Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas TED&TEDx

The Happy to Chat Bench/Gaduławka unveiling 22nd September 2021

Introduction

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.

  1. 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,
  2. 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.
  3. I want to share some thoughts as to what I did to make it happen.

Why

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.

Have a vision of what you want to happen

I wanted a map with Happy to Chat Benches easy to find all over the world, from which people could download signs and add new benches. Maja created a map and instructions how to add benches With Fulco she created a website


Make yourself accessible

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 persistent and 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.

Empower people

I didn’t tell everyone what to do. I promoted a vision which other people could work towards

Appreciate people

Krzysztof Sabuda, Maria Gorczyca, Magdalena Błyskosz, Łukasz Siódmok, Sebastian Rudol , Allison Owen-Jones and Jonathan Ornstein did the work. Thank you.

Summary


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.

O JCC:

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.

Kontakt:

Richard Lucas richardlucas@richardlucas.com +48-601400058 Maria Gorczyca mgorczyca03@gmail.com +48795488022

Sebastian Rudol JCC sebastian@jcckrakow.org +48 602 756 932

Przydatne linki:

https://www.ted.com/talks/allison_owen_jones_how_happy_to_chat_benches_a re_tackling_loneliness_dec_2020

http://htcb.fulco.pl/
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-50000204 https://pl.pinterest.com/richardhlucas/happy-to-chat-benches-around-the-world

Happy to Chat Benches are coming to Krakow

The first bench in Poland is to be unveiled at the JCC Krakow, ul Miodowa 24, Krakow
22nd September at 18:00

English version:

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.

About JCC:

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.

Contact:

Richard Lucas Maria Gorczyca Sebastian Rudol JCC Kraków

Useful links:

https://www.ted.com/talks/allison_owen_jones_how_happy_to_chat_benches_a re_tackling_loneliness_dec_2020

http://htcb.fulco.pl/

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-50000204 https://pl.pinterest.com/richardhlucas/happy-to-chat-benches-around-the-world

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas TED&TEDx

Does anyone know anyone in…Canada…?

Richard Lucas August 2021

Introduction

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


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

Mel hearing about the dedication of this blog post

Why should you read on? This blog post has

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My “cold” Linikedin messages

Here is the email

Dear xxxx xxxxx,

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

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


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


The projects I am keen to develop are:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

Over to you

Richard

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas Public Speaking TED&TEDx

Why “Pre-Events” before TEDx (or other) events ?

Richard Lucas 9th June 2021

Introduction

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.

Pre-event sign up form

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.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas

Where to find out what’s going on in Krakow (and Poland)

Richard Lucas March 2021

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. 

The OMGKRK foundation www.omgkrk.com  

Open Coffee Krk

 Open Coffee High School edition . See Magda’s TEDx talk about this project here 

Krakow Enterprise Mondays  
Crossweb.pl lists Tech events listing (mostly in Polish)


Professionals in Krakow – The international community of Krakow  https://www.facebook.com/groups/professionalsinkrakow

Aspire is the  large foreign companies club –  hat tip to Andrew Hallam who has been running this for decades. Smaller businesses are welcome there too.

Non Business Groups

There are a lot of more general resources for foreigners in Krakow, especially in Facebook groups, and I am sure I have left some out..  Krakow Expats has more than 30,000 members  hat tip to David McGirr for the work he puts in to moderating this and many other expat resources.  He also runs this web site Krakow Expats http://krakowexpats.pl/listings/foreigners-in-krakow

Real Krakow Expats  https://www.facebook.com/groups/krakowexpats unmoderated FB group is active and lively.  

Foreigners in Krakow https://www.facebook.com/groups/215122655212899

Internations Krakow

International Women’s Association of Krakow (I  managed to be a member of this organisation as a divorced dad and “honorary woman”). In Krakow many things are possible.

Krakow Standup Comedy  has brought some big names to Krakow and I can’t wait for live comedy to restart.  
Couchsurfing Krakow meetups and  Language Exchange Krakow  were great places to meet all kinds of people.

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. 

TEDx in a Polish High School | Alina Małocha | TEDxKazimierz
How to Learn Anything | Hugo Dutka | TEDxEmbassySchoolKrakow 
A life well lived | Wojciech Narębski | TEDxKazimierz

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.  

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas Investing Public Speaking TED&TEDx

Que Sera Sera – plans for 2021

Richard Lucas December 2020

Introduction

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 :

Supporting Entrepreneurship

Community development

TEDx events

Business

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.

https://www.richardlucas.com/2013/09/questions-from-a-potential-investor

The life of the entrepreneur is full of possibility and yet “out of control”. No matter how hard you work and how committed you are, if the market is not interested, you will not succeed.

Que Sera Sera for me next year will be in the hands of others because it depends who decides to work with me on the projects described later in this blog post. I’m putting my future in the hands of others.

I’ve decided to spend more time replicating the ideas and projects I have worked on over the last 30 years into new geographies and sectors. But I’ll be doing that through and with other people, hence the form. But to devote more energy to some projects means spending less on others.

What I’ll be doing less of
I’ve exited some businesses and reduced my engagement with non-profits. I am not longer a shareholder Everuptive Group sp. z o. o., Untitled Kingdom sp. z o. o and Vantage Power Ltd. I stopped teaching at the Tischner Eurporean University, and being a student at University of the People. I’m migrating my Project Kazimierz podcast to the New Books Network, in which I recently became a shareholder. I am stepping back from the leadership of TEDxKazimierz, the end of an eleven year TED and TEDx Journey. I am not investing in new businesses, unless there are very special reasons why I want to. I wrote about the TEDxKazimierz decision in this blog post.


What I am continuing to do?


I will continue to support the businesses I am a shareholder in on an ad hoc basis. Some of them are market leaders, and highly successful businesses. My level of engagement varies, in some cases I’m a former CEO and a key shareholder, in others, my shareholding is tiny and the company gets on fine without me doing much. I continue to supporting entrepreneurship, through NGOs, teaching, podcasting, public speaking and occasionally investing, and to support non- profit projects focussed on community building, and spreading ideas.

How will I be doing it? The projects that I planning to work on are described below. I apply the organisational philosophy of TED to TEDx. This means that I go into action when I have a local leader. As you read this list, I ask you to ponder  “am I interested or do I know someone who might like to explore making something like this happen”. If this answer is yes, please fill in the form or tell the person you know about the opportunity.

