This week Sam and Richard welcome Mark Bradshaw, British-African farmer who moved to Poland to escape Mugabe’s oppressive policies, and discovered the perfect place for entrepreneurship. Both a fountain of ideas, and a seasoned implementer, Mark talks us through how to choose ideas, build a great team, and build something that matters.
Table of contents, resources and links:
Resources and links:
Table of contents:
Mark’s Backstory and First Company in Poland
- 00:47 Intro
- 02:41 Mark’s beginning as an African farmer
- 05:00 Building Krakow-Life.com
- 07:02 The Krakow-Life business model
Mark’s Second and Third Businesses
- 08:10 The next business – ringtones
- 09:20 Are farmers entrepreneurs?
- 10:31 How Mark took over Krakow Post
- 14:39 Expanding Krakow Life into Local Life
- 15:55 How to turn a directory into a franchise
- 17:15 The problem with the digital age
- 18:25 Do something original
- 19:01 The future of publishing
Mark’s Next Ideas
- 21:42 Bidroom: turning hotel booking on its head
- 23:30 Eataway: Uber for food
Principles and Methods of Business
- 26:20 Universal business truths
- 27:43 Why Communists suck with agriculture
- 28:54 Managing a farm in Zimbabwe
- 29:39 Hiring new people
- 31:38 Align employees with their purpose
Krakow, Startups, and Future Projects
- 34:08 Pros and cons of Krakow
- 36:27 The confidence of the new Polish generation
- 39:06 How to approach business and new projects
- 41:06 Would you pay to do it?
- 42:43 Find a problem that no one has solved
Hello again Project Kazimierz listener, this is Sam Cook, your host and I’m here with my co-host Richard Lucas for, Richard, how you’re doing? For another episode of Project Kazimierz where we are exploring the exciting innovation that’s developing in Eastern Europe and what we believe is the future of technology in this part of the world and hopefully world leader. So I’m here and as is our custom, since Richard is the man who’s connected to the entire community here, I’ll let him introduce our next guest, how you’re doing today Richard?
I’m doing very well and we’re in the office of a company called Local Life with my friend Mark Bradshaw that I met approximately 15 years ago…
Roughly that long ago.
Via a mutual friend who’s a very old Polish lady who survived deportation to the soviet counts during the Second World War. And we met in Dorset and Sherborne in the west of England and at that stage, I had a Polish wife and I’m not sure whether you’re married but you were soon to be married.
I think I was just about to get married.
You were about to get married and certainly soon to become a father.
I was soon to move over to Poland it seems at the time, I was only gonna come for a couple of years I thought then I’d do a little longer.
So I knew that Mark was coming here to start a business but I was doing my thing and he was doing his thing so we didn’t really have that much contact in the first few years but rather than me run through Mark’s businesses, I think it would be much better if you introduce them yourself starting perhaps with Krakow life moving to the newspaper or actually, I think before that, maybe you can talk about life you came to Poland because I think that’s quite an interesting story as well.
Well yes. Very briefly, I’m actually from Zimbabwe which was used to be called Rhodesia and in the 1990’s, there was a sort of a revolution, if you like, where the president for life was turned Robert Mugabe side of it as he wasn’t very popular, the best way to stay in power is to hand out property that didn’t belong to him, in this case turned out to be, it belonged to white farmers of which I was one, I was back I’m a tobacco farmer. So I had just met my wife, future wife, when she was living with me in Zimbabwe and we decided we had to leave the country of course. We came to Poland thinking that we would be here for a year or two that things would blow over and would be invited back to Zimbabwe but it didn’t turn that way. So I had to kind of reinvent myself I would say from being a tobacco farmer to what do you do when you’re in Poland, I just started learning new skills and that’s how it all started.
I think we studied in a rather prestigious University, didn’t we? Can you tell us a bit about your background before you became a farmer?
Yes. Well I was actually born in Zimbabwe but most of my education was in the United Kingdom so that included studying at the University of Cambridge where I did medieval history so very useful for tobacco farming. But my heart was always in Africa so as soon as I finished my studies, it was straight back there and onto the farm.
Yes and it’s an interesting thing about the British system that it’s not thought to matter if haven’t studied the thing that you end up doing in a way. In some other cultures it’s regarded as rather weird if an English literature graduate goes into banking. In the UK, that’s completely normal.
Exactly and I think also from the English system, there’s this idea of a gap year which often doesn’t happen in the rest of Europe or elsewhere in fact where people are encouraged to explore activities, they might not be doing in their professional life thereafter.
