director Carlsen Center Cody McKibben

May 5, 2018 • Sacramento, California

Thursday morning, I was incredibly grateful for an opportunity to sit in on the proceedings of one of the first community brainstorming sessions hosted by the new Dale and Katy Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Sacramento State University.

Director Jyoti Das Robert Nelsen Carlsen Center

Interim Director Jyoti Das with Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen

At least 50 student leaders, University and community representatives gathered to meet the Carlsen Center’s Interim Director Jyoti Das, learn about the vision for the Sacramento region University’s brand new center for entrepreneurship, and get a first-look at the roadmap for where they plan to take the center over the rest of 2018 and beyond.

Carlsen Center director Jyoti Das

Carlsen Center Director Jyoti Das welcomes students

The leadership team aims to create an innovative, interdisciplinary new institution in California’s capital city:

The Dale and Katy Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will immeasurably enrich the educational experience of Sacramento State students irrespective of their academic disciplines. High-quality education, advising, and practical experiences in innovation and entrepreneurship, coupled with experimentation and practical application in programs and events of the Center, will fully instantiate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the campus and the region. The partnership with regional, national and international community partners will provide opportunities to network and collaborate broadly. In addition to nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit of the students, the Center will provide students and others the pathway to take solutions to market. Ultimately, the Center will provide the leadership and workforce to ensure the vitality and success of the region’s economy, businesses, charitable and civic organizations, and ultimately the quality of life.

Sac State President Robert Nelsen

Sacramento State University President Robert Nelsen

Administrators invited select student leaders and alumni from CSUS to attend the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CCIE) Breakfast Break. It was an informational and networking meeting for the student and alumni community to learn about the mission of the new center and hear some of the exciting opportunities the CCIE aims to bring to campus in the coming years. President Robert Nelson gave a resounding welcome, emphasizing that it was also a chance for the community to provide feedback on what they expect from the center and how to best engage and serve the student population.

Mia Kagianas President Robert Nelsen Noel Mora

Mia Kagianas, President Nelsen, and Noel Mora giving the “Stingers Up” sign

Mr. Nelsen was also joined by Sacramento State student government directors: Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Mia Kagianas, and Vice President for Academic Affairs Noel Mora.

A panel of mentors was introduced — local entrepreneurs, business leaders, and Sacramento State staff — to help facilitate discussion about entrepreneurship and innovation in the Sacramento region.

Dale Carlsen Sleep Train Ticket to Dream

Dale Carlsen, founder of Sleep Train Mattress Centers

Legendary local businessman Mr. Dale Carlsen, the founder of Sleep Train, CEO of Bunker Wilson, LLC, and Chairman of the Ticket to Dream Foundation presented a spellbinding keynote about his astounding entrepreneurial journey and his passionate desire to give back to fellow students from Sacramento State University.

Mr. Carlsen and his team announced preliminary plans that the CCIE plans to push deeper involvement in Global Entrepreneurship Week this coming November, as well as hosting pitch competitions across all colleges, and fostering larger venture competitions potentially involving regional partners, and eventually leading promising student startups all along the incubation process to back office, HR, intellectual property, funding, etc.

Carlsen Center Entrepreneurship mentors

The Carlsen Center’s first mentorship session

Breakout group discussions were led by volunteer mentors and University members including:

  • Brian Dombrowski – Founder of Fantag Inc.
  • Edris Bemanian – COO of Engage3
  • Mitch Gardner – Co-Founder & COO, Pocket Points
  • Mark Beckford – Sales & Marketing Executive, EZE Sytem
  • Josh Wolfson – Director of Product Development at Parrable
  • Sabya Das – Early stage technology VC at Moneta Ventures
  • Dan Mors – Founder & CEO of Gemini Legal
  • Haley Meyer Dillon – Coaching / Pitch Competition / Parents and Families
  • Julian Vasquez Heilig – Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
mentor Josh Wolfson Parrable

Sacramento State student leaders discuss with mentor Josh Wolfson (center)

I sat at a table with student Shay Putnam, President of the Business Honors Society Dwight L. Wise, education studies professor Dr. Julian Vasquez Hielig, and mentor Josh Wolfson, Director of Product Development for Parrable.

Dale Carlsen Frank Bisek

Dale Carlsen addresses the room, flanked by analyst Frank Bisek

Mr. Carlsen and the Center leadership team opened the conversation by asking all in attendance to discuss what innovation and entrepreneurship mean.

Some of the conversation topics can be seen on the Center’s Instagram and Facebook accounts.

