Ignite Athens

On 20th September 2012, a fantastic event happened in Athens, Greece. Entrepreneurs, business start ups, VCs, angel investors and mentors all gathered at the Onassis Cultural Centre to share their passion for innovation. I was honoured to be invited to speak about My Fail Tale, making failure positive.

Ignite Athens place card

Ignite Athens a fast-paced geek event started by Brady Forrest, Technology Evangelist for O’Reilly Media, and Bre Pettis of marketbomb.com, formerly of MAKE Magazine‘ was organised for companies and leaders to share innovation. Based on a pecha kucha style presentation, each speaker was given 5 minutes (20 timed slides, each 15 seconds long) to talk.

The morning session…

The day opened with a message from Nellie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission who talked about the Digital Agenda for Europe and the importance of supporting entrepreneurs in Europe.

Neelie Kroes video message

The morning then heard a number of speakers all connected with entrepreneurship either as mentors, business support, interesting initatives or with successful companies.

Here is a summary of the insights I picked up from the speakers:

  • Tolis Aivalis, (@aivalis) a business mentor and serial entrepreneur kicked off the event by talking about the important characteristics of an entrepreneur. Autonomy, strength and liberty were interesting key words.
  • Ryan from The Ink Factory (@the_ink_factory) demonstrated (via an animation) their amazing talent at graphic recording. ‘You talk, we draw, it’s that simple.’ Well, they make it look that simple but actually, they are fantastic at capturing the essence of your talk in a matter of minutes. Here is a photo of one of the boards they created throughout the morning.

Graphic recording by The Ink Factory

  • endeavor(@endeavorGR) gave an interesting talk about growth and how to support entrepreneurs. Apparently only 15% of entrepreneurs in Greece are female whereas only 8% are female in the EU. Why is this? These numbers are both incredibly low.We need to be more realistic about where we are and what we can achieve: aim high, dream but make sure you can reach that dream!
    Explore the power of corporations; but don’t boycot and create issues and share you ideas.
    Have a strong commitment to your start-up: solutions are not handed to us!
  • Ydir Vissers from Monitor Group explained their view on the paths to becoming an entrepreneur.
    – You could set yourself up in Silicon Valley and immerse yourself in the entrepreneurial surroundings.
    – Spawn off others through an anchor model path.
    – Follow heros that represent entrepreneurship.
    – Be put into an event driven environment where you have to succeed!
  • I added to the conversation by presenting the My Fail Tale project (video below), working to create a movement of change people’s attitude towards failure. The great news it that the subject was warmly welcomed and people were happy to discuss their failures. Well, more their fear of failure as most people in the room were entrepreneurs about to fail! The Ink Factory created this great representation of my talk:My Fail Tale

The afternoon session…

The afternoon session introduced a huge list of budding entrepreneurs in Greece. There were so many of them that it’s best you look them up yourselves if you’re interested. Here are some of my favourite:

Healthster ‘The smartphone app Hippocrates himself would endorse. Be CEO of your own well being. Taste health one bite at a time with Healthster’ @healthsternow

Gnostix ‘Social Media Monitoring & Analytics tool for results driven Social Media Marketing’ @gnostix

Weendy ‘Share the action, fun and conditions from any spot as it happens. Simple. Social.’ @weendyapp

Suibee ‘Suibee collects inspiring posts from people like you’ @suibeeapp

WOTgroup ‘helping women find mentoring in business’ @WOTgroup

Buddy Traffic ‘Buddytraffic is a fun and exciting crowdsourced app that helps you and your buddies report and avoid traffic’ @buddytraffic

Fashinating ‘Fashinating is online window shopping! Thousands of fashion products – apparel, shoes, bags, accessories, jewelry – from the best online stores worldwide are gathered in one place, to enable you to easily discover and buy the items you like.’ @fashinating

To sum up…
Ignite Athens did a great job at bringing entrepreneurs, innovators, business minded, inspiring people together in one place. The passion and excitement in the room created the foundations for business initiatives and forward thinking. I met people from all types of business with different skills and different dreams. I wish them all the best of luck and thank everyone for the insights and contacts I took away.

The talks can all be found here on YouTube.

You can watch Louise speak about My Fail Tale below:

 

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Visiting the Heatherwick Studio exhibition at the V&A

The OpenIDEO web start-up challenge winners had a London meet up at the V&A museum last weekend for a curated tour of the Heatherwick Studio exhition. We were very lucky to be accompanied by Stefan Ritter, Designer at Heatherwick Studios who took us round his favourite pieces in the exhibition.

V&A exhibition web page

The exhibition contains just one room of artifacts but you could spend hours in there looking at the vast variety of designs. From bridges to handbags to Christmas cards and benches – the exhibition is very inspiring and shows how the studio are experimental and innovative with a range of materials.

