Over the past month or so I listened to 21 of the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leader podcasts. I had heard they were great from a few people so I made a MP3 CD of all of the recent ones that intrigued me and left the CD in my car to listen to anytime I was driving. Each podcast is the full hour long lecture that was given to students in the class.
It really is amazing how anyone in the world now has access to these lectures. Five or ten years ago each one of these talks would have only been able to influence the people in the class. Now they can literally impact millions of curious entrepreneurial minds.
Stanford is unique in that they’re located right in the heart of Silicon Valley and that they have an amazing pool of alumni who have done great things. Therefore the speakers that they get to come talk at this class are absolutely fantastic. A+ caliber visionaries.
After listening to them one after another, I began to notice some common themes:
- The biggest problems (and therefore opportunities) in the world are in clean technologies. Almost all of the speakers were currently involved in clean tech in some way shape or form. Either as an investor or as the founder of a company. Many come from IT/web backgrounds but have moved on to alternative energies, carbon neutral building materials, or other projects attempting to save the planet from turmoil 10, 20, 30 years from now.
- The best speakers tell meaningful stories and leave plenty of time for Q&A. People respond to stories. They remember them and they can relate to them. Stories show that you’re human. Many times, the best stories came from the Q&A, which is great for both the speaker and the audience. The audience gets their specific questions addressed, the speaker doesn’t have to prepare as much material. I’ll definitely remember this for future presentations I do.
- The most successful people have backgrounds in engineering and science. The overwhelming majority of these founder, CEOs, and innovators had backgrounds in engineering and/or science. They were able to innovate because they understood the technology inside and out. You can learn the other skills required to run a business (marketing, finance, etc) without majoring in them in college. It’s really hard to learn organic chemistry or differential equations on your own.
All of the podcasts I listened to were fantastic, but there were four that really stood out as must-listens:
- Vinod Khosla – Khosla Ventures (my personal favorite, he’s brilliant and inspiring)
- Tom Kelley – IDEO
- Steve Ballmer – Microsoft
- Tina Seelig – Stanford Technology Ventures Program
Now that I’ve worked my way through these I’ve started listening to TED Talks which are equally as fascinating.