How Great Leaders Unlock Innovation with Josh Wolfe and Mike Pell
This week’s World Reimagined podcast episode explores the characteristics of leaders who make innovation and change possible.
While technology is a key driver of advancement and disruption, technology itself does not produce innovation. It’s the people that make it possible—and the leaders who aren’t afraid to take risks, admit when they’re wrong, and face failure head on.
In this episode, host Gautam Mukunda speaks with Josh Wolfe, Founding Partner and Managing Director of Lux Capital and Mike Pell, Envisioneer and Director at the Microsoft Garage in NYC about how leaders should approach and encourage innovation, and lead employees in a technology-driven world.
I like to say that chips on shoulders put chips in pockets, in part because it is often predictive of somebody that is going to be relentless against adversity.Josh Wolfe, Founding Partner and Managing Director of Lux Capital
Tech enables amazing, incredible new things we could never do before, but it's always, for me, the people part that is far more interesting and far more powerful.Mike Pell, Envisioneer, Director, The Microsoft Garage - NYC
Guest Information for How Great Leaders Unlock Innovation:
Josh Wolfe co-founded Lux Capital to support scientists and entrepreneurs who pursue counter-conventional solutions to the most vexing puzzles of our time in order to lead us into a brighter future. The more ambitious the project, the better—like, say, creating matter from light.
Josh is a Director at Shapeways, Strateos, Lux Research, Kallyope, CTRL-labs, Variant, and Varda, and helped lead the firm’s investments in Anduril, Planet, Echodyne, Clarifai, Authorea, Resilience and Hadrian. He is a founding investor and board member with Bill Gates in Kymeta, making cutting-edge antennas for high-speed global satellite and space communications. Josh is a Westinghouse semi-finalist and published scientist. He previously worked in investment banking at Salomon Smith Barney and in capital markets at Merrill Lynch. In 2008 Josh co-founded and funded Kurion, a contrarian bet in the unlikely business of using advanced robotics and state-of-the-art engineering and chemistry to clean up nuclear waste. It was an unmet, inevitable need with no solution in sight. The company was among the first responders to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. In February 2016, Veolia acquired Kurion for nearly $400 million—34 times Lux’s total investment.
Josh is a columnist with Forbes and Editor for the Forbes/Wolfe Emerging Tech Report. He has been invited to The White House and Capitol Hill to advise on nanotechnology and emerging technologies, and a lecturer at MIT, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia and NYU. He is a term member at The Council on Foreign Relations and Chairman of Coney Island Prep charter school, where he grew up in Brooklyn. He graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Economics and Finance.
Bold, insightful, and uncompromising, Mike Pell is an unapologetic disrupter, having spent over three decades pushing the tech industry’s boundaries well past innovative design and technologies into the realm of true breakthroughs. Today, many of those world-changing breakthroughs are imbedded in our everyday lives – such as creating Adobe Acrobat and PDF (1990), pioneering the first version of the web-based Metaverse (1995), and designing early Smartphone experiences (2002).
Widely recognized as a world-class designer and prolific thought leader, Pell currently leads The Microsoft Garage in New York City, part of the company’s worldwide innovation program for moving ideas forward quickly to foster a culture of experimentation. An attractor for the city’s brightest minds and bravest explorers, this unique space designed by Pell, enables a new kind of envisioning and rapid prototyping to turn promising ideas into reality, every day.
Pell’s first book, “Envisioning Holograms” is considered a must-have for tomorrow’s most influential storytellers and explorers. His second book “The Age of Smart Information” details how the fundamental nature of communication is transforming with the combination of AI and Metaverse technologies. Mike’s third book "Visualizing Business", due out Spring 2022, shows our most complex and dynamic businesses in an entirely new light.
The future is here. The technology, the ideas, the people, they're all here. What they need now is the right leader.
Value gets created by destroying risks rather than just focusing on the positive.
I really don't like when people romanticize failure. I- I can't stand the phrase "fail fast."
I have this phrase that failure comes from a failure, to imagine failure.
World Reimagined with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world. An original podcast from Nasdaq.
Yes, tech enables amazing incredible new things we could never do before, but it's always for me, the people part that is far more interesting and far more powerful.
