kraków Miastem Startupów – (Krakow – the town of startups) – is a non-profit organisation that supports the start up community in Krakow. They asked me to be on the jury of a competition they are holding this week, as part of Targi Pracy i Przedsiębiorczości „Majówka z pracą”
“KRK Pitch Contest” Pitch Contest to znana w środowisku startupowym konwencja pozyskiwania inwestycji przez firmy na wczesnym etapie rozwoju. Polega ona na organizacji konkursu, podczas którego startupy prezentują pomysł biznesowy w formie krótkiej prezentacji przed grupą zaproszonych inwestorów. Od 20 do 28 kwietnia będą przyjmowane zgłoszenia. Pomysły będą oceniane pod kątem innowacyjności i gotowości rynkowej, a 8 najlepszych startupów zostanie zaproszonych do udziału w Pitch Contest 11 maja. Startupy zostaną ocenione przez inwestorów (Venture Capital, Business Angel) i ekspertów, którzy następnie przyznają nagrody o łącznej wartości 5.000 złotych.
This short letter to the finalists is a personal appeal against the rising level of BS that I often encounter in the startup community, based on 48 years of business experience*.
What not to do
Don’t over promise
Don’t be arrogant
Don’t talk about how you or the jury feel about the business
What you should do
Talk about what you have already done and achieved in specific not general terms
Demonstrate that you have already been working hard
Represent the voice/opinion of real users and clients of whatever it is you are offering, not fictional made up ones.
Convey that you will be respectful of investors’ money, and you will be as careful with it as you are of your own cash.
Get across that you are responsible, serious people who are really dedicated to doing your best.
Why did I feel the need to write this ?
The startup and entrepreneurial community is full of people who seem to have been fed a diet of “pitching as show business”. This is not good for those pitching, it is horrible for the judges, and a bad education for the audience
Real investors invest in people. You need to convey reliability and common sense in your pitch.
Anything you do or say during a pitch that gives a sense of being an unrealistic BS-er will be a turn off to most investors. Serious investors know that nothing is certain, and that most startups fail. Giving the sense that it will be easy does not usually build confidence, it reduces it.
There is nothing wrong with a “BAG**” a “big audacious goal” for your start up in terms of addressing a serious problem at a large scale, but yourpitch needs to explain in a credible way not just what the problem is but how you and your co-founding team might be the people to successfully work on it. Build credibility and confidence by being realistic and humble.
What does this mean in practice?
When asked a difficult question about clients and potential clients don’t say
“That won’t be a problem – the market is worth a billion Euros, it shouldn’t be hard to get 1% which is 10 million Euros”
“Getting clients is our biggest challenge, because we are a startup and we know how hard it is to be credible. We have spoken to 40 directors of companies we believe are our best prospects and 15 of them have confirmed they want to buy our solution when it is ready at our target pricing.”
When asked a tough question about how you are going to grow your team
Don’t say “we are a cool startup: it shouldn’t be hard to get people to join us once we have the money to pay good salaries”
“Attracting talent will definitely be a challenge. I’ve three developer friends who have committed to join us once we are funded. We know that we are competing with small and big companies. We regularly attend networking events, and give talks in two local universities which we think will help us attract the sort of engineers we need. As well as that we are going to listen to our investors and mentors, and get their advice on how to attract and retain talent.”
When asked a tough question about how you are sure you will have product market fit, don’t say
“We just know that the market will go crazy once we launch. Founders have got to have vision and faith”
“It’s not us that know when we have product market fit, it’s the market that decides. We have got 17 companies who have agreed to do paid pilots and we promised them to incorporate their feedback into further releases of our product if enough of them are ready to commit to purchase a “post pilot” upgrade. The ultimate test of product market fit is when a client decide to buy, and remains a long term clients and is happy to give references. That’s how we will know. We are not there yet, but we have a clear plan of how to get there.
Talk about what you have done, especially activities that demonstrate determination, persistence and sales skills. Actions speak louder than words. Investors will be trying to figure out what you are like. Think of the “perfect tense” in grammar. “We have talked to potential clients”, not “we are talking”. “We did this”, not “we are doing”. Completed actions are impressive, and verifiable.
Be honest about the challenges. Professionals know that business is hard, even when you do have money and track record.
Describe what you are doing through the eyes of clients and users of your planned products and services. It doesn’t mean anything if you say your product is cool, awesome or disruptive. If your clients and users are full of praise about what you have done and and are offering, that is impressive.
Finally – this appeal is only my personal opinion. If you know people who BS-ed their way to finding investors, faked it then made it, and made a success of their venture, then my advice would have not been right for them. The ultimate test of any business is whether it delivers goods and services of value to clients, while keeping the employees happy and making a decent sustainable profit. If you are doing that you are successful (in business terms), no matter what anyone else says.
* I started my first entrepreneurial activities when I was 8 years old at a school in Oxford in 1974.
** The more commonly used BHAG (Big Hairy audacious Goal) acronym never made sense to me. I don’t use terms that I don’t understand
Sometimes life imitates fiction, and fiction reflects reality.
When I first started talking to people about the Chatty Café Scheme, Alex Hoskyn’s pioneering project to get strangers talking to each other in cafes – people sometimes said “like in Fleabag”. It turned out that in Phoebe Waller Bridge’s hit TV series, Fleabag has Chatty Wednesdays, when people talk to people they don’t know.
In The Archers – The world’s longest running radio docu-drama, based in the fictional village of Ambridge, a competition has been running to come up with a Valentine activity event in the village pub to help people get to know each. The winning event, (proposed by two long standing characters Adam and Susan) is to get people to talk to people they don’t know, and the plan is to use conversation cards to trigger more open topics of conversation among introverts. These fictional event is extraordinarily similar to the Newcomer Welcome Clubs, which I have been piloting in Kraków, Lisbon and soon will be launching in other countries around the world.
At TEDxKazimierz events we paid a lot of attention to community building and making events friendly for shy people. This was reflected not just in having speakers talking about ideas like The Chatty Café Scheme, Happy to Chat benches, and Village in the City, but also having “Conversation Cards” distributed in the audience
with questions designed to get those using them to move away from small talk, to deeper more personal conversations. See more examples here . These exactly mirror what Susan and Adam are planning for Valentines day in Ambridge. They may be onto something, as Prof Arthur Aron famous “36 questions that lead to love” experiment suggests
In the course of promoting Village in the City, a project designed to build Village like communities in cities, it became apparent that many villages have plenty of people who don’t actually know everyone and are a bit isolated.
Everywhere in the world, from the smallest village to the largest town needs one or more “Newcomer Welcome Clubs” (NWCs) – which are both for recent arrivals and those who want to welcome them.
This blog post explains
why NWCs are an idea whose time has come,
what the key features of a local Newcomer Welcome Club are,
what you can do if you want to devote some time and energy to help make this happen in your area.
What are NWCs ? (there is a hint in the name) While NWCs are obviously organisations whose purpose is to welcome newcomers, a club is more than this. It is both for newcomers and people who want to welcome them.
The core of an NWC are regular events (once a week, bi-weekly, monthly) where the “event design” is newcomer friendly.
The structure of the regular meeting includes:
A welcoming process so that as someone arrives the host/volunteers focus on greeting people and introducing them to others in the room, rather than leaving them to their own devices. People left alone often retreat into their phones, and the first impression a newcomer gets is important.
– introductions and icebreakers so that newcomers are put on a level with people who already know most of the other attendees. This addresses the intimidating atmosphere that can be felt if someone new walks into a room where everyone else seems to know each other.
regular rotations of the people you speak to, so even if you are trapped with someone you don’t particularly want to talk to it doesn’t last too long.
– free form socialising so that after the structured part of the meeting people are free to mingle with the people they most want to meet.
Time limited community announcements so that people who have a project or idea they want to share have the opportunity to do so.
If people at the meeting have ideas/proposals of special activities or interest groups that they want to suggest as group activities they can, on the basis that they take a leading role in making their suggestion happen.
Gatherings have housekeeping rules and culture that are “shy people” friendly. Regular attendees are primed to look out for people who don’t know anyone, and include them in conversations.
Participants will be encouraged to self-regulate how long they speak for so that if anyone is talking too much, they are a violating the conventions of the gathering. The “Rule of one minute”.
Why is this idea needed?
The places where communities have traditionally gathered (school, local bar, and church) have declined as the focus of community life in many societies and at the same time the world has become much more mobile, with more people on the move, arriving in places where they don’t have a local network and contacts. There are far more single person households than there used to be. At the same time digital technologies have provided a some sense of connection, often without depth and a commitment to mutual support. Many observers note that the number of people reporting that they are lonely and isolated is increasing. The proposition that it is a good thing if there is a club or place where newcomers are made to feel welcome is obviously true.
How did the idea come about ?
I came across the idea of NCW from Wendy Ellyatt who told me about her involvement in “Cheltenham Connect” many decades ago, and how it impacted the town she had moved to. Wendy and I met through the Village in the City movement, founded by Mark McKergow, which has the wider and similar objective of forming village like communities in cities.
Some readers will be thinking: “surely this idea is not new?” and they will be correct. A few minutes on Google will reveal that there are groups that meet some or all of the functions of a NWC, often with a particular target in mind (new students in a University town, international/expats/couch-surfers in a major city, women’s groups, scholars arriving at a university). The participants in and types of meeting vary wildly, some more professional like internations, others more focussed of eating, drinking, or partying, others like the Good Karma effect more focussed on mutual support.
Many such meetings lack the “newcomer friendly” event design described above. While some people who go to meet ups are self-confident and can manage without integration activities, we observe again and again the benefits of structure. I do not want to arrogantly say that my ideas are not being implemented well anywhere. I would like to network and collaborate with organisations that have similar goals and values.