You’re not gonna get any argument from me on the values of studying a completely useless subject as history because I was a history professor myself and…
There you go. The same, it’s not even useless, I think just a different subject and another way to train the brain.
Okay, and then when you came to Krakow, you said you set up this business Krakow Life. How did you get the idea of that and what did you do and what was the moment that you actually realized that it might be more than something just as like, yet another website?
Right. Well I had a very good friend called Ian Martin who ran a very successful website in the United Kingdom called natives.co.uk and it’s a ski jobs site. It’s a place where people who were looking for workers, chalet guides or ski guides or chalet girls might go and find jobs. And he knew we were living in Krakow, and he’d heard that it was a funky and interesting city so he said, can I come in and stay on your couch, of course this was before the days of couch surfing I think and we were very happy to see him. And when Ian came, he said to me, you know Mark, I was looking to find information about pubs in Krakow on the internet before I came and there is none so he said while you’re waiting to go back to Zimbabwe which was never to be, he said, why don’t you just start a website and call it something like krakowpubs.com? And this idea sort of planted a seed in my brain, I thought about Krakow pubs and I thought if you’re gonna do pubs, why not do restaurants and hotels and so on? So I want to come up with a name that would capture all of these things. Of course I had no programming skills but beauty of the internet and general publications is you can teach yourself. So I bought myself, to my shame, PHP for Dummies, and I sat down and I learnt how to program in sort of basic manner. And then we launched the site and I think within 2 or 3 months, the traffic started to grow quite rapidly and we thought that actually this could become a real business and not just a hobby.
And what was the business model? Because these days, everyone asks that question but back then I didn’t even know what a business model was, I was like randomly doing my stuff buying things for 1 and selling them for 3, which I call quite a good business model. How were you making money at the site?
Well, effectively as a sort of directory of businesses so the idea was before we put up pub or restaurant on the website, why don’t we go to them and see if they’re prepared to pay for it? We started off asking businesses to pay 40 zloty per year which was a rather meager amount…
That’s about 13 US dollars. We’re recording this in May 2015 perhaps when you’re listening to this in the future, you’ll wonder what a dollar is but at the moment the dollar is the world’s major currency.
Going up right now.
It’s quite high. We’re at about 3, 3 and a bit, Polish zloty to a dollar at the time we’re recording…
Almost 4, almost 4 now.
And so we weren’t even sort of thinking on the lines of a business at that stage but it became apparent that there was a massive need for this. Of course many of businesses didn’t have their own websites so we provided that store front, if you like, on the internet. A lot of them didn’t even have email addresses which was also something we had to explain was quite useful in the new world which was about to descend on Poland and Krakow.
And then I’m not sure which was first, you got involved in a ringtone business and you got involved in the new state of the Krakow Post. Which came first?
Well the ringtone business, after I’d been running Krakow Life for about 2 years. I had found people to take on the sort of day to day running of it, by and large and just expanded the base of customers, continued to have content and so on. And I came in touch with a gentleman called Wayne Batum who was growing one of the largest ringtone download businesses in the world actually and he said to me, Mark, the future is all mobile, don’t concentrate on the web, the web is dead, please join me with this. They had a very highly scalable business model which was to sell ringtones using television as the main medium for advertising so not magazines for young people but direct to television. The response was massive of course and it was a great learning experience for me for about a year and a half.
Okay. And actually in terms of farming, setting up a business here than the ringtones, these are like, I sometimes wonder are farmers are entrepreneurs and I think probably they very much are even though they’re not typically the people, you’re not so active in the site here but when I go to all networking events, in Google for entrepreneurs or Hub:Raum, or Wytwórnia, I don’t often meet a farmer so would you say you are an entrepreneur before you became a farmer or was farming at entrepreneur activity?
I think farming is an entrepreneurial activity, particularly in Africa. Perhaps you can be a farmer in western Europe and simply concentrate on managing other people. But in Africa, it’s a very hands-on kind of role and that’s actually what I really love about the business is getting involved, learning how everything works and learning how to fix things yourself rather than outsourcing them if you have to. In Africa, you really, really have to be super self-sufficient so that means everything from, being able to do electrical work, plumbing work, fixing tractors and I love learning lots and lots of skills.
Okay. So what about the newspaper, what’s the story there? This has been an episode in my life as well which actually left me with less money afterwards than before so I got my own feelings about the newspaper but it’s an interesting story I think.
