John Cantwell '20 | Moorestown, NJ
Major | IBE: Financial Engineering
In retrospect on my week immersed in the LehighSiliconValley program, I’ve had a very culminating experience. During the Saturday self-reflection session, we were tasked with “finding our why.” Admittedly, I was a bit discouraged because the career that I have chosen to begin after graduation did not particularly align with my why that I came up with. My why was more focused with achieving entrepreneurial fulfillment and less on beginning a career as a workhorse analyst at a large finance firm. I’ve always had in my mind that I would have started some sort of entrepreneurial venture before I graduated college, and now just several months away from graduation, I’ve started to question this aspiration. On the final day of the program, we were introduced to Dave Lyons, Co-founder and CEO of ReSharp, a tremendously fast-growing knife sharpening startup.
Dave’s story brought a great deal of insight to my predicament. Early in his career, he joined Tesla as the 12th employee and stuck with them over the years to run engineering. He was in one of the most comfortable and secure positions he could have possibly been in. Then one day, he decided to leave and launch his own venture. Fast-forwarding to just over a year ago, he found himself spending his weekends conducting demos of ReSharp at local hardware stores in California. At one point, he was driving home at nine o’clock on a Friday night after demoing all day. He was starving, he was unsatisfied, and he wondered why he had left his incredibly promising career to pursue this venture. As he gripped the wheel in frustration, he thought to himself, “I used to be in jets with Eylon Musk.” The gravity of a statement like this really sunk in with me. As a man of humble demeanor, he told us this to demonstrate the conflict of the decision to abandon a career of such security – something that I am likely on track to face one day. In spite, he was ultimately pursuing something that he was passionate about, and in a sense his why was very clear to him and was actively being fulfilled. He went on to lead the startup through an acquisition, and his hard work proved to be worthwhile. Everything about his story seemed to make sense in my head, and though he started his career working for a company that was not his own, he learned along the way and things worked out.
What I took away from Dave’s wisdom is that the path of navigating from a large company to a self-led startup can be confusing and challenging, but that if I focus my attention on fulfilling my why, I will ultimately be successful – even if that means having the courage to leave a seemingly comfortable opportunity. Many things that Dave and other speakers have articulated during these past seven days have made an impression on me – whether that be the importance of risk taking, finding a passion, or having something to teach but also something to learn. My experience in LSV has been particularly thought-provoking. Though I may not have an entrepreneurial idea now, and perhaps not even until ten-years from now, I know that when I do, I am now much better equipped to make that idea successful.