Steve: My name is Corey Washington.
Steve: I’m Steve Hsu, and this our show, Manifold.
Steve: Steve, we just had a great conversation with a fabulous young woman named Noor Siddiqui, who you first met a few months ago. Tell us about that.
Steve: Noor is the founder of an event at Stanford called No Filter, and it’s an event where the students invite interesting people to give them unfiltered conversations, and discussions about all kinds of topics. Noor is extremely interesting, she was a Thiel Fellow. Thiel Fellows are people who are funded by Peter Thiel to start a company right out of high school, which she did, but now she’s at Stanford University, and we had an excellent conversation with her. She’s very special in a number of ways. We wanted, I think in our very first discussion, episode zero, we talk about how old, and out of touch we are-
Steve: As if it’s not obvious.
Steve: Yes. Of course, we would like to get some millennial, or gen-z people in to give us a feel for what life is like for that generation. We kind of killed two birds with one stone with Noor, because she’s a gen-z, millennial, but she’s also in the heart of Silicon Valley, she’s now an experienced startup entrepreneur, so she can talk about both those topics, which are things that you and I are both interested in.
Steve: I think we learned a lot about what Stanford is like today. I was there at Stanford, I think I left Stanford around 1992, which was just before, essentially, the internet blew up, and Stanford became the center of the startup universe, at least the Silicon Valley did, but she had some really interesting perspectives on how college differed from the time when we were there.
Steve: We recorded over the internet, because with Corey, I think Corey was in the office, and I was at home, and this was because we had this polar vortex event in the Midwest, where it was incredibly cold, and they actually shut down the university for several days, which is very unusual for Michigan State University. The audio quality might not be up to what we aspire to get in these shows, but I think it’s still listenable. Unless you have more to say, let’s just go to the interview.
Steve: Corey, we’re live now with Noor Siddiqui. She’s an undergraduate at Stanford University, one of those super talented kids that when you meet them, you sort of feel like they’re going to do something really interesting in life. So, first, could you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you ended up going to Stanford, what the college application process was like? We hear so much about how stressful it is compared to when we were kids.
Noor: Yeah. I think I probably have a little bit of a weirder story. When I was graduating from high school, I found out about the Thiel Fellowship, and sort of dropped all my ambitions for college, and thought, “Okay. If I can learn how to start a company, and change the world, that’s really what I wanted to accomplish in college anyways, so I should go do that.” I basically decided to do the Thiel Fellowship right out of high school, I started a company, and then there was basically this decision point where you can go try to sell this company, or you can go to college.
Noor: I think where I was is that I felt really proud that I had built this product, built this team, went from nothing to something, but at the same time, what I was working on isn’t what I wanted my life’s work to be. We had built this physician collaboration tool that was helping doctors, and it was widening patient care, but it wasn’t necessarily the thing I wanted to be my life’s work. I thought, “Okay. You learned some really valuable things here, but if you think really longterm, it probably makes more sense for you to go to school, and study computer science, and genetics, the things that you’ve always been really excited about, and to try, and do something a little bit bigger than just a digital health app,” which was the thing I had been working on before.
Noor: That was the point where I went to Stanford. I actually was three years removed from most of the cohort, but of course, at Stanford you actually get in a lot of people like me where they did something else, and they took a gap year, or they outfitted the company, and decided to sell it, or not sell it, and then come to school, or they were in the military. A lot of people have interesting stories. They went to the Olympics, or whatever, and then decided to come to college after that.
Steve: Great. I had totally forgotten that you were a Thiel Fellow, so… Corey, I want to hop in for a little bit, and roll back a little bit. I want to ask the most basic questions about a couple things. Can you just tell me where you’re from, because you sound like you have a really interesting outlook, and I’m curious, where’d you go to high school, and what were your interests there, and how did you find out about the Thiel Fellows? I think for a lot of people, a basic question is, what are the Thiel Fellows? Can we roll that back a little bit?
Noor: Sure. Yes, I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., so in Fairfax County, Virginia, and pretty much everyone who ends up at Stanford goes to Thomas Jefferson, which is sort of like the science and tech magnet school, but I actually went to Robinson Secondary, which is sort of like an Ivy School, and I was really excited about going to school internationally at the time, so I chose to go to Robinson. That’s where I grew up, and what was your second question? How did I find out about the Thiel Fellowship?
Steve: What are the Thiel Fellows? Many people don’t quite know. Steve and I know, but we want to make sure everyone is in on the conversation.
Noor: Oh, sure. Yeah. I found out about the Thiel Fellowship actually just online, there was just little snippets of stories here and there that I saw, and the first story that I found, I just got really excited about. What are the Thiel Fellows? The Thiel Fellows are a program that was started by Peter Thiel in 2011, and the idea was let’s give young people grants, so that they can go pursue whatever ambitious dream they have. As a condition of this grant, you will go to a university for at least two years while you try, and make whatever your vision is come to live.
Steve: I recall Peter Thiel started this with a slightly subversive agenda, right? Peter really had some doubts about the value of a college education relative to the value of getting real world experience. Steve, you know Peter pretty well. Wasn’t the idea somehow that he thought that this was actually a more valuable experience often than four years of college?
Steve: I think Peter and many people in his orbit, including a little bit myself, think that we’re in the midst of potentially a hiring bubble in a certain sense. So, yes, he had a slightly subversive view of this, but the place where I agree with him is for some super talented people, this might make sense. I think for the average kid, it doesn’t make that much sense, but I would love to hear what Noor has to say about it.
Noor: Yeah. I mean, in my opinion, I think that his agenda has been sensationalized a little bit. I think there’s really a lot of value to what he’s saying, which is that there are alternative paths to success, and it doesn’t have to be predicated on a degree, whether it’s from a very fancy institution, like Stanford or Harvard, or whether it’s from any other university. I think that there’s really… I think for someone coming out of high school, that option is not really presented, at least especially I think in 2011, and 2012 when this first started. The idea of not going to college, I think was a lot crazier than it is now.
Noor: I think even now, if you look at the fellowship applicants that are coming in, a lot of them have been working on their startup for several years, and they’ve already gotten funding, and they already have traction. They’re basically much farther along, I think in part because of seeing the previous classes, and that was what they accomplished. I think especially in 2012, it wasn’t seen as any other avenue to be successful, or to make anything of yourself besides going to college.
Noor: I think even since then, there’s been a little bit of a change where you see more people going after apprenticeships, or going after an idea they had, and trying to build a business right out of high school. That wasn’t as much of a thing just a few years earlier.