Well, with Krakow Life grew fairly rapidly. What we first of all did was we started expanding the same business model into different cities both in Poland, 5 other cities from Wrocław, Zakopane, Gdańsk and so on, but also regionally. We started to grow really quite quickly and particularly in Krakow, reached a saturation point in terms of the amount of space that we could offer to advertisers on our website and also printed maps which accompany it, so we were really full and we were looking for a new outlet for basically keen advertisers, nobody wants to turn an advertiser away, right? We’re talking about 2005 to about 2009. So we heard about a newspaper called The Krakow Post which had been run by an American and a Dutch expat here, they’d run it for a couple of years and then I think they decided to go back to their own respective countries. The newspaper quite popular but they weren’t in position to run it so we purchased the Krakow Post from them and used that as an extra source of advertising placement, if you like.
And talking about your expansion to other cities, this is something I’m familiar with a business I used to very involved in called PMR and we run site business information sites. We have a template and I remember that at one stage, we’d met someone from New Zealand and I think you had Wellington Life or…
Auckland Life, I think it’s still there.
When you click this, you’ll see the same template which are those probably design coaster but I remember when you click on restaurants in Auckland, they came up with restaurants in Krakow, simply because nobody had actually updated the content. So the newspapers was a few years and then you decided to carry on with that.
Well I think with the newspaper before was that, there were lot of people interested in advertising and were advertising with newspapers but when we sort of came to the crisis years I would, 2008 – 2009, it was pretty clear that advertisers were beginning to move that advertising spend more online and less into print for obvious reasons. So at that point, so we slightly reduced the frequency and the number of the newspapers that we were printing, at the same time, maintaining a lot of editorial content online.
And the other thing which, if anyone listening to this podcast anywhere in the world is where the distribution content to, the distribution cost of getting our intelligent and nice voices and sounds into your brain are very, very low, the distribution, I remember when I looked at the Krakow Post, the hassle of distributing of physical paper is rather higher than getting information across the web to people.
Yes, but I think interestingly enough, we also produce a print map which we hand out free, an event guide, which been coming out for over 12 years now. And although there’s been a massive swing away from print, print is interestingly making a little bit of a comeback I would say now because the internet is so crowded, if you like, it’s very difficult just to standout in the internet but having a physical printed item to complement that seems to be something that…
And I think I was either one of BBC or the Economist I was reading the great thing about print on paper has fantastic battery life that we…
You can drop it in the bath.
You see it’s still on paper and it’s not going to go to go down on you which is why everyone prints things out before they go to meetings just in case they can’t fire up their laptop. Okay, so then it was the question of rebranding away from Krakow Life to Local Life, what was the story there?
Well, I mean, as you can imagine, we went at about 32 different cities following the same pattern, warsawlife.com, and it’s very difficult to keep all these different sites running effectively, updating them or also in terms of linking between Google, SEO, there were certain limits they put up a number of domains that you should have for certain technical reasons, it seemed that if we were going to grow beyond that point it would make sense to roll everything to one. And that also of course has advantages in terms of branding so we didn’t, when we were contacting advertisers, they would be saying who are you, we say we’re Krakow Life and Warsaw Life and Gdańsk Life and it’s quite difficult to explain exactly who you are. So we decided to put everything into one brand named Local Life and that’s taken us quite a lot of a time, I would say over a year technically, but the benefits are now to be realized then it certainly been so.
And how many cities are you currently active in?
We have about 38 cities now and what we’ve done is we’ve turned, because we’ve realized that the most valuable thing in this whole business are people actually, we can’t be everywhere at once so what we’ve done is we’ve turned our business from something where, we were employing people in these various cities or we were finding local people as we’ve actually turned it into a licensing system effectively a franchise. So now we encourage people who either in a city which they know extremely well to contact us and we will simply provide them the tools to become leading guide in that destination.
So if someone listening to this from an interesting touristy city where you didn’t have someone you’d be glad to talk about running ads or whatever, Madrid Life or…
Correct, correct, correct. And the technology that we’ve created allows us to roll that out in a matter of days.
And also for everyone listening, I’ve known Mark many years and he’s a fair guy so a lot people in the franchise business who, promise a lot and underdeliver but I think you’re, whatever you see see on the tin will be what’s inside it, as far as I can judge.
What I would also say is that people do contact us and it is a lot of work, whatever franchise one gets involved in or whatever business one gets involved in, it’s not a shortcut to some kind of success, hard work of course is always…
If it was easy then everyone would do it and it wouldn’t be easy because there would be lots of competition, right?
“If it was easy then everyone would do it, and it would no longer be easy because there would be lots of competition.”
