Starting up with the startup tribe

This is my update for activity in the "startup tribe" (connected with "The Escape School" and Escape the City).

Two weeks ago I did my Startup MBA course.

Main learning points:

  • The course was packed with information and personal experience, based on "The Lean Startup" and the business model canvas (so plenty that was familiar for me to hang the new information onto).
  • I was interested in the similarities and differences between tech startups (the main emphasis for the course) and starting up a businesses with long term social impact (my focus).
  • Learning is often to be valued above money (i was glad to be told that, because the learning bit has been my emphasis for years - but I do need to focus more on the money now)
  • It's fine to not be sure exactly what you're doing and to keep changing as you go along (what a relief - that's my style - I'm not nearly clear enough yet to "start pitching").

We're on a 100 day countdown for whatever we do in the startup tribe, and the days are shooting past.

It began at Hub Westminster ref Dadamac Foundation

I'm not a typical startup tribe recruit, and originally I was interested, not for myself or a startup, but indirectly, on behalf of Dadamac Foundation.

Ever since the tiny Dadamac Foundation Committee (all three of us) decided to move Dadamac Foundation up to a new level, we've been wondering how best to find the trustees we'll need to implement that vision. I had shared this challenge with someone at an "I Am Networking" event for charities. He advised me to contact local solicitors and/or accountancy firms as possible sources. He told me it was the ideal way to find potential, enthusiastic, young trustees with relevant skills who'd welcome the opportunity to widen their experience. It made sense, but somehow I didn't see myself doing the cold-calling to search them out.

Then, early in August, I fell into conversation at Hub Westminster with Matt Ford of GrowMovement. He told me about Escape the City - and how there would be a whole collection of restless City types looking for something interesting and worthwhile to do, while considering their future working lives. That sounded far more promising. I wondered how Dadamac Foundation might connect. So I checked it out, and I continued to wonder. No immediate hurry. The space was open, but it wasn't launching properly until September.

A startup with Nikki -  Dadamac Connect.

Meanwhile I had been increasingly back in contact with Nikki Fishman after a gap (see Nikki's blog - Adieu for now

During 2013 Nikki had developed "Collage Network". She built its "social capital" (i.e. her contacts, credibility, knowledge and networks) and she'd done "proof of concept", and attracted some money and other resources, but not quickly enough to declare it sustainable. Unlike me, she still has family responsibilities, so she had to find a "proper part-time paid job" as well. Recently she reluctantly decided it was best to park Collage Network for the time being and we've been able to catchup with each other again.

We've become convinced that there is real value in all the skills, strategies, knowledge and networks we've built up together and separately over the years. We've learned so much, through our online work with John Dada and others in Nigeria and elsewhere (learning not just about Africa, but about collaborating at a distance, and with people from different cultural backgrounds). What we know from that work has wider relevance and connects with other things we've done in London, and elsewhere.

What is emerging now, i.e. the work we'd like to offer, couldn't be contained in Dadamac Foundation (which is a registered charity related to work in Africa). Our ideas connect too many things beyond the scope of Dadamac Foundation, so it must emerge in some other way.

It won't be a charity. It will need to earn its keep. We're calling it Dadamac Connect, (which may, or may not, be a good idea) and on September 1st Nikki registered it.

This means I'm now co-founder of a startup, which we're launching while doing our other (individual, paid) work.

Joining the Startup Tribe

The deadline for officially joining the Startup Tribe was September 5th, so, with Dadamac Connect formally registered I filled in a form, hoping it wouldn't matter that I wasn't escaping the city.

So here I am, just over a month into my startup tribe experience -  learning about launching a startup, supported by others with similar interests, and feeding back what is useful to Nikki.

I don't want to confuse people in the startup tribe, by turning up with my "other identity" of someone who's looking for help with my voluntary work in Dadamac Foundation. I'm here now to launch Dadamac Connect. But I've got until December 6th with the startup tribe and that should be enough time to get to know people and discover who might welcome an invitation to be a Dadamac Foundation trustee.

Loving it

I'm loving my new Identity in Dadamac Connect. At last I have "a label" that celebrates the many and varied connections Nikki and I have with people, organisations, initiatives and ideas.

Already, under the Dadamac Connect label, people are communicating with us in a way that wasn't so easy before. Our idea of a membership organisation has started to happen, although we haven't launched it formally yet, and new collaborations are starting to emerge based on previous connections, although we haven't gone looking for them yet.

We're trying things out at early stages (as advised on the Startup MBA) adjusting our plans in response to the input of others. and each week seems to bring more clarity on the next steps. By Christmas we should really be able to show the value of what people and organisations can connect to through Dadamac Connect.

Dadamac Connect Newsletter

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