Emerging Encouraged

"We believe at a certain point, if we can retain enough of the talent that we've uncovered, we can build a community that makes Silicon Valley and New York less of a default."  This quote, and many others like it, seemed to be a theme in the conversations I had last night at the kick off party for the Hello Tomorrow conference I am speaking at here in Paris later today. I spoke with entrepreneurs and investors from here in France as well as those from Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, and Israel and they all seemed to have a similar sentiment. Each one of them, while aware of the attraction and pull of the larger tech hubs in Europe like London or Berlin, or ultimately San Francisco, believe that the geographical centralized nature of technology is on its way to the history books. My good friend and partner in Exopshere, Skinner Layne, wrote a wonderful piece on this them earlier this week: Burst It - Not The Bubble You Think.  "A hundred new entrepreneurship nodes would do far more good for the world than three new Silicon Valleys." We are seeing this play its out at Exosphere in Chile and in the communities that our Bootcamp members return to.

The barrier to entry to build a web based company is so much lower now than it used to be. This is both good and bad. The bad being that there are a lot of really bad ideas that are seeing the light of day because they no longer need the approval of any outside source before they are launched. The good being that no one needs the approval of anyone else to begin working on the idea you believe is the next big thing. And the same goes with the communities of entrepreneurship and innovation that are popping up around the world.

Each of these communities is unique to its location and the resources that are already in place. Some are being informally incubated around a system of universities and others are being pushed forward by the alumni of a technology company long since relevant. Some are built on the backs of entrepreneurs that left and made a name for themselves in a bigger hub but have returned to bring their experience, and in some case, investment dollars, back to their home town.

There will never be another Silicon Valley, and that is a great thing. But there can be "Silicon-Everywhere" and that is an even better thing.

Stepping Back To Step Forward

Sometimes when you believe in someone or something, you have to step back in order to see it mature the way it needs to. As BOND continues to grow, I've chosen to step down from my day to day role with the company and will be formally joining the advisory board to allow the team to remain lean and execute with ruthless focus on the immediate technical initiatives that lie ahead. While moving on from something that I've been so fully invested in on an hourly basis for the past nine months will take some time to get used to, it is something that is a familiar road for a lot of founding team members in the world of young companies. I am confident the team will continue to build towards the original vision we began that undertaking with: Thoughtfulness At Scale.

With that said, I am extremely excited about the new company that I'm joining this month. There is a lot of new hustle ahead, but having worked with some of this team before, I am thrilled to be stepping in at such a pivotal time in the company’s history.  Much more to come on that in the future.

But for now, I am letting the lessons learned in building BOND to this point reveal themselves as I percolate on all of the new experiences and exposure I've gained throughout this process. And as the dust of those ideas settle a little more, I'll do my best to capture some of them here.

A Fresh Start?

It is okay, you can say it, "I hate my job." It is okay, you should say it, "I know there is more that I can be doing with this life."

It is okay. We've all been there.

And you know what else is okay? Finding a place to ask the questions that come next and taking some time to explore all the possibilities for the adventure that awaits.

From asking the right questions, to thinking through the possibilities, to getting started on building the life and work that you're thrilled to be working towards, Exosphere's Spring Bootcamp might just be what the doctor ordered.

Starting in March and lasting for 12 weeks, this Bootcamp is a chance to take a step towards a much brighter future and much bigger story.  We've had a couple of last minute spots open up and, if you identify at all with the questions above, maybe you should take a look at what we're up to and apply to learn more.

Maybe?

If you have any questions, I'd love to help point you in the right direction. Just email me or leave a comment below.

More Pain Killers, Less Vitamins

This week alone, three different people have told me "the industry we're trying to disrupt is the last frontier for innovation." And then, after hearing more about their company, idea, and solution, I end up feeling bad for the reputation that it appears the word "innovation" has developed. Just because you replicated an offline process online doesn't mean you innovated, it just means we're evolving. "Technology eating the world" is turning out to be really boring. There are incredibly smart and savvy entrepreneurs working on incredibly boring and, when considered in the context of the world as a whole, meaningless ideas.

They're working on vitamins instead of pain killers.

They're working on nice-to-haves that make things a little bit better.

They're not working on the must-haves that changes the entire trajectory of a situation.

