The Case for Canada

Today I return to blogging, because today more than ever it hit me how much of a difference one voice (or one vote) can make. So let’s each share ours.

American friends and Canadian friends currently located in America: Toronto is an awesome city. And Canada is an awesome country. Just saying.

The Economist named Toronto the best place to live in the world.

Paul Graham of YCombinator said “the applications we get from University of Waterloo (near Toronto) students are better than those we get from students of any other university.”

Toronto is: safe, fun, a flight hub, beautiful, central, on the water, and more. It has great public transit, healthcare, schools, libraries, people, nature, nightlife, police, career opportunities, startup culture, talent, affordable housing and more. Canada also has a startup visa program. I have lived in many cities and I love this one the most.

I am happy to help any of my friends plan a visit/move to Toronto.

PS here is more about the entrepreneurial scene in Toronto:
Toronto Tech Startup Scene in a Blossom
Toronto is Poised to Become the Next Great Producer of Tech Startups

How to Try to Be Optimistic About the Election Results

I spoke to my colleagues today about some reasons I am trying to remain optimistic:

1. Reagan was called the next Hitler, but he turned out OK

2. The power of the US president is limited, e.g. Obama tried to make certain immigration policies that got shut down by the White House

3. It’s possible that Trump was putting on a ruse to gain the vote, and will now present a more normal and less harsh personality. This is a strategy that has been followed in the past.

4. He does not have the power to make some of the changes he has been proposing.

5. I am happy to be living in Canada

6. This is an opportunity for a massive talent grab from the US. I am encouraging American friends to move to Canada and am happy to help.

7. This is a time to consider how you can choose to be personally involved in politics going forward. I have already started by blogging. Also attempting to help inspire and empower current and future leaders to make a positive impact on the world.

8. This reminds you of the power of one person, of one vote — and reminds us of the responsibility that we all have.

9. New dating opportunities for Canadians…?

10. http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/11/its-going-to-be-okay.html

That’s all, folks. If you have any other rays of potential sunshine I would love to hear them.

Self-Education Program

Cross-posted:

After being named one of the 1 of top 6 finalists from hundreds in a competition to shadow Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Jennifer created her own self-education program that involved meeting with and interviewing successful entrepreneurs and founders, shadowing at 6 companies for 1-5 days each to learn from them and help out wherever possible, volunteering at conferences (such as DEMO and Founder Showcase), sitting in on some classes at Stanford with the permission of the instructors, and visiting the offices of companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, etc.

She met with and interviewed entrepreneurs and investors including Peter Thiel (founder of Paypal and early investor in Facebook), Tim Ferriss, Richard Branson, Joe Gebbia (Airbnb), Dave McClure (500 Startups), Eric Ries (Lean Startup), Steve Blank (4 Steps to the Epiphany), Reid Hoffman (Linkedin), Brad Feld (Techstars), Matt Flannery (Kiva), Randy Reddig (Square), Brian Wong (Kiip), Sam Zaid (Getaround), and more. Jennifer shadowed at Kiva, Causes, Ashoka, the Stanford d.school, Launchrock, and Dojo, helping them with things like marketing, customer service, sales, design, and strategy.

You can read more about this self-education program in Jennifer’s Forbes article about it, which was one of Forbes Greatest Hits, on the Forbes Most Read and Top Trending Stories for over a week, featured on Linkedin Today, and reprinted by New York’s daily newspapers, Business Insider and Vault.

Selected Creative and Press Samples:

Dave McClure Shadow Application:

Six Shadow Positions:

1 week
‘Hustling’ and Customer Service
1 day
Shadow to CEO Matt Flannery
1 day at Bay Area Youth Venture
Marketing Consulting

1 week
Marketing Consulting
1 week
Strategy and Design
1 day
Design Process Project and DesignPanel discussion with Peter Thiel at Stanford:

Interviewing Tim Ferriss:

Richard Branson:

Forbes article – How I Figured Out What To Do With My Life:

One of Forbes Greatest Hits (with over 350K views), on the Forbes Most Read and Top Trending Stories for over a week, featured on Linkedin Today, and reprinted by New York’s daily newspapers, Business Insider and Vault

Women 2.0 article – A Day with the CEO of Kiva, Matt Flannery:

Want To Know What To Do With Your Life? Prototyping Work Experiences Could Help – Career Collaborators

Steve Jobs and the Meaning of Work

I was in the Bay Area when Steve Jobs died. When I found out it had happened, I was sitting outside a Stanford ETL (Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership) session watching the simulcast with others and checking out Twitter updates on my laptop. A couple minutes later, during the Q&A, one of the participants in the session raised his hand and shared the news with the crowd.

