This much I know
One of the most successful people I know in the digital technology sector, is Jon Bradford.
Aside from being both a brilliant (if sometimes challenging) friend and mentor to me over the past decade, we’ve been co-founders and fervent supporters of one another.
Jon, for his part, not only founded the first bootcamp-style startup accelerator outside the US, but had a hand in founding, advising and supporting a dozen more programmes across Europe. The first MD of Techstars in London, a co-founder of Tech.eu, of F6S, of Ormeau Baths, of Motive Partners and tireless supporter of many more initiatives besides — Jon is one of the most successful people I know.
And, coincidentally, Jon is one of the busiest people I know.
Anyone who knows Jon knows he’s rarely in the same city, or country, for longer than 24 hours. Just assume he’s on a plane, or will be by the end of the day. He’s everywhere, supporting hack weekends, mentoring accelerator cohorts, keynoting at conferences. These days he at least spends his weekends at home in Cambridge, but there is a man with a pace and determination rarely seen in any profession. His emails are succinct, rarely more than a sentence. Brief, occasionally blunt. He hasn’t time for frivolity because his gate is probably closing. But he always replies.
And, coincidentally, Jon is one of the best connected people I know.
It’s a result of his quiet ability to tirelessly connect others he meets on his travels — sometimes at the request of others, sometimes when he recognises a mutual interest. He doesn’t flaunt it like some supernatural ability or precious resource that deserves reverence, because it’s neither — it’s something we’re all capable of, like being polite or eating crisps with our mouth closed. But Jon appreciates this ability is like a muscle; the more you exercise, the stronger you’ll become. If you’re both genuine and consistent in helping others, it’ll come around and pay you back in all manner of subtle and wonderful ways — probably not tomorrow, or next week, but in the months and years ahead.
And, coincidentally, Jon is one of the most generous people with his time that I know.
The person who is always first to help others, to give back, to give first. If he doesn’t think he can help, he’ll say so — or suggest somebody who can. If he’s too busy (and he usually is), he’ll make time as and when his schedule allows. But he doesn’t stop helping. The single most valuable lesson Jon taught me when we met a decade ago was to find time and give first, whenever you can.
In short, Jon is one of the most successful, busiest, best connected and most generous people I know.
And, as you have likely realised by now, none of this is coincidental.
You really do reap what you sow in the tech community.
Giving first to those with less privilege or experience, willingly sharing knowledge and helping others find their path doesn’t mean your days have to be financially fruitless. Offering support to some isn’t mutually exclusive to charging others.
Ultimately, a community will struggle to prosper if those who are capable of helping it only do so when it suits their own interests. Acting like the world owes you a living nearly always poisons the well you’ve unwittingly been drinking from yourself.
This much I know.