The start of the exhibition is where you collect your guide – but not just any old guide – the studio wanted to visually show how much paper is often used for producing show guides.  Here they had 1 tonne of paper stacked up in different diameter rolls to look like pottery on a wheel. The visitor can winde a handle to release the paper strip, then rip it off at the correct point.

Exhibition guide installation

The playfullness of ‘creating’ your own guide is a great way for visitors to interact with the paper they are using. Should you take a guide at all and save on paper or should you take the guide with you with the understanding of how much paper you have taken?

Exhibition guideI thought it interesting to see how visitors then held their guide. Some rolled it up, others folded it neatly and some looped the paper to keep it uncreased.

Exhibition Guide open

The Extruded Bench
The first piece we visited was the extruded bench. Inspired by iBeam contruction, the designer wanted to celebrate the normally discarded end piece of material. When an iBeam is extruded through a tool, the end is irregular and distorted and therefore cut off. A tool was made by the studio and the aluminium pressed through. The result, a beautiful piece of art which creates a bench to be sat on. One end is clearly a highly polished bench while the edges of the end create an interesting, unusual, unpolished shape.

tool and bench drawing

The bench is therefore one piece of solid aluminium. The explanation of the piece said ‘we were interested in consorted forms that emerge as metal is squeezed through a die’ – exquisite!

extruded bench from Heatherwick website

The Rolling Bridge
The next piece we visited was the rolling bridge. It isn’t uncommon to see a bridge that opens up to allow traffic through but this design made a real feature of the folding mechanism. As the bridge lifts up, it rolls back on itself to finally end in a confined octagon. Apparently the rolling bridge can be seen in Canary Wharf…

rolling bridge

The London Bus
I hadn’t appreciated that Heatherwick Studio had designed the new London Route Master bus. It was great to see a cross section on the vehicle and understand about the inspiration for the design.

London Bus from Heatherwick websiteThe studio worked with bus drivers to discover what design changes would make the bus more appealing to them to drive and even had an enthusiastic driver in their studio throughout the process.  Apparently it is important for bus drivers to be able to see children and people misbehaving on the bus, therefore the curvature of the interior was designed accordingly.

Passenger flow and air flow were also very important to consider when designing the new bus.

Route Master

Aberystwyth Artists Studios
Heatherwick designed a low cost set of artists studios in Aberystwyth, Wales. A really unusual set of buildings with an intriguing shape made out of crinkled aluminium. The structures are made out of a wooden structure with insultation foam covered by aluminium. The jig that was designed to crinkle the aluminium (to give the material strength) was fascinating. Each piece needed to be pushed through the teeth on the jig to create the unusual shape.

Aberystwyth artist studios from Heatherwick website

Floor tiles
I really liked the floor tiles that Heatherwick had designed for a shopping centre in Hong Kong. The design aimed to allow light to pass through the floors but had to be suitable for people to walk across in a busy environment.

Each tile contains 50 sheets of glass (for health and safety regulations) and a top layer with a non-slip surface on it. The designers used the layered glass and non-slip surface as a feature to create a very eye catching pattern through out the tile.

floor tile

The Science Museum Material House
Material libraries can be a huge database of materials to search through and it can be hard to display materials effectively. The Science Museum commissioned Heatherwick to find an innovative way to display their materials and the result is fantastic.

The Material House layers the materials into a scultpure with each access to the different pieces.

Materials House from the Science Museum website

‘Although the sculpture bears no resemblance to a conventional house, it playfully invites the viewer to reflect on how these materials are used in everyday life, suggesting there are no boundaries to the versatility of materials. The vibrantly coloured curving layers of Materials House give a feast for the eye, hand and imagination.’ Science Museum website

Seed Cathedral
The last piece to feature from the exhibition (but definitely not the last at the exhibition!) was the Seed Cathedral, designed by a nine member conglomeration of British business and government resources directed by designer Thomas Heatherwick. It referenced the race to save seeds from round the world in banks, and housed 60,000 plant seeds at the end of acrylic rods, held in place by geometrically-cut holes with the rods inserted therein. WikiPedia

Seed Cathedral from the Heatherwick website

Each acrylic rod was held in a wood structure with a transparent end to allow light in and a seed holder at the other to show case seeds from around the world.

The exhibition is on until 30th September and I highly recommend a visit. A good hour will allow you to look at each piece on display but a couple of hours will allow you to properly absorb the beautiful pieces on show. The prototypes and models that accompany each piece really interested me. A finished product is always good to see but understanding the idea behind the product and seeing how it has developed from a concept really fascinates me.

