Danny Warshay demonstrated the warmth and down-to-earth brilliance that has made him a beloved Brown professor and a valued mentor to many entrepreneurs at the Long Now Boston virtual conversation event on Monday April 4.
Danny Warshay demonstrated the warmth and down-to-earth brilliance that has made him a beloved Brown professor, and valued mentor to entrepreneurs, at the Long Now Boston event on Monday April 4. In addition to a mini-lecture on his three-step See, Solve, Scale process, and a stimulating workshop on how to envision a path to the future, Danny also took us into his classroom and introduced us to several of his successful students.
Danny Warshay is beloved teacher and mentorof entrepreneurship at Brown University, and the Author of See, Solve, Scale: How Anyone Can Turn an Unsolved Problem into a Breakthrough Success (2022). Danny leads creative and thought-provoking workshops on entrepreneurship throughout corporate, academic, startup and governmental contexts throughout the United States, and in China, Egypt, Portugal, Bahrain, Slovenia, South Africa, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, the UK, and Jamaica. He began his own entrepreneurial pursuits while an undergraduate at Brown as a member of the startup leadership team of Clearview Software, which was acquired by Apple. He earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business, and has co-founded and sold companies in fields ranging from software and advanced materials to consumer products and media. His course at Brown, The Entrepreneurial Process, has been recognized as the highest-rated course on campus.
Danny is an entertaining presenter, and as he tells the story of his unlikely journey from a liberal arts undergraduate at Brown, to a student member of the leadership team of Clearview Software (later sold to Apple), to a global entrepreneurship consultant and business professor, you understand that being an entrepreneur does not require some inborn talent. It is a structured process that anyone can do. The process begins with a form of active listening, referred to as “bottom-up” research, in order to understand the problems that people are experiencing. While financial and cost-benefit analysis may be a helpful tool, startups that skip real-world research on people can and do fail badly.
Danny introduced (by video) another reluctant entrepreneur, Emma Butler. Emma recounted walking into Danny’s class, as a major in French and Visual Arts, with huge fear and the feeling she had nothing to contribute. She subsequently invented an entirely new genre of intimate apparel for women who are mobility impaired. Following Danny’s See, Solve, Scale approach, Emma became the founder and CEO of Liberare, a fashion startup company that has gained international attention for its innovative line of adaptive bras and underwear designed by and for women with disabilities. She has been profiled by Vogue, Forbes and Business Insider and her company recently announced a partnership with the Aerie brand (American Eagle Outfitters).
The Importance of Passion and Teamwork
One of the ingredients a successful entrepreneur will need is passion. The best minds and the best plans will not break through the barriers and inertia facing every start-up – that’s where passion plays a key role. Another of Danny’s reluctant entrepreneurs, Jayna Zweiman, was heartbroken that so many women would not be able to attend the Women’s March in Washington on January 21, 2017. 90 days before the event, she and Krista Suh launched a program to have women knit and share pink “pussyhats” – reportedly worn on the day of the event by a million women. The hats became an important cultural symbol, an outgrowth of Jayna’s passion.
Danny also highlights the importance of building a strong team leading up to the Scale stage of an idea or business. Interesting, his emphasis is on the importance of diversity of teams. Gender – race – personality – origins: these can all be important in team selection. Significantly, it is important for leaders to include, listen to and embrace the diverse voices, as opposed to simply checking the “diversity” box on a list. It may seem easy to pick your close friends or longtime colleagues, but Danny notes that can be a recipe for disaster. Some distance between team members, and a wide diversity of talents and views, will bring new and better ideas to the table and will improve the decision-making process. As Danny puts it – you need a bit of “creative abrasion” in your team to reach the best decisions.
To Long Now Boston members, perhaps the most interesting part of Danny’s presentation was the discussion of The Landscape Exercise. You have identified an important problem, done your research, and come up with an idea for how to solve it. Under the exercise, Danny tells you to envision a future point when your dreams have been fulfilled – and draw that end point as an image on a large poster board. Now begin drawing some of the milestones along the way, filling in the roadway that it will take to get from here to there. It is so easy for a startup to develop a compelling short-term focus – but that is when you need the critical touchpoint of long-term thinking to keep your project on the roadway rather than driving it into a ditch.
For a full appreciation of Danny Warshay’s message to Long Now Boston, we recommend you watch the video, and get a copy of his book, See, Solve, Scale. You can also join the 382 members on the See, Solve, Scale group on Linked In to join in Danny’s personal effort to scale his process from professor, to consultant, to global movement. Good luck, Danny!