They also asked: “What is the best way we can shape the curriculum and delivery method so that it is fun and effective for students to learn?”, and highlighted the importance of experiential learning.

Carlsen Center mentor roundtable

Local business representatives and mentor roundtable discussion

“Where and how best can we engage the student body? As leaders of the campus how can you influence and engage?”

Lokesh Sikaria Jyoti Das Carlsen Center

Advisor Lokesh Sikaria and Director Jyoti Das

The closing address was made by Lokesh Sikaria, Managing Partner of Moneta Ventures, LLC, one of the region’s largest venture capital investment firms.

Sacramento State University Dale Carlsen

Mr. Carlsen greets Sacramento State student leaders

Noel Mora Jyoti Das Dale Carlsen Center

ASI Vice President Noel Mora speaks with Director Jyoti Das and Dale Carlsen

Carlsen Center for Entrepreneurship leadership

Director Jyoti Das, CCIE Chair Dale Carlsen, staff analyst Francis Bisek, and student leader Dwight L. Wise

Dwight Wise Dale Carlsen Cody McKibben HERO Foundry

Business Honors Society President Dwight Wise, CCIE Chairman Dale Carlsen, and HERO Foundry director Cody McKibben (Sac State alumni, 2006)


All photographs © Cody McKibben

I’ve been enjoying Joe Rogan’s fascinating interviews for quite a while now. It might sound strange, if you remember Rogan from television shows like News Radio or Fear Factor, but the stand up comedian turned actor turned UFC commentator has come a long way since those days, and some might call him the “gateway drug” to a wide world of insightful thinkers — from fellow comedians and MMA fighters to fascinating authors, academics, leading scientists and medical doctors, and a wide array of researchers expanding our understanding of the world.

His Joe Rogan Experience podcast is jam-packed with inspiring and enlightening interviews, coming up on 1000 episodes very soon.

Today is Joe’s birthday, so I made a little tribute for his 50th lap around the sun.

The Creation of Joe Rogan - McKillangelo

The Creation of Joe – by McKillangelo

Just a work passion to say I’m grateful for his incredible podcast, his intellect, for having his voice in my ears these last several years exposing me to hundreds of new people, new ideas, and helping give me a bigger map of the world. Thank you Joe Rogan and happy 50th you legend!

We polled the 1000+ members of our Joe Rogan Experience Fan Club on Facebook to decide who to include, and I casted Jordan Peterson in a central role since Joe recently declared Peterson his favorite interview guest of all time on the JRE podcast #958!

Here are some favorite clips from our Top 12, in order of popularity:

(WARNING: these may not be safe for work, and many of them include obscene/vulgar language)

Dr. Jordan Peterson

Full episode JRE #958

Joey “Coco” Diaz

Full episode JRE #39 with Eddie Bravo

Graham Hancock & Randall Carlson

Full episode JRE #725

Duncan Trussell

Full episode JRE #179 with Brian Redban

Bert Kreischer

Full episode JRE #73 with Brian Redban

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Full episode JRE #310

Chris Ryan

Full episode JRE #739 with Duncan Trussell

Alex Jones & Eddie Bravo

Full episode JRE #911

Russell Brand

Full episode JRE #812 with Jim Breuer

Sam Harris

On Vipassana meditation retreat

Full episode JRE #543

Jocko Willink

Full episode JRE #729

Dr. Rhonda Patrick

Full episode JRE #941

“We define ourselves far too often by our past failures. That’s not you. You are this person right now. You’re the person who has learned from those failures. Build confidence and momentum with each good decision you make from here on out and choose to be inspired.”

—Joe Rogan

Ready to Be the HERO of Your Own Story?


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve seen the Promised Land.

Absolute Legend. A Hero. Mine Eyes Have Seen.

Who are your biggest real-life heroes?

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES:  US civil rights leader Martin Luther King,Jr. (C) waves to supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 28 August 1963 on the Mall in Washington DC (Washington Monument in background) during the "March on Washington". 28 August marks the 40th anniversary of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation and prompted the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Martin Luther King was assassinated on 04 April 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray confessed to shooting King and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. AFP PHOTO/FILES (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES: US civil rights leader Martin Luther King,Jr. (C) waves to supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 28 August 1963 on the Mall in Washington DC (Washington Monument in background) during the “March on Washington”. 28 August marks the 40th anniversary of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation and prompted the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Martin Luther King was assassinated on 04 April 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray confessed to shooting King and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. AFP PHOTO/FILES (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

I’ve been wanting to share a lot more here about the people and stories I find truly fascinating and inspiring.

