Investing in Dazzling Zebras with Esme Verity

In this episode of Be & Think in the House of Trust, I am listening to Esme Verity, the founder of Considered Capital, a platform for startups and organisations seeking alternative funding. Considered Capital simplifies and speeds up the journey to finding and accessing the right funding fit through courses, community and content.

She is an active angel investor and was named one of the Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise by Pioneers Post.   

Esme and I discuss how to be authentic and practical when supporting founders raising mission-aligned funding. We talk about the importance of building genuine relationships, finding collaborators, and creating a platform that provides information and support for founders looking to make a meaningful impact.

Verity also shares her journey of discovering the concept of “zebras” (as opposed to unicorns) and how it has influenced her approach to funding.

 

Highlights from this episode: 

(01:45) What brings you joy?  

(06:45) How to show up and dazzle  

(11:35) Connecting with like-minded problem-solvers  

(15:22) Tackling the impossible 

(19:53) No place for fear 

 

Useful Links: 

Find Esme on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/esme-verity-33213183/

Considered Capital https://www.consideredcapital.io/

Zebras Unite  https://zebrasunite.coop/

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Transcript
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What does it mean to show up?

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When you practice social finance? When you're in that

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ecosystem? What gaps do we need to bridge to make it truly

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inclusive? What new and bigger decision making tables do we

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need to build to make things shift? When the same old funding

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avenues don't work? Don't reach don't create a valuable impact.

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What's the alternative? Well, welcome to be in thinking the

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house of Taurus. My name is Tim Van Warzone from conscious

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innovation. And in this show, I guess our people ignite social

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and environmental impact through their investment of funds,

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resources, research, networks, and commitment for a better

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world. And my guest today is SMA, Verity founder at

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considered capital. She's worked with hundreds of purpose driven

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startups, nonprofits and governments to help democratize

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access to alternative funding source.

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Hello, as me,

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hello, wonderful to be here.

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Wonderful. Where are you calling from today?

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I am in Accra, Ghana, it's 40 degrees.

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It is beautiful.

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Beautiful. Tell me you've been around the block and around the

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world for many years since you've been traveling to learn

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from all these different contexts?

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Oh, that's interesting question. I haven't actually traveled.

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I've traveled about quite a bit. But I haven't lived in that many

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countries. Ghana is the first place that I've lived in for a

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little over two years now. But I did travel a lot. Because my, my

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dad is a an explorer, I suppose. He believes that life is about

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joy, and exploration. And as long as you are, have some sort

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of financial stability and independence, that you should go

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on, and do the things that you love, and he loves to travel. So

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he gave that gift to me, I think that's a wonderful gift to be

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given. And I try and travel as much as I can. I think as a

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child that gives you a wonderful way to interact with the world

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and to meet such a diverse range of people. And it makes you a

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very good listener. I think when you meet people rather than just

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talking about yourself, you just ask a question. And then it all

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comes about. And I think that's one of the things that

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hopefully, other people would agree about me, but

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talk about exploring, listening and joy. So what brings you joy

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at the moment as me,

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what brings me joy, right now, being in a place of quiet, like,

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I live in a city that people might not think it's quiet, it's

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right loud, lots of traffic, lots of action, lots of

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movement. But actually compared to where I used to live, which

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was London, it's has given me so much room for thoughts, so much

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space, to actually enjoy the small things like London is

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very, like, let's go, let's go, let's go to a meeting, let's go

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to an event. Let's, let's run, let's run, let's be busy all the

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time, the realize it wasn't really actually doing anything

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useful. But what I would define is useful or meaningful, I

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wasn't really building what I think is like deeper

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relationships. Whereas here there is less to do, you know,

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as less things about, but when you go to an event, that's I

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don't know, a gallery opening, it's so magical, because it's

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feels more meaningful to people that you know, whereas in

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London, if I came across someone that I knew, I would be like, Oh

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my god, make it a whole thing. Whereas because a car is

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smaller, it's like, even if you know, I don't know anybody, I

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can go to an event and see people that I know and have a

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really wonderful time and appreciate it. So much more than

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I have appreciated. London even though you can access everything

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at any point.

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Great. So we've got from joy, we've got the rarity of things

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and appreciation of things, and the magic of these things. So

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when you have more time to work on your mission and your vision,

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what do you do? Tell us more?

