Archive for the ‘News’ Category

27
Jan

The beauty of entrepreneurship

Written on January 27, 2015 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

If you have a secured job like “attorney”, do you have a courage to jump into an entrepreneurial world? Sarika Doshi, the Co-founder and CEO of Rank & Style, one of the biggest and greatest websites for fashion and beauty, shares with us the essence to be a successful entrepreneur. No romanticized story, but the truth.

 

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Why did you decide to change your career so drastically from an attorney to an entrepreneur?

SD: I always had had a dream of starting my own thing. For me, it was just a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. When I graduated a law school, I knew I was going to practice for a couple of years. The legal education and an experience of being an attorney is really helpful for what I do now because my job now is negotiating and convincing people to believe in me and to work with us. After a law school, I committed to work in a corporate world for a couple of years, I thought you can learn a lot about how the world works in those settings. I felt very strongly that before I did my own thing it was important to learn how others built and run a company. I’ve spent five years at a venture-backed company in London and New York, shadowed the founders, the CEO, the COO and other senior managers there, and learned everything I could from them. It’s a very different company, very different industry but the skills were the same around recruiting, operations, business development, strategy. My goal was to have that experience, Then, I focused very much on coming up with my own idea and worked on it nights and weekends. Working there gave me great experience and fueled my fire to be an entrepreneur.

 

What was the right timing?

 

SD: The right timing was the right idea and the right personal timing. It’s a big risk and a big sacrifice personally, professionally, and mentally. I was in a stable place financially, socially, and mentally. It gave me the foundation to shift my lifestyle dramatically. Starting a company from scratch turns your world upside down very quickly, and it requires all of your attention and energy. You’ve got to make it sure that all other things in your life are in stable condition and taken care of. Ultimately, there is no perfect moment. I tell people about that all the time. The perfect moment never really arrives. You’ve got to decide what your personal ‘readiness’ equation is. For me, it was a certain amount of money in my account and a certain amount of personal things that I wanted to work out. So I just worked on those goals and then once I got to that place, I resigned from my full-time job and took the leap.

 

Normally people, who have sort of a secure job, are hesitant to take a leap of face to start a new company.

 

SD: I tell people ‘Do your own thing and start your own company if you can’t ‘not’ do it.’ I came up with the idea and felt I really had to do this and make it happen. The thought of it made me jump out of bed everyday. It never felt like “I was working. .

 

When you quit that company, when you actually started your business, what exactly you did?

 

SD: It was really overwhelming. Suddenly, I didn’t have an office to go to, a paycheck, and a health insurance. I swear that having no backup plan is the best motivation to get things done and make things happen. Then you will find the way to make things work. Hustle and necessity do lead to an invention.. You become resourceful. You can make things happen.

 

Many people love to talk about entrepreneurship, but at the same time, most of them are looking for plan B. Only few people actually take actions.

 

SD: That’s what I tell people: a good idea is 1/3 of the way to there. The rest is all about persistence and follow through. It takes years to see the results of a good idea come to life. We live in the society that focuses on the immediate gratification. However, I tell people, ‘This is not the world to pursue immediate gratification. It’s just not.’ You don’t get it for a long time. You will get a lot more No’s and setbacks, than Yes’s early on.

 

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What was the difficulty you had in the beginning and how did you overcome it?

 

SD: Fundraising was really hard. Also growing brand awareness, user acquisition, taking customers as well. It sounds very basic, but I would say that the fundraising takes real persistence. It’s truly about being relentless and not giving up. You have to keep at it and, try a bunch of different things, and be thoughtful about it. The key is persistence. To me, there is no replacement for using your network. Leveraging your network has been the most helpful thing. I came from a very different background that I had no experience in media, fashion, beauty, or e-commerce. The power of Linkedin and in-person networking is huge. My entire social life for the 1st year was going to local meet-ups, making a name for myself, and quickly developing my network. There is no replacement for human help and contacts. Using social media is so easy, at the same time exhausting but it really does work.

 

In many cases, mental failure causes companies to fail. How do you manage your mental state?

 

SD: Building your first company is one of the most stressful and challenging things in your life. You want to be your best self for your company life. It can take your mental, emotional capacity. My recommendation is making sure that you spend meaningful time every day that is sacred and special. It should be truly an outlet. For me it’s working out. I love going to the gym. No matter how busy I get, it has been constant for me and I feel like I owe it to my business and to my investors to keep that time sacred, because it does impact your success. I’m a better thinker and entrepreneur when I’ve done it. For everybody, it looks different. It may be cooking, taking a walk or whatever. You’ve got to find your own thing and don’t compromise on it. When you start a company, you are forced to sacrifice most of the things for the first 1 or 2 years, but you’ve got to keep one thing that’s untouched. It doesn’t have to be million of things, it’s just has to be something that special and sacred.

 

How can you change your negative habits to positive habits?

 

SD: It’s about reflection. Sometimes I stop and say to me, “Wait, something isn’t working here”. For example, I was struggling to sleep because I never stopped thinking about work. So I asked myself “OK, how do I fix this?” and tried different things. I tried yoga even though I had never done yoga. Stop and then you can ask yourself, “OK. How do I make this work?” Just don’t ignore those signs and look within and always be focused on how I can make things better and more calm and stable for myself.

 

You are good at self-observation. If you had had the same amount of knowledge and experience that you have now when you started your business, what would you do differently?

 

SD: I would take more time to celebrate along the way. Sometimes good things would happen and you get excited. Then something bad happens and you feel so easily setback. I want to make sure we acknowledge and celebrate more along the journey.

 

That’s an interesting point. If you have a chance to make a call to 20-year-old Sarika Doshi, what kind of advice you would give to her?

 

SD: No worrying. I like to live a life without regrets. The only regret, I might have, is that I had a lot of time worrying. Second, be really grateful people for everyone you meet. They become your network along the way professionally and socially. They are your networks and your world. No matter what you do, whether start your business or maintain a traditional job, people will inform how meaningful and significant your experience and journey is.

 

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If you can leave a message to the next generation, next entrepreneurs to make the work better, what would you say to them?

 

SD: I think the key is that good ideas are just part of the way. It all comes down to a hard work and grit, and being gutsy and brave. If you are up for that, you’d be successful and you can make anything happen. It’s not about luck. It’s not about magic. It just comes down to hard work, persistence, and belief. It is wonderful because it means it is on your own control.

 

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24
Jan

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE OF MEDIA

Written on January 24, 2015 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

Have you ever got immersed deep into something? Jason Silva is one of the most progressive futurists in the world who has thrown profound questions about our reality. It is easy to say “He is gifted” and “He is special” but do we truly understand what makes him so unique and outstanding? He shares with us “HOW HE THINKS” that we can learn what structures such a great perspective.

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1. For those who are not familiar with you, let us know more about you. You are a media artist/philosopher/futurist. What does drive you and what has contributed to being you?

My background is philosophy and film. I’m passionate about using media technologies and storytelling to invigorate the imagination, to dissolve boundaries of thought and mind.  I have an interest in exponentially advancing technologies and their capacity to help us utterly transcend the human condition… But how to make people understand? How to create that cognitive shift in the minds of others? This has been the inspiration behind my Shots of Awe Youtube series.   12 million views later, I can feel a ripple happening.  My hope is that people begin to understand that our creativity and innovation is embodied in our technology. Technology is congealed imagination. Technology is a mirror, an extended mind.

2. You sometimes talk about the Flow State. Please explain a little bit what the Flow State is. What is it and what is your Flow State?

The flow state is a state of mind associated with heightened performance, intense well being, focus and human virtuosity. Musicians, artists and athletes will talk about “getting in the zone”, and these moments allow us to pierce through, beyond our limitations. It’s wonderful.  An organization called The Flow Genome Project is now working to deconstruct the neuron chemistry of flow and help people create more of it in their own lives.  It’s great.  Here is my video on hacking the flow state.

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3. When and how did you find your Flow State? How have you applied it to your own career? 

 Absolutely!!! My web series Shots of Awe is a collection of recorded flow experiences. Every single episode is an epiphany, an ecstatic flow state captured on camera. Also, my speeches around the world have become an extension of this flow state as well. I’ve spoken at Google, IBM, Intel and many other companies around the world. I love it. Here is my talk at Google:

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4. How people would be able to find their own Flow State do you think? 

You need to practice paying attention to when you’re at your most inspired. Everyone has an activity that brings us “their best self”-  follow that, build on that!   If we pay attention to our intuition we can build our lives around these flow states. That’s what all the greatest artists and athletes have done. Find your flow and build your life around it. 

 

5. What kind of things and moments do give you an adrenaline rush that you can feel in the present? 

I’m a big fan of cognitive ecstasy. Moments of intellectual revelation. I love learning, discovering something new.  Wonderment is my favorite feeling. Cosmic Awe: looking at the big picture.  Every Shot of Awe episode idea reflection of that.

 

6. You are extremely good at thinking profoundly. How people can develop their profound thinking ability? 

Interpersonal transformation and deep thinking works only within a state of immersion. You need to be immersed in an experience, or in an idea. Only through the capture and management of attention can transformation occur. We live too many distracted lives. We need to find our focus.  

 

7. What is the most important thing you have discovered through your life what kind of influence it has on your life?

The realization that we have the capacity to change reality. Reality is coupled to perception. Change perception and you change reality. Many wise men have written this. But it needs to be felt experientially.   Go out there, dissolve those boundaries, step beyond the comfort zone. Take a leap of faith. 

