Tech will (not) defeat me

Another day, another new cable purchased

I’m still wrangling with substituting the audio on Photo Booth’s video record-setting with vocals and a backing track put through a mini mixer. How many YouTube videos does one need to watch, Facebook experts do I need to consult, hours wasted and money spent buying cables and adapter jacks of all types to simply produce a decent sound to run alongside a picture? Seemingly many more hours than I have already put in, which is already too many. Another set of cables is on their way, which I have been assured by an audio geek I met online, will certainly work.

If not for lockdown, all of this would have been unnecessary, as I would have been performing live at places employing sound engineers, who deserve to be paid whatever they ask - gold bars, trips to Tahiti, a limitless bar tab. In the ever-growing list of jobs that will one day be automated, I hope sound engineering is not one.

Learning a new language

Last week I achieved recognition after years of applying for and then being rejected for grants when Advantages of Age was awarded a grant to create an online ‘Startup School for Seniors’ from the City Bridge Trust as part of the London Community Response Fund.

Meanwhile, I’m in the process of working with a ‘Furlonteer’ on a web app called ‘Let’s Walk & Talk,’ using a mixture of cognitive hypnosis, journalling and peer-to-peer support to help build confidence & resilience in over 50s through walking. Funded by TFL’s Walk & Cycling grants, the grant was awarded last year but, thanks to Covid-19, what was going to be a group based activity offline, has now morphed into a Web app.

And tomorrow I start on a 2 day ‘Founders University’ being delivered out of San Francisco by Launch, led by none other than Jason Calacanis, serial entrepreneur, angel investor, podcaster (This Week In Startup) and writer. Available to 150 startups worldwide with a product in the market, this is the first time the programme has been delivered virtually and I’m tremendously excited to be a part of it with Silver Sharers as it was massively oversubscribed.

I’ve spent five years, maybe more, trying to crack the code, get into the club, to which I felt excluded, not knowing or understanding the language its participants spoke. Some of it was related to my age and my gender but mostly it was about understanding the vernacular. In startup land, investors would ask about burn rates or CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) or LTV (Long Term Value), User Personas and they might as well have been speaking Greek. In the social enterprise/not-for-profit world, it was all about inclusivity or diversity, measuring social impact, alleviating loneliness (a big tick box if you run a not-for-profit aimed at older people). And behind it always was data, how big, how many, percentages of this or that.

I never did an MBA and Maths was never my strongest subject. Although I applied to many Ivy League universities, I never was accepted by any of them, even the one to which my own mother attended. I was more of the school of let’s do this and see what happens, then agonising over whether the numbers supported even getting started in the first place.

Winning grants, getting accepted onto prestigious programmes is not just about having a universally acknowledged good idea (which is important), it’s about understanding the lingo, knowing the numbers, fitting in and, in my case, devoting more time than probably many of my friends and family felt was necessary, to working for free. As much as writing applications is a numbers game, it’s also about understanding how the system works. Once you’ve won one grant, been accepted into a prestigious programme, it’s easier to get the next one as it’s easier for a funder to trust that you won’t piss it all up the wall (harder to do when the pubs are all shut). In the mountain of mud I’ve been climbing, I’m feeling closer to the top.

To run or not to run

I’m still running, having worked up to 1’25” running following by 1’35” walking. This has been an incremental step up from where we started which was 1’ of running and 1’50” of walking so it feels like some achievement. We can do Hampstead and back (it’s about 6 kilometres) in about 45 minutes or thereabouts. I can’t say I love it or even like it very much. I’ve yet to hit that endorphin high that all runners go on about. The bottom of my feet often are aching by the time we get back home and the steep hills are a bitch. Running reminds me of being picked last for every team while in secondary school and generally being allergic to any form of fitness during my youth.

I finally got into fitness in my early thirties, when after two caesareans, I realised that unless I did something about my non-existent abdominal muscles, I would probably end up with back pain or worse for the rest of my life. Eventually, I ended up with a qualification in Exercise to Music after being able to anticipate my aerobic instructor’s next step, having attended so often. Since then I’ve always enjoyed group classes or kettlebells because they are efficient and fast and don’t involve running.

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll continue to run but I would like, just once, to feel that runner’s high if, for nothing else, than to say that I know what it’s like.

What I’m doing this week

Starting a new book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, after finishing the very enjoyable Fleischman is in Trouble, which my son bought me for Christmas.

I started another Facebook group for Silver Sharers which now brings the total of Facebook group I manage to eight, most of which I ignore. I won’t be ignoring this one so if you know of anyone with a room to rent or looking for a room, please invite them.

I’m very tempted to sign up for Cheryl Porter vocal coaching online course. Looks like fun.

Continuing to watch Homeland.

Attending Founder’s University and Bethnal Green Ventures programme (now accepting applications for early-stage tech-for-good startups).

Have a good week. Enjoy the sun (in a socially distanced kind of way).