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Yeah, so yeah, with all of this time that I was gifted to me and

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I created for myself, we started thinking about what are the real

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problems that I see in the world and what ways I think I could,

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you know, solve a problem but make a dent in it. I have come

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from a background of working with startups. For the last, I

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don't know, five, seven years, I'm starting my own business, or

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went out to raise funding, tiny failed to raise any funding.

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Because I was pushed down this path of venture capital, VC

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growth at all costs that whole kind of train. And it wasn't

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really right for me, I couldn't find anything else to work at

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venture backed businesses. Same thing also doesn't feel right

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for lots of these businesses that just running, running,

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running, particularly ones the high impact part of them did, it

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didn't make sense. But I felt like I was just hitting a

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hitting wall. And then a friend of mine, and Deborah sent me

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this article called zebras fix what unicorns prank Manifesto by

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zebras unites. And it was just, you know, and you have this

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moment where you're like, there we go, that's the door I was

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looking for. And I've managed to find the key to open it, and

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I'm, they're here waving my flag every night, you know, it's

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like, let's not put unicorns on this pedestal, let's think about

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maybe a different type of definition of what success could

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look like, with businesses, this zebra, which, unlike unicorns,

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it's real. The balance, profit and purpose, they're looking to

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find value for and generate wealth for communities, rather

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than just for a small selection of investors is, um, it's all

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about valuing, you know, sort of stakeholders, not just

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shareholders, all of that it's wonderful. And that just opened

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up a door of what could I do in that space? And I decided to go

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from a funding point of views. That was my sort of background,

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my experience and the pain that I felt, how do we fund this. And

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so I built a business called consider capital, where we are

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helping founders who are really normally zebras, even if perhaps

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they don't know yet, or otherwise known as wonky shape

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businesses, which is my favorite term that one of my graduates

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came up with which I'm just borrowing saying everyone out

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those types of businesses that are just doing something a

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little bit different, maybe you want to bring your employees

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into your business in a more meaningful way, make them

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shareholders, you know, they could do really anything that's

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different. You want to impact the heart of what you do, you

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want to be ingrained in your, in your actual DNA, or of your

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business, straight equity, or straight debt, or even grants

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aren't enough for you, we want to show that actually, there are

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other options that might be better for you, and inform

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people how they might be building zebras for the future.

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Right. And we all dazzle together.

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Exactly. The group is Empress is a Dazzle, which I just love one,

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I can hear maybe we can introduce some sound, some bits

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in the book. When you open the door, and you start to dazzle,

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what what do you how do you need to show what do you how do you

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show up, then to accomplish this, this mission of showing

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alternative funding solutions for people for the desert list?

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Does Alerces debris

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out our shop is an individual? I suppose I

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don't know. It's it's hard. It's very hard, because most spaces

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that you walk into a saying something very different.

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They're saying that, Oh, no VC works, even for impacts

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businesses, we can create huge financial returns. And we can

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also have huge measurable long term impact. And we need to be

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able to scale really fast to be able to do that. Or these

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unicorns are a wonderful, that's like more of them as all make

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more money. And you spend a lot of your energy, educating or

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trying to educate people that that's one choice. That's one

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option. That's one way to go. But no one's right. There's a

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whole bunch of other avenues that you could be exploring for

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different purposes. And they all have pros and cons. There's

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nothing's perfect, but you know, you just, it's constant. And

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sometimes you're like, I just want to be in a space. Like

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Deborah's where you just put you know, it's like, you're all

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there. You don't need to, you know, convince anybody you can

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actually just get on with the work. I've learned, particularly

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in the last year is actually going to work out if somebody

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can be converted and how far down everybody is it worth it?

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Is that battle worth it? Or would you rather be immediate

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smaller space that people are already working towards it?

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Coming up with solutions, and we could get on with it.

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Are you sorry to disappoint people when you were telling

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them the truth that there was? No, all VCs are right? And now

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there might be some?

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Yeah. Are you feeling?

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Like, you know, I think for a long time, I was like protecting

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it because you don't want to be on a burn bridges. You know,

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people want to say something so controversial, that people will,

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I don't know, like, stop interacting with you is because

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it's such a small space anyway. But actually it but that when

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you do, if they are even if they stand and perhaps, you know, not

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opposition, but in a different place like a VC? If it's the

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rights, VC, they're like, no, no, this is right, like, this is

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right, Vc is one route. And there's other routes, let's help

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you, with what you're doing. I found loads of really supportive

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investors who want to do that. But it's Yeah, I suppose as you

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get older, I don't know, for me, at least as I've gotten older,

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I've felt a bit more confident in my beliefs to be able to

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stand my ground.

