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Zero suits, zero smelly rooms | Michael Azzopardi

Ahead of ambitiously dynamic networking event Hey Disco!, we speak to one of the events co-organisers, digital design entrepreneur Michael Azzopardi, about how he will strive to make networking fun.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
11 March 2015, 8:29am
Michael Azzopardi (left) and Sebastian Hefel of Sebazzo
Michael Azzopardi (left) and Sebastian Hefel of Sebazzo
What inspired you to get this event going in the first place? Did you notice a particular gap that needed to be filled in Malta?

A gathering of like-minded people is a massively underrated force for change. Forming real connections is still the best way to overcome obstacles in entrepreneurship, creative projects or at work. Our vision for Hey Disco is to recreate the serendipitous moments that strike successful collaborations between individuals and businesses. It is bizarre how rarely brands and studios actually meet with artists or freelance designers. Finding ways to break down that barrier was what inspired us in the first place.

As an event Hey Disco can pass for a fun Friday night out: there will be great music, in a wonderful venue and the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals from the creative industry, something we feel that is lacking at this time. We invited three industry heavyweights to share their story and present their unique insights. There is a refreshing sense of confidence and drive that’s transmitted over from people who are in the thick of it, dreaming and doing.

We also wanted to start a networking event which featured zero suits and zero smelly hotel conference rooms. For those who haven’t been to Blitz yet, you’re missing out. It’s a beautiful townhouse in the heart of our city run by the excellent Alexandra Pace. So ‘Hey’ is the networking part, ‘Disco’ is why people might wake up with a headache the next day.

How did your personal (and professional) experience play into the setting up of the event?

An event is an ambitious, creative undertaking. So from a personal perspective, Hey Disco ticks all of my creative boxes in one.

My experience of starting a digital design company (Sebazzo) has brought me one very valuable lesson. Being a creative and being an entrepreneur are one and the same, they feed off each other – this ensures that a person can continue to carry out his or her passion effectively, live off it and do so for longer. Often at times creatives will need a business partner to fill a marketing and finance role. This is how networking is helpful.

How did you go about selecting the different contributors? Which criteria did you use?

All three speakers are self-made, hardworking innovators. They’ve successfully combined their creativity (design, script writing, production and so on) with effective business models, recruited great teams to help them get there and can be, in many different ways, mentors to the up and coming. Their stories also fit perfectly within Hey Disco’s themes. Peter Grech (brndwgn.com) will discuss the challenges of starting one of Malta’s lead branding agencies, and on building up to attract foreign clients. David Darmanin (Hotjar.com) will share the story behind HotJar, how it went from a startup idea to 50,000 sign ups, and the challenges of bringing together the team and funds to make that happen. Rochelle Dancel (Rochelledancel.com, London) will share some insights on why big creative hubs like London are looking globally to form successful, mutually beneficial collaborations.

Do you think creative hubs will become a ‘thing’ in Malta?

Absolutely! We need to focus on less fragmentation and more visibility into each other’s work, a common vision with an element of support. Collaborations are key for this, in fact we’re very pleased to announce that the Valletta 2018 Foundation are supporting our debut event on March 27, these kind of partnerships help such hubs and events in reaching the general public.

Hey Disco moves away from the art and design fraternity culture, and instead aims to give local creatives an easy, free and frictionless way to meet their next collaborators, employers or business partners.

Which other tangible benefits do you hope the event will have?

A sense of urgency. If at least one person leaves Hey Disco feeling inspired and takes away newfound knowledge to self-initiate their projects, alone or with others, we will sleep soundly.

Hey Disco! will take place at Blitz, St Lucy Street, Valletta at 20:00. Free tickets can be booked by logging on to: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hey-disco-tickets-15795507789

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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