The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Coffee talk: Rena Tom, passionate connector and master curator — October 22, 2015

Coffee talk: Rena Tom, passionate connector and master curator

Two years ago, we talked to San Francisco local Rena Tom who had just cofounded the Makeshift Society, a coworking clubhouse for creatives. Today, we caught up with Rena to talk about how the community has grown, where she’s found new inspiration, and why she continues to put people at the center of her work.

We chatted back in 2013, but would love to get your early story on the record. How did you get to where you are today?

Circuitously yet fortuitously! I wandered from web design to print work and jewelry design, to owning a store and finally to coworking. I really have no idea what’s next for me, though I am looking for work if anyone still wants a generalist/community builder/event planner. 🙂

The Makeshift society has grown so much since we last talked. But tell us: when did you first develop the idea of a place ‘for creatives, by creatives’?

I sold my business in early 2011 and was ramping up my consulting business. I found myself working at cafes, trying to find a quiet place to call clients on Skype, and a bit lonely. Basically, I need a place to work and socialize so I invented it with the help of Victoria Smith and Suzanne Shade.

We wanted to provide a safe, creative space for people to be their best selves. 

What has been the most rewarding part of running the Makeshift Society?

It’s been great finding the best way to explain to people what we do — basically fine-tuning our mission statement every time we talk to prospective members.

Photo by Sarah Deragon

The members have truly shaped our results, and I’m proud of that. I’m also super proud that they continue to do so, to find ways to collaborate and enjoy their own work while supporting others’ work too.

How have you continued to find freelancers, creatives and teams to fill the beautiful space?

We have great word of mouth and because we are friendly to all freelance fields who touch the creative industry, it’s a nice diverse mix of people and professions. We’ve learned to use social media a lot to showcase the space and the members and that brings in new people all the time for our classes and events. We’re indie and very “human” and it shows with our words and images.

How do you describe the vibe and people at Makeshift Society today? What kind of person is drawn to the mission and the space?

San Francisco has come to reflect the West coast well — the vibe is very casual, DIY, and a little bit bohemian. The community started at the maker/blogger/photographer end of the creative spectrum but now includes more design studios and programmers.

Makeshift Society: A clubhouse for creatives

When the Brooklyn location was open, we had more writers, architects, and the like — they loved the more polished, industrial and modern feel of the space. It’s not surprising that the SF space was a little more like me, while the NY space a little more like my business partner there, Bryan Boyer.

Last time we spoke, you told us about the business side of owning Rare Device, a design-led shop in New York City and San Francisco. We’re passionate about curation, so we’d love to know: how did you curate the acclaimed in-store selection?

Rare Device really came from searching the Internet as I initially scoured the web to find products from small designers and international makers who were not represented in the US. Eventually, I attended the trade shows — but doing as much independent research as possible made Rare Device quite unique.

I’m a fan of minimalism, so simple, functional shapes in a limited black and white palette was my signature, as well as incorporating textures like wood and felt to warm things up.

When I partnered with artist Lisa Congdon for our second shop, her vintage sensibilities meant more great graphics, patterns, and bright colors, while still hewing to the Rare Device look.

Which designers, curators, shops, and museums are your favorites?

For influences, I’m currently a fan of MOMA, Canoe, and the ladies at Sight Unseen.

What events and classes do you love and recommend in Brooklyn or San Francisco?

In San Francisco, I like Workshop Residence and the artists they choose for their residencies. They make work for sale but also hold workshops so you can learn techniques, too. Brooklyn (and NYC in general) has a great design festival, NYCxDESIGN, and I read http://whrw.hn/ for a curated view at cool events.

Which Makeshift Society classes have been most valuable to you in the last couple of years? Why?

I liked taking our calligraphy class and a ceramics class. The hands-on classes let me get out of my head and let my hands do the thinking.

Where can we find you online today?

Mostly I’m on Twitter and Instagram, but you can also find me at renatom.net and makeshiftsociety.com.

Last, how do you like your coffee?

I used to drink it with a little cream and no sugar, but lately I’ve switched over to chai. My stomach thanks me!

The top 10 business books every professional and entrepreneur should read — July 31, 2015

The top 10 business books every professional and entrepreneur should read

There are hundreds of thousands of books about business available today, which can make it tough to cut through the noise to find those that actually provide actionable advice. From great reads for startup CEOs to books about the importance of team building and psychology, we’re sharing a few of our favorites:

  1. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

    It’s an unfortunate fact that 80 percent of startups fail, but Ries believes that many of them don’t have to. When writing, he considers that a majority of failed companies don’t have the surplus time, money or manpower to complete extensive A/B testing and other market research strategies — so he offers advice about how to reduce product development cycles, find out what customers really want, and adapt to the marketplace before resources run out.

