At the end of my sophomore year of high school, perhaps the most influential teacher I had during those 4 years left us with this gem: “Learn from everyone you meet.”
Now, let’s be clear. This landed in my lap at the ripe age of 16. So the magnitude of a simple phrase like that may have been totally lost on me had I not had the rest of the summer as a caddy to chew on something much bigger than myself. I figured I had a captive audience for 4+ hours, and everyone’s got a story, so why not ask about what makes them, them?
Out of nowhere, the laughs and nuggets of wisdom started popping up more frequently across 18 holes, members started requesting me to carry their bag, and the tips started to grow. Unintended consequences are a funny thing!
Around the same time, a friend and I decided to solve a problem of our own and build what we would now term a peer-to-peer marketplace. Neither of us had any real idea what to do, so we trusted our guts and simply listened to our customers to decide what to build. A month after getting written up in Wired, a mind-blowing moment for a couple of nerdy high school kids, we sold the business for the price of a mediocre used car.
Since that first “exit,” I’ve had the privilege of working alongside incredible founders and brilliant minds between the Chicago and Colorado startup ecosystems. The coffee meetings and happy hours offered something fundamental that we all seek as humans: community.
I’ve come to understand a few things about community over the last decade:
1. That a good introduction brings me joy, and brings the recipients lead investors, new hires, partnerships, and most importantly, friendship.
2. That you don’t have to be technical or an expert or have gone to the right school to “make it” in the startup ecosystem. Being curious, open to new ideas, and welcoming to new folks is just as vital.
3. That my sophomore English teacher would be pretty proud of the non-linear pathway I’ve taken in life thanks to his parting advice.
That same wisdom imparted on me almost 2 decades ago stands true today, and is rooted in Drive’s belief that you can build an amazing company anywhere with any background.
This is a team, and a portfolio, of learners who see the power of community wherever it may exist, and I couldn’t be happier to plant a flag in Denver on behalf of Drive.