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The butterfly effect

Martin Port
December 4, 2023

Every time you give someone a chance, create an opportunity, or share advice, you could be doing something extraordinary. A relatively small action can have a massive effect down the line, like ripples sweeping across a pond, making a powerful impact in someone’s life.  

This is known as the “butterfly effect”, so named because - in theory – the act of a small butterfly flapping its wings could cause a typhoon. But I’m not the best person to talk to you about this. Instead, I’m handing the reins to Ugo Nwokoro, a talented and brilliant technologist, who I met a decade ago. Over to Ugo.

“In 2013, I went to an Institute of Directors event in London and heard Martin speak. I was doing a Masters in Business at Nottingham University and wanted to hear from real founders. I was impressed by Martin’s story, so I stayed to talk to him afterwards. We spoke for a few minutes, and he told me to connect with him on LinkedIn, so I did. I had no idea where that chance meeting would take me. It’s crazy how things work out.

“A few months later, I graduated, and I started looking for a job. I was applying for roles, but I remember feeling like there weren’t any I was excited about. I dropped Martin a message, telling him it would be nice to catch up. He came back straight away and asked me where I was working. He told me he was recruiting for BigChange, and would I like to come for an informal chat. I went to meet him and must have impressed him because he offered me a job straight away.

“I knew that BigChange was a place I wanted to work. It was just a small company back then with six or seven people. I had the opportunity to really make an impact and work closely with Martin, which I felt was an unmissable learning opportunity. I had always been entrepreneurial and started a couple of ventures while at university, so I knew I would fit in.

“I moved to Leeds and took a job in accounting and operations, helping the CFO. But, as it was a small company, my role was broad. I learned so much! Every time we won a new customer, it was my job to model how that income would fit into the business and to liaise with the sales team and Road Crew. I picked up some invaluable skills in negotiation, project management, sales, and an understanding of the value of process. After a few months, I was promoted, and started reporting directly to Martin.

“The lessons I learned at BigChange around building businesses and managing teams ultimately gave me the confidence to start my own start-up. I left to launch a re-commerce venture, creating a platform that helped people to sell their unwanted items. I made a bit of money and gained a whole lot more experience, but I had to return to Nigeria because my family needed me.

“In 2018, I launched my most recent – and most successful – venture to date. MediSpark is a health technology company, building digital infrastructure that facilitates distribution and delivery of healthcare services across Africa. We are in the process of selling that start-up now, and while it isn’t a life-changing amount of money, it goes a long way to providing security for my family.

“Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d never attended that IoD event. My journey would look very different.

“My experience working at BigChange has had an enormous impact in my life – I see it every day. Martin used to say, “A deal isn’t done until it's done” and that has always stayed with me. I never presume a sale is complete until the money is in. That’s been one of the most useful bits of advice anyone has ever given me.

“During my time at BigChange, an email went round every time there was a new sale. It felt like we were announcing wins constantly, which was amazing for morale. I do that now in my current company – albeit on Slack, and I don’t think my puns are as good as BigChange’s.

“Martin recently helped me again when I applied for a Global Talent Visa, which is only available to people recognised as “exceptionally talented” across several areas, including digital technology. Martin wrote an outstanding letter of reference, which helped me get my visa. It probably didn’t take him long to write but has helped me in ways that I can’t begin to express.

“There are opportunities to help people every day, and my experience with Martin and BigChange has shown me that these small acts of kindness can be truly life changing. I try to give back in my own way, developing people within my business and sharing my experience when it can help others. As entrepreneurs, we are often inundated with requests and opportunities and it can be tempting to say no, to turn down that coffee, or ignore that email. Be a bit more like Martin and say a few more yeses. You never know who you might inspire, or what you could create.”

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