  2. Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

    There’s a reason why this book landed on both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Seller lists. A company is only as good as the talent it attracts and keeps, so Bock offers an in-depth explanation for a proper manager-employee relationship. Furthermore, he lists the exact qualities to look for when adding members to a team and explains the importance of finding balance between encouraging creativity and maintaining structure. Google is consistently rated one of the best places to work, and the insights shared here make it easy to understand why.

  3. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick

    How did a student create one of the fastest growing companies of all time, completely transforming the Internet and how humans interact online? Here, veteran technology reporter Kirkpatrick offers a detailed history of Facebook and how it became the incredible company that it is today. This impressive, inside story speaks to why Facebook was started, the company’s early missteps, power of uncompromised vision, struggle between growth versus profit, and what’s next.

  4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

    It’s a well-known fact that it’s easier and more cost-effective to keep a customer than acquire a new one. Eyal takes this concept a step further by exploring intriguing questions such as: why do some products get mass attention while others just flop? What makes a product so addictive that the customer can’t put it down? Is there a pattern as to how technologies hook us? Based on years of research, experience and consultations, Eyal is able to share smart findings along with practical, actionable steps for building a successful product.

  5. Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook by Dan Shapiro

    One of the best ways to learn is by example, and Shapiro’s book is chock-full of summaries that cover companies with varying degrees of success. Vividly explained are the five stages of a startup CEO, how to finish with respect to board members, staying loyal to a management team, and tips for maintaining financial security. As one reviewer wrote, “The thing that sets Dan’s writing apart from other startup books/blogs is his focus on translating his experiences (across several different types companies) into actionable advice for other entrepreneurs.”

  6. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

    “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.” We’ve all heard the popular phrase “mind over matter,” and Dweck builds on this age old theory that with the right mindset, you can change your internal dialogue from being judgmental to helping one to grow; from praising talent to acknowledging hard work. Many have deemed this a must-read for anyone in a leadership position (including managers, teachers, parents and even CEOs).

  7. Hackers And Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham

    Graham takes the unique approach of drawing on historical events and examples to explore what he calls, “an intellectual Wild West” in this series of essays. As computers swiftly take over our lives, Graham discusses the roles of programmers, hackers, and software designers and how they will forever change how we think and live. While you may disagree on some of his views on life, it will certainly get you thinking.

  8. The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

    In the 1980s, Kawasaki helped shape Apple into one of the greatest companies of the century. As founder and CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, he has field-tested his ideas with dozens of entrepreneurial companies. With the incredible experience and success to back up his theories (presented with humor and real-world savvy), Kawasaki brings an arsenal of ideas to equip any business owner for potential challenges.

  9. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

    Theil started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002 — establishing a new era of fast and secure online commerce. Here, Theil shares his personal insights and anecdotes while raising important questions for budding entrepreneurs, including: Is now the right time to start your particular business? Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future? Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product? Are you starting with a big share of a small market? With strong ideas and principles to help build the foundation of any business, Thiel’s advice shouldn’t be missed.

  10. The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz

    If you want a simple, cut-to-the-chase approach to launching a startup, this is it. Michalowicz explains his path to success in just three simple steps: 1) Plant the right seeds by identifying the thing you do better than anyone else and focus all of your attention, money, and time on figuring out how to grow your company doing it; 2) Weed out the loser customers that waste your time and invest in the customers that add the most value and provide the best opportunities for sustained growth; and 3) Nurture the winners by focusing on how you can make their wishes come true and deliver on every single promise.

About our contributor // Christina Morales is a freelance writer specializing in creating online marketing content. Her dream is to one day rule the world with just an iPad, a case of Cherry Coke, Twizzlers, and a glue gun.

The world on your terms: why you can start a successful business anywhere — July 5, 2014

The world on your terms: why you can start a successful business anywhere

globeIt is common thinking that you need to be in San Francisco to start a big software company, in Paris to create the world’s best restaurant and on Wall Street to build the a successful hedge fund.

…but that’s not always the case. Chris Hexton explains…

Should Atlassian have thrived in Sydney? How did Noma become the best restaurant in the world, in Denmark?