It's hard to get more peaceful than this. Especially for Saturday night on a college campus. There are rarely tranquil faces, but even here things slow down at four am. The theaters and the bars and the arenas all emptied out a long time ago. And, the last few [inaudible 00:01:21] have made their way home. Everybody is asleep, well, almost everybody. Most of the people at this hackathon got here earlier this morning, yesterday morning, to be precise. They're working on programs that will teach drones to draw, they're building robots that can mimic the motions of a human hand and they're designing VR experiences that will bring music and poetry to life. And, many of them have no plans to sleep. Hackathons today don't typically involve much hacking in the traditional sense, and yet many of the participants here are, in a way, hacking themselves.
They've retrofitted and reprogrammed their circadian rhythms to eat only when necessary, avoid rest, if at all possible, and squeeze out every last ounce of productivity that their brains have to give. For a Saturday night, it's not exactly everyone's cup of tea. So, what's drawing these people here? What draws them to band together, to jettison sleep, and to keep going, no matter what?
The first thing I love to find is people who have a chip on their shoulder.
Josh Wolf is a founding partner and managing director of Locks Capital. A VC firm that invests in deep technology. The technologies that seem to belong in science fiction. Josh and his partners have helped build companies that optimized anti-body drugs, established airspace infrastructure for drones, and decontaminated water by 99% in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. And, when he's searching for the next leader, with the next revolutionary idea, there's one thing Josh looks for.
I like to see the chips on shoulders, put chips in pockets. In part because there's often predictive of somebody that is going to be relentless against adversity. They might have been the overweight kid, you know. On a Friday night football town, they might have been the only minority in a mostly white neighborhood. They come from a broken family, they had a disability. I find that those people who are somehow disaffected or broken early on and survive, not in spite of it but because of it, are some of, both the greatest entrepreneurs and creative minds and inventors.
And, so, I like understanding people's human story, and I find that people who are super well adapted and lived in a relatively pain-free lives and grew up with silver spoon in their mouth, those are not entrepreneurs that I wanna back. So, i- it's a [inaudible 00:03:49] that I have, which is I like people who have something to prove. And, I find that no matter how much success they achieve, or wealth they attain, that doesn't tend to go away, it tends to be a fire that burns in them. And, it's something that I- I identify with and like. In the earliest days when we're funding a company, particularly when there're little beyond the napkin sketch or prototype, you are looking at how they are thinking about building a business.
And, there are certain things that I can tell you in the same way, uh, one of our partners used to run all of the special operations in SOCOM. And, you'll talk to the SOCOM people at buds, which is the training and selecting seals. And, they will say, you know, it's- it's hard to tell who will make it, but you can often tell who won't. And, the people who won't are often the people who are the big muscular, with lots of tattoos that are signaling how tough they are. And then, when they actually get in there, you know, it's the scrum here, scrap here mentally tough people that actually survive, uh, training and- and make it through and get selected as seals.
I can see the same sort of thing, when people walk in, I can typically tell who I think is not going to make it. It's people that are very conservative, people that are very reverend, people who talk about I wanna save the world or change the world. All those things to me are sort of negative signals that turn me- me off in wanting to back somebody. And, in part, because I find that they're not gonna be scrappy, resourceful, persuasive. Again, they've got to convince people to leave their jobs, they've got to convince people to convince their spouses that they're picking up and moving across the country.
They've got to convince people to part with their capital, media to cover them, partners to spend time with them or take a risk on an upstart. And, that's a special kind of person, who is both a really good sales person, very credible. And then, I love when they're constantly thinking about the risks. They're constantly worrying so that I know that I can sleep well at night, because they're not. And, if somebody was to see a competitor, for example, and say "ah," you know "it's wonderful to see that, it's very validating". That is like nails on chalkboard for me. I don't want anybody to ever say competition is validating. I want them to say, here's the four reasons why we're gonna beat those people, these are the two decisions that those competitors are making, and we're gonna crush them. So, I like people that are psychotically competitive.
(laughs) Psychotically competitive. Oh, you're not describing Microsoft.
