Executive Director of Venture Café Warsaw - Warsaw, PL

Warsaw, PL /
CIC Related Orgs: Venture Cafe Global Institute & Captains of Innovation /
Full-time
Venture Café Warsaw (VCW) is seeking to hire a dynamic Executive Director to manage Venture Café in Warsaw (VCW), part of the Venture Café Global Institute (VCGI), a network with 11 locations worldwide. This person will be accountable to ensure the goals of the VCW Board and VCGI are met with the support of VCGI for strategy, shared systems and services plus training and onboarding. The Executive Director will report to the VCW Foundation President. 


VENTURE CAFÉ WARSAW GUIDING ORGANIZATIONAL OBJECTIVES

As an organization, there are five guiding objectives by which success is measured. These objectives are achieved through programming, storytelling and bringing together a diverse mix of the community.

1. Increase the opportunity for economic mobility by lowering the barriers to entry and creating a safe environment where more people can participate in the innovation sector.
2. Create more cross-sector connections and reduce the number of silos that exist in an effort to build a globally competitive talent base.
3. Foster relationships that increase access to resources (capital, talent, ideas).
4. Create gathering spaces that remove walls and increase the degree of connectivity at the human level.
5. Lead by sharing the tools and resources openly; creating a shared platform that aligns and amplifies the efforts of community partners.

The flagship program is the Venture Café Thursday Gathering - a weekly gathering from 3pm-8pm where hundreds of innovators and entrepreneurs get together to share ideas and knowledge through educational breakout sessions and facilitating conditions for organic connections. Around the world, Venture Café is generally the largest weekly community gathering of innovators and entrepreneurs in its city. For the organization overall, the Thursday Gathering is considered the “operating system” on which all additional programming and partnerships are built and supported. 


Position and Responsibilities

The Executive Director of VCW, a nonprofit organization in Warsaw, needs to play a leadership role in the local innovation community, helping the city further establish itself as a destination hub for startups. This person will help establish VCW as a neutral and valuable player in the local ecosystem. This person will collaborate with the CIC Warsaw team in the day-to-day operations to help maximize community engagement. Your primary responsibilities will be to launch and operate programs and activities in three areas:

(1) Operate and Maintain a Sustainable Organization

As a nonprofit organization, you will report a board of engaged directors who can assist in the overall mission-related activities. This includes organizational fundraising, strategic planning, impact measurement, financial reporting, board relations, and stakeholder development. You will effectively manage a local team to execute activities across a broad range of areas including programming, space hire, events management and club house membership. 

(2) Manage Venture Café Programming

All Venture Cafés operate four core programs: 1) weekly Thursday Gathering, 2)  innovation club house program Trend House, 3)  civic innovation space District Hall, and 4) Soft Landing. Additionally, each member develops and operates their own programming to suit the unique needs of their community. 

1. Oversee the weekly Thursday Gathering, known in each city simply as “Venture Café”. You will be responsible for ensuring that this forum regularly convenes members of the community in an inclusive and open way. The Venture Café gathering is a platform for innovation related programs and events of organizations across the city, rather than an event in and of itself.  The vast majority of the programming during the Thursday gathering is developed and conducted within the Venture Café space by partner organizations throughout the city, and as such it supports and strengthens existing groups and activities, rather than competing with or substituting for them.  One of the goals is to increase the level of cross-pollination across innovation-related activities and groups, creating opportunities for serendipitous encounters as well as structured conversations and events (seminars, info sessions, roundtables, etc.). Your team will grow the invite list, identify individuals and organizations to hold special events, and organize and run the overall gathering. Your work will support your teams’ collaboration with other members of the innovation community to organize regular and special events separate from the weekly gathering.

2. Oversee the operations of the innovation membership program Trend House, the cross-sector program to connect corporations to startups, entrepreneurs, and innovation thought leaders. Members can join a tiered Trend House membership, with varying levels of programs and services, including local activations in the form of special Venture Cafe nights, and other benefits. Members join for a number of reasons, including understanding emerging technology and market trends, accessing novel technologies, training and exposure for high-potential employees, potential hiring of new talent, among others. 

3. Oversee the operations of civic innovation space District Hall, a physical gathering space to serve as the “living room” of the innovation community to help foster and sustain the innovation community and exchange ideas. The goal is to create a place for all to connect, with no barriers to entry. Last year, District Hall Warsaw hosted 833 events across the innovation sector, bringing in ~73 000+ people, and sponsoring over ~355 000 PLN in space rentals to the innovation community. 

4. A cornerstone of Venture Café is to oversee programs that will help build a more inclusive innovation economy through our equity-driven innovation efforts. VCW Soft Landing Program is an invitation for regional centers to participate in innovation by creating pathways for true access aimed at improving overall equity and economic mobility. The VCW Executive Director will be expected to develop and oversee these initiatives, some of which may be scaled to the entire network. 