8. What is the essence of living creatively and connecting dots differently? 

We willing to scramble your mental maps, put yourself in situations that radically alter your perspectives.  New perspectives turn into new ideas, new patterns, new visions. This is the path to transformation. 

9. If you can leave one message to the next generation to make the world better, what would be your message? 

LIVE YOUR BLISS. AND BE KIND. 

21
Jan

Extreme Entrepreneur

Written on January 21, 2015 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

Peter Sage is an international serial entrepreneur, who recently founded Space Energy focused on generation and transmission of space based solar power, and one of the greatest inspirational speakers in the 21st century. He is the author of “I AM – The Power Of Reinventing Yourself” (will be published early 2015).  He shares with us his experience and gives us very profound advices that you cannot find any other places.

 

Bond Small Q: First of all, thank you for providing us with this great opportunity. You have done so many things and keep working on challenging projects. What drives you to keep challenging?

 

PS: I am a great believer that we are not here just as passive participants. There are so many people that get to the end of their life not regretting what they did, but regretting what they didn’t do. When you start looking at the entire concept of time, you can find out it is just the perception of how we play with it. If we are here for a finite amount of time to the current physical status, I don’t want to waste that. Why would you want to settle, the only reason, you would ever want to settle, is if you are afraid of being able to move forward. Unfortunately, people are more afraid to move forward than willing to risk: the levels of uncertainty that participating in life at a full level. When they realize it, it’s too late as they are actually ghosts. If you have ever been scared of asking a woman out for a date, you’ll know it is only scary the first couple of times. People have the same thing in life that they are too worried about what they think you’re thinking of them. Then you can ignore all that game and start playing.  For me it’s the case of I follow my passion, and I am outdoor crazy, jump out of planes type of guy. You know I’m very mindful. There is a difference between fear and risk. Fear is healthy; fear stops you from being able to stand too close to a slippery cliff. But if you confuse fear with risk, you start overlaying it into any other aspect that stops us from enjoying life to the fullest level, and we are settling. We weren’t born to settle. Out of over 400million sperm, we win. Now if you look at the biology of it.  We didn’t’ necessarily get to the egg first, we were actually chosen by the egg to come in. so there is definitely a reason there is definitely a purpose to being here and it isn’t hiding out.

 

Q: Why you can find so many things that you passionate with?

 

PS: The challenge, most people have when they are not passionate about something, is that they don’t know where to look. They installed the wrong map. Unfortunately, what people are looking for is fulfillment not happiness. Most people think they are looking for happiness, but happiness is a temporary level of an emotional state governed by being able to think happy thoughts in that particular moment. That’s happiness, end of story. So chasing happiness is a fallacy. If you want to be happy, start thinking happy thoughts. It’s too simple, but it is the truth. What most people are confusing happiness is fulfillment. Most people are unfulfilled. They can be happy with what they got, like iPhone, but they are unfulfilled with their call because it does not make you fulfilled. Most people are chasing the goal of fulfillment on the racetrack for achievements. And the two don’t exist together. You can get a temporary high when you achieve something, that you thought you wanted. An MBA is a new upgraded version of the iPhone. What you experience is a temporary relief from chasing something that you thought it was going to make you happy. When it comes to passion and purpose, start asking better question. Not “What do I need to reach in order to be happy?”. Not “What do I have to get in order to find purpose?”. Those questions all leave you chasing your tail for a lifetime.  Instead, ask questions like “What lights me up?”.  Forget about money because it doesn’t exist; we’ve invented it as a concept. What is money? It is pieces of paper with dead presidents on it. There’s no inherent value, we associate or ascribe value to it as a medium of exchange. Start asking yourself if I can only spend my life doing one thing, what would it be. If I had to choose a career, what I’m actually paid to do it and what would it be? Then you start asking questions guiding you to your passion that you actually want to do, and that you are excited about that light you up.  If you knew it was impossible to fail, what would you choose to do? Don’t ask those questions like “What gives me the least chance of not failing?”

 

The other thing is we don’t ascribe meaning to life when our self-worth is tied to our net worth. How can we have a high sense of self-esteem or a high sense of self-worth if we link it to net worth and net worth in our mind is low? And it’s always low because we are always chasing “the more”. Your self-worth and your net worth are tied together. You can never find your passion if your filter in life is “how can I make more money so that I can make my self-esteem higher”. You are always following the way that you think will get money, not the way that truly follows your passion. The paradox is that all money is a representation of how much value you have given. If you are person with low self-esteem because your self-worth and net worth are tied together, what is going to happen is you’re going to go out looking for new business opportunity, new pay rise opportunities, new opportunities to make money, but you bring to the table the same person at the same level of value. Thus, your worth exactly 5-10% less than what you were the year before. And you wonder why and blame it on the lack of opportunity, when opportunity has nothing to do with it. Money is a byproduct of the consequence of the value you add. Most people in today’s society have been conditioned by the media, the wrong kind of pay group, and institutional thinking that states in order for you to be labeled as successful. I see this in japan almost more than anywhere, I get the self-worth first and then you are free to chase your passion because you are not validating yourself by somebody else’s opinion of who you think you need to be. From that place you go create magic and guess what you happen to be more successful and more passionate. You may not earn as much money sometimes, but I know people that earn a lot of money that are miserable as hell and I wouldn’t swap their net worth for my net worth in a heartbeat if it meant swapping the same level of self-esteem. I’d rather earn less and enjoy my life.

 

Q: Even though people in advanced countries have everything, they are struggling with their life. 

 

PS: The experience that you have is your internal perception of what you think the outside world is. Outside world doesn’t exist. You create your own world based upon you interaction with the thoughts you have about your perceived level of reality. Change your thinking, and then everything changes. If you take a glass of water and if you don’t like the water in the glass you change the water. You do the same thing to life: relationship, money, job, career, boss, school whatever it is. You try to change it by stirring the stuff. You’ve been trying to change the stuff your whole life, but it never works. But if I change the color of the glass, what happens to everything inside is that everything changes.

 

 

Q: To be a different person, in other words, to be a successful person, people are always looking for something to learn. What they need to learn do you think?

 

PS: There is only one thing you need to learn. It is the fact that you don’t need to learn anything in order to be successful. Most people need to unlearn most of the crap that’s in their head. Most people are trying to learn skills to get certainty. That’s why you go to school, get college education, and think “I’m still not all that certain so I need to go get my degree”. Then you get your degree but you still don’t feel certain so you gotta take a master and all this stuff because you’re running on a hamster wheel going nowhere by chasing skills to get certainty. The problem is that it never works because skills don’t give you certainty. Learning more skills just gives you more skills. You’ll always chase your tail. Give up the game of thinking you have to be smarter than what you are. Many people keep limiting their potential because they don’t feel that they are qualified to do what they are searching to do. Your heart doesn’t need an institutional education or certificate.

 

Q: Instead of looking for more external validation, they need to find their own goals. What are important things to set goals?

 

PS: The first thing is to know why are you setting a new goal. Most people make a fundamental failure even to start with. They pick up the wrong baton at the wrong racetrack. Why have you picked the goal that you’ve picked?  If it’s for trying to prove that you are good enough, to get fulfillment and happiness, or to show that you’ve got some level of self-worth, you’re running the wrong race. The entire purpose of having a goal is not to achieve the goal. It’s to see who you need to become in order to achieve your goal. The goal just happens to be a facilitator of a duty of personal growth and transformation for the best of me to be able to show up. That’s the kind of goal you want to set. Never set a goal you know how to achieve. When people set goals, they normally want more money, a better job, or the person of my dreams. If I set a goal, it is something that’s going to get me up 5am, and with that level of excitement that I’m going to want to go forward. I’m excited and passionate about something that nothing can stop me. I’ll figure out a way. Those doors will open; I’m giving my energy and whatever it is at that particular moment in my time.  If you are on purpose with something, there is different energy, demeanor, and spark about that person.

 

Q: How they can start changing themselves?

 

PS: Fastest way is hanging around with different people. If you’ve been conditioned for 20 years to think and act in a certain way or been institutionalized by an educational system that doesn’t recognize passion over process, you are going to be having a hard time when it comes to understanding this level of conceptual reality. However, if you start hanging around other people who are passionate about something, you are going to start wanting what they have and seeing things different. If you hang out with 10 people that they make 1+1=11, and create a spark and energy, you join those 10 people. And boom you can’t help but get enthused about the same level of energy. If you want a spark of life, hang around with the people who have a spark of life. If you want more love in your life, hang around with loving people. Change your peer group.

 

Q: How can you install that mindset or personality on yourself if you are a totally different person now?

 

PS: You summed it up very when you talk about shifting identity. I take people through a process called the IM process, which is a process of reinventing yourself. You actually get to choose and consciously create the identity that you want and explore. Most people’s sense of identity is fundamentally limited. For start, most people think they’re nothing more than their name. If I say who are you without your name what show’s up. Because you’re starting to talk through your sense of self that is real. Your name is a label that your parents gave you that was a linguistic application of identity that you then took on board. And we finally write because the mind loves to label. If I said to you what is that thing outside in the garden that is tall and full of branches and leaves, what would you say? What am I describing?

 

Q: Tree.