The broad areas are:

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. 

https://www.facebook.com/OpenCoffeeHighSchool
See Magdalena’s TEDxKazimierz talk on the project.  https://www.ted.com/talks/magdalena_blyskosz_it_s_time_for_networking_meet_ups_organised_by_and_for_young_people
Obviously needs a  leader

CAMentrepreneurs

https://www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/group/camentrepreneurs

To support business and social entrepreneurship among Cambridge University alumni, current students and others.  We organise free (or donation based) meetups in cities where there is a local leader.   If that’s you get in touch.  Format similar to Enterprise Mondays, leverage the Cambridge name to do events with other Ivy League type organisations (Harvard, Oxford etc) but in fact are open to everyone with the right mindset.


One off entrepreneurship workshops and talks, in school, university, accelerator and other settings 
I’ve led 100s of pro-entrepreneurship workshops everywhere from small state and private pre-schools in Poland, through to MBA level face to face and online in the world leading universities and business schools. I’m good at it, enjoy it and believe it is important. My workshops are highly interactive, and I operate on the the “give more/expect more” model. For example I often make participants record video introductions of themselves, before my class starts so I know who I am dealing with and have a class “Live document”.      

Whenever I am planning visits to new places I like to investigate if there are people and organisations that are interested in having me do something like this.  I often am ready do this free of charge and cover my own expenses. If the organisation is for profit and/or usually pays, I charge whatever they normally pay for someone like me. 

Examples are listed here. They include:

leading workshops in business schools,
talks at tech conferences,
classes at summer schools,
hosting events in co-working spaces,
inauguration talk to new students,
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

https://projectkazimierz.com/podcasts

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.

https://newbooksnetwork.com/about-the-nbn


Organisation of one-off meetups to link different communities I am connected to, for example Polish ecosystem in Poland, Cambridge eco-system anywhere in the world, Polish entrepreneurs abroad, random vertical where I have a contact. These take a bit of work but can be valuable.   


Investing in startups/mentoring – I don’t do much of this but on occasion I do.  If people ask me for investments, I  send them this  https://www.richardlucas.com/2013/09/questions-from-a-potential-investor 

If someone wants to work for or with me I encourage them to go fill in the form. One person who filled it in is now CEO of a company I invested in, another is working for and with me on multiple projects.

Apart from pro-entrepreneurship activities, I support several Community building projects, often but not always these have been featured on my TEDxKazimierz stage in the past and now I want to devote myself to helping the ideas grow and develop.

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.

See Mark McKergow’s TEDxKazimierz talk about the project here
https://www.ted.com/talks/mark_mckergow_how_village_in_the_city_is_building_micro_local_communities_worldwide

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?

https://villageinthecity.net

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.  

https://thechattycafescheme.com


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

https://www.ted.com/talks/allison_owen_jones_how_happy_to_chat_benches_are_tackling_loneliness_dec_2020
 


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.

Happy to chat benches https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-50000204

Yorkey Dads/Menfulness

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.

https://yorkeydads.wixsite.com/yorkeydads

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.


https://www.ted.com/talks/menfulness_yorkey_dads_help_men_to_support_each_other

TED/TEDx/TED Circles

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.

www.richardlucas.com/2014/02/community-building-at-events-greatness-is-found-in-the-detail

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.

My TED profile www.ted.com/profiles/54403/about

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.

https://mastersofscale.com/2020-year-in-review

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.

Why you should Embrace Rejection – https://youtu.be/j0wB1-s21q4

My way of finding out if an idea is any good is to try it. That includes this blog post. The same applies to anyone reading this blog post. My calls to action are:

If you are interested in any of these projects, fill in the form, or get in touch directly. If you have any questions, or something is not clear, questions and comments are welcome. If you know someone who might be interested, let them know as well or share this post in whatever way you want.

Que Sera Sera.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas Public Speaking TED&TEDx

Public speaking, hosting and other engagements

Richard Lucas

This is a list of past and events I have or am going to speak at, host and/or organised.  I welcome invitations. Please read this first.

I speak about entrepreneurship, leadership and business. My talks and hosting are interactive,  participant focussed,  high quality and fun.    I’ve written about this here.

My experience at TED events and as a TEDx Curator have helped me understand what truly high class events and talk feel, look and sounds like.

Forthcoming Events

CAMentrepreneurs January 27th 2021

Open Coffee Krakow December

Past events

TEDxKazimierz November

Open Coffee Krakow November

Open Coffee Krakow July 2nd

TED Circles # 11 July 8th

Open Coffee Global online #3 July 27th

TEDxKazimierzSalon- Performances September

CAMentrepreneurs Cambridge 21st October

Open Coffee Global online #2 – with Christopher Cytera 29th June – hosting

TED Circles #10 10th June

Open Coffee Krakow 4th June

TEDxKazimierzSalon – Can online marketing be ethical? 28th May

Open Coffee Global  – looking beyond the crisis 25th May

TEDxShenkarCollege TEDx talk 24th May

The TEDxShenkarCollege  Pre-Event 23rd May

Entrepreneurship during the crisis – CAMentrepreneurs/CUE 13th May

TED Circles #8 – Life at its fullest 6th May

TEDxKazimierzSalon – Entrepreneurship and Leadership 24th April

Asbiro Business School workshop Łódź

 CAMentrepreneurs/CUE meetup hosting Cambridge 4th March

TED CircleHow we Love 5th February, Kraków hosting

January 2020

TEDxKazimierzSalon Krakow – hosting 28th January

Startup Weekend Krakow – Jury 12th January

IT Camp,  Entrepreneurship Workshops  Warsaw 5th January

2019

Krakow Enterprise Mondays Xmas Party and  Quiz 16th December.

TED Circle Krakow (and on line) 11th December

TEDxKazimierzWomen 7th December Krakow, Organising/Hosting

The Chatty Cafe Scheme launch in Poland 5th December, Krakow. organising.

Pre TEDxWeekendTaipei meetup/All Hands Taiwan/CAMentrepreneurs Info Meeting 31st October, Taiwan, Organising/Hosting details here

TED Circle Taipei hosting 30th October, Taiwan details here

TED Circle Krakow 26th October hosting details here

CAMentrepreneurs launch 24th October 2019 at Judge Business School, Cambridge (hosting) details here 

Winchester College Alumni Dinner 22nd October London, UK  Speaking

Krakow Enterprise Mondays 21st October, Krakow details here

INNOVATIVE KRAKOW FORUM  October 21st, 2019 hosting panel, details here 

TED. TEDx, TEDx-ers Info Evening 10th October, Kraków, details here

A Fireside Chat with Marek Jankowski – Poland’s leading business podcaster. Krakow 9th October details here 

Lublin Enterprise Mondays launch 7th October, Lublin  (hosting) details here

TEDxWeekendRoma Pre Event 3rd October,  Rome, hosting. TEDxWeekendRoma attendees only

XXXI L.O im. Roman Ingardena  – Kraków. Entrepreneurship Workshop in Polish for High School students. 27th September

Sabre “Talk ‘n Roll” conference 26th September Krakow – speaking. details here

OMGKRK Summer Jam – 23rd August Business Networking Session – hosting  Details here 

Open Coffee Krakow 1st August (hosting)

The Pre-TED Summit Social Gathering Edinburgh, for TEDx-ers participating in the TED Summit. 19th July

TEDxKazimierzSalon plus TEDxKazimierzAdventure: Community Education and Leadership 14-16th June. Hosting.  details here

TEDxTarnow 9th June Speaker details here

Cracow Tech Week – Hosting 23rd May. Fireside Chat with Startup Founders Opportunities And Challenges Of Building A Startup In Krakow.  Details here.