A meeting without structure results in newcomers walking into a room where there is a wall of noise, and it’s both very challenging to meet many new people, and as and when you do, you end up spending longer than you want talking to the people you happen to speak to first.
By having structured icebreakers and integration activities we ensure that everyone who attends will meet quite a few new people in the first half of the gathering, and they can choose with whom they follow up in the second.
We say “If an event works for the shy and introverted, bold and confident people will manage just fine”
Following Priya Parker’s ideas in “the Art of Gathering”, we view the lack of rules as creating a power vacuum, in which the wrong type of person (dominant, bullying, arrogant, loud) tends to take over.
Just as a rules based culture or organisation protects the less powerful against the strong, so house keeeping rules and culture, create space for everyone
What have we done already?
In Krakow Poland, my adopted home, we set up the Krakow Newcomers Welcome Club and have had several successful meetings.
In Lisbon Poland where I arrived less than two months ago, we have had four meetups and they are gaining in popularity all the time.
Last week, the acclaimed speaker, author and podcaster Seth Godin gave me an Akimbo “community announcement” promoting my “idea worth spreading” – Listen to my advert (25 seconds in) here
of a global network of “Newcomer Welcome clubs”, working on the TED -> TEDx model, of a central organisation (me), supporting local leaders.
This blog post is the first port of call for people who write to me asking for more information.
I’m applying the “lean startup” methodology to this idea, of testing if there is supply and demand before building an organisation. This is similar to how I interact with startup founders looking for feedback and funding. I tell them “don’t show and tell me about your product and solution, tell me what the clients, users and beneficiaries of your idea have to say”.
This is not the first unveiling I’ve been to, or involved in, during my life, but it is a significant one. A few years ago I was behind the Kraków’ “Wojtek the Soldier Bear statue project” and wrote about it here. This blog post shares a few thoughts and reflections on what is happening today and why it matters. I’m sharing the press release that Maria Gorczyca prepared at the end of this blog post too.
TED and TEDx operate with the mission of propagating “Ideas worth spreading”. Ideas are almost always most valuable when they are implemented, and if not should be measured and assessed by their impact,
This great idea was not mine, was shared on the TEDxKazimierz stage, and thanks the work and commitment of other people mentioned below, it has come into being in Poland today fo the first time.
I want to share some thoughts as to what I did to make it happen.
We need stronger connections between people, and for people to talk and listen to each other more. In a digitally connected world, these benches can be part of the solution. Allison sets out the case in her TEDxKazimierz talk here
Be on the look out for good ideas
When I saw the report about Allison’s Happy to Chat benches, on the BBC, I thought “what a good idea”. High benefit, almost no cost, easy to copy.
Embrace risk of rejection and believe in your ideas
I was not afraid to get in touch with her, via her son who I found on Twitter. I invited her to give a talk about the project at TEDxKazimierz, to talk to Fulco Systems, the bench maker from Gliwice, and to the JCC. Each time people might have said no. They didn’t.
My Linkedin profile includes a form called Work with/for me Maja (Maria) who did loads of work on this project filled it in. This project would not have happened without her.
Be persistentand systematic
It’s taken time. Not all ideas worked, But we kept going. We had regular calls at 0930 on Sunday mornings where she updated me about progress over many months
Make things public
We are not PR specialists, but we made a press release and sent it to as many people as possible.
I didn’t tell everyone what to do. I promoted a vision which other people could work towards
Krzysztof Sabuda, Maria Gorczyca, Magdalena Błyskosz, Łukasz Siódmok, Sebastian Rudol , Allison Owen-Jones and Jonathan Ornstein did the work. Thank you.
This is the first such bench in Poland. I hope it will not be the last.
Press Release First Gaduławka (Happy to Chat Bench) w Krakowie
Wydarzenie odkrycia pierwszej Gaduławki w Polsce odbędzie się
22 września o 18:00 w Centrum Społeczności Żydowskiej w Krakowie, ul Miodowa 24, Kraków 31-055
Gaduławka, czyli odpowiednik brytyjskiego Happy to Chat Benches zapoczątkowanego przez Allison Owen Jones w Cardiff wreszcie zawita w Polsce. Uroczystość odkrycia ławki odbędzie się na terenie Centrum Społeczności Żydowskiej w Krakowie w trakcie Święta Sukkot 22 września o godzine 18:00 Wszystkich zainteresowanych zapraszamy na wydarzenie oraz do korzystania z Gaduławki.
JCC Krakow zostało otwarte w kwietniu 2008 roku przez Jego Królewską Wysokość Księcia Walii i jest centralnym miejscem odrodzenia życia żydowskiego w Krakowie. Zlokalizowane w centrum Kazimierza, dawnej żydowskiej dzielnicy Krakowa, JCC zapewnia rosnącej społeczności żydowskiej miejsce do spotkań, nauki i wymiany pomysłów w przyjaznym i serdecznym środowisku. Głównym celem JCC Krakow jest tworzenie otwartej, pluralistycznej i inkluzywnej społeczności, a także zapewnienie nowoczesnego i wysokiej jakości programu.
Czym jest Gaduławka?
Gaduławka to ławka, która zachęca do rozmowy. Oznakowana specjalną tabliczką zaprasza do spoczęcia i oczekiwania na partnera_kę do dyskusji. Celem Gaduławki jest walka z samotnością oraz odbudowanie poczucia wspólnoty wśród ludzi.
O projekcie: Allison Owen Jones: ”To wspaniałe, że inicjatywa trafiła do Polski”
Jonathan Ornstein Executive Dyrektor Centrum Społeczności Żydowskiej w Krakowie:
”Jesteśmy szczęśliwi, że w ogrodzie JCC pojawiła się pierwsza Gaduławka w Krakowie. Po tak długim czasie rozłąki i dystansu społecznego, mamy nadzieję, że projekt ten stanie się kolejną motywacją to nawiązywania nowych znajomości w czasach, w których otwarty dialog staje się coraz ważniejszy”.
Łukasz Siódmok CEO Fulco: “ W Fulco zależy nam na więziach mieszkańców oraz polepszeniu przestrzeni miejskich, dlatego chętnie przyłączyliśmy się do projektu”
Magdalena Błyskosz Founderka Open Coffee Youth: “Open Coffee Youth loves our core team members working on great projects, –
Oksana Rovna Kuratorka TEDxKazimierz: “Celem TEDxKazimierz jest przedstawianie niesamowitych pomysłów na scenie. Cieszymy się, że jedna z naszych mówczyń odwiedzi Kraków”.
Maja Gorczyca: “Idea łączenia ludzi zachęciła nas, by włożyć w ten projekt nasze serca, dlatego nie mogę się doczekać, by zobaczyć efekty naszej pracy”.
Richard Lucas: “Takie ławki kosztują niewiele, a wywierają niesamowicie pozytywny wpływ na społeczeństwo. Potrzebujemy więcej inicjatyw łączących ludzi”.
Kto stoi za Gaduławką?
Gaduławka jest polskim odpowiednikiem Happy to Chat Benches stworzonego przez Allison Owen Jones w Cardiff. Akcja dotarła do Polski, dzięki przemówieniu TEDxKazimierz, gdzie inicjatywę przejął krakowski przedsiębiorca Richard Lucas oraz Maria Gorczyca, współpracujący z Fulco — jedną z czołowych firm architektonicznych w Polsce. Projekt wspierany jest również przez Magdalenę Błyskosz — founderkę Open Coffee Youth.
Czy udział w wydarzeniu jest darmowy?
Oczywiście! Zarówno udział w wydarzeniu, jak i korzystanie z Gaduławki jest całkowicie darmowe. Na uroczystości będzie szansa na porozmawianie z osobami odpowiedzialnymi za powstanie Gaduławki, w tym samą Allison.
Ze względu na obostrzenia pandemiczne organizator spotkania zaprasza jednak wyłącznie osoby w pełni zaszczepione (prosimy o posiadanie ze sobą certyfikatu szczepień). Organizator zastrzega sobie również prawo do zmiany formatu wydarzenia z powodu sytuacji epidemicznej.
Gdzie można znaleźć więcej informacji na temat projektu?
Istnieje strona internetowa, na której można przyłączyć się do akcji, a nawet złożyć zamówienie na tabliczkę. Witryna posiada również mapę, przedstawiającą lokalizację ławek na całym świecie.
Richard Lucas email@example.com +48-601400058 Maria Gorczyca firstname.lastname@example.org +48795488022
Sebastian Rudol JCC email@example.com +48 602 756 932
The first bench in Poland is to be unveiled at the JCC Krakow, ul Miodowa 24, Krakow 22nd September at 18:00
Happy to Chat Benches will be introduced in Poland under the name of Gaduławka. The bench unveiling will take place at the Jewish Community Centre of Krakow during the week-long Sukkot Festival on 22nd September at 18:00.
JCC Krakow was opened in April 2008 by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and now serves as the focal point for the resurgence of Jewish life in Krakow. Located in the heart of the city’s Jewish district of Kazimierz, the JCC provides Krakow’s growing Jewish community with a space to meet, learn, and share ideas in a warm, welcoming environment. JCC Krakow’s primary goal is to establish an open, pluralistic, and inclusive community that provides innovative, quality programming at the highest level in an optimistic and lively atmosphere.
What is a Gaduławka (Happy to Chat bench)?
Gaduławka or “Happy to Chat bench” is a bench which encourages people to talk. It has a special sign inviting everyone and everyone to sit and strike up a
conversation with a stranger. The aim of the action is fighting loneliness and rebuilding the sense of community among citizens.
