It's amazing to be part of a team that works together and does so much more than any individual does
Today's entrepreneur is Esther Dyson.
In 2013 Esther co-founded Wellville - a national nonprofit project to demonstrate the value of investing in health - to generate real-world evidence by supporting multi-sector teams in five U.S. communities over 10 years. After this ambitious and lofty endeavor, she hopes to inspire other communities and promote national change.
Wellville supports its communities the way a business accelerator helps startups. Each Wellville community receives a dedicated advisor to help them develop strong leadership teams and implement approaches that are responsive to changing conditions. Most important, Esther's team helps Wellville communities demonstrate value to attract the kind of collaboration and investment needed to scale, spread and sustain impact over time.
Esther is also a leading angel investor. She focuses on breakthrough efficacy in healthcare, government transparency, digital technology, biotechnology, and space. Some of the companies she invested in are Supportiv, 23andMe, Eventful.com, Meetup Inc., Square, Evernote, Omada Health, Health Loop, GridPoint, Factual and EPAM Systems. She is an active board member at a variety of startups. You can see a full list here.
Prior to Wellville, Esther focused in analyzing the effect of emerging technologies and markets on economies and societies at EDventure and is still is the chairman of the company. Her primary activity there is investing in and nurturing startups, with a recent focus on health care, human capital and aerospace.
Esther has a BA degree in economics from Harvard University.
Learn more about Ether's entrepreneur journey below.
Companies I've founded or co-founded: Wellville (a nonprofit)
Companies I work or worked for: EDventure Holdings (which I bought in 1982 from founder Ben Rosen, was chairman for 25 years until selling it to CNET), Forbes Magazine - fact-checker/reporter, 1974-77, New Court Securities as an analyst, worked closely with my first startup, Federal Express
Achievements (products built, personal awards won): Ran PC Forum - EDventure's annual conference - and edited its newsletter Release 1.0 for 25 years. Wrote the book Release 2.0: A design for living in the digital age in 1996 - bestseller published by Broadway Books, in ~20 languages. Spent six months training as a backup cosmonaut in Star City outside Moscow, Oct 2008-March 2009
If you are an entrepreneur, why? Started Wellville to get people/policy makers to invest in health rather than rent it.
Why did you start your current company? Because I started asking the simple question: Why do we spend so much time and money treating people who are sick (often ineffectively), when we could instead do a much better job of helping them stay healthy in the first place? What conditions can foster physical resilience and mental health?
What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?
Frustrating: You know all the right answers (just kidding!) but somehow it's hard to implement them.
Rewarding: It's so amazing to be part of a team that works together effectively and does so much more than any of us could do individually.
What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs make? There are so many different ways to go astray. One is to be obsessed with being a CEO or entrepreneur in the first place, vs. the mission you are trying to accomplish.
What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?
- Always make new mistakes!
- [If you are lucky enough] Do only things you would gladly do for free, but try to get paid for them anyway.
- Listen to others; you may learn something!
- Communication is not about sending a message; it's about making sure it's delivered in a form that can be understood by the recipient.
Are you actually an entrepreneur? No, I'm entrepreneurial, perhaps, but I'm not that interested in having my own company. At both EDventure and Wellville, we have/had CEOs who actually run the organization, which has left me free to do the fun stuff. Many people get addicted to the notion of exponential growth, CEO hagiography and lots of other Silicon Valley delusions. I'm interested in being useful, long-term.