“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”
— Ben Sweetland
I’ve been incredibly lucky to be able to start things both in my personal life and professional career. I love the rush of creating something out of nothing, pouring all my energy into the project, working hard and often achieving (or at least getting close to) a state of “Flow”. But “starting” is only part of the journey. Finding successors to pass the torch to, can be equally important, if not more.
Yesterday was a good reminder of that. The Evening Standard included me in the Progress 1000, a list of London’s 1,000 most influential people, citing the impact of Campus London, Google’s first physical hub for startups that I’ve helped found, and Techbikers, my labor of love, a non-profit bringing together the London tech community through cycling challenges, raising money for kids education. I’ve started both of these projects four years ago, and they continue to flourish and exceed my expectations thanks to my incredible partners and successors.
Yesterday I spent a few hours talking to startups at Campus London for “investor office hours”. It was my first time back in the building for a while, and the energy of entrepreneurs in the cafe was palpable as usual. To my surprise, I saw this tweet from Sarah Drinkwater, who succeeded me as Head of Campus:
— sarah drinkwater (@sarahdrinkwater) September 16, 2015
Who would have thought, when we started an “innovation center” with an empty building in a street that was largely condemned buildings for demolition, that it would attract 50,000 entrepreneurs to sign up as members in less than 4 years? I’m very proud to see how far Campus has come along, with Campuses launched in Tel Aviv, Sao Paolo, Seoul, Madrid and very soon in Warsaw. The Google for Entrepreneurs team (and the hundreds of Googlers who spend time mentoring and volunteering at Campuses) deserve a huge amount of credit for continuing to innovate and finding ways to support entrepreneurs, whether they are moms, seniors, or first time founders looking for advice
If you love *something* let it go. If it comes back to you it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.
The same afternoon, 70 bicycles were being brought to Campus for the 4th annual Paris to London ride of Techbikers, taking place this weekend. I was blessed with a baby girl a few weeks ago, and didn’t have the bandwidth to organize this year’s ride with the level of involvement I’ve had in the prior three years. Finding sponsors, recruiting riders, organizing jerseys and dealing with logistics?—?there was simply no way I could fit it all in this year. Friends who passionately helped in the past weren’t available either this year. Letting go would mean “losing” thousands of pounds in donations for Room to Read. Again, I was lucky to pass the torch to four wonderful successors (Marie Steinthaler, Rich Pleeth, Michael Willmott andAndrew McDonough), who volunteered their time and effort to make sure that this year’s ride takes place. They’ve created a slack group, updated the website and rallied the troops. The 320km ride from Paris to London starts tomorrow, the 18th (please donate here to help us achieve our goal), and I’m confident it will be as good, if not better, than ever, but above all, I’m so proud to see Techbikers has “legs of its own”, both in London and the new chapters springing up in Germany, Ireland and hopefully soon in the US.
So, what’s the lesson from all of this? For me, it’s the importance of building a team, and giving people the room for operating and taking your ideas to the next level, but also the credit for a job well done. Both Campus and Techbikers have exceeded my expectations. I hope you’re able to do the same with the important projects in your work/life.