Back in December, Danielle Newnham from F-Equals (previously called Tease and Totes) interviewed me for their blog. They just updated the interview with an additional question, so I thought it would be a good time to share it here.
Finally, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give a younger Anjali? To my younger self, I would say – believe in yourself. Be less self-conscious and don’t worry about what others will say. I was way too concerned about the opinions of others when I was younger, and only much later in life realised that the best person to help me is me – meaning, if I didn’t do what I think I should for fear of others, the only person who would be negatively impacted is me. And much like investing in startups, the potential upside is very high. I’d tell my younger self that yes, mistakes would be made, but that’s OK because that’s how I’d learn and become better. I’d ask her to make more of a habit of saying ‘yes’. Having the privilege and ability to say ‘no’ would come much later in life.
It’s been a busy few weeks, but I just wanted to emerge to post this podcast by strategist Willem van der Horst, who interviewed me a few weeks ago for his new podcast series. It was a very wide-ranging chat and covered my interests, work, side projects, life philosophy and more. If that sounds interesting to you, give it a whirl. A list of the varied things we touched upon are here.
It’s been an interesting ride for the Other Valleys. From starting life as a newsletter in 2014, to being featured in Forbes, Observer and blog posts listing interesting newsletters (honoured), I’ve been thinking of what next for it (and have been asked the same question by MANY people along the way as well!).
Well, the answer is finally here.
I launched a new website for the Other Valleys over the weekend, and look forward to being able to explore some of the ideas a bit more in detail where relevant, and just being able to chronicle the news articles better overall. If you read the Other Valleys and like it (thank you so much), you can help by spreading the word and getting more people along for the ride: follow us on Twitter and tweet the word out, add othervalleys.net to your RSS, recommend people sign up via email or just bring it up in a conversation perhaps?!
There’s so much brilliant stuff happening around the world right now, I hope I can capture the best of them in technology & creativity. Watch out for a few original interviews now and then as well. And as always, thanks for being subscribers.
A couple of weeks ago, I was on a toboggan ride down a winding road from the village of Monte to Funchal, on the Portuguese island of Madeira. 2 kilometres in a wicker basket being ‘controlled’ with ropes by 2 men standing on the basket behind the passenger seats, a form of transport that first originated in the area in the early 19th century. It was fun – CNN called it one of the 7 best commutes in the world, apparently. I took a video of the whole thing because I remembered this TED talk about Norway’s TV show about ‘the world’s most boring television and why it’s hilariously addictive’ – so maybe you’ll find my toboggan ride somewhat interesting, I don’t know. Maybe it’ll even make someone ‘inordinately happy’ as those videos of entire train journeys did, for one commenter to this old Metafilter post.
I’ve obviously watched it a few times myself by now (it *is* bizarrely addictive, in my biased opinion!). There were some lovely views of the sea, points when I thought we’d dash into walls or go into the gutters by the side (but didn’t), and we passed an intersection where a car crossed the road just seconds before we continued down the path. I even stopped to smile for a photographer at one point.
With my addiction to on-demand entertainment courtesy the ‘Netflix and chill’ culture I currently live in, slow TV might be the antidote I need to my hyper-wired brain at the moment.
I’ve debated endlessly in my head whether I should do an End of Year review for 2015, and finally decided I would even if it’s now a few days into the new year, because I’ve read some really inspiring ones and hope this will motivate me to get more out of 2016 myself. So this is more of a ‘Hello 2016’ post I suppose.
2015 was an interesting year. A lot happened, primarily with my side projects that are now much more than ‘side’.
In March, I was on a panel at Google’s Women Techmakers event in London. I enjoyed the panel, but found it even more fascinating to listen to inside stories about Google Cardboard and Deep Mind. I was also announced as one of the Libertine 100, and was part of a discussion on global and local marketing strategies for last year’s cohort of Google’s graduate course, Google Squared.
The biggest part of April was the Ada’s List Election Survey that the team worked on, to find out what women in technology thought of UK government policies in the lead-up to the General Election. It was covered in the Telegraph and Tech City News, amongst others.