The first on that list is someone very unique that I’d like to shine a spotlight on:

My closest friend in Bangkok — Dwight Turner — is the crazy changemaker behind the grassroots volunteer organization In Search of Sanuk (2016 update: now ‘Courageous Kitchen’)

He is an inspirational and unique character in the strange chaotic melting pot that is Southeast Asia. His love for others, and his dedication to helping children and families in need shines brilliantly in the darkness.

If you’ve been following me here at Thrilling Heroics for long, you will have seen his name before, but somebody with some skill finally picked up a video camera and followed him around Bangkok to get a real tactile feel for what he’s doing to make this little corner of the world a better place, working hard to help urban refugees in Thailand.

I’ll let this quick 4-minute documentary speak for itself, so watch it. If the video doesn’t appear for you, click here to watch it. It’s only a few moments of your time, and I promise it will be well spent.

To me, Dwight is a shining example of the entrepreneurs — or social inventors — who are creating new realities that will shape the next century. 

He’s a selfless, hard-working global citizen who genuinely cares about making the world a better place, and people like him are doing it, one little bit at a time.

If this short documentary has you inspired, then find out more about Dwight’s project and begin your unconventional giving by donating today. Give just a few dollars, a small sum that could very well have a major impact on the lives of an underprivileged family living in poverty.

Dwight is just the first of many incredible social inventors and changemakers who we will highlight here at Thrilling Heroics… But  Bangkok certainly wouldn’t be the same without him.

You can also see the part In Search of Sanuk had in changing our good friend Ryan’s life, as just one example.

Help Courageous Kitchen (previously ‘In Search of Sanuk’) hit their “Fun-Raising” goals for 2012 by making a one-time or monthly donation here through PayPal.

If you’re feeling generous like I am, then let’s share with Courageous Kitchen to help them continue the good work they’re doing to improve lives in Bangkok.

Go here to make a donation.

I’ve been working on a interview series over at about women and their relationship with personal finance and business, featuring several successful female entrepreneurs, consultants, and freelancers. The first one-on-one is with Pamela Slim, a great gal from Mesa, AZ. Pam left the corporate world in 1996 to start Ganas Consulting, and she writes a great blog called Escape from Cubicle Nation, about transitioning from the rat race to independence! These women each have some amazing firsthand experience and a lot of great advice; they’re an amazing source of wisdom, and it’s really eye-opening to hear their viewpoints. Here’s a short excerpt:

What challenges did you have to overcome in the process of setting up Ganas? Did you face any hardships you think most men in the consulting business might not face?

I actually had it pretty easy when I started my business since I got a nice, juicy client right off the bat (Hewlett Packard) and a six-month project that guaranteed I could pay my bills without worrying about hustling for new work. Since I was selling my brain and not a physical product, there were no big start-up costs or financing hurdles, which is sometimes where you hear stories of slightly increased challenges for women to get VC funding or bank loans.

My challenge in the early years had to do with pricing my services appropriately, since I tended to undervalue my services and felt uncomfortable asking for “too much.” I know that this is something that affects many new entrepreneurs, but in my 11+ years of self-employment experience, I would say that it affects women at a much higher ratio then men. It could be that there is a big conspiracy by the misogynistic male white corporate machine that starts to disempower us in kindergarten and stop us from all kinds of things like getting into math, finance and engineering careers. I discount nothing, as I was raised with a healthy dose of skepticism and a fondness for theories of oppression.

Another likely theory is that females are raised in many societies to be in a “helper” and “nurturer” role, and to downplay material gain. Fathers historically talk to sons more about business and finance than they do their daughters. Women are taught to compromise and broker peace, not to engage in hardball negotiations. Whatever the cause of my beliefs, I had to get over some ineffective mental blocks in order to charge what I was worth. I am always curious what other women (and men!) think about this topic, so please comment here.

You say you went through a phase of self-employment evangelism. What are some of the more effective methods you found to encourage others to go solo?

My best experience with encouragement is through my blog. I call it the Magical Mystery Tour, because ever since I began to write it, I have experienced a strange and wondrous connection with thousands of people I never would have had the chance to talk to. I never know which topic or post is going to make an impact…sometimes what I consider the most off-topic or “out there” subjects get the most heartfelt responses. Perhaps my favorite compliment ever came from a reader who told me that I represented “virtual hope.” How cool is that? I would like to stress that my goal is not to have everyone in the world quit their corporate job to start a business. Some are not ready, equipped or naturally suited to self-employment. What I do want to do is demystify the process so that more people feel comfortable exploring the option to see if it is right for them.

