Building Networks with Mikel Mangold

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Building Networks with Mikel Mangold

We recently sat down with Mikel to talk about his upcoming book, Today’s Superpower: Building Networks – a set of mindset principles that will enable you to create, join, and leverage the power of networks. Mikel makes positive changes through networks. However, technological and other advances are inhibited by the conservative mindset still held by many. This results in an inability to deal effectively with the uncertainty and ambiguity of the modern era.

Mikel Mangold is a French-German, Germany-based corporate innovator, building ventures and forming partnerships for the Venture Lab at NGK SPARK PLUG CO., LTD. He previously worked for Bayer G4A Digital Health Start-Up Accelerator and the Bayer CoLaborator Biotech Start-Up Incubator in San Francisco. He is the co-author of the academic paper: What Corporates Can Do to Help an Innovation Ecosystem Thrive — and Why They Should Do It, co-host of The Ecosystem Show, advisor, and mentor.

Check out the video of our discussion below:

Good afternoon. We’re here with Mikel about his new book, Superpower: Building Networks. Mikel, how are you?

I’m doing super well; thank you for organizing this. I’m excited about the conversation.

Mikel, tell us a little bit before we get into the book. Tell us a bit of your background. I know you’ve been in Silicon Valley, I know that you’re currently in Germany, you claim to be French and German. So you have a lot going on. And I think you said, read somewhere that you visited 23 countries or 32, or something like that.

Yeah, it’s 35. Okay. So give us a little bit of your background so we have a sense of who you are. And then we’ll talk about the boat. Sure, as you just mentioned that I am French German, I grew up in France, and, you know, really grew up in an environment where I was focusing on adventures and being, you know, in different backgrounds, taking my bikes, rather than, you know, being very disciplined. That’s cool. So I was terrible at it. And then I grew up, and I decided actually to work at school. They finally studied for a degree of chemistry in France, Germany, was in research, and I was in Switzerland, and in Mexico for chemistry.

I also took a few breaks to travel the world, I met a ton of people, and that pushed me to, you know, improve my communication skills, all my travels, you know, traveling five months in Africa, I was in Asia, I was in Mexico, in South America. And then it came to a turning point in my life where I loved science. I loved to improve current technologies for the better and turn products into better products and safer products that will increase the quality of our life.

But something was missing in science. And it isn’t, was the speed, the speed, how to go faster, it was really slow. And the mindset of people trying to do it on their own, and the necessity to publish and, and get recognized you you are really, I would say, fewer scientists getting recognized for the work. And we you know, I was missing that energy. And then, I decided to try entrepreneurship. And I grew up in an academic environment, you know, with University settings, and there was no tech transfer really where I studied in Germany.

And then I found a way to go to Silicon Valley and VRI, I went to a digital health accelerator, I worked for a biotech incubator, and I went to 400 events in just one year, there was just before COVID. And you can imagine a met ton of entrepreneurs, autonomy sees a town of you know, people that are changing the world. And the density that you find in the Bay Area. And everybody knows that who worked in the Bay Area is just like crazy, right? It’s not just a few entrepreneurs every week. You have like 1000s, like every day in the city in Daraa, trying to raise funds there, you’re traveling to the Bay area that you have over ten meetups a day, where you can join and learn and connect and, and I love that energy. And when I came back to Europe because of COVID. And because it was difficult for me to get the visa,
I realize a huge difference.

And so now I joined I just joined a Japanese company called NGK Spark Plug, a Japanese company trying to reinvent itself. And they just opened an innovation division, and I worked for a venture lab where we will venture, and we established partnerships with startups. And we all my experiences, you know, all in different environments, you know, Africa, Asia, Mexico, and the USA, I realized that it was something special that Silicon Valley was doing. And it was working in networks. And that’s a little bit more how, you know, we connected with the book and, and that’s what I’m talking about in the book.

What’s interesting is our paths have crossed in a few different ways. Not directly where we’ve not met, but I’ve done a fair amount of work for Bayer’s Grants 4 Apps. So I’m familiar with them. We do work in the digital health space. We did it with the Berlin office. And then, I continue to do work with them and support them. And then, as far as ecosystem building, I’ve done a fair amount of work with enpact, Berlin-based. And they are building these ecosystems that are referring to in Africa.