These people broke the rules, and so can you.

There are three things that can empower you to start a company with major growth potential, no matter where you are:

  1. A global focus. When you’re driving a car at speed if you focus directly on an object, it’s likely you’ll hit it. Similarly, if you’re focused on being the best in your home market, that’s what you’ll be. If, however, you dream of being the best in the world from day one, you’re much more likely to find a way to turn this dream into practical steps that lead to reality.
  2. Access to the tools you need. Technology has changed the way we work. “Work” is now an action, not a place. This means that with a fast net connection and some elbow grease, you can serve clients all over the world from your home town, wherever that may be. Invest in the other tools you need to be successful – top-of-the-line computers, video conferencing gear, high-end software and most importantly, people. The right team can raise your company to new levels time and time again.
  3. A passion for where you live. If you aren’t happy, it’s nearly impossible to succeed at building a business. In order to maintain the necessary motivation and drive, it’s key to spend your time in a place you love. Whether that’s San Francisco, Sydney, Stockholm or Shanghai, the right atmosphere will fuel you with energy.

Global focus

When James and I started Vero, we lived in San Francisco. After just six months we decided to move back home to Sydney, Australia.

A big part of this decision was that we had committed to bootstrapping Vero and needed as much support as we could get from friends, family and the home city we knew and loved.

Over a year later, we’re more than happy with how things have turned out and how bright the future looks. The biggest fear we had before we returned to Australia was that people wouldn’t take us seriously.

After all, ”Why would customers in Europe or the US care about someone from Australia?”

It turns out that if you deliver a product that people want and customer service that impresses, customers don’t get hung up on location.

Moreover, we don’t act like we’re solely interested in Australian customers. In fact, we think big.

Everything we do – from marketing and customer support to development and strategy – is designed to help grow Vero into one of the world’s key email service providers. We wonder how we can build a template editor as good as Mailchimp’s, an audience as inspired as KISSmetrics’ and revenue as quickly as Dropbox.

Keeping a global attitude can be hard when you’re not ‘in the thick of it’ but there are a few things that have helped us keep our eyes on the prize:

  • Competitors around the globe. From San Francisco to Paris, Vero has competitors that we respect. Keeping the fire alive and challenging us to grow as fast as (and even faster) than these great companies is a huge help in terms of ambition and global focus.
  • The hunt for customers on the cutting edge. At Vero, customers that spend time exploring how email can grow their business are a pleasure to work with. Finding customers that want to push the boundaries usually means looking to the global leaders, regardless of where they’re located. We have amazing customers in Berlin, New York, Mexico and Israel, and we’ve seen first hand just how smart people are. These customers are located in some of the world’s most exciting cities and they inspire us each and every day.
  • An open mind. Is it cool to have customers in Berlin that have more customers than the entire population of Australia? Damn right it’s cool. Is it cool to have built something that helps them connect with these customers? We live in a crazy, high-speed, global world and you need to embrace every minute of it.

The tools

You need to be in a place that has everything you need.

If you’re a 23-year-old bootstrapping the dream, this might be your parent’s basement for a while. If you need $2 million, then you’re going to need investors. If you need a tech team of four, then you’ll have to find them.

Where can you best get the resources you need? At home, abroad, somewhere cheaper? I remember reading an article in Monocle advocating the pros of starting a company in your home city. The statistics suggested success rates were generally higher, as founders can get what they need from trusted connections they have made throughout their lives.

There is no doubt that legal, tax, employment and other advice has been easy for me to find at Vero here in Sydney: never more than a single phone call away. This has helped us immensely to date.

A passion for where you live

When my co-founder, Damien, sent me this photo a few mornings ago – and this is just around the corner from where he lives – it was a reminder of the passion and joy he has for where he lives (sunny Manly, in Sydney).

Coffee at Manly

There is an important distinction between ‘comfortable’ and ‘complacent’. You constantly need to find ways to raise the bar but, when so much of this comes motivating forces like customers, competitors and even an entrepreneurs internal fire to prove they can win, it’s important to live in a place you love, not hate.

This could be San Francisco or New York City, it could be Sydney or London, or it could even be Chang Mai. There comes a time in any business where most people can’t work 16 hour days every day. Rest is important (science says so, as does common sense). Being somewhere you can do the things you love, such as surfing in the morning, makes for happier people.

About our contributor // Chris Hexton is the co-founder of Vero. Follow him on Twitter via @chexton.