In May, a project I’d be working on for the preceding 6 months came to fruition. Kavi Guppta and I released our e-book ‘Disruption in the Developing World‘, with proceeds going to Nepal earthquake relief efforts. It was an interesting experiment in the ‘pay what you want’ model, and for a good cause, especially given the subject material of the book itself. Women Shift Digital also asked me a few interesting questions in an interview for their site, and I found the process of coming up with answers more effort than it should have been! It was fun though.
In June, I was included in a list of Diversity UK’s Top 100 Asians in Technology, and amongst the top 5 women – an honour to be amongst some very inspiring company. My achievements, such as they are, are not a patch on most of theirs. I also spoke about Ada’s List at Innovation Stories, threading together anecdotes about innovation and community. Innovation Stories is great – if you want a shot of inspiration, try and get yourself along to the next half-day event, coming up in the middle of 2016 I think. Nadya Powell can tell you more.
In September, I made a trip to Oxford to be a mentor at their Smart City Challenge. Urban transportation and energy challenges in the modern age are especially interesting for me (housing and urban policy were some of my Master’s subjects), and there are a lot of startups making strides in this space, many of whom I met that day. I also made a trip to beautiful Bournemouth to speak at Silicon Beach. Matt Desmier is doing an ace job of making that event truly fun, and always gathers a nice motley crew of people to speak against the backdrop of the beach. I made some good friends there, something I don’t do at events very often. Funnily enough he published a summary of the event just today, so that’s useful timing for this post! He’s putting on Silicon BeachED in London in Feb – check it out.
In October another unexpected honour: I was named in the Drum’s Digerati (thank you for nominating me, whoever you are – I appreciate it!). Ada’s List celebrated our 2nd birthday at an event at Newspeak House in Shoreditch, with some excellent cake, bubbles and food for thought from our speaker for the evening, Aldijana Sisic, Chief of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. I also visited Canterbury to speak about innovations across the world at the Digibury Weekender, thanks to an invitation from Deeson.
Ada’s List made it to Fortune Magazine in November, which was nice. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation also organised the online Disruptive Innovation Festival, where Kavi and I got together again to record a podcast based loosely on themes from our book from earlier in the year.
OK, that was 2015. It’s January, and hello 2016. Now that I’ve started, I hope I won’t dawdle on writing my end-of-year post this year. It’s only taken me 5 years of ‘maybe I’ll write one this year’ to actually do it. Stay tuned to see if I follow up in 2016. Same time, same place, next year.
Some of you may know that from November 2-20, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation is celebrating the Disruptive Innovation Festival online. Kavi Guppta, with whom I co-wrote ‘Disruption in the Developing World‘ earlier this year, and I were invited to host a podcast for the festival. It went live on their website yesterday, so if you missed it yesterday, have 20 minutes to spare and are interested in innovation, technology, emerging markets, governments and the like, have a listen.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at Silicon Beach 2015, a conference for curious people in marketing and advertising, that took place in the lovely seaside town of Bournemouth. I hadn’t been there before and with the sun making a welcome appearance along with some very thought-provoking talks, it was a good 2 days indeed.
Chris Thorpe, who used to the CTO of Moshi Monsters and is now the founder of I Can Make, a 3D printing education startup, gave a really inspiring talk about how they are looking to engage with schools across the UK. They have done a lot of beta testing and are launching a subscription service where schools get monthly lessons on how to engage their students with 3D printing, later this month – so keep an eye out for it!
Tracey Follows, ex-Chief Strategy Officer of JWT and founder of the futurism consultancy Any Day Now gave a really eloquent talk on why technology isn’t the future; it’s going to be important but it’s not the whole of what we should be thinking about. Also interesting was her point that instead of focussing on one ‘probable’ future (usually science fiction-oriented), we should be talking about the many ‘possible’ futures, in the multiple.
Mark Adams, Head of Innovation at Vice, showcased the breadth of what Vice do. I loved what he said about cat videos: ‘making cat videos is not a business, it’s a hobby’. He also made a useful point about the importance of brands earning the trust of their audience, by having a strong point of view that isn’t just about the latest, newest thing. His parting message focussed on the importance of finding interesting ways of telling human stories; brand messages aren’t always interesting but people will always have time to read about stories that feature people or things they can relate to as humans.
Venture capitalist Niklas Bergman honestly admitted to passing on Spotify as an investment opportunity as he talked about his vision for the future (yes they involved robots).