Steve: Interesting, my cousin’s kid, I guess that’s my first cousin once removed, similarly, she left high school, and didn’t go to college, and started up a catering business in Atlanta, and just crossed the $1,000,000 mark for grossing last year, and her take on it is, “If you’re a self-learner, and a self-starter, then that’s the kind of person that can often succeed without college.” I think she’s pretty much planning to hold onto that path.
Steve: Noor, when you applied for the Thiel Fellowship, had you already been admitted to Stanford, or did you have to reapply later?
Noor: Stanford basically let me defer for several years, they were very kind, but basically by the time that I actually joined Stanford, I think they were unwilling to let me defer anymore, but they let me defer for the time between high school, and the fellowship.
Steve: You did go through the standard college application process? You weren’t sure that you were going to be a Thiel Fellow, so you applied to Stanford through the regular process?
Noor: Yeah. I mean, all the applications are due at the same time. It’s been a little bit of a while since all that happened, but basically, I think the college applications are due in December or something, and I think that I was applying to the fellowship and university all at the same time.
Steve: If you’re a parent like me, of teenagers, my kids just turned 13 not so long ago, you get the impression that the really serious families are planning already what their kids are going to do to pad out their applications to get into a place like Stanford. Is that consistent with your experience? Is it taken that seriously these days?
Noor: I think it depends on where you grow up, but yeah, I think that the process of getting into college is probably more stressful than it needs to be. I think there’s probably way more posturing than there needs to be, and I think that’s also I think where Peter has a good point, where you shouldn’t be spending 18 years until you’re adult life padding your resume, and not really pursuing your real interests. The irony of the whole thing is that I think, at least in my experience, the people who actually get in, they didn’t spend most of their time padding their resumes, and working on things artificially. They spent their time going really deep on things that they sincerely cared about.
Noor: I think when you sincerely care about something, maybe more comes of it, maybe if you have a tiger parent, they can really drive you, as well. I don’t know, because I fall very much into the former category. My parents were actually quite hands-off, they were never really pushing me either to get good grades, or do extracurriculars, or do anything like that, but I feel fortunate in that way, but at the same time, I actually envy the tiger parents, I think it’s kind of cool. My cousins actually, their parents are more tiger-y, they sort of take them to Japanese classes, and go to Japan, and do Japanese immersion, and things like that, while my parents were very unwilling to let me go anywhere during summer. They wanted me to spend as much time with them, and the family as possible.
Steve: Yeah. I’d say I’m borderline tigery, tiger aware of what these people are up to, and my feeling is that the admissions people would love to see a kid who is truly passionate, and if there’s something on their resume that really stands out, it’s something the kid really was passionate about, and wasn’t manufactured by some adults dragging them to Japanese class, or something like that, but the problem for them is that they can’t really tell the difference. It’s very tough for them to know whether it was true passion, which is what they’re trying to detect, or something meant to simulate that in the application.
Noor: Yeah. I think it’s very clear once they’re in college, which it was, because I think the people who were driven by their parents, they sort of relax, and aren’t really very motivated anymore, or are still motivated by impressing their parents, or impressing some outside party, but I think that the students that are internally driven, they’re in overdrive. They’re in the place where they had always wanted to be, and it’s the place where they had the most… to the opportunities that they had been wanting for a very long time, and the freedom, as well, to pursue them. I think it becomes very clear once they’re admitted, but I agree, I think that as someone who’s in admissions, it’s probably really hard to differentiate between the person that was very well-coached, and the person that has a more sincere drive.
Steve: Well… Sorry, Steve.
Steve: Well, one of the things I argue with my wife about is the musical instrument stuff, because I was forced to learn to play the piano when I was a kid, and kind of hated it, and have no musical talent, but did pretty well in piano competitions for some weird reason, but I remember, at the time I was at Harvard, or something, there were tons of Asian-American kids who had done like 12 years of violin, and piano, and won all these competitions, but then they never touched the instrument again. I think that was just the perfect example of that kind of overblown, overgrown, tiger parenting.
Noor: Yeah. I’ve definitely met a lot of people like that, who met these math competitions, or science competitions. I forget the names of them, but they were very prestigious, but then they never touch the subject again after, because they’re just tired of it, but I also wonder whether, even if you decide not to touch it again, the instrument, or the math, or the science, or biology, or facts, or whatever it is, I wonder whether that discipline still stays with you. To me, it seems like it might be valuable anyways, because that’s again, because I sort of… looking back, I had this weird desire to have had that… slightly more of that experience than I actually did.
Steve: The extent to which I supported the forcing kids to learn to play musical instruments was because I thought, early on, maybe there’s actually something about their brain development that’s actually assisted by learning to play the instrument, or learning to coordinate their hands, but then after a certain point, it seemed to me that at this point, it’s just grinding. If they don’t like it, then don’t make them do it. That’s where I dropped out of the tiger parent mode, but I still am… my wife is still angry at me for not supporting her more on this one.
Steve: There’s actually research that supports these views about encouraging things. There are some studies on creativity, which show that if you basically take a kid, and pay them… You set up a competition where kids are asked to make a drawing, or to build something out of construction materials, and you pay the one who produces the best drawing, judged by some particular method, or experts, those kids basically… if you give them the option of playing with those materials again, they won’t touch them in the next hour, or so, but if kids are allowed more or less free play with them, as they like, and then you select the best ones, those kids will often continue to play with those things for hours on end, but putting kids in a competitive setting, and really encouraging them to do something seems to discourage later activity, at least over the short term of these studies, so it may be for longer terms also.
Steve: I’m kind of extreme. I’m forcing my kid to learn like four different languages, and she’s three. So far, she’s going along with it. I’m in the opposite position, my wife is less enthusiastic about this than I am, but the kid seems okay with it so far. I’m expecting a backlash at some point in time in the future. I want to get four or five languages under the hood before he stops willing to play along.
Steve: Let me go back to you, Noor, and let me ask you, when you look back at your startup experience as a Thiel Fellow, do you ever think back to that time, and say, “Wow, how naive I was. It’s crazy to think I could’ve done… started a company when I was 18, or something like this,” or, do you have the view that, “No, it was perfectly reasonable, and I actually could have succeeded.”
Noor: I’m so sorry. I guess I make it sound like it was worse than it was. Yeah. I definitely look back at myself, and think that I was very naive back then, but I think that hopefully at any checkpoint five years later, I will always think that about myself five years ago, because I think slope is more important than Y-intercept. It matters how much you’re growing every year, not where you start, so I think that hopefully I’ll always think that way about my [inaudible 00:17:43] self, but no, I think it’s totally reasonable to be successful at that age, or really any age. I think it’s more an internal decision than an external decision about when you’re going to take yourself seriously, and when you’re going to take your own ideas seriously.