Image credit: via Martin Klasch

Top 13 London Venues for Tech Events — September 22, 2013

Top 13 London Venues for Tech Events

STH

If you’re an event organiser looking for an interesting venue to host your next tech event, then check out our list below.

Most coworking venues have spaces to hire (you can view our guide to coworking in London here), but we wanted to highlight alternative spaces for your next conference or event.

Spaces for a conference

1. The Brewery

One of our top venues to hold a major conference is The Brewery. In the past, London Web Summit, Wired Conference and FOWA have pitched up here. With a massive auditorium that holds up to 800 people, The Brewery is an ideal venue to host a major conference. There are plenty of break out rooms too for networking and exhibition space.

2. Shoreditch Town Hall

Based in the heart of London’s Tech City, is Shoreditch Town Hall, home to Digital Shoreditch Festival for the last couple of years. There is a grand hall with a stage plus balcony seating for extra capacity. There are several rooms downstairs for workshops and ‘spill over’ areas, however the t-junction at the entrance to the stairs isn’t ideal for networking space. In lieu of this, there is a great space in the basement for an different kind of exhibition including a rabbit warren of cellar rooms; ideal for tech + design + art displays.

Spaces for an exhibition 

3. Business Design Centre

The Business Design Centre is a traditional venue for exhibitions and conferences based in Angel, Islington. It’s best known for major exhibitions such as TNT Travel Show 2013. It’s a great venue for business and entrepreneurial showcases and exhibitions.

4. The Old Truman Brewery

Situated on Brick Lane, the Truman Brewery is a huge warehouse available to be use as an exhibition and conference venue, near the centre of Silicon Roundabout. Known for the Silicon Milkroundabout Jobs Fair, it’s a great venue with plenty of space, and good for hosting exhibitions, road shows and events.

Spaces for networking drinks 

5. Shoreditch Grind

If you’re looking to hire out a venue for some networking drinks, then check out The Shoreditch Grind, a great venue on the corner of Old St Roundabout, and well known haut for Silicon Drinkabout drinks. We love that you can change up their iconic sign, to give your event a personalised touch!

The LightBar

6. The Light Bar

Another great venue to hold a networking event is upstairs in The Light Bar, complete with a lounge area and an outside balcony. It’s perfect for parties, meetings, corporate functions and presentations. It includes a fully stocked bar, DJ booth plus catering options.

Having a private screening?

7. The Hospital Club

If you are looking for a private cinema for a screening, then check out the private members club, The Hospital Club, which has a private cinema that seats approximately 50 people, complete with a popcorn maker and a catering service. It’s a very stylish venue which offers private networking areas for pre- or post-event events.

8. Rich Mix Cinema

For an alternative cinema experience, hire a screening room the independent Rich Mix Cinema in East London. There are several small cinema rooms available with adjoining function rooms for extra event space.

Looking for a room with a view?

9. Altitude360

With a panoramic view of London, Altitude360 is the perfect venue to host a conference, workshop or networking event. The venue offers theatre style conference setting, integrated and customisable audio/visual options plus in-house catering.

10. Centre Point Tower

Based in the centre of Soho, Paramount’s Centre Point Tower, has a restaurant/ bar private dining rooms plus a 360 degree viewing gallery of the city. It’s a good venue for networking events, awards and socials.

Hosting an awards or after party?

11. LSO St Luke’s

For an unusual venue to host your next awards evening, then take a look at LSO St Luke’s centre which is a renovated church. Home to the Lovie Awards for the last couple of years, it’s a unique and stylish venue, great for any event or awards ceremony.

12. Village Underground

If you’re hosting an after party, and you’re looking for oodles of space, then look no further than Village Underground, which is a renovated warehouse in the middle of Shoreditch. With a capacity of 1000 people, this is the place to throw an after party to end all after parties.

On a boat?

13. HMS President 

If you’e throwing a networking event, then check out the HMS President, and host your party on a boat. With a massive ballroom, complete with a stage and decorative fairy lights, this is an excellent venue to host a party with a difference.

This list has been inspired by @Joshr’s crowd sourced list of London Tech Friendly Event Venues.

Subscribe to The Fetch’s weekly email digest for the best events happening in London via thefetch.com.