LiGHT – Hosting 13th May Krakow Opera House details   here 

Kraków Enterprise Mondays #24 6th May. Hosting details here

Project Kazimierz Podcast I’ve hosted 86 episodes of this podcast on Innovation and entrepreneurship over the last four years details (and listen)  here.

                              The Project Kazimierz podcast

Open Beer for Entrepreneurs! 30th April Hosting. www.facebook.com/events/602791683529323

TEDxKazimierzLive 27th April – hosting – Kraków.  Details here

Open Coffee Kraków – hosting 25th April: details here

CAMentrepreneurs launch Dubai 17/18th April 2019. Details here

Asbiro – Business Basics, (in Polish) Warsaw 7th April 2019

Asbiro Warsaw – Introduction to Business from Richard Lucas

TEDxKazimierzSalon 27th March 2019 Sport and Society (hosting)

“What, why and how to build a personal brand” Workshop 25th March at  “Start up your Life with SEED” Krakow Technology Park

Webinar: Why is Sales so Hard? with Kimon Fountoukidis & Richard Lucas 14th March, 2019 11:00 EST (17:00 CEST) sign up here  (US$75)

TEDxKazimierzSalon The Art of Entrepreneurship (co hosting) 28th February. 2019

Transcribe-a-thon brought to you by TEDxKazimierz  9th February 2019

OpenCoffeeKRK #180 Thu 8 AM · 7th February 2019

OpenCoffeeKRK #179 Thu 8 AM · 24th January 2019

Volunteer Appreciation TEDxKazimierzAdventure  24th January 2019

OpenCoffeeKRK #178 Thu 8 AM · 10th January 2019

Hosting and Speaking Engagements in 2019
Krakow Enterprise Mondays Xmas Event 17th December TEDxKazimierzWomenKrakow Technology Park  Poland 8th December

Embassy School Krakow Entrepreneurship Course Launch   3rd December 2018

Startup Weekend Krakow. Judge-  2nd December 2018

Edinburgh Business Show, E-Commerce Panel. Edinburgh Scotland 23 Nov 2018

CAMentrepreneurs Event, Speaking and co-hosting Scotland 22nd November 2018

TEDxCapeTown Pre Event 16th November, Cape Town, South Africa

Krakow Enterprise Mondays, University of Agriculture and 5th November

Invested Investor Book launch, Cambridge, UK  18th October

Krakow Enterprise Mondays, University of Economics 15th October

Information meeting about TED, TEDx, TEDxKazimierz with several other  TEDx Organisers 8th October

Inaugural address Politechnika Krakowska Department of Civil Engineering   1st October.

CAMentrepreneurs/Oxbridge Society of Poland Fresher (new student) orientation with the Oxbridge Society of Poland,
the Cambridge University Polish Students Society, and the Oxford University Polish Students Society at Google Campus Warsaw 8th September.

TEDxTarnow – introducing a favourite TED talk 24rd June

TEDxKazimierz Main Event organising/hosting 9th June 2018

Krakow Enterprise Mondays (organising/hosting) in University of Economics 4th June

Light 4.0 in Krakow (hosting a panel) May 23th

Infoshare Gdynia  talk/workshop May 22nd

TEDxKazimierzSalon (organising/co-hosting)  19th May

XIV International MBA Congress in Krakow (panel) 18th May

TEDxKazimierzLive (organising/co-hosting) 28th April

Entrepreneurs Club @JCC Krakow  26th April 

Krakow Enterprise Mondays in the Agricultural University (organising/hosting)  Krakow 23rd April

CAMentrepreneurs New York global Luncheon (speaking, guest) 14th April

TEDFest NYC Pre-event (organising/hosting) 9-10th April

TEDxKazimierzSalon (co-organising) 28th March

TEDxWarsaw Pre Event workshop  on networking 21st March

Krakow Enterprise Mondays (organising/hosting) 12 March

TEDxKazimierzSalon 28th February 2018 

Entrepreneurs Club @JCC Krakow #2   27th February 2018

Spotkanie ASBiRO Kraków z Richardem Lucasem   14th Feb

Startup Weekend Kids Krakow  Jury  4th February

JCC Krakow’s Entrepreneurship Club launch host 30th Jan

2017

PAMI Conference Polish-American Innovation Bridge 2017  host 17-18th November

Zakonu Pijarów High School talk about TED , TEDx and TEDxKazimierz October 26th
Gimnazjum Ziarnko Maku  talk about Wojtek the Soldier Bear, TEDx and enterprise 25th October
Winchester College “Studium” Pluses and minus of going into business Wed 11 Oct
Embassy International School  talk about TED , TEDx and TEDxKazimierz  19 September
TEDxKazimierz events and meet ups since October 2015
CAMentrepreneurs from 12.2016
Krakow Enterprise Mondays 2016-present
Open Coffee Kraków co-host from 2013-present.
Mentor Kraków Wrocław Living Lab February 2017

The Roast of Richard Lucas Kraków Standup Comedy 22nd Jan 2017

2016
Polish Student Societies Leadership Workshop Edinburgh December 2016
Jury at Krakow Smogathon November 2016
Poland 2:0 Summit London October 2016
Workshop for Redlands MBA students in Krakow in October 2016
Community Building Workshop at the TED Summit  Canada June 2016
Pre-TED Summit Event Calgary, Canada co hosted June 2016
Pre-TEDxWarsaw event March 2016 Co-host and organiser
Smart City Panelist, Change Leaders Foundation event, March 2016
Innovators’ Summit #4: Smart City / Smart Living Kraków November 2015

Workshop for Fordham MBA students May 2015
Krakow Innovation Swarm April 2015
Startup Sprint Silver Tsunami April 2014
Innovators’ Summit November 2014
Women’s Entrepreneurship Day November 2014
TechSaturdays Wrocław: October 2014
Startup Sprint E-commerce June 2014

