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Dyslexic Advantage - Venture Capitalist Scott Sandell at the Conference on Dyslexia and Innovation

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    [Dr. Brock Eide] I want to introduce our
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    first invited speaker of the night, Scott
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    Sandell. Scott is a general partner of
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    NEA, a venture capital firm, the largest
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    venture capital firm in Silicon Valley I
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    believe. Scott is going to come and share
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    some of his thoughts on being a Dyslexic
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    adult.
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    [Scott Sandell] The reason that I came is
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    that I feel like my journey is one of very
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    small odds. I am going to tell you a little
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    bit about a different journey, which is
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    that of my daughter Anna who is sitting
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    over here, who I think faces very different
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    odds, because when she was in second
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    grade, after a lot of work from her
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    incredible mother...which, maybe, two and
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    one half years it took to diagnose she was
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    Dyslexic. But in the moment in which that
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    happened, which took place about 6 weeks
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    into the second grade, we were sitting with
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    her teacher, Annie Woodbridge...and I asked
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    Annie a really simple question. I said,
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    Annie, what are the chances that you are
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    going to recommend that Anna go on to
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    third grade in this school? And she
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    answered me instantly, "I'm not going to
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    do that. Anna would not make it in 3rd
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    grade in this school." In that instant,
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    it became clear to me. Well, I asked her
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    why, and she said, "Because she is not
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    learning how to read. In second grade you
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    have to learn how to read because in 3rd
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    grade, you have to know how to read in
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    order to learn. " When she said that, in
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    an instant I realized what had happened
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    to me. I mean, we had started to suspect
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    that Anna was Dyslexic, but we really
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    didn't know. I certainly didn't know that
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    I was Dyslexic. But I remembered one really
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    profound experience which happened when I
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    was 26. When I was 26 my parents were
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    moving out of their house, the house I'd
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    grown up in, and I went home for the
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    weekend to collect some things, the last
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    little remnants of childhood, and one of
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    those was a box. My mother sat me down
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    at the box. She said, "I want to go through
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    the box with you." And I said, mom, I'm in
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    a hurry...okay, I'll just take the box with
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    me. I'll go through the box later. She
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    said, "No, no, no, no...I have to sit with
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    you when you go through this box." I said,
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    okay mom. So we started going through the
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    box, and the box is a collection of report
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    cards and little odds and ends that my
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    mother had collected along the way. Maybe
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    your mothers had a similar box. And I
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    remembered creative play school, which
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    was preschool. It was a wonderful place.
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    I remembered Mrs. Eggler, I remembered
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    where we went to school. One of the
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    favorite years of my life. And then we got
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    into the public school system, and I
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    remembered more difficult years, but I
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    remembered Kindergarten. I remembered
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    first grade. I remembered second grade.
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    I remembered all the teachers, and when I
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    read the report card and the things they
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    had to say, it all came back to me. And
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    then we got to the report card for third
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    grade. And I looked at it, and the first
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    thing I realized was I didn't remember
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    the teachers name. My mother was sort of
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    holding my knee at this point, and she
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    said, "This was a difficult year for you."
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    And I started reading the report card.
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    And it basically read like blasphemy. The
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    comments were so terrible, and I read
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    through them a couple of times. I couldn't
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    actually believe that anyone would ever
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    say anything like this about me. And I
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    realized I not only had no recollection of
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    this teacher, or her comments. I had no
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    recollection of third grade. The entire
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    year. Nothing about it, to this day, I
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    cannot remember anything about 3rd grade.
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    It's just gone. And at the end of that, my
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    mother said, "You know, your father and I
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    didn't think that teacher liked you very
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    much." [laughter]"But, we thought you
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    were a smart kid, and you were working
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    hard, and so we went to the principal and
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    we told the principal that we thought..."
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    She, of course, failed me, by the way...I
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    failed spectacularly. My parents
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    recommended I go on to 4th grade, be
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    given a chance, just to see if it would
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    work because their theory was, this was a
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    bad teacher. So, in fourth grade--I didn't
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    fail fourth grade, and I remember 4th
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    grade. I remember a lot of things about
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    4th grade, and 5th grade, and all the other
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    grades since then. Slowly, but surely I
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    crawled out of the special education class
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    that I was already in, in second grade.
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    And in 6th grade, I had a really
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    inspirational teacher, Mr. Littlefield,
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    that I remember well. He inspired me to
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    do really well in Social Studies, I think
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    it was called. Then, in 7th grade I had a
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    math teacher who got me interested in Math.