Because again, they to lack these networks and ecosystems. And it’s, you know, what’s interesting is to look at the fact that if you don’t have all the pieces of the ecosystem, such as Silicon Valley, that innovation and entrepreneurship just doesn’t work, right. And that’s sort of what makes Silicon Valley so magical is you had, you know, you have the universities that are churning out talent, there’s a money base, which supports them, and supports the innovations. So again, this is about having an ecosystem in place. So, where did you decide to write the book?

Yes, that’s an interesting question.

I wanted to write a book for years, and because I knew that, you know, it brings your personality and your top leadership and another level. And I wanted to not just work from when you get a salary. But, still, I want it to be, you know, be interested in a topic and sharing what I think about the issue and, and always the experience in Silicon Valley and everything, I realized, okay, I am not passionate about a specific, let’s say, industry. But, this industry is now open to innovation and this new change in our society, working together.

I first initially wanted to write a book about what is the difference between innovating today and bringing new, you know, product services to market vs. 100 years ago with this massive shift with experience. And you know, the cross, you know, the industrialization, and we went into our digital wall, and is all just design thinking stuff that is taking off and everything. But then I talked to a friend of mine, and I wanted to write a book, and I didn’t know how it.

I joined a program. And I talked to the professor that the program is a professor at Georgia University, his name is Eric Koester. And I found out about his fantastic program – Creator Institute. He’s helped over 1000 artists to publish their books. And he has these editors working is a lot of people involved in this. And he’s working jointly with a hybrid publisher. But I talked to him, and I said all the topics I was passionate about and wanted to talk about. And then he shaped a little bit the message of my book, and just by listening to me for 25 minutes, he said, Mikel, you want to talk about a ton of things, you know, you want to you write ten books, but what you want to say right now and what you want to work on right now you want to talk about change, and networks.

And just by listening to me 25 minutes, and then I said, Alright, that sounds cool – change networks. That’s kind of what I want to talk about. That’s right. And then we worked together, and we built the table of contents and what I wanted to talk about, and that was in February, you know, I had to write a few of my chapters before he analyzes it in any he realized, okay, that’s what you want to talk about. And he also said, What did you tell your audience? You cannot just speak to everybody. You have to find your niche and, and I realized that my target audience for the message I wanted to share would be all the people that want to create change. And all the people that are part of an organization outside an organization say I want to change things. I want to bring a new product, I want to change my team, I want to, you know, improve society, or create my organization.

And the people also like not knowing which change they want to do, but knowing that they can do it. So it could be like mid-life crisis individuals. And they say, Okay, I want to do something now. And the beauty of our world is that what I’m saying in this book is, it is a superpower today, like we’ve never been, you know, able to do what we can do today with the power of our talking networks, but digital what your world and in the way of corporations are working together right now. So today, more than ever before, these real, you know, change for everybody in this world, no matter where you give, create change.

And that’s I’m trying to give the tools to everybody to do this. That’s the book and the topic. And the people that want to create change, what are the barriers that they’re faced with? You know, we grew up, and I’m talking about this in my introduction. In my first chapters, we grew up in a very safe environment, an environment that was training us to live in the industrialization world. It is the world of the 20s, the 30s. And we went we were in school, and we were learning all the rules and the timetable and processes. And you know, listening and not talking, not challenging the status quo.

We had to do the test we did not; we were not allowed to cheat. And we had to, you know, slowly go to the, you know, to the school and go to the next level. And we were judged with the grades, not on creativity, not on willingness, not on, you know, like the grind that some students may have. And that’s how we evaluated people until they were 22, saying, you’re good at what you do, you can have success in life, and all the others cannot. And so a lot of people are just like this in life, you know, they, they have never been able to have their project and say, I’m going to do it, no one what, and I don’t have all the grades in the world, and I’m going to do it.

Many people lost hope that they could do it because they were not the best before or had trauma. But I also think what a problem this obsession is with following how we’ve done it before. And like in Europe, for instance, I’m doing a podcast right now. And we are talking to baleen talking to London, we’re talking to Paul in Krakow, and everybody is, you know, growing up in a different environment, you know, yet to communism in these countries, you had a very hierarchical model. And I think fear is one of the biggest reasons why people do not do it. And the fear of judgment, the fear of failure, is huge. And the huge difference between Silicon Valley and Israel is that they have, you know, let’s say, grown up in an environment where people were failing, and it was okay. They also had successes.

