Last week RCs Fred Spring, Tewfik Cassis, Christina Sgardeli and Andrew Cedar launched Opedspace. Their goal is to elevate the political, economic and social discourse by providing young professionals with a platform to publish their opinion pieces on global issues. The site has hit a nerve, with thousands of visitors in its first days.
Opedspace and the Harbus have formed a content-sharing partnership and will be featuring some articles across both platforms. Last week the founders sat down with Harbus Editor-In-Chief Nabil Mohamed to discuss their venture.
Opedspace is the work for four HBS students who say that their diverse backgrounds and perspectives will create a vibrant and varied community of ideas. Fred Spring, a former London-based consultant is interested in UK and Eastern European politics. Tewfik Cassis is a former consultant, VC and startup strategist who is focused on political economy and conflict resolution in the Middle East. Christina Sgardeli is a former banker whose favourite topics are European integration, global political economy and financial reform. Andrew Cedar is former White House and State Department staffer who has worked across a number of international relations issues, including youth engagement in the Arab Spring.
Drawing on their varied backgrounds and interests, the team have already assembled a strong catalogue of writing from young professionals around the world. At the time of writing the two most recent articles ranged from commentary on the Scottish independence referendum to a call for a new approach to fighting Islamic State.
Andrew said the team decided to launch Opedspace because, “there is lots of noise and celebrity trash online, and no substance, or there is recycled stuff from the same sources by the same people.”
“There is a thirst for levelheaded insight into global issues among us and I’m sure among others as well.”
Fred adds that for writers, it provides a personal way of relating opinion seeing how their network reacts.
The team embrace and champion the ability of young professionals who don’t consider themselves writers to advance public discourse.
Fred describes the process of helping contributors realize that they have their say: “We coaxed some of our friends into writing what they thought about important things, and all of a sudden people said ‘Wow, I can write!’. It was almost like a drug!”
“The takeaway for me was that there is a lot of untapped potential here.”
The team acknowledge that articles by authors who lack academic or journalistic credentials may not always land. However they see a benefit in giving people an outlet to express their views that doesn’t require academic levels of rigour (and time).
If that means some people dismiss the content, Andrew isn’t concerned. “You know what? It just may end up that we’re not taken seriously by some people. But we’re not trying to be everything to everyone. And it’s not like the people who do have the credentials (e.g. political science professors, etc…) always manage to convince us.”
Since it is early days for the site, the founders aren’t really thinking about monetization at this stage. And a result are sanguine about potential competitors.
“We’re doing this really for the in it”, Tawfik explains, “We don’t think of competition in an adversarial way. The more the merrier.”
The team are happy with their strong start, but insist they have more to do, including working to broaden the content hosted to include a wider range of topics.
In Tewfik’s words, “we have literally launched this [on September 7]. We haven’t figured everything out yet.”
The Harbus is committed to sharing and discussing the opinions of HBS students and is excited by Opedspace so far, and is excited to see where the team take it.