And that actually, one of the things I’d like to, Mark, you’ve been involved in really the information publishing business for a while now and you’ve seen the transition from digital to prints and what Richard just said really reminds me of the world that we live in right now which is it’s never been easier to put out content, just like this podcast, I mean, it’s technically not hard and it keeps getting easier which means that it’s never been harder to be heard. Can you talk a little bit about the paradox of it’s never been easier to do this and therefore it’s never been harder to get your voice out there?
“It’s never been easier to put out content just like this podcast… which means that it’s never been harder to be heard.”
Well yes, I think there’s also this kind of delay factor, I mean, we were fortunate enough to be starting Krakow Life when there was not a lot of competition should I say? So first mover advantage etcetera, etcetera. Now we have tripadvisor, booking.com, all the people who weren’t here in Krakow are now around us. Of course, there are people who everybody feels they need to be involved in a startup now and that problem as you mentioned means that everybody’s trying to do the same thing and often they’re not trying to do anything original so it would be saying to those people, are you sure you have an original idea? Don’t simply copy what’s out there because it’s actually harder to compete online sometimes because there are so so many people in that space. Try and do something a little bit different, maybe you can do something in print first because that may give you a little key or something different to get in there.
And you’ve also seen the transition from, which was really accelerated by the last downturn away from print and then that coming back a little bit, how do you see the future of digital and print publishing interacting with each other? Because I know that that’s something that you have your hands in both sides of that.
Well, the main challenge for publishers is that everybody expects everything to be for free now, and the fact of the matter is it has to be for free. I think anybody is putting up pay walls in the hope that they can create better quality content which people will somehow pay for are just burying their heads in the sand. It may work for a short while, I certainly know some very good publications have managed to, what I would say is they’re extending their demise somewhat. All the major publishers in the future will be providing stuff for free, how they can do that and make money as anybody’s guess right now. I imagine it will involve citizen journalists and user-generated content to a massive extent and actually try and find the superstars amongst their readership who are prepared to add quality content for free.
My brother who we interviewed earlier for the series about The Economist said once that everyone wants information to be available fast, high quality and for free and you can have 2 of those, but it’s hard to have all 3 for very obvious reasons, it’s a lot like a good cheap second hand car, you have it good and second hand and it’s not cheap, etcetera, etcetera and there obviously is a tremendous issue, the revenues of The Economist are in trouble because the advertising spend is going down, Google’s, eating one of their major revenue streams because it’s better value for money to put £100,000 pounds into Google advertising on Adwords than to put it in unmeasurable print advertising I guess.
But for example, there’s no reason why a very talented writer will not write for quality publication for free in return for example for just getting his name out there. He may be providing consultancy services after hours, who knows what, but I do believe that the cost of content will go down and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality will drop in line with that.
This is a debate we could have for a long time, and one of the nice things about in a free society is we don’t have to agree with each other about everything but also I think it would be most valuable, there’s a photo on the wall showing Bidroom above your head and Bidroom is actually a very nice story from you because it ended you’re better off from the end of it when you started, I discovered recently which is very good. Could you tell people about Bidrom because it’s an interesting story.
Well Bidroom is, I wouldn’t choose the word disruptive because everybody says that about every single idea. It’s an idea about hotel booking that I had a few years ago which was to turn the whole process on its head rather than look online for what hotels are available, actually tell the hotels that you’re coming to a particular city on a particular date and ask them to bid against each other for your customer. This was an idea I came up with, launched the website, got some investors and then recently left. So it’s been a great learning experience, learning about investment, working with people remotely which I haven’t done much before but it’s something that’s now in the past and as you say, I’m working on similar projects. Using that experience to try and find the key elements that will both excite me and give the project the very best chance of success.
And I knew you got some money out of it probably you don’t want to tell us the exact amount but has it made you a multimillionaire or do you just feel you’re lucky to get a bit of the time invested back?
It’s not something I can talk about, for obvious reasons.
Okay.There are people who do and there are many people who don’t and I was just predicting the answer. The, so now there is a new project which is like a sort of an Uber for food. Could you talk about that?
