Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson – How Poland Fits in the European Tech Landscape (Episode 19)

Podcast Details:

Guest: Gareth Mitchell & Bill Thompson

Date Added: 10th Sep 2015

Length: 24 min


Project Kazimierz presents Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson, with Richard Lucas and Sam Cook. Gareth and Bill discuss podcasting and their BBC show, ‘Click’. Richard joins in to analyze technologies throughout Europe. Sam talks about the Americanization of technology and its effects in the business communities across Europe.

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Table of contents:
Gareth and Mitchell Get Right to It
      • 00:47 Sam’s introduction to the show
      • 01:34 Gareth compares technology in Europe vs. the United States
      • 03:25 Bill recognizes the differences in technology
The Idolization of Silicon Valley
      • 04:57 Poland building a unified market
      • 07:48 The perception of European projects
      • 09:29 English impacting the tech market
Developing the Podcast Community
      • 11:19 BBC platforms and podcasting
      • 14:26 The benefit of the format
      • 14:53 Reaching a large audience
      • 15:31 Maximizing the opportunity with social media
      • 16:55 The importance of fan clubs and groups
      • 18:06 Value of a brand
      • 20:53 Google Hangout for the program
Always on the Clock
    • 21:38 Gareth and Bill are live in five
    • 21:52 Richard sends his appreciation
    • 22:17 Sam brings everything full circle
    • 37:18 Investments in the company
    • 23:00 One final plug
    • 23:32 Sam wraps it up


sam cook:
Sam Cook: Hello again Project Kazimierz listener, my name is Sam Cook as always with my co-host, how are you doing Richard?
richard lucas:
Very well, Richard here.
Richard, great to have you here. We’re gonna go straight to the content, because we have a very short time here, we’re gonna get great stuff out of two BBC broadcasting technologists here, Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson. They’re both technology writers and what’s particularly interesting today what I would like to explore is the technology scene in Europe – because we talked a lot in this podcast about Cracow and Silicon Valley but I’d like to get on how technology writers in Europe see the overall landscape and specifically how Poland fits into that, so Gareth – I’m gonna toss this one over you first – give me a quick comparison of technology in Europe vs the United States.
gareth mitchell:
Gareth MItchell: Well, we report on technology from around the world, so of course includes Europe and United States from my side of the things of space – scating on things of technology landscape, if that’s not mixing too many methaphors. As I work more as a journalist rather than a practitioner. I mean, maybe there’s more of a sense of sharing Silicon Valley mentality that I suppose is synonymous with the United States, and of course as we say now – would be manifested in different ways and the likes of Berlin. I suppose I saw a difference – certainly something we spoken about on the program is the regulatory environment. And in sense that it comes to people with privacy and rights online, then I think it’s fair to say that the Europeans, the European Parliment and Commision have more regulations to safeguard the individual. So the tech landscape in Europe is more regulated than in United States. But as anybody gets I say down to the level and that sounds almost disparaging, but there’s the grass roots level of walking into a hack space or a lab, as I sometimes have a privilege of doing, whether it’s in San Francisco where I’ve been many times or in Italy, or Germany here in Europe. When you actually speak to the geeks, than it kinda feels the same, what is a huge oversimplification – of course they are differences between United States and Europe, but technology has a very global nature, means there’s probably a lot more in common between those two places than otherwise. Bill?
bill thompson:
Bill Thompson: I actually think there are significant differences. Partly it’s the scale inside the US market and thinking that the US dominates the way European – Polish, British, French, whatever – startups and companies consider their world, the way Europe does, doesn’t necessarily interest many US start-up. Many US startups you get doesn’t even have a European strategy, not thinking about separate regulation environment as Gareth mentioned – all those things. It’s just enormous. It goes back to the common, well-known venture capitalist investor Hermann Hauser, we made some years back which is – what he sees is that startup scene is a lot of chickens wanting to be the biggest chicken in the coop when the fox arrives, instead of a lot of small foxes. A lot of companies maybe want to be acquired by a big US player and don’t perhaps see their own sears big enough for their desires for them to grow, because they think they’re gonna get invesments is that way. It’s certain it’s enormous math of innovation, the creativity is no different if not better within Europe, because startups diamete by that broken decade of Silicon Valley culture that so distorts technology used to make many things they produce not only unimaginable, but unethical. So if you do get the creativity, but in terms of business perspective they’re real differences.
I love the point you brought up Bill, the one about broken decade in Silicon Valley culture, I’m in Poland and I’m struck by the idealisation of SIlicon Valley, the economist just published an article about Silicon Valley being such a powerful force, but also needed to be very careful going forward, and the reason why I moved to Eastern Europe and Poland specifically is it feels like the land – I say the East is the new West, because you know – everyone migrate from east towards California, but now softest, most un-western place in the world where they are worried what kind of latte they’re gonna get and what coffee beans, whereas here in Poland it feels real and raw, a lot of danger with the Russians there. So I think there’s a huge opportunity for Europe, as more and more as young generation knows English to create a market, that common undestanding and regulatory environment and I think we’re gonna see bit of a change – do you see the opportunity for Europe to create a unified mass market the european companies wanna dominate rather than going straight to the US ater they master their Polish market?
Well, the distraction of greek democratic control over it’s market in the last few years by the last three months doesn’t all go well for the greater european project, does it? You know, we can’t look at technology with isolation and other issues -political and social issues that affect us, because technology is just a part of that broader framework now. So I think I’m being less optymistic about the European Project than I was maybe a year ago, and therefore have to be less optymistic about potential for overarching european technology. I think there are real possibilities because to some extend the technology can send national boundaries. So for example you don’t necessarily need to be able to speak english to create a platform or an app or a service or a set of tools that would trasform people lives, because technologies we’re using now are defiyngly multilingual. So you can see how that sort of thing could start to have an impact. And maybe that would be bottom-up approach to building technology that meets people’s needs, makes them happier, perhaps richer, certainly healthier, all those things. Bubbles up into a society which still cannot fully grasp the larger euopean framework – we’re not moving towards sort of a federal Europe that we might imagine master the treach even treach their own, it just seemes to be stalled now in part because of the problem of the euro is out. Given us the case, anybody who’s working in a startup or even more established tech company, has to adapt that new political reality, when they think how technology have has to develop, are going to disseminate, become to weak to the market, are going to change people’s lives.

