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The 3 types of negotiation skills startup founders need

Thanks to aspiring entrepreneur Christoph von Herrath for posing these questions in our mentoring session last week. Christoph and I were matched by the mentoring programme of Student Incubator Vali Berlin.

Fellow Enpact Mentor, Sebastian Siebzehnruebl, advises Paddi Tetteh. Photo © enpact e.V.

Thanks to aspiring entrepreneur Christoph von Herrath for posing these questions to me in our mentoring session (made possible thanks to student incubator Vali Berlin) last week, and his feedback on this text.

The world is set against start-ups on every level except one: creativity and the innovation it produces. Established firms enjoy superior resources, branding, information, capital, and talent. Startups are driven by the new.

By their nature, new things lack norms, procedures, and expectations. In other words, they lack an established structure. The less structure which two parties bring to a negotiation, the greater the range for possible divergence in expectations: there’s more to lose or gain when two people negotiate from wildly differing starting points, with fewer references in common.

This is true of evaluating the value of startups themselves during investment negotiations. In recognition of this fact, entrepreneurs frequently avoid negotiating a particular value, and instead use ’convertible’ agreements which defer setting share price value until a later investment round.

Everything is negotiable

Compared to roles in established organisations, startup leaders also have a broader scope of things to negotiate. For starters: hiring, pricing, compliance, organisational culture, and their own compensation. Later on, you’ll have dedicated staff for different functions who specialise in knowing and applying industry norms and best practices. But in the first few years negotiation of most everything falls within the purview of the founding team. Serious negotiation missteps could make or break the venture.

As well as bartering everything from catering to legal fees, entrepreneurs must often fall back on negotiation skills to obtain critical items with reduced or waived payment. Take building an MVP as an example: top expertise usually costs money which unfunded firms do not have. Negotiating influence, status, equity, or delayed payment is often necessary to assemble and motivate the initial team. Hosting, accommodation, marketing, logistics: these are all areas ripe for creative negotiation in lieu of adequate cash for payment.

Every touchpoint with customers, suppliers, and partners (to name a few) is an opportunity to creatively identify, request, and negotiate something the business needs. If you’re selling something they’re not buying, could they refer other leads to you? Could you do the same for them? What about sharing marketing costs at an industry event? Syndicate your blog? Promote their service? Exchange market research? Refer you to industry experts? With an open mind, overlapping interests and resources can often be found. Semi-structured brainstorming is a valuable technique for exposing such opportunities.

Pricing negotiation

Pricing, in particular, presents a high stakes challenge: the more innovative a product is, the more difficult it is to estimate its value, and what percentage of that value can be captured by its creators. This is especially true of market-makers, where no direct references exist. Academic research provides little practical advice. One-to-one negotiations with early adopters and Industry insiders is typically required to discover the range of plausible prices, and pick a point from which to begin experimentation.

Push too little and you leave much-needed Capital on the table, and likely set a precedent resulting in compound losses. Push too hard, and risk alienating that critical support base upon which you rely for initial revenue. The pressure on good pricing, and discomfort around researching it, leads many startups to avoid early price negotiation, which increases their risk of failure and deprives them of resources – “leaving money on the table”.

Types of negotiation skills

Rational

For many people, the concept of negotiation involves manipulation or dishonesty, and is therefore awkward and avoided. MBA programmes often teach students rational models for achieving the best outcome for both negotiating parties, which validates and justifies negotiation as a mutually beneficial activity to those with negative preconceptions. Understanding the difference between distributive negotiation, where a fixed amount of value is divided up between parties, and integrative negotiation, where different sources of value are creatively combined, is useful and important.

Combined with a briefing on biases which affect negotiation details, and practical ways to structure negotiation starting and final bids, this is where negotiation classes typically end. These rational negotiation skills are very valuable, however there are at least two other critical components to negotiating something new.

Personal

Your relationship with yourself is one of the most important and overlooked components of negotiation. Your internal identity, self-control, and self-confidence affect all communication with other people before a single word is spoken. It is well established that many unconscious human behaviours signal our state of mind, including stress, interest, and confidence, such as pupil dilation, breathing depth and frequency, and facial micro-expressions. It is virtually impossible to fake these parts of our inner life.