 

PS: It’s what we call a tree. But a tree is a four letter word that the mind labels on something that is a majestic description of nature, which is so much more than the label we call a tree. And if you’ve actually studied a tree you’d be in awe of what it does and how it’s incredible. This majestic expression of nature, which we just come up with a label: a tree. Slap it up. It’s not a tree any more than you are your name. In the respect of “I love myself”, you will notice the ambiguity in that. If I love myself, there has to be two of me. As the I is me loving the myself that’s being loved. And there’s the trap. You see the I in who you are is love. When we get to that awareness or spiritual teaching, the context or the glass changes dramatically. You see you are not your name any more than you are your mind or you are your body. You are not your body, your body is different from when you were five years old and will be different when you are fifty-five. So you are not your body but you are still the same sense of you. You aren’t your mind because your mind isn’t engaged. So the I is behind all that. The person you are without your name is the person that needs to look in the mirror and fall in love with himself and then give that expression to everyone else it meets. And they will find you are perfect, you know they will find what it is that you, whether you’re working or brushing your teeth when you’re engaged in a job, you can be passionate from that level from that place. But for most people that’s completely over their head.  In terms of trying to figure out how to pay their finance of a car they bought.

 

Q: In order to change yourself, you first need to experience that level of changing, like identity shift, then you can work on what you want to do.

 

PS: If you’ve come to the fact that you know anything you put after the words I am you’ll find your conscious behavior. I am an entrepreneur, I am a vegetarian, I am a parent, I am a football coach, whatever it is. The labels that we put on ourselves go in out unconscious levels of behaviors because they are tied to our identity. However, most of those labels we are still wearing from childhood, or teenage experiences are emotionally painful or gave us the most emotional high. Therefore, we stick to them most of our lives. What you’re really looking for is to come to the awareness of I am full stop.  Once you’re ok with I am anything that comes after that I am happy, I am sad, I am fat, I love me I’m gorgeous, whatever it is. Whatever label you give after that is almost irrelevant. Once you’re ok with I am full stop, then you have the freedom to go and live the life that you want to live. I got a new book coming out soon called “I am – the power or reinventing yourself.” It’s about shifting your mindset. Taking the belief of that “life happens to you” to “life happens through you”. You see life differently and change the glass, not the content. Most people are, unfortunately, on that path whereby they’ve been conditioned to think that if they get something that they currently don’t have, and they will ride to a place that they aren’t at. The truth is you can never be a place that you aren’t at.  Fulfillment is you being comfortable with who you are irrespective to the outside world.

 

 

Q: Many people are already economically successful that they can buy whatever they want to buy, but they seem to be unhappy. People tend to think  “I will get this and then I will be happy”, I did this so I am happy and never they become fulfilled.

 

PS: The mindset always precedes everything. You will act based upon your repetitive thoughts. You behavior is a reflection of your lifestyle. And your circumstances are a reflection of your behavior and your thoughts and therefore change the input change the output. In programming, they call it GIGO, garbage in garbage out. Most people that’s their life, it’s GIGO. Garbage thinking in, garbage results outside. Mindset is everything. Some people change their mind, they change their life. The problem is that it sounds so clique that most people miss the profoundness of the statement. You can shift one belief system and make a dramatic impact.

 

Q: So they need to change themselves in the present.

 

PS: How can you get something that isn’t now. The question is this: What’s actually wrong with this preset moment that you’re in right now? There’s nothing wrong with the moment. The biggest problem is that most people don’t understand it. An event is just an event. There is not good and bad, no right or wrong. Now that’s going to challenge a lot of your core belief systems. Especially those entrenched with identifying themselves with the mind because the mind loves to separate. I’m right because I know that is wrong. It lives in the juristic world. Terrorism is not right or wrong it is an event. It’s a plane flew into a building. What we do is we instantly label that event based upon our relationship to it. If I’m in the building I’m going to label that an act of terrorism. If I’m the person flying the plane then I’m going to label it an act of heroism. Resist the instant labeling and understand that it’s only our relationship to the event that governs that label. Recognize that everyone has their own set of values so there is no bad, right or wrong. There is only perception of what fits our values or not. Persons are very quick to judge but very slow to realize that we are worthy of judgment as well. Get out of that perspective and live a life of freedom. If you want to go out and make a million dollars, do it. Do it out of passion. Otherwise don’t do it. If you try to earn a million dollars because you think it’s going to get you out of the current financial problem or it is going to give you a car and status that you think other people will respect you’re for, you are in Disney land thinking. Again it’s a hamster wheel to nowhere. Get good with who you are. Appreciate who you are. Get comfortable with “I am” full stop. And from that perspective you then have a freedom to go and design a life that you are passionate with.

 

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16
Jan

The craziest idea is often the best idea

Written on January 16, 2015 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

Aubrey de Grey is one of the great minds in the 21st century. He is a scientist who challenges one of the most difficult topics in human history: aging. He is the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Research FoundationHe is not a usual scientist who works only in a lab, but he promotes his project, does fundraising, and seriously tries to make a paradigm shift.

AUBREY DE GREY

 

1. For those who are not familiar with you, let us know more about your project. What is the core concept of “Ending Aging”? What would you like to achieve through your project?

At SENS Research Foundation, we are focused on developing rejuvenation biotechnologies, which means medicines that can not just slow down aging, but actually reverse it. We want to take people who are already in middle age or older and restore their physical and mental function to that of a young adult. We aim to do that by repairing the molecular and cellular damage that the body does to itself throughout life as side-effects of its normal operation.

2. What drives you to pursue your mission, spending lots of time and capital?

I’ve always been driven by humanitarian motives, so I want to work on problems that cause human suffering. Aging undoubtedly causes far more human suffering than anything else. The strange thing is that there are so few people who think that way: lots of people claim to be humanitarian, but hardly anyone thinks aging is really important.

 

3. How did you get interested in science, gerontology, and aging?

I got interested when I discovered how few other people are interested – even biologists. Until I was about 30, I had totally assumed that everyone understood how serious a problem aging is and that lots of experts were working hard to defeat it. After I married a senior biologist and discovered that that wasn’t true, it was an easy decision to switch from my previous career as a computer scientist.

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4. How does your experience in computer science help you understand aging and come up with solutions for that?

It was extremely helpful. The first reason is just that computer science is a very different field; quite often in science people have made important breakthroughs after switching fields, because they are not blinkered by the new field’s “conventional wisdom”. Second, computer science is a very goal-directed, technological field, whereas pretty much everyone else in gerontology back then was much more of a basic scientist – great at testing hypotheses so as to understand nature better, but not so good at seeing how to use existing knowledge to manipulate nature.

5. When the value of your idea transcends current human experience, how do you persuade people to believe in you and make people understand the value of your project?

This is a challenge for any pioneering technologist, but it’s especially difficult in aging because people have built up such strong psychological defences against the horror of aging and they don’t want to think rationally about it. I don’t have just one strategy: I have developed a large number of answers to the most frequent concerns about the feasibility and desirability of defeating aging, and I use them on demand.

6. As you know, people live in full of misconceptions. How do you clear up the misconceptions that people have towards your project?

It’s always difficult. I try to understand the basis for their misconception: whether it is just ignorance of what has already been achieved in developing these technologies, or false assumptions about the consequences of success, or philosophical objections, etc. Then I try to work with them and take them one step at a time to a more accurate understanding of the issues.

sens

 

7. In order to raise capital for visionary projects and ideas, what are important things for entrepreneurs, scientists, and futurists to remember?

I sometimes give a talk on that topic, called “How to be a successful heretic”. The main messages are that one can rise above the crowd only by having a compelling technical basis for one’s idea, a clear vision for its benefit to humanity (and, in the case of investments, to the investor) and a comprehensive set of succinct answers to all the concerns that people may have about whether the idea is as valuable as one is claiming.

 

8. What person comes to mind when you think of the word “successful”? and why?

That’s a rather unfair question, because different people are successful in such different ways – it depends on what they are setting out to achieve. I’m extremely successful in some ways, in terms of the contribution I’ve made to the defeat of aging, but not very successful in other ways, such as in terms of the amount of money that’s being spent on the necessary research.

9. You make a call to 20-year-old Aubrey de Grey. What kind of advices would you give to him?

I honestly don’t know. When I look back at my life, I can see that I had some essential characteristics that have got me where I am, such as intelligence and determination and charisma, but also that I have benefited from a huge amount of luck. I don’t think I’ve made many mistakes, all in all. In particular, I don’t know whether I could have achieved as much in aging if I had focused on aging all my life.

10. If you can leave one message to the next generation to make the world better, what would you say?

Aim high! The greatest enemy of our efforts to improve people’s lives is our belief that we can’t.

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7
Jan

Revolution will be run by women

Written on January 7, 2015 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

Joanne Wilson is the co-founder of the Womens Entrepreneur Festival and Gotham Gal. She is also well-known for her investments in female entrepreneurs. She has invested in lots of companies such as Taxi Treats, Blue Bottle Coffee Company, DailyWorth, and Nestio. She shares with us her core philosophy and very honest thoughts about the life.

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 1. Please briefly explain yourself for those who are not familiar with you. 

