On June 28th I had the pleasure to be interviewed by Andreas Tzortzis for @redbulletin at @redbull HQs on business, conviction and the non-linear path. From sports to venture and the inevitable over usage of terms like “innovation” , “disrupt” and “entrepereneur”. And to how perceived setbacks only catapult me forward. Below a few excerpts. Or listen to the whole podcast here.
On Dyslexia and Disruption.
I am very proud of my dyslexia.
Dyslexia allows me to look at things differently, so instead of seeing it as a problem or an issue I think that the best way to innovate or disrupt is to flip something upside down and look at it in another way.
On my mother and education.
If my mother saw me studying really hard and I took the test and it came back poor, she was thrilled for me. Because she just thought that the fact that I had committed and studied is all that mattered. She couldn’t give a damn about what grade I got as long as I committed to it and studied.
And if I got a good grade for something I didn’t lift a finger on, she would remark “you got lucky.”, and was not pleased.
On the value of work.
Some people have ambitions of grandeur and money and to compete against other people.
I am ambitious about being valuable.
That is why we started Muse Capital, our investment fund. It’s not just to put money into startups, it’s to be valuable for the startups we are investing in.
The driving force is to be valuable, which is the greatest feeling on earth.
Definition of valuable.
You want to have impact with the people you deal with every day. You only have one life and it is wonderful to know you can leave an impact in however small way.
Even just making your friends day a little bit better because you gave them a different perspective on a problem they are having, or talking to the founder of the startup you have invested in who is waking up in a panic because something has happened and you give them a solution, or piece of advice that you garnered over the years, and it turns their day around.
It comes from really caring about people, and listening to people. Just being human.
On quantifying value.
It is virtually impossible to fake value these days.
Which is wonderful. There is data that responds and tells you how you are doing immediately.
On what makes a good entrepreneur?
I learned over the course of my media and technology career the patterns of what makes a good entrepreneur. And what makes a good idea. Often times, a good idea will become great because the entrepreneur is wonderful. As for qualities of that entrepreneur it is someone who knows what their qualities are and also what they are lacking, and then surround themselves with the right people. Execution is everything.
You don’t want arrogance, you want confidence. A person full of conviction.
Look at Spotify for example. They got through years of pushbacks and no’s. It was thanks to the conviction of the founders and their ability to surround themselves with the right people and create a team behind them that was going to trudge through. That is why investors bet on them, that is why users bet on them. That is an example of founders doing it right.
On “Fake it till you make it” strategy.
As a dyslexic, they say you cannot do science or math for example. And I minored in psychology in high school and majored in environmental biology in college.
My whole life if people told me I couldn’t do something I would prove them wrong. I am not saying I necessarily did it well, but I always did it, or tried.
The truth is, nothing is impossible. Maybe it is impossible to do it perfectly, but nothing is impossible to do.
People wrongly assume I must very competitive. I am not competitive at all. I like to do my very best, but I don’t compete with myself or with other people. As cheesy as it may sound, as long as you are doing your best, that is all you can do.
For example, I ran a lot of marathons. I have never checked my time, I do not care if I do better every time. I tend to do better, and run faster, but that is because I am fitter and running more.
Hard work, commitment and persistence makes progress possible.
On being hit by a taxi in London and learning the art of winging it.
I was hit by a taxi in London and crushed my leg many years ago. I spent the majority of a year in and out of the hospital. I had very severe nerve damage. I wasn’t thinking about the future, I was just focused on getting myself better.
When I got back to London a year later I was jobless. So a friend who ran a creative agency gave me a desk to sit on at his company. Suggesting I help out with a client, doing made for mobile content. Video content that was pre-loaded onto your phone. This was way before phones were smart!
I am so greatful for the accident. I wouldn’t have had the “desperation” to find my way again and as a result I found my calling.
My desperation was desperation to be valuable. After a year of being so self-absorbed and thinking about your health, what you are eating, what medication you are taking, I just craved to create something and affect something and add real value somehow.
When I realized there was no way to be wrong in that scenario, because no one had ever done mobile video, I had free reign to “wing it.” My best is when I am winging it.
Letting the mind be free and let it go where it wants to go is important for me. And winging it is a good environment to do that in. There is no right or wrong, no rules. That’s probably why I like startups. Because there are no rules. You are not creating the rules but you are creating an industry or creating a trend or creating value.
The ingredients of a good company culture.
A good company culture is created when you have great people, who are good at their job, who are adding value and therefore they feel valuable , are remunerated accordingly, and everyone is working together towards the same goal with conviction.
Good culture is a global approach. Not just geographically but an open mindset. An open mindset to what your company is doing where it wants to go.
Respect. And Juventus.
If at the helm of the company is someone everyone respects, that is key.
We all make mistakes, but ultimately if you respect the person that is making those mistakes you will allow them to have the space to do that and to also be successful.
So yes, there are a lot of egos in business and certainly in sports but when you have a visionary president who is leading the way and you respect how he thinks and how he is approaching it and respect his intention, and you respect his business acumen and you respect him as a human being that does a lot. It ties in all the egos to make them work and row in the same direction.
On getting on the board of Juventus 7 years ago.
I had to know that I deserved to be there and that there was a lot I could contribute to, that there was a purpose for me to be there. And at the same time I had to accept the fact that I was nervous. It was a huge responsibility and I didn’t really know much about the sports business. But I knew a lot about sponsorship and marketing and ticketing and all the elements that come together to create the sports business. But ultimately it was my first time really diving deep into it.
I realized then that I can both a work in progress and a rock star at the same time!
On illness and my career. From car accident to breast cancer.
There were significant interruptions in my career, due to health issues. They could have led to the collapse of my career or mood, or would have taken me down a certain path. But to me it has propelled me forward. All the greater moments in my career came out of some illness.
My dyslexia brought me greater awareness of how my mind works, my accident brought me to a digital media job, and my recent breast cancer allowed me to sit with my best friend and colleague and plan the launch of Muse Capital.
And I have never been happier in my life.
On being sick, and moving forward.
It is such a self centered position. From tubes sticking out of your chest that need constant maintenance, to pain management, flooding of flowers, and people caring for you.
Just because you are physically ill doesn’t mean you have to stop being inspired about the future.
Sleep. There is nothing better for you than getting a good nights rest.
I am learning right now how to quiet my mind and I have gotten into transcendental meditation, namely the David Lynch Foundation. Part of always working and coming up with creative ideas — there is a great aspect of that but also a detrimental one, because you cannot easily shut off your brain.
Its not that my thoughts are not peaceful, its just that they are active. Its busy. Its about toning down that activity when I need to.
So meditation is helping with that, and sleep is helping with that.
I am learning to quiet the mind and be more present and in the moment.