Dan Machen, Director of Innovation at HeyHuman, reprised the talk he did with colleague Felix Morgan at both Cannes and SXSW earlier this year to much acclaim. It was about an experiment they conducted that wanted to see how the brain’s shape and attention changed as a result of the constant attack of media, steadily increasing over the last few years. I liked what he said about multi-tasking, a term that has origins in computers being able to do parallel processing; however humans are not computers and yet we insist on saying we can multi-task as if it’s something to be proud of. It really made me think – there’s a tremendous cost to switching our attention from our phone to our laptop and back to our phone, for example, and yet people do that as a matter of course these days, hundreds of times a day in some cases. There is a cost to this, with our brains less and less able to adjust to the task at hand the more we are distracted.
Louisa Heinrich, founder of Superhuman, gave a talk that combined religion and technology in an unusual analogy. She mentioned atheists and agnostics, and their attitude towards religion on the one hand, and humans’ blind faith in computers in the other. We need to think about the impact of our choices in our lives, she said, and not leave everything to computers. ‘Computer doesn’t always know best’.
Rina Atienza is moving to the Philippines in a couple of months, and her talk wove the popular boardgame Settlers of Catan into a journey through her life, to where she is today and what has motivated her to want to move abroad and try and make a difference there. Very inspiring – I’m sure more than one person started examining their own lives after that!
Jeremy Ettinghausen, Innovation Director at BBH, listed nine No’s of Innovation. He mentioned how too often innovation is about saying yes to everything, but some things you really need to avoid.
Amy Kean, Head of Futures at Havas, gave a very future-facing talk about ‘dreamvertising’ – she postulated that there might be a time when people will choose to access advertising in their dreams, which, if we go by what we know of how the brain works during sleep, might actually be more impactful for brands. This is in return for not being shoved ads when we are awake, of course! Disturbing and yet I strangely enjoyed it – I don’t know what that says about me!
James Caig, Head of Strategy at True Digital, ended the conference (‘I’m the headliner’, he said tongue-in-cheek) as he compared his life in London to his new life in Bristol, where he now lives.
The talks I haven’t mentioned were all equally entertaining to listen to (I just don’t have good enough notes for them!). There were lessons for us advertising people in every session – life lessons, work lessons, humanity lessons. Hats off to Matthew Desmier and the team at Silicon Beach for pulling such a good event off – and drawing people to sunny Bournemouth. I highly recommend it for next year!
My Other Valleys newsletter has been going for over 35 weeks now. I love writing it, and like any writer, enjoy the feedback I get from readers now and then. Recently though, I’d begun to feel that I needed a way to search my Tinyletter emails for things I knew I’d written about but couldn’t quite find in the newsletter sea of words. I wanted to reference them somewhere else, mostly, or sometimes just remember the details of a project. Newsletters aren’t search-friendly – I suppose they aren’t meant to be. It’s not a blog, right? The Other Valleys *could* be a blog on its own, but I like the relationship with readers and the general process of writing a newsletter. And being able to search a newsletter of the type that the Other Valleys is, which has profiles of interesting companies listed every week, was something I was beginning to want.
I was discussing this with my friend Paul Battley a few weeks ago, and after throwing around a few ideas, he said it might be worth trying to hack together a searchable blog based only on my Tinyletter posts. So that’s what he’s done for me. It does what I wanted it to very well – and the search functionality is way better than many other blogs. It also has an Atom feed.
Here’s what I want to know: if you write a newsletter, is this an idea that’s interesting to you? Answers below please. It might not be, which is fine, but I’m curious to know if there are other people like me…
As an advisor to Angel Academe, I attended their most recent board meeting, followed by pitch practice for companies that were going to present to angel investors, and finally 2 weeks after that, I attended the actual presentations to investors by Frugl, Resatech, Vitalfootprint and Abundance Generation. It is amazing how much presentations can improve with the right input; 2 weeks of tweaking and rehearsals following feedback really made a difference. On that, Angel Academe has opened applications for the second cohort of Entrepreneur Academe which is a 9-month programme that gives female entrepreneurs access to experts on business and financial planning, technology and product development, PR/sales/marketing/social media, and investment readiness. If you’re a female founder looking for mentorship, guidance and a peer group, you should apply – the deadline is March 31st. They’re also looking for (male and female) mentors – I am one and fully recommend it. You can apply to be a mentor here.