And, Mike Pell would know. A designer, author and hacker. He invented the pdf at a hackathon in 1990. Today, he leads the Microsoft garage in New York city. Part of Microsoft's old wide innovation program, for moving ideas forward quickly, to foster a culture of experimentation. He's cultivated a healthy appreciation for competitiveness and the ways leaders can nourish it inside their teams.
A lot of things you said, Josh, reminded me of people that we run into inside Microsoft. They are scrappy and they are relentless and they are, I would say, very persuasive. In not only their arguments. We have a saying the garage 'we like doers and not talkers'. You know, we've all talked ourselves to death, you know, over the years. That was sort of the hallmark of, you know, America corporate society, right? Talk, talk, talk, talk, not doing anything. When we look at leaders, you know, people who we want to bet on, to really take ideas forward, they're typically the doers.
They are the people who just dug in and figured out a way to do it, without having the resources, without having the support, without having the champions. And, despite all of that, they did it, you know. Right or wrong, good or bad, they perceived, you know, an opportunity and they pushed and they did it.
And that's what we, sort of look for. It's the people who are always proactive, are not looking for something to unlock them, like give them headcount and, you know, money and, you know, resources. They- they found a way to do it, despite all of that. That's, sort of, for us, the best demonstration of leadership ability, is actually just doing it.
I sort of push on this a little bit, because, I mean, psychotically competitive strikes me as sort of a fascinating set of questions, as to how you get these people. But, Josh and Mike, both of you, I keep thinking, the people you are describing, right, is essentially you're betting on- on high end variants, right? The person who's very conservative,[inaudible 00:07:42] who's reverend, things like that, they'll do well in society, but they're not gonna build a multi-billion dollar company. Is there a trade-off there that you're thinking about? Where that sort of welfare- I mean, I almost wanted to joke, that- the- f- my advice if someone was pitching you Josh, is that they should not go to therapy before they talk to Locks.
Yeah, in fact I- I often, somewhat, half jokingly, say that this entire movement which is healthy for the individual of mindfulness and meditation and CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy and things that are effectively modern clinical stoicism are great for the disaffected individual. But, for society, at large, you want troves of disaffected people, who are angry and bitter and frustrated and want to improve their lot in life and are very driven, so, yeah. I think that's some of the- the most celebrated entrepreneurs are maligned. Some of our most famous ones that have created iconic tech companies have all kinds of personal affliction.
Some of them were adopted, some of them were hyper competitive with their parents or the father, you know. Some of them were completely made fun of as nerds, but there's something that really drives them. So, yeah, I- I do like disaffected people and if they're coming in and they're calm and they're well adjusted, at least for me, it actually is a negative signal that- and you're right that if you were to look at it as a bell curve, as sort of the outliers. There's a reason why you get these certain personalities that cluster around the safe middle, evolutionarily, of course, it was safe to be inside of the herd.
And, there's the risk takers who go out on a limb because that's where the food is. There are people that are both comfortable finding the balance between fitting in and standing out. There are people that much prefer to stand out in the way that they dress and they speak. And, again, wherever there's life circumstances, their blueprint, their genetics that give them that- that confidence or the aloofness to what other people have to say about them. They're the ones that are able to stand out and think differently and so they often, because they are high data individuals, luck plays a huge role in this. And, they may end up being the great entrepreneur, they may end up becoming the billionaire CEO, they also may end up dead, in prison, jail, you know, at- at the other end of the spectrum. And, so, that's the risk when you get outliers. It's not always obvious that they're gonna positively skew towards success, they may crash and burn too.
That's interesting, a good friend of mine Billy Carn, studied mavericks, you know, for many years. He interviewed 99 mavericks to try to figure out as a researcher, what made them behave the way they do. What made them think and act and do the things that they had to do. It was sort of, you know, driving them. And, what she found, almost to the person was they didn't know any other way to be. It was just the way they were wired, probably from when they were very young. There is something to, not only your situation, an environment causing you perhaps, as Josh is talking about, to be disaffected. But, someone people are just wired in a way that, they don't know and other manner to behave. Other than to be that person, to go try and change things.
