What’s one piece of information you know now that you wish you had known when you started your company?
Tech entrepreneurs need to really know their limits. The better you know your limits, the better chance of success you have. This applies to tech skills, finances, physical and emotional stamina to work long hours for low pay for an extended period of time, and the ability to take harsh criticism and learn from it — and then, when things begin to work well, how to delegate and let go. I’ll admit I’m still working on some of that!
Through the years I’ve learned better about what things I am good at and enjoy, and at what stage of the company’s growth my skills work best. When it grows beyond those thresholds, it’s time to hire.
Tech entrepreneurs need to really know their limits. The better you know your limits, the better chance of success you have.
What is one trend in your industry that you think will be most impactful to companies in the next five years?
Only one trend? That is tough to narrow down. AI is impacting everything. No code seems to be moving quickly. Quantum tech may just change everything. Crypto seems to be creeping into financial infrastructure. And mobile workforce efficiency tools are booming in reaction to the pandemic.
But if I had to put my money on it, I would say educational technology is where I expect a really significant impact in the next five years. All of the above technologies have the potential to contribute to education in a very positive way. As these technologies mature, I believe we will see new levels of educational advancement with personalized learning.
Universities like Georgia Tech (my alma mater) are using AI as tutors and assistants, and I’ve done some research into intelligent assistants that help students plan and schedule projects, homework and study time.
Which entrepreneurs do you admire and why?
Andrew Carnegie, and not just because I share his name and grew up in Pittsburgh. Mr. Carnegie was driven by efficiency and was relentless to reach success. He was creative, picky and not afraid to work hard. It was later in life that he realized that life wasn’t just about him and he started giving away his fortunes to help make the world a better place. The biography of his life is a worthwhile read.
More recently, probably Casey Fenton, who started Couchsurfing. Out of a real need, he formed an idea for a service that would go on to be incredibly disruptive — the beginning of the sharing economy. Uber and AirBnb cashed in with executing well, but it all started with looking for a couch to sleep on in Iceland.
What motivates you?
This is a great question, which I believe many people don’t really understand about me. In my earlier years money motivated me, because, well, when you don’t have it, you need it. Over the years I’ve had to rediscover what my core motivation is, and it turns out that I love teaching and helping the next generation — especially when those young people are genuine and willing to learn.
It isn’t even just limited to technology. I discovered this by spending my annual vacations doing volunteer work digging wells, doing construction work, working on engines and fixing computers all around the world, from Africa to Asia to Australia and South America. Those times helped me understand who I wanted to be, beyond who I already was.
Over the years I’ve had to rediscover what my core motivation is, and it turns out that I love teaching and helping the next generation — especially when those young people are genuine and willing to learn.
So fast forward to today, and what motivates me every day is teaching and helping people who want to receive help and learn, and seeing the light bulb go off related to an algorithm or a creative approach to solving a problem — profound lessons that not only improve their education and vocation, but change the way they think and approach all of life.