Last Wednesday Startup Grind Barcelona officially marked the start of a new year and a new, bigger and even better line up with a sold out show. Cecilia Tham, CEO of MOB (Makers of Barcelona), entrepreneur, activist and all-round awesome woman, opened the 2018 agenda with Alex Rodríguez and a fireside chat at Mobile World Centre. And with over 150 bods in the room, cosiness was guaranteed.
Photo: Cecilia and Alex in action.
Anyone can make it
Who knew that Cecilia was originally inspired to launch MOB after being gifted a sewing machine? After deviating from her plans to become a neurosurgeon to study architecture at Harvard, anyone might have started to guess that Tham’s future was literally in her hands. As a fellow sewing machine owner (albeit it’s currently residing in the UK), I understand the power that comes with gently pushing the pedal and letting the needle do its effortlessly neat job. (I also understand the frustration of unpicking, again and again.) Cecilia started to experience the thrill and satisfaction of making things, and soon understood “why kids are just happy they made something, even if it’s shit. Every time I made something, a little bit of self-confidence grew in me.”
With MOB in mind, Tham talked candidly about the here and now. “This is a time when you can make anything!” She reminded us that technology is cheap and accessible, and that we have huge capacity to share knowledge and communicate. This fireside chat was getting hotter by the minute. Cecilia’s observations weren’t a revelation; but at the same time, they were. How many of us realise this? Or, how many of us are pretty damn resourceful at home, but leave it at the door when we turn up for the 9-5?
Down to earth
Cecilia Tham is a super accomplished entrepreneur who’s story has given me a push to pursue my plans to expand and explore in different directions with EXHALE. She also rocked an understated look that definitely represented self-expression of her personal brand, even though when asked, she claimed she didn’t particularly have one. Tham explained that her main reason for setting up MOB was to get people together to innovate, not specifically to create a coworking environment, emphasising that at MOB, everyone contributes. It’s not about Cecilia at all.
Cecilia is the facilitator. She’s on a mission to enable a population of reactive minds to become problem solvers and innovators. “The moment nothing is handed to us [after years of an obsolete education], we don’t know what to do.” She’s SO right, isn’t she? She asked “how can we change the way people think about why we’re here?” And by that, you can be pretty sure she means here on Earth – Tham’s Twitter bio simply describes her as an ‘Earthling.’ What a great leveller.
Of course, the evening wouldn’t have been complete without touching on the role of women in tech and in business. “This is about adding what is lacking, not about men vs. women.” The audience tuned in to what Tham had to say on the value of women’s perspectives in a startup environment. For me personally, Cecilia Tham has become a bit of an icon. She single-handedly dissolved my doubts about dreaming big, making an impact, and becoming a mother at the same time. OK, behind the scenes we’re all a bit *argh*, but on the surface at least, Tham is cool and collected. She owns it, and her message to all of us is that we can own it too.
Totally crushing on Startup Grind right now. Who’s with me?