So they had models who could show that if you do it that way, you can make it right. And I think there’s a lot of people who do not have any model in front of them that shows why this is possible. And so that’s why I think many people do not believe they can be the change in Silicon Valley. Not only that but there’s this idea of failing and learning from it. But there’s an expectation that if you don’t fail, you’re not trying hard enough.

Yeah. Because that’s sort of one of the Google mantras was like, if you reach your annual goals, then your goals weren’t high enough. So, you know, you didn’t try, like you have to go big or go home. Yeah, so there. So what else did you see in Silicon Valley that allowed this innovation to occur? And that supported this idea of, you know, fail fast, but learn?

Yeah, today’s to fail, fast forward learn.

When I’m thinking about innovation, a change in the power of networks is that it’s, they do it together. So they’re not alone, you know, they’re not feeling alone. And, and so what I’ve seen is a Silicon Valley is it can fail, because you’re working networks, and what does it mean, they know that they always have a backup. So they know that other people will support them, they know that they’re going to learn, they know that they’re going to use and maybe pivot, go to another idea. And, and so what I’m talking about, you know, innovation and change it to be about the mindset, it’s about having a few principles that allow you to create change. And one of the principles that we’re just talking about is this, if you will, a network around you, when I’m talking about network, a lot of people think you know, all people to get a job.

Yes, that’s it. But it’s not about that if you let’s say you have an idea, and you’re too new about like funding, and your idea is not doing well. But you know which organization you can reach out to, and you can ask for funding, and you can have support, and you know how to add value to them, then you build resilience. Your idea can survive, and you have to, you know, believe you can make it; it’s really about the mindset and reaching out for help, asking questions, and asking for an introduction. And I give an example in my book. It wasn’t about a company and organization in Silicon Valley. Still, it was an organization of Americans who lived in the Middle East and decided to build an incubator in the Middle East. And they were about closed doors, had an issue with Iraq, and couldn’t take money from the US directly. And so, the funding was lacking. So they had to support the entrepreneurs that they were about to, you know, also like a crash. And then, they were able to reach out to the US embassy to an organization in Germany to an organization in the US, and they collected funds. Some of them may be true, and no, like five years later; they’re expanding to other countries. But you know, they had all the elements to fail, all right, and a lot of people fail but because they could use the power of these networks and organizations worldwide.

And they were able to collaborate. That’s why they succeeded. And we’ve seen that in the Silicon Valley all the time, you know, they don’t work alone, they always work in connected teams, organizations to VCs, to people who are going to help them. And that’s a significant difference with all the places that I see is, you notice this thing of trying to do it alone. And, and then oh, I failed, of course, you fail, right? You know, why did you spend maybe all your own money, right? or Why did you only have one stakeholder, you know, you got to a million. And so, you have to have different stakeholders for a different phase of your project. But you have to have a vast network, and the more network you have, more, you know, organization, VCs, colleagues, people, you can reach out if you need help; that’s how you can create change. And I believe that when you’re building these networks.

What are the core components that you have to have for a network to be successful?

Yes, so so one of the things that people do, and what I’ve been inspired from Silicon Valley is, first you have to think more, you know, it’s, nobody is going to join your mission wants to create a network with you, if you wish to do like legal things, I genuinely believe that it starts with bonus, you know, you want to create a real drastic change something that was great to improve the world. And lightest, you will build connections, people are going to be attracted by you. And you will be able to have a network.

And I’m sharing examples, Naveen Jain, and I’m 100% sure that you may have heard of him; he is the founder of viome – direct to consumer products. And, and it doesn’t come from this any guilt, like six other companies before, and a company mining rocks on the moon. And so this guy, you know, comes from India, went to the state for a degree, and then went to startups. And then he went to, you know, I took to the Microsoft and worked with Bill Gates, and he challenges standards for all the time, all the time. And still today, you know, it’s coming to conferences, anything to everybody that every you know, that the farmer is doing it wrong, correct and, so he’s coming in the room, and he’s saying all that in everybody look at him.