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Right. So he's standing around, and I feel as well, there's a

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lot of compassion in your, in your message and how you, you

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know, what you're telling founders so that they know where

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they're going. And what's more, what's more is coming up for you

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when you're, you see yourself doing the job you're doing?

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Mm hmm. What's more, there's so much more. And I think that, you

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know, I can only do a small part of it. So what I'm increasingly

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interested in excited about is finding other people that are

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trying to fix a similar thing, right? Otherwise, as an

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individual, it becomes a bit of a road to nowhere, that's my

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biggest fear, it becomes a road to nowhere. So you want to find

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your collaborators, I'm not interested in doing everything

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by myself, I'm interested in finding people that are solving

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particular problems, for example, you know, we need a

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list of service providers that can help fund it or founders who

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are raising Alton definitely we need tools that will enable them

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to very quickly decide which option is right for them. When

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it's to be global. We need to have a way for founders to

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understand an impact investor, where are they on the scale of

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philanthropic money to VC style funding, so you don't waste six

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months chatting to somebody and realize that actually, they're,

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you know, a VC?

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Who is in your does have friends, you know, suppliers do

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you have

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I sort of built up such a wonderful, I can continue to be

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building up such a wonderful gang of people. We've got

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founders, like, Emma shore from the library of things. Library

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things is a brilliant example of a company in the UK, who has

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chosen a challenging path to fund and build their business.

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But one that means that they actually valuing their

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stakeholders over their shareholders in two ways. They

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have a really interesting governance structure. It's sort

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of a steward owned model, which means that their mission and

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that purpose is above anything else, and it's trained in their

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DNA. And they fundraised using a fair X model. So they're saying

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that they're giving themselves an option around what an exit

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might look like, and how investors might get their money

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back. It might not be through a traditional buyout, it could be

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next to community or something else. And like, it's those kind

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of examples. You go. And they've raised, I think, this point over

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a million pounds in funding from angels who want this to happen.

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And you know, we've been working for years together, because you

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need those examples of what's possible.

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And it's inspiring, right?

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What more is inspiring you that doesn't.

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So yeah, founder stories, but also people working on on the

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other side that people like finding paths and power here.

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I'm sure a lot of people have heard of it. We're listening to

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this podcast. She's like the, I don't know, I described her as

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Beyonce and alternative funding the other day. Wow.

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Right, I think she has written the book on venture finance on

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actually how you might go about this. And she's so generous with

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her time and she should generous with her knowledge. And she's

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very collaborative. You know, she could she knows more about

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this than anybody else in the world. She didn't keep that very

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closed off. But she doesn't. She invites people continually into

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what she does, including myself, so that we could work on things

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together. and tackle from her side, the funder side and me

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from the founder side, and how we can link together. So for

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both of us, it's not row to know where they are. We're connecting

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our funders and founders together today that we were

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doing just that, and that's really inspiring, actually

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bringing the two groups together that are difficult to bring

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together. But they're already aligned. Yeah.

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And yeah, I mean, people

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can't see you, but you're talking with your hands. And

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you've got this connective gesture with your hands of these

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cogs that are coming beautifully together and join up and your

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cheers just living it through with your buddy. It's lovely to

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see. So why people review things, you got them, listening,

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joining forces collaborating in a meaningful way and aligned

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way, making space for these conversations to happen. There

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is also Yeah, making space and time for these things to be

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thought through and explored. So a different tempo here. And then

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wonder, what else have you discovered that maybe you held

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for impossible

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before? I thought it wasn't possible before? Oh, yeah. It's

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an interesting question. It's hard to think about what you

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thought was impossible. And it happens, right? It's hard to

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remember where you weren't even like, two years ago. So think

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about what you thought was. So out of reach, or even, for

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example, you know, some of the people that I work with right

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now working with Ani, right, like I was right at the

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beginning of my journey, like three years ago, in terms of

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working out where it might be in the space now, collaborating,

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you know, on amazing things. And maybe three years ago, I

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wouldn't imagine that happening, but actually building genuine

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relationships with people and giving them time not trying to

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rush something. It's something that I think I I choose to do,

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and maybe it's a harder path. But I think it's it's valuable

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in the ends. Because those people are really going to help

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and support you and rally you and as so many, and particularly

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women, who just rally, and you know, well, we'll Yeah, we'll

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support you in the most surprising ways, that maybe a

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couple years ago, I wouldn't have thought anybody would you

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know?

