What Giving a TED Talk Taught Me About Becoming a Better Speaker

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Giving my TED talk at the end of the residency program

The ability to communicate a message, sell an idea, or paint a vision is a critical skill for anyone who wants to have an impact on the world. And even in the age of emojis, animated GIFs, and Snapchat filters, public speaking is still the most effective way to move, persuade, and inspire.

It’s why people pay a premium to attend conferences and see experts and leaders speak live, and why Americans took 460 million business trips in 2017 to communicate in person.

My journey as a speaker

As a child, no one would have said that I was destined to become a public speaker.


A Joint Venture in Angel Philanthropy

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We’re donating $100k in unrestricted funds to charitable causes over the next 4 years. Here’s why and how we’re approaching it.

Thirteen years ago, Bilal Mahmood and I met in undergrad at Stanford. We joined an effort to raise funds for microfinance and together built and ran a nonprofit organization to fight global poverty. Since that first endeavor, we have remained friends, intellectual sparring partners, and avid anime fans, despite living on opposite sides of the country.

In the first half of 2020, we were both able to successfully exit the startups we had founded in the analytics and gaming


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We’re headed to Facebook!

As builders and entrepreneurs, we’ve always been interested in using data and technology to fulfill human needs: in commerce, recruiting, and gaming.

Before we founded Midgame, Wayne and Jason first started working together at Etsy, where we built systems and tools that powered millions of small businesses.

At Headlight, we helped employers hire great talent faster in a less biased way before making a hard pivot into gaming and esports. …


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How Tech Workers and Leaders are Coping With COVID-19-Related Burnout

The start of 2020 should have been an energizing time for me, personally and professionally. I had just returned from a long-awaited holiday honeymoon and closed a new round of funding for my startup. But I found myself lethargic, dreading my inbox, and procrastinating on important tasks — telltale signs of burnout.

In fits and starts, the tech industry has finally begun to talk openly about burnout, mental health, and workplace culture, including toxic leadership and unhealthy work hours.

Recently digital strategist Ella Dawson spoke openly in a personal essay of feeling “a boiling resentment of everything that asked for…


I did a Twitter LIVE session with Coach Tony about creating your own Codex Vitae (Book of Life), which he’s done here, and which Buster Benson has done here.

Buster cites as inspiration the novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

“And this is the other treasure. Following in the Founder’s footsteps, every member of this fellowship produces his or her own codex vitae, or book of life. It is the task of the unbound. Fedorov, for example, who you know” — he nods to me — “is one of these. …


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It’s the setup for a bad joke: What do you do when you see two Asian men at an airport gate?

Call for an evacuation.

That’s what happened in early September 2019 at Newark Airport after an Alaska Airlines flight attendant sounded an emergency alarm. Hundreds of screaming travelers sprinted through the terminal and crashed through glass in hopes of getting to safety. One person who was there called it “ absolute chaos “ and the “most terrifying few minutes of my life”.

The allegedly security threat at the center of this chaos? Han Han Xue and Chunyi…


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Opening ceremonies for the World Cyber Games 2019 in Xi’an, China

My talk at the World Cyber Games 2019 in Xi’an, China

The World Cyber Games is a historical esports franchise that was huge in the 2000’s and 10’s, before running into some financial and organizational difficulties and closing in 2014.

The event was revived in 2019 and they hosted a massive tournament featuring 27 nations (though the Chinese contingent was the largest by far) and held competitions in Clash Royale, Crossfire (a Counterstrike-like mobile game), Dota 2, Hearthstone, Honor of Kings (a MOBA mobile game), Warcraft III, Startcraft II, and several others games.

Beyond the tournaments, they hosted other events like a cosplay competition, a robot battle event, and an esports…


Jump start an audience and position yourself as an expert

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Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

So you want to get people interested in something you’re working on — a software product, a book, an event — but you don’t have a big audience, or you just want to make yours bigger. One of the fastest ways to jump start an audience is to run a survey.

People love to know what their peers are doing. Everyone has questions that they are maybe too afraid to ask in a public setting, but want to know the answers to. …


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Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

Over dinner at a tech conference, a woman once told me that for many years, she couldn’t get herself to exercise regularly. Even though she was a successful marketer and yoga studio owner who valued her health, she wasn’t able to stick to a regular exercise schedule because she didn’t see herself as “the kind of person who exercises.”

We often see habit formation as a way to make small improvements for our overall well-being, whether that’s healthy eating, exercise, or meditation. But, in fact, habits are more than just a form of self-care. They can shape our identities and…


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Swag from Headlight’s Mars Mining Tournament (photo credit Zhanna Kurmanova)

In 2017, I started a tech screening and hiring business called Headlight with my friend and former Etsy teammate Wayne Gerard. A few days ago, we announced that Headlight had been acquired by Woven, a developer hiring platform.

We made the decision to sell for two reasons:

1) We loved their model and truly believed that our customers, and the tech industry at large could benefit from Woven’s rigorous but candidate-friendly approach, and because

2) A few months ago, we started working on a hard pivot into esports / gaming analytics and this sale allows us to fully commit to…

Jason Shen

Build products, write words & make connections. || 3x founder • 2x @GWR holder • 1x NCAA 🏆 @StanfordMGym . Immigrant + @AsianAmMan . Curious as a 🦊

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