Transcript: Noor Siddiqui, Thiel Fellow, on Stanford and Silicon Valley – Episode #3

all right my name is Corey Washington and I’m Steve Schuh and this is our show manifold and Steve we just had a great conversation with a fabulous young woman named Nora Siddiqui who you first met a few months ago tell us about that so Noor is the founder of an event that Stanford called nofilter 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 teal fellow the teal fellows are people who are funded by Peter teal 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 first very first discussion episode zero we talked about how old and out of touch we are and as if it’s not obvious yeah and so of course we would like to get some millennial or gen Z kind of people in to give the give us a feel for what life is like for that generation and so we kind of killed two birds with one stone with Noor because she’s sort of she’s Jen why I started gen Z millennial but she’s also in the heart of Silicon Valley she’s now an experienced startup entrepreneur and so she can talk about both those topics which are things that you and I are both interested in and I think we’ve learned a lot about what Stanford’s like today you know I was there Stanford I think I left Stanford around 1992 which is just before essentially the the internet blew up and Stefan became the center of startup universe pow face the Silicon Valley did but she had some really interesting perspectives on how College different from the time when we were there now we recorded over the Internet because with Cori I think Cori was in the office and I was at home and this was because we had this polar vortex event in the Midwest where I was incredibly cold and they actually shut down the university for several days which is very unusual for Michigan State University so the audio quality might not be up what we aspire to get in these shows but I think it’s still a listenable and unless you have more to say let’s just go into the interview Cory were alive now with nor 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 gonna do something really interesting in life so first could you tell us a little bit about your background 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 yes I think I probably have a little bit of a weird story so when I was graduating from high school I you know find out about the teal fellowship and sort of we had dropped all my ambitions for college and sort of thought that okay if I can learn how to start a company and sort of quote unquote change the world that’s really what I wanted to accomplish in college anyways so I should go do that yeah I basically decided to do the chill fellowship route of high school certain accompany and then there was basically this decision point where okay you can here go try and sell this company or you can you know go to college and I think where I was that I felt really proud that I sort of you know but this product of this team went from sort of nothing to something but at the same time what I was working on isn’t what I wanted my life’s work to be it was sort of like we had both the physician collaboration tool that we know was helping doctors was live in patient care but it wasn’t necessarily like the thing I wanted to be my life’s work and I thought okay you know you win some really valuable things here but if you think only one term it probably makes more sense for for you to go to school and you know study computer science in genetics like the things that you’ve always been really excited about and to try and do something a little bit bigger than sort of like just a visual health app which is kind of the other thing that I had been working on before so that’s sort of the point where I went to Stanford I actually sort of like three years removed from most of the cohort but of course at Stanford you actually get a lot of people like me where they’ve heard of did something else it took a gap year or they also did a company and you know decided to sell it or not gel it and then come to school or you know they were in the military or yeah a lot of people have sort of like interesting stories in which the Olympics or whatever and then decided to come to college after that great you know I had totally forgotten that you were a teal fellow so poorly I went hop in for a little bit and roll back a little bit I write I’m one most basic questions about a couple of things I’m kids some of where you’re from because you sound like you’ve become really interesting out and looking I’m kind of curious where’d you go to high school and what are your interests there and how did you find about the teal fellows and for I think a lot of people basic questions what are the teal fellows so can we a little bit sure yes I grew up in I grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC or in Fairfax County Virginia and pretty much everyone who ends up at Stanford goes to Thomas Jefferson it was a sort of like the science in fact magnet school but I actually went to Robinson secondary which is sort of like a like IB school and I was really excited about sort of scoring school internationally at the time so I chose to I go to Robinson yeah that’s where I grew up and what was your second question how do I find out of the tale fellowship and what are the two fellows I think many people don’t quite know Steve and I know about if we want to make sure everyone is in on the conversation oh sure sure so yeah I found out about the teal fellowship actually um kind of just online there was a sort of little snippets of stories here and there that I saw and kind of first story that I found I was just you know got really excited about it what article is the teal fellows are a program that was started by Peter teal in 2011 and the idea was let’s give young people grants so that they can go pursue whatever ambitious dream they have and as a condition of this grant you can forego university for at least two years while you try and make whatever your vision and I come to life and I recall Peter till started this with a slightly subversive agenda right and Peele Peter really had some doubts about the value of a college education relative to value getting real-world experience we Steve you know Peter pretty well it wasn’t the idea somehow that he thought that this is actually a more valuable experience offer than four years of college so I think Peter and many people in his orbit including a little bit myself think that we’re in the midst of potentially a higher end bubble in a certain sense and so yes he had a slightly subversive view of this 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 but I would love to hear what Newhouse let’s say about it yeah I mean in my opinion I think that his agenda has been sensational eyes 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 mit doesn’t have to be predicated on a degree whether it’s from my very fancy institution like Sanford or Harvard or whether it is from Neil you know any other University and I think that there’s really for any for someone coming out of high school that’s that pulpit is not really presented at least at least especially I think in 2011-2012 when the first started the idea of not going to college I think was a lot crazier incentives now 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 they’ve already gotten funding they already abstraction they basically much farther along I think in part because of seeing the previous class of fellows sort of what they accomplished so I think especially in 2012 there wasn’t seen as any other Avenue to be successful or like to make anything of yourself besides going to college I think that even since then there’s some a little bit of a change where you know you see more people kind of like going after a presence so we’re going after you know an idea they have been trying to build a business it’s just right out of high school and that wasn’t much of the and a few years earlier interesting my my cousin’s kid I guess that’s my first cousin once removed um she she simply she left high school didn’t go to college started a placated business in atlanta