Wojtek the Solider Bear Statue unveiling speech in Park Jordana 18th May 2014
Startup Sprint March 2014
KrakSpot #16 January 2014
Christmas StartUp Mixer December 2013
TEDxKrakówCinema – entrepreneurship December 2013
Robienie interesu życia November 2013
Startup Stage #6 September 2013
Startup Pirates May 2013
BOSS – Festiwal Biznesu April 2013
Startup Stage #3 March 2013
Startup Weekend Krakow February 2013
Entrepreneur from our School http://znaniabsolwenci.pl/Home/English November 2011  May 2013

Speaker and Judge at entrepreneurship events at “Gielda Przedsiebiorczosci, ” 2009-2012

TEDxWrocławSalon Speaker
TEDxKraków Speaker October 2010

Global Entrepreneurship Week numerous activities, hosting of School Visits to companies I was involved in 2008
1996 Polish Ministry of Education – business perspectives at Soros Foundation Scholar orientation event I sometimes contribute to events as a panellist and speaker. Based on 30 years experience as an entrepreneur and activist.
Doing Business in Poland event 1995 CBI event in Centre Point, London
Main areas I talk or teach about
entrepreneurship, leadership, investing. Smart cities, technology, startups, Social media, community management, All things TEDx related, Poland, Cambridge (UK)

If you want me to speak at your event, before contacting me, please read this written in someone sarcastic patronising tone of voice.

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Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas

Time for a revolution in Alumni – Student relations with respect to entrepreneurship

November 2016
Introduction
Alumni are “low hanging fruit” – an under used group who can be mobilized to good purposes. It’s time for a revolution in alumni/student/pupil relations with respect to support of entrepreneurship. North Americans tend to be good at this – Europeans not yet. Every entrepreneur is an alumni of somewhere. Even a solopreneur that operates their business completely by themselves has learned what they know from somewhere.
I’m starting with several assumptions.
  1. People who have started businesses -entrepreneurs – have experience, know how, insights and characteristics and (sometimes) money that would be valuable to share with people who are thinking of starting a business, whether alumni, students, or others.
  2. Students would benefit from be able to listen to, ask questions and interact with entrepreneurs, and other students interested in entrepreneurship.
  3. the benefits would include increasing the chances that people who had such experiences and interactions will start new ventures, and if they do, both reduce the risk of failure and increase the scale of success.
  4. Exposing students and alumni to people who are considering the possibility of starting their own ventures can be inspiring and motivating, increasing the chance that those people will make then most of their lives
  5. Having more new initiatives and business ventures will change the world for the better faster, increasing human prosperity and welfare.
  6. The internet makes the spreading of new ideas and the organisation of new movements easier, cheaper and faster than at any time in human history.
  7. Many “pro-entrepreneurship events” are badly run and do not achieve nearly as much as they could. There is a better way of running events.
  8. Good practice from TEDxAmsterdam
    Good practice from TEDxAmsterdam

    Years of organising TEDx events, Open Coffee Krakow events, Krakow Enterprise Mondays and speaking at multiple entrepreneurship related conferences has given me a strong insight into what makes an event special. I was even asked to do a workshop about this at TED.COM – who organise the best (and most expensive) events I’ve ever attended (TEDx events are low cost).

Open Coffee Krakow

8. if more alumni become successful – and the place they studied has had a part in their success- it may positively impact on the school/university in terms of increased donations.

The starting position seems bad
1 Most alumni are not actively engaged in the the life of the place they studied at all.
2 To the extent that some alumni are engaged somewhat, they are not actively engaged. They might show up once or twice a year, and/or send some money. I will be more than glad to cite honourable exceptions. I want to be wrong.
3. A major purpose of engagement from the point of view of the School/University is fund raising. The thought that the alma mater is going to ask for money may act as a disincentive for alumni to engage.
What are the components of a revolution?
The challenge is that are several components. to achieve full impact they all need to work together smoothly. This is not easy and takes time and effort from those who share the vision.
The purpose needs to be made clear.

Entrepreneurship is not just about making money: it is about encouraging people and teams to take the risk to start social and business projects that may lead to making the world a better place. Celebrating the fact that there are those people who are ready to take the risk because doing anything new runs the risk of failure.

What needs to be done?

The alumni of an organisation who have gone into business need to be identified and contacted in an intelligent way to establish if:

a) they are interested in supporting entrepreneurship and networking with other entrepreneurial alumni and current pupils/students.
b) they might be ready to help on- or off- line by giving talks, mentoring, investing or coaching.
While the alumni contacted need to be asked and prompted to think about what they able and willing to do in networking and helping each other current students, and others, it is probably best to start with early adopters. In any community there is a spectrum between leaders, who are most active and committed, to the totally inert, with most people being somewhere in the middle. It’s important to identify these early adopters and leaders and work with them so that those who might be willing to get involved but are not sure, they have inspirational people to follow and work with.
This project may be best done in co-operation with the Development Office, the Careers Office, the Alumni Relations office and/or independent Unofficial Linkedin/Facebook Groups.

Unofficial Alumni Linkedin Group

This is a case by case decision based on the current situation. It is worth making contact with these organisations to see what they think and whether they want to help. At Cambridge University – the alumni office supported the formation of an officially sanctioned group Camentrepreneurs.
Cambentrepreneurs
At Winchester College (the school I attended from 1979-84) I founded Wintrepreneurs
Wintrepreneurs

modelled on Etonpreneurs aimed to operate independently – in co-operation with the School In October 2017 I was asked *not* to organise a meeting to launch in Winchester because the School was worried about “Safeguarding” legislation. (I had been invited to give a talk in the school, was flying 2000 miles to be there, and thought I would start things off while I was there).

Apart from the referring to of my voluntary initiative to encourage entrepreneurship as a “scheme” (which – excluding the costs of my time – I had put a thousand or more pounds into making happen) – a message like this underlines the challenges for those who want to change things. Not everyone will be in favour, and some will make difficulties.

Informal self-organising communities of alumni and pupils are what is needed, with central support and direction to maintain standards and share good practice.. It’s the antidote to the optimism of TEDster Clay Shirky’s talk about the Grobanites. My “sanctioned” talk to the pupils went well, and for those interested, I recommended these entrepreneurship related resources.

In Kraków, Poland where I live – an Official Alumni Association run by salaried staff of a famous University are so unprofessional that they not only do not have time to to meet to discuss the idea, they are too busy to answer questions about their activities by e-mail.

If you decide you want to try to do something about this in your own place of former study, an important challenge is to find out who in a School/University are responsible for inviting guests, be they teachers, parents or pupils and make contact with them.