Noor: I actually consider the experience, I mean, 100% a success. I learned how to build a product, learned how to build a team, learned how to raise money. Not very many startups get to actually make money, and we were able to get to that point, and there was interesting people who wanted to buy the company. I mean, I think the only reason why it wasn’t wrapped up in the traditional “success package”, was because we chose not to go through with the acquisition, because I wanted to go to university instead of get it acquired.
Noor: I think again, that badge is not closed to me in any sense. I feel like after I graduate, if I want to go do it again, there’s… I don’t think any of the investors, or the people that I know would think, “You are not allowed to go back to school after you made the commitment to start the company.” I think that everyone has their own circumstances, and makes decisions that make sense for them. I think for me, I wanted to think a little bit more longterm than this very immediate exit from something that I worked on for two years.
Steve: Sorry to interrupt, but can you tell me what the app did?
Noor: Sure. What it did was it connected primary care doctors with specialists. So, basically, you go into a primary care doctor’s office instead of waiting five or six weeks to see a dermatologist, or cardiologist, or orthopedic surgeon. It just allows you to consult right away with that specialist in one office visit. Basically, the advantages there is that instead of going to the orthopedic surgeon, and him or her telling you that, “Oh, you actually only need physical therapy. I can’t operate on you.” You get that consult much earlier, so that you can be directed to the right next steps, whether that’s physical therapy, or the right imaging, or the right medication. It all happens in one visit instead of spread out over several visits.
Steve: Are you by any chance familiar with a company in the U.K. called Babylon Health?
Noor: I’m actually not.
Steve: Your idea is so great that it’s actually… something very similar to it is actually exceeding like crazy in the U.K. right now. There’s a company called Babylon Health that has an app-driven, general practitioner access, and it’s actually part… They kind of went through a loophole, so they are part of the National Healthcare System, anyone in the London area can select them as their GP, general practitioner, and the contact with the physician happens over the phone, video app, there’s a triage process where you inform a chat bot about what your systems, or what your problems are, and it actually does some initial triage using AI.
Steve: I think 500,000 people have signed up for this service already, and including the health minister of the U.K., so it seems to me like a really obvious use of the technology. It makes the waiting times smaller, and I think in many cases, just talking to your physician over a video chat app is just as good as what you get after sitting in a waiting room for an hour.
Noor: Yeah. I mean, the main difference from just typical telemedicine, you’re at home seeing a doctor, to what we were doing is that we actually had the primary care doctor there with you. They were basically there assessing you in-person, and then if they need a specialist, or some specific concern you have, instead of having to go to that specialist visit alone without the proper context, or the right imaging, or whatever has happened beforehand, you got that with the doctor there with you.
Noor: I mean, I think that the problem in the U.S. is not a lack of technology, or a lack of options, I think it’s much more a lack of incentive. The reason why you don’t see technology like this adopted across healthcare has much more to do with payment schemes, right? I mean, Kaiser has products like this, because they’re bearing risk, they’re responsible for the cost of the patient, but if you’re not bearing risk, which is happening in most settings in healthcare today, there’s not really an incentive for you to try, and make things more efficient, and to save people time. I think in the U.K. you do have, again, it’s more of a single care system going on, so there’s more of an incentive to try, and reduce cost.
Steve: Yeah. I agree with you. I mean, the U.S. is going to be slower, I think, in implementing a lot of important innovations, just because aligning the payers with… incentives from the payers to the actual people who deliver the medicine is just messed up right now, and maybe will be messed up for a long time.
Noor: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s really sad, because there’s so many people here who are building really exciting things, and now there are people asking about, “Oh, should I start this healthcare company, or that healthcare company?” The first question I ask them is, “Okay. Who is paying you? Are you sure they will pay you, because…” I think there’s an assumption in basically every other industry where, “Okay. If I provide value to this person, they’re going to be willing to pay me, but the problem in healthcare is you can provide value to the doctors, and the patients, but they’re not the ones who are actually paying you.
Noor: You have to convince the insurer, or you have to convince a self-insured company, or you have to convince some other party that’s very bureaucratic, or has very different incentives than trying to solve specific actors, or a specific problem. I think that just makes things really complicated, and I think that a lot of startups don’t realize that until very late, and that’s why you see a lot of direct to consumer companies like Doctor on Demand for example, who pivot from direct to consumer to selling to self-insured companies, because they just realize that there’s not a willingness to pay from the consumer, because they’re getting their health insurance from where they work, or from the government, or they’re not paying out of pocket for it.
Steve: Yeah. I agree with your characterization of our system completely. I mean, I think some of the single-payer systems, ironically because you normally wouldn’t think… you would think that we have unfettered capitalism, but in fact, a lot of these innovations are going to get rolled out faster in the single-payer systems than here.
Noor: I know. Well, a lot of these results are very non-intuitive, and it sort of reminds me of Econ-101. Even in that first class, you see, “Okay. Wow, very small changes to incentive structures cause crazy downstream effects.” I think that’s what we’re seeing in healthcare. I think one of the stats I was really shocked by is that if you go to any doctor’s office, and you ask, “What percentage of the bill is absorbed by the actual process of billing,” it’s 30%. 30% of what they make is actually… it costs them 30% to just do the billing process.
Steve: It’s white-collar wealth-
Noor: Yeah. Out of every $100 they make, $30 is being spent just capturing the billing, just sending in the forms, dealing with insurance, and getting the reimbursements. That’s just a huge waste of money, and it wastes a lot of people’s time.
Steve: Yeah. That’s insane.
Steve: Yeah. You talk to any doctors, and they’ll complain about that right off the bat, the amount of paperwork they have to do to basically justify their billing is just enormous, and a huge waste of their time. There’s definitely some efficiencies that could be gained there in healthcare if someone figures out the way to alleviate that burden.
Steve: Here, we’re really talking about… Sorry. Go ahead.
Noor: I was just going to say that, I mean, most people thought that this move to electronic health records was a move forward in digitizing health, and all that, but I think fewer people realize that the move to Epic was really about billing. It was about… Epic is really a billing system, it’s not something that helps keep better track of patients.
Steve: Yeah. The inefficiency of our billing system, it’s apparent to anybody who has been through a complicated medical situation in the U.S., but in talking about these incentive issues in the rollout of new technology, you’re really talking about innovation that is super important for moving things forward into the future. The specific stuff that I’m working on now is prediction of risk from a genotype, we’re at the point now where we have these predictors, which are well-validated, they work well, you can pick out the 1% of the population that’s most at-risk for heart attack, or something, but what we’re seeing is that the single-payer systems like in Finland, or the U.K. are probably going to roll all of this stuff out much faster than America. It’s just the craziest situation.