An innovation, by definition, has to be different from what everyone else is already doing. If it isn't, it's not an innovation. So, innovators have to be the sort of people who look at what everyone else is doing and say "you know, I'm gonna try something different" but, systems, particularly the ones inside most big companies, don't handle people like that very well. The whole point of bureaucracy is, as the great German sociologist Max Weber pointed out, to reduce risk. And reduced risk has advantages. But if you can't take chances, you can't innovate. The vast majority of innovations that have ever been attempted fail. You just never hear about them because they don't make the news, but the ones that succeed have changed the world. CEO's, investors, and social scientists, myself included, have spent a great deal of time trying to identify these risk takers, so that we can give them the resources they need to do big things. While also making sure the potential fall out from those risks is contained. This is the business that Josh and Mike are in and it's almost never an easy task.
The thing that's often most inspiring is the [inaudible 00:11:47] stories of individuals, the people that,
again, have chips on their shoulders and wanna prove something. And, I have to say that most of our failures are misjudgments of people too. It's- It's very often not the technology didn't work. Really great people figure out if technology doesn't work. The problem still exists, they find other technology. It's much more often we bet on the wrong people, or they were the wrong leader, or we were fooled by them. So often times our failure is- is a failure to make a bet on the right people. So, the primacy of people over technology, for sure.
Hey Josh, can we talk about something you just touched on. I really don't like when people romanticize failure. I can't stand the phrase fail fast. I don't think there's a single person I've met at Microsoft who wants to fail. Like I don't think any of us want to fail at anything really. I mean, it's true that you learn an incredible amount if you pay attention to what didn't go well. But how do you feel about that whole fail fast thing?
Well, I'm probably in that camp. First thing I would say is the one thing Peter Tailor and I disagree about greatly, he thinks you should study successes and seek to model them maybe even medically. I- I think that you learn more from inverting and studying why people failed. What was the mistake the made? What was the... And then, you can sometimes go back and run the counterfactual and if it was something that was within their control, versus something exogenous outside factor. What was the thing they decided to do? What was their strategic direction that they took and why did they screw it up? So I- I think they would... Number one we learn more from our failures. It- it also predisposes me when I think about value creation inside of companies.
I have this phrase that failure comes from a failure to imagine failure. Which is to say, if you can think about all of the things that could go wrong, and be as imaginative and creative as possible to think about why would this fail. If we were doing a post-mortem two, three, five, ten years from now, why did this fail? Was it the technology, was it competition, was it people, was it product? Was it the design factor, was it supply chain, was it components, was it inability to sell the story to investors? Like, what went wrong?
(laughs) It said my hard-drive died right before the demo.
Yeah, exactly. (laughs) Whatever that failure point is anticipating a failure can sometimes help prevent its occurrence. You throw a time, you throw a [inaudible 00:13:49], you throw money at it, not always. But, it's usually because when we underwrite investment if it fails for a reason that we anticipated. I say, "okay, we underwrote that risk, we knew there was a possibility. It didn't work out, process was good, outcome was a failure"
If we fail for something that was an edge case that we failed to imagine, I consider that a process failure. So I think it is important to sort of focus on failure. Not- you know, you don't want people that are [inaudible 00:14:15] and bitter and cynical leading companies because they're the cheerleaders and the rally point, people that you need to raise money and keep up morale. But I actually do think that value gets created by destroying risks rather than just focusing on the positives. I think failing fast, that to me is a view of let try lots of experiments, and kill the ones that don't work, and feed and amplify the ones that do. And, of course, we have a model for that which is revolution and natural selection and amplification that has worked quite well for billions of years on the planet, so, uh, yeah, no I'm a- I-m a long failure.
(laughs) I like that. Imagine a game in which you draw a number between 1 and 100. If you draw 100 you get ten million dollars, if you draw any other number you go bankrupt. Now, if you were already pretty close to bankruptcy that seems like a pretty good deal. But, suppose you were trying to understand how people because millionaires, and you did that by only studying the wealthy. You'd see a lot people who played this game and won. You wouldn't see any of the losers. After all, they're not the people you're looking at. They won't be part of your study.