JW: Joanne Wilson.  I have been blogging under the name Gotham Gal over the past ten years about technology, parenting, food, culture, investments and anything else that interests me.  I am the co-founder of the Womens Entrepreneur Festival that is put on every January with the ITP department of NYU celebrating women entrepreneurs.  I have been doing early stage investing in start-up companies for the past 8 years and 70% of the 70 companies that I have invested in to date are led by women entrepreneurs.

 

2. The organizations you have managed, worked with, and invested in seem to be driven by missions. What is the mission statement regarding with your life?

JW: I have had my fingers in so many different things over the course of my life.  Supporting women has been top of the list over the past decade.  If we really believe that the Internet was going to change the playing field then let’s figure out how all the start-up companies create a gender-balanced company from the get go and that they support both women and men having families.

 

3. What is your definition of success and what is the most important thing in your life?

JW: Having spent my life with my best friend, marrying him and building a life together with three fantastic kids is what I define as my success.  It is the driving force behind me.

 

4. In some interview, you showed a positive opinion towards making mistakes. How do you normally deal with failures?  How can people learn from their mistakes?

JW: Billy Jean King said that failures are feedback.  That is brilliant.  If you don’t make mistakes then you can’t learn from them.  Learning from a mistake can make you smarter the next time around.

 

5. Can you explain in simple terms what “investment” is for those readers who are not familiar?

JW: I give capital (money) to people who have young businesses.  When I give them money that also comes along with advice and help.  I hope that when I give someone money, let’s say for their lemonade stand so they can buy the lemons, the sugar and the stand that they can use that money to build lots of other lemonade stands and maybe be able to sell cookies too.

 

6. You have rich experience and eminent knowledge in what you do now. If you re-start everything from scratch with the knowledge and experience you currently have, what would be the first step you would take?

JW: The experience and knowledge comes from educating myself.  If I had to start from scratch to learn everything over again I would probably do the same thing.  Get involved in a small company or start my own.

 

7. If today were the last day in your life, what you would do today?

JW: Spend it with my family somewhere beautiful and warm with a wonderful meal, lots of wine and great music playing in the background.

 

8. If you can leave one message to the next generation to make the world better, what would you say?

JW: Use technology to make the world safer and environmentally sound.  Each generation fixes what the last generation screwed up.  There is a lot to fix from the food supply to global warming to terrorism directly linked to anger and lack of education.

 

9. Do you have some favorite product/service, app/web, and place/venues to recommend others?

JW: I am always looking for something new.  I have been like that for as long as I can remember.

 

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22
Dec

Foodist: Darya Rose

Written on December 22, 2014 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

Darya Rose is the founder of Summer Tomato, one of TIME’s 50 Best Websites, and the author of Foodist. She received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCSF.Her mission is to change the perception of “health, diet, and eating”through her method based on her research: changing habits instead of relying on willpower. We found that this method is not only to have healthy eating patterns, but also to change your way of thinking to achieve your goals and missions. Do you want to form positive habits and change your life, or stay at your current place?portrait1-crop

Photo by Peter Samuels

 

M: To begin with, let us know more about who you are. How did you get interested in neuroscience and why did you decide to invest your time in taking Ph.D.?

 

D: That’s a great question. I didn’t have a lot of guidance from my parents in terms of my career. All I knew when I was in high school was that I just needed to go to college if I wanted a better life than my parents had. I got into Berkeley finally. I didn’t know what to study; I was sort of interested in Psychology, so I was taking some Psychology classes. I randomly ended up taking a class about neurochemistry. I don’t know why I decided though; I could do that after studying English and I was studying Italian as well.

 

M: A big change.

 

D: Yes, I know. I took a neurobiology class, and I found it so cool! I learned about the brain, how the neurons in the brain fire signals, how drugs impact the brain. I felt “oh I was more interested in the biology side of psychology”. So I started taking more courses and thinking I was just going to study neurobiological psychology. When I started taking biology and hardcore science, I started getting As and A+s every single course. Then I realized I like Biology more than Psychology and that I like the brain and neuroscience. I was interested in neurodegenerative diseases, and I wanted to help those people. However, then I learned that there is no cure for those diseases, and there is nothing you can do except diagnose them well or maybe give them medicines to delay it a little bit. To me, that sounded very unrewarding. So I decided to go into research instead, and tried to find cures or prevent those illnesses. That’s how I got into neuroscience, and that’s why I decided to do a Ph.D. in neuroscience. In general, I’ve always been very curious about everything and interested in finding the truth in everything.. That’s why my blog is all over the place. I used to be a ballerina. I used to study calligraphy. I used to do gymnastics. I love NBA basketball. I was just sort of all over the place.

 

M: That’s an interesting story. I have never met someone who has experience in ballet and decided to take a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Your profile is very different from typical scientists.

 

D: You know that’s probably why I didn’t stay in academics. I felt it to be very limiting. You have to super super specialize. You work and work, and finally you get a paper published. It’s like this tiny little thing. I like to make faster progress than that and make a bigger impact on people. I just didn’t feel like that was happening when I’m sitting in a microscope room looking at interneurons in mice. On top of that, I was in Silicon Valley. Everyone around me is changing the world every day and they can do it at a much faster pace with the new technology. So I thought I should do something on the Internet. That is how I sort of shifted to thinking bigger. I always wanted to think bigger, but I finally had a way to do it and to reach a lot of people very easily. Basically, it’s free to start a blog. I was like, “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” I might waste time but at least I’m trying something new.

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M: Did you think about monetizing or did you just want to share your ideas and to connect people with the same interest?

 

D: I never expected to make money, but I knew that some bloggers made a lot of money. I had friends who could pay rent with a blog, and that for me was good enough. My number one goal was to do something that I felt was impacting the world more than I was doing before. This has been my goal from Day 1 at Summer Tomato. That’s what I want to change. When you ask anybody how to get healthy, they will say some version of dieting: eating less, moving more. The reason that diets trick you is that they do work for a little bit. You think, “If I could keep doing it then, I could solve the problem.” But that’s not true. It’s like an illusion. I need more people doing what I’m doing to succeed and tell their stories, and so that’s my new focus. The next year or two, I will be working specifically with that goal.

 

M: I think you can change the perception of the consumers first.

 

D: Yes Exactly. And you can do that by showing what I do. One of the things that I do, for instance, is show quality over quantity. I can give you strategies that you will still get to taste the food and enjoy it, and you won’t overeat because you’ll know what to do to stop. And most people would say yes! Give me that. I want that strategy. It’s just that right now people don’t know it.

 

M: So it is not just about what to eat, but also how to deal with your desire and mental issues?

 

D: Huge! That’s a huge part of it. So the first step is changing what you eat because what you eat can actually really impact how satisfied you are. Vegetables require much more chewing than McDonald’s meal. Then you will eat slower, you will eat less, you will enjoy the food more. Once you have real food with real flavor that actually tastes amazing, that’s actually good for you, it becomes silly to choose the bad thing. And so once you sort of overhaul what you’re eating, for most people that is what will change their lives. But some people will still overeat because we have a lot of bad habits that have been developed over decades.

 

M: I’m wondering how do you convince people to start hearing about your method and opinion

 

D: Well first of all I tell my story. That’s how I get their attention. Then they listen. That’s Step 1. Step 2 is saying that you’ve been focusing on deprivation. You’ve been focusing on willpower and NOT doing things. Let’s try to start doing things. You would run into different complaints like “I don’t like vegetables”. I’m like “well okay, have you tried this kind? Just give me chance”. Then, they go “Well, I don’t know how to cook”. “Well neither did I, I didn’t know how to cook either”. But when you start with good ingredients, they already taste good. So you just add a little salt, little garlic, little olive oil. So they’re like Okay “I can do that”. Then suddenly people start changing. It’s not like you have to eat less sugar or go torture yourself at the gym. Start with positive things people can do. Show what they’re missing out on. Then you can start layering in other things. You start shifting before you know it.

 

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M: So they unconsciously experience a dramatic shift in their minds, especially their eating habits.

D: Yes, it’s just that you need to do the steps in the right order. You know when you win the body, then you win the mind. And that’s when nobody goes back at that point. I couldn’t just say “hey shop at the farmer’s market, everything will be better”because they didn’t really know how to change their habits as they were so stuck in the ways they were already behaving. So I started studying human behavior and behavior change and habit change. I realize the reason people think they don’t have time. We all have the same number of hours in a day. There’s not a single person on earth who doesn’t think that they’re too busy to do something new. The reason for that is anything new feels hard, and anything you do all the time feels easy. And that’s habits. That’s just habits. So what I try to tell people now, is to stop using your will power to try to stop eating sugar. But try to use your will power to change habits. Because once a habit is formed; it only needs willpower in the beginning, and then it doesn’t need willpower anymore. It’s automatic. It’s going to be hard a little bit at the beginning. But eventually it’s not going to be hard. It’s going to be rewarding and great because that’s how habit works. Habits work with reward that is a totally different model than depriving yourself, which is punishment. You switch the whole paradigm of getting healthy from doing stuff you don’t want to do, to doing stuff you do want to do. And that’s why it works because it’ll last forever once you do want to do it. Because it becomes a habit and goods habits are just as hard to break as bad habits, you just need to form them.

 

M: I think it can be applied to many different fields. Not just, about eating habits, but also business and life.