In addition your ethics determine how creative you are prepared to get, and how comfortable you will be with the other parties behaviour – what you expect of them, and of yourself.

Interpersonal

Interpersonal skills include broader emotional intelligence skills like empathy and conflict management, as well as learned awareness of particular cultures and their norms. This is also the territory which gives negotiation a bad name: influence is part of this group of skills and plays a major role in negotiation outcomes, irrespective of hard facts and rational engagement.

Sales training books abound, offering everything from rhetorical argumentation, to emotional role play, to hypnotism. Understanding techniques of influence is important, at least for defending yourself against effective tactics used by your negotiating partners. Beyond defense, building rapport during negotiations through more and less subtle means of influence is viable and common practice – a skill you can develop and use when you feel appropriate.

These skills combined

Self-confidence determines speed of rationalisation, and ease of rapport. Cultural awareness informs you of opportunities for integrative negotiating. Past success, for any reason, should boost your self-confidence to succeed again. As such the different types of negotiation skills which I have outlined feed into each other and are combined fluently and usually subconsciously in successful negotiations.

For a rounded education on entrepreneurial negotiation combine academic research and popular business literature. Figure out the parts you’re comfortable with and push yourself to try them. Good luck!

Further reading

Rational negotiation

Self-confidence

Influence


Letter of understanding for startups: Template

Recently in our weekly user interviews at Lightmeter we’ve heard enthusiastic phrases like “I need this now”, and “I’m ready to buy already”. Lucky us (it took weeks to get here)!

One way of turning such positive sentiment into a concrete and quantifiable resource is to whip out a Letter of Understanding, sometimes also referred to as a Memorandum of Understanding, and ask the other party to sign on the line.

Filling in form fields by way of signature, to avoid the delays of printing

Letters of Understanding are a simple, human readable way to communicate an intention to use / buy / integrate / etc. your product or service, without the need for lawyers, or the threat of legal liability. That’s because such letters are not legally binding. However, they provide a little leverage in the form of someone’s promise on paper, which is both psychologically more powerful than a verbal accord, and also raises the prospect of harming reputations in case the agreement is broken.

These documents are referred to as a weak test of idea validation in the excellent book “Testing Business Ideas” by Alex Osterwalder of Business Model Canvas fame, which also inspired this post. While weak, they are a positive and proactive step which is very easy to deploy at the right time, and can help convince investors that your startup has legs.

Here is a simple template in ODF and PDF format which uses data fields to quickly customise it to different users / future customers (Docx is included too, but is untested). Simply double click on a field in LibreOffice to edit it, or use Insert -> Field -> More Fields -> Variables tab, to list all the fields and edit them faster.

List of all editable fields for efficiently adding your company and (future) customer’s data

When you export to PDF, you’ll see there are interactive form fields which the recipient can use to sign the document, avoiding the distruption of printing, signing, scanning, and emailing back to you (convenience is king, friction is failure, as they say).

Depending on your legal jurisdiction, a typed signature may or may not be acceptable. I am not a lawyer, however in the UK and other nations the intention of a ‘signature’ to be such is sufficient to be valid.

Don’t forget to replace your logo in the page footer, and replace the bullets with your conditions in the center. And if you improve the template then share back upstream! Good luck getting them signe


Rules for successful remote working: habits and hardware for happiness

Today as millions of people begin full time remote working for the first time I have collected parts of talks and mentoring sessions from the last 12 years of my remote and home office work, including the full time remote management my previous company: phpList, for over four years.

These rules form the foundation of productive team working — they are the basics, upon which you can build rituals and apply your own organisation’s culture. It takes discipline to stick to them: with freedom comes responsibility. Don’t frustrate your colleagues by ignoring them.

I hope they prove useful. Please share your own experiences and opinions in the comments. Other advice specifically for managers of remote teams (including rituals for structure, and tips on supervision) will follow this post at a later date.

Computer hardware

  1. You are responsible for the the good functioning of your laptop and associated devices. Time spent solving technical problems does count towards your working hours. However you will be expected to always have working devices, and they are your priority when problems arise. Communication is the Foundation of all productive work, and without a working computer, there can be no efficient communication.