But what happened is that it is going to get a lot of critics. But then you will have two or three people with power who will join the mission because they believe in the change he wants to create. And then you just build massive bonds with others and critical stakeholders, the response is viome, I’ve seen they’re just attracted. You know, someone from a major pharma company, and now is also going into the pharma world with the idea that honestly, nobody in the pharma toy, it’s going to be successful, because this guy comes from nowhere. But his boldness helped him to grow ways today.

And that’s one of the principles that, you know, is needed. But, still, you have ordered, you know, there’s one significant difference with many places in the world: you need to give, you know, you cannot just ask for stuff you need to give first. In his book startup community, Brad Feld is talking about this: you have first to be willing to add value to the community you’re into the ecosystem you’re into the people surrounding you. And what I’m saying is that is not that if a random guy is asking for something, and you don’t know why we’re going to give him everything, that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about that every single person you’re talking to, you have to be willing to ask, How can I help you? What do you need? What is your problem, and so? So you build with the people, and you always focus on helping before trying to ask for something. And when you do this all the time, not only when you need something, then you build a network, so you know you do it every day, every week every year and after 356 10 years, you have a massive network around you because you try even if you need help you try to help, so that’s one of the significant difference what people do.

Another thing is, you know, transparency and sharing ideas, right? So it’s it is something that I see like, like crazy here – people are afraid that people will come in steal their ideas. We talk about a lot of people talk about this mindset of abundance. It is not scarcity.

So if you feel there will be enough for everybody, then you’re also willing to share more because you know that there will be enough for yourself, right? And this mindset of abundance that people have, and in places like Silicon Valley is I know I can do it. So I’m not afraid you will do it because I have my market. And there is a huge market out there. And I know that you know, it’s not about the idea. It’s about the mission and the impact that I want to make. And, and so people share thoughts, you know, they share what I want to do this year where they want to go, asked to help, and they do not, they’re not afraid about it or getting stolen. So it’s, you know, something, and the more you share, the more you transfer, the one you want to try to do. And the more you will trust. And so when you will trust, and your ball what I mentioned before, and you try to give fast, that’s kind of we principles that people have to have two networks.

Yeah, I mean, one of the things that we learned in Silicon Valley, and like, if you ever talked to a venture capitalist, they won’t sign an NDA. Because it’s not the idea. Right? It’s the ability to execute on that idea. So you know, I could write come up with a business plan and write an idea and hand it to you. But I promise you all executed differently.

You know, so it’s about, you know, the ability to execute, the ability to tap into your network. I wanted to shift the conversation a little bit because you chose to do crowdfunding for the book. Can you tell us a bit of that? And let’s talk about a bit of experience in crowdfunding.

Yes, that I’m delighted to talk about this. To be honest, this is a very, very, very interesting part, but rewarding experience. Why do we do crowdfunding? There are many reasons for that; first, today, the publishing world has changed compared to the 80s. Before, you just had to produce a script.

What do I mean by that is before first you had to be already kind of famous or some kind of authority to convince a publisher to take you where you had to, you know, to pay a lot of money. And they will take all you the ownership of your work, and you will almost not be able to control it. Now, today, everything has changed, right? We live in a world with digital media, which is social media. And that’s something that is an advantage to everybody in this world because you can show to everybody, hey, I am someone with a message. And you can help me to spread it. And before that it was challenging, you know, you can just send letters to all the people, it was hard. And today, organically, you can reach like 1000s and 1000s of 1000s of views. And so, there is a new generation of publishers, and we call them hybrid publishing. And what they do is that they say, okay, you can, you’re going to pay for the cost, but you keep ownership of your book.

And so basically, what they say is that you’re going to pay for it, but you’re not going to pay yourself; you’re going to do crowdfunding. And it seems a little bit scary at first. It’s like, oh, my God, I’m going to ask money from people, and they are never going to pay, right. But there’s a reason why crowdfunding is terrific for a book like mine. And any other books, when you are not an established author, or you’re not an established, let’s say, thought leader, or you’re not an established innovator, whatever. Nobody knows you. Not enough people are already aware of what you do—doing crowdfunding.

My mind is forcing myself to create my audience to create, you know, that people will buy my book because the statistics, you know, are scary. Like, I think that more than 90% of the published books do not sell more than 200 copies or something like this, right? So you have like, maybe five persons that will sell a certain amount and you know, you don’t want to spend two years of your life one year of your life. So then you publish your book, and then nobody buys it and the agreement that nobody will read it nobody invites you nobody’s aware of your work, and then basically your message not to get through.

