Imagine for a moment that you are reading or listening to a story so intensely that you forget yourself and step into the shoes of the storyteller. You see what they saw, hear what they heard, and feel what they felt. These moments are rare, yet when they happen it is as if we have been transported into their world and we are able to see through their eyes. It is a powerful, almost magical feeling. One that is a privilege.
"The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is..." - Marcel Proust
Proust is talking about adventurous empathy. Seeking out new perspectives on the world and ‘possessing other eyes’ - or as Kathryn Schlz said, ‘seeing the world as it isn’t’. Although we would be the first to admit to our shamelessly optimistic and somewhat naive approach both to life and to building Maptia, we firmly believe that:
More than any other time in history, there is a vast and remarkable potential to spread vivid, thoughtful, and imaginative stories via the unfathomably dense communication network known as the Internet.
Today is the 69th Birthday of Ranulph Fiennes. This man is the only human alive ever to have travelled around the Earth's circumpolar surface, he has scaled the infamous north face of the Eiger, and his late wife's father described him as, "mad, bad and dangerous to know".
For the past 5 years he has been working full-time for no pay and preparing for another epic Antarctic trip called 'The Coldest Journey'. The expedition is intended to raise £6 million for Seeing is Believing, a charity that fights to prevent avoidable blindness. Unfortunately, he returned last week - frustrated - but with his British humour (though unfortunately not his left hand) intact. Dealing with the challenge of having to cut this particular expedition short, he is nevertheless still determined to oversee the fundraising and ensure that the goal is reached. We expect that these setbacks serve only to provide fuel for the next adventure in the icy regions.
Reading accounts from polar explorers always leaves you with a newfound appreciation for cups of tea and the often overlooked wonders of modern civilisation, like warmth and electricity. It makes you realise that when pitched up against the natural elements, our species is rather fragile.
Of all the marvel hollywood films, X-men is probably my favourite. I’ve seen them more times than I’d like to admit in public. But in case you’re not familiar with the mutant heros – there is a scene where Professor-X builds an impressive machine called Cerebro. This nifty contraption enables him to locate all of the mutants worldwide. Professor-X can now see what they look like, learn how they feel, and start to relate to them. Being able to empathise with these strangers he eventually persuades them to join the X-men team and fight the bad guys.
The FullContact API is like a Cerebro for marketers seeking to build their tribe.
Here was our problem – we had our landing page live and we were getting email signups through at a decent rate, but had no way of knowing anything about the kind people who were signing up. Even if I was spending every hour of my day watching our signup list increment one by one, it is usually impossible to even recognise someone’s full name from an email. This meant friends, mentors, investors, journalists, and influencers were often signing up without us knowing. We would have just ended up ignoring them and missing out on great opportunities to reach out to interested people at that moment of emotional investment in Maptia. How useless is that!
I mentioned our dilemma to T.A. McCann, one of our mentors at TechStars, and he recommended that I try out FullContact, a Denver-based company backed by the Foundry Group, and he kindly provided us with a personal intro.
I have a theory that the principles required for surfing can be applied to the world of start-ups.
Careers guidance councillors at university would have you believe that everyone requires an MBA in order to even have a chance of building a successful business. Fortunately this is considered by many to be a myth. However, if this is the case then where else can you turn in order to learn the elusive start up meta-skills set? There are likely a thousand and one decent answers to this question, but for me it lies in the ocean. I reckon that the principles required to be a great surfer can also be applied to the realm of start-ups.
Diving in for the first time
Jumping head first into a start-up fresh from a cosy university lecture theatre is not dissimilar to cautiously picking your way across a sharp coral reef and then having the guts to launch yourself into intimidating waves for the first time. The icy water steals your breath and your enthusiasm is suddenly called into question. Overwhelmed with powerful feelings of both trepidation and excitement, in both cases you’re stepping miles out of your comfort zone.
These scenarios can appear somewhat intimidating and unforgiving to newcomers. It’s easy to lose focus on your business idea or be demotivated by the perpetual walls of crushing white-water and strong rip currents you must overcome. Despite giving it everything you have, it can sometimes feel like you’re going backwards. That said, the rewards – once you reach them – could not feel any more exhilarating.
There are only so many hours of jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching travel videos anyone can sit through without craving an endorphin fix and a long weekend soaking up mother nature.
Stumbling upon ‘a story for tomorrow’. Luckily for me (and my sanity) my mum had decided to take 10 days away from work to fly halfway across the world to visit us and was also keen to do some exploring of Chile’s stunning 2600-mile Iberian coastal wilderness.
As if any more convincing was required – Dorothy and Dean had celebrated New Year 2011 in Pucón, kickstarting their 6-month long epic adventure around South America, and when I mentioned I was thinking of heading South, they promptly started regaling stories from their escapades. Whether it was the thigh-wrenching, gruelling 10-hr hike up the majestic Volcano Lanín, which sadly ended in defeat by an electrical storm that had their ice axes humming and the visibility across the snow at only a few metres, or the beautiful fireworks dazzling across the lake on New Year’s eve, or the burning hot black volcanic beaches – I was totally sold on the idea and fell asleep with happy dreams of swinging through Patagonian forests and swimming in seas of fish empanadas.
A ‘cinemagraph’ can be described as an elegant, subtly animated creation that is “something more than a photo but less than a video.” Pioneers of this innovative and beautiful technique, photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg have risen to quasi-cult status in the fashion industry with their cinemagraphs. The now hugely popular animated GIF’s miraculously unfreeze photographic time. They capture the essence of a moment and store it in a bottle.
The good ones are stunning, with both an eerie and beautiful quality. They certainly elicit a memorable reaction from the viewer. A photographic equivalent of a Hemmingway-esque six-word story, the 2-3 second animation window in a cinemagraph is long enough to make a knockout impact. Perhaps it’s because we have become somewhat desensitised to traditional print. We browse online national geographic galleries, casually clicking through jaw dropping photos on a daily basis. Cinemagraphs add a little extra magic, and thaw a previously static image – breathing life into it. The one above is by SJS Photography and is of the Old Scituate Lighthouse on the East coast of the USA.