Calling and conference calling

  1. Always use a headset for calls, eg wired headphones with a built-in microphone. These come free with older smartphones, and can be purchased for 5 to 15 Euros online. Never use the built-in microphone from your laptop, as this is likely to create feedback and Echo problems with various telephony software.
  2. For co-located meetings, where there is more than one person in the same physical space connecting remotely to other people, consider buying a professional conference calling microphone, which is designed for this setup. Such microphones typically have built-in Echo cancellation, and multi directional microphones. having more than two people on the same internet connection connecting to a remote meeting can cause bandwidth problems and connectivity issues.
  3. Test your conference calling ability regularly. Time spent at the beginning of a remote meeting getting connectivity up and running for all participants, is critical wasted time from your team, and decreases the teams motivation for such meetings in future. Find ways to make sure your microphone and camera are working ahead of time so that you’re ready when the meeting is due to start. Ensure that large file downloads and video streaming are not taking place on your home network as this could slow down your connection and disrupt the meeting.
  4. In conference calls with more than 2 participants, only two people should remain unmuted at one time. Lag and connectivity problems make it difficult to have a real-time conversation with more than three participants simultaneously. Additionally, bandwidth problems tend To Be exacerbated when when many participants communicate simultaneously. Get in the habit of muting when you’re not speaking. If possible, map the mute function to a button on your headset, or consider enabling “press to speak” (everyone is then muted by default).
  5. Do not use the built-in text chat of the conference calling software that you are using. Several conference calling applications delete this chat as soon as the call ends and it is irretrievable (eg Hangouts). Additionally support for the chat may not be extended to all versions of the application, or all devices, or be easily accessible on mobile platforms. Instead, use your regular organisational chat channel, whatever that may be.
  6. Take regular meeting breaks during the long meetings. If the chairperson doesn’t offer one, demand it. One break at least every 90 minutes is necessary for people to remain comfortable and focused. Just because you don’t need the bathroom or snack doesn’t mean that nobody else does.

Email communication

  1. If a message is urgent, label it as such with “Urgent: “. Don’t assume anyone else realises it is time sensitive.
  2. Use clear, long, descriptive email subject lines, including multiple keywords, to make the emails findable in future. Your email inbox is a database of your actions and decisions – make it easy to search.
  3. Separate different topics into different emails with different subjects
  4. Split long email thread discussions into separate new email threads when necessary, to keep each distinct, easy to find, and on-topic (addend this to the subject line of newly split threads, including square braces: [Was: Old email thread subject], eg: “New email subject [Was: Old email thread subject]”)
  5. When adding people to CC of an existing email conversation, start the new email with: [Added Jane Doe in CC]. This avoids misunderstandings and upset or embarrassment
  6. Don’t read your email outside of working hours. If you use a device for personal as well as professional communications (eg laptop or smartphone), then disable polling and notifications for your work accounts, so you will not be alerted to work messages outside of work. In the long term, keeping clear mental boundaries like this and protecting your personal time is critical for sustainable productivity.

Other communications

  1. Report to your team proactively. Try starting your message ‘FYI:’ (For your information) at least 4 times each day. If you wait to be asked what you’re doing then you can expect frustration and suspicion to build among your colleagues over time. Provide and demand frequent updates from your colleagues whatever their rank.
  2. Call people more often (or book more calls). Verbal communication is more efficient, builds stronger relationships, and avoids confusion. If people are too busy they will say so – don’t be afraid to ask more senior colleagues; they should be grateful for your instigation.
  3. Don’t ask to ask. Waiting for permission to ask can waste hours or days, during which time you could have got the answer to the question you had. Roll two questions into one if necessary.
  4. Configure the notifications of any shared chat system like Rocketchat or Slack very carefully. Disable push (smartphone) and desktop notifications if you keep the chat software running on shared devices. Many such applications have modes which will disable all notifications outside of working hours. Investigate and if possible enable this.
  5. When setting up new services / registering accounts on behalf of the company eg new web accounts, share the credentials (if the account is shared) and / or use a shared mailbox, so the team doesn’t get locked out in future (eg invoices@company.com). Consider using a secure password sharing service like Bitwarden.
  6. Avoid using personal telephone numbers or personal data (eg date of birth) when creating accounts for company use. Else your colleagues will be locked out in future.