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    Eighth grade, I had my most proud
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    accomplishment. It's sort of ironic, I now
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    realize because I didn't know I was
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    Dyslexic, then. But, I took a mandatory
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    class called 'Reading'. Now, you would
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    think that is not exactly suited to
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    Dyslexics, and it wasn't well suited to me.
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    But I worked really, really hard at it.
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    And I got the highest grade ever achieved
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    by anyone in the class. [applause from
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    audience] So...that's my proudest moment
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    in academia. A lot of other things
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    fortunately came easier to me. What I
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    noticed was that, as school became more
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    complicated, or the things that we studied
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    became more complicated, I started to be
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    able to understand them first, sort of at
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    pace with other students, and then, faster
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    than other students. So, I started to
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    excel. I demanded of my mother... we had
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    been placed in a tiering system in the
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    school, and so I was placed on a low rung.
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    But I didn't like that very much, and I
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    insisted that my mother
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    take me to the principal every year and
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    I advocated to get moved up, and eventually
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    I moved up to all the Honors Classes in
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    high school. That allowed me to go to
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    Dartmouth College, and, ultimately to
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    Stanford Business School. So, I sort of
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    overcame that from an academic
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    perspective, but of course,
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    I'm still a terribly slow reader. I can't
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    spell to save my life. I tried to prepare
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    some slides for you tonight, I can't tell
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    you how many spelling mistakes there were.
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    I still can't spell Dyslexia, for example.
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    [Laughter from audience] Ought to get that
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    one right....thank you... The thing that
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    is so clear to me now I have my 50th
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    birthday coming up in September, is, what
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    an unlikely set of odds it was, to get to
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    where I am today. You know, it's an awful
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    lot of luck. That's a really unfortunate
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    thing when you consider the people who
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    don't have that good fortune, who didn't
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    maybe have a mother and father who said in
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    3rd grade, you know, give him another
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    chance. And they advocated for me in lots
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    of ways beyond that, of course, who were
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    incredibly understanding and never thought
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    I was stupid even though the teacher said
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    I was stupid. I'm quite sure I would have
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    not made it without them. But I've had all
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    kinds of other things that went my way,
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    and I just think that there are lots of
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    kids that don't get that chance. The
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    problem with that is not just the
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    unfortunate human stories that those
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    people lead, but it's that our society
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    needs what they have. And I know that,
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    because I am a venture capitalist. I invest
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    in entrepreneurs for a living. What a lot
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    of you know in this room is that there is
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    a huge over-representation of Dyslexics in
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    the entrepreneurial community. I've seen
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    studies that say as much as 40%, and that
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    doesn't surprise me at all. We are going
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    to hear from one, not too long from now.
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    But we see this everyday. It's not just
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    Dyslexics, it's all forms of
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    Neurodiversity. They are incredibly
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    prevalent in Silicon Valley, and I think
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    they are actually prevalent in the venture
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    capital business itself. The thing that
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    was really lucky for me--I did a bunch of
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    different jobs before I had a chance to
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    try my hand at venture capitalists
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    starting in 1996 at NEA-- is that I got
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    this chance to do something that I'm
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    actually good at. That's the thing that
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    most people don't get to do. What I've
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    come to realize, since I joined in 1996,
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    NEA has gotten to be a better and better
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    firm, and we've been in a position to hire
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    really smart people. So I kind of skated
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    in when it was still easy, you know?
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    [laughter] Well, nowadays if you want to
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    get a job at NEA, I mean...the resume you
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    have to have is just ridiculous. And I
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    really question whether we are looking
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    for the right resumes. [Applause]
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    Fortunately, I think, people enter at
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    different stages, at different levels,
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    and this is probably the most prevalent
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    at the entry level positions, where these
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    kids have just stunning...I mean, if they
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    didn't go to Stanford or Princeton, and
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    they didn't graduate with a 3.9 average in
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    Electrical Engineering and do 6 other
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    remarkable things on the side, and then
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    go to Goldman Sachs and be the top analyst
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    out of 20 in the United States, you know,
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    after 2 years, well...they probably don't
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    get an interview. But what is more
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    interesting and the reason I bring it up,
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    that, if you looked at the biographies of
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    all the people sitting around the table at
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    our partners meetings every week. you'd
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    realize it's academically and incredible
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    group of people. What I have found, what
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    really surprises me is a thing I thought
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    might be most interesting for you guys,
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    tonight, to consider, is how, as a
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    Dyslexic, I see things they don't see.
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    And I see them a lot faster than they
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    see them. Now, I know a lot of people
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    can do a lot of things I can't do. And
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    they certainly did a lot better at school.
