Entrepreneurship Across America

I recently finished Andrew Yang’s book: Smart People Should Build Things.   The book is essentially about Andrew’s life and how he arrived at launching Venture for America.

Now, I don’t want to make this blog into a series of book reports.  However, I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about challenges of moving from a stable career to a startup.  In fact, I wish I had read this book when I was 20, because I would definitely have applied to be a Venture for America fellow.

http://ventureforamerica.org/

At the same time, I saw an inspiring commencement day speech from Casey Gerald an HBS alum and the founder of MBAs across America.  The theme for Casey’s firm is similar to Andrew’s Venture for America, but leverages MBAs instead of undergrads.  I think it is great that more folks are trying to jumpstart the economy across America by getting highly educated folks to work with small business owners in small markets.  Again, I wish this organization was around when I was in business school, because I would’ve applied.

http://mbaxamerica.com/

In any event, I think it is great that Andrew, Casey and a host of others are working to get smart people to build things across America.  I am excited for my opportunity to contribute to building something valuable through entrepreneurship in America.  Stay tuned…

In the meantime, please spend twenty minutes and check out Casey’s amazing commencement speech.  It inspired me and I hope it does the same for you.

The Zen Master

As a die-hard Knicks fan, I follow every tidbit of information about the plight of my beloved team.  Over the years, it has seemed that we are cursed or maybe we are just the kid in high school who matures in college or grad school (i.e. yours truly).

In any event, I am over the moon that the Knicks have brought Phil Jackson to serve as the next President of the team.  Simply put, the man is a student of the game and believes that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.

I think there are direct correlations one can make between Phil’s career and the path and the journey we will all eventually face.  To break it down in a few sentences, Phil was a star player in Montana / North Dakota (i.e. if a tree falls in a forest…), arrives in NYC and realizes it is a different world.  Phil then has to develop a brand that is valuable to teams and becomes the player that does all of the dirty work on the court (i.e. sets picks, rebounds and does not shoot).  Wins two rings as a player.  Then becomes a coach, but first, pays his dues in the CBA followed by being an assistant in Chicago, ultimately he’s given the chance to run the show with the Bulls & then leads the Lakers (11 rings!).  Some may say he was always in the right place at the right time.

But, I think that is evaluating the situation through the wrong lens.  Phil knew how to make individuals work together and buy into the team.  Michael Jordan was already a superstar before he won a championship the same goes for Shaq and Kobe.  But, they did not win it all, until a leader like Phil showed up (I am praying to add Melo to this list).

The same thing occurs at work, we all are not lucky to be around great leaders every day.  Some of us have great bosses and others have terrible ones.  The great bosses I had, always left me inspired to walk through walls at a moment’s notice.  What I realized is not everyone is destined to be a great boss, but whenever we see one we should jump at the opportunity.

Right now, I am halfway through Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and it is great!  There are way too many business books that only focus about the victory celebration.  The rock star CEO that was destined for greatness in the womb.

Well, here’s a newsflash, life does not work that way.  Personally, I am far more interested in the struggles everyone faces.  Hence, my interest in the writings of Malcolm Gladwell and learning from the failures that a great leader made and eventually overcame.   Because, there is never a straight line to the top of the mountain even if you are Phil Jackson.  Although, I am praying that next season with the Knicks is an exception to the rule.

NYC Startup Scene

My New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to reintegrate myself into the NYC startup scene.  Some might say ‘…why do you need a resolution for that?”  Quite frankly, I have always thrived on holding myself accountable and I knew that I wanted to be involved with NYC startups.  So why not make a resolution to keep myself honest.

A little background, I was very involved in the NYC startup community during business school.  In fact, I had my own startup and was eager to pitch at any and every event and collect feedback.  I am proud that one of my career highlights was being selected for Columbia’s Greenhouse program.  But, I digress.

Anyway, it was during my annual period of self-reflecting this past holiday season that I realized my passion is and still remains with startups.  Fortunately, NYC has expanded its industry focus to include startups.   And the fields are quite varied.

Over the past few weeks, I have met amazing founders trying to disrupt the hardware, fashion, medical, financial services and sports spaces just to name a few.   And, all of these firms are thriving with their headquarters in NYC.

It seems like there are countless opportunities that exist for people who want to learn about Silicon Alley (does anyone even refer it to that anymore?).  I have personally enjoyed attending several coffee chats, pitch events and networking opportunities as I look to expand my knowledge about disruptive technology.

It has been a great experience and I’m only in the 2nd inning of my New Year’s resolution, so I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Also, definitely sign up for a Meetup if you are ever in NYC and don’t forget to stop me and say hi.