So, you conclude that every single person who played this game became spectacularly rich, and you'd never seen the fact that this only happens one percent of the time. Social scientists call this selecting on the dependent variable and except under special circumstances, it's one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Assessing a situation by only looking at the winners is rarely a good strategy. Whether you're playing a game of chance or evaluating a pitch deck someone's just left in your office. It's entirely possible that one of the people on this hackathon is on the verge of a breakthrough idea. And, it goes without saying that Mike, Josh and scores of other folks are interested in figuring out who that is. So how do leaders identify the right people at the right time, with the right ideas?
It isn't, in this case that somebody says I wanna do the wrong thing, it's just, when somebody comes in and says... And, I'm like "what motivates you?" And, they give me an answer that is cliched and "I just wanna change the world, I just wanna make it a better place." I am too cynical to believe that.
What if they're super honest with you Josh and they just say I just wanna take this idea and cash out.
Well, that also feels a little bit mercenary. But, if somebody is like, my mother died of ovarian cancer, and I need to find a cure for this. I never want anybody else to suffer from that. Like, that feels more authentic and it tends to be like this deeply personal mission. As opposed to this abstract global one.
Can I just say something really quickly? What Josh just said is exactly what we find on the [inaudible 00:17:00] on the worlds biggest corporate hackathon every year. This is the ninth year we've done it. But the best project are exactly the ones that Josh just said. They are super personal, they're not about saving the world, they're about saving their family or their friends or their community and never want this to happen again. Almost to the project, they are always about that super personal reason.
I'm just gonna push on both of you. What I just heard is, it's not the intent, it's the generic-ness of the sentiment, that you object to.
I think there's a in-authenticity when someone comes in and gives the cliched thing, that they think people wanna hear versus the authentic, you know, I mean, the one I really love is when people say "everybody else is doing x and I just- it makes no sense to me, Like I- I have this conferring take, like why aren't people doing y" you know, that's a really positive one. And, it's like again, I know that they have a chip on their shoulder, they wanna be proven right, they wanna prove other people wrong. Ideally, they don't only wanna be right, but they wanna be rich. But, if you think about every great rare disease breakthrough, it wasn't because some doctor was like I wanna save the world. It was because there's some father or mother that is desperately trying to save their child and congeals the world's experts. And, if they're fortunate enough to be a rich hedge fund manager or wealthy industry or business owner, they take all their life savings and they pour it in to getting these folks who otherwise might be working on something else, to work on this thing to save their kids life. And then, we end up with these crazy drug breakthroughs. And, I- it's all motivated by a very personal vendetta against some inequity in life, some sense of unfairness, some trouble, some problem that they're- that they-re solving, And- and so, I like when people are basically like I wanna make my life better or my family's life better or something that I- I feel more authentically to be accurate than, you know, this brush stroke of I- I wanna save the world.
But, if you take an example, you mentioned patriotism, of like, American defense, if you spend time with Palmer Luckey, who founded Oculus, sold it to Facebook. Politically controversial, founded Anduril. We were founding investors and if investors significantly in every round. And Palmer and I don't agree on politics, but I can see authentically, this is a guy on a mission, who is motivated. Not because of just America and greatness. He's a libertarian, he's sort of against big government.
He's really against the rise of peer competitors. And, he wants to be responsible for providing hardware software technological capabilities to beat the CCP in China, and any other revanchist enemies that are developing technological capabilities at a time when he also sees his tech community, peers, is shooing wanting to work on some of these important issues. Microsoft is actually been a great standout example, of someone who very early on, when google was saying, no we don't want to or with the pentagon people, we're walking out. Brad Smith and the others were like "no, this is- this is really important, we're not gonna turn our back on the women and men on our front lines"
It's occurred to me that this is a trait that is enormously powerful, but has to be harnessed, I think is the right way to put it. If you- if you are convinced that you are right and the world tells you you're wrong, and you are right. You are a genius. But no one's right all the time. Sometimes people do actually have to listen when the world is telling you that you're wrong. So, how do you, in yourselves, in the- in the entrepreneurs that you mentor, how do you cultivate the ability to make that distinction? To know when it's time that I'm not right about everything and this might be one of times that's not true.
It's hard to let go of ideas isn't it?
My students tease me that I often say that people wed their ideas more faithfully than their spouses.