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    But, my biggest frustration now after 18
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    years, is trying to coax my partners
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    along to see something that I see. To me,
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    it is just as clear as day, you know? " Of
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    course we've got all these problems, but
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    here is what is going to happen...This is
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    where it is going to go." And I've been
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    right enough times to keep my job, and
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    I've of course been wrong a lot of times,
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    that's sort of the nature of the business.
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    But that's thing that I think is a little
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    hard to understand from the outside.
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    Because, the venture capital business is
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    not very well understood by people who
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    haven't been in it. Just to give you some
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    statistics to give you a sense of what I
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    am talking about, there are about 6,000
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    people in the United States who call
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    themselves venture capitalists,
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    individuals, about 6,000. A lot of them
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    are here, not all. Those 6,000 people
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    take in about 20 billion dollars a year in
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    new capital commitments. They invest that
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    money, on average, in about 1200 new
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    companies per year. Twelve hundred
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    companies, and about 50 to 60 of those go
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    public in a given year, obviously many
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    years later. But those are the averages
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    over a fairly long period of time. And
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    there is probably another 50 companies
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    which are acquired in a way that makes
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    for a very attractive return. So, what does
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    that tell you? That tells you that
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    ~maybe~ 10% of them are attractive
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    `investments at the end of the day. And
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    there are 6,000 people going after them.
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    So that sounds interesting to you, but if
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    I then peel back the data a little bit
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    more, you'd realize that a huge percentage
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    of the returns are not made by the 55,
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    they are made by the 10. Ten companies a
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    year. And if you can't figure out which
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    those companies are, remember there are
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    6,000 people trying to predict which
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    companies are going to be those 10
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    companies every year...I can tell you, if
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    you don't get there first, you don't have
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    a chance. You know, if the entrepreneur
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    thinks you don't understand their business
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    in 5, 10, 15 minutes; they go on to the
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    next meeting to somebody who does. That's
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    the thing people don't understand about
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    the venture business. You think of these
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    guys sitting there with their checkbooks
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    just writing a check
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    to whoever they feel like, and assumming
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    that's the nature of the job couldn't be
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    farther from the truth. There are probably
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    100 to 200 people in the industry of the
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    6,000 who are really making great returns
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    for their limited partners. It's a story
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    for another day why the other guys get to
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    keep their job [laughter], but that's
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    probably the real data, is 100 to 200 of
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    them, because there's only 10 to 15
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    companies a year that are worth investing
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    in at the end of the day. It also means, of
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    course, there's a high failure rate. All
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    of us make lots of mistakes or invest in
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    things that don't turn into one of those,
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    some of which are really wonderful
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    companies, by the way. They don't all have
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    to be financial home runs to change the
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    world.
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    So, that's the story of what somebody
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    with incredibly improbable odds has
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    gotten to see here in this heartland of
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    innovation. What I'm most excited about
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    is that my daughter doesn't face those
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    odds because in second grade we started
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    investigating a way for her to have a
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    different path. And that led her to Charles
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    Armstrong School, there's a few people
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    in the room who know what that is. [applause]
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    I think we have a significant percentage of
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    the board members here today. [laughter]
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    We have Claudia, who is on the board of
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    Dyslexic Advantage is the head of the
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    school, and helped to change my daughter's
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    life. [applause] David Obershaw is
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    President of the board. Our daughters
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    were in class together. He went on to
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    really put his time behind this incredible
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    organization. I'm happy to say that Anna
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    went back to her regular school system, so
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    to speak, in fourth grade...fifth grade?
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    Fifth grade, and is doing wonderfully
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    well, so she faces very different odds
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    than I faced, and I'm really excited about
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    that [applause] So, I think as you...as you
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    think about where we are this weekend, and
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    you think about the fact that 40% of the
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    entrepreneurs are Dyslexic, also remember,
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    that since 1980, all net new job creation
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    in the United States has happened in small
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    or start-up companies. So, 40% of those
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    are started by Dyslexic people. What does
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    this country need so badly? We need to
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    invent a new economy that creates new jobs
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    and employs the 12 million or whatever
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    unemployed people that we have today.
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    So I think what Brock and Fernette have
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    done, in starting to examine with
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    scientific rigor, the basis of advantage
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    that Dyslexic people bring to our society,
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    is incredibly important, and I'm happy to
  • 15:51 - 15:53
    be here, and I hope we'll all help to
  • 15:53 - 15:55
    advance that cause this weekend.
  • 15:55 - 15:57
    Thank you. [applause]
Title:
Dyslexic Advantage - Venture Capitalist Scott Sandell at the Conference on Dyslexia and Innovation
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
16:01

English subtitles

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