Continue reading at Heroines of Personal Finance and Entrepreneurship #1: Pamela Slim.

This week, I’m very happy to present an interview with David Anderson, partner and investment analyst with Palo Alto Investors, a $1.3 billion private equity hedge fund in Palo Alto, California, with a strong focus on fundamental research in undervalued technology, healthcare, energy, consumer products, and financial services companies. Anderson is an alumnus of the California State University at Sacramento, and earned his MBA at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He brings 17 years of experience in oil and gas exploration and in investment banking, and currently manages the Palo Alto firm’s roughly $400 million energy investment arm. I’ve been corresponding with David for a few weeks, and as the resident PA Investors energy and oil expert, he’s been kind enough to write back with some thoughtful insights on a few energy industry questions.

Before you joined Palo Alto Investors in 2001, you spent eight years with Chevron. What industry knowledge did you gain there that helps you with your current investment approach?

My Chevron days provided me with the basic understanding of oil and gas exploration, the economics of project development, and the underlying knowledge of how a company in an extractive industry works to grow and prosper through business cycles. Having worked in various sectors of the company, albeit mainly in North American exploration and production, I got a view of just how large the global energy infrastructure is. Most people really don’t realize just how much effort, time and capital it takes to bring on a major energy project, whether that is a new oil field, a new natural gas project, a pipeline, refinery expansion, or new shipping capacity. That knowledge allows me to understand that our global energy issues are not going to be solved in any short time period. I often like to point out to students the scale of the oil business by saying this: With global oil consumption of 85 million barrels PER DAY, that means that if you stacked up those barrels each day you would reach the moon about every four days. The size of the system to support that massive daily business is something that will not be replaced any time during my life. Knowing this makes me value those companies that help make it happen and gives me perspective on where the opportunities are. Finally, I’d say my experience allows me to recognize when I see a company that has significantly superior economics, a better business model, and differentiated operational leverage. Those are the things that can translate into superior investment performance over time.

What kind of assets does the fund hold? What kind of investing do you do in energy, and what alternative energy projects are you involved with?

Our firm manages about $1.3 billion in assets, with about 25% of that dedicated to energy investing currently. Most of what we do is traditional energy: oil and gas exploration and production, oilfield services, etc. We also look at energy technologies that enhance the core energy businesses–from 3-dimensional seismic technology for exploration to enhanced drilling technologies and what I call “chemical tech.” In pure alternatives, we divide our views into “transportation” alternative energy and “power” alternative energy. Those are two very different opportunities. On the transportation side, we have done a great deal of research into biofuels and on the power side we have researched and invested in solar, wind, as well as ancillary technologies that enhance distributed energy capabilities. In the transportation market, specifically the market for “alternative” diesel, we have also researched companies in both gas-to-liquids and coal-to-liquids markets.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Texas Pacific Group just worked out the largest private equity leveraged buyout ever, for TXU Corp., which provides power to 2.2 million people in Texas. TXU agreed to scrap several planned coal plants and invest in renewable energy projects to get the blessing of Environmental Defense and the NRDC. Do you think it’s a signal that investors want to see the big energy companies move away from the status quo and focus on conservation and renewables?

My view on the deal is that power producers make for great private equity investments as they can be levered and have very visible cash flow streams. As for moving away from the status quo, I don’t see that. The plants to be scrapped aren’t really significant in the grand scheme of TXU and, in my opinion, represent a small sacrifice to allow regulators and environmental groups to “get something” out of the deal.

Since 2000, solar photovoltaics and wind power revenues have grown from about $6.5 billion to $30 billion annually. Do you think the renewables niche is driven mostly by environmental ideology and state policy, or do you believe there is a decent chance that a genuine market will evolve in the near future?

Wind is relatively competitive on a cost basis, but cannot be relied upon for baseline power. That means it is often a redundant investment and so can be hard to justify without significant incentives. Solar is definitely hard to justify for an average consumer, even with large incentives it may take eight to twelve years for the upfront investment to pay off. The advantage to any of these is that new distributed power generation allows us to stave off building incremental power projects in the short-term. Long-term I believe these will continue to be niche plays. As many energy analysts will tell you, there is no silver bullet that will replace the very large coal, natural gas, and nuclear power infrastructure that supplies about 90% of U.S. electricity. In the end, the opportunity for renewables is defined by the cost of the incumbents. If you tripled the cost of natural gas and coal, many renewables are still challenged.