One of the things I've noticed in corporate America over the years it's a real sign of maturity as an employee. If you can kill you own idea. It's so rare that people do that. But it really shows that you're thinking about the bigger picture. I found, you know, being an entrepreneur and working with entrepreneurs, living in Silicon Valley for many years, it is so hard for entrepreneurs to let go. We talk about pivoting and- and shifting and changing, but, there's always that core belief that many entrepreneurs hold on to and it is super difficult I think for many people to let that go.
I don't know that there's a balance to this. When all signs are pointing to failure. When all signs are pointing in that a consensus of everybody is doubting you. Investors don't wanna fund you as a startup and, people are leaving and, you know you- you can try sit with the CEO and say "hey, heart to heart" like, writing is on the wall here. But the very best of them are the ones that in spite of all that, or in the face of it will say "like, I don't care". So you be damned, I'm gonna prove everybody wrong and it powers them. And so knowing when to fall, knowing when to quit, it's a really hard thing.
It's entirely individual and subjective. It's entirely dependent upon the availability of resources. And, it's a really hard thing to do. And- and and I gotta tell you, there are some entrepreneurs that we as firm completely doubted and were ready to count out and we might even have told them explicitly, it's time to shut down. But, you know, we basically thought that they were, sort of, walking dead. And, we call them cockroach entrepreneurs because they- they just can't be killed and they keep surviving and shock us. And, there's a handful of companies that we've sort of deprioritized within our portfolios and our funds over time, and they may end up being the ones that return a lot of capital despite our best judgment. And, kudos to them for not giving up, we would have told them to.
There's a point where we've all seen this, when you know, everybody knows is clearly not gonna work and the entrepreneur they will just not quit, they will just not let go. And, sometimes they lose it all and- and it's a very sad thing to watch and like you said Josh, maybe every one in a while, something happens at the last minute and they pulled out and all of a sudden they're a hero. But, you know more times than not, it's just that stubborn pride and that blind faith in their own ability that keeps driving them to ruin.
Ever since the phrase Murphy's law was coined at Edwards Air force space in 1949, its origins and exact meaning have been subject to debate. The typical narrative states that in a moment of frustration captain Edward Murphy Junior declared that anything than can go wrong, will go wrong. But, other people who were there that day disagree. In their version of events, they took Murphy's initial outburst, sanded it down, and adopted it as a sort of mantra for their engineering work.
To them Murphy's law dictates that, if it can happen, it will happen. The anything that can go wrong will go wrong interpretation has become a shorthand for pessimism and defeat. A way to throw up your hands and say why bother, in the face of a chaotic and indifferent universe. But to say, if it can happen, it will happen, means adjusting your thinking to take the long view. It means being mindful of potential points of failure. But also staying vigilant for good outcomes too. Because if a certain technological problem can be solved, or a particular devastating disease can be cured, then ultimately ,at some point it will be. Josh and Mike's responsibility as leaders isn't to look at the technology in front of them, because everything that's possible will eventually exist on a long enough timeline. Their job is to look at the people and figure out whether or not the person standing in their office that day is the one who will make that possibility real.
I am a technologist, I'm a designer, I'm a business person. I've you know started companies, I've done a lot of different things. And I- I love technology as much as anybody. You know, as a kid I watched a lot of science fiction movies, I loved, you know, what was possible. But, I always feel that technology isn't the biggest driver. It's more on the people side, so I think, it's actually, perhaps, and if we're talking about leadership and technology, it's- it's more on the people side, than on the tech side. Yes, tech enables amazing incredible new things we could never do before, but it's always for me the people part that is far more interesting and far more powerful.
Josh, I'd be really curious about your response to that.
I 100% agree. I wish I had a differing view, I've always been very instinctively drawn t understanding cutting edge areas of tech that other people don't understand. But, thankfully my co-founder here at Locks [inaudible 00:25:14] has always been more of a people person and it doesn't matter really the technology in the end. It always matters the people because the people are the two legged mammals that are convincing people to leave their jobs and join them on a mission, convincing other people to will something into existence that other people are skeptical or doubtful of. And, so it really is ultimately some part social primate, psychology, influence and story telling, confidence, leadership, vision, rising when you get knocked down nine times and getting up the tenth time.