 

D: Bingo. It’s exactly how humans work. It’s just that I focus on food because that’s a complicated one. Because it’s not just one habit, it’s about 20 habits. And so I help people to form habits. But you’re right. I use these same exact strategies for everything I do, for getting my work done, for dealing with my family, for dealing with my friends. Just about all the things in life that are hard. Also with money it’s very similar. You know financial stuff. It gets hard to start to get saving, to invest and things like that. It’s just work in the beginning but once you set it up, it’s automatic. It’s exactly the same principles.

 

M: Definitely. You can use it for many different things. Perhaps, you are good at making system that would be beneficial for you which is difficult for most people.

 

D: I think you’re right. I think that’s something that I do naturally. I think that’s why I help people with that. I think one of the reasons I am good at that is because I don’t mind failure. It’s like I try something new, and it doesn’t work, I’m like “Oh that didn’t work”. And I try something different. I very much remove myself emotionally from what I’m trying to accomplish. So if I don’t get it right the first time, I don’t give up. I keep plugging. I just try something new. I am a scientist, right? I keep testing my hypothesis until I get my result.

 

M: It’s very interesting because you started your blog when you were still taking Ph.D. right? I have some scientist friends, and they are working around the clock. So I was wondering how did you manage your time? I don’t think you worked 24 hours. I think you managed yourself, and you had a very effective and efficient system.

 

D: Yes. You’re not allowed to have any other thing in your life when you’re in grad school. They make you sign a contract saying you can’t have any other job. But you know, part way through I was like I want to try this other thing. I read a book called ‘The Four-Hour Work Week’by Tim Ferriss. And I love the book, and it changed my life. Two things I learned that help me a lot. One, it helped me solidify my ideas about health. His idea was why we are working so hard for a future distant retirement that may or may not come? Why should we care about money in the future? We are young now. We should be happy. And I feel like I had been thinking about this sort of idea before in terms of dieting, but it struck me. I was like, “Why are we in this fear? Why are we depriving ourselves now and unhappy now? What’s the point of life? We should be enjoying life, not dieting.” That helped me. The other thing that helped me is that he applies this to business. He talked about 80/20 Principle, Pareto’s Law. He said 80% of the results you get come from the 20% of the work you’re doing. So look at your system, your workload and ask yourself from where your benefits are coming. And what is the 80% that is wasting your time. So I went to my workflow at lab, and I realized that I was spending a ridiculous amount of time reading emails and a lot of papers. I just decided to stop doing all those things. I stopped. I gave two days a week where I would check my emails from my school. I completely stopped reading papers that were not relevant to exactly what I was working on, and I stopped reading news altogether. If something important happens, my friends will tell me. Also, I went from working from 9am to 6pm to working from 9am to 2pm. I cut 4 hours from my day by just eliminating email and news, and it worked well. Tim Ferriss is a friend of mine now, and I told him when I first met him that I owe him a nice bottle of wine for getting me through my Ph.D. program.

 

M: I will definitely read his book. I think it’s very interesting because you can be whatever kind of person you want to be by using technology and the Internet. However, it’s still hard for most of the people to take some actions.

 

D: My whole thing in life, just do what works. If something is not working, figure it out. For example, when I was in graduate school it was very busy but I refuse to not work out at the gym. For me, it’s meditation. So I decided to go to the gym 5am before class. It was hard and exhausting but eventually I learned a trick. Why don’t I want to get out of bed right now? First of all, bed is cozy and warm and outside it’s freezing and not cozy. What I did was packing my gym bag the night before and putting everything in my bag right by my bed. Thinking,“I have to go to the gym, I have to commute by train for like 30 minutes and then go work out”sounds horrible. But thinking, “Can I slide out of bed and put these pants on?” Yes, that’s fine. “Can I put those shoes on?” Yes, that’s fine. “Can I grab my bag?” Yes that’s fine. “Can I walk out the door?” Yes, that’s fine. I broke them into small steps that I couldn’t say No to and then by the time you get to the gym, you’re never mad that you’re there. For me, it just comes down to identifying the small barriers that tell you “this is impossible”and proving that they’re not impossible, making it so small and so easy that you can’t say “No”and that’s how I approach everything. Every success is a process.

 

M: What do you mean by that?

 

D: People don’t magically become successful. Most people that are successful do it in slow incremental consistent changes. They just tackle little things one at a time. It’s just so simple. However, most people can’t implement it. Instead of saying I can’t, I can’t for 10 years, how about you say“I can do this small thing, I can do this other small thing, I can do this other small thing”. You read about like Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and business successes all the time. These people are just relentless and just making sure they get results. They do the small works that seem insignificant but when you add them up over 10 years it becomes a success. People often look at the sky and they think they have to be up there but really they just need to go get the ladder. It’s like they keep looking at the problem wrong. It’s called framing, it’s the psychological term for that. It’s basically saying instead of creating a story where it says it’s impossible, let’s create a story where you have to succeed. What would you do? If you had one day to make a huge change, what would you do today? Refocus and reframe your behavior, as opposed to thinking it is impossible. This is far more effective to actually get you there.

 

M: And how did you come up with it? I don’t think any education system tells you to think like that. Everybody tells you what to think, and they never teach how to think like you.

 

D: Yeah I know. Some people do, and this is what Tony Robbins teaches. Nobody teaches it but at the end of the day, everything we do, these little-automated scripts that run in our brain. The problem is thinking your way through the world takes a ton of energy. Our brain uses 20% of calories every day. That’s an energy intensive process, so our brains naturally want to do that as little as possible. It wants to store energy whenever possible and so you need to understand that your brain is doing that automatically, and that is called habits. So your brain automates systems to make it easier, so your brain doesn’t have to think through everything you do. And so what I’ve focused on is understanding things that drive my habits. I have this excellent quote at the beginning of my book from Aristotle and it says ‘You are what you repeatedly do; excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.’And so it’s the same thing, to get success you have to do things to get you there and because most of the stuff you do is automatic and triggered by your environment and your internal stresses, you need to manage that if you want to consistently change your behavior and consistently do things to create success. Because it takes us so much energy to do something outside of our habits. So we don’t naturally want to do it. Most of us form habits completely unconsciously. We are just at the whim of our environment, and most people have this mishmash of very random habits. Some are very productive, and some are not very productive. Once you realize this is how we are, and we all are like this, you can work consciously to create those habits that are way more beneficial for you. So it’s not a matter of being lazy.

 

M: I totally agree and everybody can apply it to his/her life. What is your ultimate goal?

 

D: Yes. That’s interesting. Until I turn on TV or listen to people talk on the streets and they stop talking about diets, this is still going to be my goal, to change the way everybody thinks about health and weight loss. I hope to create some kind of system or something where I feel confident that anybody who really cares, anybody who really wants to be healthy and to feel good about their body and have good relationships can do what I suggest and have a truly profound, long-term change of their lives. I’m not interested in a three months success story. I don’t know how long it’ll take. I hope it doesn’t take 20 years. Another thing I’m really interested in nowadays is female psychology. Because I’ve known one of the things that makes me unique is I’m really systematic and not very emotional. So when I tackle problems I don’t get hung up on a lot of things that a lot of people can get hung up on. I’ve noticed that it’s much more common in men than it is in women. So I am interested in helping women specifically and learning to manage their psychology and get better results in that way. That’s more of a fun side project, not a business plan.

 

M: Last question. If you could make a call to 20-year-old Darya, what would you say to her? What advice would you give to her?

 

D: I think I would tell Darya, Well first of all, don’t diet. Stop dieting right now. Second I would let her know that she should start working on people skills. Because one of the problems when you’re like me and you don’t have tons of emotions is that it’s hard when other people do have a lot of emotions and it’s hard to understand their point of view. And I would tell that Darya to study empathy and people skills. I wish I would have known earlier how much work it was for me in particular. Because I don’t require much empathy and it’s hard for me to understand why other people require so much empathy. For instance if I’m having a tough time, a terrible thing happens or whatever. And someone comes up to me and goes, “Oh my gosh that’s so awful. I’m so sorry.” For me, I’m like I don’t care. Like obviously it sucks, but do you have advice? What should I do? To me, I just want to know what to do. And I’m learning that most people just need you to be there and say, “Oh my gosh I understand that’s horrible.” It’s very strange for me. So that’s been a skill I’ve had to learn, and it doesn’t come to me naturally because I don’t need it. And I wish I had learned that 15 years ago when I was 20.

 

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©Masaaki Hasegawa

29
Sep

Beyond the boarder

Written on September 29, 2014 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

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Photo by Jean Marc Joseph

OFFF is one of the most creative festivals around the world. It is more than just a Festival hosting innovative and international speakers, it is more than a meeting point for all talents around the world to collaborate, it is more than feeding the future. It is a community where speakers and participants can learn, stimulate, and inspire each other that results in bringing innovations. Héctor Ayuso, Director of OFFF, shares his valuable experiences and viewpoints with us. 

1. To begin with, tell us more about you. What is the core value of OFFF? Through OFFF, what attendants and speakers would be able to learn, gain, or achieve?

OFFF’s value stands for the idea of what the attendant or the speaker have experienced in the Festival. Whether it’s about changing perspectives, gaining new experiences, learning about new techniques… We always make sure that OFFF attendees, from professionals to students to curious people, take something for them at OFFF. 

 

2. Along with the advancement of technology, there are more and more options for artists and creators such as online platform like Behance. What is the important role that OFFF plays as a festival that takes place physically?

