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Challenges in writing with a baby!

writing with a baby

Vincent and I started carnet.cc a little over a year ago. The ride is fun and challenging. Fun because we learn as much from the process of writing than the writing we create. And challenging, because we both are not great writers. It takes a lot of energy to get something out of our brain.

November this year, my wife delivered our baby daughter. It is the most exciting event that we have experienced. Every single day, we are grateful for the chance to be parents. We aren’t experts, but we do our best to help her grow healthily.

For our most observant readers, there has been a gap of almost 5 weeks on this blog. No articles were published during this period. It is due to my early steps into fatherhood.

My partner’s day to day has been most impacted. She needs to feed the baby and rest on a 24/7 basis, on short ~2-3 hours cycles. Intense.

Having a baby and trying to maintain a blog is a challenge. The lack of sleep, irregular but frequent interruptions, and holding a moving mini-cute-monster, are making the act of writing all the more complex.

Traditionally, I have optimized my process of writing: I think of blog post ideas on the metro ride back home. I start an Evernote post (but switching to paperus.co from my good friend Jeriel) and jot down some initial thoughts. Back home, I take a deep breath and focus for 30 to 60 minutes to write the first draft. A couple of days later, I review the post and correct it with Hemingway and Grammarly (but soon, all that process will be done on paperus.co). The final step is straightforward but time-consuming: I format the post nicely and publish it on our WordPress site, right here.

Writing with a baby, I don’t get 30 to 60 minutes of focus. And I can’t find the time to format the blog post.

There aren’t many solutions that I can think of at this stage. But I will ask fellow bloggers and find my ways.
In the meantime, I expect shorter blog posts. Ideally, I would post them more frequently. And probably more podcasts and interviews – but without the transcription (that I always correct manually).

Fatherhood is a wonderful gift. But writing with a baby is a challenge. I am still experimenting to find the flow and the routine. That’s what I need to deliver blog posts on a more regular basis.

[Updated] Start working on your mornings with an evening routine

This post is part of a larger interest, called self-structure, where I look into ways to support personal growth by organizing how I live. While I stay away from going to extremes, it has always been important for me to explore how I can improve, scale my impact, and structure my days. In this post, we look at setting up the evening routine.

Your morning routine starts with the way you sleep. Waking up in a consistent manner won’t happen unless you structure your nights. There is no way we can function on a daily basis, in a hyper-performance environment, without taking care of our sleep. I wanted to believe otherwise — but nop, it is impossible. 
Some people promise the wonders of 4 hours a night. I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and find a few months later that it was their worst experience ever. I need a complete 8 hours night of sleep to make sure that I keep my energy high, be a nice person, and make sane decisions.

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Slush Shanghai 2019

Slush Shanghai 2019

Slush Shanghai 2019 was a grand celebration of global tech and startups. It got me thinking about standing out as a tech conference.

I have a conflicting opinion of such events.
They allow thousands of people to hear cool topics directly from thought leaders. And at the same time, they create the hope for dozens of startups that they’ll get noticed by media and investors.
As a community builder and somebody generally in touch with the latest ideas and robust network, tech conferences don’t create something unique.

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Recording China Business Cast

Discover the podcast China Business Cast with Matthieu Bodin

Who hasn’t heard about the podcasting trend yet?
We can say that Podcasting is a lot more than a trend, considering that there are 700K free podcasts available. The average weekly consumption for Americans adult is 6 hours and 37 minutes as per this article on a16z. While I doubt that Chinese listeners are as passionate (short videos are the thing in China), I can see how many community leaders and KOL have started interviewing people and recording their opinions.

We also tried something with Upstart, and I’m looking into ways to get it off the ground once again. Over the coming months, there will be more interviews from local entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders.

From time to time, I have a chance to get interviewed and share some of my thoughts and stories. A recent one got published on En Eclaireur (in French) and the latest one has been with ChinaBusinessCast.

China Business Cast’s goal “is to help entrepreneurs who want to learn how to do business in China. The podcast features conversations with experienced entrepreneurs and business people who’ve built their businesses in China.”
I met Jons a few years ago at a Startup Weekend in Chengdu and got to see him again at TECOM earlier this year. That was an excellent opportunity to join his show and talk about “Entrepreneurship, Accelerators, and Unicorns in China.


That episode was recorded when I was still with Techstars (since then, I transitioned to XNode) but the content is still very much relevant. Beside some observations, it got me thinking about the way we perceive innovation in China. And how, as a global ecosystem player, we used to share it.

A big thank to China Business Cast team for making this happen!

China Business Cast with Matthieu Bodin

Experience with Chinese service industry

There is something fascinating for anyone that shipped parcels from Greater China, it’s to watch the development of the homegrown carrier SF Express over the last decade. Unlike its competitors (DHL, UPS, Fedex) SF didn’t develop a powerful back end to handles the parcels, but relied a lot on manual labour, a lot of parcels are still sorted manually by the last mile delivery men. 

