Innovation Hub: XPRIZE Founder Tackles Entrepreneurship

Peter Diamandis is, I think it’s fair to say, an optimist.

After all, how many other space-obsessed kids ended up founding an International Space University? Or inaugurated an XPRIZE, to inspire a new generation of passenger spacecrafts?

But Diamandis’s current obsession is entrepreneurship, and the idea that the economy is radically shifting to accommodate a new generation of geniuses with cheap laptops and basement offices. I spoke recently with Diamandis, the co-author of Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World.

[This interview has been edited and condensed. For the full conversation, visit innovationhub.org.]

Kara Miller: In working on your book, you did a billionaire survey. Is there something that you found that the most successful people have in common?

Peter Diamandis: Yes. There are a few things they have in common. And luck is definitely one of the things. But besides that, it’s a way of viewing the world. It’s a much more optimistic view of the world. Most of these people are optimistic thinkers, and they are willing to take big shots. It’s what my friends at Google X call moonshots. Successful people aren’t thinking about going 10 percent bigger, but they’re thinking about going 10 times bigger.

KM: What personal advice would you give to someone starting a business?

PD: The personal advice that has been true for me is that any time that I’ve tried to start something just to make money or because someone told me to, it’s either failed or it’s not been fun. My number one piece of advice that I’d give to anyone is to do what you love doing and what you’re passionate about. You can make a dent in the world, and you can make a business out of anything these days.

KM: Do you worry that the emphasis put on entrepreneurship takes great talent from big companies like Facebook, AT&T, and GE?

PD: We have to change our mindset that the person we hire sits at the desk next to us. That person may live across the planet and still be a brilliant individual. For example, a couple of my friends at Stanford put their Artificial Intelligence course online, and they opened the curriculum so that anyone could register. They ended up getting tens of thousands of people, and many of them took the final exam—along with Stanford students in the class. The top Stanford student ranked 832, so the top 831 were from other parts of the world like Asia, Africa, and India. We might find talent someplace else around the world, so I’m not worried about stealing talent.

KM: When you think about the tech world, a lot of power, we hear about a lot of big thinking from people like Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Jeff Bezos. But how important is it to disperse that power a little?

PD: We see a lot of people being extraordinarily successful. I advise hundreds of entrepreneurs, and it is amazing what you can do as an entrepreneur. I’ve done two crowdfunding campaigns. I teach people how to raise $1,000,000 in crowdfunding, which is non-dilutive, or how to create incentive competitions to design your next product or software or service. So I think it is important for us not to depend on Larry Page, Peter Thiel, or Elon Musk for funding. No one needs them. You have access to 1000-core processors on Amazon Web Services. The fact of the matter is that mindset is the most important thing.

KM: But aren’t people limited by lack of connections or by the amount of great ideas that can be launched each year?

PD: There are an innumerable number of great ideas. When people are looking for great ideas, I tell them to go ask people about the biggest problem they have in their life or company. And then go and solve that problem. Problems are like goldmines. If you’re saying there are no great ideas, it’s like saying there are no problems left. When we have no problems left, then we are out of great ideas.

Tricia Breton contributed to this write-up.

Kara Miller is the host of “Innovation Hub,” a national radio program that features the thinkers, researchers, and visionaries who are crafting the future. She is based at WGBH Radio in Boston. Follow @IHubRadio

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