Every business has different objectives and goals, but whether the founders dream of a billion dollar exit or simply wish to scratch a creative itch, if it’s a commercial entity then there needs to be success of some sort.
Failure is the wrong outcome. No startup presents a business plan to investors that explains in detail how they’re going to go bust in nine months. So if you didn’t start your business with the explicit intention of failing, then failure is the wrong place to end up.
Failure is not a good thing. Stop saying it is. by Paul Smith
1. Don’t try and fight Paris, because Paris will win. Don’t try to base your diet around vegetables, don’t try to avoid cigarettes, don’t try to get up early. Paris doesn’t do these things and neither should you (you can do those things at home).
2. Don’t exercise in Paris. It’s not worth it and you will be shunned openly. Besides, smoking is a much more worthwhile use of your time because it helps you meet your target group: Parisians (see number 4).
3. Worried about gaining weight due to number 2? Don’t. Sit down to a meal and eat whatever you want—seriously eat the confit de canard and then eat the whole baguette and the camembert it comes with. Do that, and I guarantee you won’t be hungry again for about 30-40 hours*. Don’t forget to hydrate often with wine.
4. You really can’t do Paris properly without hanging out with a Parisian or two. Dating them is really the only strategy (they don’t need your friendship, sorry). Also, note that American accents are only charming to a Parisian in the romantic context.
5. Look up. Paris is ridiculously beautiful even in places where it shouldn’t be. The most average apartment building is prettier and older than where you live. You may step in some dog shit while doing this (it’s everywhere), but it’s worth it.
I’ve only had the privilege of spending 2 months here, which is really nothing. But I’ve been lucky enough to hang with some long-term expats and a Parisian or two. This is what I learned.
*This is the answer to that eternal paradox of “why are French women not fat?”
Nairobi, Kenya, made the news recently with tragedy, as is so often the case when it comes to Africa. But more and more encouraging stories are coming out of the tech scene in Africa.
Take, for example, Nairobi’s Hacker school.
You hear a lot about “change the ratio” and encouraging young people, especially young women, into technology. Njeri “Martha” Chuomo is 19 years old, a Ruby programmer living in Nairobi, and changing more than just the ratio.
This year she applied to, and was accepted by, New York’s prestigious hacker school – a three-month, immersive school for “becoming a better programmer” that is free to attend. An Indiegogo campaign to get Martha to New York exceeded her fundraising target – but she was refused a visa by the US authorities.
That was just the start of her journey.
Talking about the Westgate mall attacks, Martha is very passionate about the skewed view of Africa presented to the Western world.
“There is a lot of amazing people and initiatives creating impact in Africa. These stories more than often go untold. I call it the other story of Africa. The Westgate mall attack was a terrorist attack like any other that has happened in other parts of the world. I wish the world’s view of Africa would change.”
Martha’s description of Africa bears similarities to her own personal approach to life:
“So, Africa may have fallen at one point? We have since stood up, dusted ourselves off, and we’re now on a focused journey to develop ourselves.”
It was not so long ago that Martha was a straight-A student and her family expected her to go to medical school. Martha says that’s just the way things are in Kenya: if you’re a straight-A student then you go to medical school.
But while she was on her internship Martha had a computer to herself for the first time in her life. A natural curiosity as to how the technology worked led her to ask questions, and turning to the internet for answers when the people around her didn’t know the answers. Martha discovered she had an insatiable appetite for programming.
What a straight-A student doesn’t do is quit her internship, spend what little savings she has on a Netbook, and set out to teach herself programming. Before long, Martha was hired as a junior Ruby developer.
Martha decided to go to Hacker School in New York in January 2013. She was thrilled when she was admitted for the Summer batch:
“As soon as I got in, I started thinking of my how I would finance getting there. I tried asking family and friends, but that did not go well. I had just decided not to go to Medical School, so there was no support coming my way to attend a “Hacker School”. With nowhere else to turn, I decided to use the internet to get me to Hacker School.”
Martha was surprised by the response, with people from all over the world donating to her campaign. Martha says: “I was overwhelmed when I passed my target. So many people understood the power that programming gives me, and were happy to walk with me on my journey to becoming a better programmer”.
But funding her journey was only part of the problem. Because New York’s Hacker School isn’t a school in the traditional sense, Martha couldn’t apply for a student visa – but US immigration denied Martha a tourist visa on the grounds that she didn’t have strong enough links to return to Kenya.
Being denied a visa and her opportunity to take up her place at Hacker School just made Martha more determined.
“After all the effort I had put in, I got denied a visa; it did not make any sense at all to me. I owed it to myself and everyone else who supported me on my campaign to attend Hacker School. I decided to apply for a visa for the second time, and I got another denial.”
This is when, in Martha’s own words, she decided to bring Hacker School to her. Days after her second visa denial, Martha started another campaign to set up the Nairobi Dev School.
