Adam Draper, moderator of the recent VLAB event on Young Entrepreneurs, had his work cut out for him. We may as well call him “Wrangler.” His panelists, through sheer force of personality, turned a collaborative Q and A into a Gen Y style debate. Or perhaps spirited and civil “battle of wits” would be more apt.

What makes a discussion “Gen Y style”?
I’m not referring to the panelist’s attire, which was, in fact, very Gen Y. Rather, I’m talking about etiquette. In “Boomer style” presidential debates, participants loudly vie for ideological superiority. The strongest voice wins. Last Tuesday, however, the group dynamic adhered more closely to the ancient Chinese proverb, “The loudest duck gets shot.”

Gen Y discussion rules:
Don’t act like you’re an authority. Don’t make universal statements. Assume that the truths espoused by others are at least as valid as your own. Keep calm, and DON’T explicitly assert your ideology.

Game Closure’s CEO Michael Carter garnered remarkable experience through remarkable achievements. He’s not afraid to distill and share his lessons. We’ll call him the “Practical Philosopher.” He often quacked the loudest.

The Practical Philosopher committed the Gen Y sin of stating his wisdom in the imperative. I.e., “Do this; don’t do that.”
[The author of this article actually prefers Carter’s method and also belongs to Gen Y.]

He radically claims that he could have predicted Snapchat’s success, and the panelists decided to shoot the duck. Only the Wrangler could draw them back on track.

With Gen Y, the most socially acceptable way to share insight, wisdom, and learning is to cleverly disguise your imperatives using stories. “It happened this way… not that you should do what I do or think how I think.”

James Tamplin of Firebase briefly quacked the loudest when he said that people regard Y-Combinator as the best incubator in the world. Lively, entertaining, and insightful debate ensued. Once again, Wrangler herded the team around.


But the panel provided much more than a glimpse of generational peculiarities. I’ll highlight two particularly inspiring undercurrents from the evening.

First, each panelist drew inspiration from their own needs and passions.

Lat Ware of Crooked Tree Studios, dreamt of becoming a Jedi (haven’t we all?). His dream evolved into the search for an immersive gaming experience. More recently, he decided to create his own. We’ll call him the “Futurist Gamer.”

Melody McCloskey of StyleSeat drew inspiration from the age old question, “Where on earth can I find a good stylist?” She got fed up, and recognized she wasn’t alone. So she started a business to solve her frustration. For her determination to end mass stylistic confusion, she deserves the appellate “Pragmatic Idealist.”

James Tamplin wanted to create an amazing workplace – one he couldn’t find anywhere else. His quest for collaboration betrays a passion for teamwork, and perhaps for inclusivity. For his desire to build a team-focused company, he’s the “Thoughtful Architect.”

One day, Marcus Weller found himself lying on the pavement. He’d experienced a run-in with a car; he was on a motorcycle. Later on he dreamt of the scene, but in the dream there was no accident. Weller wore a helmet with a heads-up display that alerted him of danger. He swerved, missed the car, and woke up. After searching for such a product, he decided, “If I was gonna have it, I was going to have to build it.”

And a second undercurrent: each panelist, the moderator included, demonstrated indomitable determination. They exuded the will to persevere, succeed, and make something better than the rest.

Weller: “If [the helmet] had already existed, we would have built a better one.”

Tamplin: “I wanted to be an entrepreneur to make a really big impact on the world.”

McCloskey: “The fear of not starting [StyleSeat]… was more fearful than the fear [of taking the leap.]”

Carter: “Why does the world work the way it does? And should we make a change? Why not?”

And Draper, the Wrangler, wants to build an Iron Man suit. I think he’s serious, too.

The full list of January 21 VLAB panelists: 

Michael Carter, CEO at Game Closure, raised $12M to tackle the hardest problems in mobile gaming and is recognized by W3C for his initial design of the HTML5 WebSocket real-time technology that is used in all modern web browsers.

Melody McCloskey, CEO at Style Seat, a woman entrepreneur recognized in 2010 by Business Insider as a Silicon Valley 100.

James Tamplin, CEO & Co-Founder at Firebase, a co-founder of a realtime application platform that allows developers to synchronize data instantaneously.

Lat Ware, Founder at Crooked Tree Studios, a game developer who successfully launched a game with telekinesis like powers on Kickstarter.

Marcus Weller, Ph.D., CEO & Chairman of Skully Helmets, the CEO of a heads-up display motorcycle helmet which won the coveted DEMO God award at their 2013 launch.

(Written by Eric McClellanVLAB Marketing Committee Blogger. Eric coaches start-ups in UX design and external communications.)


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