Demo Night

Taking my career building project Fondo out of the studio for the first time.

New York City’s Canal Street is one of the main arteries in Downtown Manhattan (and until the 18th century was an actual canal). Cutting west to east, in its centre it splits the main parts of Little Italy and Chinatown.

As you may expect, the street itself is a bustle of activity: street-side sellers shotting semi-shady selections of sunglasses; bashed up old storefronts being turned into gentrified art & design pop-ups; multiple subway entrances causing ongoing tourist confusion; and wafts of Sichuan hotpot aromas flowing out of kitchen vents.

Near the entrance to the 6 train is a open-front gift shop measuring no more than 50 sq ft. At the back (i.e. 2 steps from the front) is a door heading up to the floors above. Floor number 3 marks the home of THAT, a creative agency who host a weekly gathering fuelled by creativity, collaboration, design thinking, and Dim Sum.

Canal & Baxter. (image: Wikipedia)

Last Friday night I shimmied through the throngs of punters looking for LV handbags and Tsingtao happy hours and made my way up to THAT HQ.

I was there for the 2nd edition of an extension to their ongoing Dim Sum Club.

Demo Sumthing (get it?) is a salon-style event of around 25 people and features a few guest makers sharing their projects for feedback, inspiration and new ideas.

Despite not necessarily identifying as a Creative or Maker, I was demoing the second iteration of my Fondo project.

Note: I’m looking for beta testers! Check out the intro deck here, if you like the look of it then I’ll send you the secret demo link.

The prospect of presenting what I had to a bunch of smart people, alongside 3 far more polished projects added some pressure. And pressure can bring performance (or at least meeting a deadline).

The evening was split into 3 pieces.

First, each maker sat at a table and the guests rotated between them every 15 minutes. The maker didn’t reveal the details of their project. The only frame was provided by a box of cards containing questions relating to the theme of the project. Any interesting ideas or conversation pieces got written up and put on the wall – especially those that are considered to be truths.

Second, each maker presented their project via the Dim Sum club medium – a single page layout framed by a Problem, a Truth, a Collaborator, and a drawing and brief description of the solution.

Finally, everyone gathered back around the tables and started trying out the projects for themselves.

Because of the time spent discussing ideas and topics around the project rather than the project itself, the way people looked at the projects was noticeably different. Certain biases had gone (perhaps others had appeared), and there was a different level of thoughtfulness and thoroughness in the way each person looked at and fed back on what they were seeing.

It turned out that inverting the format and spending most of the time on small group discussions of broader thematic questions was far more valuable than the typical Demo night of pitching solutions and absorbing critique. Tapping into the thoughts, feelings and opinions of 25 people, in-person, is incredibly valuable – especially when you’re in those early stages of building something new.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt that they had a plentiful supply of Dim Sum.


Demo Sumthing is held every month at THAT in Downtown NYC. Head over to that.site to find out more.

Here’s a rundown of a few of the questions, truths and ideas I got from that first hour. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration as I did…


What was something important you didn’t learn at work or school?

Different types of smart: not taught that in school

Different types of success

Smart is saying ‘I don’t know’

Everyone has a trajectory

Saying ‘I don’t know’ is a sign of intelligence

What’s wrong with the way we find jobs today?

Resume screening by algorithm not good

Jobs are racist (blind hiring)

How do you find a new network and trust it / break into it?

Skills: curiosity, mapping skills to new places from existing ones, empathy

Companies’ request for diverse experience is a lie

Recruitment agencies are horribly flaky

“Vouching” is a trait we’ve had since the beginning of humanity

Hire by trust

Most jobs are from those you know

When was the last time you reinvented yourself? How did you do it?

There’s that one thing people remember you by. Sometimes need to be careful what that thing is – not what you expect

A mask can be incredibly freeing

A new name, a new subcharacter can help to re-invent yourself

You can assign a different version of yourself

Different people identify you as different things. Depends on what you allow them to see.

What do you not know yet, but want to?

Access someone else’s Netflix account to be able to learn more about them, inhabit someone else’s digital identity

Understand the fears of others

Wisdom from other generations

Where do we get hidden knowledge?

Hidden knowledge is in podcasts, Twitter, 5 year olds

5 year olds force us to think through topics then the answer

And some others…

Trust depends on how you know a person

When a person dies a library dies with them

Titles give us permission

Success is dependent on your value structure

You succeed in America despite of not because of

Find a partner who can guide you

A hobby is what you can’t sell



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