It’s All About Learning, and It’s Okay Not to Know
I’ve had a really incredible past few days, and I’m eager to share the few things I’ve learned. I’m very lucky to live in the (arguably) best city in the world – New York – where I (definitely) find myself in the midst of great things happening on a regular basis. A few days ago, I got the opportunity to see Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of reddit, give a great presentation in support of his new book Without Their Permission. Alexis (who hates being called “Alex”) was an early Y Combinator grad and went on to do a number of awesome ventures, including being a Y Combinator Ambassador in the East. So, when after the presentation I not only got to chat with him one-on-one during the book signing, but also got to go out to drink with Alexis an a number of other audience members, I was overjoyed. Alexis is a nicest, down-to-earth, just-nerdy-enough-to-be-awesome guy and the thought of doing whiskey shots with him was as memorable as it was educational (who ever thought “whiskey” and “educational” would be in the same sentence?) Alexis has a truly contagious sense of enthusiasm and encouragement, and I definitely recommend his book. Even better, fellow Binghamton-ians (what do people actually call us?) – he’s scheduled to speak in Binghamton in February, and I see no reason for you not to be there.
As if my week weren’t already awesome enough, during the book signing I started chatting with Joseph, Alexis’s former classmate and current colleague-turned-book-tour-manager, who mentioned he also does community management for Pebble Watch. For those of you who don’t know, Pebble is a Y Combinator-funded hardware startup that is also known as the greatest Kickstarter success story ever, raising a whopping $10.2 million on a $100,000 target. In a way, Pebble is a hero company of mine specifically due of their pioneering of wearable electronics. So, when Joseph offered to join him, Eric (the founder of Pebble,) and a few friends in Williamsburg the following night, I was absolutely blown away.
We got together at a beer hall in Williamsburg, and I was surprised to see that only a few people came, given that the location and time were posted on Twitter, and Pebble has a lot of fans. We drank delicious German beer and shared sausages and latkes together around a small table, and sure enough there was Eric Migicovsky, the brilliant mastermind of Pebble of whom Paul Graham of Y Combinator said “If I had to pick someone who will be the next Steve Jobs, it would be Eric.” Needless to say, I was both elated and nervous as hell. I’m normally pretty confident in chatting people up, but found myself at a loss for words throughout the night. We were joined by a pair of guys from Points Signs who spent the night chatting about the specifics of hardware. To be perfectly blunt, I felt like a complete idiot around these brilliant people, but if I had learned anything this week it was this: it’s okay. It’s okay not to know. In fact, as Alexis told me, having to learn massive new amounts of information is how you know you’re doing something right.
Despite feeling,, let’s say… humbled, I kept my ears perked up and absorbed everything I could. Eric was talking about the possible future directions for Pebble as well as his views on the product and other trends, and it was great to see his mind at work. I had a great conversation with Joseph about community management and possible future ventures. Most importantly, realizing just how little I know has made me more eager than ever to learn. I was able to share some concepts with Eric, but I wish I had a prototype or at least a Photoshop mockup to show him. The more I meet entrepreneurs at all the different stages and learn their stories, the more I realize that with the tools we have at our disposal, almost anything is truly possible. More than that, age is no longer relevant. While the older generation often worries about entrepreneurship being a young man’s game, a lot of recent graduates, like myself, and kept back by our self-perception of inexperience. What did I really learn in college? Should I maybe work first? Given how many stories of 22-year-olds starting, heading and sometimes cashing out on successful, profitable ventures, the answer seems to be a resounding no. You can work in the meanwhile – bills need to be paid – but it’s never too early to start. Entrepreneurship is all about learning.
So, I got up today, and I’m proud to say that for the third or fourth day in a row, I worked for the majority of the day. I want to make things happen – I want to hold a physical product in my hand, and now I know that it’s okay to feel completely clueless. It’s the willingness to learn that counts.