About the project: Allison Owen Jones said ”It’s great to see this idea spreading to Poland. Jonathan Ornstein Executive Director of JCC Krakow said
“We are happy that the JCC’s garden is now home to Krakow’s first Happy to Chat Bench. After such a long time of separation and social distancing, we hope that this project will become another driver to make new connections in times when open dialogue is becoming increasingly important.
Łukasz Siódmok CEO of Fulco said “ Fulco supports community and better public spaces so it is natural for us to be behind this project
Magdalena Błyskosz Founder of Open Coffee Youth said “Open Coffee Youth loves our core team members working on great projects, –
Oksana Rovna TEDxKazimierz Curator said “TEDxKazimierz is about putting great ideas on the stage. it’s wonderful to see our past speaker’s idea arriving in Krakow.”
Maja Gorczyca said “The aim of joining people together made us put our hearts into this project and I can’t wait to see its results”
Richard Lucas said “These benches cost little with tremendous positive social impact. We need more ways of bringing people together”.
Who’s behind Gaduławka?
Gaduławka is a Polish equivalent of the Happy to Chat Benches introduced by Allison Owen Jones in Cardiff. The project reached Poland thanks to Allison’s TEDxKazimierz talk in October 2020 when she introduced the idea. Following this the further implementation was supported by Krakow entrepreneur Richard
Lucas, and Gliwice based Maria Gorczyca, working with Fulco — a leading street furniture firm. The action is also supported by Magdalena Błyskosz – the founder of Open Coffee Youth.
Is the participation in the celebration free?
Of course! Both participation and usage of the Happy to Chat benches are absolutely free. During the celebration there will be a chance to have a talk with people responsible for the benches, even with Allison who will visit Poland specially for this occasion.
However, for the safety and security of our community, JCC Krakow will only allow participants to attend this lecture if they are fully vaccinated (please bring proof of vaccination with you). JCC Krakow reserves the right to make changes to this event due to the epidemiological situation.
Where can I find additional information about the project?
For more information visit the project’s website, http://htcb.fulco.pl/ where it is possible to join the action and even order the bench label. The website also features a map which presents the location of benches all around the world.
Richard Lucas Maria Gorczyca Sebastian Rudol JCC Kraków
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
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.
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 CityThis 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.
Open Coffee KrakowI’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.
I’ve been organizing pre-events – (events before events) for a decade. This blog post is published on the day of a TEDxWarsaw pre-event.
A couple of weeks ago – the first pre-event not organised by me, took place under the leadership of Martin Venzky-Stalling of TEDxChangMai – who put an team together in a couple of days.
22nd May pre TEDxIdea Challenge event in May 2021
Figure 1 Pre TEDxIdeas event May 2021
Here are some screenshots,
Figure 2 Pre TEDxIdeas event in May 2021
What are Pre Events, and why are they such a good idea? My Pre Event journey started in 2011. I was preparing to go to my first TED event, TED Global in Scotland. I knew that I knew nobody. I had no means of reaching or meeting other attendees. I tried via Couchsurfing to find some TED fans in Edinburgh and ended up meeting a couple in a bar. It was better than nothing, but not ideal.
I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a more peaceful time and space to get to know other attendees”. There had to be a better way. and the good news is there is.
Over the last ten years I’ve been piloting different ways of doing what I call “pre events “ bringing people together before primarily TED and TEDx events in New York, Calgary Rome, Warsaw, Edinburgh, Cape Town, Taipei, and Tel Aviv. I tried and failed to do one before TEDxBrighton in the UK. I gave a TEDx talk at TEDxShenkarCollege about the idea in 2020. Aaron Sylvan and Jake Voorhees made a film the Pre-Event for TEDFestNYC 2018, and Aaron wrote a blog post here.
Why Pre-events? Because there just isn’t enough time to meet all the other participants during events as great as TED and TEDx. A lot of the time is taken up with the wonderful talks, and organised activities – and the big networking parties are both intense and noisy. Longer would be better. The goal of such events has always been to build more community among participants and not just the team, and – when you are from out of town – it’s great to have a place where you can hang out and get to know a few people before things get under way. I’ve learned what works the key components of making a success. Here they are.
How to do it?
If you want to do a pre-event, you need to get a number of things right. What is most exciting is that often if you are travelling you will be doing things you haven’t done, in a place you haven’t been with people you have never met in person. If you get me involved, you will have one person with experience, but that’s optional.
Purpose – Be sure you know why you are doing it, and what would be a successful outcome.
Collaboration/co-operation with the main event organisers (getting their trust, and blessing, or at least go ahead) You will need their help getting to word out about the pre-event in their communications.
Venue You need a venue, ideally cheap or free. Co- working spaces, church halls, community centres, libraries, schools. Having someone local who knows what goes on where is great. Look at where local meet-up groups and low budget organisations hold get together already. There are any number of online tools, don’t be pushed into using a tool that is presenter focussed. There are many tools that are much more about making those speaking on a digital stage look great, that don’t give space or tools for interaction between audience members.
Team You need to build a team and nurture them to help with your event.
Figure 3 Pre TEDxWarsaw Event team
If you do it alone you are in danger of being what Derek Sivers calls the “lone nut”.
Treat all attendees as co organisers
As you communicate with potential participants of your pre-event give plenty of opportunities for those who are signing up to become leaders. As people make suggestions give them ownership of their ideas.
Promotion, communication and team building
if you can’t get the word out you won’t be able to have a pre-event. Most organisations have a Social Media presence – a Facebook Group, Twitter, sometimes a WhatsApp, and there are mailings and communication by the organisers to their mailing list). Make sure that you get a meeting with the Social Media person of the main event as early as possible, and agree your promotional plan. This can be harder than you expect as the marketing people of the main event may worry that you are somehow competing or distracting from their main focus.
Once you have a venue, and “buy in” from the organisers you can start promoting, posting systematically in their Social Media about the fact you are having the pre-event, with a link to your Google form where people can sign up and express interest, and doing other promo activities like blog posts, getting those who sign up to post that they are going on their social media, and doing Facebook Lives about the pre-event.
Remember you need to clearly communicate your “why?” to first time attendees. It is vital to get across why Pre-Events are a good idea to people who haven’t considered them.
As people sign up schedule regular online meetings by video conference for those who are coming to plan the event – this is how you start building a team. Have the underlying rule: ” Those who suggest activities are expected to lead on delivery.’ (The “unconference” idea of Open Space Technology events can be very useful. The founders of OST events noticed that the best part of events are the breaks. and organised events as one long structured break. When planning your pre-event as well as starting with badging, icebreakers and introductions, have the first session as an Open Space where everyone who actually shows up gets to pitch what they want to do during the day. In fact everyone mostly wants to hang out with each other. Not all attendees are so empowered and some will wait to be told what to do, It is good to have a skeleton plan, to fall back on.
Keep emphasising that the idea that the value of the event is in the attendees, working on the mindset that everyone who comes co creates, that the pre-event is not something that is delivered by you to them as consumers. and make your event design work for that objective.
The community led culture extends to food and drink breaks, where for example, it may be better to have people make a picnic together (which can be inside if the weather and location doesn’t support going to a nearby park).
Have roles and task for attendees, make sure you know who is responsible for badging, welcoming people as they arrive and have enough activities to carry people along. Make tidying up a collective activity at the end.
Once you have figured out your costs and budget (My pre events have been between free and US$$50) ask people how much they are ready to pay and have a sensitive process where you can grant free places to those who can’t afford it. There will probably be some people who if asked are ready to cover the costs of an attendee who is struggling financially. You can ask me, if you can’t find anyone.
Have someone take photos, encourage videos, (and make sure you get permission to video and share pics as people sign up).
Have a “code of conduct” – of course you assume that no one will be creepy or worse, but as we all now know, that assumption is not always correct There is a great “off the shelf” “Code of Conduct” we use at TEDxKazimierz, and you can modify it to your purpose.
Take account of the main event programme and make your pre-event complementary rather than competitive. A great icebreaker question is “why are you going to the main event” Don’t get big headed or feel superior. Your goal is to enhance not supplant the activities of the main event- know your place. You are a part of something bigger.
Remember that people are different and on a spectrum, extroverts will thrive at your pre-event and love them, and they will probably do fine at the main event. Think about and plan for the shy people who don’t know anyone. if you make your pre-event work for them, it will work for everyone.
After the pre- event is over, make sure you send out a follow up e-mail asking what was good and what could be better. The only way to get better at them is to always be learning.
Call to action
If this idea makes sense, and there is an event more than a few months away, and you like the idea of doing a pre-event -go for it. If you get in touch with me, I may be able to help.
I recently listened to an excellent podcast interview with Jonathan Ornstein, leader of the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow, on a podcast called “The Krakcast”. Hear it here. It’s from Passover 2020 when Poland was doing relatively well in its Covid-19 response (those were the days). Congratulations to The Krakcast team – Dave, Josh, John, Gabi, and ‘Dr. Michael’. https://www.krakcast.pl/
It doesn’t seem like a one off either. Today I heard another interesting interview with Max and Michał of Yolk Coworking who are doing a better job of building a community focussed co-working space that I and a number of others did with Colab a few years ago. They certainly help with hosting an the first Open Coffee High School meetup which has now spread to many cities and three countries even during lockdown
This podcast got me asking myself, “How many other excellent resources are there about life in this amazing city?” I decided to share English language resources for those in or planning to come to the place I’ve lived for over 30 years.
Some Disclaimers. This list is not complete or designed to be “perfect”. If you don’t understand why I included “link X” or left out “website Y”, it’s because that’s the decision I took. I am no oracle. This list will not be complete. I am ready to make updates as a public service from time to time. If you don’t understand why I decided to use a Facebook group in one case, and a webpage in another, neither do I, I did what was most convenient for me. If you find my generalisations glib or offensive, sorry. If you don’t like my sense of humour – you are not alone.
