Christoph Warrack, the Founder of Open Cinema, the social film company that won 2 international social care awards for Social Enterprise Communications Excellence and Best Media for Development Company 2017 is sharing the motives and drive behind the scenes in this inspiring Founder interview.
Tell us something about Open Cinema.
Open Cinema is Airbnb for cinema – a platform enabling any community space to be a cinema.
How did you get here?
Yorkshire, the Seventies, snow, old tractors driven by war veterans. County primary school, running and reading, BMX, Buster Keaton and John Wayne, the Falklands, the Cold War, touring its countries with a choir. Writing, acting, breakdancing, thinking and debating, escaping to the moor edge, and to India, and the Himalayas. Rave, Britpop, Drum and bass, Technics 1210s, FM Radio, Minidisc, 35mm film. Girlfriends, Brixton, Church, prison visiting, care home visiting, David Lynch and Roberto Rossellini. Looking askance on a walk down the Charing Cross Road and committing naively to storm those walls and raise a revolt. Loneliness, penury, and failure. Discovery by Pawel Pawlikowski and Britdoc showing classics to street homeless friends in a church hall in Soho Square. A friend of a friend called Nick Grant had set up a company training homeless people to shine shoes in the West End. Could I do this for a living? Social enterprise, the Skoll World Forum, press attention, spending my inheritance on it, hard knocks, successes, impact, Open Cinema. Marriage and children. The tech world cometh, and chimes with a way to make this cheaper for many more communities. Meeting Dotforge in Oxford, and long email exchanges with Colin Tan. Sheffield, investment, prototyping, still knocked back by some of those walls. Marriage challenges, nappies and sleeplessness, work-life imbalance. Regrouping. All is lost? A new country inquiry and a phonecall with an order for 40 community cinemas. Another day at a social enterprise.
What is your inspiration for creating your company?
At the turn of the 19th Century, my great grandfather, a shipbuilder, had the first record collection in Scotland, which anyone could visit and experience. My grandfather, a composer and conductor, wrote the music for the film of the 1948 Olympics. My uncle directed Chariots of Fire and Greystoke. The Levellers and the Co-operative movement. Alfred Nobel, the inventor of gunpowder. Mahatma Ghandi and peaceful resistance. The Beverage Report. Martin Luther King. Bob Marley. Bob Geldof’s early memoir Is That It? Jacqueline Novogratz, the Acumen Fund, and her book The Blue Sweater. Fr Alexander Sherbrooke and the revival of St Patrick’s, Soho Square. The Britdoc Foundation, Jeff Skoll and The Skoll World Forum. The individual men and women, homeless on the streets of London, who Open Cinema welcomed each week from 2005-09 in its pilot phase. Tech for Good, Numbers for Good, and Bertrand Beghin. Tech North, Dotforge, and LinkedIn. Millennials, community activists, and people of all ages who see practical opportunities in the bewilderment of new channels for improving the lives of their peers and as yet unknown people who will encounter their innovations.
What have been your biggest challenges as a Tech4Good Startup?
Survival, that cash is king, the monumental high wire juggling act of early startup formation and growth. Work-life balance while managing all the above. Understanding ‘no’ as not an answer but a question.
What is your biggest learning from Dotforge?
Build, learn, measure. Don’t build the perfect stadium and expect them to come. Raise quickly, spend slowly. Find ways to present on your company at least once a month. You learn 20 more things from an hour with a customer, than from an hour with a mentor. We’re mad to be considering leaving the European Union, and at all costs we should not do so; but we need to listen to those who voted leave, and heal the vote’s divisions on common ground.
What is the most used piece of advice you have had to developing your startup?
Build, learn, measure. (Repeat).