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Distinguished Invincibelle: Esther Dyson

The Beginnings

Q: Growing up, what were some of the things that shaped you into what you are today?
We didn’t have a television at home, so I spent most of my free time reading books. My parents were scientists, so I just assumed I would be a scientist too…until I decided to be a novelist! Then I got interested in business, which in some ways is far more intellectually challenging than any of these.

Q: Did you have any setbacks and what kept you going?
Actually no. I did get fired from Forbes Magazine, but it was mutual. I was getting bored … and so I moved on to Wall Street, which for four years at least was exciting. (I lasted five.)

Q: What is the one thing you wish someone told you about a lot sooner in life?
A: Floss regularly! My parents didn’t teach me that, so I didn’t get around to it until my mid-thirties.

The Present

Q: What are your current personal & professional pursuits?
Mostly, I invest in and sit on the boards of start-up companies, including 23andMe, Eventful, Boxbe, Meetup … and several in Europe, including Russia.

Q: What are your hobbies? How do you relax? Are you able to manage work life balance?
I swim every day, and I think that is what saves me from stress, alcoholism, bad temper, bad decisions and a host of other ills. Every day I spend an hour thinking over whatever is on my mind—challenges I’m facing, schedule conflicts I have to resolve, speeches I’m going to make, my relations with other people, and the results of things I did or didn’t do. That enables me to focus better the rest of the day, because I have either resolved the tough questions or I know I’ll have an hour the next day to think them over.

Q: What are some of the things that you are proud to have accomplished? what is a little-known fact about you?
My article about “intellectual property on the Net,” in Wired Magazine in 1994.

Q: What’s a little-known fact about you?
Well, I think everyone knows that I swim every day. But fewer people know that I have never learned to drive. I want to learn to fly first!

Q: What criteria you use to evaluate your various new startups, philanthropic organizations or new pursuits?
Basically, is it something that I want to see happen/succeed? And if so, is this something that would happen anyway, without me? Then why bother? If it passes those hurdles, then, will I enjoy working with these people and learn from them?

The Future

Q: What is next in your life?
More new things: genomics, space travel, emerging markets… Anyone who has studied math knows this expression: “The remainder of the proof is left as an exercise for the reader.” I like things that are still at the theorem stage.

The Guidance

Q: What advice would you want to give to young women today?
Listen to my advice, listen to other people’s advice, and then make up your own mind! It’s your life to live, so you are the best judge of the right strategy.

Photo courtesy of Invincibelle