The VFA Podcast: Gary Chou on side projects, developing an opportunistic lens, and what to do about burnout

Listen to the most recent episode of Smart People Should Build Things: The Venture for America Podcast, a play.it original in collaboration with CBS!

In this week’s episode, Jeremy sits down with Gary Chou, a longtime Venture for America supporter and a true renaissance man. Gary’s career represents an unusually wide range of experiences: he’s worked as a film producer, the Chief Strategist at Cisco Media, the General Manager at Union Square Ventures, a roadie for his friend’s band — and, if you can believe it, even more. Currently, Gary owns and operates a space in Manhattan called Orbital, which functions both as a coworking space and as a community to help people develop ideas and build side projects through boot camps and other programming. (Or, in Gary’s more succinct words: “a space to do awesome stuff.”)

Gary attributes the diversity of his prior roles to his wide network — to Gary, careers are in part “a function of who you spend time with.” He describes Orbital as the first project he started deliberately, at a time when he was ready to do his own thing. But even Orbital involved some serendipity. When Gary heard that Kickstarter was moving out of their office in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he inquired about the space without much of a plan — and before he  knew it, he was taking meetings with the landlord and inventing Orbital on the fly. To Gary, Orbital represents an articulation of themes he’s been thinking about for years: community; projects that don’t fit into a strict startup narrative; creating the space to learn and fail; the urgency to use your time well. As he reflects in this episode: “Time is all we have.”

Download the most recent episode of the #VFApodcast to hear Gary’s thoughts on how space can help build communities, the privilege of having time to think, and how building something is like surfing (hint: it has a lot to do with falling off the board, getting back up again, and seeing where the wave takes you).

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