All Poland resources To get by in Krakow, there are some “all Poland” books and websites that will be very helpful. If you want to be happy in Poland, get to know Polish history. Read Norman Davies’s Heart of Europe. It will really help. There are some excellent “all Poland” websites Notes from Poland, https://notesfrompoland.com Daniel Tilles and Stanley Bill have done a superb job with their army of well educated and informed contributors. There are Youtube channels, notably, Paddy Ney’s here and his Heart of Poland. If you like his style check out his great TEDxKazimierz talk here .Going to Quora and asking What is is like living in Poland leads to a string of thoughtful answers. My Quora answer about Poland got over 100,000 views :-). I came across this Youtube diary made by Natalie who was in an MBA class I teach Moving To Poland and Youtube suggested I moved from LOS ANGELES to KRAKOW, Poland. Which do I prefer? which anyone might find interesting. A big list of English language news about Poland is here .
Krakow Focussed Resources There are some historic news sites like the Krakow Post which used to be a printed newspaper. It’s connected to an excellent tourism orientated site Localife.com – Listen to the founder of Local Life Mark Bradshaw on the Entrepreneurship and Leadership Channel of the New Books Network here – It’s an interview I did with Sam Cook back in 2015. There are a number of other tourism sites like Krakow in your Pocket which are easy to find and useful.
There are many on and off line groups for foreigners. The melting pot of Krakow is quite complicated so you have to realise that not everyone will be exactly like you. Read through the list of below and see how soon you recognise yourself: rich “expats” living in expensive, expensed houses who ask “where can I rent a private jet, hire a cook and gardener ?” moaners and angry types, always grumpy, often on social media, asking “Why don’t underpaid shop assistants speak English?” “Party” people who are here to well… party Trust-a-farians (rich kids living off trust funds) Hipsters Draft dodgers Artists & creatives Culture vultures People with regular jobs (called “Corpo” jobs in Krakow) Digital nomads and freelancers (that covers many others on this list) retirees whose western pension goes further here Sleazy, creepy types and influencers Hardcore gangsters, ex-terrorists (top tip – never ask “what did you used to do?”) Refugees – this is very real, Poland has given visas to 100,000s of people from countries to the East of Poland who have been through great hardships. Polonia English teachers Student and academics Diplomats and spies – There are not many Entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs ‘normal’ people and others
Krakowians migrate from one group to another, rotate between them, and sometimes wear multiple hats. I realised when I finished this list that I should have put it in alphabetical order. Please imagine that I did this for you.
Krakow Business Community The Krakow Startup Community has deep roots way back: as far as Jan Thurzo of Fugger/Thurzo fame in 1477 through to Base (which exited to Zendesk), to Brainly and Inpost, Poland’s Unicorns (companies valued at over a US$1 billion) . Fugger monopolised the copper market, financed the Hapsburgs and was the richest man the the world – way richer than the GAFAs in relative terms. See Cisco’s Ramon Tancinco Krakow: Europe’s Silicon Valley? Why not! TEDxKrakow talk on Krakow’s Silicon Valley potential. We’ve a way to go yet. There aren’t entrepreneurial business schools, angel funds, and community centres where internationally minded Krakow entrepreneurs hang out and rub shoulders but there are a number of initiatives. I hope the guys at Yolk can be instrumental in fixing things.
Massolit the English Language Bookshop & Cafe founded by David Miller is almost a cultural institution. It’s normal to make friends there.
Jewish Life if you don’t know why this matters read Norman Davies as mentioned above. The Jewish Community Centre has become world famous . Great credit to Jonathan Ornstein – and the team – for this magical place. To understand why listen to KrakCast, who interviewed him very well here and here Part 2. See Jonathan with Robert Desmond on the TEDxKazimierz stage talking about the Ride For The Living & The JCC here. Also listen to Janusz Makuch, founder of the Jewish Culture Festival at TEDxKrakow (talking in Polish) To get a sense of the positive undercurrents of Polish Jewish relations listen to Rabbi Michael Schudrich at TEDxWarsaw Jewish descent on the rise:
Observant readers will notice I’ve been referencing TEDx talks. TEDx can have had important community building roles as they search for the most interesting ideas and people to put on their stage. I’ve been deeply involved in TEDx since 2009, leading, until earlier this year, TEDxKazimierz. I’m going to end with a few more Poland related TEDx talks that are definitely worth watching.
In conclusion.. thanks again to The Krakcast team for the work you have been doing. Once bars re-open I’m offering to buy you a piwo, vodka, meal or whatever. If any readers feel that I should have mentioned their organisation or web page in this blog post, let me know, I’ll almost certainly add it, next time I update.
I recorded a final episode of the Project Kazimierz podcast on 27th February 2021, in which I thanked the many people interviewed over the years, my co-founder Sam Cook, and producer Adam Zuba, and last but by no means least our listeners. This final episode went live today, and you can listen to it here.
In this blog post I share some reflections on the journey so far – and why I am carrying on.
Why continue podcasting? Actions speak louder than words. My big brother Edward, talking about my role as a parent to be, once said “children don’t take nearly as much notice what you say, as they observe what you do”. As in parenting, in life. I am carrying on with the podcast on the New Books Network, so readers of this blog can infer that on balance it is worth the time, energy and money it costs me. Why?
It’s about making my life more interesting, sharing the lessons of my and other people’s experiences with a wider audience on topics which I care deeply about, and about which many people are inexperienced. People who have founded and led organisations are few and far between. There is a lot to learn and share.
I am not putting my motivations in order. They include: – An excuse to contact people who are doing something interesting and ask if they want to talk. It’s not only strange to reach out to someone and ask “will you talk to me?”, it is also perfectly reasonable for that person to think “why should I?”. If they just talk to me, only I, people I later meet will benefit. But if I am podcasting the wider audience may justify the exercises. Just north of 60,000 downloads are not a spectacular number but it’s a lot more than just me. It’s not close to the attention that TEDxKazimierz sometimes shines on its speakers. Michele Hutchison was on both the podcast and my TEDx stage and over 300,000 people viewed her TEDx talk online, on top of the sell out audience on the day.Possibly the person I talk to will find their life enhanced from the sheer joy of talking to me, but it would be arrogant to assume that this will be the case. Being a podcaster is similar to having a TEDx licence, or I suppose being a journalist. It’s a job and role that gives not just the right but the obligation to talk to people who have done something interesting or have a worthwhile idea.
Why focus on entrepreneurship and leadership? because they are fundamentally important and therefore interesting.Entrepreneurship is fundamental to human progress. I explore this in the podcast. Human development and progress are driven forwards by technological progress, competition, capital mobility and the profit motive. Entrepreneurship is the magical process by which people take advantage of changes or react to them, in order to solve problems or make life better. For sure, not all entrepreneurial activity is successful – that is part of the Darwinist evolutionary logic of the market place – only the right combination of idea, luck and execution will make survive and thrive. Many ventures do not. And not all entrepreneurial activity is beneficial for humankind, at multiple levels.
Whether we are considering polluting industries, manipulative advertising to encourage people to buy goods or services they don’t need to impress people they don’t like, pernicious business people who exploit their employees, clients or suppliers, not all entrepreneurship is good.
Not everyone should be an entrepreneur. I remember a conversation with my podcast co-host Kimon Fountoukidis about 20 years ago. A business in which I had invested and ultimately lost a lot of money was days away from collapse. Before closing it down we had conversations with all the key employees asking if they wanted to buy it from me and the other shareholders for a symbolic price, with debt write downs – effectively giving it away rather than shutting the doors. The Technical Director – who was not a shareholder – in response to this offer commented “Thank you, but I decided a while ago, I wanted a regular job, and not to have to worry about work when I go home in the evening”. I relayed this story to Kimon and we said, almost in unison, “which just goes to show that he is smarter than either of us”. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.
However, entrepreneurship is so important to social, political, cultural and economic development that it is worth understanding it, (even if by so doing our listeners only re-enforce a conviction that it is not for them). Entrepreneurs shape the way institutions and society evolve and develop. And as listeners will discover entrepreneurs are not all the same, even though they often have characteristics in common.
Listeners will also discover that some entrepreneurs we interview describe themselves as “accidental entrepreneurs”. They were not looking for their opportunity, it just somehow happened, and through being ready to take a risk, they changed not only their own life and fortunes but that of many others. Maybe that will happen to some of our listeners?
The other focus of the podcast is leadership. Getting a new organisation started, and running it, as every entrepreneur must, requires leadership. Leadership, the ability to get a group of people to work willingly towards a common purpose, requires a hard to define mix of characteristics, competences, and experience. In our podcast we want to get dig around to get our guests’ insights into this topic.
Why the New Books Network?
I was introduced to Marshall Poe who founded it by an TEDxKazimierz Speaker Brooke Allen back in 2016/17 but I only got to know Marshall in 2020. NBN is similar to TEDx, with which I am deeply familiar, in that it rests of the shoulders of volunteer hosts who care deeply about the topics of their channel.
Many NBN Channel Hosts had their own podcasts prior to migrating to NBN. The reason they migrate onto NBN is because it is easier than DIY production and by so doing they reach a wider audience. NBN has been averaging over 49,000 downloads a day since the beginning of 2021. Most of them (unlike me) are academics, and as my late father JR Lucas said, “most academics write books to be read , not rich”.
We have fantastic guests and episodes already “in the can” so head over to the New Books Network to sign up to make sure you don’t miss an episode, or subscribe at our Youtube Channel.