The next few weeks were filled with Apple Store decorations, people visiting Steve’s house in Palo Alto and leaving flowers, etc. One of my friends invited me to an event at the Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center in Mountain View that was described this way: ”Tomorrow night, the Dharma talk will be about Steve Jobs’ Zen practice at Haiku Zendo, forerunner to Kannon Do, and how his practice influenced the Apple products.”

I’ve copied out my notes from the talk below – I wanted to share them because I found the emphasis on the concept of “What is work?” to be quite interesting from one of the most famous and sucessful luminaries of our time.

  • Steve Jobs studied zen and it influenced Apple products. His marriage was a zen ceremony in Yosemite
  • He went to Haiku Zen Do (where Kannon Do started) after his trip to India (which he found disappointing but influenced his life – he returned Buddhist) and developed a close student-teacher relationship with Kobun Chino (who was related somehow to Suzuki Roshi who wrote the book Bible for Zen people) and went for long walks with him at night through the Los Altos streets.
  • When he was 20, Steve asked the speaker (a Zen priest who works at IBM) after returning from India, “What is work? What is the meaning of work? Does it have any value?” Steve wanted to find the fundamental nature of life and his place in it. They met repeatedly to explore the question of work. While other hippies wouldn’t take his advice because he worked at IBM, Steve was interested to learn from him, about his interest in expressing spirituality at work, how spirituality could exist in a competitive work environment, and about his dual career
  • Jobs left Haiku Zen Do after 1 year and then devoted himself to the tech world.
  • The speaker started a program called [email protected] which he tried to bring to workplaces in Silicon Valley – his steadiest client was Apple, where he met Steve for lunch. Steve liked the idea of bringing meditation to Apple and said he occasionally still practiced zen stuff but was still influenced by the teachings/practice. The speaker suggested a meditation room in Apple and Steve got very excited – they spent a few hours looking at rooms. The idea never got off the ground though (everyone was too busy), but it showed that Steve was passionate about zen.
  • Steve was in tears when Kobun died.
  • The speaker thought that Steve practiced Buddhism through design and function of products
  • Apple products integrated Buddhist concepts such as simplicity, imagination, creativity, and uncompromising quality. He wanted products to be more than 1 feature better the competition – to be the best they could be. He viewed users not as buyers but as people whose lives could be changed. He broke limits and thought outside the box with his products.
  • He answered the question of how to bring spirituality into the workplace, after asking it 20 years younger
  • Steve Jobs said in his 2005 speech, “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.” – telling listeners to devote themselves to something outside themselves – something bigger
  • His statement referring to his time auditing classes, “I was like a beginner – it was one of the most creative periods of my life,” could be seen as a reference to zen beginner’s mind
  • Demonstrating the Buddhist lessons of endurance, transience and no self, he said “…almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
  • We have become empowered by the devices. They may distract us from the human in front of us. If we are not careful, products can make us less spiritual. Steve Jobs gave us gifts – it’s up to us to use them wisely, use them in ways that don’t diminish our personal relationships (don’t let their novelty/power overcome us) – this is a new collective challenge for us
  • What is work? There’s no such thing – it’s a misunderstanding. It should be an activity that you’re passionate about, that you’d do without hesitation. In an enlightened life, it should be the same for any activity. Activities should not be viewed as positive or negative but as “this is what I’m doing now”. Choosing to do it makes it work. Instead say to yourself, “I don’t care if it’s this or that, it’s just what I’m doing”
  • Steve also asked the speaker about education and made a big donation to build a new Kannan Do centre while he was running NeXT, showing that he was still affectionate about the practice even when he was no longer doing it
  • He had a “glimpse” in India and the year after.
  • Zen eliminates the unnecessary and just leaves what is important. Just like Apple products/packaging/software
  • A rumor is that Kobun told him not to be ordained but instead to go into high tech
  • Most people don’t get lucky enough to find what they love, so they just choose the best thing they can. Steve said he was lucky to find what he loves. Find what you love and put your whole heart into it. This also applies to making the most of your spiritual practice.