What sort of people are invited at present,
what sort of events take place at which entrepreneurial alumni would be welcome and helpful.
It is often easier to build on top of existing institutions and practices (like guest lecture series) than do something entirely new.
On the other hand if there is the ambition and local leadership aiming to “do things better” than normal, a dedicated event offers more control.
Additional questions include
What awareness is there of the potential of alumni to contribute to the purpose of the School/University ?
and in what areas would they like alumni to contribute?
At some schools I have done workshops at, I have been the first entrepreneur school pupils have ever met. It would be a mistake to assume to that everyone knows what the potential is. Guest workshops can fit very well some parts of the curriculum.
This means it is important to ask and find out what platforms are there for spreading information about the benefits of this practice. Is there a school web site, newsletter, school magazine, Facebook page, or Linkedin group where an article about the idea can be published?
Who can write an article about the topic ?
If there is a local leader they need to think about what they would like the local situation to look like?
If there are to be regular meet ups, basic questions
who?
what?
when?
where ?
Who is in charge?
How frequent should the meetings be and with what format?
need to be asked.
If you are at this stage I can provide some input and support,
if you share my values. Icebreakers, Short talks, Q&A, Office Hours, Community Announcements, Education, Pitches are the basic ingredients, together with a laser like focus on welcoming and participant experience will be important.
Doing good events, not just events ,.
Existing assets and relationships need to researched be understood. There may be particularly active staff, alumni, teachers, pupils or organisations that can be ideal for spreading the idea. Getting these people on board can be a game changer. They need to feel you are co-operating not competing.
It is important to look at the values and attitudes of the existing community and defining what is going to be important to the early adopters. I’ve made clear for the movements I lead that despite (maybe because of) their elite position they are “Open” in the sense that they are not Cambridge or Winchester “only” they are Cambridge or Winchester “and”. It is not for me to define the values that matter to those reading this, but it is important to make sure the founders of your initiative know what they stand for.
Other Important Provisos

Processes and habits take time to build.

Assessing local competences and skills is important.
In some cases there may be a need to “train the trainers”/ Teaching the entrepreneurs to teach. This is very much a question of local conditions. Many entrepreneurs are natural trainers, because they have all had to do develop on boarding and training processes for their staff.
In other cases, one person entrepreneurs/freelancers (or people in the school/University) may have no idea how important training and development is to successful enterprises, because they never thought about it.
A really bad workshop may be worse than nothing, although as my father told me “the best is sometimes the enemy of the good.
If you care and want to do a good event, it is better to do something than nothing. There has never been so much know how available for free on how to do things well as now. 10 minutes on Google is often enough.
As always it is important to have clear objectives for each activity/event.
Krakow Enterprise Mondays defines its goals as follows:
1. To facilitate and encourage transfer of know how and capital to from successful businesspeople among the alumni of Polish Universities to current entrepreneurial students

2. To give current students access to role models among entrepreneurial alumni who can help transmit the message that business success is possible.

3. to celebrate the business success of alumni. and the sense that the current generation of students appreciate and value entrepreneurial success.

4, To encourage existing alumni associations to include entrepreneurship support in their activities

5 to provide a business friendly environment where students from different universities in Krakow can meet and get to know each other, and develop their networks.

6. To encourage Student Societies to support business and social entrepreneurship among their members.

You need to know your objectives, best in collaboration with your core founders.
Objectives for alumni/entrepreneurs might include: feeling good, valued, and useful, making new contacts, finding new staff, co-founders, clients, suppliers, partners, investors , and well as having fun.

objectives for students may include learning new skills, being inspired, making new contacts, finding jobs, investors, co founders, and having fun.

If you want to mobilise the

– trend towards self-organising networks,

– desire for people to have better experiences in their lives, rather than just accumulating assets

– the willingness for people to be useful

and believe the world needs more entrepreneurship, join me in making this revolution happen. I’ll do my best to help.

Categories
Featured Ideas

Why I am applying for Polish Citizenship

Richard Lucas

August 2016

Background
Hugo Dixon is an excellent journalist,  entrepreneur and person. He founded the Infacts.org website and movement – which supports Britain’s continued membership of the EU, and has as its mission statement:

“InFacts is a journalistic enterprise making the fact-based case for strong relations between Britain and the EU. We also expose the false promises and inaccurate statements made about Britain and its relationship to the EU.”

I recently sent him – on my brother Edward Lucas’s recommendation – details of a correspondence about how badly the UK media production industry may be damaged when Theresa May’s government leads the UK out of the Single European Market. He invited me to write a piece about why I am applying to be Polish.

Some  other points for my readers.

  1. The post on Infacts site here is better than my original thanks to Hugo’s editing. I am not a professional wordsmith – he is.

  1. I have many positive reasons for wanting to become Polish that are not relevant to the Infacts readership. My article focussed on how hostile I feel to Britain being out of the EU. If I am lucky enough to be granted a Polish passport, which is not (and should not be) certain. I will carry it with pride.
  2. I am not starry eyed about the European project. The EU has faults, some serious. Yet its tremendous achievements are not talked about enough, Britain is insane to leave and the leaders of the Brexit project are reckless and irresponsible.   I struggle to find words to say how much I condemn them.

Why I am applying for Polish citizenship

by Richard Lucas | 21.08.2016
 

We read a lot about Poles coming to live in Britain. Well, I am an example of the reverse phenomenon, Brits living in Poland. I am now applying for Polish citizenship. Having lived here for over 25 years, I didn’t even get a vote in the referendum.

I want to be citizen of an EU country. I now have rights and freedoms to live, work, trade, study and travel as a result of Britain’s EU membership. I want to keep them after Britain surrenders them.

I want to be fully part of a country that shares my European values, to make a statement that I am fundamentally against Britain disconnecting from Europe and to show how disgusted I am that loyal British subjects living abroad have been disenfranchised.

I am internationalist in outlook. My Britishness is important to me, but not my defining characteristic. I was happy being in a Europe where barriers were coming down and nationality was becoming less important over time. My decision to apply to become Polish is an emotional reaction against the architects and leaders of Brexit. I feel saddened, ashamed, infuriated and/or repelled, by them. Whether they are holidaying in Switzerland or playing cricket the day after the vote, I just can’t identify and feel close to a country led by such irresponsible people.

I want Britain to be a decent country, treating other countries’ citizens and British people with respect. Repeating “Brexit means Brexit” without saying what it means is anything but. Real people and lives are affected. Millions of foreigners in Britain and British people abroad live with unnecessary uncertainty about their residency rights. I did not always agree with Tony Blair, David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher, and other British leaders – but I never felt they clowned around, playing word games with topics that impact people’s lives.

Taking away our children’s future

International contacts and diversity benefit British culture. Rejecting intolerant faiths and ideology requires knowledge and understanding. Reducing the number of British people who know the rest of the world and foreigners who know the British will do lasting harm.

We will never be able to fully quantify the loss of experience that the Brexiteers are imposing on foreigners and British people alike. It is heart breaking. My six year old daughter once told me: “it’s not what you have – it’s your experiences that matter”. Brexiteers are stealing future experiences from our children.