And so you know, we have to create our origins, and we have to ask to let our entire network know we have writing a book, my book is coming out, I have a message, and I’m asking for support. And so what does this is that isn’t my project. And everybody knows not I’m writing a book and I’m already getting invited for conferences and my book is not even out. I’m invited to a panel next week or corporate innovation because I shared that I was writing this book, which built an audience. It prepares everybody for the book, and last but not least, it creates a community to what the hybrid publishing house in the creator Institute. So, you know, the school I am trying to build a community around the book.

So people that are going to support me by buying my book. And so, all the people that know funded my campaign will be invited to review all the chapters of my book week after week. So that will be a process of crowdfunding,

I will review all my chapters with an editor, then I will send my chapters to all the beta readers, then they will send back to me the comments, and then I will improve my chapter. So there will be the at the end three revisions before the final version. And then we send into copy editing. And then it gets published.

And every author’s saying it from, you know, the authors I’ve met through the program are the first time authors don’t do it. Although they kind of fail in the book launch, every second author is doing it. They always get his better reading process of getting people involved in it because these people are also the ones that will spread the word once the book is out. And that’s the key to having, like, let’s say, a successful book, maybe making it to the bestselling list or simply to impact more lives. So that’s the entire purpose behind this.

How big was your list before the crowdfunding? So, how much network building did you do before crowdfunding?

Yes, so one of the things that I knew without knowingly, you know, preparing that crowdfunding campaign is I always connected with people. When I was in Silicon Valley, I connected with all the people I met. And every time I was at a conference, I was trying to connect with people. Every time I meet people like this, we can notice we’re friends around a pool, and I said, What is your LinkedIn? Right? So I connected with them. And so I had a long list of people, but what we did is what you just mentioned, we had to prepare for that conference, right? It’s not like you’re going to put it out and everybody’s going to buy your book, so everybody knows this who is doing crowdfunding the secret, you know, that’s the secret of a crowdfunding campaign you have to reach out to people one on one. And so that’s a lot of work.

And you don’t want just to do it randomly. So you have to prepare all the people you know that you think will support you and even include the people you don’t feel right you don’t want to kill potential, you know, supporters. So you do all this, and you put how you’re going to contact them. And then you put into holding in case you want to track who that person is. And then you put a follow-up,

I mean, you announced you of writing a book to them, you’re following up once you’re following up twice. And until you get the feedback that they don’t want to buy the book, right? Because sometimes you think, oh, they don’t wish to, but sometimes they’re simply busy, and they forgot, and actually, that happened to me. So I followed up the second time, and I said, Oh yeah, of course, I want to support you, and when they finally, you know, helping me with the campaign.

And so you know, there will be a lot of, let’s say, rejection, and that’s hard for many people, including myself. But, still, it’s also incredible to see how many people are willing to support and want to spread the message. I got terrific messages from many people; you know that it’s a fantastic project or while it’s inspiring, and so there are so many people that are happy you send them a message in a sec; thank you for thinking about me. And so yeah, I had the list of over 300 people, but I could have had the list with 1000 people because it was just time-consuming to make a list. But that’s how you prepare when we’re just like three months or six months. So I’ve heard how many sorts of lead time did you put into it.

I have a full-time job, and I started writing my book in January. By June, I had the first drop of 38,000 words, and I prepared only after my list, and I did a video for the company and brought the company contained in all of that in two weeks. So I did that weekend. I did that in the evening. But you know the secret of all of this sad speed we are doing this process is I am not doing it alone. So we are following an established process by this program that I’m involved with.

And because they know precisely how previous orders have done it, they have learned from the failures they tell us exactly what works, what doesn’t work, and what we should do, and we can make a little twist in it. And then, we get feedback from the editor. We have some people who help with the video. We have coach authors, former co-authors that published it that want to take one person and teach us the things they’ve done in the past. So I have an average of one to three meetings a week with the school, and then I get a ton of documentation to do it. And so I’m doing it with many people, and I’m also learning how they do it sometimes. So I call them and say, oh, what did you do? And communities are magic.

Is this program limited to text subjects, or is it anyone writing a book?