Noor: Yeah. I mean, even with projects that I’ve worked on at Stanford, so for example, in Sebastian Thrun’s lab we worked on a skin classifier. I worked on something for inflammatory diseases like rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, and a bunch of STDs.
Noor: Basically, the way that it works is you’d just input an image, and then just have this CNN at the table, too, a convolutional neural network that was able to classify that skin lesion at the level or a board certified dermatologist. We had conversations with the FDA here, and the research was this very long, in depth process to try and get this approved for use here, and in Singapore, it’s a much shorter process. There was a lot more interest in deploying it, gathering data, and just using it to help give more people diagnoses sooner for their skin issues.
Noor: Again, it’s something that could save a lot of money, could save a lot of people time, and because just issues, and how incentives work in the U.S., and how regulation works in the U.S., it’s actually going to be deployed outside the U.S. first.
Steve: Let me go back to your college experience, so I guess I did my first startup much later in life than you, but one of the things I said afterwards was that even if we hadn’t made out well financially, it would have been a fantastic educational experience, and I felt like I had earned the equivalent of like 10x times an MBA, because I had done all these things, and I actually supervised MBAs, and negotiated contracts, or raised money, or fired people, hired people, all those things. I’m curious, for you now, I guess probably what you’re on the lookout for getting from your undergraduate experience is quite different, because you’ve already done that, and you’ve already actually founded a company, and ran it.
Noor: Yeah. I mean, I think that for me, what I was trying to get out of college was much more research experience. I thought that having the time to research in the way that your… the AI lab at Stanford is very different than what you’re allowed to do in industry. That’s kind of what I focus on. I focus more on research things, and I guess just math, and CS classes that I thought, “This is really interesting, and fun to know, and a good way to… pushups for your brain, I guess, kind of thing.”
Noor: Yeah. I wasn’t really as interested in the startup classes that they had at Stanford, because I mean, I think that’s the kind of thing that you… you can get a good primer for what to expect, and what the big reflection points should be, but again, I think that it’s something that you much more have to live through, and really put your heart into than something that you can get in only like 20 hours, or 10 hours a week.
Steve: A few years ago, someone told me that every year about 1,000 students at Stanford, including graduate students, take the machine learning classes, or class. Is that still the case, or was that kind of a fad that persisted for a few years, and dropped off?
Noor: No, I think that the AI classes are really hot right now. I don’t know if it’s at 1,000 people, but I would say it’s probably closing in on that number. I mean, they’re extremely well taught, and I think that… For me, actually the way that I’ve been choosing classes has a lot to do with just how well taught the material is, or how entertaining the professor is. I think that those classes are very well done. I mean, you can go to [inaudible 00:30:13], and see the class notes, and I think that if you compare that to just a typical textbook, I think that you can get up to speed a lot faster, just because they have great illustrations, and great explanations. I think that they’re well done, and they deserve the attendance that they’re getting.
Steve: I feel like at Stanford, there must be just an incredible diversity in life goals, or life aims among the students. Probably there’s some fraction of kids who are aiming at an ivory tower academic career, maybe in the humanities. There are some people that are trying to be billionaires by the time they’re 30, and everything in between. Do you guys get that impression, do you talk about those kinds of things?
Noor: I think one really unfortunate factor is that I think that I’ve probably been too embedded in CS, or [inaudible 00:31:10] than being well rounded in knowing everyone. I think that unfortunately, I haven’t really gotten to talk too deeply with people outside of CS, but I think that’s definitely true. There are people with very different ambitions, and I think that most people certainly do not come here with the ambition to do a startup, or to do a company. I think most people, that’s something that you, that once you come here, you realize that’s kind of a common path if you’re in the Bay Area, but if you’re not, I think the ambition isn’t the majority, or even a large fraction of what people come in with.
Steve: If I heard you properly, you said most of the kids when they enter Stanford are not thinking that they would start, or be part of a startup, but they might get exposed to it, so that number would go up after spending time in the Bay Area.
Noor: That’s my impression, but again, I mean, I’m just one person, and I haven’t surveyed everyone, and know exactly what they’re thinking in their hearts, but that’s sort of the impression that I get. I think that if you’re deciding whether to go to an east coast school, or a west coast school, I think that maybe you would be more likely to choose a west coast school is that was something that you wanted to be exposed to, so maybe the population is going to be enriched for people who want to do that sort of thing, but yeah, I’m not sure.
Steve: Noor, had you considered other schools, or did you decide Stanford pretty much right off the bat, and go with early decision?
Noor: No, I wasn’t early decision to Stanford, but I think after the fellowship, I definitely realized that I wanted to stay in the Bay Area, and I really loved a lot of the people that I met, and the network that I made, and I didn’t want to be on the east coast, or abroad, or someplace far away. I wanted to… I knew I would be really engrossed in school when I was in school, but I still had to be able to go to a lot of things, startup-y, or healthcare-y, or… that are confined to the Bay Area, and Stanford was the only place I was going to be able to do that, as well.
Steve: Is that the only place you applied to?
Noor: No, I applied to a few other places, but decided not to pursue the deferrals with the other places. I mean, I don’t think you’re even allowed to defer with more than one place, anyway, so…
Steve: I think when we first met, Noor, it was in the computer science building, and I think I overheard you, and a professor who maybe was your advisor, or you were working in his lab, saying something like… describing a meeting that had just recently happened with some venture capitalists, or something, maybe at café, but maybe I just invented that part of it. I was struck by thinking to myself, “Well, how many places as an undergraduate…” Now, at that time, I guess I had forgotten that you were formally a Thiel Fellow, but at the time, I was struck by saying, “How many undergraduates are casually discussing with their professor some meeting with a venture capitalist presumably about a startup, or a specific funding plan?” Is that a common thing at Stanford, or is that only in your narrow circle of friends?
Noor: Again, I think it’s hard to know what’s common, or not common, because you only live your experience, but I think something I’ve definitely been really struck by at Stanford, or especially in the Bay Area, is how collaborative the environment was. I never felt that I wasn’t taken seriously, even as a 17 year old, coming out here, and starting a company.
Noor: That’s very different from the way that you feel, or at least I felt in high school, where I constantly had to convince my principal, or my teachers to just let me do the things I wanted to do versus as soon as I came out here, even before I had a Stanford degree, I think that people in the Bay Area just tend to evaluate you based on your ideas, and what you’ve executed on, and not really so much on how old you are, or what you’ve done before.
