5 Minutes to read
Patrick Kervern, Founder of Umanz
Learning Inspiration 🌈 #75
Patrick Kervern, founder of Umanz, is a media and tech specialist. He was Marketing Director CEMA at the Dow Jones until 2006 before joining Google as Director of Banking, Finance, and Insurance for 4 years. In 2018, Patrick launched Umanz, the first magazine about “meaning.” Its creation was motivated by the observation of 3 major disruptions: climate change, technological disruption, and the loss of meaning at work. The idea was to create a medium for the discussion of meaning in economics, technology, and work. During his time at Google, Patrick realized that he preferred content over technology.
How did you start writing?
I started writing for my previous magazine: viuz.com. I got a taste for it. Viuz is a magazine dedicated to digital marketing trends and insights. Viuz is part Events part Media; the latter is clearly my favorite.
What is your biggest challenge at the moment with Umanz?
My two biggest challenges:
Remaining the best in terms of content on meaning. In the age of Covid, things have become more competitive on the topic of meaning. So I had to start differentiating myself, going further, deeper, to always be more relevant and creative in the subjects I cover.
Creating meaningful products that are marketable to businesses. It’s part of our business model: we create workshops, training courses, content, and on-demand conferences for companies. Either we do it alone or in a hybrid way with coaches and psychologists who support us in the company.
How do you organize your work?
I organize my week in a way that maximizes productivity and creativity.
Monday: I hold a very large Tech & Eco press review and read hundreds of media articles. The idea is to synthesize the content and summarize it in order to gain as much knowledge and information as possible to “feed” my week.
Tuesday: it’s my “philosophical” day. I focus solely on reading content related to philosophy, psychology, and meaning (magazines like Aon, Noema, Palladium, Edge).
Thursday: My favorite day. I follow people who inspire and who I trust on platforms like Twitter, including Julie Young, Marie Dollé, Rex Woodburry, Morgan Housel and David Perell.
Friday: I devote the afternoon to free expression. I focus exclusively on creative activities like drawing or writing, but without sources, just inspiration.
I sometimes write during the week, sometimes not. I’m a fan of long-form content. I organize myself to always be 3 weeks ahead in creating content for Umanz. I read a lot, take notes, and either use them right away or at a later date. In the course of my reading, ideas come to me and I stop to write about them.
Who are your sources of inspiration?
I have many. Books then people, in that order. Also, Tim Ferriss’ and Julien Devaureix’s podcasts.
Do you work by yourself?
Yes and no. I interact with my network a lot. For me, it’s essential, because it allows me to constantly bounce ideas around. I often talk to my friend Marie Dollé who shares her Tech expertise with me, and, in turn, I share my meaning expertise with her. I also work with my steering committee a lot at Umanz, including Mats Carduner (co-founder of Fifty-Five), Pierre Lebeau (founder of Keecker), Emmanuelle Flahaut (Director of Communication at Iris Capital), and the other members. Everyone has something to contribute to what Umanz is. I also talk to Gilles Chetelat a good deal.
Discipline and writing:
For me, writing is a cross between an ardent obligation and a pleasure. It’s even a matter of survival. I have an obligation to produce content weekly (2-3 times/week), 3,000-5,000 words, which demands real discipline in reading, learning, and producing.
Your favorite tools:
I’m very fond of Google Docs, as a former Google employee 😉 I use WordPress for Umanz, Substack for the whole newsletter part, and Twitter for inspiration. I hear a lot about Roam Research. Social networks are very useful but should be used selectively. After 10 years of experience, I’d say this is one of the truest sentences: “Facebook is the people you went to school with. Twitter is the people you wish you went to school with.”
What advice would you give someone who wants to launch a media outlet like Umanz?
There are two types of entrepreneurs: those who launch from the start, right after their studies (or even without having done any studies!), and those who launch after having been employed. Whatever your dream, anything is possible as long as you believe in it and hang in there. The real challenge is, of course, to hold out economically, which can be all the more complicated psychologically when you have been employed and have experienced economic stability.
If I had to do it again, I would start much sooner. What prevents young people from starting earlier are fears linked to society – extrinsic games: having the car you need to have, earning the money you need to earn, having the job that sounds good, etc.
The extrinsic is a myth. I feel much more accomplished now with my current job.
What are your objectives at the moment?
Today, my challenge is to continue to invent and produce meaningful products around Umanz that allow it to be funded: modules, workshops, disruptive events, collaborations with brands. My ultimate goal with Umanz is to uplift the spirit, not to overwhelm it. “One content at a time.” Ultimately, what makes me happy, what motivates me, what I believe in, is giving meaning back to society.
What are your favorite books?
Friday, or, The Other Island by Michel Tournier. An adult version of the myth of “Robinson Crusoe” which was originally written by Daniel Defoe.
A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe, for the beauty of the writing
The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda
Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Gustav Jung
Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson. Author and journalist Derek Thompson deconstructs the hit economy in the Entertainment and Digital industries.
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell. This is THE book that allowed me to start my first business. The author explains that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach the mastery of a world class expert in any field. It serves as a reminder that “successful” women and men worked very hard to make it happen. It wasn’t just innate.
Re-Imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age by Tom Peters. A goldmine of Business Wisdom.
One last word? 🙂
There is no better time to start. The best time is now.
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