People will forget to take their vitamins. But, when suffering, people will always look for a way to kill that pain.

Unplugging

Every time I think life can't spin any faster, it does. There are some amazing things happening right now that I can't wait to share, but the culmination of all of them happening so closely together has lead me to need this holiday weekend more than ever to find the bottom of my email inbox and more importantly time to slow down, take a breath, and unplug. After Waze was acquired by Google in June of this year, Annie and I completely unplugged in Kiawah, SC. It was four full days of no email or social media for me and it was incredible. I found some incredibly clarity during that time and will look back on that trip as a turning point for some big things to come.  The luxury of that length of time to slow down wasn't available to me this weekend, but the choice to treat this holiday like one was.  I knew I had meetings this morning, but committed to spending three hours offline and with my phone on a different floor of the apartment.  I made an ask this morning for any reading that had inspired folks over the past couple months and was incredibly grateful for the amazing responses both on Facebook and on Twitter.

I intentionally didn't offer parameters around my requests as I was hoping for things further outside my normal strike zone of nonfiction business books. From books of the Bible to cyber thriller fiction, TED Talks and Royal Society for the Arts videos, I found my mind exploring thoughts not directly related to a single thing I am working on right now, and yet applications and take aways that helped me punch through a couple mental road blocks I'd been hung up on.

I wrote about the value of slowing down to stay sharp for Forbes last year HERE and full endorse the wisdom in the story of the lumberjacks. And while most of the time it is much easier said than done, today it was done and I am even more ready for a huge month ahead.

Vulnerability Makes You Look Smart

I recently met with a young entrepreneur who has had some recent successes. We talked through some of the wins and how they came about with his new company and the momentum he felt like he had. Intrigued by where he was hoping to take things, I asked what I could be doing to be helpful going forward. He responded, "There's nothing that comes to mind, I think we're good." Having seen my share of start-ups over the past few years, not needing help from someone  can only mean one of two things:

1) You don't like the person and are doing your best to keep them as far away from you and your company as possible. You think they have the potential to be a hanger-on and have no value to provide.

OR

2) You're in denial about how hard the road ahead is going to be and haven't even begun to think about what it means to build a company from scratch.  Not knowing how someone can help is tipping you hand that you haven't even scratched the surface of how hard the road ahead is going to be.

Some of the best entrepreneurs and professionals I know are the most skillful at involving anyone and everyone in their initiatives. Not in a "cry for help" kind of way, but by understanding who their audiences is and what value they can create together. When we play the tough guy and show no vulnerability, we are missing out on the chance for others to work their magic on our behalf. Not out of pity, but out of caring and the desire to see us succeed in our endeavors.

The next time someone asks how they can be helpful, think about who they are, what they've done in their career, and if nothing else, look to them for advice about a situation you know they've encountered that you may run into further down the road. The last thing we need is more tough guys that don't need anyone else. Being an entrepreneur is tough enough as it is, why handicap yourself further by doing it alone?

Entrepreneur Bootcamp

A year ago, I wrote about Exosphere for the first time. We were just getting started recruiting team members, building out the scope of the idea, and finding a location to house our burgeoning entrepreneurial education community.  Since that time, we've taken over a palace in downtown Santiago, Chile, added team members from around the world, inked partnerships with other Latin American focused organizations, and co-hosted a conference for developers with Facebook and American Airlines. As we continue to build a community around the belief that education will be one of the most disrupted industries in the next decade, we are launching our first Entrepreneur Bootcamp beginning this fall.  (APPLY HERE) We will be bringing 30 aspiring entrepreneurs to Santiago (Why Chile?)  for a 3 month intensive program focusing on the skills critical to take an idea from the back of a napkin to a reality. I am incredibly proud of the mentors and workshop leaders that will be flying down to Chile throughout the fall to share their own experiences in design thinking, programming, and income generation.

Because this all inclusive program is intentionally capped at 30 participants, we know it will fill up quickly. If you've considered taking the leap into building something and diving into entrepreneurship, there are few places better than Exosphere to take those first steps. To read more about the Bootcamp and why spending three months in Chile this fall might be just the thing for you or someone you know, check out Exosphe.re or drop me a note and I'll be happy to tell you more about it.