Nairobi Dev School opened its doors to the first group of attendees on September 16 this year, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.
NDS is an intensive three months of training in software development, and the first students are learning Ruby on Rails. Martha’s original plan was for the school to have resident mentors, but without funding they can’t afford it – instead Martha invites developers from the community to help.
Martha has so far been the only one guiding the training, as well as trying to run the school itself. Many late nights have made this possible, but she says it has compromised the efficiency of the training.
Funding is perhaps the school’s biggest challenge. As well as not having the funds for resident mentors, students are required to come with their own laptops for the course, but several have had to drop out because the school could not provide machines for them.
Setting up NDS has made Martha acutely aware of the education gap in software development in Kenya. She says there are a number of computer science training programs, but these are very costly, and are limited to a small group of people. There is also lack of awareness of the existence of software development as an option for a career path.
Martha says “My mission is to create awareness of the option and power of software development and offer training in it, and I plan to do this through Nairobi Dev School.
Nairobi Dev School opens opportunities for many people where previously there were none. The aim is that the students will be able to improve their lives through the programs of the school. More importantly, Nairobi Dev School will accelerate development in the region, by creating awesome tech talent.”
“The Kenyan tech scene also inspires me a lot. There are many young people who are working on amazing projects that are changing lives. The energy in the community keeps me going.”
Martha is determined to be the change she wants to see in the world. Recently invited to attend the UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris, Martha presented at the Youth Mobile Workshop what she refers to modestly as “a simple bootcamp on getting started on mobile development” and a “15 minutes of fame” session on the work she is doing at NDS.
Martha is quick to point out that she isn’t alone with Nairobi Dev School, and has the help of a friends from the UK. Until recently, Amberley Laverick was working in London, teaching literacy young people aged 16-23 at Kids Company (an organization providing practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children).
Amberley describes the young people as having fallen through the cracks of mainstream education, due to personal issues and at times a hostile experience at school.
While working for Kids Company, Amberley became involved with English PEN, who campaign to defend writers and readers around the world whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk. English PEN provided a writer-in-residence for weekly workshops, and Amberley became hooked on writing – and wanting to run workshops of her own.
Amberley says: “The workshops were essentially about creating a safe space in which we could find our voice though writing. The positive effect this had on the students, who were dealing with issues beyond anything you and I will ever know, was incredible to see.”
Amberley relocated to Nairobi and was introduced to Martha by a mutual friend still in the UK. Amberley is now one of the volunteer trainers at the developer school.
Part of the Developer school curriculum is for each student to keep a blog. However, Martha felt they needed help to start writing and invited Amberley to run a weekly workshop. Martha has her students doing all kinds of non-programmer activity: from a book club, to creative writing, and presentations.
In Amberley’s own words the aim is to create a group of programmers who not only code but put themselves out into the world, show off their skills, and take programming out of dark rooms.
Amberley says: “In the first week not a single student identified as a writer, but straight away there were many distinct voices in the room. As the weeks have gone on some of the students are really getting into it. I won’t make a writer out of all of them but it is empowering for them to write and share their words.
“Our next step is a spoken word event at the end of the year. Standing in front of people you don’t know and performing your words. Scary as hell, but an incredible sense of achievement when you do it.”
Martha has been influential in the Nairobi tech community prior to founding her Developer school. A co-organiser for the Nairobi Ruby User Group, and founder of the Nairobi MongoDB User Group, Martha also recently launched the Nairobi Google Developer Group for Women: a group whose aim is to increase diversity in the Nairobi tech scene.
For Martha, community is a core component of technology. Describing herself as a direct beneficiary of the community, she hopes to give back to it.
"In Japan the fear of being led astray by an untrustworthy spirit-fox is so pervasive that a set of social conventions has arisen by which people can assure one another of their humanness.
In telephone conversations such assurances are especially important, since the two parties cannot see each other and have to rely entirely on verbal codes.
One convention has it that foxes cannot pronounce certain sounds in human speech, such as the phrase ‘moshi moshi,’ which has come to be the standard telephone greeting and has no real meaning beyond demonstrating that the speaker can make non-vulpine sounds.
In effect, then, the greeting means ‘rest assured that you are not speaking to a spirit-fox who might trick you.’”
1. Don’t think that being published will make you happy. It will for four weeks, if you are lucky. Then it’s the same old fucking shit.
2. Hemingway was fucking wrong. You shouldn’t write drunk. (See my third novel for details.)
3. Hemingway was also right. ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’
4. Never ask a publisher or agent what they are looking for. The best ones, if they are honest, don’t have a fucking clue, because the best books are the ones that seemingly come from nowhere.
