Monday 1 June 2015

Episode 27: The Startup Shed

From Under Dark Clouds is the story of a burnt out British celebrity who runs away to a little Greek village to seek asylum. All he had to do was keep his head down until the clouds passed. He couldn't even do that right, he got himself elected.

The future of modern business, from a Shed 
My nerves were jangling like a piano in a pickup, dear blogees. We are on the cusp of something big and it was all my idea. We have the tools to begin a new Greece from within, taking the young and equipping them with the needs of all their tomorrows. A wise man once said that if you give a man a credit card he will shop until he maxes his limit, but give him a banking licence and he will spend for a dozen lifetimes. We were establishing an an incubator in our town and I could not wait to get those eggs hatching.

Remember when we were running for office, Mike the IT guy had talked about such things but the truth is that we had kinda forgotten it until now, which was very fortunate because now I had the world’s press on my doorstep which would give us ample forum for its launch. We had some empty premises in our possession and all we needed was someone with the skills to run the project and now we have them. They are an outfit calling themselves The Start-up Shed, yeah I know, but apparently it has some kudos, something about Steve Jobs starting out in a shed. They are part of a new wave of entrepreneurs in this country who aim to bring it out of the same cycle of making money from tourists and olive oil. Young graduates have two choices, unemployment or they go abroad to get work in Britain, Germany or the States, programming apps and making tech and loads of stuff that the modern world is selling their grandmas to get hold of. The young bright hopes of this country are going to build the futures of other countries. This has to stop.

We had a meeting with the guys in the board room of the town hall and I was eager to get there on time. Socrates headed down while I went to pluck Mike the IT guy from his den with Jude, a correspondent for the Cerberus, a quality British newspaper.

Apart from the blinking LEDs and monitors mike’s den was dark. Mike slapped the lid of his laptop down and spun in his seat.


“We’ve got the meeting for the incubator-thing. You are coming?” I said.

He looked passed me. “Yeah, sure. When?”

“Now. Oh! this is Jude from the Cerberus.” I introduced the correspondent to our grandmaster geek.

“Oh, don’t listen to him. I’m just a hack!” Mike modestly offered his hand.

“Me too,” replied Jude.

I stopped at the door to the board room and composed my entry, but there was no need. Socrates was alone.

We sat in silence until Jude asked Mike about The Startup Shed.

“Well, they’re a group of professionals from diverse backgrounds who take groups of young entrepreneurs and accelerate them to develop or destroy their business plan.”

“Destroy?” Jude was taking pictures of me.

“Well, if their idea isn’t viable, they need to find out quickly and pivot.”


“Change their idea until it has potential to create revenue streams,” Mike said.

Jude put his camera down. I relaxed in my chair. He pulled out a tablet and began tapping away.

Socrates looked at his watch for the umpteenth time.

The first of the Shedders to arrive were a couple who introduced themselves, apologised for being late and asked where the others were. They were accountants and busied themselves with bags and folders. I was eager to know what this was all about but when I asked them they looked to each other and told us that it would be better to get the full plan from the team.

The door cracked and surveyed the room. “Is this the meeting for The Startup Shed?”

I smiled and ushered the girl in. She parked up next to the couple and leaned across to exchange some words with the couple.

Socrates looked at his watch.

The team’s banker arrived with an ashtray and a frappe, placed them on the table and squeezed our hands one at a time. “Panos,” he said and I had no doubts. He sat on the opposite side to us and leaned across the girl to speak to the couple. They shook their heads in answer. He pulled a packet from his suit jacket and positioned the ashtray before him. I was getting the taste as the smoke wafted under my nose. The town hall has a strict no smoking policy but seeing as I’m the mayor I guessed I had power of veto or something. I rolled and lit. The girl stood to open the window.

Socrates addressed the team curtly in Greek and the they shrugged in unison. He looked at his watch and began again, pointing to Jude and the lady pulled a phone from her bag.

The door bounced on its hinges and standing in the way in golf trousers and Batman t-shirt was Danny, the English contingent of the team. It was like looking in a fat-mirror. “Sorry I’m late, gents. Where’s our Aris?” He ran his hand down the back of his trousers. “I’ve got mine!” He slung a battered leather bag on the table and slumped in the chair next to the banker who greeted him warmly.

He looked up and launched a palm across the table at me. “Freddy! I heard you’d be here. You know we’re both A13ers.”

It took me a moment but it made sense. The A13 is the road that runs from London to the Essex coast.

The team huddled and turned to Danny. “Would you like to tell Mr. Fygaso about what we do?”
“What do we do, Anna?” He asked.

“Can you just tell them about the accelerator programme, Danny?” She jabbed her head in my direction.

“Right, yeah, ok! What we do is take a group of young hopefuls and—”

Another knock at the door and a tall lanky unshaven type with a school bag walked in. “So you started without me?”

Anna leapt to her feet and turned to me. “This is Aris, the CEO and founder of The Startup Shed.”

The English guy took his seat again, thank god, he was really starting to get on my nerves. I know I’m retired but too many comedians in one room is just too many.

Closely behind the lanky leader was a slight American woman and a young girl who was parked at the end of the table.

Socrates looked at his watch. I checked that we were all there. We were.

Mike stood to help Aris connect his laptop to the projector.

“Since Mike spoke to us about running the First-steps, pre-seed acceleration programme here, we have begun applications and have now narrowed the candidates from twenty eight to nineteen.” He spoke in English and very well too, albeit with an American accent. “I would like to show you a PowerPoint presentation. Mike, the lights please.”

Words in minimalist monochrome ping-ponged around the screen to a soft-rock soundtrack; Scorpions, I think.

The little girl occupied herself with a naked Barbie doll and some crayons, I wondered if she might like to meet my boys.

Eventually, finally, thankfully the outfit’s logo dropped onto the screen preceded by the words powered by and it was over.

Aris leapt up with a Cheshire-cat grin and looked from me to Socrates, to Mike. The little girl continued drawing crayon clothes on her Barbie.

It was Danny who broke the ice. “So, apart from the lighters-in-the-air rock, does it make sense?” Was this guy writing my thoughts?

Fortunately the lanky one continued. “We can be up and running with the selection process, the Saturday after this when we’ll bring it down to eight to ten teams. Then we’ll begin acceleration the week after. This is the schedule.” He threw some printed sheets with their logo all over them to us. I took one and began to browse.

“Aris?” He nodded.”Excuse my ignorance but I do have one question.” He smiled and looked like he was listening. “What is an accelerator programme?” Socrates deflated next to me.

“Well, we are a team of diverse professionals and what we do is take young entrepreneurs and accelerate them to develop or destroy their business plan,” he paused and smiled. “Now, destroy I hear you say! Well, if their idea isn’t viable, they need to find out quickly and pivot.” Pause and smile. “Pivot, I hear you say!..”

Jude stood. “I think I need to make some calls.” And left.

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