and just gross across the 1 million mark for grossing last year and her take on it is yeah if you’re kind of a self learner and a self-starter then that’s the kind of person who could also succeed without college and I think um I think she’s pretty much playing to hold on to that path nor when you applied for the teal fellowship had you already been admitted to Stanford you have to reapply later is a safer basically let me defer for several years they were very time but basically by by the time I actually joined Stanford they I think they were unwilling to let me defer anymore but yeah they let me defer for you know the time between high school and fellowship so you did go through this standard college application process you did you weren’t sure that you were gonna be a teal fellow and so you you applied to Stanford through the regular process I mean all the applications are sort of due at the same time I’d it’s been a little bit of a while since all that happens but yeah I basically I think that 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 so if you’re if you’re a parent like me of teenagers my kids just turn 13 not so long ago you know you get the impression that the really serious families are sort of planning already like 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 I mean is taken that seriously these days I think it depends where you grow up but yeah I think I think that the process of getting into college is probably more stuff than it needs to be I think there’s probably way more posturing than there needs to be and I think that that’s also I think where Peter has a good point where you shouldn’t be spending you know 18 years you know until your adult life was like patting a resume I’m really pursuing your real interest and I think that the irony of the whole thing is that I think at least in my experience that people who actually get in they didn’t spend most their time padding the resume and working on things officially they service with their time going really deep on things as they were that they sincerely cared about and I think when you should surely care about something maybe more comes with it but you know maybe if you have a you know Tiger parent they can really Drive you as well I don’t I don’t know because I’ve felt very much into the former category my parents are actually like quite hands-off they were never really like pushing me you know either to like get good grades you extra Fick Euler’s or anything like that I feel like s fortunate in that way the same time I access sort of in Vida Tiger pairs I think it’s kind of cool like my cousins actually they have their parents or I think sort of more tiger II that you’re like take them to Japanese classes and like go to Japan and do Japanese immersion and things like that while my parents were like very unwilling to let me go anywhere during the summer they wanted me that you’re like spend as much time with them and the family as possible yeah it’s say I’m kind of borderline Tiger II Tiger aware of what what these people are up to and my feeling is that you know the admissions people would love to see it who is truly passionate and if there’s something on their resume that you know it was really stamped out it’s something the kid really was passionate about and wasn’t manufactured by some adults you know 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 yeah I think it’s very clear sort of once they’re in college which it was because I think the people who were driven by their parents they sort of relaxed and aren’t really very motivated anymore or are still sort of more motivated by kind of impressing their parents or you know and pressing something outside party but I think the students that are internally driven they’re you know kind of it over guys they’re sort of in the place where they had always wanted to be you the place where they have sort of the most access to the opportunities that they haven’t sort of been wanting for a very long time and the freedom as well to pursue those so I think I think it becomes very clear once they’re admitted but I but see 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 you know had you know quote to you drive sorry okay well one of the things I argue with my wife and pout 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 you know did pretty well in piano competitions for some weird reason but I remember like it what at the time when I was in 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 and that was just the perfect example of that kind of maybe overblown overgrown tiger guarantee yeah oh yeah I definitely met a lot of people like that to sort of think they won these like math competitions or science competitions I forget the names of them but they’re very prestigious and they sort of never touched the subject to get after it because it sort of tired of it but I also wonder whether even if you decide not to touch it again the instrument or the math or the you know science biology facts whatever it is I wonder whether that discipline filter there stays with you because you think it might be valuable I would say to me it seems like it might be valuable anyways but that’s again because I sort of you know looking back I had this like weird you know desire to you know have had that like probably more about experience right but I actually did so I the the the extent to which I supported the forcing kids to learn to play a musical instrument 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 be that it would you know at this point is just grinding and if they don’t like it and then don’t do it and so that’s sort of where I dropped out of the tiger parent mode but but I still AM my wife is still angry at me for not supporting her more on this one that’s the research that kind of supports these views about encouraging things as some studies on creativity will show that if you basically take a kid and pay them I set up a competition right where kids are asked to make a drawing or to build something out of a construction materials and you pay the one who produces the best ROI judged by some particular method or experts those kids basically if you give the option of playing with those materials again they won’t touch them in the next hour or so but if the kids are allowed more or less free play with them as they like and then maybe you should let the best ones those kids will often continue to play with those things for hours on end but putting kids in competitive setting and really encouraging them to do something seems to discourage later activity I mean over the short term any studies so maybe to a longer terms also I’m kind of extreme I’m forcing my kid to learn like four different languages and she’s three and you know so far she’s going along with it I’m in the opposite position my wife is sort of 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 the future I want to get four or five languages under the hood before she stops one to play along let me go back to you Nora and let me ask you when you look back at your startup experience as a teal hello do you ever think back to that time and say wow how naive I was you know it’s crazy to think I could have done you know started a company when I was 18 or something like this or do you have the view that no is perfectly reasonable and I actually could have succeeded oh oh sorry I guess I make it sound like it was worse than I was so um yeah I definitely looked back at myself and say 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 you know I think slope is more important than y-intercept it matters how much you’re growing every year or not you know where you start so I think that hopefully I’ll always think about that take that way about my fiber is ourselves but um no I think it’s totally reasonable to be successful that age or really anything more an internal decision than an Excel decision about when demand take yourself seriously when you’re going to take your own ideas seriously I actually consider you know the experience I mean hundred percent of success I you know I learned to build the product when I did build