I recently sat down with Toma Officer, who’s currently working as a freelancer, to learn more about how he got involved with CityAwake and Unreasonable Labs.
What are you currently working on?
Toma quit his day job in October 2015. He had previously been working as a due diligence analyst for a company called CrowdCheck, whose clients are so-called investment crowdfunding platforms. He had been working remotely for the company, so he found time for several side projects. One project was trying to start his own corporate governance services software company, which was a promising idea but difficult to get companies to sign up for. Another project was learning how to code, which opened Toma up to the world of UX design. He’s now participating in a full-time, three month long, mentor-led bootcamp called Bloc.io, where he’s developing his UX skills. After this course, he may want to pursue another startup.
How did you get involved with City Awake?
Toma, working with City Awake, helped bring Unreasonable Labs to Boston. The Unreasonable Institute had been on his radar for a while, so when they put out a call to see if anyone was interested in helping them organize 5-day labs in their cities, he jumped on the opportunity. He initially applied as an individual to host Unreasonable Labs, and when he asked Katie from the Impact Hub Boston Team if anyone might be interested in helping him, she introduced him to Justin and the City Awake team, who were already preparing their own application. Toma thus joined City Awake to work on Unreasonable Labs, which happened in September 2015.
What was Unreasonable Labs about?
The theme for this Unreasonable Lab was “investment readiness.” Given Toma’s interest in the democratization of access to the investment world, so that anyone can participate as an investor in companies they believe in, he was eager to work on the programming for this lab. The inaugural cohort had 11 teams, a mix of for-profits and nonprofits across all stages of development. Some had already raised two rounds of funding, while others were working on ideas that had been a part of their thesis, and actually incorporated their business while participating in the Unreasonable Lab. Unreasonable gave them a very detailed playbook that served as the basis of their programing over the five days.
How competitive was this Unreasonable Lab?
The team started with 100 applications, of which 70 were real contenders. They narrowed it down to 50 high quality companies, any 11 of which would have been great participants in the program. It was therefore a really heartbreaking process to have to narrow it down to just 11!
Are you still involved in City Awake?
Toma has been helping out with social media posts and designing flyers for this year’s City Awake festival.
What should we look out for during the Festival?
Toma attended the Festival last year, and thought it was a great way to gain exposure to all the social impact activities happening in Boston. He was also amazed at how many volunteers got together for the Festival to showcase all the social impact initiatives happening in the city.
Which City Awake events were you most excited for?
He’s psyched about “Power Launch Design Workshop: Identifying innovative new strategies to accelerate and sustain social impact.”
City Awake successfully brought one of the Unreasonable Institute Labs here this year. What do you think this means for the future of the organization?
Unreasonable was impressed with the City Awake network, so there are talks of future collaboration. Unreasonable’s flagship program is a five-week intensive accelerator in Colorado, but they find that while people are really engaged for those five weeks, they tend to drop off afterwards. What they want to understand is how to stretch out a program so it’s more sustainable and long-lasting, and that’s what they’re exploring with City Awake.
Why Impact Hub Boston?
Toma is a Community Member. He loves the ImpactHub, which creates great content and represents a strong community. He’s been in a lot of coworking spaces and some of them can feel sterile. Here, it’s very much a community, with events like Sexy Salad and Wine Down. People come here if they’re interested in social impact, and given his interests, he thinks the ImpactHub channels people’s efforts into something more meaningful.
Cheese – specifically blue cheese, the smellier the better
Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Last read book?
Reamde (for second time)