Ask yourself, ‘What is my work… and why?…’
It sounds simple and easy, right? But you can feel it when it’s not quite right and it doesn’t align inside of you. This was where I found myself in late 2015… a colleague had recommended a free MOOC (massive open online course) out of MIT called u.lab – transforming business, society and self. I didn’t know at the time, but I had enrolled in a journey towards becoming a change-maker… and the outcome, would be the creation of the startup business, SpacetoCo.
For many years, my answer to the ‘work question’ had been ‘teaching… because I wanted to make a difference in the education system’. I had hated school growing up. It was a brutal and sometimes violent experience – at around year ten, I had pretty low self worth. There are many separate stories to share there, but those will keep for another time… Somehow though, out of all the struggle that was school, I (ironically) wanted to figure out how to do it better. So I followed in my parents footsteps, despite their reluctant endorsement, and trained as a primary school teacher…. I ended up doing this work for 13 years, during which, I was drawn towards the opportunities presented by technology integrated into learning… basically computers in the classroom. It seemed like a way to dispense with textbook learning and head towards a path I knew would be relevant to my students in their future. This was my new focus and I worked at it with a passion, experimenting with how students could learn better by harnessing new tools for visualising and publishing their ideas… All this resulted in a career change into the IT industry, learning business development skills and discovering the realities of the commercial world…. I went from achieving better outcomes for students, to, getting more profits for an IT business…(It sounds like a ridiculous swap as I write this…) All the while, I managed to stay connected to encouraging modern learning ideas. I got to conduct business interlaced with my passion for tech in learning…. We even branched into the ‘future of learning’ concepts with school strategic planning. But then u.lab posed the work question… and I realised there were other challenges I needed to solve, I just didn’t know what job would allow me to do all of what lay in my heart…. (not my head).
As humans, we seem to have evolved to view work as a necessary thing we must do, even if it comes at a cost to our health… And it’s pretty important to have the funds to eat, live and be. For most people though, enjoyment and work don’t tend to go together unless it’s beer o’clock on a Friday…. Having great purpose beyond collecting a pay cheque seems… kinda distant? Of course, I get that many people are very content in the constancy of office/classroom/worksite/ clinic life, but there are quite a few of us who don’t fit like that. In digging deeper, I knew I wanted to do more for the environment – being environmentally conscience has always seemed obvious and natural to me, and whilst I could impact this on the classroom level, I wanted to actually do something myself, out in the ‘real world’. Our city, Perth, is a car city and therefore it suffers, like all car cities, from relentless urban sprawl. We’ve become so great at urban development that to rally against it is to undermine the prosperity of the state. It paints you as a NIMBY and a naysayer. It was fighting for some land protection in the Perth Hills that I realised you can’t say ‘no’ all the time, you have to offer up better solutions and suggestions if you hope to be heard. The economic urban development machine is a mighty, powerful beast. One of my responses to all this was to design and build an eco-friendly bed and breakfast. Which, out of convenience, became the focus of my u.lab prototype/project… but deep down I knew this wasn’t it and I felt frustrated that I seemed to be missing the mark. There were all these u.lab people around the world sharing their amazing prototypes online that would become their new work focus. Mine, whilst good, wasn’t aligning with my intention.
A couple of weeks passed and I made the step and listed my B&B on Airbnb… and then we got a booking. ‘Awesome!’ I thought. I could do this work, lead by example and not even need to quit my day job. Then one night, the whole thing hit me. Instead of accommodation, my B&B could be shared out for workshops, or weddings to anyone… by the hour… if I can be married in my backyard, anyone else can…. not everyone has a big backyard…. and then think of all the spare spaces… imagine making better use of the office space at work…. imagine how much easier it’ll be to find event and training spaces for work…what if all these schools shared their spaces… what would that do…? My mind ran wild with all the possibility. I raced into the bedroom and shared excitedly with my wife, Claire. I think I must have come across as incoherent because she looked at me like I had two heads and said something like, ‘oh cool, that’s nice’. I would come to realise that succinctly articulating a business idea quickly, is easier said than done. Truth be told I couldn’t be doing this work without Claire – supporting a partner on an entrepreneurial quest comes with its own sacrifices…
All humans have ideas – it’s what sets us apart from other animals, but there are some that light a fire and almost force you to act. This was that moment for me. I stayed up late into the night and decided on the name. I had initially wanted ‘spacehub’ but the domain was taken. And then I thought of the terms ‘co-creation, community and collaboration’ used with u.lab. I felt I was surrounded by ‘co’ words… so ‘spaceco?’ No, Space-to-Co…. that would be it.
I madly set to work documenting every brainstorm and spin-off idea that I could. Over several weeks I’d stay up late creating Keynote presentations for how I imagined the concept to work… I went ahead and purchased spacetoco.com and after my son was born, I suddenly became aware of the amount of work in front of me…. I had helped build a team before and knew it would need to be done again. This is when Franco and Dan joined the vision and in February 2016 we officially registered SpacetoCo Pty Ltd… These days, we all work full-time on SpacetoCo having quit our full time jobs. It’s been one crazy ride and I wouldn’t change it for anything… because this is my work.
Co-Founder of SpacetoCo