How a small habit created something larger
How the Baller Dinner began…
“All Good Things Take Time.”
Some of the greatest things in life happen when you least expect them to. I was studying abroad in Paris at the time and decided to go to London for the weekend (thanks to the ease of Eurostar). I didn’t really know too many people there, so I asked my buddy Greg Nance to invite some friends for dinner.
It was just the seven of us in the basement of an Italian restaurant near King’s Cross. Despite the small size, it was an amazing clash of individuals. My middle school friend, Leslie Bicknell, was there (I haven’t seen her since the 8th grade). Greg’s business partner from Beijing was in attendance, and one of my mentors from Delaware, Robert Ford, was also there.
Since that dinner, I made it habit to host a dinner wherever I traveled.
From London to…
I hosted about twenty dinners and soon others were also hosting Baller Dinners.
In six months, our community of Ballers grew to over 800+ people. There were no themes to our dinners. There were no formal structures to our dinner. There wasn’t even a mission or a leadership team. It was just friends getting together to have casual conversations, and it was powerful.
I was scratching my head contemplating how this ever happened—I was also in college during the time and running my first start-up, Kip Solutions.
It wasn’t until recently that I had a vision of what we could do. I watched this video featuring Jack Andrake.
For those unfamiliar with the story, when Jack was just thirteen his uncle passed away from cancer. The doctors said if they were only able to detect the cancer earlier, they would have been able to stop this from happening. At the youthful age of 13, Jack dedicated himself to finding a solution. He reached out to 200+ professors, but was turned down one after another to be told, “Good luck with your science fair project.”
And now, two years later at 15, Jack has come up with an early detection system that is 100% accurate (the status-quo is only 30% accurate) and is 26,000 times cheaper.
My first thoughts are:
1) There’s a Jack in every generation. Someone who’s had an idea for a solution and was told, “I’ve done that before, you don’t have to try.”
2) How often do we turn down someone because they’re too young, not proven, not educated, not wealthy, etc. How often do we let what we perceive to be success stop us from reaching out and supporting those who may be one day successful? [Two years ago I met this kid named Ryan Orbuch in Boulder. He was a high schooler making an app. He approached a friend and me and excitedly exclaimed, “Look what I made!” My first thought was this is cute. And I never really thought about Ryan again. Fast forward a year later, he’s here, here and here. (Hint: Winner of the Apple Design Award). I completely wrote him off because he was young, and I made a huge mistake.]
So what if…
What if we created an environment where these questions and ideas weren’t written off, but instead were supported and accelerated? What if we didn’t write people off because they were young or unproven, but instead supported them to tackle audacious and big problems?
My belief is that the best innovations come from multi-generational and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Ballers thus far has been a collection of small dinners of 10-15 people with our values of:
1) Treat everyone like a Messiah. Everyone has a story.
2) Do Epic Shit, but check your ego at the door.
3) Ask How I Can Help.
Our approach of inclusion is key. Unlike most communities that are exclusive, I believe that we need to involve like-valued individuals from all walks of life and industries to collaborate and create the world’s solutions. One key example of how we are inclusive is how we filter for our co-hosts. We don’t do applications. Instead each hopeful Co-host has a conversation with our Catalyst Committee.
Our Audacious Goal
In a year’s time, two year’s time, ten year’s time, I hope that because of these dinners—-people will walk away having solved major problems like Cancer to Human Rights to being the next Bransons and Picassos and Jack Andrakes.
I know that I don’t have all the answers. However, when we bring together people who share the same values and can provide different perspectives, I believe we can change the world.