It was an honor on Saturday to be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2015 MSTC (Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization) graduates at the University of Texas at Austin. One of the graduates, Rainya Mosher was kind enough to summarize her takeaways from my speech in her blog post and the full text of the speech follows:
This is Part Two of Two in a series about our love for food, cultural practices, nutrition, the way we treat animals, what the Torah (Bible) says about eating animals, and where I think the puck is going (Part Two is the one bit about entrepreneurship, or future forecasting what I believe will be a very lucrative opportunity for the right entrepreneurs). This is more about what I've learned about these topics over the past four years in adopting a mostly vegan diet than my typical Lucky7 posts about entrepreneurship (with the notable exception I just mentioned above). I will not be offended if you stop reading now, and you now understand the context if you continue to read this series. I want you to know what you are getting into before you proceed; I believe this series will be a Matrix-type learning for you ("take the red pill, Neo") and once you know the truth you cannot "unlearn" it. You have been warned. :) Having said all of that, this is a topic that I'm very passionate about. My drive to write this series comes from the many questions I get from people about my diet, so I'm writing this to openly share what I've learned and this will also be more efficient - and comprehensive - for me than telling bits and pieces of this learning each time in conversation. My drive also comes from losing my father to a heart attack because of his diet. He was too young to pass away, and I miss him very much. I wrote a tribute to him here - he was an amazing entrepreneur and man.
Before I begin, I would like to thank my good friend, Ryan Cush (one of our best for many years at Bazaarvoice and an executive of Food on the Table, recently acquired by The Scripps Network), for discussing and reviewing this series with me. He is a wise and good man, and I always enjoy collaborating with him.
This is part one of a three-part series on entrepreneurship. The parts:
- 'Is it too late for me to start my own business?', and other sheepish questions
- Who this new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs are and the new Golden Age of tech (Lucky7 post)
- How I define the soul of entrepreneurs: you change the world (Lucky7 post)
It's March of 2013 and I'm at Wharton serving as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence when I get a question that baffles me. I'm speaking at the Penn Founders' Club, where all University of Pennsylvania students are welcome as long as they are fervently working on a real business while they are in school. I've just wrapped up my opening comments and it is time for Q&A. The baffling question: "Have all of the really big ideas already been thought of?". I couldn't believe it when I could see the student was being serious and not just pulling my leg, and I was fired up. I passionately describe how the world always needs entrepreneurs to drive it forward, and there are always ideas - everywhere - if you just look hard to find them. I talk about how I just read the book Abundance, wrote the longest book review of my life on it at Lucky7, and there are thousands of great ideas in the book for entrepreneurs to solve the world's biggest problems. A few months later, Waze gets bought for $966 million by Google. A few months after that, Snapchat gets a rumored $3 billion offer from Facebook, which I wrote about in this Lucky7 post on valuations. And then almost a year after receiving that question at Penn, WhatsApp gets a firm acquisition offer of $19 billion from Facebook, one month after Google buys Nest for $3.2 billion.
Last year, I recommended Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think as my book pick of the year and wrote an abundantly long review of it. There are thousands of good business ideas in that book for entrepreneurs that are destined to change the world (I also wrote about Elon Musk being my current pick as entrepreneur-of-the-decade as he defines the ethos of this mindset better than anyone I can think of in today's age).
This year, I'm recommending you read The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies as a compliment to Abundance. To choose a word from the title, this is a brilliant book. It is written by two MIT professors that I am fortunate enough to call friends, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
Last Monday, I had the honor of keynoting the Texas MBA Class of 2015 Orientation. This is the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin's largest class to date - I believe around 270 students. Around 80 spouses were also present. Tina Mabley, Assistant Dean of the Full-time MBA Program, introduced me. She introduced me as the Vice Chairman and Co-founder of Bazaarvoice and also as the incoming Entrepreneur-in-Residence at McCombs, a position I'm glad to begin in September. My grandfather, James Mann Hurt, taught at U.T. Austin for his entire career and I'm proud to follow in his footsteps. I promised the students I would post my speech, complete with links, and that is what follows here:
From the encouragement of my wife, Debra, who is reading Wheat Belly, about a month ago I added raw kale to my vegan breakfast smoothie recipe. I wanted to wait to write about it until I decided it was a permanent ingredient of my recipe. As this article points out, Kale is chock full of nutrients. It is also pretty filling, adding more heft to my smoothie. It alters the taste - making the smoothie a little less delicious but it is very delicious still. For the recipe, I use a healthy portion of the stalk and "floret" or whatever the leafy part is called.
On January 29, Marc Andreessen predicted the death of retail in favor of disruptive, pure-play etailers, such as Fab.com. A choice quote from the PandoDaily article:
“Retail chains are a fundamentally implausible economic structure if there’s a viable alternative,” he says. “You combine the fixed cost of real estate with inventory, and it puts every retailer in a highly leveraged position. Few can survive a decline of 20 to 30 percent in revenues. It just doesn’t make any sense for all this stuff to sit on shelves. There is fundamentally a better model.”
I've been studying retail ever since I can remember. My parents were retail entrepreneurs from the time I was born, as I wrote about in this Lucky7 post. I've been programming since I was seven-years old, as I wrote about in why I named this blog Lucky7 - in tribute to my mother. I leveraged these two experiences to start my own etailer in 1998 - programmed on an eCommerce platform that I created. And I've founded two large companies to help retailers - Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics. I've also served on the Board of Shop.org for three consecutive terms. So to say I've been thinking about this for awhile is an understatement.
Austin Monthly, a great local magazine, ran a profile on the things I've learned in their February issue. This is not yet available online, so I'm including a photo of the article here.
They did a great job on this article, describing a lot of my philosphies on life and entrepreneurship. They took a lot of time with this, which is rare in these days of the rushed and declining media industry. There is one error, though - my age. I'm 40, not 43.
I just ran into my friend Rip Esselstyn, who had a major impact on me at Bazaarvoice. Seeing him today made me want to share my story and also the breakfast I have every morning (my recipe below) for the past two years. After all, it is the first week of the new year and if you are like most people, you are thinking about carrying out your new year's resolutions and health is probably near the top of your list.
Reading Abundance is like going to TED - the main TED, in Long Beach, CA. I first went in February of 2011, and I cannot wait to go again in February of 2013 (only my second time to go). Later in 2013, I'm also going to TED Global in Edinburgh for the first time. Going to TED is a life-changing experience. It was especially moving in 2011 because my wife, Debra, and I had just visited Africa - also for the first time. Africa was life-changing too, but in a very different way. Going to Africa gives you incredible perspective on humanity and what really matters in life. Debra and I went to see the high school we helped build, via the Pipkins, the incredible leaders at The Nobelity Project. Seeing how we had directly helped a small village in Kenya was a game-changer for us. In Africa, you see some of the most beautiful landscape and animals of your life, coupled with the depths of the most pressing problems for humanity. It is overwhelming and when you return there is a thought of, "the problems are too big for humanity to overcome". Going to both - Africa and TED, side-by-side - was especially thought provoking. TED, and the brilliant book Abundance, address this unproductive "too big to try" thought head-on, and that stokes my optimistic entrepreneurial energy in a big way. I think it will do the same for you.