Yes, I mean, I think the thing that Bidroom really showed me is that you need to concentrate on strong ideas and not try and really work ideas that are currently working for other people because the market is so saturated, people would know how to do that extremely well. So the idea is I’m walking around the town, I actually came from when we were in Sandomierz with my wife summer last year, we’re walking around and of course there’s lots of restaurants there we can eat local Polish food but it’s all pretty much what I would call Disney food, it’s food for tourist. But I’m looking around the windows about and thinking, well, there’s people here who are cooking nice local real food and that’s probably where I really like to be eating. How do we put those people directly in touch of the tourists below and of course technology is the fantastic enabler of this. So the idea is rather than build the platform for the world to do this is just start in a very small way by offering this service ourselves. So my wife and I as of last week have decided we’re going to cook once a week, see who we can find through the internet for various channels, see if they’re interested in coming and eating with the local people, see if we like doing it, find the problems that are bound to exist before we build the platform and just see if this is an idea that might have legs. So that’s where we are basically, we’re a week to this project which we called Eat Away and next week, we will launch a very, very simple website, eataway.com, and we’ll see what the uptake is.
One of the things that might be obvious to people listening but if it isn’t obvious, I’ll explain this, you talk about the way you leverage one business off another in the case of Bidroom and Eat Away the fact that you got some traffic is quite significant, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s very nice. We can also target our readership because we know what cities they’re particularly looking out, what pages they’re looking at, and as you say, it’s just a free version, we don’t have to go to Google and start paying them to send us traffic which is a very, very useful.
And one of the things when we get together, we talk about the challenges you face in business and every business has similar challenges whatever they’re doing, we sometimes talk about people issues and when you said hard work, certainly finding the right people, motivating them, how to get them to do what you want, to stop them doing what you don’t want them to do, challenges, can you reflect a bit of what you’ve learned and I guess you’ve been here for 20 years now, 15 – 20 years is a long time and maybe it was the same in Zimbabwe, maybe it was different but are there universal truths?
I think it was very different in Zimbabwe but here what I’ve tried to learn is I think it’s very important for anybody running a business to realize what they’re not good at because any person who’s leading a business tends to think they’re quite good at lot of things but actually it’s realizing what you’re not good at which I think is really the most useful information for me. I’m not good at a lot of things and it’s important for me then to find people who are good at that. And then in addition to that, once you found them, to let them get on with it and not try and micromanage them because no doubt they’re better at that than you are. So I think that anybody leading a business nowadays is really got to spend the majority of their time finding the right people in the first place, motivating them but not over managing them, rather just encouraging those people to come up with the right solutions.
“I think it’s very important for anybody running a business to realise what they’re NOT good at.”
That’s certainly true. So obviously, can be quite a challenge to motivate people people when you don’t quite understand what they’re doing, there’s a level of trust in knowledge, right?
Yes but you have to motivate them about the project, I think that’s the bottom line. You need to find people who can share your passion for particular project and don’t need to know exactly how they’re going to get there.
That’s a really interesting insight and I have done a bit of leadership. In my background, I was in the army for 13 years and before that, I was in the military academy and so I guess that’s what I’d have to do with most of my life and the thing that really impresses me about people who grew up on a farm or people who run farms is, communism in Poland and in the Soviet Union actually competed pretty well with the west in industrial but what they never got right, and you see this in North Korea now, and no communist state has ever gotten this right, is agriculture, and I like to say that the reason communist states have such a hard time with farming is in a factory you can bring everyone together and you can watch them all but in farming, you have to trust people out on the field to do exactly the right thing and is that a skill that you had to learn which is to delegate and trust or do you think that that’s something that people innately developed?
What I would say, I mean, in Zimbabwe, the farming there is very much a kind of top down ordering of maybe large numbers of staff to do certain things so it’s very much ordering people to work on a large scale. I would say the type of management that I’m involved here in Poland is completely different, it’s about realizing that you can’t tell people to do all the stuff all of the time because you just don’t have enough hours in the day to be going around checking on everybody all the time. So here, it’s been the case, as I say, learning what one is not good at and realizing that one only has a certain number of hours and that you have to trust other people. Of course then it’s how do you find the right people is the sort of the next question and what I’ve learned is to, can’t say that it works all the time but I do look at people’s’ CVs when they are submitted it to me but those are looked at fairly briefly just to see that they have some basic data there. What I really enjoy is meeting people and I also don’t necessarily advertise for a particular job, I’d rather say I’ve got a project in mind and I’m looking for people to join me and rather than see what that person has and where their real passion would be and rather find a role for that person rather than try to squeeze them into a particular box.