Mike Morris, CEO of American Electric Power – the nation’s largest utility – was recently quoted saying that it is time to develop more sustainable, clean-coal technology for commercial use. Tell us how the coal-to-liquids process works, and what energy companies are doing with it.

We believe that the vast U.S. deposits of coal will be key to addressing the combined goals of energy growth, energy price moderation, increased energy independence, and potentially, improved emissions. Coal-to-liquids (CTL) is a process that first gasifies coal, then turns that gas stream into an ultra-clean diesel or jet fuel using Fisher-Tropsch technology. That can potentially provide some new sources for diesel fuel in the U.S. Rentech and Sasol are both companies involved in that area. On the power side, if the need to sequester CO2 becomes great, then coal power plants in the U.S. would benefit by using Integrated Coal Gasification technology, where coal is gasified and then the gas stream is burned in a gas turbine to create power. By gasifying the coal, the CO2 can be taken off the process in elemental form (rather than going up the stack of a coal burning plant). Burning gas creates about half the CO2 output of burning coal, so capturing the excess CO2 in the conversion process makes a big difference. Then you have to do something with the CO2–either inject it into old oil fields to increase the ultimate recovery of oil in the reservoir, or sequester it for some other purpose. A company could potentially create a power plant that starts with coal, gasifies it, and not only produces power from the gas turbine, but that can divert some of that gas to create liquid fuels using the Fisher-Tropsch process. One company calls that a “polygeneration” plant and it might even start with some other biomass other than coal, since lots of different feedstocks can be gasified.

Do you think ethanol or other biofuels stand a good chance to serve as a short-term solution if and when oil producers are no longer able to meet world energy demand?

Well, I believe oil producers can meet demand, but the price at which they can do that is the real issue. I am not a big believer in current corn-based ethanol economics, and that is not a unique view. Ethanol from cellulosic material may have a chance, but that is years away and ethanol as a product still suffers from other issues (difficulty in pipeline transport, etc.). Given that diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline engines, we believe this is where we should start. If we produce bio-diesel or alternative diesel from other biomass, then every gallon we produce gets used more efficiently. Also, diesel doesn’t suffer many of the infrastructure issues that ethanol faces.

What advice do you have for college students who are interested in a career in the energy industry?

Work in the industry for a few years, network all you can, find what you are passionate about, and don’t be afraid to fail. Keep an open mind and don’t accept other people’s views (including mine!) as gospel. There is much to be done and in my opinion there is not a single more important sector to devote your mind to right now.

Thank you so much for spending the time to give your thoughts on these questions and share your experience in the energy industry with us, David! You can follow many of David’s personal thoughts and research at his blog, Dave’s Energy, which he co-writes with research professional Grant Fox.

Rajesh Setty is the popular author of the book Beyond Code: Learn To Distinguish Yourself In 9 Simple Steps and another of my absolute favorite bloggers, at Life Beyond Code. He is the president of Foresight Plus, a Silicon Valley management consulting firm that aims to give entrepreneurs a competitive advantage, as well as founder of the new online companies Suggestica and iPolipo. He has lived quite the motivated and successful life, not only as founder, president, and chairman of many companies, but also as an author, teacher, and public speaker.

With such an accomplished list of entrepreneurial pursuits, I thought Rajesh would make the perfect contender for my second business interview. He has had many successes and failures, and has a lot of solid knowledge to share from that experience. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet with him in person on my recent trip to Silicon Valley, and he was kind enough to let me interview him by email.

Rajesh, you are a founder, president, chairman, author, and blogger. Please tell us about the many business projects you are currently involved with.

Cody, first of all thank you for inviting me for this interview. Now, to answer your question, currently I am involved in five different companies. I will go with the latest one first:

  • iPolipo – I am one of the founders and serve as the executive chairman. We think that people want to spend more time “meeting” people rather than “scheduling those meetings” with them. We have a solution that will help in doing just that.
  • Suggestica – I am one of the founders and serve as the president. We think that there is a non-information overload on the web. By bringing trusted content, we not only hope to save time and money, we truly want to bring joy into people’s lives.
  • Compassites – This is a company in India and I serve on their board. Compassites is totally focused on helping entrepreneurs with their product development needs. Their claim to fame is that they can take an idea from concept to launch in record time.
  • Foresight Plus – This is a management consulting firm where I partner with some select businesses and individuals to bring them an unfair and sustainable competitive advantage. I am no longer accepting new clients with this business for the near future.
  • CIGNEX – I was one of the founders and served as the CEO for the first five years. While I am no longer operationally involved in the company, I help in some business development activities when appropriate.