Nothing will ever beat the human interaction and that’s one of the main reason OFFF has become the meeting point for everyone coming from all around the world. Being face-to-face, sharing talks and inspiration, experiencing the same atmosphere in one big room is something magical and essential.

 

3. For festivals, events, conferences, it is important to design space in which people can have a distinct experience. How do you design and create a space to provide such an experience?

When you make sure that you are creating the event that you would love to attend as an attendee, you are able to see through your attendees’ perspectives and that’s how you know that the experience they’re about to have is truthful. Not to forget to mention that all along the way, taking risks will always be part of the event which makes you discover new boundaries.

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Photo by Jean Marc Joseph

4. How do you differentiate yourself from other festivals and events as Barcelona is one the biggest international conference cities?

Since the beginning, we started as an intuitive community and we continue as a intuitive community with fresh ways to create things and ever since then we still hold on to this essence in the Festival for 15 years in a row. We always feel that we are part of the attendees and that we are making something important for them, something that may change their life.

 

5. Business-wise, for many emerging event creators, one of the biggest challenges in the early stage is finding sponsors and partners. How have you proved the effectiveness of being a sponsor of OFFF? By the number of visitors? Revenue?

It’s very important to state the fact that we never focused OFFF as an event to make money, it’s an event for emerging artists to attend, share and collaborate together. Our sponsors become part of the event, not as “sponsors”, but as part of the community that helps creating the Festival. We make sure that they get involved in creative ways inside the Festival and become part of the OFFF experience.

 

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 Photo by Jean Marc Joseph

 6. To invite great speakers, have interesting installations, and attract sponsors, you need to bring lots of visitors, To gain a large number of visitors, it is necessary to have great speakers, creative contents, or interesting partners. It is like a chicken-and-egg dilemma. What was your solution regarding this point?  

We never agree on the equation of “big names = big audience”. What makes OFFF gain such loyalty from its’ audience is the fact that OFFF focuses on the content rather than who’s giving it. We know that new artists will always bring something new, even offer some sort of innovation. OFFF has always found the perfect talent between experienced speakers and emerging artists. That’s what the value of the Festival stands for. We are proud to be taking part of inviting artists that first spoke at OFFF and are now pursuing their dream jobs!

 

7. On your website, you put emphasis on “Community”. What are significant factors to cultivate a community, accelerate communication, and generate a positive cycles within the community?

A community shares, collaborates and creates a space where boundaries don’t exist. Everyone is at the same level at the Festival, whether you are speaker or an attendee. That’s what creates a huge community while sharing the same experience and the same things without considering any VIP values!

 

8. What kind of roles does the community play in OFFF?

OFFF’s community with its’ modesty, friendliness, simplicity and inspiration helps create such a successful Festival, isn’t that the most important role?

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Photo by Jean Marc Joseph

 9.What are your goals in 5 years?

We go through every edition’s work year by year, making sure that we will never repeat ourselves. Most importantly, our goal is to never follow a certain formula nor a pattern. It’s all about challenging and putting ourselves in risks in order to do something new and different for our audience.

 

10. Give us some message for people who wish to organise festivals, events, and conference in the future.

Always find your inspiration, do what you love, share it with the world and make a change!

 

31
Aug

ENTREPRENEURSHIP VOL.6. INCREASING THE CONSUMPTION OF READING

Written on August 31, 2014 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

Justo Hidalgo

Have you ever dreamed about accessing to your bookshelf from office, bathroom, park or anywhere comfortable for you? We are now able to access to whatever kind of information on the Internet. The freedom of accessing to books was the one thing left in the 21st century to be solved.  Mr. Justo Hidalgo, Co-founder of 24symbols, which is a beautiful online platform where the users can reach their books regardless of location, gives us opportunity to learn how he has developed such an amazing platform and got over difficulties to realise his idea.

 

 

 

1. To start with, please let us know more about your personality, background, and career. WHO YOU ARE? Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur? What kind of stories do you have behind that?

From an educational standpoint, I am a technical guy by nature and nurturing. I studied an MS in Computer Science and then, while working in startups, I got a PhD in Computer Science as well. I’ve gone from being a hardcore programmer and researcher to business-focused roles. But I always tend to the technical side, wanting to understand how everything works. That’s why, for instance, I’m taking Data Science courses now to continue thinking about how data can impact businesses. Regarding my personality… I guess it should be much better to ask the people around me ;) But I try to have a low profile, prefering to lead by example rather than having a more aggressive approach. I checked many years ago this is what works best for me when leading and managing teams and projects ;) I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was the typical kid that was drawing comic-books and selling them to my schoolmates, or helping my mother’s business… by charging her customers and keeping a tip. My parents have always had their own local businesses, so I always felt I wanted to do something similar. But on the other hand, I saw the huge efforts they had to make both in the good and bad times, so while I decided I preferred to work in small startups rather than big corps, I didn’t have the guts to start my own company until my three partners and I pushed each other into building 24symbols.

 

2. You seem to have rich international experience in your life. How it is important for you?

Critical. I just had my first daughter and I have no idea how she will grow up and what decisions she will make, but I hope she does two things: to learn many languages, and to study and travel abroad. In my case, you need to understand the context of being a Spaniard born in the 70s: that my parents sent me to spend a summer in Chicago when I was 14 and then to study my high school junior year in Ohio (and remember, my parents were middle class, always working hard to save the penny) has undoubtedly had the biggest impact on my personal life and professional career. Personally, because you need to *live* abroad to better understand how the world works and how people really are; in addition, it pushes you beyond your level of comfort at incredible levels when you’re 14 or 15 yo. Profesionally, because speaking English has become, more than my engineering skills, or organizational capabilities, my main tool in my skill set. It was this what mainly allowed me to evolve from a hardcore engineer to an entrepreneur that moves along the border between technical and business.

 

3. The concept of 24symbols would bring about the paradigm shift in the publishing industry or would change consumer’s behavior. How did you come up with the concept?

The four founders all come from the IT industry, working in B2B companies. We share a love for technology, both from a purely technical standpoint, and also from what it can do to industries and people (hopefully for good, but also how it affects otherwise.) But we also tended to have coffee and lunch break conversations about books: management books, novels, … each of us has different tastes. So we came up with an initial idea which was to create a moonlighting project, a publisher that would bring management books from the US, translate them to Spanish and put them to market. Very quickly we realized we didn’t have enough understanding of what publishers and editors need to do :) But then one of my partners had a question: is there a Spotify for books? So we went out and found that there wasn’t, but that there were some very interesting discussions about that idea. We talked to some publishers and other stakeholders of media industries, and realized there was an opportunity. But, answering your question, how did we go from “hey, this looks interesting” to “let’s quit our jobs, our senior management and VP roles, and create a startup with lots of risks and low opportunities for successes“? :D Yes, the answer is because we love books and we’d love for someone to create this same product for us.

 

 

4. What was the first step you took in order to embody the business idea?

We had to break the chicken-and-egg problem every B2B2C company has: how do you get users if you still don’t have enough quality content, and how do you get high quality content if you still don’t have lots of users to compel the content owners? So we decided to focus on the users. Why should we quit our jobs if we found out that no user wanted a Spotify for books? We asked them. We created a web page, opened a Facebook page, a twitter account, and started to talk about our plans. Quite openly, nothing hidden. This is a video of our first mock-up, these are our thoughts about the business model, this is a presentation of our company, … and suddenly we started to hear from people who *loved* the idea, and who supported us from scratch, even if we still had nothing to show. That’s what really made us think we were unto something. This is now known as “customer discovery” in the Lean Startup jargon, but for us it was simpler: don’t jeopardize your life for something *nobody* actually wants ;)

 

5 What were difficulties at the beginning? If you had had the same amount of knowledge and experience that you have now, what would you have done or have avoided?

The timing with publishers. While the relationship with the content owners has always been good, publishing is an industry that is not accustomed to innovative projects, specially when they provide business models that are different to what they are used to. Our freemium business model offered an all-you-can-eat experience to the reader, while sharing revenues with the content owners. With what we know now, we would have started with a simpler business model for the publishers, as we do now. The good news is that when we decided to evolve our revenue model, it was the moment publishers were starting to understand how subscription works and how it could help their overall business.

 

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6. Perhaps, people tend to compare your business model with Spotify. The idea of business would be similar but the business model would be totally different because you cannot consume 20 books a day, whereas you can daily consume 20-30 different music clips. What is the significant factor in your business model? How do you try to increase the consumption of reading?

We were compared to Spotify because of our user model, very similar to the music streaming service’s: a freemium model where people can read some books for free, with ads on the sides of the books and with some interstitial; and where premium readers have access to the whole multipublishers’ catalog with additional benefits such as offline reading. In addition, our 3-second pitch was perfect! The “spotify for books” ;) From a business model perspective, it is clear that there are key differences. Reading is an activity that requires concentration and that is not typically done every hour of the day, as opposed to music. On the other hand, reading a book requires more time than watching a movie. But what this just means is that the opportunities for engagement are different. And that users are “concentrated” on what they are reading is every app developer’s dream! This also entails that the main measuring parameter cannot be “the book”, which is a too coarse-grained entity, but “the page”, that we use to settle with publishers and to generate the metrics we use for product improvement and to report to our publishers. Regarding how we try to increase consumption, there are three main factors that affect its growth: (1) quality of the apps. I always say that being in an economy of attention, books do not compete against other books, but against any activity that takes up on people’s leisure time, like video games or watching tv series. So the first goal should be to create reading apps that make people think “wow, I want to check this out!”. (2) content. Services like 24symbols obviously require the best content possible from small and big publishers and authors. If users have a place, a hub, where they can read whatever they want, whenever they want, they will certainly find more opportunities for reading. (3) reader engagement. At 24symbols we have close to 600,000 users. This is a huge opportunity to provide additional services that increase their involvement with books, authors, or other users. We have the concept of the bookshelf, which is quite strong as anyone can create as many bookshelves as desired, and then share them, or follow other people’s shelves.

