After many years of being an entrepreneur and more recently CTO of a tech company, I’ve decided to take a brief sabbatical. I’m looking to take some not-overly-scheduled time to pause, reflect, and explore. And yes, hopefully figure out what’s next.
I’m very grateful for the opportunities and particularly the colleagues, investors and supporters I’ve had over the years. Most recently, I’m proud of the team and work we were able to create at Qu, and will continue in an active advisory capacity.
Since college I’ve always had a job, one or more companies, or both. I worked every winter and summer break and hadn’t finished my University when I was part of my first startup. From there it’s been one company, venture, startup after the next.
While I’ve developed experience building and running software companies, product/technology strategy and roadmaps, building high-talent teams, etc. — I was not/am not clear where I should be spending my time next.
Should I take my background and experience and join a big tech firm? Join forces with another entrepreneur or startup? Start another startup? And in which areas?
This all seemed like very narrow thinking. Maybe a better question at mid-life was more about how should I be looking to spend the next 5, 10, 20 years of my life? Where should I be looking to make a contribution, who can I best help serve, and where should I be looking to learn and grow?
Which brought me to the questions:
1. What am I good for, what do I enjoy, and how would I best like to contribute?
2. Where are the most important needs? Where are there opportunities?
Things that I know I enjoy
I did a brief review of the things I enjoy and possibly what I’m best at:
- I love building technology and product
- And I love building and leading high-talent teams
- The disruption — working towards Revolutionary, not Evolutionary vision
- Utilizing and leveraging high science and technology — I’ve been working in various aspect of Machine Learning, Computer Vision and Natural Language Processing and particularly enjoy those areas
Value Driven Greatness
- Working with excellent and high-integrity individuals
- Deliver a compelling and unique value to our customers
- Our customers, employees, community love the product and company
I Find Less Interesting
- Too low a quotient of innovation / operations
- Getting sucked into legacy problems
- Working in an environment with too many “sacred cows”
- Inability to take risks / capitalize on opportunities
Another important attribute is scale and global impact. While I’d be happy to work on local/domestic problems — I’d like the work in areas that are applicable globally and have the opportunity to solve important scale problems.
Areas of need/opportunity
While I have identified some areas of interest — I’d like to use this time to expand my horizons and perhaps — at least briefly — go deep in some new areas and hopefully meet some new people.
I’m generally open-minded about which areas — but there are a few topics in particular that have fascinated me and seem worthwhile to explore further. Broadly my interests are in Human Development and the Human Condition and includes the role technology will play in improving lives.
Technologies and Areas of Interest
Education — I’m interested in all aspects of education — Primary/Secondary, Higher-Ed/University, and Life Long Learning. In a world that is increasingly becoming automated — it is the key to future meaningful work and lifelong growth and opportunities. I recently wrote about one such idea on quantified learning, and some book recaps in interesting areas of education: Prepared and the Knowledge Gap. I’m also interested in how virtual reality and augmented reality can play an increasingly role in accessibility and improving educational outcomes.
The Future of Work — Here I’m interested the role automation, machine learning, and robotics will play in a) making lives better and b) changing our nature of work and c) how to provide meaningful work to many people. Many jobs will become obsolete, but new jobs will emerge. What are those “good” jobs that humans are uniquely good at? How best can we leverage the emerging class of new “professionals” and provide them good, meaningful work?
Infrastructure — such as transportation, roadways, distribution, construction, housing, and possibly communication. While I’m interested in how automation will affect each of these industries — I’m also just interested in the broader aspect of how good infrastructure can provide high quality of life to people.
Agro-Food-Tech — new ways to produce food, novel farming, innovations in food and related tech. With a growing population, pressure on sustainability — this huge industry is already going through massive disruption with more to come.
AI and Machine Learning — having spent time in conversational AI and some hobby work in computer vision and other area of ML — I’m fascinated by the opportunities. Specifically I’m interested in common sense learning and conversational AI/NLU, various aspects of robotics in manufacturing, construction, and AgTech. I’m also interested in the future of software development — particularly complex business / enterprise software. I’ve been fascinated by driverless vehicles for more than 20 years and continue to follow that industry with great interest. As mentioned with regards to infrastructure I’m also broadly interested in novel methods of transportation and distribution.
Fundamental research into physics, energy, new materials / nanotechnology, new biology / synthetic biology. I’d also include quantum computing in this area.
I’m quite interested in health, health-tech, bio-tech, genetics, brain development — but find myself intimidated by my complete lack of knowledge in such a big and vast field.
And there are many things I’m currently not interested in: financial services, fin-tech, legal-tech/gov-tech, cybersecurity, arts, fashion, entertainment, advertising and media.
Beyond technologies and industries I’m also interested in a few geographies and the unique challenges and opportunities there such as Africa, China, and India.
If you have suggestions on areas that I should be investigating or would make sense to spend time on — please let me know!
Connecting with Great People
Besides reading, writing, exercise, and time with family…..I’m excited and looking forward to connecting with colleagues, friends, and great people. I’d be happy to assist friends, other entrepreneurs, and interesting businesses wherever I can.
I’m happy to try to help in these areas:
- Startup business plan, pitch decks
- Product strategy, roadmap
- Building high-talent teams, rapid scaling, distributed/offshore workforce
- Practical solutions to AI/ML, NLU
I spent the last years in these areas — primarily in software and tech — and very happy to share if it can be helpful.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to your suggestions!