Everybody, nonfiction, fiction – you have people writing about the VC world. We have people writing about poems. People are writing about food. So okay, everybody.

So let’s go back to the book. What? What do you want to accomplish with this?

Thank you for your question. I knew that I didn’t want to just, you know, wake up, have a job and make money and, you know, maybe buy a house whatsoever. So I knew since I was 15 that I wanted to do something meaningful, and I wanted to really make an impact and maybe solve a big problem.

I want to achieve with this book to educate people that we can change the way we work right now, which is going away from hierarchies, going away from I work for my company, and saying, I work to solve a problem, right? And it’s, it’s a mindset in the mindset that we can work together. And we are not competitors; we are collaborators, we can reach out to people to ask for help. And we can establish partnerships today, even if your partner is in an organization or alone, and teaching that you can do it because all these people didn’t know I was talking about you with these role models, and a lot of people lack role models.

And so, my hope with the mission is that this will become more collaborative to solve the world’s biggest problem. And it started with the minds. It began with knowingly, you know, acknowledging that we are following rules, we have bias we are we are doing things because we have always done it. And that’s something we have to change No. And, and we have to change the world and solve big problems to collaborate because it is a superpower.

It is something we can do today. And it is necessary right to do it together. And not alone. Because alone is very hard. But together, everything is so faster and more powerful.

Well, I know that you’re doing something right. Because you’ve reached your goal of crowdfunding. But you’re not done. 

Exactly. Again, when I started my book, I said I don’t want to do it’s more, I don’t want just to publish a book, you say I know what to write, I mean, the title and the word, all that stuff is excellent. But what I want is, is making an impact, right? I have a goal of, you know, impacting a million lives and billion lives by the end of my life. So I’m writing this book, the goal is accomplished to polish it.

But I want to deliver a good book, so I want to have a hardcover, and that’s $6,500. And then I want to go around, it’s $1,500, to do an audiobook. And I tried to audible because I know that some people prefer to impact my idea via audiobook.

So I want to go that and then you know, even if you have an additional amount of funding, I mean, I need funding to the marketing of the words I’m sharing, I need financing to maybe you know, sponsor a book tour next year, I need funding too, you know, to contact a lot of people.

And what I wanted to do is if I go past my $1,500, I would like to partner with a nonprofit organization that is working with entrepreneurs, maybe entrepreneurs in the difficult region that want to create change that is focusing on SDGs, right, clean water pollution, climate change, you know how to make green, electricity, profitable, maybe all the different challenges that we need networks to create, and solve the problems.

And so you know, the more funding I have, the more impact I can make, the message will be wider and impact more lives and, that’s also the network. So you know, I need to spray it, and he needs to spread organically, so I cannot do it alone. So that’s why I need a lot of support. And it’s going to come bottom-up.

That’s all that networks are about. It’s not about, you know, the government saying something has to come from the people on the ground. And so, the more funding I can get, I can try to spread it to everybody. And then, you know, we can maybe create meaningful change. So obviously, the book is going to happen.

So what happens once the books are out? What do you want to do that?

Yes. So one of the things that are already almost in my timetable is I already nearly 100% sure got invited to keynotes where I’m going to talk about that. I, you know, recently published this paper about the innovation ecosystem. You know, Why call what corporates what corporate should do to make an ecosystem tribe right is to engage in. So I’m going to continue this mission of sharing the necessity for collaboration, the necessity of, you know, giving ownership to the people who do. It’s not about the organization; it’s about the people. And so I wanted to do a book tour next year.

You know, go to different, maybe organization, nonprofit profit, maybe giving talks in other places. And I want to spread the message. So the book may go to the first Internet, and I need to put it in libraries. And I need to, as I mentioned, audiobook; maybe I will go and podcasts. And so, there’s a long journey ahead. And it’s not finished, and there will very probably be another book. So maybe in three, four years on, we will see where that takes me.

Mikel, we very much appreciate your time today. We’re excited about the book, and we are excited about the success of the crowdfunding campaign. We will include the links to your crowdfunding campaign and some of your other social properties so people can follow you. So again, we appreciate your time, and we look forward to the next book.

Thank you, Mike was an absolute pleasure to talk to you today. And I appreciate you and your time to cooperate on this and make this message go bigger. Thank you.

Building Networks with Mikel Mangold