Swarm Culture Vodka, Startup Culture & Freedom of Speech

It’s the little things you notice at first. Like how the simple act of walking across a street can technically be suicide because cars are given the right of way over pedestrians. Or that most of the language around you isn’t even remotely decipherable – not even a smidgen. Or that the general population doesn’t get rolling until after 10:00 a.m., and this is during the workweek.

 

  

Recently traveling to the ex-Soviet bloc country of Georgia changed me. As part of a U.S. State Department initiative, I was working with the Georgia Media Partnership Program to help establish a new media consortium. I had been to Ukraine before on a similar mission, but this one was far more unique; mostly because I was witnessing the development of an entire media network (think the birth of Viacom or NBC or Time-Warner, but on a smaller scale and many decades ago during their fledgling infancy). The mind-blowing part for me was being asked to play a very small role as an outsider, while their initial foundational elements were starting to come together.

At the purest form, it was startup culture on steroids. This wasn’t your cliché pingpong tables, over-stocked food pantries for employees, unlimited vacations, or other synonymous characteristics of the techie startup scene here in the States. This was much more hardcore, much more … urgent. The stakes for the people I had the pleasure to serve were vastly different. This was a collective movement on a countrywide scale to break free from government-controlled media. This was recognition of how important the role of free press plays in a healthy society, and they were doing it on shoestring budgets, using collaboration and ideation to help birth new ideas and business models.

Returning home, it hits you how quickly we are submerged in our day-to-day, “take-it-for-granted” lives. We usually go home in the evening, never wondering if Russia may roll tanks into our capital (again). I’ve truly missed the people I’ve gotten to know there very much; and while the experience was one of a lifetime, I came back with a little more affinity for startup culture and how much it can truly change the world. I may even have vicariously hugged my team a little bit more the week I was back.

გაუმარჯოს კარგ მეგობრებს, ერთად გატარებულ დროს, და მეწარმეებს, რომლებიც ცვლიან სამყაროს. (“Here’s a toast to good friends, good times, and entrepreneurs who change the world.”)