This blog post contains information about what I will be working on in 2021 and beyond, and an invitation to “work with me” if there is a match between what I am doing and what anyone reading this wants to do.
The projects I am working on are in the areas of :
Why Que Sera Sera? Why is my plan and this blog post called Que Sera Sera? I often cite Doris 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, and 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.
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:
Supporting Entrepreneurship 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.
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.
leading workshops in business schools, talks at tech conferences, classes at summer schools, hosting events in co-working spaces, inauguration talk to new students, TEDx talks, 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.
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.
Community Building 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.
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.
Doing business 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.
In 2016 I had just founded CAMentrepeneurs – the first Cambridge University alumni Group aimed at supporting business and social entrepreneurship among Cambridge University Alumni, current students and others.
This updated post is aimed at generalising the lessons learned from the CAMentrepreneurs and other experiences I have had putting new ideas into action. CAMentrepreneurs has organised about 30 meetups in Cambridge, Dubai, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, New York, Sydney and Warsaw on a near zero budget. I intentionally modelled CAMentrepreneurs on the way that TED supports TEDx around the world.
How to get a new initiative going
These recommendations and advice will not work for all ideas at all times and in all places. Yet, having tried to get many businesses and nonprofits off the ground, some with success and others with failure, many of my insights are going to be relevant for many readers in most times and places.
If you want to build an organisation that works at a large scale, look at the way TED supports TEDx-ers all over the world (www.tedx.com). The genius of TED-TEDx model is that a TEDx is only launched when there is a local leader, who has a) volunteered to take on this role and b) is deemed suitable by the TEDx team at TED headquarters. TED had and have a working model of the TED Conference, which TEDx-ers aim to re-create for and in their local community.
In this article I am focusing on the process of getting things up and running in the first place.
The CAMentrepreneurs movement I started in 2016 was a new initiative, and we used the TED-TEDx model from the get go, but it was also based on using the “best bits” of literally hundreds of startup community events I had attended, led, spoken at, organised and sponsored over the previous fifteen years – so I had event formats to choose from, and ways of doing things already worked out, to share with local leaders.
Before you start think about what you want to do and why
Brainstorm your definition of success, both at the start and longer term. Be honest with yourself, about what you want to achieve, what your purpose is, and why it is important. Describe these outcomes in terms of impacts and outcomes for other people and entities not just yourself.
Write your goals down and make the language in which you communicate simple, clear and free of jargon. Your list of objectives can and should be long to start with, but as you develop and think through your ideas and project, make sure you reflect on and highlight the most important.
Some of your goals may be personal and “about you”. For example “I want to be a leader, to be somebody, to feel important, to be a big cheese in the local community, to make lots of money, to be rich and famous” or whatever.
Howver – note that your personal goals will not inspire other people. More importantly, people achieve fame and status as a result of having done something notable and worthwhile. Let the impact of your project be the reason people know about you.
Review your goals with a trusted friend or colleague. Ask them to be constructively critical and tell you what could go wrong, is missing, and needs to be made clearer. When you start explaining your project to strangers – you will have limited time to describe your idea and project in a way that is attractive, appealing and clear. You never know when you are going to meet someone who could transform your project’s chances of success. Person you talk to will be assessing you: If you come across as credible, organised and well prepared , they are more likely to introduce you to their contacts and network, and to want to help you. You never have a second chance to make that first impression. Note what went well, and what you can do better each time you get to explain your project.
Once you feel you have a clear idea of what you want to do and why, there are some important early steps to take.
How ready are you?
Review the skills, experience, resources, contacts that are needed for your project, and note what is missing. Gap analysis forces you to think about what you are planning to do, and who you will need to do them. What you are going to do needs to be framed in terms of the outcomes you want to achieve. Unless you are wealthy it is important to think about the lowest cost way of getting things done. People and sponsors with the money you may need are more likely to think you are worth backing if you come across as being careful with money and are frugal.
This self-assessment may lead you to the conclusion that you are not ready. Be objective but not over cautious. Be aware of the Imposter Syndrome. Perhaps you are ready but just do not have the self belief? But perhaps you genuinely are not ready. Do an “opportunity readiness” check. Are you on top of your health and fitness? Think about your diet, exercise and dependencies (alcohol, tobacco, other)
Are your relationships in order? Will your partner/the important people in your life be supportive or be trying to hold you back. Are your finances in reasonable shape – Are you spending less that you make?
Do you have the skills and competences that will be needed? Investing in yourself, and your education can be effectively free, and do wonders to your sense of self worth and usefulness. Are your habits and daily routines set up to increase the number and diversity of experiences and human interactions?.
I explore this topic in more detail in my TEDxTarnow Talk here.
Be careful about how you think about money and your personal finances. Money can be a trap for many social enterprises where the primary objective gets swallowed up in a constant struggle to raise money to pay for unnecessary costs. Assuming your project is a non-profit, and you are not looking to make a salary out of it, can you afford the time and energy, even if it does not cost money? You do not need to be rich, but you should be covering your cost of living, and maybe looking for one or two people in your team who are better off, have a place you can meet, or contribute a bit extra if there are one off expenses.
If your idea and project is compelling, people will come and want to get involved even if it is not in a flashy venue or with fancy food and drink.
Think about a low cost way of testing if people are interested in your idea. Knocking on people’s doors, inviting them to come to your launch or information meeting costs time but not money. Putting up a poster in the local library, or making a group on social media is also free.
Your role as a leader
Leadership qualities, the ability to get other people to work willingly to a common goal – will be important. You will need faith, courage, hard work, dedication, integrity, self discipline, responsibility, to build trust, and to set an example.
Doing background research – mapping the ecosystem of people and organisations that are operating in the same domain your project is going to be active in is important. Why? You need to be aware of what is going on in order to see where your project fits in, and if it even makes sense. If other people have tried similar projects in the past, you may be able to learn from their successes and failures. You run the risk of coming across as arrogant and out of touch if you announce you are going to do a project to (for example) remove graffiti from schools without being aware of the fact that there is a local group or government office that does exactly that. Talking to the person responsible may make you aware of a range of issues that you had not thought of, from (in this example): health and safety, insurance, and liaising with Trades Unions and “facilities management” to name but a few.
How to do your research?
Looking for organisations, people, and venues that can help you and who you might want to work with. How they can help you may be in terms of helping organise whatever you want to do, getting the word out, publicity and promotion to their members and networks, access to premises and venues, finance, and management.
As you compile your list of people and organisations, be aware that some may regard you as competition, an unwelcome “new kid on the block”. Push back may be triggered by a mix of genuine reaosons, to ego and arrogance. It can be the “not invented here” syndrome, that your idea is “not necessary”, or even that what you are doing is perceived as an implicit criticism. For example, even if the park is filthy and dangerous, the person responsible for keeping it clean and safe may not want to know, or be hoping for a bigger budget to fix it, rather than working with a bunch of “busybody” volunteers.
A few minutes on Google, searching: events pages like Meetup, Facebook, Eventbrite, local newspaper sites, library notice boards, “What’s on” listing, charities, clubs, societies, government bodies, politicians, consultants, journalists, authors, performers, speakers, newspapers, Parish magazines, Schools, Universities, Youth Clubs and Cultural Centres, venues, companies, vendors, and suppliers will lead to dozens if not hundreds of potential contacts. As you review them try to understand
what they do and why (in the area you are interested in), how active they are (look at their newsletter and recent events)
Who is in charge?
What the best way of approaching them may be?
If you are focussing on your local area it will only take a few hours to get a sense of who is who, and who does what. Look out for people, individuals, and leaders. Every organisation has some kind of leadership. Think about and assess who you can and want to help. and who might be helpful to you and your cause. For most voluntary organisations, an approach that includes, “can I help you” is usually welcome. If any of organisation seems to be doing exactly what you want to do, maybe your project is not actually necessary; it may be enough to volunteer to get involved in their project. Go to events or meetings organised by the people/organisation active in the same area and offer to help them. If they do not want to do exactly what you are aiming to achieve, that difference may be a key feature of your mission and purpose. If you come across past events, see if you can find Live Streams on their Youtube or Facebook pages.
Money Try to understand how they are financed. Partners and sponsors are often listed on websites and event listings, often the bigger the logo the more money they give. Government and grant giving bodies as well. The organisations that fund existing players in the ecosystem may also be able to fund you. Be aware though – the idea that your future organisation – if successful – might be competing for a limited amount of grant money may well be in the mind of the better funded organisations you visit. They may be much less helpful in reality that they say they are going to be because they don’t want your snout in “their” funding trough. Have a nose for BS. Sometimes there is a difference between what is presented and what is really going on. Sometimes there is one rich sponsor for whom the initiative is a “pet project” who hoped that other funders would emerge. They do not want it to look as if they are the only donor, and so various other organisations and companies are listed as if they are sponsors. On other occasions the main objective of the NGO is (or has become) paying the salaries of the people who work there. This has many negative effects the most obvious of which is that resources are not used for the supposed cause the NGO was founded to serve.
Create a Google Sheet with contact details, links etc – it will be easy to share this later with other team members, (though be aware of privacy issues).
Start talking about and planning a Kick Off Meeting/Event
Almost always the first step is to organise some kind of event/meeting to discuss getting your initiative off the ground. It can be called an information meeting. The date can (but does not have to be) a long way off. The fact that you are planning a meeting is a good reason to talk to and meet people. You may want to ask them to speak, join a panel, take part in a discussion, be part of an Open Space or just attend. Even if people don’t come, it is good to have invited them. The process of inviting them is your chance to explain what you are all about. In his book “Host Leadership” Mark Mckergow described how he scheduled the first meeting of the Solution Focused network a year ahead of the first meeting in 2002. He announced a specific date, the fact that people signed up and came was validation of the idea, and it was the end of a process of lots of conversations and communications prior to the event, during which you can gather allies and get people on board. See Mark’s TEDxKazimierz talk about host leadership here .