Wealthy, well educated and successful people will find ways to get second passports, visas and escape the stagnation, isolation and poverty that awaits. The Brexit leadership will be mostly OK, and better able to afford a cut in their living standards. For the poor and less well connected, being stuck in Britain will be much worse. There will be much less tax revenue to alleviate the many problems that Brexit will cause.

Alexander Bett and Anand Giridharadas gave excellent talks at the TED Summit in the last week of June 2016, and they spoke for me.  I join them in recognizing that the reasons people voted for Brexit were real.  Those leaders in politics and the media who misled the British people are responsible. If they see the error of their ways in years to come and work together with those who want to lead Britain out of isolation and poverty back to Europe I will be happy they changed their minds. But Brexiteers, it is you who leading this doomed project. You are responsible. It is going to be hard to forgive, and impossible to forget.

Richard Lucas is a businessman with companies in Poland, Britain, Hong Kong, and the US

<<update – I was successful, passed the exams and met all the requirements.  I am proud to be Polish as well as British>>

 

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Investing

What do you think of my business idea?

May 2016

“Hi Richard,

can we grab a coffee? – I’d love to get your feedback on my business idea to do X in Y –  and show you my awesome product.

I believe it is really great, and is going to be huge.

We urgently need a small investment of $100K due to our first customers being late in deciding to buy/ to keep us going as we get close to going global. It’s a billion dollar market.

We must talk soon, or you’ll miss out. I’ll be able to slot you in next week.

bests
Joe Doe
Co-Interplanetary Awesomeness Officer and Founder
Creepaability-aka-dontknowthefuckwhatthisisallabout.com ”


I get a version of this  kind of note  from time to time.  I have taken the worst bits from different e-mails and messages I receive  to make something truly awful. I hope this post encourages those who write to investors to reflect on their approach. 
This post tells your  what I think and feel, and what I write back (not the same) , and offers some reflections.
What I think and feel
0. not again..  🙁
1. Coffees are for drinking – not grabbing. Grabbing is rude,  and you might spill it.
2. I don’t care what I or you think about your product. I care about the problem it solves, and what customers and potential customers/users think.
3. If you urgently need money, you are bad at planning. Of course businesses, people, and startups can and will run out of cash,  but if you don’t realise this sounds terrible, you are probably not smart enough to be my partner.
4. $100K is not a small amount of money.  I was well paid when I earned $1500 month net in my best paid job (25 years ago). I took so big pay cut when I started my first business I was effectively paying for the privilege of working.   It would have taken me many years to save $100K. If you think $100K is a small amount, can I trust you to spend it carefully?
5. Blaming customers for being late sounds like a stupid attitude.  If they haven’t bought anything you should not be calling them customers anyway.
6. Money should be for specific actions, not “keeping us going”.
7 . Going global makes sense once you have a proven product that clients love. You offer no evidence of that so far.
8. What is the billion dollar market?
9.  Don’t rush me. Giving me the impression I’ll have to adjust to your busy life makes me annoyed before I’ve even met you.
10. Silly job titles repel me.
11. If I invite him/her to Open Coffee Kraków they will probably tell me it’s too early in the morning and I’ll never hear from him/her again. 🙂  That is probably a good outcome.
12. I respect and admire entrepreneurs who hustle  – so I will try (hard) to be nice.

What I write 

Dear Chief Awesomeness Officer,

Thanks very much for approaching me.

Best is to come to Open Coffee Krakow  and we can chat after that if you are in town.

I trust that you are OK with open feedback and if there are things about your idea I don’t like you’ll want me to tell you. Please confirm.

Do send me a Linkedin invite so you can see more about me and vice versa.

Please answer the questions in this blog post I wrote a few years ago –  so that I can be more helpful to you during the meeting (if we decide to meet).

Tell me how you are going to make money, what you would spend my investment money on, and what you are offering me in return.

It doesn’t matter much what I think  about your idea.
What really matters is:
– what clients and potential clients think about your idea.
– what pressing problem you think you are solving.
-what your costs will be.- how many months you can survive before you run out of money in the worst case scenario, and your unit economics. (how big the gap between your costs and revenues per item delivered is)

Good luck and see you next Open Coffee Krakow (if you cannot join in person, we are online as well).

Richard

Reflections

A lot of inexperienced entrepreneurs have read an article somewhere full of “fake it till you make it” type BS and imagine that a stupid angel can be duped into handing over money. It’s seldom true, and it’s not a great way to approach me. I’ve made lots of mistakes and may not be as smart as the letter writer  – but I don’t like being patronised.

It’s important to think and reflect before sharing my feelings. I may be annoyed and angry, but I really want to help entrepreneurs. I’ll try to help the guy learn. Maybe I was like that once.

Getting their Linkedin details enables me to figure out what sort of history they have.  Past actions (and inactions) give a great insights into someone’s potential).

Maybe there are people out there who respond well to crappy messages like the one I am dissing ?  If anyone reading this found an investor this way,  I would love to stand corrected. The beauty of a free society is that there is more than one way of operating.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Investing

Questions from a potential investor, mentor or partner

This post first appeared here as an article on Proseed Magazine in 2013. I have updated it since then, so this version is the best to read.

Who is the article for?
I send this article to people who approach me asking for feedback, advice, mentoring and/or an investment.

I send a link to it when someone writes to me, saying “you ought to meet”. or “can you help” ‘x’ who has a great business idea”, with the suggestion that they forward it to the person they want me to help.

If you are ‘x’, and you don’t see why you should read on, feel free to stop now. Please do let the person who introduced us know that it was your decision not mine, so they don’t think that I am being unhelpful.

I share this article with people who are over-exposed to the BS culture of “fake it til you make it” startups, and who have sadly been influenced by those who think that investors are stupid and it is smart to take advantage of them.

I changed the blog post title from “Questions from a potential investor” to “Questions from a potential investor, mentor or partner”  because sometimes people approach me who do not want an investment. I may be able to help them anyway, and if I can, am usually glad to.

Why do I request “pre-information”?
I feel that if I am ready to give away my time, asking those who approach me to invest the time to pre-brief me is a good filter and fair. It shows they take me seriously. While I enjoy hearing about business ideas, I prefer to know the stage people are at before meeting. I want the person to be properly prepared and to have done the “easy stuff” before we meet. People often want to chat before they have done basic Google searches on their potential competition, or figured out their planned business model. There is nothing wrong with this, but in this case I don’t want to set up a dedicated meeting or call. I don’t want to spend 30 minutes of a one hour meeting finding out information that I could pick up in 5 minutes reading a briefing document. If the idea is good then the extra time during the meeting will be much better used doing things other than finding out simple facts about the team and ownership.