I am involved in a few more projects but those are all in stealth mode. I am an entrepreneur at heart but I am also an author and a teacher. On the business side, I act as a catalyst to speed up multiple projects simultaneously. On the personal side, I love to help already high-performing people reach greater heights.

What sort of background do you come from? And what was your experience like living and working in different countries around the globe and finally coming to reside here in California?

I was born and brought up in Southern India. I come from a middle-class family. My father was a civil engineer working for the state government. That meant that we would move from one place to another place every few years. It seemed like a pain at that time but it taught us to adapt to new situations.

That family background helped me to adjust easily when I lived and worked in five different countries–India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and France. I am generally a happy person so I enjoyed living and working in all those countries. These experiences have helped me tremendously in the following ways:

  • Increased my respect for diversity: Every country was different and we had to get used to the diversity. Now, it is more fun than a problem.
  • Enhanced my ability to adapt: Each country was also different in terms of how we live and work and basically how to get things done.
  • Expanded my network globally: Relationships in different countries help tremendously with globalization in full force.

Where did you get your formal education and what did you study?

I completed my Bachelor of Engineering at Mysore University in India, in Electronics and Communication. Of course, I didn’t use much of what I studied in my engineering at my work.

Do you have a word of advice for college students and other young people who would like to become successful leaders or entrepreneurs?

I think every college student should try to pursue a life of leadership. If you are a college student, you can learn that by taking some initiative to do what I call “filling in the blanks.” Wherever you are, you can always find something that everyone thinks someone else will take care of–blanks–and rather than thinking that someone else will take care of it, you can take the initiative to take care of it. If you make this a habit, you would have laid a good foundation to become a leader.

Are there any specific skill sets that don’t get taught in school that are invaluable in the business world? What do you recommend to get over those hurdles?

This question is very interesting to me. There are many skills that are not taught in schools, but if you don’t learn them you are at a serious competitive disadvantage. It will take me a while to list all of them, but here are a few for starters:

  1. Building long-term relationships: Long-term relationships can be a huge competitive advantage just because of the sheer fact that it takes a long-time to build them. Everyone knows that, but the schools don’t teach it. You have to learn it on your own initiative.
  2. Improving your likability: When I tell people that likable people have an easier time getting ahead, people usually agree. When I tell people that unlikeable people have a hard time getting things done, people agree to that too. However, when I ask them if they have done anything in the last one year to improve their likability factor, they look at me as if I am from a different world. Likability is a key skill and you have to learn it on your own.
  3. Learning how to learn: Schools teach you stuff but rarely teach you the concept of “learning how to learn.” It is your responsibility to learn the best way to learn new things. Many of your current skills won’t help you to succeed in the future. So while you are delivering your current projects with your current skill sets, you have to also learn new skills. Unlike the times when you were a student, you have less time to learn a lot more. This means you have to learn how to learn.
  4. Leveraging your time: Every one of us has only 24 hours, but successful people get more out of those 24 hours. How can you too get more out of your time? For starters, start designing your activities to yield multiple rewards. For example: you come across a very interesting service on the web, you can see who among your friends will be interested in it and why. Remember that even if only two people are interested, the reasons for their interest may be different. Your job is to send both of them a note explaining the relevance of that service to them. This is an example that you are caring for what they care about.
  5. Building your personal brand: Every person has a personal brand, whether they like it or not. It is “who they are to the world.” So, you have a personal brand too. The real question therefore is: “Is your personal brand effective?” Like likability, personal brands provide a powerful shortcut to many things. It takes a while to build a powerful personal brand and it takes a lot of effort to maintain and grow it, but the rewards are long-term and sweet.

What values would you say have provided you with the greatest motivation to be continually successful? What do you care about most?

If I could pick one value, it would be the ability to touch the lives of people in a positive way. I like to have a magic touch–meaning when someone is already magical (high-performing), I would like to touch them!

As an entrepreneur and executive businessman, what experiences have left the most lasting impression or have been the most memorable in your work experience?

It is hard to single out any one experience during the last decade, Cody. However, every time I see a smile on one or more of our clients’ faces, I feel blessed that we were able to solve a problem for them or open up a significant opportunity with our products or services.

So, you’ve just unveiled your newest venture iPolipo just days ago. Please tell us all about it.