Remember that having meetings is not a goal in itself. Meetings should have a purpose, and very often they are for discussion, reporting progress, agreeing actions to take place between meetings. Different people who show up will have wildly varying degrees of experience of getting things done. As a leader it’s up to you to keep the purpose in everyone’s mind, and momentum going.
Once you have made your list, decide which organisations who you want to contact and the best way to approach them. Organisations are always and only staffed by people, so you must identify the person or people you want to talk to. “Who is in charge?” and/or “who is the right person to deal with people like you? are the questions you need to ask. This information will be often available on their website and/or by googling the name of the organisation the town you are in. In deciding who you want to approach you obviously need to think why, what do they have that can be useful for your project and what you can do for them.
The more important the organisation and person, the less likely that a spammy “Dear Sir/Madam” type email is going to work. The more important the person, often the harder it is to get a meeting, though not always. Successful people often make themselves accessible though they will want you to be specific about why you want to meet. Sometimes people who have little to offer and have almost no authority make themselves hard to reach to give the impression of authority that is completely lacking.
Probably there will be a few local groups active in the same area of activity as your planned project. If you can get face to face meetings with them you should aim for that.
“Face to face is better than phone and phone is better than email” is the old rule, though since then we have to put video calls between phone and face to face.
A great way to get to meet organisers is to show up early to events they are organising or speaking at, introduce yourself and say you would like to meet, explaining why. Almost invariably they will be glad to agree to a meeting the next day, and if you hang around may well approach you later in the event during a break. Don’t make the meeting the objective in itself. Some people will gladly schedule a longer face to face meeting, others like me, will be happy to agree to everything in a few minutes. As with any meeting, you need to think about what you want to achieve, what information and action items you want and are able to share, and what would be a successful outcome.
When you approach people you are clearly going to need to be able to explain:
Who you are
What you are doing or want to do,
Why you hav got in touch.
What co-operation you propose.
Often people will expect you to follow up your first approach with an email so it is a good idea to have draft introductory emails ready to send if they are requested.
As you look through the different organisations and people who are active in your local area make a note of the venues that they are holding meetings in. It may be a community room in a housing association, a local library, a school, village hall, church room, cultural centre, cafe, pub or hotel. Venues have different characteristics, pluses and minuses, and the place you choose for your meetings and events will influence the type of people who come. You may be a “pub” person but there might be people who could really help with your project who never go to pubs. The terms and conditions one which you can get space may vary a lot from free/symbolic to very expensive, and unless you are seriously wealthy and want to signal that in your kick off meeting (in which case a function room in the most expensive hotel you can find is ideal), then somewhere cheap and easy to get to is best.
If you have time you can go to events in suitable looking venues and just ask at the reception what the process is or look on the website. Aim at getting space for free. Sometimes you can provide advertising or a service for the venue that is valuable enough for them to consider giving you free use.
Organisations often have special rates for non-profits or will give space in return for recognition. Once you have found a suitable venue you need to make sure that they will give you a space if you need it. This can be quite tricky when you are at the start of your journey as they will often only give space to registered organisations and you don’t have one yet. You will need to find the decision maker, explain that you want to have a meeting, and get to the “once you are sure that x number of people are going to come you will book it.” Having good relations with the managers of the best free local venues is important.
1. If you have a table in a pub or cafe then they are likely to be fine with you having extra space if they are not busy though they may (reasonably) expect those attending to buy something. Sunday-Wednesday evenings are usually less busy. Getting a room for free on a Friday or Saturday night is usually impossible.
2. If you use a free event tool like Meetup or Eventbrite you can always relocate if either fewer or more people than you expect sign up. Be careful with Facebook events which (at the time of writing) don’t give you any means of messaging people who have clicked on “attending” an event.
Meeting in someone’s private flat or a pub is perfectly acceptable at the start.
The first meeting
Your first “real” public meeting is important, for many reasons.
You are on show – As the leader of the initiative those who are committed to helping you will be observing how you perform and subconsciously figuring out if they want to be part of it, and those who are not yet committed are also being “sold to”.
A well hosted and led meeting sets the tone for later.
As with anything, it is important to define what would be a success. There might be exceptions but almost certainly you will want to get across:
What the initiative is about and what its goals are
Who is in charge
How people can get involved and help
What needs to be done
You will want to
Get “buy in” and recruit members/volunteers
Have a discussion and answer questions
Agree action items and next steps
Beyond this you almost certainly will want to create
A friendly and welcoming atmosphere
A professional well organised look and feel
Aim high, to make it the best organised meeting you have ever attended. If you achieve 75% of that, you will do better than most people most of the time.
Listen carefully to what the attendees have to say, they will be your key people down the line. You will want to consider their dreams and aspirations
It is usually better to “under promise” and “over deliver” in terms of the expectations that you create around what will be achieved. This is a delicate balancing act. Some people will only come if they believe that they are taking part in something “big”. It is tempting to “big it up” and raise expectations. This can lead to problems. If ten people show up that could be a big success but may feel like failure somehow you have communicated that many more people will want to come.
The moment where the first people show up, and say that they really want to get involved is a milestone.
It is also important to manage your own expectations. You may be hoping that loads of people will join and your ideas will be very well received but this may not happen. To get something new started requires persistence and determination.
Getting the word out
You need to make sure people know about your meeting.
Getting the atmosphere of the meeting right is important
There are a lot of tips and tricks to make a meeting go well, which I explore in this blog post and in this video I prepared for my TEDx team.
Focus on Welcoming people as they arrive
Capturing names and contact details (easy if you have used a free registration tool like Eventbrite or Meetup)
Asking people to help you – for example writing badges for people as they arrive, (sticky labels are enough), or welcoming and greeting people.
Making it fun (getting everyone involved, asking them to introduce themselves at the start and saying why they came)
Having housekeeping rules, including good time keeping. This can be problematic if you want to start on time and people are still drifting in the first 15 minutes. A good solution for time keeping is to advertise that: Doors open at X o’Clock, formal launch and welcome at X + 30. Min
Having good time keeping, and asking someone reliable to keep notes of what is discussed set the tone of a professional organisation.
A good structure of the meeting is to kick off with welcome and introductions
“Hi I’m Richard, and this gathering is my idea. Thank you so much for coming, before I get started in explaining why and how I believe we could revitalise that local park and turn in from a place that we are scared to go to in the evenings to a place where which is the heart of our local community, let’s have some introductions. It would be great if we can just take it in turns to introduce ourselves, say what we do, why we came this evening, and how we might be able to contribute…. And if IO could also you at this stage to be brief, up to a minute. We have time in the programme for longer discussions later “
Then point at someone and say “please go first”. The beauty of this approach is that you get to hear about what other people want and can do, you get them talking, active, and have a chance to see who might be future potential team members. Make notes. If someone says “I can do a web page”, or “I can talk to the local school” write down their name and the action they suggested. People are far more likely to help with things they have suggested.
After you have got a sense of the people in the room you should present the agenda for the meeting, including five minutes for what your idea and goals are, focussing on what you want to achieve and why, and what help you need. Refer back to what people have said in their introductions. “As Peter said, we have to tidy the park up, get rid of the graffiti and litter – no one want to hang out in a place that looks terrible, and if the local council won’t do anything I’m doing to start doing it myself”
Allow time for discussion about goals and actions. During the discussion, it is good to separate long term vision goals and things that can be done. You will need short term wins to get going so keep an eye out for feasible realistic short term projects that you see as being potentially feasible.
A good “housekeeping rule” for the discussion is to say, “ when you saying how you could contribute, please focus on suggesting things that you are ready to help with that are your top priorities. And if you are ready to help with someone else’s idea make that clear. It is highly motivating for the person with an idea to hear that there are other people here who want to help.
Depending on the scale of the project and the size/time of the meeting, there are various choices. You may want to break out into smaller meetings with sub groups on specific topics, but if only you can encourage the sub meetings to happen on the spot, so that you can ask each group to report back to the whole group on what they have discussed.
Be on the lookout for pessimism, time wasters unrealistic and disruptive personality types. While you do not want to expel them, it is good not to let them hijack or send the meeting of course the meeting for their own agenda Examples might be
Dave the pessimist, who says “I’m Dave and I’m more a thinker. This is never going to work.. “
“Thanks Dave, you are right it’s going to be a challenge to get everything done. By the end of this meeting, let’s try make sure we have agreed some actions items that we all believe can actually be done.
Sue the diverter/time waster “I’m Sue and I’d just like to contribute that we ought to be worrying more about
(X Y and Z) (doesn’t matter whether they are right or wrong – you just have to say.
“Thanks Sue that’s very important – and today let’s focussing our attention on the reason we came to this meeting”
“Ian the unrealistic”
“I’m Ian, we ought to do this in every park in the country, can someone talk to the Ministry?”
“Thanks Ian, let’s think about that when we have done such a good job here that we have something to talk about”
“Harriet the Hi-Jacker”
I’m Harriet from the x organisation. I’d like to talk about my project which is on the other side of town. We’ve such serious problems and I need help and volunteers, so if anyone would like to help me, I’m here to meet you”.
“Thanks Harriet – We will be thrilled to find ways we can work together in the future. Today’s lets focus on this meeting”
Identify potential team members and define roles. Circulate a written “who what when” to everyone who shows up. Actions speak louder than words, so it is important to observe how far people stick to their commitments and do what they say they are going to do.