the team one has a raise money and you know not very many sort of skip to actually bake money and yeah we were able to get to that point and yeah there was a there’s interesting people who wanted to buy the company I mean I think the only reason why it wasn’t sort of wrapped up in the traditional quote like success package was the candy don’t we know we chose not to go through the acquisition because I wanted to know better University instead of you know get it acquired but I think again that that’s that badge is not closed to me that he says I feel like after I graduate if I want to go do it again there’s yeah I don’t think any of the investors or they have people that I know would think no oh you couldn’t you were not allowed to go back to school after you know you maybe kind of start the company I said everyone has their own circumstances and it makes makes it does that make sense for them and I think for me I wanted to think a little bit more long term and okay this like very immediate exit from you know something that I worked on for two years so north sunny tropic you tell me what the app did for sure yes sir we did it detected primary care doctors and specialists so basically you go into primary care doctors office instead of waiting five or six weeks to see dermatologist or cardiologist or orthopedic surgeon it just allows you to consult right away with that specialist in a1 offices it so basically the benefit there is that instead of you know going to the big surgeon and him on our towing unit oh you actually only need physical therapy I can’t operate on you you sort of get that console much earlier so that you can be directed to the right accepts whether that’s physical therapy or the right imaging or the right medication it all happens in one visit you can set up for that over several visits are you by any chance with a company in the UK called Babylon health I’m actually not so you know your app idea is so great that it’s actually something very similar to it is exceeding like crazy in the UK 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 and so they are part of the national health care system and so 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 kind of inform a chatbot about your symptoms or what your problems are and it actually does some initial triage I’m using AI and I think a 500,000 people have signed up for the service already and including the Health Minister of the UK so it seems to be like a really obvious use of the technology that you know makes makes the you know the waiting times it’s smaller and you know you I think in many cases just talking to your physician over a chat video chat app is just as good as what you get you know after sitting in a waiting for an hour yes I mean the main difference from from just like typical telemedicine you know you’re at home seeing a doctor to what we were doing that we actually had the primary care doctor there with you so basically they’re assessing you in person and then if they need a specialist or you know some of the concern you have instead of having to go to that special visit you know alone without the proper context of the right you know imaging or whatever steps beforehand you kind of got that with the doctor there with you but I mean I think that the problem in the u.s. is not the 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 have products like this because they’re bettering the risk right there they’re responsible for the cost of the patient but if you’re not very risk which is happening in most settings in healthcare today there’s there’s not really an incentive for you to try and make things more efficient and to save people time I think that the UK you do have the you know again yes sir single-pair something going on though there’s more things that it’s the driver because yeah I agree with you I mean a US the u.s. is going to be slower I think in implementing a lot of important innovations just because aligning the payers minutes from the payers to the actual people who deliver the medicine is it’s just missed right now maybe will be messed up for a long time yeah I mean I think it’s uh it’s really sad because so many uh system we people here who are building really exciting things and now and people asking me about oh should I start this healthcare company that helps their company like the first question I ask them is like okay well who’s paying you are you sure they will pay you because I think there’s like an assumption basically you know every other industry where okay I provide value to this person there because they’re going to be willing to pay me but the problem in health care is like you can provide value to the doctor and the patient but they’re not the ones who’s actually paying you right you have to convince insurer or you have to convince yourself insurance company or you have to you know some other party that’s like very bureaucratic or has very different sentence of you know trying to solve you know specific actors specific problem so I think that just makes me really complicated and I think this a lot of startups don’t realize that until very late and that’s sort of why you see a lot of these direct consumers companies like yes doctor on demand for example who pivot from a directed consumer to I’m telling the health insured company because they just realized that there’s not a willingness to pay from the consumer because you know they’re getting their to cut their health insurance from where they work or from the government or you know they’re not paying out of pocket for it yeah I agree with your characterization of our our system completely I mean I think some of the single-payer systems you know 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 and the single-payer systems and here yeah I know a lot of these adults are very noted to it and it sort of reminds me of like you know econ 101 it’s like this is in that first class you sort of see okay wow very small you know changes to content of structures caused like crazy downstream effects and I think that that for your student health care of you I think one of the stat that was really shocked by is that if you go to sort of like a any any doctor’s office and you ask you percentage of the bill is is absorbed by billet by like the actual process of Billy it’s 30% like 30% of what they make is actually it cost them 30% to just do the billing process because like on every 100 white-collar down every hon yeah yeah and every hundred dollars they made $30 is being spent to capturing the billing right just like pending in the form is dealing with insurance it’s like getting the reimbursement I mean that’s just totally a huge waste money every time you talk to any doctors and they’ll complain about that right off the bat right the amount of paperwork Beth to do basically justify their billing is just enormous and a huge waste of their time so there’s definitely some efficiencies that can be gained there if someone figures out a way to alleviate that burden but here we’re sorry go ahead oh I just say that I mean most people thought that this move to electronic health records was you know I move forward digitizing health all that but I think fewer people realize that the moves to epic was really about Billy there’s no I think is really Billy it’s not one thing that helps them you know keep better track of patient yeah you know the inefficiency of our billing system it’s it’s apparent to anybody who’s been through a complicated legal situation in the US 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 and their you know the specific stuff that I’m working on now which is you know prediction of risk from genotype you know 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 most that’s most at risk for you know heart attack or something but what we’re seeing is that the single-payer systems like in Finland or the UK are probably gonna roll all this stuff out much faster than America it’s just it’s just the craziest situation yeah I mean even with projects that I’ve worked on at answer so for example in Sebastian’s lab we worked on a skin classifier