Very interesting. I’ll just comment that although Sam has his view, I actually don’t agree that communists were good at organizing industry, there are 2 problems…
They were just better at that than farming…
Cost control is very, very hard to control costs in communist system, innovation is almost impossible. It’s very hard to get your inputs, and so it’s hard to get the machine you need to run your factory, your machine tools, your printing machine, it’s hard to get the spare parts, and the idea of getting a new one and getting spare parts and of all the things that a western printing machine or manufacturer like Heidelberg is highly incentivized to keep you supplied with spare parts which they charge you a lot of money for and then they want you to buy a new one and you wanna get a new one cause it’s better. With communists systems, you get a single objective, build the best rocket, even now, the soviet, I should call it Russia these days, is highly effective at producing missiles, things of particular objectives in terms of like how to make a tractor work a little bit better or a little bit more efficiently then it’s just didn’t work for that so that’s a separate issue. I also think coming back to the people issues, it’s a very interesting and an unusual idea to look for the people and then design a position for the person and that is an idea that I think some of our listeners could reflect on because that’s not something you’ll hear for everyone.
Yeah. I just went through a situation in my business where I’d hired someone to do one job and realized that that wasn’t working and rather than, and this is something a business mentor taught me, before you get rid of someone who’s not doing the right job which can not only have a bad effect on that person but potentially the moral of the team to say, well what do you want to do?
And one of the things I like to do when I sit down with an employee is what do you wanna do when you leave because I‘m not naïve here, no one stays in the same company for 40 years anymore, what’s your real goal here? If you just lay your cards out on the table now then I can put you in a position so that you’re able to reach that objective that you have personally and then everything is okay. So how have you managed to, I think that’s a great insight, how have you managed to design positions for people, do you talk about what they want to do within the company, after the company or which one?
I mean, absolutely. It’s kind of interesting it would be, I told you about getting PHP Programming for Dummies at the beginning and in order to learn that, my wife at the time was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts and we had a young child so there’s no time for me to be studying so we found a nanny. This nanny was actually a gentleman who after 3 months, actually a fantastic nanny and he was immediately employed and is a salesperson who is working with us to this day, he is actually our lead salesperson. So again, if you see somebody who was extremely good in a job which he probably wasn’t familiar with, i.e. as a nanny, he actually studied religious studies of theology at university, he did the work, he did it fantastically and then was brought onboard as being a trustworthy, hardworking person and has found himself in that role. So yes, if I’m going into a new project, I will search far and wide for people and the chances are that people who will end up working with me didn’t imagine that they would be working in that particular role unless of course they’re technical people for example a web developer and so on. But, yes, I mean, I’m just looking for people who’s eyes sparkle when I mention the idea, I mean, that’s really the bottom line because I don’t wanna be putting lots and lots of energy to people because one can only do that for short while but the energy needs to come back from them.
A lot of the other people we’re talking to are talking about how wonderful Krakow is and one of the things that I reflect on every now and again you’re talking about packing your bags and leaving and you’re not, although you’re doing your website so like being an investor for the city through your professional business activities, obviously you’re not someone who’s always keen on being where we are now and what were your impressions on Krakow as a place to live, work and play and raise a family?
Krakow is an absolutely wonderful city, I mean, from April through to October, particularly if you have an African background, I miss the sun, I miss the outdoors, that’s really where my heart is. Having said that, I do feel at home here, I think Krakow has an enormous amount to attract people to live here. And I’m absolutely overwhelmed with the transformation of Krakow since I first came particularly now with the startup scene with so many people coming here, it’s absolutely a revelation and I wouldn’t say as time goes by, I feel less inclined shall I say to leave Krakow for than I did on those early grey days shall we say? Which are fairly familiar to you actually?
Yes, indeed. I mean, when Macro Cash & Carry as part of the Hanial family concerned enormous like markets, I think they were all over the world, now in 2015 when we’re recording, they are big wholesaler, I think their revenue is in 26 billion euros worldwide and when they set up the first Macro Cash & Carry in Sosnowiec which is about 50 miles, 80 kilometers to the west, I remember thinking how lucky we were to have a shop like that so close so that’s unimaginable thing where we’re 10 minutes away and that’s too far so Poland and Krakow has been transformed and another thing that’s nice about Poland, Krakow within Poland is that in quite a conservative culture it is actually quite progressive and I would say that foreigners make them feel welcome here and also people in terms of tolerance and diversity, there is quite international. Is that important you as well?
I think what’s important to me is seeing just how confident young people here are beginning to become. You know there’s shopping centers opened up or something closer or further away, it’s merely a symptom of that. I think Polish people don’t realize how capable they are, that’s the bottom line and I think that’s just beginning to change and I’m really looking forward to seeing when that whole, if you like, grey past is just washed away and Poles rightly take their position as great innovators and great businessmen in Europe, in the world.