At this stage, you may be on the way to getting your project started. If there is an overlap between your vision and what the people who show up want to do, get to work on those. Let one thing lead to another, be flexible and opportunistic, remember your underlying external and internal goals, and make sure that you are moving closer to your goals.
Other tips and tricks
Define roles and try to identify different people’s strengths
Be consultative rather than (too) democratic. A new organization is vulnerable to disruptive strong personalities who can push it and in you in directions you don’t want to go. Be clear in your own mind the limits and communicate clearly again and again, what your initiative is for (and what it is not).
Benchmark against the best organisations of your type anywhere in the world.
See what they do, and be ambitious in planning how to do feasible local versions of what they are doing.
Be ready for rejection – it is inevitable that some people will not want to help and not be interested. Don’t take it personally.
Make your meetings and events work for the shy and timid. If it works for them it will work for everyone.
Develop a sense of process, now you document meetings and agree next steps
Running your new initiative planning and doing the things that you aiming to do.
If you can assemble a team, you are determined and patient, you have incredible opportunities to make things happen and get things done. It’s never been easier to find people with similar goals and problems, though finding and leading the ones who are willing to help and are well organised and motivated is far from trivial.
This article is about how to manage and be managed when working remotely, both at work and in private life. I’m sharing examples of what I am doing and also some resources. I understand that not all aspects of a job can be done from home but it’s really important to at least try and make working from home work for you. If you do need to see clients or visit the office for whatever reason, make sure that you wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer as well as distancing from people and wearing a face covering of some sort. If you do not have a face covering, you can find some here. This way, you are reducing the risk of contracting the disease as well as spreading it.
To help with your job/career, you may want to look at Upskilling post COVID-19 to see how you can help yourself get back to where you want to be, or move into a better perspective area with your work.
I run and participate in global and local events, and am used to the challenging process of trying to be effective when working remotely. While I have experience, I don’t see myself as an expert. Leaders such as Michal Sliwinski of Nozbe has written extensively on Remote Working for example here .
I want to share my perspective, and hope my lessons, experience and advice are useful.
1. Getting used to working remotely is your responsibility.
Whether you are an employee, manager, director, or founder you will need to get more of your stuff done on line and remotely. This is not panic, just a fact.
You must focus of staying healthy and sane, staying as productive and effective as possible, to support your core commitments to yourself, your family, friends, staff, co-workers, organisations you work for, support or lead. Like everything else there are better and worse ways of getting things done.
Managing your own “Working at Home” processes
Get control of your diary. Time passes whether you manage it or not. Have a prioritised daily “to do or “task” list. Review at the end of the day whether you succeeded in getting done what you wanted to get done. If you don’t know, can’t answer, it wasn’t a good plan, and improve your plan for the next day. If you are failing, work on improving your planning.
Be disciplined: use a diary, know what you are meant to be doing during the day. Set yourself deadlines and keep to them.
Start work at the same time as you would start work if things were normal (or earlier).
Use the time you save by not travelling productively. Ask “what can I learn or read?” or “who can I catch up with? not “What Netflix series can I re-watch?”
Tell family members you live with about your planned home working routines and that you need their support to make them work.
Over communicate with your co-workers and managers. As well as documenting what you have done every day, on a shared online resource like a Google Drive (dropbox, company intranet etc), send an email to your manager letting her or him know what you have done, and talk to them. Make checking in with your boss(es) a daily habit.
Managing other peopleremotely
The way you manage will be tested. A manager needs the trust of their team, and trust is built through regular contact and two way communication. Many will need to figure out what goes into running a mentoring program remotely as this new way of working becomes the norm. 1 Over communicate (true for employees, even more true for managers) A good manager will be in daily contact with her (or his) staff so she knows what their ‘directs’ (people who report to them) have done, are working on, and the challenges they face. In addition to your weekly one on ones, and daily team meetings, which can all be done online, schedule extra calls because of the remote-ness . If you are a manager (but not CEO) you should be in a situation where, when your boss calls you, you will be able to tell them what the status is on all your deliverables up to the end of the previous working day. That means keeping on top of what your directs have done and are working on, reading their reports, talking and listening to them.
If you are a CEO do the same, call your managers, get their reports, discuss with the managers who report to you, attending online meetings and systematically being in touch with selected people further away from you in the Organisation Chart so that you are less distant, rather than more absent. “Show your face” online.
2 Online informationsharing Make sure that your team knows where to share information about progress on their projects, tasks and deliverables. Keep track, and make sure everyone updates it and you check. If you sometimes let it slip in the office, now is the time to “pull your socks up”, and be more professional.
3 Introduce “one on ones” If you are not used to having weekly “one on one” meetings with the people who report to you, use this change as an opportunity to “raise your game”. I wrote this article before listening to this podcast today (17th March). The arguments for having well organised “one on ones” are set out very clearly in the latest Manager-Tools.com podcast here.
If you are used to a more informal communication style, explain to your team in your first online meeting that you need to formalise processes given the extra challenges of being remote, and to give them the support they need.
3. Relationships. Communication
Face to face is better than phone, and phone is better than email. It’s hard to have long distance relationships, but this will be “the new normal” as you either choose not to, or are unable to, see your family and friends. If you have friends/relatives who are technophobic – now is the time to teach them how to use video conferencing. I taught my 90 year old mother to Facetime two days ago. You can do it. If you have friends who you see from time to time, call them more often. I’ve noticed that I have spent more time on the phone and talking to people remotely than normal. It is an investment in civilisation and staying sane.
4 Experimentationwith online events, meetingsand meetups The Coronavirus Covid-19 is becoming the largest pandemic since 1918. There are lots of challenges. As an event organiser I have plenty. I challenge those reading to think about what they can do online. For example:
Family gatherings I am having an online family gathering this evening. We never did this before but, with two generations, six households, and three countries potentially joining, it may bring us closer than we would have been without this terrible virus. On line parties – I’ve tried one, and have been invited to another. May be weird, but why not. For those determined to meet family, friends, or colleagues in person, you may want to consider SciQuip’s range of PPE like face masks to ensure that the spread of the virus is restricted. The use of PPE is proving to be one of the most effective methods of limiting infection, in conjunction with hand sanitization.
Open your mind to experimentation – do pilot online events.
As an entrepreneur I know that the way to make progress is through trial and error. As an event organiser I know how much participants hate “error”. So do pilots. Maybe some of the online events I am doing below won’t work at all or won’t work well. The test of any event is whether you and the other who attend want to do it again. I’m experimenting with online meetings and events of all descriptions. I even started before the virus came into being. Here are some examples
With Mel Rosenberg in Israel I have been piloting online concentric TED Circles – www.tedcircles.com, with two groups linked by video and extra remote people joining. See details of an event here
Such meetings facilitate experiences and communication that were previously not possible.
With Open Coffee Krakow we are hosting our first on line event on Thursday 19th March.
If you want to join, you can! Just click on the Zoom link You don’t have to be in Krakow. We are trying to make an opportunity out of the problem. We did a pilot event last week to test the technology, streaming the resulting gathering on Facebook Live, reaching an audience of over 1000. There may be even more on Thursday. Following that successful pilot, Kamil from our team made an 8 minute “How to take part ” video showing people how to use Zoom in this way. I made a shorter 3 minute Loom video as well. This is a work in progress,. We see this as an chance to do things we couldn’t do before.
TED and TEDx events
We decided to cancel our 10th March event a few days before we had to.
TED have postponed their major event of the year in April and cancelled the satellite TEDFest in New York. For our event, and future events that are no longer possible because of the virus, we are thinking. “What is the best thing to do instead?”
Jay Herratti and Salome Heusel at TED HQ have already organised an online Town Hall with TEDx-ers from all over the world to discuss how we as TEDx-ers should react to the crisis, and what we can do to stay relevant to our local communities.
Jay and Salome were very explicit that we can experiment with online and hybrid online/offline events for the duration of the crisis. We have not yet decided what we are going to do, but for sure we will be piloting different types of events on line.
Teaching I teach entrepreneurship workshops from time to time, and my course a few days ago was cancelled due to the virus, so I decided to to put it on line.
I got positive feedback and proved to myself and others that I can do interactive workshops with a group of people I have never met.
For Cambridge University, in 2016 I founded CAMentrepreneurs, to promote business and social entrepreneurship among alumni, current students and others.
I was due to be leading a meetup in New York in April which isn’t going to happen, but during the call above we agreed to investigate doing online meetups in Cambridge, Dubai, London and New York. By the summer I should be quite good at them. What does it mean to have an online meeting in Dubai, when I am in Poland? That is something to discover.
There are plenty of other organisations discovering how to manage the process of delivering value online. This a16z podcast describes how they have just put their startup school on line. There is a lot to learn about sustaining community among participants, how they use Slack as well as Zoom, and more.
It takes time, effort, common sense and a willingness to experiment. If you do try, as a result of these examples, I’d love to hear how you get on.
If you work on your “Opportunity Readiness” and apply the “Toothbrush Test” you will change your life for the better.
At TEDxTarnow in 2019 I introduced the idea of “Opportunity Readiness” and the “Toothbrush Test”.
“Opportunity Readiness” is the degree to which you are right now open to an opportunity, in the same way that an army fighting unit has to be “battle ready” right now. You never know when the opportunity of your life will present itself, and in the talk I explain how to work on and improve your opportunity readiness.
The Toothbrush Test is a simple idea that you should aim to be happy in your own eyes, at the start and end of each day, as you brush your teeth. Don’t worry about what ‘society’ thinks, and other people’s judgements. Your “self assessment” is the ultimate test.
I’m sharing the transcript of my talk below, you can watch the talk here and see the slides I used here.