 

7. What kind of role does the social factor of 24symbols play? Why it is important?

Our motto from the start was that we wanted everyone to read whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Since we started working with mobile carriers last year, this has become a reality. There are many people around the world living in regions where mobile devices have deeply penetrated (specially Android smartphones), but where ebooks cannot be purchased legally because credit card purchases are nowhere near what happens in the US or in certain countries in Europe. Places where in order to purchase a book from an international retailer, an international credit card must be used. Working with carriers, we take ebooks to places it was difficult for them to be accessed, with a payment mechanism that is widely used by subscribers to access other types of digital content such as music or films. Books are culture, and they should be available in as many places as possible. With our limited resources, it’s what we are trying to achieve.

 

8. Do you try to restructure the reading experience? or simply to provide better solution for consumers?

I think both goals are related. We’ve been definitely focused on the latter, which is a quite complex task by itself. But by doing it, we had to think a lot about how people access and read books; how and why they stop reading or choose new books to read, etc. Data analytics is proving really useful there, and we are making an increasingly stronger effort in that regard.

 

9. What is your goal and vision in 5 years?

Ha ha! I am sorry, I don’t believe in 5-year visions, though we get asked this question a lot by investors, analysts and the like. When working in startups, many times you don’t even know what you’re going to be doing in 3-months time. But I can answer that in 2 years I want 24symbols to be one of the international leaders in ebook subscription services, providing high quality services around the world and not only in the “standard” places. That’s my goal and my vision, as simple as it can be ;)

 

10. If you can make a phone call to 20-year-old Justo Hidalgo, what would you say to him and what kind of advice you would give to him?

You’ve just given me an idea for a blog post ;) I think everyone learns from his/her mistakes, so I would be extremely careful had I the opportunity to do it ;) But I guess I would tell “little Justo” the following: (1) take more risks. Though always wanting to start a company, it took another 3 partners for me to co-found 24symbols. Has it been difficult? Of course. But has it been one of the best experiences in my life? You bet. (2) college is necessary, but just not enough, see what else you have around you. I was one of those guys quite focused on passing every subject on time (in Spain, Engineerings are quite tough and it’s not common to pass all subjects, needing two or more examinations). Of course it’s important not to take 10 years to finish the undergraduate courses, but there are many other things that can be done at that critical time in everyone’s life: travelling, playing sports in a more professional way, getting involved in more social activities, … (3) related to (1), but learnt at a latter stage: things don’t typically go that bad, so endure. As a poet whose name I don’t remember once said something like “how hard is to suffer, how beautiful to have suffered”. As with any other startup, we went through the valley of death in 24symbols. While it was hard as hell, it was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had, being able to understand many things about how life actually works.

 

 

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8
Jul

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Elizabeth Perry is co-founder of White Bull, one of the most creative European conference producers focused on top tech companies. Their mission is not simply to produce events, but also to connect people, to help them on their “Pathways” to to success – including the Exit. In fact their anchor event was originally called “Pathways to Exit” (now shortened to “Pathways”) She has a degree in journalism, a background in marketing and communications, and experience living in multiple countries. Her strong passion for connection, and telling valuable stories about people,turned into founding White Bull with her partner Farley Duvall. The idea of White Bull comes from the Greek mythology, and the story of Zeus, who transformed himself into a beautiful white bull. Their sophisticated logo, utilizing the idea of the “white bull,” plays an important role in making their conference distinct from others.

According to Elizabeth, European innovation remains quite fragmented, despite an abundance of creative ideas and great technologies that come from multiple languages and cultures. Thus, the aim is to help better connect the disparate ecosystems, with an emphasis on the face-to-face, and valuable opportunities for visitors, participants, and corporations from multiple countries to establish long-lasting relationships that can help them on their journey to success – including the Exit (such as commercial partnership and M&A). In fact, over 75% of White Bull attendees, have gone on to become successful including M&A, fund raising, and corporate partnership, etc.

This significant percentage may be in large part due to the design of the White Bull conference. The aim has always been to maintain quality – not only of the events themselves with the caliber of guests, the atmosphere, etc, but also in the number of people invited, to keep setting intimate. The main “Pathways” summit (October 6-8 in Barcelona) will take place over 3 days in order to give participants a unique chance to bond. Unlike in other larger conferences, participants typically forge meaningful and personal relationships that very often result in successful partnerships.

Elizabeth’s work is significant, and she was willing to share her experience with Key Success Factors.

 

1. Why do you focus on Technology, Media, and Telecommunication? Is it because those are markets that move fast?

We focus on TMT because that is our core expertise, and because these are the areas that we believe are currently driving the most important change worldwide. … That being said, TMT is an acronym that has been used for some time. Perhaps a new one should be created!

 

2. Instead of being an accelerator, why do you focus on organizing events in order to connect people, companies, and investors?

We help facilitate connections across various domains. We believe that connecting people to help them find their way is more powerful than putting them into one particular “house” or program, with daily supervision. Entrepreneurs need opportunity and tools, not a specific or limited “house.” We aim to bring people in from across various ecosystems — where hundreds of people over multiple disciplines can help each other. We’re building a large community – without the constraints or country- or city-centric rules – of people who can connect at any time to others who can help accelerate their success.

 

3. What was the first step you took to embark on organizing White Bull?

The first step was to find a name that reflected both the vision, and the brand we wanted to build. Hence, White Bull, from Greek mythology. http://whitebull.com/lore-white-bull-whats-behind-name.

 

4. What was the biggest failure in the past and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest failure was the assumption that everyone we knew would jump on board our train, simply because they knew and liked us. Building a brand is a lot harder than that. It must include proving to your network that you mean what you say, and that you will deliver on your promise. We’ve worked hard to deliver on our promise over our 5-year history, and we’re happy to say, the brand gets stronger and stronger.

 

5 What is your revenue/business model?

Most of our revenue comes from sponsorship, and for our main event in October, we charge a reasonable fee for admission. We also work with firms in advisory roles, and as experts in communications and business development strategy.

 

6. How did you get enough amounts of people together and how did you raise the capital to invite speakers at the beginning?

Aside from Farley’s already established reputation as industry “connector,” we do spend enormous amounts of time reaching out personally, and expanding our network. We were fortunate enough to have had significant supporters from the beginning, and a plan and vision that people believed in.

 

7. What is the most important thing when you find sponsors and partners?

I think the most important thing, when we bring on a sponsor or a partner, is to be sure that it’s a whole lot more than just their logo out there. We do our best to find meaningful ways for our supporters to engage with relevant attendees and firms that can help them reach their goals. And, we count on long-term relationships with all of them.

8. When you select speakers, participants or supporters, what are criteria? What are the important factors?

Our company and our events are all about engagement. So, we select people and firms that we feel are both relevant to the industry, and to each other. And, we love great storytellers!

 

9. What are the key success factors to organize the conference do you think?

I think the success of an event can be achieved in a variety of ways. It depends on the goals. For some it’s sheer numbers. … We believe striving for sheer numbers can lead to short-term satisfaction, but not necessarily long lasting results. Some of the larger events, for example, have become somewhat diluted, even gone down hill over time. … For us, it’s about quality … and staying around for the long haul. We deliberately stay small, because we believe in the power of the intimacy we create. Instead of a mad dash to collect business cards, our attendees are immersed in the experience, and surrounded only by other c-level decision makers, who can potentially help them succeed. Over the course of 3 days at Pathways, for example, there’s the opportunity to do more than just exchange business cards. There’s also an incredible opportunity to shake hands with leaders, potential partners, and like-minded peers … to make eye contact, connect … bond. It’s the long lasting, meaningful connections we’re going for.

 

10. Congratulation for 5th anniversary!! What is your future vision and how do you plan to develop White Bull?

Thank you! This year we’re happy to have partnered with Foundum (www.foundum.com), the first online platform connecting global entrepreneurs with investors, and industry “movers and shakers” who can help accelerate their success. Foundum provides us and members of our network a whole new way to engage with the community, with tools to connect with potential stakeholders, and a place to “live” between our events throughout the year.

 

Our vision is to expand beyond European innovation, to the global marketplace, while keeping the same intimacy and elite network, creating events worldwide. It IS a small world after all!

 

11. Give some messages to young people who dream to be entrepreneur or to start something new.

The message is to build something you believe in. Stick to what you know and do it well. Never give up, never stop moving, but don’t lose sight of the personal side. Personal connections and relationships are going to be critical to your success. And, on that note, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support and forge partnerships with others who complement you, and can help you build something meaningful. (No one is a Jack of all trades!)