I was unfamiliar with Heatherwick Studio work before I attended the exhibition – now I’m very impressed with the innovative use of materials, pushing of design boundaries and imagination that has gone into each project.

Group photo outside the exhibiton

‘TED+’ becomes ‘My Fail Tale’ – thanks to attending the Digital Agenda Assembly

OpenIDEO set social challenges and put call outs for people to design solutions, better together. I’ve been involved in a number of the challenges over the last couple of years and each time find myself becoming more and more involved.

OpenIDEO

People are often intrigued as to why I choose to volunteer my time to contribute. That’s easy to answer; as a design interested in design for social good, it ticks all the boxes; I know I’m helping develop ideas to help others and help huge social issues, I get to meet designers and creatives from all over the world (albeit virtually) and I learn a huge amount. Other people’s point of view, suggestions, ideas and help is invaluable for developing myself in the world of social design.

The web start-up challenge interested me as I’ve increasingly found myself involved in web start-ups. The web opens up the potential of innovation, it is continuing to grow and more and more opportunities are appearing.

Following on from my own experiences and from speaking to web start-up founders it was clear that the majority have failed at some point in their career – they have either completely changed direction, closed one business and started up another or spent longer than expected to be successful. I believe that things happen for a reason and that positives comes from every negative – let’s embrace failure, let’s change our culture of hiding away from failure and let’s learn from other people’s mistakes.

That’s where the TED+ sharing failures, concept idea came from; let’s encourage people to talk about their failure stories and use the TED model to do this.

TED Positive

Being chosen as one of the 10 winners of the challenge was very exciting but being invited to share the concept at the Europrean Commission and collect an award as part the Digital Agenda Assembly was incredible.

The assembly was streamed live and here is an edited version of Tom Hulme introducing OpenIDEO followed by Amy Bonsall handing out the awards to the winners (sorry for the poor quality of the video!):

Although the community on OpenIDEO had provided really valuable feedback and contributions, having the opportunity to discuss the concept in person with members of IDEO, the other winners and members of the European Commission really helped develop the concept on even further.

It was clear that introducing another Failure conference series may not be the best way to realise the concept – I want to reach everyone, change the culture, build a community and help people possibly scared to launch into the start-up world to realise they can do it.

TED Positive has moved to www.myfailtale.com – the site is aiming to create a movement. It will be the place to share and learn from others. It’s your one-stop website for all failure stories told in a fun, positive way!

My Fail Tale

Please share your stories…send them via twitter using the hashtag #failtale, record a video and email it to me, send me web links to interesting articles or attend a conference where failure stories are told (FailCon will be holding an event in Paris on 25th September) – once the stories have been curated, the site will go live – watch this space, I’m really excited to see how far the message can be spread!

Ecoinomy launches new website

For those that aren’t familiar with Ecoinomy, they are a behaviour company whose aim is to motivate employees to be less wasteful in the workplace.  Their online system encourages behaviour change by creating communities of employees who are rewarded for saving money.

Ecoinomy home page www.ecoinomy.com

Ecoinomy home page http://www.ecoinomy.com

Creating behaviour change takes time. It is not a matter of telling people to do something different or about removing items that encourages bad habits. It is about empowering people to feel they are making a difference that they benefit from.  Making changes alone often feels pointless and goes unrecognised but making changes as a group where you can see a tangible difference can be incredibly motivating and rewarding especially if there is an element of competition involved. This is what Ecoinomy does!

Ecoinomy has two offerings – the eco.system which is aimed at organisations who have more than 250 people who would use the system and eco.logic which is aimed at departments, project teams or companies with less than 250 people who would use it.  Both work in a similar way – a cause (charity, community group, event etc) to save money for is agreed, people join the system and enter their cost savings into the system.  A carbon calculator estimates the amount of CO2 saved and the money calculator adds up the money saved.  A percentage of this money goes to the chosen cause.

It’s a win, win, win situation – the company saves money by the employees consciously changing their habits (whether it’s reducing their printing, cycling to a meeting or not ordering biscuits for the next meeting), the employee sees a reason to think sustainably and feels motivated in the workplace and the environment wins because the CO2 emissions are reduced. Once momentum builds on the system and people see new ways to save money, the system becomes invaluable.

There is also a free e.Book ‘Ecoinomics’ on the website which can be downloaded for tips on how to operate in a less wasteful way. The fun illustrations and novel examples are not only thought provoking but also obvious and easy to carry out!

The fantastic thing about innovation like the Ecoinomy systems is that it creates interaction within the workplace and encourages employees to think further than the workplace.  If workplaces can become less wasteful and attitudes changed by employees seeing how much money they can save for their company and cause, then the hope is that those messages will go back to the home and we can live on a happier planet.