Documentation

  1. Document solutions to problems which are likely to reoccur, whatever your role or rank. Create new, simple processes wherever possible, as quickly as possible. This protects you next time you need to apply the solution (reduce mistakes), makes it easier to delegate tasks in future (don’t you want reduced workload?), and provides a starting point for improvement and iteration by your colleagues in future. If your team doesn’t have a good shared place to document such things, demand one.

Sharing files

  1. Set your computer to share all your work by default via a secure file sync and and share platform like Nextcloud. When you save, it is synced. This avoids endless access issues, ‘bus factors’, and also provides a free personal back and remote access option for you
  2. For private / semi confidential work, setup restricted group access but still share it (so it’s shared to authorised colleagues)
  3. For genuinely confidential work save it locally and routinely back up files to two devices in different physical locations (you’re still responsible for being able to access it in exceptional circumstances)
  4. Always share all source files in the same way, not just rendered (artwork) or compiled (code) versions. No exceptions!
  5. Use the simplest format / application possible for collaborative documents. A traditional word processor is rarely required – plain text (markdown, rst) is easier to search for, search inside, convert to other formats, translate, attach, compress, and automate in future. Where complex layouts or embedded calculations are unavoidable, try Google Docs, Only Office, or LibreOffice Online. Remember the sacrifices you’re making whenever you choose this option.
  6. Use open standard file formats by default and have good justifications for not doing so. Everyone has their favourite applications to use, and open standards are the only guarantee that the files will remain editable in future, and increase the choice of available access and editing options.
  7. Include the date of file creation as the first part of all filenames, like 2020-01-31-marketing-plan.md. This makes them sortable by date in all file managers and operating systems, and makes the farm names themselves compatible with all operating systems (capitals cause problems).
  8. Use descriptive file names, be biased towards more words not less, including multiple relevant keywords. This makes the files findable during name-based searches. Eg 2020-01-31-client-sales-call-boris-construction-bulgaria.md
  9. Never use punctuation in filenames or any non-alpha-numeric characters. Never use spaces.
  10. Always replace spaces with dashes, not underscores or camelCase or anything else. Spaces in filenames make them unreadable on major operating systems without using special quoting when scripting or opening from the command line.
  11. Be proactive in organising shared files. When you see a mess, clean it up. Create new directory structure when necessary. Fix filename or date issues, or bring them to the attention of the author.
  12. When using urls pointers for work, eg to shared files, collaborative docs, designs, label them where possible (clues to contents in the name), keep a list reference of them to avoid confusion, duplication, diverging work trees etc, and delete old links as soon as they’re superseded (eg avoid multiple copies of the same file)

Health and environment

  1. You are responsible for your working environment and the impact it has on your health. Your colleagues cannot see or warn you of problems with air, noise, or other environmental factors. Consider getting a thermometer with integrated hygrometer (around 15 euros online) to ensure that temperature and humidity remain healthy. Musculoskeletal problems develop more often in low temperatures, and respiratory problems in higher humidities. Ensure sufficient oxygen enters your workspace during the day.
  2. Good working posture is critical to your long term health, and should be checked regularly. This is harder than it sounds, and worthwhile to protect your eyes, spine, arms, and hands. Follow a good guide, buy new equipment if necessary (especially an external keyboard and laptop stand if you don’t have an external monitor). Sitting on a hard flat surface like a wooden stool or upturned plastic storage box are often better for you than a cheap or poorly configured office chair. Everyone’s back is different – seating must be adapted accordingly. Consider placing a tall mirror beside you so can observe your posture as you work. Alternatively ask someone nearby to photograph you in profile from time to time so you can see yourself. While sitting, your hips and head should be aligned so the weight of your head is supported by your spine and not muscle groups in your chest and shoulders.
  3. Take regular short breaks (shorter duration, higher frequency). If you have trouble remembering, consider using software like Workrave or RSI Break (both ugly but effective).