Noor: I think there’s also definitely that vibe at Stanford, where if you want to talk to a professor about an idea that you have, and if you think it has the potentially to become a company, I think that they’re surprisingly willing to ascertain it, and mind meld with you, and think about, “What are the ways that we can make this happen, or you could make this… you could develop this further, or test it out in some way?”
Steve: I would say that in the Bay Area, and then also globally in certain places where the startup ecosystem really has taken hold, there is a lot more variability in what people will accept. So, some middle aged venture capitalists would be happy to talk to some really talented young person, because they actually have experience with that type of person really succeeding, or creating value, but it is very unusual in the rest of the world, so if you’re on the Michigan State University campus, and you’re 18 years old, you can’t expect anybody my age to treat you as anything other than a freshman, or something. I do think that is very social, and very different.
Noor: Yeah. I just feel like I’ve learned so much being treated as a peer by people who are very much not my peers. I mean, I definitely recognize that [inaudible 00:36:26] to know these professors, and these people who have decades of experience, but the fact that they treat me that way definitely does… I at least hope that on occasion I arise to their expectations, and am actually able to present something at the same level that they would if they had thought of a similar idea, or had similar ambition in mind.
Steve: I think to turn it around though, I mean, if you were a professor at some other university, and you were routinely approached by 18 year old kids with super high confidence, but actually weren’t able to actually back it up with some capabilities, then you would rapidly stop treating the modal 18 year old that approaches you with that kind of level of respect, right? There’s a combination of things. There has to actually be a pool of talented people who are confident enough, and can actually do things that are useful in order to create that balance in the ecosystem.
Noor: Yeah. I would also say it’s bidirectional, though. I mean, I feel like I’ve met a lot of students here who have way less confidence than they should. They’re actually much smarter than people decades older than them, but they’re actually still too caught up in the decades that they were raised in where they don’t want to take an idea that they have more seriously, or take their capabilities more seriously.
Noor: It’s actually funny, I think that the people who are more confident are actually, I would say on average, a little bit less competent than the ones who are more shy, and more reserved, and more willing to jump through the hoops. I actually think very often, those people are more competent, but they’re just not as willing to put themselves out there, or to risk being wrong about something, which everyone inevitably is-
Steve: I agree with you. I have a kind of algorithm running in my head that the quiet guy on the team, or the quiet gal, you want to just listen very carefully, and give them a little extra space to express what they’re thinking, because often, they are the most insightful ones, but they just don’t happen to be the most extroverted, or confident ones.
Noor: You’re a professor, so you’ve been exposed to thousands of students in your classrooms, and you probably have a larger end to see. Is that really what you see in the wild, or is that maybe just at this one school that I’ve been at?
Steve: Yeah. Confidence and capability I think are mildly positively coordinated, but I think certainly nowhere near correlation one, so you can have people who are crazily over confident, and people who are really quiet, but they can really do stuff. I was going to say this other thing that you mentioned that you and your friends probably have noticed, that if you and Professor X are approaching some topic, you guys might pick it up faster than he or her.
Steve: In the same way, when I talk to really big figures, like a university president, or a famous billionaire that you might know of, often times, they’re not necessarily superhuman at all, they’re just as confused about the same stuff as other people, and you really just need to treat them as you would anybody else. There isn’t any 100% perfect indicator of superhuman ability.
Noor: Yeah. I think the one thing that always surprises me is whenever I talk with someone who is a super expert in one field, and you go a couple degrees to the right or left, it’s very shocking to me how shallow their understanding can be. That’s sort of humbling in some sense, that even if you are an expert in one thing, you should always remain curious, and remain willing to learn, because your expertise can only go so far. Yeah. I think that’s always something shocking, because I think that if you assume someone is really competent in one area, they must be competent in all areas. That’s never been the case. I’ve always seen people who are experts in one domain, they’re just as novice as the rest of us in every other domain besides what they’re an expert in.
Steve: Yeah. I think that’s the right conclusion to take from that, that expertise is not necessarily always transferable. Often times, for someone to succeed to the point where they are the world class expert on some area of molecular biology, or something, they really had to focus on that, so their knowledge about the Patriot’s quarterback is no better, or is actually much worse than the average person. I think your conclusions based on that experience are correct.
Noor: Yeah. Something I’ve been really impressed with at Stanford is that someone will be a world class expert in some area, and then they’ll teach this class as if it was to kindergartners. They’re explaining how Fourier transforms work in this third grade way, and I just absolutely love it. I just think that if you’re an expert in something, then you’re able to explain something at a kindergarten level. It’s so clear how well they understand the concept when they’re explaining it in just completely intuitive terms before putting out any of the math.
Noor: That’s something that I don’t think I’m nearly as good as I want to be at, but that’s something that I think is probably one of the main takeaways I’ve gotten from Stanford, it’s that if you’re really technical at something, then you should be able to explain in completely nonsensical terms, and they can still feel like they understand whatever the concept is.
Steve: I often say this to graduate students, which is that when someone has a really, really deep knowledge of a particular thing, let’s say Fourier transforms, that means they can explain it in a very, very simple way. Those kinds of explanations, or those kinds of models, or comic book renderings of what’s really going on in there are really priceless gems. I always tell the grad students, if some visitor is coming in to give a talk on X, and you know that they’re a deep expert on X, you can go, and talk to them, and they might not necessarily be able to do it, but very often, they’ll be able to explain it to you in a way, which is basically priceless. You’re not going to get it from anybody else, so it’s worth trying to dig that out of them when they come and visit.
Steve: I think the sign of a really great classic paper is often just seeing how simple and beautiful the descriptions of the phenomenon are. The obvious example of this are Einstein’s papers, the early parts often have no formulas, and they’re just driven by these gorgeous thought experiments, and Feynman was much the same way, as you know Steve, right? His ability to communicate ideas using very simple analogies. I think it’s really a sign, if someone can’t explain something in a very simple, intuitive way, I have deep doubts to whether they actually understand it.
Steve: Yeah. Actually, I would say that in my own research, I always… well, after a certain point, once I figured this out, I would challenge myself that if I was asked to give a talk on this material, that I could explain it, I could boil it down to a very simple explanation, which at the beginning of the talk, maybe the first 15, 20 minutes, everybody in the audience, even if they weren’t an expert, could really understand that first 15, 20 minutes, and then have some intuitive understanding of what I was doing.
