Jerry Murdock. Aspen. Co-founder. Insight Venture Partners.

jerry_smI have a romance with knowledge. I am passionately drawn to understand how things work and, more importantly, how might things work. This is what attracts me to helping entrepreneurs. If they want to change the world then I want to connect with that vision and try to help make it happen.

I often travel to distant lands and into the rubble of lost cultures to try to experience the ideas that are still present in the monuments and cities left behind by our ancestors. I try to comprehend what was valid in their concepts of being human, and what the real constraints of human potential are, not merely the arbitrary ones. We may glean some wisdom from that which has been expressed in the patina of thought and genius still to be discovered in the collage of artifacts from antiquity, which we call history.

Being an investor is to engage in risk, which is my expression of belief that an entrepreneur’s innovation can improve the way we live. To work with an entrepreneur is, for me, like working with a modern-age Prometheus. Helping in their quest to “steal fire” from the Gods is what I love most. Lucian wrote of Prometheus: “I felt the Gods were lacking with no one to oppose them.” This is the attitude of the entrepreneur who also challenges the Gods. While it may seem bold, it is what lifts up humanity and gives us hope when the newspapers would suggest otherwise.

Ev Williams. San Francisco. Founder. Medium.

sean-hower_smI create systems that are part technology, part human, mostly on the internet. A great system is one that is fundamentally simple but, when used by lots of people, causes unexpected and powerful things to happen. My specialty has been enabling people to express themselves and share information, previously with Blogger and Twitter. Today, I’m working on Medium, which is a new platform for stories and ideas.

Our world needs great ideas and stories more than ever to solve the complex problems we’ve caused ourselves. We don’t need more information per se, but more knowledge and creativity. We also need to listen to each other and to work together. One of our goals with Medium is to enable people to work together to create better things than they could on their own. To get out of our me-centric, media-saturated world of endless clicks and shallow headlines, to be a bit more thoughtful for a few minutes each day. I believe technology is ultimately just a magnifier of our powers, which are driven by our desires. It can have both positive and negative consequences. My hope is to nudge things in the right direction.


Dave Morin. San Francisco. Co-founder. CEO. Path.

dave-morin_smSimple and intuitive design is what inspires and drives me. Ever since I interacted with my first Macintosh, I’ve been in awe of how design influences and impacts user experience. Getting there isn’t easy, though. It takes time and dedication to get to simplicity. Simplicity is about clarity of thought and being willing to stay in a problem long enough to come to a solution, though it could be right in front of you. Once you have the final product, you know the battle and journey was worth it.


Brit Morin. San Francisco. CEO. Founder. Brit + Co.

brit_smWhat drives me is truly inspiring people to realize they can live more creative and simple lives. A favorite part of my day is seeing our users interact with our ideas and with one another. I especially love when users share pictures of the projects they’ve created. It’s so encouraging to talk with them about their ideas, experiences, and successes.


Ryan Holmes. CEO. HootSuite.

r0holmes_smI’m motivated by solving new and challenging problems, especially ones that people say can’t or shouldn’t be tackled. What drives me is the prospect of turning an obstacle into a business opportunity, and then growing that into something lasting and rewarding.

When I was in high school, I loved paintball. I saved up my allowances and started my own paintball supply company. Everyone thought I was just some obsessed kid, but today the company is one of the biggest paintball suppliers in Canada.

Later, I was told I had to go to business school to succeed. I gave it a shot, but eventually dropped out to bootstrap a restaurant with just a Visa card and a $20,000 line of credit. Everyone told me restaurants were  hard work (and they were right! I have so much respect for anyone in the restaurant business). I ran the restaurant for two years, sold a franchise, decided to change paths, and sold the whole operation at a modest profit.

That winter, I bought a fancy computer and taught myself to code. In less than a year, I had started my own digital marketing agency, without formal training or a university degree. It was a tough slough, but eventually it became more and more viable, and ultimately spawned HootSuite.

Everyone told me you can’t build a major tech company in Canada. There just aren’t enough investors or engineers or top-level managers. Each day, I’m driven to prove them wrong. We’ve have over 300 employees and are well on our way to building a multi-billion-dollar company. It’s fitting that HootSuite is built around social media, which a few years ago so many people insisted was just a fad. Today, it’s displacing the phone and email as the most critical business tool. I’m happy to be along for the ride.