(3) Engage with the Innovation Community

You will work with the support of local organizations, including a primary link to CIC Warsaw to convene and catalyze connections and growth in your city’s innovation and entrepreneurship communities. You will continue to position Venture Café as a neutral and valuable player in the local ecosystem.  You must balance work in the team office with being “out there” attending events, meeting people, and building relationships. You should be an advocate and spokesperson. You will need to identify individuals and organizations and partner with them to help in the implementation of programs. Also, we expect you to convene and connect individuals and organizations that, in your judgment, should know each other and perhaps work together. 

Collaborate and share partnership opportunities across the Venture Café global network to support the relationship between cities.

You’ll be expected to work closely with the General Manager of CIC Warsaw in efforts to build a cohesive innovation community. 

Venture Café operates within the boundaries of uncertainty and ambiguity.  No task should be beneath you: on the same day you may sharpen pencils and rearrange furniture and also have dinner with the CEO of a global company.  This environment also creates great opportunities to be creative and to envision new projects that will take Venture Café’s mission, and particularly its impact in your city, to the next level. We believe in experiments as a way of learning. 


Background and Experience

We seek a candidate with the following characteristics:
• You have been involved in innovation and/or entrepreneurship initiatives, preferably in the role of founder or chief executive of a high-impact organization.
• You believe that innovation and entrepreneurship are instruments to improve the human condition, not ends in themselves.
• You have a broad and interdisciplinary understanding of the innovation process, including its business and social components.
• You believe that impactful innovation and entrepreneurship takes many forms (e.g. beyond making apps and creating VC-funded startups).
• You are familiar with your city’s innovation community and its key players and believe in its potential for growth. An extensive social network in this community is desirable, as well as the ability to build local partnerships.
• You have an understanding of your city, of its neighborhoods, and of its urban and cultural economy.
• You understand your city’s most pressing challenges (e.g. risk appetite, income inequality) and embrace them as opportunities for change and problem solving.
• You are curious and perhaps familiar with the evolution of business, industry, and technology, while having a humanistic perspective.
• You understand core non-profit functions such as board development, fundraising, impact measurement, and financial reporting.
• Natural leadership - the ability to lead your own team as well as lead the community in efforts toward a common goal.

Qualifications
• At least a bachelor’s degree.
• Experience with community envisioning, planning, and implementation.
• Outstanding written and oral communication skills in Polish and English is a must. 
• Comfort with public speaking, in formal and informal settings.
• Ability to lead a fast paced team of brilliant program specialists and event professionals. 
• Strong understanding and proven experience of financial management and reporting; P&L management and budgeting, non-for-profit Board management and accounting a plus.
• Executive management experience including hiring and managing staff, payroll and HR.
• Ability to communicate and collaborate across business, academia, government, and civil society.
• Attention to detail; understanding that form is as important as function.
• Ability to work effectively in complex stakeholder environments.
• Excellent organizational, project, and task management skills.
• Familiarity with social media channels. An ability to leverage them as part of your work is desirable.
• A diplomatic and consensus-oriented approach to decision making.
• Global outlook with local roots and commitment.
• Clear views and positions without being dogmatic. Not a “yes-person”.
• Able to commit to attend 44 Thursday Gatherings per year to support the team and lead the community. 
• Ability to complete paid training at other Venture Cafés locations at least once per year. 

Starting compensation commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits package and regular raises based on your performance and the impact of your organization.


ABOUT VENTURE CAFÉ WARSAW

Founded in 2019, Venture Café Warsaw is an independent nonprofit organization and its mission is to connect innovators to make things happen. VCW works to build stronger and more inclusive innovation ecosystems and accelerate and enhance the innovation process in Warsaw.  It does this through high-impact programming, physical spaces, storytelling, and broad innovation engagement. VCW is a member of the growing Venture Café Global Network, a federation of nonprofit organizations with a shared mission and a localized approach to strengthening innovation ecosystems around the world. Venture Café currently operates in 10 locations, with several more in development.


ABOUT CIC AND VENTURE CAFÉ GLOBAL INSTITUTE 

Venture Café was founded at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) by Tim Rowe in 2009. CIC builds and operates world-class innovation communities around the world.  Learn more about CIC here. CIC partners with Venture Café organizations in each city to closely develop innovation ecosystems all over the world through, led by the Venture Café Global Institute (VCGI). 

The Venture Café Global Institute is a public benefit corporation that operates as a nonprofit organization to support the Global Network of independent Venture Cafés. VCGI provides support in key areas including staff training and convenings, knowledge sharing, global sponsorship, shared systems and services, intellectual property, and guides expansion to new sites.