Eye health

  1. Adjust your screen brightness to suit the ambient light of your environment. Enable automatic backlight adjustment if your screen supports it.
  2. Avoid having bright sources of light behind your screen or monitor; for example if your screen is positioned in front of a window so natural light enters your eyes. This will strain your eyes and may cause headaches. If such positioning is unavoidable, try using a visor or baseball cap to block the light from above your screen.
  3. Ideally your screen will have space behind it (not be positioned directly in front of a wall) so that your eyes can easily switch focus from the near to the far while you work. Varying the focal depth of your eyes frequently reduces the chance of eye strain.
  4. If you work in the evenings, consider using bluelight filter software and blue light filter glasses (available for 5-10 EUR online) to protect your sleep.

Product Management in Open Source

Video of my talk at Foss Backstage 2020 conference

“Open Source takes Product Management to a whole new level — I had no idea!” said one workshop participant in Poland this Summer. “How on earth do you keep all those stakeholders happy?”. He was Senior Product Manager at an $8bn software company.

So it was that I realised that PMs working in Open Source have experience which other software firms can benefit from. At the FOSS Backstage conference in Berlin last week I explored these ideas with an audience of experts, building on my past presentations.

Uniting design, engineering, and business to produce viable products that customers love is the famously difficult job of Product Managers. Managers of Open Source products however serve not only demanding customers of commercial services, but also a wide range of contributors, packagers, committees, and partners.

Our decisions must be fair, transparent, and still ultimately drive revenue. Our Open Source apps are creatively used in scenarios we cannot dream of, yet making usable interfaces requires restricting ourselves to a narrow set of user-stories and personas.

Harnessing wildly diverse Open Source userbases is extremely challenging: putting their feedback to work improving our software, without diluting product vision and strategy, or losing focus on the bottom line. In this presentation I explored the unique challenges and opportunities of Open Source Product Management, drawing from 16 years of experience working in the field.

2020-03-04-foss-backstage-os-product-management-1


Guiding entrepreneurs as they free-fall to success

Written last month on the flight back from a startup mentoring expedition to Egypt

Managing a young startup is like freefalling without a parachute. The ground gets ever closer — if you don’t do something fast, you’ll hit hard. It’s still too far away to see final destination clearly. You try and spot a safe haven, but that lake could be a forest. You’ve only got a vague sense of your current trajectory. You’re distracted by unfamiliar and uncomfortable sensations.

Entrepreneurship is like free-fall (photo: @larswoudstra via Twenty20)

You try to review your options logically, adrenaline pumping, new strategies rapidly fading in and out of mind, pulling at your focus. You’ve never done this before. You don’t know what will work. The training made sense in the classroom, but the teacher never saw this terrain combined with this weather. You wish they’d prepared you for the dread and rising panic. Now you’ve got precisely one shot at survival. You wonder what might kill you first.

In this situation, some entrepreneurs seek support in the form of mentoring. Advisors like me materialise beside them, providing a second, calmer, perspective on their situation, and the strategies they’re betting their livelihoods on. And so people in my role get a brief, privileged window into the challenges of new businesses in different markets, cultures, and industries. These mentoring opportunities are provided in my case by Enpact, a non-profit organisation funded by the German Government and a variety of philanthropic foundations.

The pier walkway at Blue Point mentoring camp, Ras Sudr, Egypt

Eight entrepreneurs, all Egyptian, have been working and learning in this way with me and other mentors, at a windswept Red Sea resort in the Sinai Desert. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and it’s been an uphill journey for them to get here.

Access to funding, training, and mentoring, is all competitive — consider the barriers these young people must overcome to be founders! Language, eye-watering interest rates, byzantine incorporation & taxation bureaucracy, shortage of academic business education, unstable power and transport infrastructure, occasionally corrupt competitors. That Egyptian startups can challenge and beat European firms is humbling and inspiring.

Enpact’s formula involves traveling to a remote location, such as Bad Belzig Castle, Coconut Grove beach resort, and the Coconat co-working retreat, and executing intensive week-long programmes of workshops, group discussions, and challenge-oriented mentoring. This is my second series with the organisation, having wound up 8 months inside budding Ghanaian startups last February.

Enpact startup mentoring team picture

And so I have the opportunity to pop into the life of a free-falling entrepreneur, provide context to their problems, supply warnings, reassurances, and always encouragement. Unravelling the challenges presented into something fundamental, actionable, and which I can inform with my own experience, is an honour and a stretch.