Yeah, that’s certainly true. And certainly, apparently around the angry young men movement in the 1960s, there was this jar of writers and they said never trust anyone over 30 because people over 30 then would remember the Second World War and I think there’s an idea that if we grew up in the war, we’re just fundamentally different, it changes their values and what they thought was important, not necessarily a bad way, but just different. So when the people remember Communism are different than the generation who grew up in the aftermath of communism, they have their parents talk about this world that they didn’t really understand, but Poland and that stage wasn’t a bit like western Europe, it was this sort of strange no man’s land, it wasn’t any neater in Poland and certainly in Poland and now young people say things like, “I’m lucky to be Polish.” Of course they are lucky to be Polish than when I remember NATO, I remember European Union, the Polish passport is a valuable document that enables you to travel to almost everywhere other than United States…
Except the United States which has repaid Poland’s staunch alliances and loyalties and armies and misadventures with visas, visa requirements among other things, when I’m a king for a day, I’ll change that.
We often come back to visa topic and my ex-wife was Polish and still is Polish in the days we were European Union, we struggled and I’m sure you did to get nasty, invasive, unpleasant interviews. Britain’s a nice country but you really have to make people line up and of course there’s some people who are listening, this is still a reality, this visa apartheid this idea that not anything to do with your personality or character or color or anything you’ve done but we aren’t responsible for, sorry, of course you’re not responsible for your color so I don’t demean that so that’s not what I meant. You born in Ukraine, you don’t have the right to travel around the world, you’re born in Poland 50 kilometers to the west and you do and it’s one of those grave injustices. I’m just looking forward a bit, obviously you’ve got your existing business, you’ve got Eat Away which obviously I hope will become and we’re able to say I used to know Mark Bradshaw and Martha Bradshaw, my billionaire friends but looking forward, making huge amounts of money isn’t the objective, maybe it is but if you think of future projects, do you know what your future projects are going to be or is it just like one thing at a time and whatever comes next?
No, no, I really like the idea of starting something really small with a small group of highly focused people with an original idea and just take on the world basically. If it doesn’t work but the actual process of meeting those people, working with them is in itself a huge award. As I said whether it turns out to be a great success or not is obviously of importance but it’s not the only thing I would say. It’s extremely important to find people to work with when you really enjoy being with every day. I’m not just thinking about the turnover for the month or for the year or those sorts of things. Those things bring their own sort of pleasure but actually interacting with people every day is what really drives me and brings me happily into work.
“I really like the idea of starting something really small with a small group of highly focussed people with an original idea, and just take on the world.”
People ask me about my work-life balance, I say it’s not really work-life, it’s activity-inactivity and I think what frustrates me is being bored and not having things to do and when I start a new social initiative like, yeah, I was very glad you came along, I was telling Sam here you came along to the first Open Coffee even though you’re not a natural networking type person but you came along to support the first thing. It gives me a little satisfaction that that event happens even if there’s no obvious business benefits it’s like before it wasn’t anything now there is. And it wasn’t me but I helped make it happened that held them up and so there’s a satisfaction in making things happen. Of course in terms of business, I have said that a business that doesn’t make money is a hobby and hobbies are important too but like making money is also part of it.
Yeah, and I think that also, I think one of the things that you said a lot of people come to me and say, what do you think about this idea, do you think that will make a lot of money? And I always throw it right back at them and said would you pay to do that? Because you are gonna pay to do that as an entrepreneur and likely never get any money out of it and the statistics say and so are you passionate about that to the point where you would pay to do it until which point is not a hobby and it pays you money. And I think that you’re definitely designing some projects you’re passionate about.
That’s extremely important. And I also say to people, people sometimes say, well, so and so seems to be doing extremely well, maybe I should do that. You should really stay clear of things that you have no knowledge about or as you say no passion about because just to aim for something because you think you can make money there seems to be a ticket to failure.
That’s extremely important. And I also say to people, people sometimes say, well, so and so seems to be doing extremely well, maybe I should do that. You should really stay clear of things that you have no knowledge about or as you say no passion about because just to aim for something because you think you can make money there seems to be a ticket to failure.
