On Tuesday, February 28, 2012, I attended and spoke at TiE Arizona Presents: ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation (CTI). It was really neat to see the mixture of 100 or so people who were Thunderbird and ASU-CTI faculty and students, as well as a group of entrepreneurs and VCs/angel investors.
When I first arrived, everybody was milling around the student iProject displays. iProjects are course curriculum at ASU-CTI where students execute a real project for a real company. One project was researching the resiliency of touchscreen devices for use in aircraft controls. They built a robot that simulates touching the screen repeatedly and records whether it registered the touch on the pad. Another was a vending machine built to dispense water flavor packets. These projects reminded me of FIRST, a very large robotics competition for high school students. I asked the members of both teams if they participated in FIRST when they were in High School. Only one answered that he’d heard of it, and none had actually participated.
I couldn’t help but think, what an advantage a student who participated in FIRST all four years of High School would have in these classes at ASU-CTI. In my opinion, one of the things that is wrong with society these days is that we only encourage our youth to play sports, and that’s what we celebrate. But sports aren’t going to dig us out of our national debt; It’s technological innovation that’s going to do that. Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, said it best: “We are what we celebrate. We need to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).”
This TiE Arizona event was, in a sense, a celebration of STEM and innovation. The students were so proud. They stood tall and eager to talk to professionals about their creations and the path they took to make them.
My original speech was outlined as such:
- Thank you for having me.
- Importance of industry relationships, the obvious (MS, Parallels, Costco) and the not so obvious (ASU)
- About Go Daddy: ’97, 3,500 employees, World largest domains (52%), hosting (5MM), net-new SSL, everything individual and small businesses need to establish, maintain, and evolve their online presence
- iProjects – more about helping the students and building a foundation of future employees. We get something in return.
- Our iProjects – what they are and how they help
- Thanks again.
But, when I got up there, I was inspired by the passion I saw in the students, their iProjects, the thoughts I had about FIRST, and especially the student speaker who preceded me, Peter Seymour. Wow, was he a great speaker. So full of passion and energy—much like all the students. However, Peter also had a great story. He lost his first born in 2010 to SIDS. He wanted more than anything to build a reliable baby vitals monitor that would save lives. He transferred to ASU-CTI so he could continue his degree program and create this monitor under the mentorship of the ASU-CTI faculty. He also founded Seymour Enterprises.
Suddenly inspired to talk about passion, FIRST, and the correlation, I ended up diverging from my original outline and added the following:
- Passion – so much in this room, students and faculty alike
- Explained FIRST and how I see the enthusiasm in ASU-CTI students is much like you see in FIRST students and how this is all a part of the solution to our macro-economic issue in the U.S.
- What does a Chief Scientist do (they asked) – research technologies in search of innovative ways to create new or improved products at Go Daddy. I work with a team of highly talented architects and engineers and together we run experiments and discover answers that lead to more questions. It’s a never ending quest for knowledge.
After my speech, I stuck around and talked to an angel investor who had some neat stories about medical vaccine companies that he had purchased, improved 5x, and sold. There were a lot of people trying a lot of different things, everybody trying to find their niche in the world. It was inspiring to be surrounded by a group of highly motivated people. I believe, if everybody tries hard, works together, trusts one another, and charges forward toward their endeavors with passion, the world will resolve.
This is what it’s like working at Go Daddy every day. I don’t typically see this level of passion and excitement outside of work, so this was refreshing. I’m proud to be a part of Go Daddy and proud to be working with ASU-CTI, and I’m thankful to TiE Arizona for having me at their event.