Video highlights by Enpact

My exposure to entrepreneurs like Muhammad and Reham in Egypt feeds my understanding of principles which I rely on in my own businesses, and perpetually lengthens the list of exceptions to them, thanks to the varied conditions which they face. We are grateful for each other’s influence.


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Map of the mentoring camp

Mentoring at the Yale Open Climate Hackathon

Today the results of our Yale Openlab Collabathon were presented at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid. And so ends a three week period of collaboration by hundreds of participants at 10 universities around the world. The goal: creating Open Source tools for enforcing the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Ullstein Building, home of the The Drivery, our venue. Photo: K.H.Reichert, CC BY-NC 2.0

Berlin was one of those locations, hosted by the Net Impact club of ESMT business school, my Alma mater. Most of the action took place on the weekend of November 16th, when 25 volunteers and strangers to each other, gathered in Tempelhof’s magnificent Ullsteinhaus.

It was here that we formed four primary teams, chose projects from a pre-researched list, and got to work on making apps, business models, and certificates, for monitoring the world’s carbon emissions, and helping to enforce the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

I was one of two full-time mentors at the event who provided structure and support for the Berlin team. The Yale team, led by Martin Wainstein, provided a set of well-defined projects for teams to choose work on, and managed a Discord chat instance (like Slack) to keep the participants communicating easily. It was up to us to form and motivate teams, enable cooperation, and keep things running efficiently.

Sam Tuke at the Yale Open Lab collabathon in Berlin
Introducing topics for the teams to work on

Fortunately the skills of the people who came to hack were well suited to the tasks, and teams based on preferred topic were quickly assembled, each led by a Project Manager. The ‘Open Climate Widget‘ team, for example, were managed by Marc from Deutsche Bahn.

yale collabathon hackathon oliver bley presenting
Forming teams based on interest and skills, advertised on name badges, with Oliver Bley

Teams worked until close to 10pm both days at the venue, and some continued over the following weeks until the submission deadline this week. In particular the ‘Climate Terminal‘ team, benefiting from exemplary leadership by their Project Manager Nadya, not only worked consistently, but successfully recruited additional teammates from Paris and Singapore to fill skill gaps and lend additional momentum.

You can see their work in progress on the project’s website: climateterminal.com. I think this is an amazing result for an entirely voluntary effort of an international team which had never before worked together. Undoubedly Yale’s public association with the event helped, but also the quality of the task descriptions which they provided, and the interesting Open Source tech involved.

The weekend hackathon attracted some press attention, including Maximilian Lehmann of the Mother Earth’s Heroes environmental podcast dropping by to interview Oliver, Luca and I. ESMT’s net impact team were busy doing interviews and taking photos throughout, and we have them to thank for the pictures illustrating this post.

One of my motivations for helping to organise this event was to experience real-time collaboration on this scale; I wasn’t disappointed. Insights into that however are enough for another post.

For now I’ll say thank you to the fantastic people who participated at our Berlin ‘node’, and worked so hard all weekend! It was quite amazing to see the talent and experience brought so quickly to bear on real problems affecting earth’s climate. In particular the Net Impact volunteers, all highly capable students from ESMT, ensured we had the facilities, food, and fluids we all needed to perform our roles.

Oh, and watch out — future Collabathons are being planned, so come along if you’re in a city hosting a node next time and take part 🙂


Standing for the Board of the Document Foundation

The demand for productivity software seems to be endless, and as new products and paradigms for digital documents arise seemingly every month, one Open Source app holds on to a sizable marketshare of at least 150 million users. I refer, of course, to LibreOffice and derivative solutions (of which there are many), which is Governed and published by a German non-profit organisation named The Document Foundation.

This Foundation has a fascinating history fraught with intrigue, and required the invention of a [DE] new legal structure in Germany to serve it’s purpose. History aside, it’s Board of Directors, who are responsible for oversight of executive activity, is re-elected by the Foundation’s Members (another legal body, made up of active LibreOffice contributors), every two years. The time of the election is nigh!

And so after some consideration and encouragement by Foundation Grandees, I submitted my candidacy for this election with seconds to spare, have had to complete a last minute booking for a Startup Mentoring trip in Cairo.

Here is my statement, in the format required by the Foundation’s Membership committee who oversee such elections (bold and links added).

