Thilo Semmelbauer: At its core, I think value most the ability to get stuff done, the ability to have impact, sort of “talk is cheap so let’s see what you can do.” And I think that is the way I judge myself. I think ultimately, what’s most important in others is that impact potential.
Thilo Semmelbauer: In order to have impact, you have to work out with other people. So a lot of other things follow that, including an ability to listen, which I think is rare.
Thilo Semmelbauer: But when I find it in people, I tend to think it’s a good sign because it shows that somebody doesn’t know everything, if they’re going to interact well with others to figure out the problem and perhaps even evolve their thinking because wherever their starting point was, it may not be necessarily right.
Thilo Semmelbauer: So to me, the ability to listen is critical to thinking and doing in a group but it’s not very common. So I do look for that.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve sought out mentors, I think, over the years. I think many of them were my bosses and for some strange reasons, early on my career, I had lots of bosses who were yellers so there were lots of screaming.
Thilo Semmelbauer: It started in Motorola, in a production environment, it was a lot of yelling and screaming. And my boss was often very vocal.
Thilo Semmelbauer: In a production environment, it’s one of these no-win jobs where you either didn’t produce enough or there were too many people working on the shift so it’s too expensive or quality wasn’t high. You never get everything right, so there’s always something to yell at.
Thilo Semmelbauer: And I don’t think that my boss would say that he mentored me at the time but in a strange way, I think it toughened me up. So that was an early on experience.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I think later, I always try to learn different things from the people that I work with. Whether they were board members or my bosses, I sought that.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I don’t know if it was ever really formalized, I wouldn’t say that I had this kind of regular monthly meeting with a mentor but I definitely thought about picking out learnings from other people around me and trying to get better at being a leader myself.
Dave Carvajal: What has been your driving purpose, your noble cause maybe?
Thilo Semmelbauer: That’s interesting. I think I like solving hard problems that can be solved. I think at my core, I am a problem solver.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve been involved in an organization called Action Against Hunger, for almost ten years now, that is dedicated to ending world hunger. You will say, “Okay, is that a problem we can solve?”
Thilo Semmelbauer: Yes, it’s a problem we can solve. It turns out that if you go back 25 years, in 1990, there were roughly a billion undernourished people on the planet out of five billion, so one in five. Just in the last couple of years when the stats were taken again, it was 800 million out of seven billion people, so one out of nine.
Thilo Semmelbauer: So actually making a progress now, it’s a tragedy that 800 million people around the world are undernourished but we know how to solve this. It’s about money, will, distribution, education, and politics.
Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s not about food production. The world has the capacity to fulfil these basic needs.
Thilo Semmelbauer: So I’ve been involved in that organization in part because I think it’s a problem that we can solve. It’s going to take a lot of time, maybe beyond my lifetime but that is worth doing. It’s a basic need and everything follows from that.
Thilo Semmelbauer: You can’t have a career without basic nourishment. So I mean, it is one of those things that I believe in. I think in a way, every business that I’ve been part of, there is some fundamental big problem to solve and maybe it’s not as big as world hunger but I get fascinated by the problem and trying to solve it in some way.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I do believe and maybe I’m not an optimist in this, like Diamandis that there is a lot of exciting possibilities around the corner. I think maybe more near in, if I think about the entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with and the ones I hope to work with over the coming years, I think there’s never been as an exciting time as now to start a business.
Thilo Semmelbauer: If I look back in my own life, when I was going to school that’s called the 80’s, the goal was get a job at a great big company and have security in that career.
Thilo Semmelbauer: With the internet, with software, with technology, with the availability of capital, the availability of information at everyone’s fingertips, I think the world is your oyster if you’re an entrepreneur today.
Thilo Semmelbauer: And I only wish I had gotten the bug earlier in my career. It came a little bit later but I think that’s one of the things that makes me excited. Also, about changing the world’s problems is the fact that if you have a great idea, you can basically go and make it happen today.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I’m very confident that with all of the smart brains and driven people that are out there, we’re going to make lots of great things happen. So that’s exciting.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I would like to be remembered as somebody who helped the world, who helped people and helped in some small way, maybe in some big way to come, was a positive force.
Thilo Semmelbauer: Maybe my father was sort of in my head on this question because he passed away a number of years ago that he would never let us complain at home, one of the things that we weren’t allowed to do was complain.
Thilo Semmelbauer: Yeah, maybe had they told me about it but then, it was always about “Well, what are you going to do that will turn it around, being a positive force and not a negative force?”
Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s like long-winded answer but I hope to be remembered as somebody who was a positive force in the world.