Steve: I would say that going to a Feynman lecture is a little bit like what people used to say about eating a Chinese meal. It’s very satisfying, but then like half an hour later, you’re hungry again. What happens with Feynman is he’s such a good showman, and he’s so charismatic, and the way he talks is so simple that during the talk, you feel like you understand it, but then as you’re walking back to your dorm room with the other students, and you try to explain to each other what he said, you realize actually, “Actually, I don’t really get it the way Feynman did, because now I can’t generalize from the analogies that he gave me, I can’t. I can easily generalize in a way in which I make a mistake,” which he wouldn’t necessarily do. It is a little bit tricky, it’s not always that simple.
Noor: Oh, yeah. I totally agree. It’s just like watching a gymnast, or a dancer, right? It’s like, “Wow, that looks so easy.” It only looks so easy, because it took a decade of preparation. I think that it’s weird, this phenomenon reappears over and over, right? You see it in performers, and you see it in professors in the way they select the material, and you actually also see it in startups in the way that they present companies. If a founder is super clear about the problem they’re solving, they’re able to explain it to you in two sentences.
Noor: So many people never get to that point, because they’re always in that foggy intermediary where they’re still rehearsing, they’re still refining their initial practice, and they’re still trying to understand what exactly should their business be doing, and what problem should they be solving. It’s very weird. It’s very weird how whenever you’ve gained mastery over anything, it ends up being this very effortless, and concise summary. It’s a very consistent endpoint for many different fields, weirdly.
Steve: I find that if you’re the founder, and you have a very specific, and well formulated explanation of what the company is trying to do, and what the problem is, and what the market is, that even on your team, if you go one or two layers away from the founders, people on the team can’t really articulate properly exactly what problem they’re trying to solve, or what the company should be trying to do, or if you meet even the investors, like the VCs, you meet them a year or two after they’ve invested in the company, maybe at a board meeting, and they’re also a little bit fuzzy about exactly what the issues are. It’s much harder to diffuse that information out than you’d think.
Steve: Let me go back to one of the questions I wanted to ask you. This is a little bit… Now, maybe because it sounds like you’re very focused on the engineering, computer science, genomics part of things, but this is kind of a broader question about the atmosphere on campus. Do you think that free speech is in any way restricted on campus these days? Are there serious ideas that can’t get a proper discussion on campus?
Noor: Well, now we’re getting into the controversial questions. That’s good. I don’t know. I think that I’ve never encountered that issue. I always feel free to speak my mind, and tell my honest opinion about things, but I think that perhaps if you’re not a minority woman, maybe you don’t feel like you can do that, because you’re infringing on someone else’s rights, and I’m not sure, honestly, but I haven’t felt that way. I haven’t felt like any idea that I present can’t be taken, and debated, and discussed. I would feel bad if other people felt that, obviously.
Steve: Are there things where, as you’re asking a question or raising the topic in a discussion, you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, I am a minority woman, so I can say this, but if I were a white guy, I wouldn’t be able to bring this up in conversation without taking a big risk.”
Noor: I mean, that’s just not something that I think about personally, but I imagine maybe if you were a white male, then you would be maybe treading more careful, but I get that I only inhabit this one body, so I can’t really know what someone else is thinking. I think it also often comes down to personality. I think me as a person, I don’t… I’m not really concerned with confrontation, confrontation with something that bothers me, and I think that someone else, if you’re less willing to engage in debate, then obviously you’d shy away from a lot of topics regardless of the climate.
Noor: I think that there’s always this dual responsibility of the individual, and of the community to support that. I think that any single individual with commensurate strength can break any community, even if you talk about something as oppressive as a dictatorship, right? You see these individuals who overcome even that level of muscling, and silencing, and then we also see the opposite case where it doesn’t matter how open the community is, how accepting the community is, if you have an individual that’s very, very unwilling to voice their opinions, then again, you don’t see people expressing their ideas openly.
Noor: There’s always, I think, a joint responsibility between an individual, and the environment that you’re in. I think, as an individual, you can only control yourself, so my choice has always been to feel as free as I want to be, and not really let the environment bother me.
Steve: If I were to channel my inner Peter Thiel, or was it the Stanford Review that he worked for? Is that the conservative newspaper on campus?
Noor: Yeah. That’s correct. He’s on the Stanford Review.
Steve: Yeah. Okay. If I were to channel my inner Stanford Review, or Peter Thiel, I would say something like, “Well, things have gotten so politically correct on campus these days, that there are quite a few intellectually defensible, serious questions that deserve rigorous debate, but you basically can’t have those discussions, because people on the left will shut you down right away.” I think Michigan State doesn’t have this quite so much, because we’re kind of a land grab, blue collar, down to earth kind of university, but I wonder if you feel that’s true at Stanford at all.
Noor: I don’t think that’s true, but I mean, I think it also depends on where you swing on the political spectrum. If you feel like no one supports the opinions that you have, and no one wants to come to talk that you present, then I could see how you would feel that way. I mean, I think there have been attempts to have discussion about various topics that are unpopular, and I think that they have been. They’re circulated, and people know about them, but the attendance is just very low, because it’s just not a defensible opinion in a lot of people’s eyes. I mean, they’re happening on campus, and certain students have attended them, but I think it would be correct to say that they are unpopular, and not very well attended, I guess.
Steve: Okay. Now, when Corey and I were in college, which was before you were born, it was the ’80s, and Ronald Reagan was president. When we thought of college 20 or 30 years before when we went to school, we were thinking of the ’50s, or ’60s, and we could point to millions of ways in which the college experience for somebody in the ’50s, or ’60s was totally different from what we were experiencing in the ’80s. I’m curious what you would say about your current college experience. How do you view it as different from what some old guy like me experienced?
Noor: I think it’s kind of what we touched on earlier, which is that I think that there’s a lot more of a collaborative, and collegial relationship between students and faculty than I would imagine I would have on the east coast, or maybe 30 years ago. I think that, to me, that has been probably the most valuable, or unique part of my Stanford experience, is the fact that I have gotten to become so close with professors who have done such interesting work both scientifically, and professionally, and getting to learn and work with them on equal footing, I think that’s definitely really unique.
Noor: I think that honestly CS is really different now than it was 30 years ago, right? I mean, AI has been a huge revolution, and people are really interested and excited with the promise that holds. I think just more broadly, computers have just gotten much cheaper, and much faster, and much more ubiquitous. I think that the possibilities of what kind of business that you can build, or things you can do with just a computer, and not with significant funding, or anyone else, is just a lot more than it was just a decade or two ago. I think that’s probably really different.