Personal details
Full name: Samuel John Wilson Tuke
Corporate affiliation: None

74 words statement
The Document Foundation has proven that independent, community-centric organisations can thrive. However LibreOffice faces significant challenges regarding product competitiveness, commercial investment, and ecosystem diversity. If elected, I will use my influence to increase the variety and competitiveness of LibreOffice businesses, encouraging jobs and new products, to better serve our community’s needs. I bring experience and qualifications in business, marketing, and product management, 16 years in Free Software, and have led for and non-profit organisations.

Full statement
As section § 2 of its statutes say, The Document Foundation’s goals are achieved first by providing software. This software faces new competition on every platform, from both Free and non-Free alternatives. Through generous donations from the community, the Foundation is able to sponsor feature development a few times each year. 

But to be competitive, a thriving ecosystem of LibreOffice companies and products need to be cooperatively investing in improving the applications we know and love. I believe that more can be done to harness the benefits of such an ecosystem for LibreOffice users current and future, and if elected I shall work to that end.

Simultaneously I will encourage additional support of communities which are of strategic significance to LibreOffice, in particular relating to quality assurance, localisation, and documentation, all of which contribute work which is critical for reaching new LibreOffice users.

Finally, as an independent candidate in this election, not involved with any LibreOffice company or the upcoming Document Collective (TDC), I am well positioned to represent long term community interests, mediate between parties, and pursue sustainable strategic goals.

Personal background
Four years ago I ceased marketing LibreOffice products full time and took over management of phpList — a Free Software marketing automation company. Since then I have remained a contributor to the LibreOffice marketing team, and occasionally delivered LibreOffice talks at events.
I have experience leading my own firms, as well as having previously supported the board of the Free Software Foundation Europe, and served on the board of the OpenSpace Cooperative in England.

Berlin has been my home since 2010, where I live with my girlfriend (we met at the Open Source Albania conference in Tirana in 2016). I’m also a startup mentor to entrepreneurs in Ghana, Nigera, and Egypt, and graduated last year with an MBA as Entrepreneurial scholar at the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin.

Thanks!

Sam.


Personal stats from 4 years at phpList

As announced today on phpList.org, soon I shall be leaving phpList.

For fun, here are some geeky statistics from my last four years leading the company:

  • Total emails sent from ‘sam at phplist dot com’: 5,070 (instant messages discluded)
  • My total commits across 21 phpList repositories: 1,726
  • My participation in the phpList community forum: 502 days interacted, 932 topics read, 701 posts created
  • Weekly all-hands meetings led: 200 (out of 205 weeks)

Note to self: code/hack less!


Introduction to Open Source presentation updated

We had some new starters join phpList recently, and as is sometimes the case, they did not have a long history with Open Source or a rock solid grasp of its heritage. Therefore I dusted off an old slide deck which I last used in a speech in 2012 in Liverpool, when I was recovering from a car accident (hence the black eye and crutches).

One quick review and spring clean later, the slides were used in an internal company presentation in our Tirana office during my last visit, and have been used since by Mariana Balla, our Community Manager, with new staff who’ve joined since.

In case it’s useful to anyone else, here are the slides embedded below. It’s high level, and emphasises the factual, historical, and legal roots of Open Source and the Free Software movement. I feel this is necessary in our modern climate of ‘open source planning’, ‘open source recipes’, and the general dilution of associated terms.

2019-05-07-open-source-intro-presentation


Open Source Underdogs Podcast Interview

It turns out that there’s a fascinating interview series which has interviewed tens of Open Source business leaders (a rare and rarely colocated breed), called Open Source Underdogs. The host and producer is a new friend of mine, Mike Schwartz — CEO at Gluu. CEOs of Canonical, Automattic, and Cloudera are counted among the interviewees.

Open Source underdogs podcast interview with Sam Tuke

And so it was that when we had the opportunity to record an interview about phpList at OSCAL Conference last month, we did so, and the resulting episode was published today. Listen to my interview here.

Mike has a small team which did a great job of editing our discussion. Two particularly interesting themes that came up were the Ethics of Open Source (an old but still appealing subject), and the potential for data-based business models for Open Source. Maybe I’ll explore these topics in more detail in dedicated talks sometime. Let me know if you’re interested!