I’m writing this in a bumpy van in Northern Uganda. Which is a strange juxtaposition from two week ago. Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to my first Summit Series. Which essentially was a conference on a cruise ship. Or rather, an opportunity to meet all the entrepreneurs you idolize, and show them just how pale and idiotic you really are. (See video below for an example).
Many had goals of pitching their start-ups, getting venture funding, or simply enjoying a long over-due vacation. My main goal was to not get seasick. Or throw up. Fortunately, I succeeded at both. But not without a few hiccups.
One thousand entrepreneurs’ met the boat in Miami before heading out to a “private island” in the Caribbean for three days. Seeing as how I’m new to this world of “hyper-achievers,” I figured I really only had my sarcasm to pull me through. Most of my conversations went like this:
(Note: these are actual transcripts)
Me: So what do you do?
Tim: Well, I launched an internet marketing company at 14, so I pretty much still do that.
Me: Oh. So... you are kind of a late-bloomer, then?
Me: “What do you do now?”
Krystal: “Well, I don’t know, actually. Trying to figure out what’s next. I ran for Congress in the fall in Virginia. But... wasn’t elected.
Me: “Wait. How old are you?”
Her: Yea, I know. I was kind of the youngest. I’m 29.
She went on to say she’s now training for an “ultra-marathon” (50 miles) even though she’s never run before. Thought it’d be “fun.”
Forget the celebrities. I realized I fell down a rabbit hole filled with people who's parents never let them think small. On this boat there were no "normals."
It was a place where big ideas weren’t just welcome, they were followed by, “Oh, that’s epic.” Just sold your company for half a billion. Sweet. Played basketball with Obama? Sounds rowdy. Flew solo around the world. Nice. Saved 500 humpback whales held hostage in the Congo? Well done! (May have made that last one up).
Most people were “techies” who designed some game-changing-something that I use on a regular basis.
Over a performance by The Roots, I met Pandora. Had a great chat with Restaurant.com, at the bar. LivingSocial was…social. And google was, well, everywhere. In the elevator I met about.me (who’s actually Pandora’s older brother). I learned a lot… about.him.
It was like all of my computer applications suddenly developed faces and a love of rum and coke.
If that weren’t enough, most of the techies had a humanitarian “side-project,” like, defeating terrorism. Or saving a near-extinct species. Or ridding the world of bad denim.
I kept trying to scrub the “deer in headlights look” off my face. I decided my strategy was to pretend I was, “one of them” by using the best tactics I’ve honed at the most-prestigious academy for high-powered networking. Sorority rush.
“Hi, I’m Becky. I co-founded a start-up that adds venture capital to support entrepreneurs in developing countries.” (Big smile, warm handshake, ask questions about them, not you). It was working really well. So well, I got invited to a “private” lunch for global philanthropists. As I shook hands around the table, a pretty brunette replied, “It’s nice to meet you, too.”
I leaned forward, and exuding sorority confidence, asked, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
“Oh,” she said, seeming a bit surprised, but not put-off. “I’m Barbara.”
Just as these words left my mouth, “So nice to meet you, Barbara.” I realized whom I was sitting next to.
Awesome, Bec, I thought, as I chugged my glass of wine. While your at it, why don’t you ask her where she grew up and what her parents do for a living.
Now that I'm back at work, and my sunburn has finally peeled its last flake of tan off my body, I think there's three important things I learned about founders of start-ups:
1. They don't think small. Ever.
2. They act as if nothing's impossible. And then they prove that it isn't.
3. They are mainly men. Who live in San Francisco.
I'm also now realizing, there's two things I learned about myself:
1. Maybe, I'm actually... one of them?
I spent a lot of time on the boat thinking about how cool and interesting these entrepreneurs are, and how they put action and passion behind big ideas. I forgot to stop and think, "Maybe what you're doing is equally as epic?" After all, you were also invited on this boat...
In attempting to be modest and in keeping my head in the details, I often forget to look up and realize that what we're doing is, well, going to be big.
Instead, I should start saying, "Soon, Jody, myself, and our tribe are going to help over a million people out of poverty every year. We're also going to change how people give. And our goal is to be the biggest investor in social enterprise out there. So, you should give us a million dollars. Thanks."
Still working on that, "million dollars" part. But. After visiting our partners in Africa. We got that, "million people" in the bag.
Oh, and the second thing I learned is, "There's mainly men. Who live in San Francisco."
Maybe I should move home?
I edited this 10 sec video for two reasons. #1 was to remind myself to close my mouth when I dance, because I look really dumb. #2 is to edit out all people, "in case they ever run for President." That's a verbatim request from @joemarchese. He said it into the FlipVideo. Several times, when I watched it later.