We have a regular Super Curricular Lecture after school. We try to have one every week, but the day bounces around a little and sometimes a week or two will go by without one; that’s not an ideal but we prioritise the quality of our speakers over the regularity, so the lecture moves around a little.
This week I was delighted to introduce Professor Randy Mrsny of Bath University. He’s an engaging and interesting Californian who researches in the field of epithelial biology. I first met him nearly a decade ago when he gave me some advice on the fellowship I was writing in my old career as a research scientist and he kindly gave me an hour of his time.
I was delighted when he agreed back in the summer to come and speak to the pupils in my school and the fact that the next mutually convenient date when he was in the country and we definitely weren’t using the hall after school was eight months away wasn’t a problem; I knew he’d be worth the wait.
We have had many university academics scientists come to speak, and most give very interesting talks about their research, however I know that Prof Mrsny has done something most scientists have not; he has sat in a room with Peter Theil and the other members of the Founders Fund and successfully had his company Trinity Biosystems funded by them. I asked him therefore if he’d talk about venture capitalism as the focus of his lecture and I suggested a title of “How to turn a good ideal into a multi-million-dollar company” and he graciously agreed.
He outlined in his lecture both the traditional venture-capitalist model (which he has also worked within) and the new Founders Fund model which is more akin to Angel Investment and gave a brief outline of his background, career pathway and the technology that his company is based on and said he could go into more detail on the science during questions.
However, all the questions from our student audience were related to the finances, the rich men that he’d met in career and how much money he’d potentially make. The final question was from the youngest member of the audience, a year 9 student* he asked “If I have a good idea, how can I even make it into a room with those investors if I have nothing to my name?”
Without missing a beat, Randy replied “Oh that’s an easy question to answer – if the only thing you have is your name, then you must give your name value.”
“How can I give my name value?” replied the Year 9 lad.
And now I’m paraphrasing, and I wish I’d recorded his answer, but it went something like this…
“You give your name value by getting the best education you can. When you leave this school, everyone should know your name as the hardest working student in the school and your teachers will help you go to a good university. Then you can get a degree and employers will know that you are someone who can finish things. Then I’d recommend a post graduate degree so that people know that yours is the name of someone who can think and question properly. Then you can get work and network with people, and in everything you do you should work hard and complete projects so that yours is the name that people can trust to get things done. Then you can take your idea into a room with the richest and most powerful people in the world and when they ask around about your name, they will hear that yours is a name they should work with, that yours is a name that gets things done, that yours is a name with real value, because it is your name.”
* the lecture series is heavily advertised within the 6th form, but we do not discourage students from other years from attending if they wish, and they regularly do.