“You don’t need to speak English to create a platform, app, or service because the technologies we’re using now are definitely multilingual.”

Bill Thompson, co-host of Click
And how the perception of political Europe in project has shiften in Netherlands in Amsterdam in 1995 and we have the paper called The European. Not sure where that is going anymore. And I spokes one insight that I brought into the European Project maybe caused some optimism or hope maybe is more on the science side rather than technology and startups, but I was recently in Brussels reporting on the European Research Council. And the funding that it’s put in to said labs, and in fact the individuals are giving the opportunity to often/obtain early career of scientists running labs around Europe, giving these people the opportunity to tak quite sizeable grants in the size of few hundred thousands early, you know – one or two million euro to set up research, and the money follows the research around, so in one case there’s a recreation researcher we spoke to, who actually chose for her own family reasons to be talked to Zagreb that money with her, I fear it might be a rare example, but it is an example of nonetheless european money going to somewhere like Croatia that always save the time being the smallest size than Germany and the UK, that said, guess where most of this european money is going and of course it is in the countries that have the existing scientific infrastructure and that fund themselves, it’s actually being diminshed slighly because fund are being diverted toward the estimulate packages that’s maybe going to likes of Greece. So mixed sidings from Europe in terms of science funding, but it’s an example – maybe you’re less likely to have in the United States in the quite same way.
Before – I’m not used to be the most optimistic person in the conversation with my twisted cynical personality, but isn’t often the small european countries afford going to english as an export language, in a way that Americans are doing it because it’s their market, but I know that there’s a company from Cracow called Base which is #1 in the world for mobile CRM and it’s really a Polish startup. They kicked off in english in mobile first, and because the polish market isn’t that big, they automatically think globally. And I think the one level of being from an english-speaking country is a disadvantage, because if you’re in the translation business you know that it’s french, italian, german, spanish, japanese, korean; but for a lot of american companies english is it – so do you think it’s a little too pesimistic to say that we held back – that market isn’t just europe if you’re not just a technology startup?

“Very often, small European countries are forced to go into English as an export language in a way…”

Richard Lucas, entrepreur and investor
I’m not saying we held back, I’m saying it is as well to be not to be optymistic about the european project, if you are a EU tech company, dividing your strategy. Because those’s assumptions are likely to be true, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have a strategy that would be successful and it will involve insight on undestanding how to deploy the english language, understanding those things. It’s more trying to make a point, Gareth and I report about technology, not for their own sake ever, but because we’re interested in how it affects people’s lives, how it’s integrated in the world, you know where technology comes from, in things we do, it doesn’t always just shape the things we do.

““Technology comes from the things we do. It doesn’t always just shape the things we do.”