worked on something for employment Ori diseases like rosacea psoriasis eczema and a bunch STDs so basically the way that it works is you just incident in it and then you know we just have this you know CNN the table – so convolutional neural network that’s able to classify that skin lesion at the level of a board-certified dermatologist and we had conversations with you know yes yeah here and there’s like this very long about process to try and you get this approved for use here and in Singapore is much shorter process there’s a lot more interest interpreted to Koyuk gathering data and yeah just using it to help to give more people diagnosis sweetener for their skin issues so again it’s like something that could save a lot of money could save a lot of people time and because he’s here just issues and you know how how incentives work here you ask my regulation works in the US it’s actually going to be deployed outside the US first so let me let me go back to your college experience so you know I guess I did my first startup much later in life than you but one of the things I said afterwards was that you know even if we hadn’t made out well financially you know it would have been a fantastic educational experience and I felt like I had earned the equivalent of being like 10x times an MBA because I had done all these things I actually supervised MBAs and and negotiated contracts or raise money or fired people hired people all those things so I’m curious for you now oh I guess you’re probably what you’re on the lookout for getting from your undergraduate experience is quite different because you’ve already done that you’ve already actually under the company and running yeah I mean for me when I was trying to go to college was much more like I guess research experience I thought that yeah having the time to research in the way that you are and you know the AI lab at Stanford is very different than what you’re allowed to do in industry so that that’s kind of what I focus I put this more on research things and I guess like just for the for you can ask classes that I thought okay this is really interesting and fun to know and good way to sort of like push-ups for your brain I guess kind of thing but yeah I wasn’t really interested in sort of like to start up classes they have a census because yeah I mean I think that that’s the kind of thing that you you can get a good primer for like because of what to expect and then what the inflection point should be but I did I think that it’s not something that you much more have to live through in terms of like really put your heart into then something that you can get only like 20 hours or 10 hours a week so a few years ago someone told me that every year about a thousand students at Stanford including graduate students though take the machine learning classes or class is that still the case or was that kind of a fad that has persisted for a few years and dropped off no I think didn’t see AI classes are still really hot right now and I don’t know if you’ve got a thousand people but I would say it’s probably closing in on that number I mean they’re extremely well taught I think there let me actually the way that I’ve been she’s in costume has a lot to do with just how well pump material is or like how entertaining its accessories so yeah I think that those classes are very well done I mean I mean you can go to like an see if any one end up Stamper I do you in service you to class notes and I think that if you compare that to sort of like a typical textbook I think that you can get up to speed a lot faster just say like great illustrations and like great explanations on so yeah I think that they’re they’re well done and they sort of deserve the attendance they’re getting so I feel like it’s Stanford there must be just incredible diversity in life goals or life aims among the students so probably there’s some fraction of kids who are aiming at an ivory tower academic career maybe even in the humanities there’s some people that are trying to be billionaires but it’s time to 30 and everything in between you guys get that impression do you talk about those kinds of things I think ones are really unfortunate factors I think that I’d probably been sort of to embedded in the sort of like CSR community the sort of big well rather than knowing everyone so I think that unfortunately hasn’t really gotten to talk too deeply with people outside of dad but I think that that’s a culture there are people with you know like very different ambitions and I think that most people certainly do not come in here did not come here with the ambition to you know it’s gonna start up birds in your company I think most people I mean that’s something that you sort of get once you come here you realize that’s sort of a common path if you’re in the Bay Area but it’s definitely not I think ambition the majority or even a large fraction of people come in with interesting so if I heard you properly you said most of the kids when they understand that are not thinking that they would start or be part of a startup but they might get exposed to it and so that that number would go up after spending time in the Bay Area that’s my impression but again I mean I’m just one person I haven’t sort of survey everyone and you know know exactly what they’re thinking in their in their hearts but that’s yeah that’s sort of the impression that I got I think that you know if you’re deciding whether to go to you know an East Coast school or West Coast school I think that maybe you would be more likely to choose a West Coast school if that was something that you wanted to be exposed to so maybe you know the population is going to be enriched for people who want to be that sort of thing but yeah I’m not sure nor have you considered other schools or did you start a Stanford pretty much right off the bat and go early decision I know I was I wasn’t really decision to Stanford but I think um yeah after the fellowship I definitely realized that I wanted to stay in the Bay Area and I you know really loved a lot of the people that I met and the network that I made and I didn’t want to kind of be on the East Coaster 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 have been able to go to a lot of things her you know started be your healthcare year yeah that are confined to sort of the Bay Area and yeah definitely place out good you okay to continue that ago is that the only place you applied to oh no I thought I applied to a few other places but decided not to pursue a deferral the other places I mean yeah I don’t think you even the part of more than one place anyways though so I think when we first met nor I was it was in the the gates the computer science building and I think I over you and professor whom is your advisor or you work in his lab saying something like describing a meeting that had just recently happened with some venture capitalists or something maybe at a cafe but maybe I just am inventing that part of it but I was struck by thinking to myself well how many places you know he’s an undergraduate now at that time I guess I had forgotten that you were formerly a teal fellow but but at the time I was struck by saying like how many undergraduates are casually discussing with their professor some meeting with a venture capitalists you know about presumably about a startup or something a specific funding plan and but is that a common thing at Stanford or is that only in sort of your narrow circle of friends again I think it’s hard to know what the common are not common between sort of always that was your experience but um I think something I’ve definitely been really struck by it Stanford or especially in the Bay Area is sort of how collaborative the environment was I mean I never felt that I wasn’t taken seriously even as a 17 year old coming out here and starting a company and that’s like very different I think’s in the way that you feel or at least I felt in high school where I sort of constantly had to convince you know my principal or my teachers to just let me do the things that I wanted to do versus as soon as I came out here