2015 commencement speech @USCViterbi – USC engineering


recently i had the honor of delivering the commencement speech to the students graduating from the usc viterbi school of engineering in 2015. this was a momentous day for the students – and the fact that it rained in southern california during their comments only made it that much more novel 🙂


complacency is the enemy of achievement – so get comfortable being uncomfortable

  • seek mentors to help you navigate through uncomfortable situations
    • in general, people want to help and pay it forward.
  • spend time with and talk with non-engineers. build understanding and empathy of others that are not like you
    • as a ceo of composite software, i built empathy around the challenges of sales and the importance of understanding the difference in a sales culture vs eng culture.
  • seek diverse perspectives – unlearn what you have learned
    • building a mobile operating system (webOS) is very different that rebuilding an online service like twitter
  • keep building regardless of your age or experience – once a builder – always a builder
    • i always have had a side project that i am building…

your biggest risk is pursuing a journey whereby you are too comfortable

thanks for listening!

kpcb fellows 2015 – learn by doing


i loved my time in school but it wasn’t until i left graduate school at the university of washington that my real education began (beyond having learned how to learn). looking back at it, i’ve had a great career founding and then selling my own company, working on microsoft’s early cloud-computing efforts, leading software development of webOS at Palm, then engineering at Twitter, and now, investing and advising young start-ups. in each and every experience, i made mistakes, fixed them, and made some more. i may have even notched a few wins along the way.

in school, we are often taught how to find solutions to problems. but in the “real world,” no one’s there to walk you through a problem step by step. my experiences allowed me to carve my own path and figure out solutions on my own. the best education that I ever received was outside of the classroom. i can recall working at SRI for Carol Green (head o toxicology) doing informatics works on human liver enzymes – and having to figure out, on my own, the right approach and attributes that we would need to analyze to get the information that we would need to report a result that would impact the research in the area (if interesting). beyond the specific experience, dr. green provided guidance professionally that I still apply to this day – “try again, we will eventually figure this out”.

that’s what i like about the KPCB Fellows Program: it gives students a chance to experience working in the real world and more importantly, at a fast-paced startup in silicon valley for the summer.  this is the fourth year that KPCB has sponsored students interested in engineering, design and product management at some of the hottest start-ups around. this summer we’ve matched our fellows to companies like Uber, Flipboard, Nest, Betterworks, Spruce, Jawbone and Square. last summer, i watched as our fellows built relationships with my partners, learned from executives at the companies they worked at, contributed to world-changing products, and had fun while doing it. after the program, our fellows have gone on to work for our companies full-time or as interns, leaped over to other functional areas, moved over to venture investing, joined notable big tech firms, and even started companies themselves. these students are silicon valley’s next generation of leaders and innovators.

this year, we received more than 2,500 applications from hundreds of the top engineering, design and MBA programs. what makes our program special is the exceptional talent we attract from all over the country. our 2015 class is made up of individuals from Harvard, RISD, Carleton College, CU Boulder, University of Washington, CalTech, Marist College, Arizona State, Bryn Mawr, NYU’s ITP program and more. we’ve seen interest grow every year for engineering fellowships as industry demand for engineering talent increases. we’ve also seen rising interest in design and product management, part of the emerging trend of designing easy-to-use technology for the masses. and this is why I am excited to welcome our 2015 class of fellows to the kpcb family.  welcome to ground zero for changing the world.