Noor: Yeah. I think that just had a huge impact on how people organize, what people do with their time. I mean, I don’t know. I was watching an episode of Seinfeld the other day, and I just thought how funny it was that the whole plot was just driven by the fact that Jerry couldn’t go tell this girl that he wasn’t going to meet her at a movie, or something, but that whole plot doesn’t even make sense today, because we just have mobile phones, and everyone can just text each other all the time about changing plans.
Noor: This whole episode was about how his whole day had to be turned around in order to call a friend to go meet this person at this movie theater, and tell her that he can’t make it, or he’s going to be an hour late, or whatever it was. I think just so many things like that, as well, are really different than they were just a little while ago.
Steve: On that last point, I’m told people don’t really have to make plans, because they’re always just in sync with everybody else. We had to plan things well in advance, like, “We’re going to meet at this point, and we’re going to do this.” Now, you can just mill around, and say, “Hey, we’re all just going to do this now,” and it just happens. That’s quite different I think.
Noor: Yeah. I mean, I think it has its pros, and cons, right? I mean, the pro is that maybe you can be more spontaneous, but the con is that once you go to one event, people are very willing to go to another thing, because they can find out about it immediately, and call a ride immediately to get there. There’s definitely maybe too much FOMO, too much fear of missing out, and that kind of makes people be a little bit less tapped into what they’re doing right now, or who they’re with right now.
Steve: I just learned the acronym FOMO from my daughter. I didn’t actually know what it meant until the other day.
Steve: What does it mean? I don’t know.
Steve: Fear of missing out. I think there’s a lot more FOMO when there are so many options available to you.
Noor: What do you feel like would define your college experience? What do you think about it? I imagine it’s really different today than it was when you went to college.
Steve: One of the things that is particularly germane to you is that there was very little action that you could take outside the curriculum, or narrow career path. In our era, if you wanted to do a PhD, then you’d better do well as an undergraduate in the classes, so you could go to a good graduate program, and get your PhD, so that you can become a scientist, or you have to get into the right law school to become a lawyer, or you have to go to the medical school to become an MD, whereas now people can say, “I’m going to start a company. I’m going to do this, I’m going to write some code by myself that millions of people are going to use.”
Steve: Nothing like that was really possible for anybody. Maybe the closest thing would be that you wrote a really great short story, and you got it published in the New Yorker, but I think the set of people that were trying to do something like that was basically zero. Almost all of us were stuck in a very rigid marching pattern that you could do better or worse than somebody else in that marching pattern, but you could jump ahead.
Steve: Corey and I, I think, graduated from college when we were quite young compared to our peers, but the lane you were in was very structured, whereas now it seems like for the very talented kids, there’s just a lot more options that they can pursue, and some of those options have little to do with actually what’s being taught in the courses.
Noor: Yeah. I think a lot of that is still the same. I mean, if you want to become a doctor, it’s still a very rigid path, if you want to become a lawyer, it’s still a very rigid path. I think that there’s obviously a lot of change that could happen in medical school that would make things a lot better. I mean, we have a shortage of doctors, and that’s completely artificial by the fact that medical schools, and residency programs only want to train, and admit a certain number of people regardless of the fact that we actually need more doctors.
Steve: The process of becoming a doctor hasn’t changed that much, but the fact that there are so many options other than being a doctor, or lawyer, or scientist. That, I think, is the thing that’s different now, because of the startup economy, and the idea that you can be an independent coder. I think that’s the part of it that’s different.
Steve: Well, are we really exaggerating… Steve, I think you may be exaggerating the number of career paths that have opened up. It seems like tech has opened up a set of career paths, and people are self-starters, and extremely good coders, but I’m not sure how much… The question I’d ask you is, outside of the tech area, how much do you think things have probably changed since Steve and I were in school, where we did have this very traditional career path? Tech is new, but are there really other radically new paths that someone can take either before college, or after college?
Noor: I mean, I think you’re getting at it with your niece that you mentioned who started this catering business. I think that the idea that maybe you can just go start the business that you want to start without getting a college degree. I think that… Whether you’re going to start a restaurant, or whether you’re starting a catering business, whether it’s any other number of businesses, that maybe you wouldn’t get any farther along if you’ve studied an unrelated topic. I think that’s becoming more of a thing, but obviously being in the Bay Area, and being here, most of what I’m seeing is what people in tech are doing.
Steve: Yeah. I actually don’t know whether people are doing more startups now than they were. I think there are actually fewer small businesses started recently than there were in the past actually. I’m not sure what the overall trends are in this area.
Steve: That could be the post-2008 downturn, because I think a lot of people have been strapped since 2008. There may be more startups being started, but fewer small businesses in total.
Noor: Yeah. I mean, I think a huge part of that is student loans. I mean, if someone has significant debt that they have to pay off, that’s obviously going to change their risk level, and desire, and willingness to start a company. I mean, that happens to people who are med school, and that happens to people in law school. Maybe their heart isn’t in it anymore, but they realize through the process that it’s not for them, but they no longer have a choice. They have to pay back the loans that they signed onto.
Steve: That’s a huge difference that I should’ve mentioned is that in our generation, nobody really ever talked about student debt. You might have a little student debt that you’re paying off, but it was never really a super… correct me if I’m wrong about this, Corey, but it was never a super onerous thing, whereas now I get the impression that if you graduate from college with $100,000, or two, or $300,000 in student debt, it’s a crushing burden that we never had to experience.
Noor: Yeah. I think that basically the cost of healthcare, and the cost of education in the U.S., I think there’s something like… there’s an image on my Twitter that I should send you, but basically, it looks at the costs of good by category over the last 50 years or so, and then basically the enormous outliers are healthcare and education in the U.S. Basically, the quality is constant, but the cost is exponential, and we have to do something about it, but nothing really has happened yet.
Steve: Yeah. I mean, I think that as Peter would say in describing the higher ed bubble, he would say, “Well, what happened is the opportunity for the mechanism for debt financing opened up, so the universities took advantage of that. They could raise the prices, and people would still pay them.” Hence, the whole enterprise became less efficient, and so… but people haven’t yet been able to overcome their social conditioning that they must get a bachelors degree, and so… hence, you get this bubble.
Steve: Well, the data is strong showing how… the benefits of getting a college education, so people aren’t diluted about this, right? The average lifetime income of somebody with a high school degree to someone with a college degree.
Steve: Well, but the causality is not clear, right? In the past, where you get all the data from, there was pretty strong ability selection for people who could graduate from college, whereas we don’t have that now. If you look at a typical freshman class at a big 10 university 30, 40 years ago, a lot of people would flunk out. You would go to college, but then you wouldn’t make it, you weren’t college material, and then you wouldn’t graduate. The schools didn’t feel defensive about having a low graduation rate of 30% to 40%, or something like that. Whereas, now we’re very defensive about having a graduation rate of 60% or 70%.
