Faculty and Staff eCorner Video Favorites

Mike Peña, Stanford University August 18, 2014

This month, we decided to turn to our own faculty and staff for their favorite eCorner video clip from the past school year. With so many to choose from, it was interesting to discover that all the picks contained profound observations on the importance of emotional connections and focusing on what really matters in life.

There is no more basic a need than clean drinking water, and yet, diseases from unsafe water and a lack of sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence — including war. That’s why Scott Harrison founded the nonprofit charity: water, which has funded over 13,000 water projects in 22 countries since 2006.

Here, Harrison explains how leveraging the strengths of technological tools such as web-based templates, Google Maps and Twitter have allowed his organization to emotionally engage supporters in a way that few nonprofits have traditionally done.

For Matthew Rabinowitz, technological fixes are all well and good. But the most important thing for an entrepreneur to focus on first is a problem that needs to be solved, not some technology invented in the vacuum of a research institution.

Rabinowitz can certainly appreciate this academic lure. He completed his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees at Stanford, receiving the university’s highest student honors in engineering and physics. While completing his dissertation, he co-founded an intelligent online merchandizing company, Panop.com, which later sold for $100 million.

Then in 2003, when a family member had a child born with a genetic disease who later died, Rabinowitz began to see entrepreneurship as a way to address more fundamental problems. Drawing on expertise from his seemingly unrelated background, Rabinowitz embarked on a journey with the goal of ensuring that other families need not experience similar pain wrought by the inability to have a healthy child.

He brought together a team of experts in medicine, engineering, statistics and genetics – and along with his own skills in optimization, signal processing, informatics and entrepreneurship — he founded Natera.

For entrepreneurial thought leadership, you might not think to turn to a Hollywood legend. But during Heidi Roizen’s talk at Stanford last spring, the operating partner at venture capital firm DFJ did just that — evoking the wisdom of longtime entertainer Shirley MacLaine.

Roizen, who teaches a management science and engineering course at Stanford titled “The Spirit of Entrepreneurship,” credited MacLaine with coming up with a so-called “20-40-60 rule,” which sounds like it might relate to ownership splits or stocks.

What the rule actually captures is a far more important insight that is both empowering and liberating for anyone, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not: “At 20, you are constantly worrying about what other people think of you,” Roizen explains. “At 40, you wake up and you say, ‘I’m not going to give a damn what other people think of me anymore.’”

Completing the thought, Roizen then finishes by saying, “At 60, you come to realize that no one is actually thinking of you.”