To change the world – start with yourself | Richard Lucas | TEDxTarnow
“Imagine that you are motivated, hard working and ambitious. Imagine that you want to change the world for the better, but there’s a problem: you don’t know how to do it How might that feel? I can tell you how it feels and how it felt, that because that was me, as a student in the 1980s, and as a young man in the 1990s. I wanted impact. I wanted legacy, I wanted to change the world, but I didn’t know how to do it. Instead, at least in my subconscious, I focussed on trying to impress other people, and to some extent it was successful, it worked. I still remember the buzz when I got a coveted place to study at Cambridge University, I still remember my few sporting triumphs playing the traditional English game of cricket. But I also remember how quickly that feeling passed away and crumbled, as I had to look for the next way to impress other people. It didn’t last and I had that internal feeling of anxiety.
Why did I come to TEDxTarnow and the wider TEDx audience to tell this story ? It’s because I’ve found an approach and a solution to this problem. I wish it had been available to me back then, and I want to share it with you now.
If you are more grounded now than I was back then, you know yourself better than I did, and you have a clear plan, I still think this approach can give you a more peaceful and happy life, and improve your impact and effectiveness. And if you are like the stereotypical Polish teenager from the 1990s, who was asked “is it true that the problems of Polish youth are ignorance and apathy, and he replied “I don’t know and don’t care”. If you are like that, I still think my story can have some benefit for you.
So why did TEDxTarnow invite me onto the stage to tell my story. Let me take you through a little of my history, things that worked out and something that didn’t work out at all. I came to Poland to livein 1991, and since then I’ve set up 30 businesses, some which are now worth a lot of money. I also put time and energy into supporting business and social entrepreneurship including, as you heard, TEDxKazimierz. I’ve three wonderful children – all of whom have been involved in their own TEDx projects, entirely independently of me. And last, but by no means least, I have become Polish by my own choice, I have no Polish ancestors. In 2017 I was awarded Polish citizenship, passing what, for me, was a challenging Polish language test, and so I can say I am very proud to be Polish. “Jestem Polakiem, Jestem bardzo dumyn Polakiem” . Thank you or I should say “Dziękuję”
If I look back at the things that worked out, the thing that strikes me now is that many of the projects and ideas that worked for me were not my ideas. I either brought great ideas from the rest of the world to Poland, or I helped Polish people who approached me develop their projects, and I’ve come to realise that impact and legacy doesn’t have to be to do with working on your own ideas and I want you to remember that I’ll come back to that idea later.
But I want to tell you about the biggest failure in my life. In 2003 after years of trying desperately and unsuccessfully trying to hold my marriage together I got divorced. This was definitely the hardest thing in my life. This is not the time or place to go into the details, but it was the both strongest and weakest thing I ever did. Strongest because I had to say the un- sayable, to tell my wife, her parents, my parents, and my three small children of my decision, and the Weakest because I simply couldn’t hold it together any more. When you fail so publicly and so completely, it forces you to you re-evaluate the idea of looking good in the eyes of other people. You have to take on the demon of worrying about society’s opinion, beat the demon and put it behind you. So then, after I was divorced, I was living alone, apart from the 50% of the time when my children were with me, and I would wake up in a silent, empty bedroom. I am sure you can imagine what that might be like, and over time I developed and recommend what I call the “tooth brush” test. In the morning and in evening you do you teeth looking in the mirror, and this is not a talk about dental hygiene, it is very important to brush your teeth, not just once but twice, but that is not my TEDx talk. As you look yourself in the mirror, in the morning, you should ask yourself
”Am I happy with my plan for the day?” and at the end of the day, when you look back “Did I do the things today that were most worth doing?” and what really matters is not what other people say and other people think. What matters is how you judge your day yourself. Other people will come and go, but you will always be there.
So you have to do do what matters for you.
This idea was perfectly illustrated by 10 year old Ishita Katyal when she gave the opening talk at TED in 2016 when she said
”Instead of asking children what they want to be when they grow up, you should ask them what they want to be now”. (See her whole talk here
It’s a great instruction, but it can be generalised – it is not just for children who should ask themselves what they should be doing right now. “I am in the right place right place right now, I know I should be giving this talk at TEDxTarnow – but are you in the right place being in the audience?” or if you are watching on line – “Is this the right thing for you to be do doing – right now?” The other point that comes throughIshita’s idea is the importance of taking action or doing. When I was a young man in the 1990s and earlier, I often had business ideas, that I didn’t put into action, and when I did put them into action, I didn’t know how to make them work effectively. When my first business SKK started taking off in Poland in the 1990s, from the outside it seemed that we were doing well, growing, making money with great clients. But I was incredibly stressed because I didn’t have the basic skills of organisation and management. I was looking around for a solution and came across a book by Hyrum Smith “The Ten Natural Laws Successful Time and Life Management” and it kind of saved me. I realised that if you can manage your time you can manage your life. My talk today isn’t about the importance of being able to organise yourself and your time, and that of other people, but if you want to have legacy and impact that’s incredibly important.
Now suppose you agree with me, you get the idea that you shouldn’t worry about other people’s opinions, you get the idea that you should take action towards having a positive impact., but you still don’t know what to do. The world’s most successful investor, Warren Buffett, once said
“An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan”
But my story seems to imply something different – because I didn’t come to Poland with a clear plan,. and my successes, and other things that happened were a result of other people coming to me. What I concluded was that I was very lucky. because I was kind of ready for the opportunities.
But you don’t need to be lucky. You can reduce the role of luck by being ready for opportunities. The army has “battle readiness”- the extent to which fighting unit is ready for war now. You can be “opportunity ready”,. and I want to talk to you about the idea of “opportunity readiness” because you never know when opportunity is there and it will come. It might be something gleams in the far left side your field of vision. If you are not looking out for it, you will miss it and if you see it and you are not ready – you can’t take advantage of it.
So how can you get opportunity ready ? Let me explain. I prepared this talk. Are you right now for a great opportunity that might emerge, even today, during the break here at TEDxTarnow, or when you stop watching this talk on line ? Are there gaps between where you are now, what you think and do, who you spend time with, and how it needs to be to be opportunity ready ?
The good news is that you can work on getting ready. I’ll explain how. Think about your physical fitness. It’s obviously great to be in good shape but if you are physically fit, eating well, sleeping well, looking after yourself, when opportunity comes, you’ll have the stamina and strength to take advantage of it, (and also you will get in the habit of taking on challenges and dealing with them).
Think about your skills and education. Is there a difference between where you are and need to be. There are so many things you can learn that will be make you a better co-founder, a better person to help someone else with their project, a better leader of a new project, and if you take on the challenge of developing yourself, of course you immediately become much more attractive as a potential partner for other people, to have you join them – and also education is fun, and it builds your sense of self-esteem.
What about your money and finances ? By this I don’t mean “are you rich”, I mean “are you spending less than you make and avoiding buying things on credit? Because the more you save, the more you can invest, and the more you can invest, the more you can devote time to your opportunities when they come. And suppose your partner, family and friends admire you for your physical goods, things you consume, rather than your character, well that leads to something altogether more serious:
Are your relationships ready for opportunity ?
Suppose here at TEDxTarnow you come across a brilliant idea and you go home excited and you tell your partner – about this idea you want to devote the next six days, weeks, months or even years of your life to ? Will they support you, or will they be jealous of your time? Are they the sort of person who is a little jealous that you are here today, not with them, and if you are minute late home you’ll be getting a text message – please don’t look at your phone right now. If you have the sort of partner who supports you, cherish that partner. you are very lucky, and if you don’t – well that’s very sad, but ask yourself this:
should you be spending your life with someone who is not going support you in your dreams
You have one life, it’s precious.
What about your family and your friends. Are you spending time with the sort of people you will encourage you? TEDxTarnow, and other TEDx-es, are full of of people who will inspire you and encourage you. My father when he taught at Oxford University told his students, “You will learn more from each other than me”. This can be generalised. Choose who you spend your time with carefully.
Do you have an opportunity mindset – is your radar switched on for opportunity?
Are you spending your time getting new experiences, meeting new people. talking to strangers. exposing yourself to diversity, the more diversity of experience, the more opportunities you will have, and if you come across someone doing something fantastic, consider offering to help them or join ing them – but remember this.
If you offer to join them or to help them ., they might say “no”. All of the opportunities I’ve had either resulted from when people approached me, and asked me for help, or more often me going to them and offering – and people do say “no”.
The other side of opportunity is accepting the risk of rejection.
and what about your self awareness? – I told you that when I was younger I didn’t realise I was driven by the need to look good in the eyes of other people. TEDx-ers are driven by the desire to share “ideas worth spreading”. If that’s what drives you, let that be your thing, but if it isn’t that, get to know yourself, understand what motivates you, and that will truly drive you forward.
So to close, I want to tell you that I have been through the story of a young man who didn’t know how to achieve the impact he wanted, who worked through life trying to look good in the eyes of other people, and now I’ve ended up on stage in front of you today because it is not about me and my ideas, that’s not the route to impact and effectiveness. It doesn’t mean everything works for me. It doesn’t mean that everything is easy – and believe me (and the other speakers will confirm this – giving a TEDxTarnow talk isn’t an easy thing to do) but I am at peace. Because am I doing what I believe in and I want to do. If I have a plan – I work on it. But if I don’t have a plan, I work on my “opportunity readiness” because I know that will bring me closer to my life’s goal of having an impact and making positive change.
And you don’t know whether your opportunity will be in five years from now, five months from now, five days from now or tomorrow. You can do the same as me, you can work on your opportunity readiness. So what does that mean? I told you already: get into shape, turn your radar on, talk to strangers, offer to get involved, be ready for rejection.
And don’t do it next week, don’t do it tomorrow. start today.