We launched iPolipo in the “controlled beta” mode on Monday, December 11. We hit 90% of our beta customer count by Friday of the same week. This was an overwhelmingly positive response for something that was built over the last one year.

iPolipo solves the everyday scheduling problem for business executives. It is common for two people to exchange multiple emails or voicemails to schedule one meeting. It is also frustrating to hold a particular slot on your calendar open waiting for a confirmation from the other party. iPolipo solves this problem by allowing people to share their free slots on the calendar effectively on the web.


And what motivated you to start writing? Tell us about some of your written work.

I started reading early. By the time I was nine, I must have read close to 700 books–mostly novels and other fiction. When I was nine, I had an idea–you can say a crazy idea–to write my own novel. At that age, you don’t have a lot of logic in your head. So I didn’t think much, but wrote a 200-page novel. My parents thought I was mentally ill, as it was odd for a 9-year old kid to write 200 pages of anything. But my craziness continued. I thought, “writing is the hard work; publishing should be easy.” I immediately took action and started searching for a publisher. Long story short, after more than a hundred rejections and four long years, I found a publisher to get my book published. After that there was no looking back, and I have thoroughly enjoyed writing since then.

I have so far got seven books published. Four novels, one collection of poems, one book on mathematics and my latest book Beyond Code (with a foreword by Tom Peters) is a management book that’s focus is to help people distinguish themselves to raise above the commodity crowd. I talk about 9 things that people can do to distinguish themselves. It is available in many major bookstores and almost all online bookstores like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and 800-CEO-READ.

What kind of readers do you write your blog Life Beyond Code for?

My blog is targeted at knowledge workers, entrepreneurs and ambitious students who want to get something more out of their lives. It started off as an extension to the book, but has taken a life of its own. I write on topics that range from how to get more out of your life, the art of leverage, distinguishing yourself, leadership, entrepreneurship and some occasional mini sagas (a mini saga is a story in exactly 50 words).

How do you think web 2.0 technology is changing the way we do business? Is this a positive trend?

Web 2.0, Software as a Service, Open Source or any other thing in and within itself cannot make a significant change. What we do with them is what is causing the change. I just received a business plan to look at where the entrepreneur had explained the business model something like this: “We have a web 2.0 application delivered as a Software as a Service model in the healthcare vertical.” I was sad because the idea should not be to create a buzzword-laden business plan. The underlying magic is the power of the business model and the power of execution. Both idea and the team are important and then comes the “how” part where web 2.0, open source and SaaS models come into play. Sometimes people tend to put the cart before the horse because of all the hype surrounding these buzzwords.

Describe your vision of the future of business. How do you think things might change on an international level, and how might businesses anticipate those changes?

All I know is that the rate of change that is happening at a global level is mind-boggling. I think nobody can cope with this change all on their own. Everyone needs help and whoever realizes this early and builds powerful configurations that can withstand the change can survive and thrive. There aren’t any sure-fire ways or practices that can help any organization to guarantee success. What I tell people is to constantly build the capacity to:

  • handle change
  • relentlessly innovate
  • read the markets
  • anticipate mid to long-term needs and start planning to create offerings before someone else does
  • execute better than the competition

Who do you think are 3 or 4 of the most authoritative experts in leadership, innovation, and business productivity currently, other than yourself?

Here are my current picks, in no particular order:




What one life tip would you like to leave us with, Rajesh?

Focus on ROII. ROII stands for Return On Investment for an Interaction. Everyone is busy and running around to take care of many of their concerns.
People say time is money, but most people really don’t mean it or at least they don’t behave as if time was money. In fact, they do something that is shocking–they treat money as if they can never get it back, and they squander time as if they can easily refill it at a gas station or something like that. In reality, we all know that time lost is gone forever and money invested in the right things will yield multiple returns. Imagine for a second that you did subscribe to the “time is money” philosophy. This would mean that when someone interacts with you, they are investing their time and that means they are investing money in you. Like any business person, they are interested in getting the right return on their investment (in this case, this happens to be time) and it is your duty to provide that return for them.

If you don’t care about providing a decent ROII, you become a liability for that person. Worse, if someone else who is in the same role provides a better ROII for the same job, you have a serious competitive disadvantage.

I wish to thank Rajesh so much for giving me a few hours of his time and sharing his valuable thoughts and experiences! As is fitting, he is the king of ensuring he delivers the highest return-on-investment to everyone he interacts with!

