From lockdown to launch: How an idea became a mission

On Monday 23 March 2020, the UK government announced the first national lockdown measures in response to the COVID pandemic. At the time, I was working in a busy office in London Bridge, but by the end of that week I was told that I would be working from home indefinitely.

I have never been back.

My situation is not unique – our society has experienced profound changes ever since the pandemic hit. Social life seemed to move online, remote working became commonplace, and “zoom” became a verb with new meaning.

I’m sure you remember those first months well – although we might have been expecting Star Trek, it was more like Comedy Central. Cats jumping on desks in the middle of meetings, people turning up in dressing gowns, or forgetting to mute themselves as they blurted out what was really on their mind. In short, entirely new ways for professionals to embarrass themselves.

But, it soon became clear that lockdowns meant more than occasional Zoom mishaps. Many people began experiencing isolation, anxiety, and frustration, which has spilled over into politics, corporate governance, and pop culture in the years since COVID.

Christian and I first met in a Telegram Group for people wanting to understand the impact of these issues and what could be done to support those affected. Christian was led to the group by his interest in executive coaching. For me, it was my interest in finding solutions to complex problems. As we collaborated, we discovered a mutual interest in growth, entrepreneurship, and the emerging digital economy.

We began to look at the impacts of the lockdowns from new perspectives. With an eye on the future, we realised that along with the challenges there were also many opportunities. Opportunities that, if embraced by professionals today, could help them successfully transition into the emerging digital economy over the next few decades.

It was also clear that many of the challenges people were facing, including isolation, increased responsibility, and a need to be more autonomous are intrinsic to being an entrepreneur, founder, or leader. Being at the helm of a new venture or shouldering the responsibility of leadership can be a lonely and daunting journey full of uncertainty.

Christian and I both understood that as we exit the industrial age and enter the digital era, the rate of change will keep accelerating. New technologies, new consumer demands, new expectations, new markets, new political landscapes, even new forms of money.  We saw that learning how to navigate the seas of change is critical for anyone that wants to survive, and that learning to embrace new ways of doing business is necessary for those that want to thrive.

Turning Uncertainty Into Opportunity

It wasn’t long before we had a mission, we wanted to help people filter the signal from the noise, discover exciting new opportunities, and thrive in today’s turbulent business world. We knew we needed to tap into multiple disciplines to innovate and create a flexible process that would support professionals as they grow into these challenges.

We started by exploring our own experiences and interests.


I’ve always been a big picture person, fascinated by both the past and the future. In particular, from an early age I was drawn to history, trying to make sense of how the past influences the present. Why do people think they way they do? What are the great stories that inform us, and what wisdom is hidden within them?

Around 4 years ago I stumbled across Rebel Wisdom a media platform founded by BBC & Channel 4 filmmaker David Fuller, and Alexander Beiner, a writer, podcaster and event organiser. Rebel Wisdom was centered on the conviction that we are seeing a crisis of ideas as the old operating system breaks down and that the most transformative ideas always show up first as rebellious.

Amongst the many amazing people showcased on Rebel Wisdom I found John Vervaeke, Ph.D. He is an award-winning professor of psychology, cognitive science, and Buddhist psychology at the University of Toronto. John’s epic video series “Awakening from the Meaning Crisis” has been a huge influence, in it he unravels the mystery of how we think and generate knowledge and wisdom. His work is also influential in the pathways taken to develop AI modelled on human cognitive processes.

From John I learned about distributed cognition and how the story of human development is also the story of working together. Distributed cognition describes how information processing, learning and problem solving happens collectively. Yes, we do figure things out for ourselves as individuals, but the heavy lifting is a collaborative effort that we naturally participate in.

Research now shows that our memory, decision making, reasoning, and learning are all distributed activities that include people, technology, social organizations and workplaces. Furthermore, these processes evolve over time. The advantages of this way of working have become a key influence in how we work at Respia, as our flagship programs all involve group problem-solving processes.

Futurism & Business

For me, William Gibson is one of the most visionary and original authors alive, and probably the best science fiction / futurist author of all time. In 1984 he wrote Neuromancer in which he coined the term “cyberspace” and emerged as a leading exponent of the cyberpunk movement. His writing continues to enrich my imagination and vision, opening up numerous avenues of possibility.

This futurist perspective is the foundation of my optimism for what Respia and our clients can achieve together. The opening up of possibility, the development of forward momentum, and the leaning into adaptive experimentation keeps us flexible, responsive, and seeking to be at least one step ahead.


A narrative of history and future is most useful when it forms a continuum, an unfinished story that follows the forces, drives, and trends of the past into the present and extends into the future.

This is of great importance as we enter a transitionary period from industrial to informational, from analogue to digital, and from centralised to decentralised. There has never been a time in history when so much is changing – and changing with such velocity.

What we produce and how we produce it, how we organise ourselves, how we spend our time, who we connect with and how we connect with them, even how we pay for things are all changing at the same time. There are many coherent theories that encompass past and present, but few have so accurately predicted the near future as The Sovereign Individual. It is this key text that really drove home the inevitable explosion in entrepreneurial growth as a consequence of, and response to, the changes that are underway.

In fact, prior to pandemic lockdowns, self-employment in the UK had been steadily increasing, peaking at 5.0 million in December 2019, approximately 15% of total employment. Since then, the numbers have fallen considerably, down to around 4.2 million in Feb 2024, just under 13% of total employment.

However, the trend is rising again, and entrepreneurship is the obvious response to complex and widespread transformation caused by converging social and technological trends. We need people who see, and seize, opportunities. People that create, organise and operate new forms of business, often by taking great risks in exchange for great rewards.

Partnership With Christian

Meeting Christian was the pivotal moment in the creation of Respia. My focus on macro trends gave us a context, but Christian’s expertise in organisational and leadership issues, and his experience in managing networks, gave us the working model we needed to develop a service offering.

Christian’s first career was in the legal profession. He graduated in business and finance law specialising in commercial and tax law. During his time in law, he tuned into the fundamental importance of personal psychology as a factor of success.

A few years later Christian qualified as a psychotherapist and has been running a private practice in south London focusing on organisational issues and executive coaching. In that capacity, he has worked with founders and managers in the tech and B2B services sector.

Christian has also managed a national network providing support to employees on workplace and personal issues, as well as chairing the Ethics Committee of a psychotherapy training institute. His deep understanding of workplace dynamics and group analysis is a key influence in the design of Respia’s services.

His skills, experience, and perspective helped us move from the standard goal orientated model to an innovative process orientated methodology. With this approach, we were seeking to go beyond the traditional consulting world and future-proof ourselves in the digital age.

Collaboration as a Service (CaaS)

The result of our work is Collaboration-as-a-Service, or CaaS. This is a share, learn, grow methodology rooted in relational intelligence, designed for modern professionals meeting the challenges of rapidly changing complex environments. We designed CaaS for anyone, like us, who is seeking growth beyond traditional networking, consulting, and coaching.

By bringing together like-minded professionals to discuss common problems within a structured framework, we allow participants to discover untapped potential in their own work, refine their perspectives through open dialogue with peers, and brainstorm new ideas within a supportive and diverse group.

Ultimately, we created Respia to support the next generation of business leaders as they leverage the wisdom of their peers, and the advantages of our CaaS process, to turn their challenges into their greatest opportunities and sources of development.