Peter Thiel on Entrepreneurship & What To Do With Your Life

During my self-education program in Silicon Valley, I was fortunate enough to be part of a panel discussion at Stanford University with Peter Thiel (Founder of Paypal and early investor in Facebook and Linkedin) where I got to ask him my questions on stage. I wanted to share some of the key take-aways I wrote down from his talk because I think it’s very interesting to know the perspective on entrepreneurship and career choices from arguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world.

The full video can be found here – I’m at 33, 37, 50 and 53 minutes.

Watch live video from Stanford BASES on Justin.tv

  • I asked him, “Muhammad Yunus and Thomas Friedman have said that the surest cure to poverty is entrepreneurship. What are some of the best ways to foster entrepreneurship in developing countries?”
    • He said it’s hard to build good businesses in countries with corruption and no law – this makes investors nervous. Anything to stop corruption is good.
    • Thinks new innovation should come from most forward-thinking countries (e.g. US) and others are about catching up / copying
    • Incentives in emerging markets right now are just to catch up
    • The issue investing in emerging markets is how to trust them (vs investing in Silicon Valley where you are close to your investments)
    • It doesn’t work to give the same living quality to everyone in the whole world
    • I asked him, if people have gone through 4 years of education and are drowning in debt but want to be entrepreneurial, what should they do? He said: He said to try and get out of debt ASAP and figure out ways not to mortgage even more of your future. He also said that in higher-paying jobs (e.g. finance, consulting, law), there is a social context where they spend a lot of money and don’t necessarily end up saving more than those with lower-paying jobs. Debt constrains your choices – you have to take higher-paying jobs as necessary.
  • Simply A/B testing your life and optimizing vs thinking about what problems there are, how you can solve them, and where the world will be in 5-10 years. Make goals and track against them
  • There is slow tech progress outside of internet/computers, e.g. energy (related to stagnant wages, etc) – society should think about what are the NEW things we can do?
  • How to get to a great world: have it be acceptable to be a founder and have a crazy vision to change the world – so that these stories are common instead of crazy
  • Have a definite plan: what you’re working on, something you love, a contingency plan
  • People in his class didn’t know what they wanted to do so they decided to be lawyers for 3 years to increase their options later, but they didn’t know what options or the probabilities
  • It’s better to have a plan for the future than none at all. In chess, you always have an idea of your next move.
  • Important problems that others aren’t working on > “want to be entrep”
  • Where do you want to be in 20 years? What do you want to learn to get there? NOT boosting resume. You don’t need anything more than college on resume. It’s not about the next credential or getting in somewhere
    • Don’t just think about the next 3 years – think about the next 30
    • It’s selfish to think that your death is the end of the universe
  • An interesting innovation to him is anything tech that creates an alternative credentialing system and he is looking at investments in this area, because education is 80% credentials and 20% learning
  • The future is within humans’ reach to change/influence, vs thinking only the markets, God, fate, etc change the future
  • More tech/innovation to free people up to do stuff they love
  • Shifting what the “sexy” career is from finance to other stuff. Finance was the “thing to do” but not so anymore, e.g. Facebook as a role model
  • Tech is anything where you do more with less – not just computers
  • A teacher is someone who is so scared they never left school and will advise you to do the same. Schools are not run by entrepreneurs
  • Do you need to productize? The most successful companies started with a well-defined problem that is focused and specific (FB started as an online Facebook for Harvard)
  • Ask yourself, why will the 20th employee join the company? Mission-driven startups with something cool/unique. To be cool, must be unique. If too many people are trying to solve something, it’s no longer cool
  • You shouldn’t invest in founders with big houses or that are dressed fashionably from head to toe
  • I asked him whether it was necessary to go to an Ivy league school to have entrepreneurial success – he said that we invest in / copy people like us and VC firms are dominated by males from Ivy league schools. He said what works best if you want Ivy representation on your team is to have a story/mission of why you’re doing what you’re doing and bring an Ivy person onto your team
  • People think about their future as an option portfolio – I’ll do this and then have a lot of options
    • Ask: 3 years from now, what are the specific things you’ll be doing? What will the options be?
    • People who did consulting/finance got sidetracked. He got out quickly. Some people moved up and up, eventually it didn’t work, their career blew up, and they never recovered. People incrementally optimize (e.g. bigger firm, new city, higher salary) and it doesn’t work out
    • The law firm track is risky too – it takes 8 years to find out whether you make partner and there is the risk of losing your soul, etc that is not included in the model
  • “Whatever you want to do, you should just start doing it right away”

On stage with Peter Thiel, Founder of Paypal