This reliance on manual work is pretty common for Chinese company. They also often pay employees on a commission basis (Uber before Uber), while it’s far from being ideal on the side of the employees the unexpected side effect has been an incredible service. The delivery man has to be efficient and has to know internal processes, if he wants to be well paid. In return the customer gets a very good service, especially compared with traditional career where one has to deal with multiple layers of admin to get things done. This pretty unique mix of manual labour reliance and commission-based income put the Chinese service industry on steroids. 

Unfortunately, this time is coming to an ends quickly with the development of the recent Hey Tea and Luckin Coffee, where WeChat mini programs replace the efficiency and warmth of the faces of those companies.

The challenges of managing partnerships

Structure is the short path to managing partners

Working in the innovation field in China means receiving an unusually high amount of requests to partner up. Over the past four years, I came to dread receiving a message with the words “collaboration,” “partnerships,” and “let’s sign an MOU.”
While it is most definitely half my own mistake, I don’t recall any actual outcomes from sealed partnerships. The chances to fail are even higher if we’ve never met the counterpart in real life or done work together before. And if there is no cash exchanged one way or the other, the odds are indeed against this collaboration’s success.

So why would people reach out and sign MOU? I sometimes assume that people might collect paperwork and pictures with smiles or handshakes on them. It probably keeps them busy.

In a way, though, there is an opportunity to bring two organizations together to deliver something more significant than each could execute separately.
But to make this correctly, the process has to be monitored carefully. And several best practices served me well to avoid too much waste of time.

All it takes is a bit of discipline.

Push back on signing documents

First, best refuse to sign any document if there’s no cash or a short-term client available. Instead, suggest waiting until one of this two scenario happens. That has always helped set the serious partnerships apart from the PR-focused ones. That won’t make everybody happy and satisfied, but it is well worth the trouble. And if you’re like me, reading a legal document is something we gladly skip.
In China, the only exception could be with government bodies. They wouldn’t concretely lead to sponsorship or client work, but they are worth the attention in the long run.

Build a system

Second, create a system that is reliable and complete. I rely on tools to scale my action, and managing partnerships is a great opportunity to leverage digital services. My choice this time is with Notion.so and its database system. It is seamless (and free for the lowest tier) to create a Workspace, then a Page, and then create the View that suits your needs. In this case, the “Table View” works fine to prepare and maintain a long list.

At this stage, the fields (called “Properties” in Notion) that have been useful are:

  • Title of the organization
  • Status (Lead / Contacted / Active / Passive / Lost)
  • Internal point of contact (from your side)
  • Name of partner’s contact (from their side)
  • High Priority (y/n)
  • Last Activity (date)
  • Title Last Activity (short description)

Notion is built in a way that you may add as many Properties as you’d like. But it’ll be as many fields to fill in and keep up to date. It’s a balance to find and test.

Notion is built in a way that you may add as many Properties as you’d like. But it’ll be as many fields to fill in and keep up to date. It’s a balance to find and test.

Start fillin’!

Third, you may want to start adding the partners that are on top of your head. But I usually don’t worry too much and instead wait for a new touch point. Doing it step by step rather than in one go is less overwhelming admin-wise. Similarly, it’s essential to update the Table regularly rather than waiting for the backlog to get longer. Remind yourself to take a look at it every couple of days, 5 minutes once in a while will be worth the time. Plus, looking at the list can give you some new ideas with opportunities to reach out.

Don’t drop the ball

Finally, have the discipline to reach out to your partners every quarter or so pro-actively. Pinging them will go a long way and it could create some interesting conversations. It is for that reason that I keep the Property “Last Activity” well up to date. Whenever I have 15 minutes, and I see that I’m falling behind on partnerships, I will send a gentle nudge. Even if we weren’t the ones creating that collaboration, it is warmly appreciated – and a good signal of excellent customer service.

Some organization and light touch discipline – managing partnerships isn’t so hard after all. And instead of being frustrated by a handful of unsuccessful ones, we can scale this system while keeping it close to our attention.

New Tech-Community-Building 101 (under 300 words)

new community getting formed

Creating a new tech community from the ground up is an exciting journey. There is a lot to figure out, and your first decisions can seem difficult to take at an early stage. But with some strategical thinking, it doesn’t have to be complicated. When looking at the creation of a new community, three parts have to be considered early:

Mission & Values
Activities & Density
People

The mission and your community’s values are the foundations on which the group of people can agree on and scale. That can be started as an experiment but don’t change the mission or values lightly. Keeping the mission and values broad is an excellent way to welcome new individuals. Have a much clearer focus will encourage higher engagement and sense of ownership.

Activities are opportunities for community members to get together and form meaningful connections. There can be activities taking place online or in real life, but a combination of both often works best. With the right support, it makes sense to host landmark events, with broad appeal. And between two of these, have frequent and smaller gatherings or get together. Density can also be increased by actively engaging members on a digital platform. To avoid too much lurking, reach out on an individual basis after each group post.

Finally, gathering the right mix of people to support the community is critical. Beyond embracing the mission and values, supporting activities, they should be on the lookout for new members. To grow the movement further, look at mechanisms to find and “test” your next generation of community leaders. That always takes longer than hoped but creates the highest opportunities to scale.

Want to read more about creating a new tech community? Discover this white-paper written by Techstars on the 5 Ingredients for a Thriving Startup Ecosystem