Sunday, April 19, 2020

What if Simon Sneezed?

As of this morning, Simon Sinek's September 2009 TEDx Puget Sound "TED Talk" has 49,512,510 views. TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." It supports organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.

There is a 99% chance that you have seen a talk. There is a much lesser chance that you know that TED Talks / TED Conferences LLC (Technology, Entertainment, Design) were conceived in 1984 but they were financially unsuccessful. It took six years for the second conference to be organized. 

What if the folks at TED never tried again, after their initial failure?

Simon's September 2009 TEDx talk - starting with the golden circle and the question: "Why?" became one of the most watched TED Talks of all time. 

When I came across Simon's TED Talk it was already a massive hit. When I learned that Simon was doing a book signing in NYC in July of 2011, I put my two sons into the car and we went to meet Simon.

What if Simon's 2009 TEDx Talk did not go so well? 

What if Simon had a cold that day, or what if Simon just was not on his "A Game" in Puget Sound? That famous TED Talk might have only been really, really good - not freaking AMAZING. Ah, but it WAS AMAZING. Simon Sinek caught lightning in a bottle in 2009. It happened because it was supposed to happen - because IT HAPPENED.

In 2011 I became part of the START WITH WHY movement. 

Before that, I was running my own telecom and technology company (technically, I still do). I was attending the NYDLA (Distance Learning) events for years, like a good salesman should. These were the folks who were buying the stuff I was selling, so this was a target rich environment for sales. But because of the recession, nonprofits like NYDLA were suffering. NYDLA was broke, and the association was on life support. The leadership of NYDLA basically said: we're out of money and we are shutting it all down. Unless someone wants to take it over.

Because I was evangelizing Simon's START WITH WHY movement, I gave a "WHY" presentation at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey. One thing led to another, and I told the folks at Rutgers about NYDLA and how I was thinking about "taking over" the defunct NYDLA. Rutgers became our first NYDLA sponsor, and with one stroke of the pen, NYDLA had 500,000+ new members - the living alumni of Rutgers. And then, we met all of the businesses that "did business" with Rutgers.

What if I never went to Rutgers that day? Well for one, there would be no NYDLA today. It happened because it was supposed to happen - because IT HAPPENED.

When my son was attending Quinnipiac University School of Business, I made it a point to get to know his professors (helicopter parenting, guilty). One thing led to another, and I was invited to speak to one of my son's IT/MIS classes. From that, I was invited by the Dean of the School of Business to "present" to all of the graduating High School students living in Connecticut. I had to wake up at 4:00 am on a Saturday to drive up to Quinnipiac from New Jersey to make that presentation. I almost talked myself out of going that day. Little did I know that my presentation was going to be professionally recorded by a local TV station, and that it would go viral.

What if I never went to Quinnipiac that morning? It happened because it was supposed to happen - because IT HAPPENED.

Ever hear of this thing called Zoom? 

Eric Yuan, a former Cisco Webex engineer and executive founded Zoom in 2001, and launched its software in 2013. Zoom's aggressive revenue growth and ease-of-use and reliability of its software resulted in a $1 billion valuation in 2017. Approximately one year ago to the date of this blog post, the company went public. Zoom was valued at $16 billion by the end of its first day of trading. Again, Eric Yuan rose to Vice President of Cisco Webex, but after realizing that customers were not happy with the product, he left in 2011 to start Zoom.

What if the Cisco Webex customers were just "a little more happy" back in 2011 - would Eric have felt the need to leave his Vice President position and start Zoom? It happened because it was supposed to happen - because IT HAPPENED.

The NYDLA went from "can't pay their website bill" to servicing 300+ of the Fortune 1000 and 46% of the Schools of Business, including the alumni of all 8 Ivy League Schools. Similar to Zoom, there is a free version and a paid version of NYDLA.

And today, NYDLA is as all members receive the paid version of Zoom (Zoom Pro) for free. It's "baked in" and is a value-added member benefit of our paid membership fee.

As of this blog post, COVID-19 is ravaging our country, and the entire world. 2,343,293 total cases worldwide. 161,330 deaths. The entire US economy is shut down, as "working from home" is the new normal. The pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to near-total closures of schools, universities and colleges. The pandemic has led to severe global socioeconomic disruption, the postponement or cancellation of sporting, religious, political and cultural events. There are widespread shortages of supplies exacerbated by panic buying. Some of us are waking up this morning and asking ourselves: why is this pandemic happening? Why is this happening to me, and to my family? 

Today, the NYDLA services the 55M+ people who live, learn, work and play in the "New York Megalopolis". The 14 states that make up the Northeast of the USA. When and where we can help people to get through the coronavirus pandemic, we do so - at no charge. We have gone from "we are shutting down" all operations in 2010 to becoming a source of knowledge, technology and talent to assist and support anyone who needs help.

We (NYDLA) have gone from a bankrupt trade association in 2010 to a global community servicing millions of like-minded people who are living, learning, working and playing in the new cloud economy. 

I have learned many things in the past ten years. As the TV commercial says: "We know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two." Personally I did not have global pandemic on my list of things to experience in my lifetime. But I also would not have predicted working with Simon Sinek, or Eric Yuan or taking over the NYDLA or now - being on the front lines of helping people in dealing with COVID-19 on a global basis.

I've had the honor to work with many amazingly successful people in my lifetime. Celebrities, professional athletes, people from the world of entertainment. But the most important lesson that I have learned from working with any and all of them is simply this: 

It's people first, then money, then things. 

When and where the NYDLA community can help you, your family, your employees or your business to get through this pandemic, we shall do so. No charge. 

Be safe.

Thomas A. Capone
Chairman, CEO

On December 20, 2011, Quinnipiac University hosted the
E-Commerce Entrepreneurship Experiential Event
for high school students in Connecticut.

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