I went to The Story last week, notes of which I’ve already written up on this blog. Hack Circus had a copy of their magazine there for attendees. I’m already a subscriber so if you’d like to have a taste of what Hack Circus is like, I’d like to offer anyone who’d like it my copy of Hack Circus Issue 5: Life for free. The first person to comment on this post telling me about a project they think represents ‘fantasy technology and everyday magic’ gets it (please mention a Twitter ID so we can liaise for the address).
I’m a trustee of Photoworks, a photography non-profit that examines the role of photos in a modern world. They are currently hiring a Head of Development, to be based in Brighton, UK. If you have any networks or email groups that might have potential candidates, it would be lovely if you could share the job posting. The application deadline is March 19th.
I was lucky enough to be able to go to the home of Index Ventures’ Saul Klein for an intimate Sofar Sounds gig by Bastille, To Kill a King and Suli Breaks this week. Read my piece in the Huffington Post here.
I was at the opening of the London Stock Exchange a few weeks ago (picture above). The trading floor as pictured in the Wall Street films doesn’t exist, people! There’s a countdown to 8am and the market is declared ‘open’ on a big screen, that’s about it. No yelling, shouting, phones ringing. As you were, then.
Someone asked me to briefly summarise my journey through social media over the last decade, a couple of months ago. I thought I’d share it here.
Fresh out of university in India many MANY years ago, I joined a social network called Ryze. It was an interesting place, if a bit confused. In the early 2000’s, it positioned itself as LinkedIn but in reality had many of the features of networks that soon surpassed it in popularity: Google’s now-defunct Orkut, and later on Facebook. Ryze introduced me to many people with shared interests, a few of whom continue to be extremely good friends (hi Shilpa and Madhavan!).
A bit later, in 2003, I started a personal blog. It drew me into a circle of people whose blogs I really enjoyed, a number of them anonymous, as mine was back then. Blogging was so new, I think all of us felt safe behind a veil of anonymity. There was a sense of belonging based on mutual interests.
I closed my personal blog around 2006, the hidden cloak of anonymity having fallen away. I needed something else to experiment with as the web starting growing in influence. As if on cue, Twitter came on the scene. I joined it in 2007. At the time I was laid up for a few months with a broken ankle in New York, so I was happy to try anything that gave me something to do without having to move from my sofa! (I joined Facebook around the same time, but it was Twitter that captured my imagination because Facebook was a gated community and not many people in my sphere had entered it, so to speak). Twitter, on the other hand, was like listening in on a hundred different cross-connections on the phone all at once, for a newbie like me then, at least. Users were mostly early adopters and I felt I was part of a new kindred community again. Clay Shirky’s ‘Here Comes Everybody’ and ‘Groundswell’ by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff were often mentioned. Subsequently, I joined many new platforms, including the Ning community led by Seth Godin when he wrote ‘Tribes’ in 2008, even curating a companion Q&A ebook with a few others. Why not, eh?
Twitter has made succinct thinking a skill, given its 140-character limit. I also enjoy sharing links to interesting articles, a way of giving back as much as I get. Of course getting lost in the internet labyrinth is always a risk, but I tend to ignore articles lampooning social media for causing attention deficit disorder. We’re adults, we should know how to control what we do!
Around the time I joined Twitter in 2007, I went back to blogging, but this time with a focus on the professional rather than the personal. That’s when One Size Fits One was born. Blogrolling was a thing back then. Now, external linking to build your community hardly exists.
My blog helped me get a foothold in a field I didn’t really start out in – I didn’t have a degree in technology or media, subjects I often speak about at conferences these days that form an integral part of what I do now. I used to run a series of interviews with interesting people in marketing in the early days as well, which I still continue with startup founders, though much less often.
Other things I have been able to do through social media include writing chapters for collaborative books and presentations and expanding my knowledge in a more structured way through Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on platforms like Coursera. Participation is oriented in good old forums, which have shown no signs of dying; in fact Google Groups is the mainstay of Ada’s List, an online group for women in technology that I co-founded last year.
In short, social media has opened up lots of opportunities, introduced me to people I would never have met otherwise and helps me learn a little bit more every day.