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Steve O'Hear - A wrong turn


Steve's ITK

November 18 · Issue #4 · View online
Steve's In The Know: Everything I published recently, commentary you won't find elsewhere, write-ups of events I attended or spoke at, and industry rumours.

Disrupt London 2015: my on-stage interview with Alex Depledge
Opening thought: What does inclusion look like?
TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference returns to London in a few weeks. Should everything go to plan, once again I’ll be conducting an on-stage interview with a renowned startup founder. I can’t say who that is yet but suffice to say I’m pretty excited.
I’m also reminded of the run up to my involvement in last year’s event where I had the pleasure of interviewing Hassle co-founder Alex Depledge.
The call up came less than two months before Disrupt and, having not been involved previously due to my reluctance to fly to the States, I was caught a little off guard when it did. I had also been battling illness in the weeks prior and front of mind was that I didn’t want to let anyone down.
“What happens if I’m unwell?” I asked. “We’ve already thought of that,” came the reply. A colleague at TechCrunch had quite brilliantly pre-empted my concern and volunteered to be my understudy so that they could step in at the last minute if needed. I was also offered a hotel so that I would be closer to the venue and could avoid a potentially stressful commute across London. “You guys are the best,” I messaged back, a little emotional.
Then the night before Disrupt I suddenly had a minor panic. Entirely focussed on preparing for the interview, I’d forgotten to check if the stage was accessible. “Don’t worry,” I was told, “we thought of that too. The venue is providing a ramp”.
When I arrived the following day, however (albeit, with 24 hours to go before I was due on-stage), I was informed that the ramp was still being built and that it would be ready for me to test later that evening. Again, nothing to worry about.
And what a ramp it turned out to be. The stage at Disrupt is huge and so was this thing. Health and safety had no doubt dictated that it couldn’t be too steep and as a result it seemed to go on forever and back on itself several times. A slight problem: I have almost no sense of direction.
Like in the movie Spinal Tap, one wrong turn, I thought, and I’d come up on stage in San Francisco not London or keep getting sent back to where I’d started!
Of course, it all worked out fine in the end and, by all accounts, I did a good interview. But more importantly, with little fuss and as matter-of-fact as possible, my colleagues at TechCrunch had demonstrated what inclusion actually looks like when it’s more than just words.
Bonus: Following last week’s discussion on disability and employee diversity, a reader emailed:
Your article on TechCrunch about the lack of disability diversity reporting in tech was excellent and I can’t thank you enough for writing it. It’s rare to see a gem like that in tech journalism.
I totally relate to the MBA student in the US. I have always been reluctant to raise the topic of my disability (I am partially deaf and wear bone-anchored hearing aids) - after leaving uni I was totally unsure whether to talk about it in job applications and interviews for fear of being ignored or dismissed. For the interview at my current job I decided to be totally upfront about it (mostly because I had been on the job hunting circuit for a long time) and the CEO couldn’t have been nicer to me about it - it made all the difference. The only issue I have now is that I especially find it hard to network at tech events because of the noise, which can’t be helped, but most of the time I end up nodding and smiling like a maniac…
Big fan of your journalism, keep doing what you’re doing.
I have a similar problem with noisy, crowded venues in that I find it particularly challenging to be heard and can end up being a bit of a shrinking violet or come across as not very social. I’m sure people think: HE’S NOTHING LIKE THAT ON THE TWITTER.
Things I wrote this week
UK-based AI startup Gluru is building a smarter task manager
Musement, a “digital travel companion” and ticketing platform, raises $10M Series B
Marvel acquires prototyping tool POP
Nutmeg, the UK digital wealth manager, picks up further £30M funding
European medical booking platform Doctena acquires Germany’s Doxter
Closing thought: Without fear or favour
When you’re a journalist at a large publication, people tend to be very nice to you, including saying nice things about you. Case in point: a few weeks ago a London investor kindly introduced me as their “favourite” tech journalist.
“No bullshit, knows his stuff, cares about understanding, does proper research etc,” qualified the VC, to which I shot back asking if this assessment would still apply if I ever wrote a negative story about his organisation.
“We’ll just have to make sure we never give anyone cause to write something negative,” he replied, before adding that, if something did go wrong, he was sure I’d be fair and un-sensationalist.
Further compliments aside (fairness and sensationalism are in the eye of the reader) the point being made here rings true. The best way to avoid bad press is to always be a good actor in the first place.
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