I am usually willing to give up to an hour of mentoring/feedback to people with business ideas – at a time/place convenient to me – provided I am not involved in anything competitive. This is not a promise. Sometimes people annoy me so much with their approach that I decide not to meet them at all. Sometimes I encourage people to attend events I am going to be at anyway, so that we get a few minutes to chat. Often five minutes is enough for me to tell whether I can be of any use. The questions I ask are ones that all professional investors will ask so it is not a waste of time to answer my questions.

I do not promise to find time for a call, meet, get involved in giving feedback about why I don’t want to meet after I get the information requested in this post.

The questions and answers you provide are to help me decide if I want to do that. I don’t want to focus time and energy on projects that are not going to happen. Obviously if things have changed “Hi Richard – 6 months ago you asked us whether we had working product, a team and at least 5 potential committed clients. Back then we didn’t – and you were right to send us away. The good news is we’ve done all of that and more” then I’ll be glad to take another look.

Because the situations of people approaching me vary so much please be aware of the fact that some of what I suggest below may not fit your situation. If this is the case, just skip or move on to questions that are relevant to you.

Here goes:

Clients and potential clients People often ask me what I think about their idea. I always tell them ‘it doesn’t matter what I think nearly as much as what clients and potential clients think’, and and I ask them what they have done to get this information from clients and potential clients. If I am told “we have interviewed 10 directors of companies who we want to sell to and they all say that they are very interested in purchasing at the kind of prices we want to charge” it not only is impressive it also tells me that the person I am talking to is well organised and has the self-confidence to get out there and talk to people.

Why? What’s the big idea? The vision. Why are you doing it? What and whose problems are you aiming to solve, what pain points are you addressing. What is it that makes a) your users b) people who will send you money really appreciate what you do or plan to do.

Long term value of clients/repeat revenue. This can be hard to estimate for a startup, but you have to do it. If you sell post cards to tourists, the chances of repeat business are almost zero. If you sell premium (expensive) dog food to wealthy people who you can persuade that your dog food is the one their dog prefers, the repeat revenue may be very high. If you sell post cards to shops that sell them to tourists, you have a good chance of repeat revenue if they find your cards easy to sell and make a good margin on them. If you sell jet engines to Airbus, and each one comes with a high price service contract, it is obvious there will be repeat revenue.

Current situation
How are you doing? How are you making/going to make money?
If your business is already underway please describe how you got to where you are now, what the key processes are (how you get clients, deliver your product or service and make money), and what you expect from me. Please send me basic facts, your trading history: costs, revenues and profits, number of employees, and ownership. A simple spreadsheet showing past and planned future costs is often very useful. There is a useful concept of Unit Economics, which is very simply. what are the costs of making/doing the thing you sell, and how much do you charge for it. If you are a real estate agent, and the cost of visiting, documenting, describing, promoting, explaining methods for making profit from the property and showing potential clients a property, and handling paperwork if there is sale is US$400 and you make $2000 if there is a transaction, you are making $1600 per deal, it becomes obvious how many sales you need to make to cover your fixed costs and start making money. If you are losing money, don’t expect an investor to bail you out, unless some dramatic change is about to happen that you can explain.

If you have not started yet, describe your planned business model, how you are going to make money and how far you have got already. If you haven’t thought about how you are going to organise your business so that your costs are much less than your revenues, please do so before we meet. If you are at the stage of “once we have traffic we should be able to make money” I am not that interested unless you explain how. You above all people should be thinking, brainstorming and testing ideas in this area.

Costs A tough area for many entrepreneurs is the issue of ‘founder salaries’. It is important to address this. If you have been working for free in your spare time and ‘post investment’ are planning to go full time then you may not know how much to suggest. A rule of thumb is that until you are making a profit, approximately 50% of what you were making on a salary might be reasonable unless you have rare and highly valued skills and experience.   Investors won’t like the idea of you being too comfortable on the back of your take home pay from your startup. Results related bonuses, and salaries that rise as the company goes through agreed milestones make a lot of sense. 2021 update – I’ve recently heard this approach may be wrong. Maybe start ups should pay more, not less, than normal.

Competition – who are you competing against in your home market and internationally? Who is dangerous to you now and how are or can you be better than them? If you haven’t searched and checked who is doing this in foreign countries, do it now. Don’t show up to a meeting before you have tried to buy what you are thinking of selling on mfg.com, Ebay.com, Amazon.com and via a simple google searches. You may think you are the first person to have thought of renting out dogs You are wrong. Years ago I posted this Now Will Bunker who made his fortune in a dating site has invested in Borrow My Doggy which charges both the dog owner and borrower for the transaction and unsurprisingly is making money. A great example of it being more important to execute on an idea than be the one who has the idea first.

Strategic plan. How will you grow in terms of geographical spread and product/service offerings.

Benefits for investors. How am I, and other investors, going to make money?

End game. Are you going to exit? If so how, when, who are your potential buyers ?

Ownership/shareholders/Team: key team members etc. who apart from you is part of your set up?

Gaps what do you lack/what are your weaknesses/challenges? What else do you need that you don’t have today, and what are you doing to address them? As Gary Vaynerchuk says, self-awareness is a vital business skill.

Barriers to entry if you start turning into a high profit business. what is to stop others entering the market?

Dangers and threats. how could it “all go wrong”?

My role. How can I help you ? What is the main reason you approached me?

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured

Letter to a new potential business partner

This my most popular blog post –  I have slightly updated it for the beginning of 2020.

This article appeared in Proseed Start up Magazine in December 2012 here

I am aware that I don’t always live up to the standards I expect, but this are goals I aim for. By making them public, I pressure myself. Some of the points are written as if to a new key staff member, as part of their “on-boarding” process. I’m assuming that they have either invested in or have an key role in the organisation.

“Dear new potential business partner,

It was great to meet you, I really like your business idea, organization and approach and would like to express my strong interest in taking this co-operation forward. I believe that under your leadership we can offer great value to clients while making a lot of money.

People have very varied expectations of their business partners. To avoid a discovery process that could be painful and expensive for us both, I’d like to set out my expectations and standards. It would be great if you could also let me know which points you like and hate, and tell me the things that are important for you.

I am going to be direct. This is part of all healthy relationships, business or otherwise.

Our goals
We are aiming to build a first class business with great people, happy clients, and making lots of money. We will be clear to staff that it is not OK to behave like a cool company while living on borrowed money or shareholder funds. The only money we really deserve is that which comes from our clients, over and above our costs of operations. Our profit proves that what we do is valuable. We always want to be proud of what we do.

Setting an example You have been successful in your life to date. That’s impressive, and one of the reasons I want to work with you. Even if I do not understand why, success may be part of a pattern. This means that the bar is raised. I expect more from you than the average co-worker. What does this mean?

