An Offsite at Blenheim Palace: The Power of Expressionism during COVID

Expressionism is a vital artistic and entrepreneurial spirit. It is vibrant, it is unfettered, it is emotional, and it is at once full of eternal angst and electric optimism. Expressionism allows one to visualize a future that isn’t chained by reality and, in being thus free and emotional, can be incredibly empowering — for both the artist and the entrepreneur.

In these interesting times and with this expressionist spirit, I called together our UK team (there were 6 of us, so we followed the rules!) to an offsite at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill, a man who found a way to stay optimistic and passionate even in an era of great uncertainty and change.

There can be many purposes of offsites, but arguably the most important one is to build trust and understanding – and thus alignment – among team members. By definition, an offsite creates space and freedom for everyone to ideate without some of the constraints of our day-to-day lives.

So, for a day, we felt free and relaxed across the expansive grounds in Oxfordshire. I was meeting this team — under the capable leadership of our UK lieutenant Marc Felske – in person for the first time, and I loved getting quality time to interact with them. Our UK associates are based at Cambridge, Oxford, LSE, and UCL and hail from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. We talked about the journeys that brought us all to this point, about the beauty of math and the horrors of politics, about the transcendence of tech beyond an industry, and about the evolution of entrepreneurial cultures and ecosystems at different campuses.

While there, we were surrounded by 24 works of expressionist painter Cecily Brown. She created all of these works specifically for Blenheim, and they are dispersed across the rooms. Like some of the best ideas, it seems they were always there, and yet, once discovered they stand out as centerpieces, bringing the palace to life and imbuing the regal Churchill family estate with a modern energy.

How could we not be inspired — by the glory of one of Britain’s great families and by the brilliance of one of modern painting’s great exponents in turn? We came out of this day with more creative ideas on how to help build some of the UK’s next great technology companies and will be rolling out some of these ideas in the months to come.

I’m quite confident we could not have achieved the same outcome over a Zoom call or in a room where we all had to wear masks and stay highly distanced while speaking to each other.

So, here’s to visualizing a day when we no longer need masks, no longer need to distance ourselves from our fellow humans, no longer need to live in worry and fear, no longer need to spend our time finding ways to enter friendly nations…when we can once again express ourselves authentically in everything we do. It is the entrepreneur’s spirit, and it is a spirit we espouse at REMUS.