Michael Schneider. Los Angeles. CEO. Mobile Roadie.

m-sneider_smHistorically, technology has been complex and feared by the “common man.” I love creating companies that bring down the barrier and make high-impact technology simple and accessible to all. I don’t believe people should have to be able to code to have technology improve their lives or their businesses.
Technology has the potential to cure many issues in the world, from political conflict (making communication more open and transparent) to health care (greater access to information and real time data) to marketing one’s business. Thirty years ago, many technology solutions required specialists who spoke a “different language” and cost much more than the average person could afford.
Today, with the democratization of technology, a fifteen-year-old kid in his garage has access to more tools and has more ability to get his message out than a large corporation did thirty years ago. I am proud to be able to contribute to the democratization of technology and to the empowerment of “normal” people in their use of sophisticated technology that improves their lives. I believe technology is most effective when you don’t notice that it’s there, and this drives my thinking every day.

Tony Fadell. Palo Alto. Founder. CEO. Nest.

tony-fadell_smWhen I encounter a problem—something that’s not quite right with a product—I enjoy breaking it down in my mind and exploring possible alternative solutions: Why this? Why not that? I apply the latest in technology and design to reinvent that product and solve my frustrations. That’s what led to the creation of the Nest Learning Thermostat.

Before Nest, thermostat offerings were abysmal to use. I became curious as to why there’d been so little innovation. Why was it the same product as when I was a kid? When I found out that thermostats control 10% of U.S. energy consumption—or 50% of a typical home’s energy usage—and that a properly programmed thermostat could save 20%, I knew I had to tackle the problem. It was too big and too important to ignore for families and for our environment. At Nest, we see many other home products that are ripe for innovation and have the potential to make a real difference in people’s lives.


Alex Welch. Cherry Hills Village. CEO. Co-Founder. Lasso Media. Former CEO. Co-Founder. Photobucket.

alex-mug_smMy passion is building products that simplify life, while giving joy to the people around us. Each morning I wake up and think about what I hope to accomplish that day and who the people are that will be affected by the decisions I make. Throughout the day, I try to discern the emotions and curiosities I feel as I perform each task. I constantly ask myself if there could be an easier way to accomplish the same thing, or would my reaction be better if it was done differently. I get great satisfaction watching people use the products we build, give amazing feedback, and help evolve ideas into realities. I have learned that if I only watch and listen, the answers are usually right in front of me. I feel my purpose in life is to recognize my strengths and apply myself in such a way that makes life better for the people around me. This is what drives me.

Fraser Hall. Vancouver. Co-founder. Chairman. Recon Instruments. Co-founder. Director. Captain. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

fraser_hall_smWhat gets me out of bed in the morning is the pursuit of opportunities that have a positive effect on my surroundings. I’m sure I’m not unique in this thinking, but I push hard to keep striving in this direction. I try to divide my time between the pursuit of business endeavors and the defense of the world’s oceans.

I’ve had the good fortune to start a couple of very exciting tech companies. One in the new and explosive wearable computing space, creating heads-up display eyewear, and another in the rapidly growing online retail furniture space.
Equally, however, I devote considerable effort to quenching my thirst to improve the world and defend those who are the victims of our seemingly insatiable appetite for resources. I spent five years at sea working to protect oceans, and I continue to take time to return to sea to command Sea Shepherd vessels on worldwide ocean defense campaigns. I would love to say that I go to sea solely to save the lives of ocean inhabitants, but having the opportunity to stand up for international maritime law and see change effected in front of my eyes is very gratifying, and a reward in itself.


Mike McCue. Bay Area. CEO. Flipboard.

What drives me? Surrounding myself with amazing talent to craft a breakthrough product which can be used by millions of people to change the world.

m-mccue_smEver since I first used a computer in the early ‘80s, I’ve thought of it as a fundamentally new medium for the dissemination of ideas which can transform people’s lives and the society we live in. Today, when you combine the web with the iPad, you have the most advanced medium for human thought and communication ever created.

It was for this medium that my team and I created Flipboard, a personalized magazine you can fill with all the things you love: news from around the world and from the industry you work in; photos from your closest friends and family; videos and articles about the hobby you love; and much more. It’s as if all the editors of Time magazine worked for you to put together a uniquely informative magazine, ready to read anytime you wanted.

With our latest release, you can even create your own magazine focused on whatever you’re most passionate about, then publish it to the world. There are now three million custom magazines, ranging from Everest—a magazine dedicated to anyone interested in extreme mountaineering—to Non Trivial, a magazine chronicling scientific breakthroughs that are bound to advance the world we live in.

With nearly 100 million readers of Flipboard and a truly inspiring team of people, I am one highly motivated individual.


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