Category Archives: Workplace

Tech Startups: a cowboy’s playground

This morning I read an article (thanks for ruining my day, Financial Times) that made my heart sink. The piece reported cases of a multitude of so-called tech startups gone bust – mainly because their owners were sleazy car salesmen. Let’s be real, being an opportunist is synonymous with being an entrepreneur. That’s why the big guys (and women, let’s not exclude) are where they are today. But I think what makes this story personal, is that it’s one that hits close to home.

Around August of 2016, I was offered a Social Media Manager role with a home shopping channel. I had just moved back to London from Berlin a few months before, and I was brimming with all kinds of inspiration. I spent four months working for Zalando, Europe’s biggest pure play retailers (sans UK) and I hated it. But it did trigger my penchant for being innovative. I was interviewing for a couple of companies, and when I spoke about 360 videos and Facebook canvas ads, the prospective employers didn’t know shit, a bit too forward for their capacity. But The Craft Channel’s team liked what I was about and gave me the job. The job, as it turns out, consisted of going around the TV studio doing Facebook live sessions and occasional FB contests. Also consisted of a bit of Instagram posts, it was creative, but not innovative, in term of what  that means to me.

Anyway, the company fell by the wayside because the owner, a Northerner with very white veneers, and very blue eyes, he kinda looked like a C-list Game show host, was living it up on the investment he received from who the office referred to as ‘The Germans’. He spent the money on frivolous shit, me included, because he could not afford someone with my brain and skills. Close to the end, he had made a big announcement that the company was at risk of going under. They had limited time to find investors or else no one would get paid, not even him (hint: offshore accounts). Guess what happened….

I had got the phone call from the company’s rescue team of the redundancy. They didn’t quite know for sure, but they hoped everyone would get a portion of our salaries. I have to thank the angels for helping me to land another gig as quickly as I did, but the fact my final minuscule salary, whatever was left of it, was paid by me filing a government redundancy claim, knowing that two months prior, there was a lavish party for The Craft Channel’s one year anniversary, put a damper on things for me. (Since then, The Craft Channel did get a new investor who tried to swindle 20K from the company’s accounts and sold the business for a pound – 1).

It was a blessing. I had grown board and frustrated with working with seniors who didn’t understand my job. I wanted to leave. And I believe the angles ejected me from the situation and made the decision for me. But since then I’ve been working jobs, that while they are super cool, are designed under a organisational structure and way of working that I could do without. The case of Neo from the Matrix.

I don’t really want to call myself an entrepreneur. But I know that I don’t take directions well, I’ll even go so far as to say it makes me angry. I like to figure out problems on my own. I’m very hands on. And I really can’t stand top-down delegation.  So, the blue pill is on the table, and I want to take, but then there’s this idea of cushion funds because you can’t just leave your job and dive into the unknown, right?
Well, these slimy startup guys did and they banked hard. Even if there was the concept of work involved, it’s couldn’t have been valuable enough for them to appreciate what it was that they had. How do you burn through 200m in eight months?

Taxi company Karhoo’s chief executive threw parties in Las Vegas, inscribed cigars with its logo and rented three apartments in Manhattan for personal use of senior management.

So basically, these guys pitched being the next Uber to investors who were eager for a share in the market, only to see the company shut down after six months. I get that they probably spent a bit of time building a prototype but no way.

The lesson to be learned from all this, is that there’s a rat race at the bottom of the tech world, but as long as you can nail the art of persuasion, the actual end result doesn’t really even matter. You don’t even need to have an original idea, just say you want to create the next YouTube platform and voila.

People say money doesn’t grow on trees. Are you sure about that?

An office is not the digital way

Before I moved to London back in 2011, I was freelancing as a Social Media Consultant in Toronto for a fashion recruiter. He paid me about $500 (CAD) per week to post on his social media. I had a LinkedIn strategy. I created a Tumblr blog. I Tweeted. This gig helped me to stay focused, and ultimately move to London. All I had to do was go to his home office once per week for a catch up, and then I was on my way. When I made my way back to the UK, we both decided to wrap it up because it’s harder being virtual across the pond as opposed to another province or state.

I got my first ‘big brand’ social gig with Red Bull Music. The role was exclusively remote. I did the job whilst working in another office job. That was probably one of my most productive moments since being in the UK. There was a team of four of us, and none of us were within vicinity of each other. Actually, we hadn’t even met for a coffee. But we communicated on Google Chat, SKYPE, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, WeChat, LINE, Facebook audio and video calling, and we managed to make the campaign a success.

Most of my careers in London have been online based. Actually, they’ve been exclusively digital: online product copywriter, social media manager, etc. Yet, for some strange reason, the employer has been adamant about the team being in an office, and working under a particular regime. That’s pretty ironic, and backwards. If you want to be a digital first company, you need to think digitally. It’s understandable if the person needs to be in the country, or be able to commute to the office occasionally, but looking at it now, as a professional doing what I do, it’s hard to take company that wants to be ‘digital first’ seriously, but expect their employees to clock in and be ‘chained’ to a desk. And there’s no excuse that can justify this.

Recently I was told that remote working doesn’t work for a company because they have an ‘integrated way of working across all channels.’ Bull shit. Being digital in itself is an integration across all channels. Being digital is seamless. People live on their phones. Getting on the tube (or subway/metro) two years ago in London meant a chance to catch up on a good book. Two years later, it’s about checking your emails, or playing some type of game in the form of app. When I go to Westfield after 7pm, you can clearly hear people talking to colleagues about work. People are talking about work anytime of day. Which means that the 9 to 5 is dead. People are working away from work. So, the idea that people working for a digital first company or department need to commute into real estate is bogus.

I don’t even think it’s necessary to list off the benefits of working remotely but here it goes:

Less distractions: need I say more?

Cost effective: It’s cheaper to work virtually because you’re saving on real estate

Convenience: In your element, thus more focused

Productivity: Someone who works from their laptop is more likely to work longer and harder than someone who has consider getting up, getting ready, commuting and everything else in between

And those are just a few of the reasons working remotely is the better option. Now, bear in mind that I have done jobs where I felt compelled to work in an office. This leads me to believe that culture also needs to be taken into consideration. If you love the job and the people, then it’s likely you’ll love getting up for work everyday. But even if you do, digital first companies should still have a digital way of working.

Having a so-called laptop lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It takes discipline. But take me for example. I have this blog. I’m going back to school to complete an online degree. As a digital native, having a virtual job is a missing piece to the puzzle.

I’m also thinking that this virtual mentality is more of an American thing. Here in the UK they’re behind, which is funny, because the UK is ahead in terms of the rest of Europe. But I won’t be surprised if this country finally takes the hint once they realise the benefits.

In the meantime, it may make more sense for me to go where the real game-changers are.