Last year, on November 11th I joined Google.org. Exactly 90 days later I quit.
My plan for 2014 was to take some time off and focus on the things I love doing most - which is the magic which happens at the intersection of entrepreneurship, technology and impact.
I founded/co-founded two non-profits: POWERUP and The Coaching Fellowship. I did a ton of public speaking and mentored a whole bunch of entrepreneurs. I spent a week in Boulder, CO, working with the incredible Unreasonable Institute. I worked with a couple of very large companies on their innovation strategy. I became an executive coach working with some of the most inspiring individuals I’ve ever met.
And then everything changed.
This morning I had the great pleasure and honor to hold the closing keynote at the Symposium Oeconomicum in Münster, Germany.
The theme of the day was “the leap into the unknown”. The organizers asked me to wrap up the day with an inspiring message. And what better way to send off 600 students, than to talk about happiness?
Here’s the video:
We are living in incredible times. Incredibly scary and incredibly exciting: On one hand we face issues such as three billion people living in poverty, 2.5 billion people without access to sanitation and 800 million people who don’t have access to clean drinking water. On the other hand we experience innovation happening at an ever increasing pace, allowing us to touch more people in less time. There are now seven billion mobile phone connections on a planet with 7.1 billion people; we grow human tissue in a petri dish; we program DNA and 3D print complete houses out of concrete in less than 24 hours.
The American psychologist Abraham Maslow (who created the famous “hierarchy of needs”) once said: “Everyone I know who is happy is working well at something they consider important.”
A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at the World Business Dialogue in Cologne, Germany on “Tech for Good”.
As part of my speech I prepared speaking notes for the deck I was using. Below you’ll find the raw notes – this is the completely unedited version I wrote to prepare myself for the speech a day before the event itself.
I figured it might be fun to get a peek into the ugly underbelly of making a public speech.
This is one of the most inspired moments in the history of athletics: Roger Bannister crossing the finish line on 6 May 1954 during a meet between British AAA and Oxford University at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, United Kingdom, where he became the first human to run the mile in less than four minutes. An extraordinary achievement which was, at the time, considered impossible. Seeing the picture of Roger crossing the line gives me goose bumps. Each and every time. This picture evokes so many emotions in me - in a lot of ways it’s the perfect capture of the perfect moment.
Earlier this month I was asked to present my thoughts and observations on “Technology Trends” in front of a group of Dutch business leaders. A lot of my thinking these days circles around the notion of “exponential growth” and the disruptive forces which come with this (full credit goes to Singularity University for putting these ideas into my head) and the notion of “ambient/ubiquitous computing” (full credit to my former colleague and friend Allen Wirfs-Brock).
A lot has been written about Mozilla in these last few weeks. Some of it is thoughtful, thought-provoking, heartfelt, helpful and necessary. Some of it is politically charged and sometimes factually plain wrong.
I have a hard time reconsolidating all that has been done, happened, said or not said over the last two weeks. I spent more time at Mozilla than at any other organization; I met some of the most brilliant people there; some of my best friends are or were there. I had the great fortune to spend my last year at Mozilla working directly with Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s co-founder and chairperson.
A few weeks ago I attended the World Business Dialogue 2014 in Cologne, Germany where the organizers asked me to write an essay about how I see the world in 20 years from now for a book they published. Here it is.
The last 20 years in technology have been dominated by Moore’s Law: Intel’s cofounder Gordon E. Moore predicted in 1965 that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. In essence: Computers get twice as fast every two years.
According to Seed-DB, the excellent source of data for technology incubators and accelerators, the 191 programs they track worldwide have accelerated 3,284 companies (that’s 17 companies per incubator/accelerator). These companies received an impressive total of $3,883,835,645 in funding (about $1.1m of funding per company on average) and created 13,076 jobs in the process (which comes down to four (!) jobs per company).
This is precisely why incubators are broken (from a societal perspective) - We simply need more jobs. The World Development Report 2013 published by the World Bank, states that we need to create 600 million new jobs in the next 15 years to sustain current employment rates. 13,076 jobs, created at a cost of nearly $300,000 per job just doesn’t cut it.
I strongly believe that we need an entrepreneurship revolution to solve the large societal problems we face. And I see a lot of people talking about incubators and accelerators as a fundamental piece to this puzzle. And yet - current thinking clearly doesn’t get us there. 13,076 jobs are not even a drop into the ocean.