Bill Thompson
There’s a beautiful – sorry to drop this, I know we don’t have much time – in a way this is a podcast, because I’m not sure that – Sam is the faithful listener, I know we’re here and came online 30 million people were approximately listen to Click during a year, so it’s slightly bigger traffic than Project Kazimierz, but the existence of this podcast is partly due to the fact, that I was very interested in community building aspect, what happens before and after the on-air click podcast, and could you just – and in a sense that’s technology creating community that couldn’t have happened beforehand – could you talk a bit of history of that, or whether that’s typical for BBC because in a sense the platform the BCC gives you global audience and a part of this is in creating community – I’m a big fan of this slightly odd select group of people who listen to this before and after the main broadcast on air. Could you just tell people about that?
Yes, I mean – esentially it’s about creatively bending the rules and nobody in authority noticing until was too late. So Click go to digital as it was, digital panel as it then was is a very long-standing program on BBC worldstage, and will be getting there for 16 years now, it feels like longer sometimes, and we were the first programs to be available for RSS feed to download, or podcast as we would like to call them, was when BBC started experimenting with this new medium and the rules were very, very clear – only make available for download that what have been broadcasted. And so that’s what happened – we made a program, which was 30 minutes long and it was than made available to download to people’s various devices and other came very popular. What we then realised, was that of course that restriction of only stuff being a broadcast was really quite arbitrary, because in the studio we record more stuff, and what happens is at the end of the show the RIT recording the transmission is prepared, conversed into appropriate form of mp3 and then sent to BBC podcast machine which makes it available to download and nobody knows the same lenght. So we started doing a little bit of-
You cheated!
We cheated. You know, we thought „if people who are coming to the podcast might want to know which date it’s from, I want to know what we’ve have been doing, so we started talking a bit beforehand, and now we carried on talking afterwards, and we had a very amenable producer who perhaps didn’t realise that what we was doing was bending rules. And around the same time another big cring on a couple called Mark Kroma and Simon Males started doing the same sort of thing. And I’m pretty sure at some sort they should said „look, Click got away with it” and we said to our producer „we might get away with it” and now we’re back at doing it.
Exactly, so others follow where we led and of course our format lends itself well into being the beckaring couple that we are, you know we’re done another programs were – I’m just a sole presenter – and trying to do podcast extra material – when you are sitting there talking to yourself – as a challenge, so being able to have a chat to go and have a certain detail about items and hell and back with Bill is something that we can do into the minutes that follow the podcast, so – also Click won the audience. Before 30 million figure – I don’t know what 50 millions of them heard Click…
Or download the podcast!
Gareth: RIght, I think they should download the podcast, it’s good for them. But I think we do that 30 million people a week listens the world service
No no, it’s different, no. According to Colin – our reach out going out for a year is somehow 30 million on air.
Right, on air.
On air. So they’re assuming they’re overly whole year around a number of people listening to Click. Maybe only foot once, maybe only 5 minutes before they can find the „off” switch, but they listened!
So there we are, so there is some racity in that figure. And I think another thing to continue to build story about the opportunity didn’t see that we had to bend the rules to cheat as you – ablosutely rightly put it. Also with the podcast. Was – just almost – treshin of a sense when we first started podcasting maybe we were doing outro that was 30 second longer than the broadcast, and maybe went to 50 seconds growing out maybe 30 seconds to extra 10 minutes of podcast waffling or whatever you want to call it. But I think another thing that obviously was happening was the ad fans of the widespread use of social media with Facebook and then Twitter. Bill has particularily early adopted to an I copy villain and then sold to Twitter. But we haven’t been on Facebook for that long, before we were sent to invite to the digital planet listeners group, from a lovely chat with New Yorker, who those in Paris called Derek Erb, and with those called us knowing he has set up a listeners group and about 100 of them were just sitting there on Facebook and discussing items in the program, and Derek thought it might have got quite nice to invite the hosts. So we turned upon to this group to find out they know to talk about our program, and it’s a bit like coming home finding a party happening in your house with lots of people sitting and talking about your furniture – and you turn back and there’s a guest and you’re still feels a bit like that, that’s what I mean in a good way.
And they bought some decent wine to drink, but are also drinking your gin – so you know, you have some ambivalence about it.