even you know before I had you know the Stanford degree I think that people in the Bay Area are just kind of evaluate you based on you know your ideas and what you’ve executed on and not really so much on you know how old you are or what you’ve done before making sit yeah there’s also definitely that vibe I guess it Stanford work if you want to talk to your professor about an idea that you have you know you can just yeah it has the potential to become a company I think that they’re surprisingly willing to entertain it and sort of my mind melk with you sort of think about okay what are the ways that you know we can make this happen or you can you can make this you know you can develop this further and or tested a band yeah you know I would say that in the Bay Area and then also globally in certain places where this startup ecosystem merely has taken hold there is a lot more variability in what people will accept so some sort of middle-age venture capitalists would be happy to talk to some really talented young person because they actually have experienced things with that type of person you know really succeeding or creating value but it is very unusual in the rest of the world so you know if you’re on the Michigan State University campus and you’re 18 years old you can’t expect anybody you know my age to treat you as anything other than you know like a freshman or something so I do think that is very special and very different 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 this you know I’m the same level as you know these professors and glue that decades of experience but the fact that they treat me that way definitely does I hope you know on occasion you know I rise to their expectations of you I’m actually able to you know is that something at the same level that you know they would say they had thought of being sent with some or idea or you know had similar mission in mind I think the turnaround 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 eighteen-year-old that approaches you with that kind of level of respect right so so there’s a sort of 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 yeah I love these bidirectional though I mean I I feel like I met a lot of students here who have way less content than they should they’re actually much smarter than people decades older than them but they’re they’re actually still too caught up in the deference that they were raised in where they don’t want to you know take an idea they have more seriously or take their capabilities more seriously so it’s actually funny I think that the people who are who are more confident are actually I would say on average a little bit less and the ones who are it took like more shy more reserved and like we’re willing to like jump through the hoop actually think very often those people are more confident but they just don’t want they’re just not as willing to put themselves out there or to you know I guess risk being wrong about something which you know everyone never bleeds you know I agree with you I have as 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 oh yeah I mean your professors I mean you’ve been exposed to you know thousands of students their classrooms and yes coming up like a larger end to sort of see years but is that really what you see in the wild or is that maybe just a thing you know at this one school president yeah confidence and capability I think mildly positively correlated but certainly nowhere near correlation once thinking that beauty confident and you know people who are really quiet but they can really do stuff I was just gonna say this other thing where you you mentioned that you know you and your friends probably have noticed that you know if like you and Professor X are approaching some topic de novo topic you guys might pick it up faster than here or her in the same way like when I talked they’re really big figures like oh university president or billionaire you know famous billionaire that you might know oftentimes they’re not necessarily super human at all they’re just as confused about the same stuff as other people and and you you really just need to treat them as you would anybody else there isn’t any like you know 100% perfect indicator of superhuman ability yeah I think the one thing that always surprises me is whenever I talk to someone who’s you know a super expert in one field and kind of go a couple degrees to the right or left it’s very shocked to see how shallow you know to understand this movie and that’s sort of humbling in some sense even if you are our next turn one thing you should always like remain curious and remain like willing to learn because here your expertise only go so far yeah I think that that’s always something shocking clicking you assume that if someone’s really competent in one area they must be comped in all areas but that had never been the case I’ll always think that people who are experts in one domain or they are just the Cena novices that I selected every other different domain decides whether they’re an expert in yeah that’s the right conclusion to take from that that you know expertise is not necessarily always transferable and and often times you know for someone to succeed to the point where they are the world-class expert on some say area of molecular biology or something they really had to focus on that and so their knowledge about you know the Patriots quarterback you know is no better or is it actually much worse than the average person so I think I think your your conclusions based on that experience are correct now that I’ve been really impressive at Stanford is that someone will be a world-class expert in some area and then we’ll teach this class as if it was for to kindergarteners right you like they’re explaining you know how far you transforms work in this like third-grade way and I absolutely love it I didn’t think that you know if you’re an expert in something then you’re able to explain something in a kindergarten level and it’s so clear how well we understand the concept when they’re explaining it is just like completely intuitive terms before putting out any of than that so 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 it’s like one of the main takeaways I’ve got some stammers but it feels really technical at something then you should be able to explain it and completely non-technical terms and they can still feel like they understand whatever the concept is yeah you know I I often say this to graduate students which is that you know 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 and they you know those kinds of explanations are those kinds of models or or comic book you know renderings of what’s really going on in there are really priceless gems and I always still the grad students if some visitors come in to give a talk on X and you know that they’re a deep expert on you can go and talk to them and they can they might not necessarily be able to do it but very often they’ll be able to explain to you in a way which is you know basically priceless you’re not going to get it from anybody else and so it’s worth trying to dig that out of them when they come and visit me I think the sign of a really great classic paper is often the same how simple and beautiful descriptions of the phenomenon are you know the the obvious example this Rin Stein’s papers you know the early parts them often have no formulas and then distribute my these gorgeous thought experiments and fine was much the same way as you know Steve Wright his ability to kind of communicate ideas using very very simple analogies I think it really sine if some if someone can’t explain something in a very simple intuitive way I have deep doubts as to whether I actually understand it yeah and actually I would say that in my own research I always at a certain point once I figured this out I would challenge myself but if I was asked to give a talk on this material that I could explain it finally could boil it down to a very simple explanation which at the beginning of the talk maybe the first 15 20 minutes it everybody in the audience even if they weren’t an