 

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29
May

Future, Innovation, Technology, Creativity

Written on May 29, 2014 by mhasegawa in News

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Shawn Pucknell is the founder of FITC, a company that produces international design and technology conferences focused on Future, Innovation, Technology, and Creativity. Since 2002, he has organized 85 events in 22 cities, including Toronto, Amsterdam, Tokyo, San Francisco, Chicago, Seoul, New York and Los Angeles. You may have joined either a conference or workshop focused on creativity or entrepreneurship – but, have you ever practiced it? Shawn shares his experience and the valuable knowledge he has gained from both his business ventures, as well as the voyage of life. This is not just a fancy story, but the story based on reality and truth. It will encourage you to not only think, but take action.

 

 1. Why did you start FITC?

Back in 1999-2000 I was a Flash developer and I didn’t know many people using the software. I felt like I was working in a vacuum, not really connected with others to talk shop. Sure, there were a few online forums at the time, but it’s not the same as face to face. Around that time, I was asked to speak on a panel at an event in San Francisco called ‘Flash Forward’, the first-ever Flash conference. It changed my life. There were 2500 people from around the world. I met a ton of amazing people who were just as passionate and interested in this new area as I was. So when I came back home to Toronto, I wanted to continue that feeling, and I started inviting anyone I could out for drinks once a month. I spammed online forums, emailed people I didn’t know, and a few I did, and these monthly ‘gatherings’ as we called them, took off like wild fire. We went from 10 people to 30, to 50, to over 100, all in the span of a few short months. It seemed that I wasn’t the only one interested in getting together to talk shop and meet others. It was during this developing community that a number of us talked about having a festival, a conference, about Flash, in Toronto. So I took it upon myself to lead it, and ‘Flash in the Can’ (FITC) was born.

 

2. Why did you decide to focus on Future, Innovation, Technology, and Creativity? Why are those important to you?

We started as a Flash conference.  I was attracted to it as it was one of the only pieces of software at the time that allowed either designers, or developers, to create something amazing. Most other tools and platforms were for one or the other, but there was always a unique creativity and vibe from allowing these two sides into the same area. Coming from an advertising background, the ‘tech’ and the ‘creative’ were always different departments, and it was frustrating personally and professionally as I always felt I was neither. I was a bit of a hybrid, interested and skilled a bit in both, but advertising companies weren’t really set up for people like me.

As the industry matured, we started to see other technology and interesting people that we wanted to include at the events, but they weren’t ‘Flash’, so we started to expand what we showcased at the event. Processing, After Effects, HTML, hardware, motion graphics, creativity, art, film, it was all cool stuff that we wanted to include. So we started calling it FITC instead of ‘Flash in the Can’ as it wasn’t just about Flash anymore. Then, after the decline in interest and public support of Flash, we decided it was time to rebrand what those letters stood for, and set out to break down what we had evolved into, what our focus was, and the new ‘Future. Innovation. Technology. Creativity‘ FITC name and logo was launched.

 

3. What was the first step you took to make FITC happen? Did you plan, build a strategy or have a mentor?

I had a bit of background starting companies, including a nightclub and a Flash development company, so I had a bit of background in starting things. But I had no idea how to run a conference, I just learned as I went. There was not a great master plan or a long term strategy, I just felt it would work, and that I could do it, and that it was something that was needed. I think that’s the key to its success…there was a need for it, an audience, a community to support it. I’ve seen other events come and go over the years and that’s the main flaw I’ve seen with some of them. As for FITC, it was key to have the support and help from others in the community, I had a lot of help with those first events, both from friends, associates, and local companies, all coming together to do what they could to help it happen and be successful.

 

 

4. It seems that a conference focused on “Creativity” was not popular when you started it. Was their difficulty at the beginning?

Creativity was always a part of it. We were bringing in well-known Flash designers like Joshua Davis, Brendan Dawes, and Erik Natzke for the very first event. But it is true that the majority of the presentations were technically focused. I think one of the reasons for this was that it was simply easier to have and find someone to present on the tech side… i.e. how to do this in Flash, how to program this, etc. Creative presenters were harder to find, partly due to the industry still being in its infancy. And also, it was probably an easier sell to get your boss to send you to a technology conference rather than a creativity event.

 

5. What was the biggest failure in the past and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest failures was our FITC San Francisco event. We just couldn’t sell tickets to it, and still to this day I have no idea why. It was one of the strongest line-up of speakers we had ever put together, but tickets were not selling anywhere near where we had projected. It’s a very expensive city to do events, so we ended up losing a ton of money. Running events is a hard way to make a living, it’s an incredibly volatile and unpredictable industry. Anything can happen, and we’ve had a lot of crazy things happen that we didn’t see coming and had to deal with, but it also keeps it exciting and us on our toes!

We’ve done 85 events now, in 22 cities, across 13 years. I feel that our biggest success is simply that we’re still around and doing events!

 

6. How did you get enough amounts of people together and how did you raise the capital to invite speakers at the beginning?

We hustled everyone we knew to either buy a ticket or help spread the word. We worked the phones, pounded the pavement, emailed everyone, we were hungry, we were excited, and we did everything we could think of to get the word out about the event, and it paid off…we were sold out that first year.
As for financing it, my mother had past away the previous year, and I had a small amount of money from her life insurance. I was planning on using it for a down payment on a house with my fiancé and our daughters, but I instead invested it in that first event. Luckily it paid off, and I got almost all of it back.

 

 

7. When you select speakers, what are criteria? What are the important factors?

It starts with the work. What have they created, that is either technically or creatively amazing, ground-breaking or pushes the industry. After that, we look at what do they have to say? It’s one thing to be able to create something, it’s another to be able to speak about it, specifically something that has value for attendees and is not just a slideshow of your work. What is your message? The best presenters we’ve had are the ones that allow themselves to be vulnerable, to really open up to an audience and talk about it all, the good, the bad, the ugly, the failures, and the successes. It’s a lot to ask, and not all people can do it.

 

Lastly, and one of the hardest to master, is can you speak comfortably in front of a crowd. This is hard to judge with a potential speaker if we’ve not worked with them before. But luckily, we have a pretty good track record of picking amazing people to be part of FITC events over the years. We also look at how you are at the event itself. Do you talk to the attendees after your talk, do you watch other presentations, are you part of the event? Its all part of a vibe we strive to create; one of openness and sharing and having the brightest and best people a part of it.

 

8. What was the turning point in the course of expanding the conference around the world? 

After the second year, we started to get interest from people in other cities that asked about having an FITC event in their city. It started with Hollywood, then Seoul, then Amsterdam, then Tokyo, and then many others. Once we were doing a couple events a year, I realized that not only did I really love doing it, but also that I could focus all my energy on it and turn it into a full time job for myself and a small team.

 

9. Why do you focus on the live conference instead of other means such as publishing books and broadcasting the conference online? 

I’ve always enjoyed in person stuff more than anything else. There is nothing that will fully replace a face-to-face meeting. I think there is value in books and videos and other things, but it’s not the same value as a live event. There’s an energy and an excitement that comes with bringing passionate people from around the world together for a united purpose, that can’t be replicated yet by any technology. As for video, we’re continuing to explore how we can leverage that with FITC.

 

10. What are the key success factors to organize the conference do you think?
I think it’s a few things:
The Experience
We focus on the experience of each of our stakeholders, from start to finish. Attendees, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, even the staff, we look at their experience. From the first contact, to leading up to the event, to the event itself and then after, what is their experience like, and how can we make it as positive as possible.

 

My Team
There is a team of people that actually make the events happen. Working with passionate, dedicated people has allowed FITC to be successful.

The Details
We spend a lot of time on very small details. Things that most people won’t notice, but things that make everything run super smooth. As they say, ‘the devil is in the detail’.

The Content
We spend a LOT of time looking at potential speakers. Not only finding them, reviewing them, but also finding the right balance and mix for each of our events.

 

11. What is your future vision and how do you plan to develop FITC?

We are always working on new initiatives, but unfortunately nothing I can share just yet!  What I love about what we do is that it’s always changing. New speakers, new technologies, new cities, it doesn’t get stale.

 

12. If you can send a message to when you were 20 years old, what do you want to tell to yourself?

When I was younger, I struggled with what I would do when I grew up. I didn’t have a clear vision, or a specific job that I was attracted to, so I wandered and did a lot of different things. So far, I’ve had 27 actual jobs, and I’ve started 8 companies. So my message to myself would be this:

“It’s not the destination as much as the journey. Don’t sweat it too much, you’ll find your way.”

 

13. What are your priority and the most important value in your life?

I find it interesting to see how my values and priorities have shifted over the years, its an evolution for me. Right now, my priorities are to continue to pursue the areas that interest me, and to continue to offer value to people. I’m also focused on continuing to evolve both my business and the areas we cover.

As for values, I believe that people should treat others as they wish to be treated, and I have no patience for rudeness, arrogance, or intolerance.

 

14. Do you have a message to young people who dream of being an entrepreneur?

• Follow your passion. Find it. Nurture it. Embrace it. Own it. It is yours.

• Don’t waste your time with people who don’t help you move your ideas forward. Focus on finding and spending time with people who have passion. People who have skills and experiences that you don’t.
• Talk to as many people as you can about your ideas, and be open and honest as much as possible.
• Don’t work with assholes. Life is too short to waste your time with them.

• Be flexible, be adaptable, be nimble.

• There is value in the journey. It is not just about the destination.

 

 

Provided by

Masaaki Hasegawa

Tim Zahner

 

FITC21

fitc

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