Image credit: Top: Shoreditch Town Hall, middle: The Light Bar

Five unexpected things you can do to grow your personal brand — July 31, 2013

Five unexpected things you can do to grow your personal brand

YourPersonalBrandOutlivesyurProfessionBrand

I love Facebook’s mantra of “done is better than perfect” and it resonates with my opinion that nothing you can do can ever be perfect. Except for one thing: you can be perfect at being yourself.

We’ve all heard the constant drum beating that surrounds your personal brand (especially what that looks like online) and how you should be building/nurturing it. The experts say that – as millennials – our personal brands will be the determining factor in our professional success.

Personally I agree and I view personal branding as the modern version of the traditional resume. I also believe that my own personal branding activities over the years (which at one stage included renaming myself “Adii Rockstar”) has been one of the major drivers of my professional success, which has included founding WooThemes and now my new startup, PublicBeta.

But loads of the things written about personal branding is either generic or crap.

So I wanted to compile a list of personal branding activities or tactics that you can undertake that you might not have thought about before. Consider this the road less travelled for personal branding. (This means you won’t read about logos, your blog or social profiles below.)

1. Be the face of your brand

I hate it when people hide behind illustrated or abstract avatars on their social profiles. How am I supposed to engage with you or build a relationship when I can’t really put a face to a name?

As a human being, I prefer the most natural type of communication to build relationships: face-to-face. Unfortunately that doesn’t work well online; so the second best option is for you to use a real photo of yourself on your social profile.

The best thing I ever did was to hire a professional photographer to take press photos of myself. I’ve re-used these photos on countless occasions for press-related purposes and I also cycle through the portrait shots on my social profiles. All of us knows at least one enthusiast, semi-pro photographer in our group of friends who would be willing to do this for free or for cheap.

So get your photo taken already and really be the face of your personal brand.

2. Embrace your uniqueness

Pretty much every industry out there is congested and highly competitive, which makes standing out from the crowd so much harder. But you have a competitive advantage: you are already unique. So stop hiding that individualism.

I love Facebook’s mantra of “done is better than perfect” and it resonates with my opinion that nothing you can do can ever be perfect. Except for one thing: you can be perfect at being yourself.

In a conversation about the definition of success, my wife once remarked: “The true meaning of success is that point where you stop making excuses for yourself.”

Stop hiding behind excuses and facades. Just be yourself.

3. Be passionate

Passion is such an infectious thing (similar to smiling) and it spreads so quickly. One of the best ways to show who you truly are is to share your innermost passions.

Passion is the fuel that should power all of your personal branding activities. It should be the first and the last thing that people hear/see/feel when they interact with you. Their perception of your passion should be able to accurately define who you are and how that relates to your personal brand.

Nobody is gonna associate them with a dull, stale and pragmatic brand.

4. Email-first branding

The other day I was in a workshop about hiring and the presenter said: “Anything you do is everything you do.” She was suggesting that you can evaluate a new candidate by picking up small clues and cues in the seemingly irrelevant and insignificant things that they do.

In this regard, email is one of the most prevalent ways in which you will communicate with other people and it thus becomes a representative part of who you are.

The way you write, the words you choose and how you communicate will shape the perceptions of your brand for the recipient on the other side of that e-mail. So think twice about how you approach this seemingly insignificant task, as your personal brand can either gain a great boost or suffer a devastating blow depending on how you go about this.

5. Teach something

We live in an age where there’s always more than one answer to a question. There aren’t many things in life that has that one, definitive answer. A silver bullet.

This means that everyone becomes a teacher, especially if they are sharing their own experiences and lessons learned. Doing so adds context to what the experts are saying and in that sense alone it becomes very valuable.

People love and appreciate those individuals that take the time to share their experiences and teach something they’re passionate about. For me, it’s sharing my experiences about branding (hence this post).

Consider writing an e-book, hosting a Skillshare class, becoming an expert on Clarity or speaking at a local conference.

This is by no means a definitive list in terms of your personal branding. It should however be a reminder that branding is mostly about what you actually do.

Yes, it helps to have a nicely designed personal website. And in terms of communicating your passion, a blog is a great platform to achieve that. But to be successful with your personal branding you have to take a more holistic approach.

That approach starts with you: who you are, your ideas, your opinions and the things you are most passionate about. Double down on that and you’re off to one helluva start.

About our contributor // Adii Pienaar is the co-founder of WooThemes and author of Brandiing, a practical guide to content strategy and branding for business. Adii is now ‘paying it forward’ and launching PublicBeta, a learning platform for entrepreneurs by other (very) successful entrepreneurs. You can follow him @adii.

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