Propelify Innovation Festival
Help Spread The Word

10 Questions with David S. Kidder

INSPIRATION

WHO IS YOUR HERO AND WHY?

In the enterprise world, it’s Beth Comstock at GE. She’s an enterprise hero on a lot of levels. In the Startup world, I think Reid Hoffman. He’s amazing- as a person, as a human, as a thinker. I think he is a hero. In world of non-profit or social good, it’s Scott Harrison of Charity Water.

There’s a famous saying by Hyrum W. Smith that says “ when your daily actions are in concert with your highest purpose, you have a credible claim to inner peace.” I think Scott is a perfect manifestation of that, in one’s life, to me. I think he is the perfect embodiment of the grit, skill and purpose in someone’s life and work that leads to changing the world. I think he’s someone that lives that out, and I would strive in my own life to be as good as he is at that.

WHAT’S OUT THERE INSPIRING YOU RIGHT NOW?

Tony Hsieh. He’s so daring…he’s intellectually huge, he’s always looking for a better way, and he’s not a afraid to blow up what he has. I guess you could put Bezos in the same category, but smaller companies are harder to take bigger bets with because they do fewer things and the risk is higher vs when things are truly diversified. I think he’s someone who is not diversified and is still betting it all. He’s a very special example of that.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF A GOAL IS WORTH ACHIEVING?

You have to answer the question of “how big is the problem”? If it’s a big problem in the world, (and it’s actually true), then it’s worth solving. It’s worth solving for YOU if you have a giftedness and an unfair advantage to go and do it. Mark Cuban always says never follow your passion, follow your effort. The way to look at that is when every 10 hours feels like 1 hour, you’re kind of getting close to that. I personally have the best job in the world, I am absolutely born and love to do what I do. So it’s not work.

EDUCATION

WHAT DOES YOUR MEDIA DIET LOOK LIKE RECENTLY?

I’m finishing Adam Grant’s book, Originals. It’s fantastic. Amazing book. Also just finished General McCrystal’s book Team of Teams, which is how to move from a “command and control” CEO to what he refers to as a “gardener” CEO; how you empower teams to make independent decisions and create a shared consciousness around purpose. That’s incredibly important, and I think it’s a fantastic book. On the diet side, I’m really quite addicted to Business Insider. It’s what I read for at least an hour or two a day- in real time. I’m on it all the time. That’s where I get my core content from, I have other types of readers, but that’s the primary one.

WHAT’S THE MOST ACTIONABLE ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

Two things. One is “Wishful thinking is the enemy”, from Elon Musk. You can be pathologically optimistic about your business and get yourself in a lot of trouble. Wishful thinking is a really good filter for “am I crossing my fingers” and if I am, that’s where my risk is.

Secondly…Solve Problems that you have a proprietary gift in solving, from Reid Hoffman. This typically leads or unlocks to an unfair advantage in your life and in the life of the customer, in solving that problem, that leads to extraordinary impact on people in the world, and I think that’s a great way to spend our life.

(Note: Reid Hoffman wrote the forward to David’s hit The Startup Playbook.)

WHAT CAN PEOPLE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE 2016 PROPELLER INNOVATION FESTIVAL THAT THEY WON’T GET ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD?

Radical candor and humility.

I’ve gone through successful exits, and I’ve gone through soul crushing failure. If you ask an entrepreneur what percent of success is good fortune and timing, they’ll all say around 80%. I understand that a lot of those factors drive this, and while you have to “work hard and create your own luck”, things can go for you and against you for a lot of reasons. I’m very intellectually honest about all of it.

I think for entrepreneurs that need to move beyond “success theatre”, it’s really important to have relationships where the candidness of that relationship allows you to be truly intellectually honest, and I’d say I’m probably really safe to do that with in the journey of building companies.

FUN

DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW FAVORITE APPS, HARDWARE, GADGETS OR TOYS?

I have all the Amazon Echo series now- the small, medium and large version- in my home and office. I love it.

May favorite app right now is Bands in Town. It pulls up your music preferences and shows you all the live events on a nightly basis, wherever you are. I travel a lot, so it’s always interesting to see what’s available in the live music world. I’m not a huge live music person, but I’m moving towards that, because experiences matter a lot, so I love this app and what a pain killer it is. It’s a lot of fun. It’s sort of impulsive, impromptu experiences that surface in your life based on things that you actually like. Those are typically painful to find, and this basically spoon feeds it to you, which is great.

SOME PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF CROSSING THE RIVER… WHY SHOULD PEOPLE FROM NEW YORK MAKE THE TRIP TO JERSEY FOR THE FESTIVAL?

It’s a big place, and a lot of brilliant people live there. There’s a lot of joint cognition between the two locations that a bridge separates, and probably shouldn’t.

THERE’S GOING TO BE LOTS OF HIGH-FIVES AT THE FESTIVAL… WHAT MAKES A GOOD HIGH FIVE?

When you have entrepreneurs who have obsessions, are advantaged in solving problems, and they have novel solutions that are getting traction and showing evidence that they are actually commercially true, I think those moments are high-five-able.

When people are living out their obsession and they are actually making an impact, that’s a great intersection for a high five.

AN ASK FOR THE AUDIENCE?

What are the lenses you have, and the criteria you use, to select the ideas that you are willing to bet your life on?

How are you getting to that decision?

How do you know?

Tweet David your answers: @davidskidder

Use Hashtag: #letspropel

Propeller Media and PropellerFest are not associated with Propeller Industries, LLC. PropellerFest is now Propelify.

About the Author Anthony Idi