HIGH POINT, N.C., Jan. 20, 2016 – The art of the possible is for everyone.
Strong words, but even stronger when validated by Biz Stone, the young co-founder of Twitter who came from humble beginnings and turned himself into a Silicon Valley leader.
In a conversation led today by Dr. Nido Qubein, HPU president, with 600 people in attendance, the two discussed lessons from Stone’s past, his ideas for the future and ways entrepreneurs can make the leap from idea to reality.
Growing up, Stone came from a poor family and had no father figure, and yet he went on to build several start-ups throughout his life. Twitter remains the most well-known, while Jelly is his current focus.
“You are young and successful and we have young college students here, and I want them to know that the art of the possible is for all,” Qubein said.
“I always say, if I had to offer just one piece of advice, it’s to have an emotional investment,” Stone responded. “If you’re emotionally invested, love what you’re doing and want to see it in the world, you don’t hear the criticism about what you’re doing… It becomes like water off a duck’s back.”
The criticism, Stone said, came from several places when he first launched Twitter, including a prominent blogger who called it “the Seinfeld of the Internet – a website about nothing.”
“I thought, Seinfeld is a great show. This is a compliment!” Stone said. “That’s what you need – a hallucinogenic optimism about what you’re doing. A little crazy, soaring idealism and optimism. A belief that it’s going to work.”
Much of Stone’s fundamental beliefs were derived from challenges in his childhood.
“In your book, you write, ‘Opportunity is manufactured,’” Qubein said. “That’s a beautiful statement. In other words, it doesn’t come to you; you go to it.”
Stone said starting a lacrosse team at his high school taught him that. He didn’t have a father to teach him what the lines on a basketball court or football field meant, and he knew he likely wouldn’t make those teams. But no one in his high school knew much about lacrosse. So he learned everything about the sport, started the team and became captain.
“I created the circumstances for the opportunity, so I was first in line to take the opportunity,” Stone said. “We don’t have to wait for it. We create it.”
After the presentation, Stone spent time with communication and entrepreneurship students in Cottrell Hall.
“Biz grew up in a difficult situation, and I love how he took that motivation and used it to push him and propel him forward,” said Joshua Caudle, HPU sophomore. “It is a humbling experience to hear someone like that speak. It was motivational for me because it lets me know that success isn’t immediate; it is gradual, just like everything else in life. It also lets me know that all of the hard work I am putting in now will pay off.”
“One of the best parts about HPU is having access to innovators,” said Mandy Engelman, freshman at HPU. “Just to hear someone who has been in our shoes and wanted to create something when he was our age is great. I want to end up in his position where I create a company that impacts so many people’s lives positively, so getting his advice is huge for me.”