Ask Me Anything – Second Installment

Other than Launch, what other entrepreneurial projects have you worked on? 

I’ve had a few entrepreneurial pursuits throughout my life before Launch, but never really knew what entrepreneurship was, and saw myself as too “risk-averse” for that lifestyle.

Looking back, though, I started my first “company” in elementary school.  My mom had made a purse for my by ironing a Looney Tunes character on a drawstring bag she made.  Students at school loved it, so I started having my mom make them for $10 each and sold them to students at school for $20 each.

Most recently before Launch, I set aside the summer after business school to start a hobby business.  I knew I needed to know the rush of starting a company to be able to leave a secure job for it again someday.  The day the website launched and my first sale were the biggest highs of my life at that point until starting Launch.

Why did you start Launch?

Launch was born from my frustration that adhering to the success metrics of getting 100% grades throughout high school (on tests that one could just google the answer to these days) didn’t prepare me for the real world.  Education should develop skills and mindset, and Launch is working to redefine educational success metrics.

Where do you see Launch going in the next few years? What is the future of Launch?

The objective of MIT Launch is to improve student real world success.  There are a few avenues through which this will happen:

  • Launch Summer– I have started with the unique summer opportunity at MIT where students start real companies during a 4-week residential summer program. 
  • Launch Clubs– We adapted the summer program materials to provide high schools part of the Launch experience during the school year through an after-school club.  The vision for this is to have Launch Clubs be for entrepreneurship what Robotics Clubs have been for engineering – engaging and inspiring students through hands-on engagement of their passions.
  • LaunchX Online Course – To be launched in January 2016, the online course is aimed at guiding first time entrepreneurs through the steps of starting a company, helping to overcome the hurdles to making that first step to launching something new.

Who do you look up to? Who do you consider a role model?

I’ll split this question into a couple of different facets.  There are my mentors and advisors, plus I have a list of idols that I came up with years ago, that I still think is fairly relevant.

  • I’m lucky enough to have had the same mentor since freshman year of college.  Professor Marty Culpepper took me under his wing when he saw potential in my from a mechanical engineering class, The How and Why of Machines.  He’s been an invaluable advisor in my life, and I feel lucky to have found someone so early in my life who has both similar values plus similar professional aspirations as me.
    I also remember being asked to put together a list of five idols for a project several years ago.  I still remember this list:

    • Sergey Bren and Larry Page – For their professional motivations and values
    • Tina Fey – For her authenticity, confidence, and comedy
    • Leonardo DaVinci – He is a brilliant, cross-functional genius, and I love that he has both artistic and engineering capabilities
    • Charles Darwin – For his bravery of new theories and research
    • Trey Parker and Matt Stone – I love the layers to their comedy, their drive and passion for what they do, and brilliance of their workYou are such a role model of mine.  How do you keep an image where people fear you but respect you?I honestly don’t mean to be fearful or intimidating.  It’s difficult, since the position requires playing “bad cop” a lot.  But this question reminds me a lot of something my dad told me a lot about his role in management, which is that he would “rather be respected than liked,” and unfortunately, you usually have to choose between the two as a leader.  There’s a reason people frequently say that it’s “lonely at the top.”
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