This morning I attended a talk given by Reid Hoffman to a packed audience at the MIT Media Lab.  The title of the lecture was How to Benefit 100 Million People.  That’s a lot of people, but if anyone could do it, it would be Reid Hoffman.  If you don’t know his name, I guarantee you have heard of the companies that he’s involved with.  While an executive at PayPal, he co-founded Linkedin.  He’s an angel investor in Facebook, Zynga, Digg, and Flickr among others.  Now, he is a partner at Greylock Partners.  Not a bad resume if you ask me.

I have to admit that I don’t know exactly why I decided to attend.  I like Linkedin, and am on it almost every day.  I guess I thought it might be interesting (and inspiring) to hear one of America’s great entrepreneurs speak about the importance of having a “public intellectual culture”, what makes a good entrepreneur, the importance of collaboration in business, and “persistence flexibility”.  I am very glad I took the time.

Some of what I took away from the lecture:

1.)  The impetus for starting Linkedin was Reid’s desire to create a “public intellectual culture”.  Linkedin was developed from a desire to get millions of people to come together, interact, and improve lives individually and collectively. To do that, he created a human ecosystem on-line.  (What a way to describe your company.)

2.)  The world is changing at an alarming rate.  Adaptability is the key trait of the entrepreneur.

3.)  “The vast majority of work is collaborative, and yet very little you do as an undergraduate is.”

4.)  Entrepreneurs act.  MBAs build credentials.  (He’s not a fan of MBAs.)

5.)  I don’t think he’s a fan of software patents either, a sentiment shared by many in the crowd.  He believes that the patent system is outmoded, outdated and needs to be overhauled.  He recognizes that patents have value (Linkedin has a decent portfolio) and changing the system would be difficult.  He did not offer a solution.  (I’m not sure he knows about the current legislation pending in Congress that would overhaul the US patent system.)

This is the type of lecture I would never have attended when I was working in-house.  If it didn’t directly affect my job, I wouldn’t have bothered.  How unfortunate.  I must have missed a lot of great lectures.

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