expert could really understand that first 15 20 minutes and then have some you know intuitive understanding of what I was doing I would say that you know going to a climbing lecture is a little bit like eating what people used to say about eating a Chinese meal like it’s very satisfying but then like half an hour later you’re hungry again and what happens with Fineman is he’s such a 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 your other with the other students and you try to explain to each other what he said you realize actually oh look really I don’t really get it the way Fryman did because now I can’t generalize from the analogies that he gave me I can’t I can easily generalize in a way that which I make mistake which he wouldn’t necessarily do but so it is a little bit tricky it’s not it’s not always that simple oh yeah I totally agree it’s just like watching like a gymnast right it’s like or dance it right it’s like wow that looks so easy I think it only looks so easy because it took you know a decade of preparation and I think that it’s weird it’s not you know reappears over and over right you see it in performer as you see it the professors know it’s that material and you actually also see it with papers that company in the founder is super clear by the problem they’re solving they’re able to explain it to you you know two sentences and so many people will never get to that point because they’re always in that you know that foggy intermediary where they’re still rehearsing they’re still supplying official practice midgel trying to understand you know what exactly should their business week what poem should they be solving yeah so it’s very weird three weird health whenever you’ve gained mastery over anything it it ends up we exist very effortless and concise summary very consistent endpoint for many different fields weirdly I find it you know if you’re the founder and you have a very 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 though 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 are also a little bit fuzzy about exactly what the issues are and so it’s it’s it’s much harder to diffuse that information out than you think let me 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 sort of engineering computer science genomics part of things but this is a kind of a broader question about the atmosphere on campus so do you think that free speech is in any way restricted on campus these days are there are there serious ideas that can’t get a proper discussion on campus yeah well now we’re going into the controversial questions that’s good I don’t know I think that I’ve never encountered that issue I thought I always feel free to you know speak my mind and you know tell my honest opinion about things but I think that you know perhaps if you’re you know not the minority woman maybe you don’t feel like you can do that because you’re and how I’m centering on someone else’s rights and I’m not sure honestly but I I haven’t felt that way I haven’t felt like any idea that I’ve presented can’t be taken and you know debaters and yeah I would I would feel bad if other people feel that way obviously are there things where you know as you’re asking the question or raising the topic in the discussion you’re thinking to yourself wow I am a minority woman so I can save it this but if I were a white guy I wouldn’t be able to actually bring this up in conversation without taking a big risk I mean that’s not something that I think about personally but I imagine maybe if you were a white male that you would be maybe treading on treading more carefully but again you know I only inhabit this one body so I can’t really you know I can’t really know what someone else is thinking I think it also also often comes down to personality I think just like me as a person I’m I don’t I’m not really concerned with quick confrontations and competitions or something that bothers me and I think that someone else if you’re not going to engage in debate then obviously you’d shy away from a lot of topic regardless of the climate so yeah I think there’s always this dual responsibility of the individual and of the community to support that so I think that any individual any single individual with no commensurate strength can sort of break any community even if you don’t talk about something as you know oppressive is like a dictatorship but you do have you see these individuals who overcome even that level of you know of muscling and silencing right 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 you know voice their opinions and yeah again you don’t you don’t see people expressing ideas openly so yeah there’s there’s always I think it’s my responsibility between the individual and the environment that you’re in and I think as an Avenger as an individual you can only control yourself so you know my choices always you know feel a treat I want to be and not really let the environment bother me so if I were to channel my inner Peter teal or was it the state and for review that he worked for is that is that the conservative newspaper on campus yeah yeah the key founders answers here yeah okay so if I were to channel my inner Stanford review or Peter teal I would say something like well things have gotten so politically correct on campus these days that are that there are quite a few you know intellectually defensible serious questions that deserve you know rigorous debate but you basically can’t have those discussions because people on the left will shut you down right away and I think Michigan State doesn’t have this quite so much because we’re kind of a land-grant blue collar down to earth kind of University but I wonder if you feel that that’s true at Stanford at all I mean I don’t think that’s true but I mean I think it also depends or just like 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 can see how you’d feel that way I mean I think there has been attempt to sort of you know have discussions about you know very opposite or unpopular and I think that they happen there’s you know they’re circulated and people know about them but the intendant’s is just very low because it’s it’s just not I guess a defensible opinion and a lot of people’s eyes so I mean they’re happening on campus on campus and you know a certain subset of students are attending them but I think that I think it would be trucks in their unpopular and not did I did okay now when Corey and I were in college which was um before you were born it was the 80s and Ronald Reagan was president and you know 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 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 and 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 mmm I think it’s kind of what we touched on earlier which is but um I think that there’s a lot more of a collaborative and collegial relationship between students and faculty then I would imagine I would have on the East Coast or maybe in you know 30 years ago I think that to me that has been politics most valuable unique part of my dance experience is the fact that I have gotten to become so close with professors who have done such interesting worth work for scientifically and professionally and you know getting to learn and work with them on on equal footing I think that’s definitely really unique I think that honestly the SES is really different now than it was four years ago right I mean hey I been a huge revolution and people are really interested and excited about the problems back home I think it’s more broadly and computers have just gotten like much cheaper much faster much more you can trick with it so I think that there’s like the possibilities what kind of business that you can build or they’re still kind of things you can do just for the computer and you know not with you know significant funding or anyone else it’s just a lot more than it was just a decade or two ago I think that’s probably really different okay yeah I think this is much as had a huge impact on like how people organize what people do with their time I mean just like I know I was watching an episode of Seinfeld