On February 2nd, 2020, I spoke at Harvard Business School on my two-year obsession—micromobility. To this date (September), I still don't know of another video or audio resource that accomplishes what I endeavored—to focus the compelling argument to just a few minutes.
I should rightfully admit that I'm just an undergrad that got to speak at HBS. I was very fortunate to have landed a special job a year before, and therefore was able to give this speech on the authority of Micromobility Industries and my work as a part of the brand. It all started when Samuel Clay kindly reached out through Twitter. Sam did ycombinator with Sanjay (Skip & Boosted Founder) and also worked with the special team at Weel Autonomy for a stretch (their demos of self-driving bikes are insane).
Not long after, to both our pleasant surprise, Horace Dediu—who is credited for coining the term "micromobility" and championing its ideas (also the Co-Founder of my company)—agreed to speak, despite coming off an international travel tour of many months. I found out that his exceptional eagerness came from his affections for his beloved alma mater and former home as a Senior Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Then a week before the event, Horace's close mentor and friend, Clayton Christensen died—passing from leukemia.
It was surreal to be at HBS with Horace during a time of commemoration for such an incredible man and to have learned so much from Clay's prodigy. A glimmer in all of this was that Horace could fortuitously be in Boston the very weekend of the funeral and also record this special episode as an honored guest on the podcast inspired by Clay's work.
The weeks, days, and even minutes leading up were by no means easy—as my talking minutes, subject, and content actually changed near constantly (no one's fault in particular).
All of this was on top of my engineering load and usual extracurricular/life commitments. I was at many times brought to my end, trying to carve out more time wherever I could (which was painful and exhausting—but I was stoked and thankful for the opportunity!)
Then only a week before, I was told what would be best was roughly a “10 point defense for micromobility.” What I'd been told to prepare before was much deeper than this (and probably not fit for micromobility newcomers) so this update was new fuel. Upon these rails, I took off—inspiration striking frequently. On the flight from PDX to Boston, I took a break to watch General Magic, the story of Tony Fadell, Steve Jobs, and others who were in the smartphone industry a little too early, as General Magic failed (Then these two later went on to create the smartphone industry). It was one of the most well-crafted documentaries I will ever see, and it did much to renew my entrepreneurial vigor and vision for The Smartphone on Wheels. I particularly related to Fadell, the young blood on the team.
Arriving in Boston, the unified presentation's final piece coalesced when I truly needed it to—the night before. As I finished the script, it felt right. But I only slept 2 hours as I actually had to memorize every single word of the carefully-crafted, dense and short 13 minute presentation.
This timeline was also why I had to skip most of my plans to see Boston (all photos in this post were taken by me! —I still got a little Freedom Trail, a very short visit to the Museum, and a sky-high sunset view of the city).
There were a few things that fell through on the organizer/promo size of things (including it having to be scheduled on an early Sunday morning the same day as the Superbowl), so day-of attendance turned out to be less than expected. Regardless, it was a huge honor not only to speak, but also to be given occasion to create something I could be proud of and which could boost awareness for a niche industry with profound potential.
I got over the attendance quick, as the quality of the audience was exceptional, made up of some of the world's brightest faculty and students. I particularly enjoyed getting to chat with Rob McPherson, GM for Skip in DC and visiting the Boston headquarters of two of my favorite companies in the industry, Superpedestrian and Zoba, the day after.
Speaking of Superpedestrian, the panel that Sam put together was exceptional—truly one of the best panels I've ever witnessed. I've unburied/lightly processed a recording, and I posted it today so you can enjoy it too. I had the pleasure of already knowing Tarani (Portland for the win!) prior to the conference—she is easily one of the smartest global thinkers in the space and it won't take long for you to see it. I had also been wanting to meet Andrew Salzberg for quite awhile. The former Uber Director of Transportation Policy, he is now a preeminent voice on transport emissions, now writing the newsletter Decarbonizing Transportation. It's too bad it's not a podcast because he has the voice of a narrator—we have an episode on ours though! (Oliver is a huge fan of his work)
Sam transcribed much of the panel, and you are also very welcome to benefit from his thesis, ComfortMaps, which is full of insights supporting bike lane infrastructure and presents a model for the crowdsourcing of city street data points.
As for the content, I stand on the backs of giants—Horace is the origin for nearly all of these ideas. I merely sought to aggregate, summarize, and re-synthesize what had been championed before me. That's what many written and spoken works are, but in this case, it was a special helping.
Finally, I would like to say something brief about Boston. Seeing the world-flipping history of this city (and seeing Hamilton recently on Disney+ of course), causes me to think carefully about the ways I don't ever want to change and the traits I want to become into. This engraving in the photo above struck me: A statesmen—incorruptible and fearless.
Every job I've had since high school has far superseded the previous, and my hope is that this trend continues. I'm on the tipping point of the rest of my life (please do reach out if we might be a good fit), and it's quite exciting when the fear and insecurity everyone faces is well-dealt with. I close with this quote from Clay's "How Will You Measure Your Life?"
“It is easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time...Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.” -Clayton Christensen