I quit my job at Google.
Over the last couple of months it became increasingly clear to me that I need to be deep in the trenches of entrepreneurship. That I care too much about founders, startups and ecosystems that I can do anything else. That I need to be where the action is.
In my blood.
A few weeks ago I had the incredible fortune to be on stage with Mike Watt, punk rock legend, founding member of bands such as Minutemen, Dos and fIREHOSE, bassist for the Stooges (Iggy Pop’s band). You get the idea – the man is a true legend.
My dear friends at CASH Music, a non-profit which builds tools which allow musicians to represent themselves on the web, organized one of their amazing Summits; this one was in LA and it had me on stage with Mike talking about punk rock, open source and everything in-between. It was epic. Here’s the video:
FEPIC is to epic what fugly is to ugly – fucking epic!
And that’s how I feel today.
Two short weeks ago I publicly announced my departure from Mozilla. I’ve been with Mozilla for five years, I had an amazing time there, I am incredibly blessed to have had the chance to work with some of the smartest people in the industry and on projects which were just wicked fun. And over those five years I did a lot of introspection – which led me to realize that I am happiest when I can operate in the triangle between entrepreneurship, technology and global impact. Heck, I even drew a Venn diagram for one of the presentations I give regularly.
Through my work with the Unreasonable Institute, Unreasonable at Sea, Mentor for Good and many, many interactions I had with people in the global impact space it became clear that this is what I need to do next.
And so I do.
Tomorrow, November 11th (coincidentally also the start of the carnival season in my hometown Cologne!) I will join Google Giving.
When I first saw the job spec for this role my mind started racing: It literally read as if I would have written that spec for myself. It’s a small and incredible talented team with amazing resources, a massive platform and a huge mandate.
I can’t wait to get my feet wet and see what we can do. This is going to be of truly FEPIC PROPORTIONS. :)
Just want to share this with you – Yesterday I sent the following email to my dear colleagues at Mozilla:
Subject: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish // A Personal Update
After five wonderful years at Mozilla the time has come for me to leave the mothership, follow my calling and dance in the moment by combining my passions for entrepreneurship, technology and global impact.
It has been an incredible time, a great adventure and an unforgettable journey. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank all of you for making, keeping and continuously evolving Mozilla – a truly unique place.
I am eternally grateful to have had the chance to work with and more importantly learn from some of the most inspiring, most passionate and smartest people in the industry, including the original Labs team (Anant, Atul, Aza, Ben A, Ben G and Dion A (they only come in a pair), Brian, Dan M, Dan W, Ed, Jinghua, Joe, Jono, Kevin, Lloyd, Mike, Myk, Ragavan, Sean, Suneel, Toby, Zandr), the incredible WebFWD crew (Diane & Didem), the Identity gang (sorry guys - you’re too many to list) and the awesome #MozSummit crew (you know who you are! #amazing #hashtag #<3).
Thank you. You make this place special.
In addition to working with these wicked smart people I must have won the boss-lottery – having had four of the most amazing people as my bosses: Chris, John, Todd and Mitchell.
Thank you. You believed in me and taught me so, so much.
Not to forget my fellow LEADers from cohort one and Athena & Kate.
I love you guys! You made me grow.
And it’s not only the people I worked with directly – it’s all of you.
You are just incredible!
And yet – as so often in life: Good things have come to an end eventually. So let me leave you with a quote from Alan Watts – may it serve you well on your journey:
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!
Stay in touch! [email protected] // Facebook // LinkedIn // Twitter // Homepage
Oh - and as someone much wiser than I said before: “Farewell, but not goodbye!” I am working with Mitchell and others on very concrete ways to stay involved. More on that soon.
With deep admiration, Pascal
P.S. I will stay around for a tiny bit longer - my last day in the office will be Thursday, Oct 31st when I will leave for a short trip during which I will be available on email and phone. Officially my last day will be Friday, November 8th.
P.P.S. If the suspension is about to kill you and you just need to know what I will be doing next… This.
Truly a must-watch:
In the current edition of the ISPIM Magazine (a magazine for innovation practitioners) you will find an article from yours truly on “Design for Participation”.
Head over to the ISPIM website and read the article online.