Rajesh Setty currently lives in Silicon Valley with his wife Kavitha and their son Sumukh. You can learn more about him on his website Life Beyond Code, or from his book Beyond Code.

Republished from a 2006 article I wrote for Prosper Magazine:

When Prosper Magazine asked me to take the lead on its student Perspectives event, I jumped at the chance to assemble a group of local students from UC Davis and Sacramento State to share their views with the local community.

The voice of the youth only transforms society very slowly, and is only taken seriously by some. But it is the voice of things to come.

So, when I was asked to step outside of my technical role as administrator and recruiter, and speak here about what issues I believe will shape the future, I thought back to a recent incident when an acquaintance accused the my generation of being lazy and apathetic to our education and to the world around us.

In a setting of “adults” who agreed with her, it was hard to argue my case.

But let me tell you why I believe we are slowly transforming society. And let me share why you should pay attention to this series about what issues we believe will shape the future.

I admit that our reliance on texting, instant messaging, online dictionaries, calculators, SparkNotes, Napster, YouTube, MySpace, and other resources can indeed lead to some laziness, but my generation — Generation Y or Millenials, as we are called — a generation which is currently becoming increasingly educated and entering the workforce — is not apathetic! My generation is simply utilizing technology and software to find new, and oftentimes more efficient, ways to solve the traditional problems that generations past have always had to solve.

I could tell you how the new millionaires are the 20- and 30-something programmers like Tom Anderson, Max Levchin, and Kevin Rose (see the recent issue of BusinessWeek). I could tell you how the internet is providing new ways for us to connect with each other through sites like MySpace, Facebook, and their business-oriented counterpart LinkedIn. I could tell you how I think we are slowly taking the corporate control out of consumerism with co-creation sites such as CafePress and I could talk about how blogs and podcasts are providing a new grassroots information outlet, and sites like Wikipedia, and are empowering the everyman to have a say in which information, and which news issues, are most important—one of my personal favorites. But I will focus on three examples that are making real differences in the world.

There are many blogs I read every day. Several that are influencing the direction of the worldwide web—Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo for news and politics, Lifehacker for productivity solutions, and PFblog and I Will Teach You To Be Rich for finance and money matters. Ramit Sethi is the aggressive Stanford grad blogger who claims to be able to teach you to be rich. I find his mission to be the most interesting—because he combines his online presence with real-life financial seminars he gives (often for free), but mostly because he targets college students! Through stories of his own entrepreneurial experience, smart financial deals, and wise saving habits, he is undoubtedly transforming the lives of his readers.

To quote one of my favorite songs by Faithless, “Inaction is a weapon of mass destruction.” While some of my classmates may tend to be physically inactive, spending their days on MySpace or playing Halo 2, inactivity does not equal inaction. I run my own weblog to get the word out about current issues I think will have an impact on our lives, and like me, there are many individuals across the globe using the internet and other technologies to promote social change. The net has supported many large ground-up social campaigns like Million Voices For Darfur, a campaign to send one million postcards to President Bush to ask Congress to support more aid to the genocide-stricken region in Sudan, started by the Save Darfur Coalition, which has spread like wildfire across the web and inspired several student-run groups like STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur), the Genocide Intervention Network, and Students Against Genocide.

Also in the business of changing the way society interacts, is a brand new service that I recently came across. Its mission is to provide a link between American capitalists and third-world working poor, harnessing a new concept called microfinance. In the words of the organization’s president, Premal Shah, the company aims to “allow individuals to make small loans to low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world. In this way, people like you can help provide affordable working capital for the world’s poor—money to buy a sewing machine, livestock, etc.—empowering them to start a business and earn their way out of poverty.” Amounts as little as $25 can make a significant difference for someone in the developing world. It is not an investment—more of a charitable contribution, with the goal not being financial return, just the repayment of the principal. But, by putting capabilities like this in the public arena like they never have been before, organizations like Kiva and Omidyar Network could truly reshape the landscape of international business and economics.

So, while many of us doze off, text message, play video games, or visit MySpace in class, remember that our methods of consumption, news aggregation, communication, and finance are slowly making an impact on the world—one which I hope will be positive as we slowly learn to take the reigns of society. The challenges that will face us in this endeavor are to make sure that the lines of communication stay as open as possible (see: Net Neutrality) and to make sure that truly cutting-edge ideas like the ones I’ve mentioned above get the proper amount of financial support (in the form of venture capital investment, charity, and philanthropy). And remember, as you read these student blogs, that you are witnessing the transformation in the way information is communicated.