It’s very interesting it’s brand hijack, the football clubs have problems with unofficial fan clubs, because they make t-shirts and they close down, but when you have an unofficial fan club that’s not doing any harm to the brand, it’s a very curious thing – I don’t know if you know Clay Shirky, the professor of social media, I think he’s in New York, who wrote a book „Here Comes Everybody” who talked about the grobanite fanclub on social media and started raising millions of dollars without having illegal i think pop singer Rocc whatever, a balletine called Josh Groban, idoled by the middle-class housewifes around the world and they collected money for birthday present for him, then realise who’s a multimillionaire and it made no sense, so they will give money to a good cause, and in that case they lost control. Here in Cracow we used to have Google for Entrepreneurs before it came to Warsaw to set up a Google Campus Warsaw, and we say set up a Google for Entrepreneurs Fan Club, with „Fan Club” written very small, so that we can have Google events in Cracow after Google departed. We might do that, we wonder if Google will sue us for making Google for Entrepreneurs Fan Club event, because it’s hard to see how they’ll stop us. And the other things is The Economist, my brother who works for The Economist said „do you know about Yahoo groups?” do you remember them?
I remember Yahoo groups launching, I remember them fading significant in my life. I used to manage several.
Because Yahoo did – I checked it – my brother setup a preset day of blog, setup a Yahoo Group for people to ask stuff he published in The Economist, and after a bit he was grandfathered, when all his Economist employeer told I believe it might be something not right about this, it comes from a distant memory, but I think new journalists who signed up with The Economist right now and are not allowed to launch their own blogs and things like that, it has to be under The Economist brand. As you can see Economist is a private company trying to make money from shareholders, so that scenario where I suspect that as we move forward, people become more aware of the value of the brand at which they are perching. And you’ve alredy launched –
When not – I don’t think Gareth and I see it as being „the brand” in that sense. In part because we’re a program on BBC World service, so you know – the program might dissapear anytime, partly because the BBC is keen to encourage this sense of community and go where the conversations are, not to pull things back. We control the broadcast, we control the content of the podcast, it’s not like people can interfere in that. If there’s conversation around it, Gareth and I as individuals head out there and participate in it in that way. So it’s slightly different thing from a company that’s built up a brand – if you think about the damage Twitter did while trying to control developers interact with the IPA and all this, and it hit really hard on what he wouldn’t allow when nowhere near this space hat we’re doing, just chatter to our friends.
We are, and saying to our name. So ohtesesesial I now that “Gareth from BBC” no, I have my own Twitter name, Bill Tweets under his own Twitter name as well, so the BBC really has no control over what we tweet, at such point i think over what’s going to the social media, people who know me as a BBC presenter maybe be keen on reading my social media pastings, so I’ll try to express the political views, but yeah, exactly – as Bill says, we don’t really see it as a brand. We have the luck of not actually having to see it as a brand, we enjoy doing the program and what we enjoy the most about it is the interaction with our very active and fantastic listeners. Sounds like a patitude, but patitude can be true.
And one of the things that I suggested when we met at the bar in London a few months ago, Gareth is organise a Google Hangout where you can not synchronise with the program where Digital Planet, Facebook – your podcast fanclub or community could get together, we could discuss something. I don’t really have a date in mind, but are you still potentially on that, I remember you though it wasnt’ a bad idea, I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to experiment, but would you like to do that sometime this year?
I certainly hope so, yeah. I’d love to do that and have almost an event, online event related to the program, rather that seperate from it. Having said that, speaking of the program we’re gonna be on air in about half an hour, and I can see rather twitty looking faces on the other side of the glass of the production team – getting ready for the show.
Perhaps – I’d just like to say, I’m a huge fan of your show, we’d love to see it promoted to our enormous audience, so you’ve got your 13 million.
Thank you!
The’ll be listeners in 23 and 24.
Welcome aboard to our little club.
Sam, do you just want to say? I’ll say thank you very much for taking part in this. Sam, do you want to close this and have the american accent in the picture?
Exactly, I think the british accent is much better to close out a show, but I’ve assumed that role. Gareth and Bill, thank you – the key lesson for listeners of this podcast is – we’re new podcast, but Poland is a very immature podcasting scene in comparison to what’s going on in english language and lot of the people who have introduced to podcasting have been really opened up to new level of learning and for anyone who’s listening – most of our listeners are in tech scene in Poland, the tech intelligence as I call it, should definitely subscribe to your show over the BBC site. Can you just give us a specific URL or we should go over to – or where they should type it in Google to make sure to subsribe to your show.
Yeah, just go to BBC podcast and-
BBC World Service
BBC World, yeah. I’ll do a retake on that. Just go to BBC World service, Click podcast, you can follow me @GarethM, or @BillT, that’s an easy way of linking to our podcast and giving us Twitter followers. And of course to any podcast – if you have available variation of those words into in, you won’t have much problem finding us.
Great, we’ll put a link to your show on the shownotes. So if you listen to this, please make sure you go to the Project Kazimierz podcast, sign off for the e-mail list and subscribe to us on iTunes. Just so you know a parting thought on the benefit of the BBC –
Richard: Sam, we’ve got to stop.
Alright, so thank you again Project Kazimierz listener for listening to Project Kazimierz, with Richard Lucas as co-host and BBC guests. We’ll see you next time.

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