April 4th, 2014 found me on the edge of my seat listening to Randy Komisar, a serial entrepreneur and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. He talked about entrepreneurship, venture capital, and other current trends and aspects in the market.
Over the past couple decades, Sand Hill Road has built the foundation for the Silicon Valley we know today, providing the financial footing for companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook to change the world and making millionaires appear all over the silicon valley. Growing up not twenty minutes away from where all of this history took place, BrightEyes 2014 provided me not only with an opportunity to learn more about the venture capital and technology space, but also my own hometown.
“There is no straight line from idea to success.” – Randy Komisar (tweet that)
Listening to Randy was surreal. Every word he spoke was a piece of candy, inspiring and exciting the kid inside of me. Never would I have expected to be sitting in a historical venture capital firm at the age of 19, personally asking questions and interacting with a venture capitalist.
BrightEyes 2014 is a study tour that gives students an opportunity to learn about the tech and VC space in a very practical way by flying students out to the heart of the industry to meet and interact with the very people at the forefront of these industries. Run by Tiffany Stone, a 2012 UCSD grad, this study tour provided a huge supplement and a great deal of inspiration for my own education.
BrightEyes gave me the opportunity to interact with the people behind companies such as Boost VC, Nexgate, Lyft, Bitpay, AirBnB, Quixey, Andreessen Horowitz, Yahoo, Kleiner Perkins, Nest, Facebook, Sierra Ventures, Dorm Room Fund, and Amazon.
The first day started with a meeting with Adam Draper and Brayton Williams, the leaders behind Boost VC. We walked into a building with a gutted Tesla Model S turned into a desk, and walked down the stairs into a small conference room where we plopped down on beanbags.
We talked about many things, but among them included conversations about Bitcoin, where it currently is and where it’s headed. The conversation offered a pretty good case for the future of bitcoin, and made me reconsider cryptocurrencies as a whole. Maybe it’s onto something.
Either way, all the talk about upcoming disruptive ideas really struck a chord in me. It made me wonder not only about what the future is going to look like, but how I would take place in the whole orchestration of these evolving industries. AirBnB showed us the evolution of the hospitality industry, Lyft showed us the evolution of the transportation industry, Facebook showed us the evolution of social industries, etc etc.
For those of you who have known me or read my blog for a while, you’ll know that education is a big thing on my mind, and that I’m always thinking about ways to build a better system of learning that empowers people to truly reach their potential. Meeting all of these entrepreneurs has helped me reignite my passion for learning and education, but has also given me ideas on how to practically make a difference in the world that we live in. Just because the education space has historically been a very difficult market to bring change to doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give it everything that I’ve got.
The entire trip, from dawn to dusk, was full of conversations about building companies, developing teams, and changing the world. We had the privilege of staying at a home listed on AirBnB called Village Looky run by a very hospitable and smart entrepreneur Heigo Paartalu. Everywhere from meetings with companies to in between transportation time to meals to our stay at Villa Looky, the conversations were all nothing short of eye opening and inspiring.
One common thread that came up repeatedly when talking about the characteristics of a successful entrepreneurs and companies, was idea of “scrappiness”. Scrappiness is essentially the grit, tenacity, and endurance an individual gives to the work that they do. Scrappy people take big risks because they know exactly what they care about and exactly what they believe in.
While driving on the way to a meeting at Stanford on a perfect California day, Tiffany said “I want you to know yourself”, speaking it as if it was the secret that would make me successful.
Suddenly, it all made sense. The most powerful thing I would get out of all the interactions on this trip wasn’t answers to specific industry problems or forecasts, but a chance to build my personal network and get to know and understand myself. It was a chance to have conversations to understand my passions, my strengths, and my weaknesses. It was a chance to learn how to communicate different aspects of who I am in different situations.
And in a strange but practical way, BrightEyes was the missing piece that I had been longing for in my educational experience. It was a study tour that helped give much more context behind the things that I am learning in school, and more vision for my education. Every student should be given the chance to interact and network with people in industries.
The most powerful thing I would get out of all the interactions on this trip wasn’t answers to specific industry problems or forecasts, but a chance to build my personal network and get to know and understand myself.
Thanks BrightEyes for the amazing life-changing experience!
When things are the same year after year, being successful means sticking to a very rigid way of working in order to systematically achieve your goals.
But in many industries today, the only constant is constant change.
Moore’s law states that computational power doubles for the same price point every 18 months. This means that every year and a half, the power of our computers double. Computing power is growing at an exponential rate, enabling technologies and solutions to our world’s problems at an extremely fast pace. Pretty soon driverless cars, smart watches, and other smart technologies will be implemented into everyday life.
When nothing is constant and everything is changing, being too rigid can get in the way of keeping up with surroundings. One of the greatest assets of a person in today’s economy is the ability to think on their feet and learn quickly.
I had the privilege of visiting IDEO in San Francisco today, to learn a little bit about the culture of innovating, prototyping, and product designing. IDEO deeply embodies the culture of innovating by creating, researching, and testing.
“It is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.”
Be quick to recognize and solve problems, and quick to learn and adapt.
“If you plant a redwood in a forest, it can grow hundreds and hundreds of feet, but if you plant a redwood in a pot, it won’t grow very far. Everyone has potential, but where they root themselves makes a huge difference.”
Many times the inability to accomplish something has little to do with you individually, but the environment and people around you.
The challenge is knowing the difference between what you are capable of doing and what your environment is empowering you to do. It doesn’t matter whether a flower is planted in a pot or a forest, it doesn’t make a difference on how high the flower is able to grow.
Thus, no matter where you are at or what you are doing, always ask if the people around you are helping you become the best person you can become, and adjust accordingly.
Last week, as I was applying for an online contest, I looked at my calendar and realized that I have been blogging for five years. That’s five whole years worth of who I am that has been shared online.
It got me thinking. So much has changed since the day that I decided to start blogging, and yet some things are still exactly the same. I had no idea what today would look like five years ago, and I have no idea what things will look like five years from now. But day in and day out, I find myself doing a lot of work, and putting all my effort into various different things.
What do I really live for?
It’s a question that everyone faces. No matter how certain and confident a person may project themselves in the world, there’s always a deep question in the shadows questioning whether or not you deserve to be there. (tweet that)
Even today, while trying to think of what today’s blog post should be about, I took a deep breath, thought about how jammed pack these past two weeks have been, and asked myself if I’m really making a difference. I had no idea what to write about. Who even cares if I write?
There are so many areas of life where I could put myself down, look at myself like an amateur, and cause my feelings of insecurity to push me into hiding. But that doesn’t get me anywhere.
Your life’s work isn’t going to be easy, and nobody is every a hundred percent certain that they are the best fit or the most appropriate qualifications for the job. You just have to take a deep breath and know that you can do it. Have grit.
Because you are where you are for a reason. Don’t let what you have just fly by.