Steve: The fact that college graduates in the past did well economically doesn’t necessarily mean that modal kid going to college now is going to get their money’s worth from their tuition, and their future earnings-
Noor: Yeah. I think that a huge part of it is what major did you choose. I don’t think college should be this vocational educational type thing where you’re only studying something to get a job, but I mean, if you want to recoup the cost of your investment, that has to be part of it. Unfortunately, I don’t have too many friends who are outside of tech, but the ones that I have seen, it’s really difficult for them to get a job, and they have to completely rethink what it is that they wanted to do, and it’s not an enviable position. I’m not sure why they weren’t counseled earlier as freshman, or even when they were entering school, “This is what the outcome will be four years from now if you pursue the path that you intend to pursue.” I think that’s irresponsible, honestly, on the part of the university, or-
Steve: I think there’s been-
Noor: I guess-
Steve: I think there’s been deliberate obfuscation by professors in certain fields of the fact that the modal graduate, or the average graduate in that major doesn’t make a lot of money. They don’t want that information out there, and so they haven’t tried very hard to collect the statistics, and get the information out there, but I think universities as a whole have a responsibility to making sure the kid knows that future lifetime earnings are somewhat strongly dependent on choice of major, and that information should be available, but it’s not, even today.
Steve: I think it’s quite public now, you can find easy websites to show you modal income for different majors. It’s not like this is hidden. I think Glass Door has it-
Steve: Well, you’re right, but it’s a relatively recent thing, and I don’t think the universities are supporting it that much-
Steve: Right. Is there anything that you think someone in our generation… really you would like us to know about your generation? Does that help the question at all?
Steve: There were things I thought, “I wish my parents really understood about my generation,” ideas they didn’t quite grasp. Are there things that are similar?
Noor: Sure. I mean, I think there are some things that, as I’m thinking about my relationship with my parents, that they don’t understand. I think that… The problem is I’m not sure how much of it is just me personally, or my peer group also feels strongly the same way. I think that me personally, I really value traveling, and new experiences, and I think that for my parents, they see that as wandering, as being lost, as just generally not being a good use of time. I think them, as immigrants, they came from Pakistan, and it was this very arduous process to obtain citizenship here.
Noor: Obviously, I respect that was a huge gift that they gave us, and I had a great life growing up in America versus what I would’ve had growing up in Pakistan, but at the same time, that doesn’t diminish my desire to see the world, and experience other cultures, and how other people live, and I think to them, they just don’t understand that. They think, “America is the best country. You’re so lucky that you got to be here. Why would you ever go anywhere else?” I’m not sure if that’s anything that rings a bell with you guys, but that’s something that I think is really important, is knowing how other people in the world live, and just seeing what their day-to-day is versus seeing what my day-to-day is here.
Steve: Well, I don’t sense a huge generation gap, Corey. What do you think?
Steve: We talked about this a little bit, but I think in some ways, and maybe this is my own self-centered view of growing up in a pretty liberal town, I think a lot of the [inaudible 01:04:30] are viewed as typically liberal, and maybe free to be you and me 30, 40 years ago, are now completely mainstream. The attitude from Amherst, Massachusetts was, “Of course you want to go see the world. Of course, you want to get a different perspective.” This wasn’t very common, but Steve, you and I have talked about the fact that some ideas start small, and grow very, very widely. I think some of these more broad-minded ideas that I think you and I may have benefited by happenstance of growing up in are now extremely common.
Steve: It’s natural the fact that there’s not been much of a generation gap between you, and I, and Noor, because we’re actually pretty much the same culture, you, and I, and she-
Noor: That is actually what I would say, as well. I think that I often hear this rhetoric around, “Millennials, gen z, they’re so different than everyone else.” I think that the reality is that we’re all pretty similar. Just go talk to someone who is 15 years older, or younger than you, and I think that you’ll find that you’ll get along more than you’d think. At least that was my experience coming in as a 17 year old, and talking to people 30, 40 years my senior. I was just really impressed with how much they were willing to get at my level, and just to talk through, and to tell me literally the baby steps of starting a company when they have done it 1,000 times, and they’ve funded 1,000 companies. They were just willing to explain things to me in that way.
Noor: I would actually say that we’re really not that different. If anything, we got our values from you guys, so we’re what you wanted the world to be like, hopefully, or we’re moving slightly in the direction that you expected-
Steve: What’s interesting is that there’s actually quite a lot of differences between Noor probably now with us than when we were in college, right? I mean, her experience would look incredibly foreign to us 30 years ago. The idea of taking a gap year off just… I mean, I heard people did it, but it seemed incredibly eccentric. Why would you do that? You’re wasting your time. Us back then, who were very career-driven, I think her idea of focusing on tech, maybe take a year off, that to me, at her age would just seem like on another planet. It doesn’t now, but-
Steve: It’s certainly something none of us would’ve thought of at that time. Now, if you have this consciousness of this whole idea that there are these things called startups, and there’s a certain level of experience and knowledge you need to execute a startup, and one of the best ways to learn that is to actually… like if somebody is going to pay you, like Peter Thiel, to go off, and try to do one. We could conceptualize it that way, I think, but we wouldn’t have even had the idea of startups. Back then, Bill Gates had just dropped out of Harvard a few years ago to start Microsoft, but the whole idea of a little tech company doing something amazing in the world was not part of our conceptual vocabulary at that time.
Steve: I think that’s right.
Noor: Yeah. I mean, my parents said very much the same thing when I decided to do this. They just felt like, “This is a crazy experiment that I don’t want you to be a part of.” I don’t think that it’s different than the way that you guys thought, but looking back, I don’t think I made a better decision in my life. I think it totally changed my trajectory, and it totally exposed me to a world of ideas, and people that are still definitely influencing me today, and are some of my closest friends today.
Steve: That’s great. Well, as I said, we’re kind of over time, so I think we’re going to call it. Noor, we really want to thank you for spending this time with us. You’re obviously a very exceptional-
Noor: Thank you for having me.
Steve: Yeah. It was really a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can have you back on the show at some point.
Noor: Wow, that’s so kind of you to extend another invitation. Yeah. It was great talking to you. I’m so glad we got the chance to meet. I mean, in some part, our meeting had to do with Stanford, too, right? I don’t know if you would’ve joined me at a different school.
Steve: Yeah. Next time I’m out there, we’ll have to meet up again.
Noor: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, thanks again for having me. I really appreciated getting a chance to chat with you. All right. Have a good one, guys. Thanks so much.
Steve: Take care.