5. In five years time the semi-colon is going to be nothing more than a fucking wink.
6. In five years time every fucking person on Twitter will be a writer.
7. Ignore the fucking snobs. Write that space zombie sex opera. Just give it some fucking soul.
8. If it’s not worth fucking reading, it’s not worth fucking writing. If it doesn’t make people laugh or cry or blow their fucking minds then why bother?
9. Don’t be the next Stephen King or the next Zadie Smith or the next Neil Gaiman or the next Jonathan Safran fucking Foer. Be the next fucking you.
10. Stories are fucking easy. PLOT OF EVERY BOOK EVER: Someone is looking for something. COMMERCIAL VERSION: They find it. LITERARY VERSION: They don’t find it. (That’s fucking it.)
11. No-one knows anything. Especially fucking me. Except:
12. Don’t kill off the fucking dog.
13. Oh, yeah, and lastly: write whatever you fucking want.
Matt Haig, “Some Fucking Writing Tips” (via apatows)
"Who would use a graph database? Anyone and everyone who has connected data. From a two person bootstrapping social networking tech startup in someone’s shed, to Global 500 companies including HP and Cisco."Graphs are Sexy (and Bow-Ties are Cool)
Thanks! You’re much too kind :)
I met a man once who didn’t have a passport. He was middle aged, a respectable businessman. You know the sort.
I don’t know if there were complicated reasons behind his inability to travel outside of the United Kingdom, but he said that when people ask him about it he tells them that he is too busy working to go on holiday. Whose work is so important that it relies on them to be at home 365 days of the year?
Living in the UK, I can’t imagine not wanting to travel.
To me not having a passport says “This is good enough”, and that the rest of the world doesn’t measure up. What about the pyramids in the deserts of Egypt and the jungles of Central and South America? Not that interesting.
The Colosseum in Rome? Boring.
The canals of Venice? Second best to the Droitwich Junction canal.
Tokyo is waiting in the night, lit up like Piccadilly Circus on crack. Or there’s rain forests where you can stop, and listen, and hear no signs of civilisation.
When you’ve seen how big the world is, how can you make do with this?
There are various lists of the “7 Wonders of the World”, and you can compare and contrast them all day, but at best in the UK the only real “Wonder” you are going to see without a passport is Stonehenge — even if you wanted to count the Channel Tunnel (as the American Society of Civil Engineers do with their list) you’d still need a passport.
Don’t get me wrong, Stonehenge is an amazing place in its own right — but is it so good that once you’ve seen it you don’t have to think about the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal…?
You can see most of Europe by car if you are so inclined — the channel tunnel takes no time at all, and before you know it the rest of the continent opens up before you. Distinct and individual countries and people, side by side with their own private ways, old alliances and rivalries, rich varieties of languages and food.
Take in the view of Paris from the hills of Monmartre. Walk the streets of Madrid or Barcelona, and savour the smell of orange blossoms on the trees. Feel humbled among the orange tiled rooftops and green shutters of Dubrovnik, a city that has withstood centuries of earthquakes, fires and mortars to remain one of the closest places you will come to paradise on earth. Parts of the Berlin wall still stand, and even the city as a whole is like a living testament to some of the most important events of twentieth century.
But without a passport, they might as well be on Mars.
Even if you don’t like cities, you can find peace and solitude among the Alps, the Rockies, the Andes, the Himalayas. When you wake up one morning in the mountains and you are above the cloud layer, you know that even when you go back to your daily routine you won’t be the same again.
You can see giraffes grazing by the side of the road like cows on the African savannah, or travel the 1,100 kilometres of the Nullarbor plain through the Australian outback. Or you can stay where you are, at home, and these things will stay where they are, because there’s always work to be done.
You can take a pack of huskies across frozen lakes and hills between red painted barns and not see another living soul.
If the world’s a book and you’re on page one, who’s to say you will even like page two? You may not. You may hate it. But what about page three, or page 33? You could visit somewhere else every month for the rest of your life and never need to return to the same place twice.
Arguably, one of the greatest things about travel is returning home. Maybe nowhere will ever be as good or measure up to home, but not to travel is the equivalent of never reading more than one book because you already have a favourite, or refusing to listen to another song again because of there being one you like so much.
Sometimes I like to list all the cities whose rain I’ve known. Dublin where the locals shout across the street to comment about the weather and Lisbon, whose mosaic-tiled hills turn deadly in a storm.
Rainy cities where rivulets carry traffic cones down the road and sultry cities where middle-aged women pause with their cigarettes to offer sex when you’d rather an umbrella and cities where the dark clouds roll in over the surfers, bobbing in the water like seals. Cities where the rain is salty from the great lake. Cities where the rain fills the fountains and smooths the stone streets and cities where the rain has become part of the architecture and part of the soul of the people.
What you experience and what you learn when you explore gives richer depth and meaning to where you call home.
Originally posted at: http://under30ceo.com/do-you-have-a-passport-if-not-you-need-to-get-one-right-now/ follow me for more travel writing to come.