I do not want to be your boss and I don’t want to have to police your standards. We are partners. These expectations are what should happen when I am not around. The way you conduct yourself will impact greatly on the company you are going to build.

Bad moods and sulks
You will behave better than a dream employee. You are setting an example the company will follow, and which will define the culture. Even if your girl/boyfriend has been yelling at you, your parents are moaning, your kids are sick, you are sick, and you are “having a bad day”, you will leave your problems behind when communicating with staff. You will be positive, polite, responsible and punctual.

Communication and respect
Failing to respond is not OK – I connect this character trait with “irresponsibility”. You will read and respond to e-mails and phone calls within a time frame that you publicise. If you are too busy to respond in detail, you will tell the person who wrote to you that you are too busy, or that you are not going to reply. Ignoring incoming messages on the basis that you are “too busy” while happily updating your Facebook profile is dishonest as well as being rude. It sends a twin message that you believe you are too important to behave well and that you do not expect high standards of yourself. When you complete tasks you will let me know and expect the same of your team(s). A task is not done until you have communicated that it is done.

Hypocrisy You will communicate clearly your expectations of others and you will live to those expectations you set. If you want your staff to travel on Sunday evenings so that work on client sites starts Monday morning you will set an example and do the same.

Feedback If you have issues with the way people work you will give them clear feedback directly and in private so that they know what they have to do to make you happy. You are responsible for the organisation as a whole and as the leader you will get much of the credit, praise and rewards. To the maximum extent possible you will recognise the team that is doing much of the work, making it all possible, and allow them to feel important.

Behaviour in meetings
You will not take phone calls in meetings without checking if it is ok for the people you are with. You will not do your correspondence or Facebook/Skype chats during meetings. If you are using your computer for purposes related to the meeting, you will tell people why so they know you are not checking your e-mail, for example “I’m making notes about this meeting”. But it is better to take notes on paper, or with a digital pen.

Supporting your team
Your job as a leader is to understand the problems and concerns of people who report to you and give them support as well as constructive criticism. The reporting should be planned and predictable. All your direct reports should have some regular one on one time every week or two where they know that you expect them to discuss problems and agree solutions.

Being Tough
You will be tough on low standards. If people do not behave decently you will give them clear and immediate feedback about what they should be doing, giving them a chance to explain themselves. You will make clear from day one that people can be fired for backstabbing, dishonesty and intolerance.

Problem seeking and solving
You will encourage staff to look for problems, large and small, from spelling mistakes on the web site, untidiness in the reception areas, or horrible problems that might happen but no one has thought about (like who has “the passwords” if “the IT guy” quits), or who has the back up keys if the person who opens the building and their backup are both missing and unreachable . People who find problems will be expected to propose solutions when they report them. This can benefit the business in multiple ways..

CSR
Our corporate social responsibility policy is first and foremost be offer great services and products to our clients and to be a good employer that pays its staff, suppliers and taxes on time, Staff will be allowed to take time off for volunteering provided they are doing their jobs well, and will be consulted and have a chance to vote on the things we give donations to.

Processes and organisation are the DNA of the business.
The A of MBA is administration. We do not want bureaucracy but efficiency. Your management and planning process must enable all staff to know how things are done, how decisions are made and where to get the information and support necessary to do their jobs. External interactions (phone calls, emails and meetings) with suppliers, clients and partners must be recorded in a system staff have access to. As the boss you will set an example. Important information/contacts needs to go into a corporate memory so that we can survive and prosper even if someone dies, or quits (out of people’s heads and into our shared IT system). I suggest using project management/time management tools and a CRM like Salesforce.  A top manager once lost his job in a company I was an investor in when during a review it turned out his the main entry in his calendar was “not available”.

Planning and forecasts
We plan to make a profit, so our yearly budget forecast will tell us what level of sales we need to make our target profit, and our sales people need to work to hit or beat those targets. We will update our targets at least once a month based on current sales and the sales pipeline.

Time management
Yearly, monthly and daily “to do” lists, scrum, or another tried and tested planning process, via on line platforms so that everyone can see what everyone is doing are essential. Timecamp.pl is a good example.

Self Improvement Is for everyone including you (and me). It doesn’t require money but it does require effort and time. Anyone with access to Google has almost unlimited access to knowledge.

Meetings
Should be quick, useful and fun if possible.
Objectives should be clear. Tell staff that if they don’t know why a meeting is taking place they should clarify or refuse to go.
Weekly stand up progress and planning meetings with agreed objectives are important – what’s happened, what’s going on, what are we doing, what was good and bad (and problems, challenges, difficulties) Meetings should be followed by a written who does what by when. Basecamp is ideal for this.

Democracy and consultation
The company is not a democracy but team members should be consulted. The leadership decides what is best for the company as a whole taking account of the facts and the views of those whom it concerns.

Reporting and Transparency
All shareholders have the right to information in a startup business like ours. Benefits for owners like cars, computers, private travel on the company must be approved by the majority shareholders. Shareholders should get a monthly summary of working capital, sales, profits, new hires, firings, clients, strategic developments, and major successes or problems.

People
We will treat our staff well, fairly, and aim to be one of the best companies for the best people to work for. We will not hire people who are unpleasant or unreliable, We will have high expectations of people. We will aim to pay people attractive market wages. The CEO, bosses and managers should justify their wages. If they want increases in budget for their department and salary for themselves they should be able to offer more and raised productivity in return. Pay rises are not automatic.
All staff will get regularly appraised with clear feedback about what is good and bad, what we expect from them, and will have the chance to fix things we are not happy with. Manager-Tools.com has fabulous and largely free resources on how to manage people properly. Staff need regular one on ones, even if only 15-30 minutes every week.

Non competition and conflicts of interest We address our business opportunity through this company. No shareholder is allowed to engage in competitive activities to what we do without giving the company first refusal. If you sense a conflict of interest- you want to give a contract to a company run by a friend of relative, let the other shareholders know. Transparency is important.

New business areas
If a shareholder has a new business idea then he may discuss it with the other shareholders. If knowledge of the opportunity has arisen out of the business we do together he should discuss it. If there is a flow of money and/or know how from our business together to the new business, then we must discuss it. The closer it is to what we do already the more we can expect existing shareholders to have the right to be involved.

Problems
We talk about problems and propose solutions.

My contribution
I will do all I can to contribute my best ideas, advice, strategy but not take responsibility for operational stuff for managing projects, relationships or clients

Making things right
This is a long list – and everyone can get things wrong. If you do, you face it, fix it, say sorry and resolve to try not to do it again.

As I said at the beginning, this is my list. I’d like to know your reaction, and to know what matters to you.

Let’s get down to work!!