the other day and I just thought how funny it was that the whole plot was driven by the fact that Jerry couldn’t go tell this girl that you know he wasn’t gonna meet her at a movie or something right and that but that hold plot doesn’t even make sense today because you just have mobile phones and everyone can expect each other all the time about you know changing plans and this whole episode was about you know how his whole day had to be turned around in order to you know call a friend could go you know this person that this yeah movie theater and tell her okay you can’t make it or anything to be an hour late or whatever it was so many things like that as well really different than they were a little while ago yeah on that last point I told people don’t really have to make plans because they’re always just in sync with everybody else so you know we had to plan things well in advance like we’re gonna meet at this point and we’re gonna do this but now you can just mill around and say hey we’re all just going to do this now and it just happens and so that that’s quite if yeah I mean I think it has its pros and cons or it is the pros that makes me more spontaneous but the cars that you know once you get once you go to one event people are like very willing to sort of go to another thing because they can find out that immediately caller ID immediately go get there so there’s definitely like maybe too much realm of fear of missing out and that kind of make people be a little bit left happen you know what they’re doing right now is were there with right now I just learned the acronym FOMO from my daughter so didn’t actually know what it is what does it mean I don’t know fear of missing out I think there’s a lot more FOMO when there are so many options available to you what do you feel like the define your college experience like when you think about it well you don’t imagine it’s really different today than it was when you went to college you know one of the things which is particularly germane to you is that there was very little action that you could take outside the curriculum more narrow career paths so in our era you know you if you wanted to do a PhD then you better do well as an undergraduate in the classes so you can go to a good graduate program and get your PhD so 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 go become an MD whereas now people can say oh yeah I’m gonna start a company I’m gonna do this I’m gonna write some code by myself that’s you know millions of people are gonna use nothing like that was really possible for anybody maybe the closest thing would be you wrote a really great short story and got it published in The New Yorker but I think the set of people that were trying to do something like that was like basically zero so almost all of us were stuck in a very rigid kind of marching pattern that you could do better or worse than somebody else in that marching pattern and you could jump ahead like Cory and I think graduated from college when we were quite young compared to our peers but but you you the lane you were in was very structured whereas now it seems like for the very talented kids there there’s a lot just a lot more options so they could pursue and some of those options have little to do with actually what’s being taught in the courses yeah I mean I think I think I mean a lot of that is still the same I mean if you want to become a doctor it’s still the very rigid path you want to become a lawyer so the very rigid path and I think that there’s obviously a lot of change that could happen in medical school that was making a lot better I mean we have a shortage of doctors that completely artificial by the fact that you know medical school and residency programs only want to train that admit a certain number of people regardless of the fact that we actually need more doctors so the process becoming a doctor hasn’t changed that much but the fact that there are so many options other than being doctor lawyer or you know scientist that that I think is the thing that’s different now because of the startup economy and the idea that you can be a kind of independent code you know that I think that’s the part of it that’s different well are we really saturating the main steet I think maybe exaggerating the and the career paths opened up it seems like tech has opened up a set of career paths people are self-starters extremely good coders but I’m not sure how much it question I guess you are outside of the tech area how much 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 I’m a really other radical new path as someone can take either before college or after college I mean I think I think you’re getting at it was you know your niece that you meant to be started with catering business I think that you know the idea that maybe you can just go start the business that you want to start out getting a college degree I mean I think that you know whether it’s or a restaurant whether it’s our catering business whether it’s you know any other number of businesses that you know maybe you wouldn’t get any further long path you know if you study you know an unrelated topic I think that’s becoming more of a thing but obviously you know being the barrier being here most of what the human being is you know what people would take are do you actually don’t know what the people starting doing more startups now and there were I think there actually fewer small businesses started recently than there were in the past actually I’m not sure the overall trends are in this area but that could be the post 2008 downturn a lot of people have been strapped since 2008 so there may be more startups being started but fewer small businesses in total yeah I mean I think I think it used part of that is in student loans I mean you know if someone has has you know significant debt that they have to pay off I mean that’s obviously gonna change their risk profile and desire and willingness to so a company I mean that happens to people who are in med school it happens people in Lhasa maybe their heart isn’t in it anymore but they realize and through the process that it’s not to them but they no longer have maturity they don’t have to pay back the loans that they end on to you know that that’s that’s a huge difference that I should have mentioned is that in our generation nobody really ever talked about student debt you might have a little student debt that you’re kind of but it was never a really super correct me if I’m wrong about this court but it was never a super ownerís thing whereas now I get the impression that you know if you graduate from college with a hundred thousand or two or three hundred thousand dollars in student debt you’re it’s a crushing burden that we never had to experience yeah I think that basically the cost of health care and the cost of education in the US I think there’s something like there’s an image on my Twitter that I should send you but basically it will look at the cost of you know goods by category you know over the last 50 years or so and then basically be the enormous outliers our health care 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 you know nothing nothing has happened yet 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 and so the universities took advantage of that they could raise the prices and people would still pay them and hence the whole enterprise became less efficient and so but but people haven’t yet been able to overcome their social conditioning that they must get a bachelor’s degree and so hence you get this bubble well the data is strong showing how the benefits of getting college education so people aren’t deluded about this right where the average lifetime income of somebody with a high school degree some of the college degree well but the causality is not clear right because in the 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 typical freshman class at like a Big Ten University thirty forty years ago a lot of people would flunk out that you could you would go to college but then you wouldn’t make it you weren’t college material and you wouldn’t graduate