No matter how powerful our technology gets, it will always need people to bring it into being. And given our conversation, I wanted to know who had inspired Josh and Mike to get up that tenth time. Who had most impressed them and why?
I'll give you two, one is somebody that's very important because I credit my professional career, which is Bill Conway. Bill's run three founders of the Carlyle group, um, while David Rubenstein is more notorious, Bill was the one who's been the main investor for a very long time and has now retaken the helm as the CEO. But just an extraordinary guy who's not only a rational [inaudible 00:26:23], and a good human. I've never met anybody that was like "ah, he's amazing" but he always did the right thing. It didn't matter what the [inaudible 00:26:29] say, it didn't matter what the [inaudible 00:26:30] said. Just do the right thing. And I think that was a good long term greedy approach. He didn't wanna make less money, he didn't wanna lose money, but it was a- it was a good ethical framework for making more money overtime. And, I'm grateful that whatever the circumstances of the day that we met he put us in business and became and anchor investor in all of our funds and, forever admire him.
The second one, which I had the good fortune of meeting, and he's controversial, but he had a wonderful quote which I think became a [inaudible 00:26:57] title of a book, which was a Jim Watson. Jim wasn't overly impressive. He was a smart guy, obviously notorious and infamous for some of the things he said, but for his co-discovery of the [inaudible 00:27:07] structure of DNA, with Roselyn Franklin who didn't get enough credit and [inaudible 00:27:12] but he had this wonderful line which was three words and it had two meanings "avoid boring people" and, I've always loved that because I had [inaudible 00:27:19] within this apartment near the UN, it was just such a great admonishment. Is avoid being boring to people and avoid people who are boring. And, I find myself drawn towards interesting people and having a motive force to be interesting to others.
This may sound really cliché, but to me, I'm sitting here talking to both of you because I was inspired when I was very young by Steve Jobs. I had a chance to meet Steve Jobs several times when I was working at Adobe on what became the Acrobat pf projects. Steve had a really great relationship with John Warnock who had been one of the founders of Adobe. I joke the reason why I'm doing what I am doing I fell in love with Mac paint, you know, when the original Macintosh came out. But the thing that I loved about Steve Jobs the most was that he seemed to ignore all of the skeptics and the critics and exactly what we talked about at the beginning of the show.
He did the right thing for what he felt was the right place to go, right? He wanted to bring creativity for the masses, he wanted to do things the way he wanted to do them. And he pretty much ignore conventional wisdom and showed a lot of us that you can do that and be successful. You didn't have all the data, you didn't have to follow the crowd, you didn't have to do things the way you have always done them. And so, I found a lot of great personal inspiration from that. And the thing that most struck me about him was I don't think I've ever met anyone with as much charisma as Steve Jobs. He just was dripping with showmanship and the ability to persuade, which is incredibly invaluable in our industry.
In the late 1960s Arthur branched in the department of defense, set out to connect remote terminals over long distances. The idea was to establish a network in case traditional lines of communication went down in a devastating military strike. They were working on a piece of wartime technology. They invented the internet. Economists believe that over 90% of all economic growth over entire history as a species, can be traced back to technological progress. But, much of that progress had its roots in conflict. Aircraft technology surged forward during World War one. And, when we discovered the power of nuclear fission, we [inaudible 00:29:42] striving to provide clean, carbon free energy to millions of homes.
In other words, the technology that's driven our world for a millennia, good and bad, isn't a mistake. It's human beings that must decide whether we use it to hurt people or to help them. Anyone of the now giddy people in this room, could be on the cusp of a powerful discovery. Whether that invention is a threat or a gift to everyone else depends on leaders. Leaders who know how to spot someone on the brink of a powerful new idea. Leaders who can nurture them as that idea develops. And, leaders who can show and guide that individual so that when the sketch in their notebook becomes a reality, it's something that benefits us all. Because as Josh, Mike and many others know, technology may be powerful, but at the end of the day it's people who will decide where humanity goes from here. And, going in the right direction will always hinge on having driven, thoughtful and empathetic leaders to guide us there.
World Reimagined with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world. An original podcast from Nasdaq.
Gautam Mukunda does not speak on behalf of Rose Park Advisory LLC or any of its affiliates and is not soliciting investments or providing investment advice.