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Mm hmm. So what belief do you need to start making space for

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to be able to reach that?

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What belief do you do need to make space for? What if you were

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to think in that way?

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I suppose it's a belief and the belief in the your approach

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actually could could work out for you, I suppose, if that

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makes sense.

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What if it is successful? Yeah.

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It actually does work. Yeah. Things that you want to do, and

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that you're imagining that you're planning on your

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notebook? Actually could happen. And you're but also the way that

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you do it, right. Like, we're not we're not following this,

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like Ron Ron Ron approach, just like, aggressively, you know, it

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like a cold email people continually make asks, are you

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actually doing this in a much more meaningful manner where

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it's like it's slow, or you're taking your time you're building

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up your relationships and knowledge. And I appreciate that

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there's privileged to being able to do that, because I had, no, I

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didn't have an absolute need to make money. So I think that's

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also worth stating. But yeah, they could actually just get to

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actually work out where radical was that?

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So imagine we put that in practice and considered capital,

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which continues dazzling journey to meaning and connections,

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making space and listening to people's needs and

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aspirations. What's the next step for you?

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I always find that question hard to answer, because every day I

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changed my mind.

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Just the one for today is fine. Today.

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No, I mean, ultimately, what I would I would like from consider

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capital is it to be a useful and meaningful platform for a

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founder, founder to arrive and go, I want to invite my

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employees in a meaningful way to my business, maybe I want to

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make maybe it's a co op, maybe it's employee end. I don't know.

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I don't really know the end path is, but I need somehow I need to

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know what the options are. I need to know the pros and cons,

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or at least you know, what, how am I funded. But my timesheets

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will be, I need to know either people who've done this and

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eaten of service providers. And for us to have all of that on a

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platform where they can access it. And we get, you know,

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quickly and easily get a bit of human help as well. I can get on

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with the other stuff we want to do, which is build our business

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not trying to work out how to fund it. Sounds to

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me like I've got an image of a workshop with lots of tools and

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toys where people can come and play and check out sayings and

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try out things and listen to other people's stories and go

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have a break together. It sounds like it.

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Just like hide out, right? Just try things out. Feel confident

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about it. And yeah, and don't be don't be scared to explore

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something totally different and really scary. And that's what a

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lot of people say when they do my course that I I actually feel

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armed and ready to do.

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So you bring you bring that safe space for people to explore.

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Yeah,

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I can't claim it's a safe space. But I hope that's what I'm

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providing.

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So finally, as me, how are you going to take your learning

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forward? You'll be one step ahead. Maybe how would you do

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that?

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Yeah, I suppose it's just continuing to, to make sure that

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I have that, that space and protect, like, create space, but

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protect your space in creating like a protected from people.

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And not saying that we want to be an echo chamber, everyone's

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saying great things. But we also don't need people are just

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really damaging. And the energy is not helpful. And what you're

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trying to do and protect at all costs, I think even when it

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means saying no to opportunities, or saying no to

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things that maybe are interesting if you know and and

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you believe that actually that's not quite right for you.

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What are you going to discover that you haven't discovered yet?

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Oh, oh, like to discover that you haven't discovered yet?

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Gosh, no, no, no, I

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think that at this point. It's like, I don't I don't

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I associate a lot of a lot of what I do with where I plan to

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leave Guyana and maybe a year, year and a half. And I think

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well we end up will have a huge impact on a new energy. Right?

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And a new approach. Maybe it'll be about creating less space and

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more nails. Who knows. But I think that will where we end up

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will have a huge impact on,

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on,

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on Yeah, what I hope to

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explore next. Wow, that's me, thank

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you for thinking in real time about what makes you show up and

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how you what happens behind the scenes, by mistake. Considered

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capital and all the values that you put into practice every day.

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Thank you so much.

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Thank you for the very thoughtful questions and the

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listening. You're really good listener.

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Thank you. So that's it for today. People make sure you are

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share this episode of being thinking the house of trust

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Podcast with your friends, your peers, your colleagues, your

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founders, your funders, and anyone who loves to invest, to

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invest in social change, look or be in sync. In the house of

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trust on your favorite podcast platforms. You will find

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previous episodes packed with resources, provocations,

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alternative thinking and questions you can test for

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yourselves. And for more conscious innovation updates and

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my regular wayfinding challenges visit my site South Amazon I'd

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call it gay and drop me a note Gln take care of each other

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