I have many failures so sometimes the reason has been that, it’s always a question of timing, the idea, the people, luck, and I think luck is incredibly important and most people are successful recognize luck in the past and it’s stupid to think that this is just about your own talents but I think that sometimes the innovation, I’ve been involved, I hasn’t been that radical, it’s about bringing an idea to Poland that works elsewhere sometimes, it may not be the only place in the world like your friend with the ski chalet job site and you decided to do something a bit like that, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of bringing an idea to a new audience in the company that I’ve recently started running that I founded many years ago, we’re looking at the innovation process and what we’re saying if we wanna be talking to our most important customers about what their problems and pain points are and I said I’m really excited if we discover they’ve got a problem that no one has a solution to because if we can find that then potentially, that could be the future of our business. We’re looking for the thing that we can solve because of our technology and people and experience. And so I think it’s really satisfying to have in mind that we’re looking to solve a problem that people haven’t properly solved. I love this idea, you’re in a city, you’re hungry, there’s a lot of shitty restaurants, you think there’s probably somebody who’s really good at cooking, maybe those people would welcome a bunch of tourists. I can imagine a lot of issues with this idea here as you discover how you do this…
And so we already ran our first event and of course we have very positive feedback from it but of course, questions have come up, one of them, “Can we bring alcohol?” It’s gonna be fascinating and some of you’re looking for, that’s the part of it, it’s the discovery…
Do you provide alcohol?
Yes we do at the moment…
What if people bring extra alcohol?
Exactly. We do have a group of eight Norwegians planning to come to May so the first question was can we bring more alcohol?
We’re worried that you do not have enough.
Can we take the ‘more alcohol’ option?
That’s the beauty of actually doing things is you discover things that you would never imagine, again, be the problem, that other grown because you know that and some other brilliant guy designing a website hasn’t actually had an experience, he doesn’t figure it out, and suddenly you’re trying to take commission on a dinner and someone in San Francisco gets 15 Norwegians each bringing a bottle of vodka, but they don’t know how to handle that problem.
And of course another thing that comes with that is how long does this event go on for because after a couple hours with your guests, and if they brought a lot of alcohol, they might decide they want to stay on until the early hours, how does that affect your home and the rest of it…
And what you might do, and what I do with some events I’m hosting this from 7 ‘til 9 and if you want to carry on, you named a restaurant or a bar nearby after that you say if you want to carry on, go here, at least this way you’ve got a process which isn’t as quite as rude as saying, “Out you go, out you go.” Are there any closing… I feel you’ve given us Friday evening probably there’s many other things you’d like to be doing other than staying late in the office to ask us, so, if you have any questions you’d like to ask or or issues you’d like to raise or Sam, closing remarks from you…
Yeah, I just think that it’s really… I’m in a publishing world myself so I’m very fascinated by seeing someone who’s done it well especially in this community which is, I know it’s on for this community for probably the same reasons you’ve been successful. And, but also I think what the listeners are gonna gain from this is really insights on leadership and people and the easiest part in innovation is the idea, the hardest part is finding the right people and then motivating them to execute it and I think that what you’ve done Mark, a lot of people can learn from and hopefully this episode will be useful for that. And then if you ever come into Krakow, Project Kazimierz listener and you were looking for a place to eat authentic local cuisine, you know where to go, you go to Local Life and…
“The easiest part in innovation is the idea. The hardest part is finding the right people and then motivating them to execute it.”
Go to Local Life and…
And in the coming weeks, hopefully, eataway.com.
And eataway.com and make sure you go to Local Life too and you probably get some coupon for Eat Away and visit all these great websites that Mark has developed in the Central European region.
Yes and we make show notes for each of these podcasts so we’ll put links to all these places and when eatway.com is launched for sure, that’s quite an easy one to remember but when it is launched of course we’ll update it so that people can find it even more easily. And I’d just like to close by saying thank you Mark and thank you Sam for the second broadcast of the day, it’s Friday the 13th and we did 2 podcasts and that’s an unusual one.
And may I also end up by saying one of the great joys of running a business is that it gives you a great opportunity to meet interesting people, it’s very difficult if you find somebody that you’d like to meet and just say, “Oh, I like to meet you.” But using the actual medium of your project, you can always go up to them and say, I like to talk to you because of this. So just as we’ve done this evening, it’s been a pleasure to meet both of you. You Richard of course I know well but Sam and thank you very much for your time.
Well thank you Mark again, Richard for making another introduction. I’ve been amazed by how much, in the short period of time this podcast has taught me about the history of Krakow-Silicon Valley transformation that we’re talking about and hopefully helping us chart a path in the future for making it even better and bringing everyone together to do in this podcast has been a lot of fun so. And then finally, Project Kazimierz listener, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode and if you have, please go to iTunes and drop a review on there. If you haven’t, please email me and tell me what we can do to improve your experience. And finally, share this with your friends whether you’re from Krakow or you’re from halfway around the world or inspired to visit here one day, I think it’s an exciting thing that’s going on here and we look forward to getting the word out there about something that’s happening, really special. So until next time, looking forward to joining you again for another episode in your phone or wherever you choose to listen to this. Thank you.