Tech for good opportunities email

As the tech for good community grows in the UK and Europe, we get loads of opportunities sent to us at BGV which we try to send on to alumni and other people we remember to but we’re not particularly systematic about it.

So I thought it might be worth collecting them together in a very low-fi way and sending them out to people who are interested. The idea is that I’ll put together a little email newsletter with three sections:

  • Funding and competitions
  • Events
  • Jobs

The only criteria is that they have to be opportunities relating to technology startups that are trying to have a positive social or environmental impact on the world.

Before getting too serious about it I thought I’d see if there’s any demand — so sign up if you’re interested and we’ll see how it goes!

Managing small and micro teams and experimenting with holacracy

How to manage yourself as a team is a perpetual issue at BGV. Most of the ventures we support through the accelerator are micro teams (2–3 people) and then grow to be small (4–10 people) before hopefully going on to be huge — the BGV team itself is now six people and we’ve tried quite a few techniques.

When you have very little in the way of person hours available to you as an organisation, it’s vital that you get the best and the most out of everybody if you’re going to get to where you want to be. But there’s not much in the way of orthodox approaches when you’re at that scale. More traditional ‘management’ only really kicks in for organisations larger than tens of people but I’m interested in whether you can set up interesting patterns when you’re small that create healthier larger organisations too.

In the past at BGV we’ve used the RACI framework which we found really helpful. We’ve never had a CEO or line management in a traditional sense so it helped us organise our work very well. Melanie also designed our current system of team development which consists of six monthly 360 degree reviews — which is also a very good exercise for small teams.

After a recent visit to the Fairphone team and seeing how they work with a team of around 40 people (and growing) I started to learn more about holacracy. It’s used by organisations like Zappos, Medium and quite a few others. The basic idea is that you separate out roles from jobs and have semi-democratic ‘circles’ of roles that are self managing. It all sounds a bit hippy but when you dig into it, it actually requires incredible levels of discipline.

We went through the exercise of describing all the roles in the organisation last week which came to 13 pages and now we’re starting to look at organising around the circles that emerged. So far I think we’ve found it a useful approach but the proof will really be in whether it sticks and helps us in the long term.

This rat is incredibly smart

There’s a great episode of Invisibilia about how expectations affect reality. It goes back to an experiment done by psychologist Bob Rosenthal where he got some lab rats and put them in separate enclosures marked ‘incredibly smart’ and ‘incredibly dumb’. He then asked people to train the rats to navigate a maze.

The ‘smart’ ones did twice as well as the ‘dumb’ ones — despite the fact that they were actually all the same. It’s an effect that has been seen in lots of different contexts. People behave differently depending whether they think they’re with clever or not so clever people.

I think a lot of it happens in the startup world based on what other people say about the founders or a company. If you think a startup has promise, it’s more likely to have promise. Those investors that treat all founders as if they’re talented and exude confidence in their abilities are more likely to find they have winners on their hands.