Artem Welker is a tech and social impact entrepreneur. He is mostly known for ventures and projects in the fields of social technologies, platforms and public impact. Currently, he serves as the founder and trustee for WelkerMedia & WM Foundation (also WarmPlace network) – impact group aimed to empower underrepresented voices and related ventures. Besides, he is the author of upcoming book – “Generation 404” (Release – Autumn 2018).
Artem Welker’s heart is the at the centre of his career, with an aim to make a dent in the universe and leave the world a better place with his work with minorities and helping people achieve their real potential through education and inspiration. Rogue got the to ask him to enlighten us on ideologies and why he hates ‘making good’.
You career seems to have being focused on helping others at a fundamental level, do you feel this was key to your success?
Artem: I don’t really like such terms as “making good” or “helping others”, because it lacks of specific expression. In some way it’s a kind of populism in tech world. In reality, I tried to keep my way around complex ideas, values or even ideologies.
In my early years I have experienced challenges and limitations due to my health conditions. I faced a disregard of many public, educational and medical institutions. I felt myself disintegrated. I thought that I don’t have perspectives. This is exactly the feeling experienced by many minorities (no matter, what kind of “minorities” we mean). Today I believe that I didn’t need a help (a fish). But I needed the right “place”, “tools” and “community”(“a fishing rod”) to being inspired and overcome my challenges.
I call it the “warm places”. In particular, I’m passionate about solutions, platforms or ecosystems that help people to realize their potential, being educated or find an inspiration. It’s a complex ideology that encompasses almost any work or project in my career.
Back to 2000s, I tried to bring it through media projects and platforms (example, Hardwaretech. acquired in 2008). Later I moved to social technologies and various platforms related to machine learning and data. It was a good time, but once I realized that I’m just jumping around founding ventures, building tools, thinking about market cap and “exit” strategy.
It was a reason, why we have taken some risks to launch our current fund, impact network and being involved in various side-projects and activities, including even financing art, creative and public works. It’s a kind of journey. And our peers are part of that.
Question: Who do you feel influenced you most, in terms of personal development and why?
Artem: My inspiration matrix is an intersectional. So let’s divide it on 2 main groups.
From the one hand, In my early years, I was really passionate about social studies and considering society as a technology. In particular, I was inspired by such sociologists and social psychologists as Philip Zimbardo (Stanford Prison Experiment), Serge Moscovici. It has influenced some of our startups based on like-minded people analysis (collaborative filtering) and big data.
From the other hand, I was always inspired by people who are able to create communities or platforms based on the complex ideology and values. In the past it’s Mahatma” Gandhi, Adam Smith (I consider him not just as an economist, but truly liberal philosopher and ideologist). Today it’s George Soros and Oprah Winfrey. There are also some people who inspire me personally. For instance, it’s Marina Abramovic and Malala.
Question: There is a lot of turmoil in the US at the moment, many people joining sides and it seems that everybody is on tender hooks expect things to come to a head. How do you see modern America, are you optimistic?
Artem: Yes. I’m optimistic.
Over the last decade, I got a chance to collaborate with various cultures and people. In particular, our fund spreads from the US to South Africa and Eastern Europe, so there is a place for comparison. I believe that the US is a social phenomena that exists as a extremely viable organism. You describe so called the “social pendulum”, that helps american society to solve various issues from time to time.
That’s why sometimes we need radical feminists to make female voices heard, because otherwise nobody cares about dozen of thousands accidents of domestic violence.
We need Black Lives Matter because otherwise we can’t accelerate reforms and changes related to people of color. In some sense, we even need Trump to find the weaknesses of our democracy and improve it (by the way, I’m a libertarian and democrat). Just remember, that any evolution starts from mini-revolution (extreme swing of the pendulum) and temporary polarization until it’s adapted by mainstream (it’s like uberization for tech industry).
It’s a reason, why today women movement transforms in truly socially productive trend that brings female-based venture funds, educational programs, conferences, social reforms and so on. Existing organizations also adapt these changes (example – 500 Startups). Fortunately, we got a lot of real examples, since our network is mostly driven by women and minority communities.
What was your biggest mistake in business and what did you learn from it?
Artem: Back to 2000s (exactly in 2005), we have founded our first media platform. We sold it in 2008. Now I realize that we got chances to grow it up to The Next Web level.
5 lessons learned here:
- Think BIG;
- Think Global;
- Choose your founder as your wife / partner;
- Never be pessimistic even something doesn’t work;
- Never be afraid to change anything.
What do you feel was your greatest moment and why?
Artem: It was 2017 (slightly before I have announced the “Gen 404” book), when I realized that I don’t make “a business”, “a career“. I do my work that is my genuine self-expression or even art like Paul Graham.
There are no any contradictions between my personality, values, goals and various projects. Sure, I don’t want to eliminate a significance of money and resources. Moreover, I believe that you should keep a lot of formal rules to make the first steps. But on some level you should reject compromises to achieve something bigger.
If you had to plug one book, website or product today what would it be?
Back to 2012, I was really passionate about data curation. Even today I use YouTube as a background (I mostly listen it, not watch) to my work almost every day. My goal is to generate the “train of thoughts”, move beyond my work and come up with some ideas. Sometimes ’it’s a mess from news reports, documentaries to various shows and podcasts. I need all shades of the picture.
What motivates you?
Artem: I believe that ideas are nothing without feelings. Today tech entrepreneurs are kind of tech philosophers or poets who replicate their personal feelings and vision.
My initial way was dictated by a solid intention to overcome limitations, move beyond circumstances and realize myself. Even decade later, this feeling is still a part of me. Let’s call it a “minority” gene. It’s impossible to eliminate it. But replication helps to use it for good, through building technologies, solutions and communities (or let’s use the Seth Godin’s term “the Tribes”) that share your feelings.
It still motivates me, because it’s an universal way to genuinely express myself through productive connection with like-minded people across various regions, occupations and even religions.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Artem: We think in the long run, For instance, currently our teams are working on the “Nation 2030” plan. It’s a long term agenda that encompasses our future initiatives.
But in personal sense, today I don’t really think in terms of projects or roadmaps. I think in terms of responsibility to our past and current team, peers, communities and everyone who drives our network and supports us. I really don’t want let them down.
But the main responsibility that drives my work every day, it’s a responsibility to my mom that invested all of her belief, strength and resources to make my life real, when nobody considered that I have any perspectives.