and the schools didn’t feel defensive about having a low graduation rate of thirty or forty percent or something like that whereas now we’re very defensive about having a graduation rate of sixty or seventy percent so the the signaling I mean that 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 in their future yeah yeah a huge part of it is you know what major did you choose I mean I don’t think that college should be this like vocational education type thing where you know you’re only setting something to get a job but I mean if you’re if you want to recoup the cost of your investment I mean it has to be part of it so yeah I mean that unfortunately like I I don’t have too many friends or outside of tech but the ones that I have seen I mean it’s really difficult for them to get a job and basically totally completely rethink and what it is that they wanted to do and you know it’s not an enviable position and I don’t I don’t I’m not sure why they weren’t counseled earlier you know as freshmen or you know even when they’re entering school you know if this is what the outcome will be four years from now he push you to pathway or even him to pursue irresponsible on the part of the university or again I think there’s been just deliberate obfuscation by professors in certain fields of the fact that the modal graduate in their 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 make sure the kid knows that future lifetime earnings are somewhat strongly dependent on choices major okay and that information should be available but it’s not even today I think is quite public now you can find easy websites to show you kind of modal income for different kind of majors it’s not like this is hidden now I think Glassdoor like Adam I think Glenn right but it’s a relatively recent thing and I don’t think the universities are supporting it that much that’s right sorry thing who cares in our genders from really you’d like us to know about your generation isn’t the question all there’s something like you know I these things I thought I wish my parents really understood about my gunner said I did they didn’t quite grasp is the things that are similar there I mean I think there’s some things that that I’ve been thinking about my relations my parents like the things that they’ll understand as long as I’m not sure how much of it is there just me personally or you know my peer group also it feels strongly the same way I think that um me personally I believe value like traveling and new experiences and yeah I think that for my parents they see that as wandering as being lost as you just generally not be a good use of time and I think then specifically as immigrants they sort of you know they came from Pakistan and it was this very arduous process to you know pain citizenship here and you know obviously I respect that that was a huge gift that they gave us and I had a you know yeah great life you know growing up in America versus what I would have had it growing up in Pakistan but and the same time that doesn’t diminish my desire to you know see the world until like you know experience other cultures and how other people live and yeah I think to them they just they don’t understand that they think that okay America is the best country you’re so lucky that you got to be here why would you ever go to URL so not sure if that’s anything that you’re sort of know rings a bell with you guys but um that’s something that I said I think it’s really important is like knowing how other people in the world live and just like seeing what their day-to-day and versus people on my day to day is here well I don’t I don’t sense a huge generation gap Cory what do you think you have just we talked about this a little bit but I think in some ways and maybe this is my own kind of self-centered view of growing a pretty liberal town take a lot of the Butte is kind of typically liberal and kind of maybe free to be you and me 30 40 years ago are now completely mainstream right so the anagen from Amherst Massachusetts was of course you want to go see the world you know of course you want to get a different perspective this wasn’t very common but a you see and see you and I have talked with the fact that some ideas kind of start small and kind of grow very very widely so I think I think some of these more broad-minded ideas there I think you and I may benefit by half a sense of growing up in are now extremely common so it’s natural in fact there’s not been much generation gap between you and I nor because Rexy whoa we’re pretty specs the same culture you know you die and she’s yeah actually that is actually what I would say as well I think that I also hear this rhetoric around Oh millennial Jen’s are so different as everyone else I think that the reality is is that you know we’re all you know pretty similar I think that just go talks with bitches go talk to someone he knew fifty years older of youngers of you and I think acquired the old so get along would you think at least at least that was my experience you know coming as a 17 year old and talking to people you know 34 years my senior I was just really impressed with how how how much they’re willing to get at my level and just to talk to just to tell me little is that the baby steps to starting a company when they’ve done it you know a thousand times funny this you know a thousand companies they were just you know willing to explain things to me in that way so I know I would I would actually say that the network we’re really not that different if anything you know we got our values from you guys so we’re we’re what you hear what you wanted the world to be like even that you defected it’s interesting is that there’s actually quite a lot of difference gene or probably now in us and we’re in college right I mean Hertz prints would look incredibly foreign to us 30 years ago right the idea of taking a gap year off just I mean I heard people did it it seemed incredibly eccentric like why would you do that you know you’re wasting your time like so back then were very career-driven I think her idea of kind of folks and tech maybe taking off that to me at her age would just seem like like on another planet does it now right but certainly something none of us would have thought of at that time now if you have this consciousness so this whole idea that there are these things called startups and there’s a certain level certain experience and knowledge you need to execute a startup and one of the best ways to learn that is to actually if someone’s gonna pay you like Peter teal 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 was that you know that was right just Bill Gates had just dropped out of Harvard a few years ago Microsoft but the whole idea tech company doing something amazing in the world was not part of our conceptual vocabulary at that time is right yeah yeah I mean but my parents did very much the same thing when I was deciding to do it they just felt like you know this is a crazy experiment that I don’t want you to be a part of so I don’t think that it’s a different than the way that you guys thought but I been looking back I don’t think I made a better decision in my life I think it totally changed my trajectory totally I just exposed me to a lot to a world of ideas and people that are yeah they’ll definitely something new today and or like what the trend today that’s great well as I said we’re kind of over time so I think we’re gonna call it an or really done thank you for spending this time with us we you’re obviously a very good yeah it was it was really a lot of fun so hopefully we can have you back on the show at some point yeah that’s so kind of you extended that invitation yeah it was great talking I’m so glad you know we got the kids to these I mean in some party though our our meeting had to do it feel right right I don’t know if you wouldn’t know what an adorable yeah well and dick someone out there will have to a lot to meet up again yeah absolutely well thank you guys so much I really think you’re getting a chance to chat with you all right have a good one guys thanks so much take care right