Lessons from the Silicon Valley billionaires!

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Lessons from the Silicon Valley billionaires!

How I Built This is an American podcast about the background stories of hugely successful businesses. With a focus on the human experience and showcasing businesses with ethical and values-based approaches to business, its hosted by the NPR regular, Guy Raz. Guy is an adept interviewer and you could listen to him talk for days!

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the podcast summit recently in San Francisco and was one of about 2000 business owners in attendance to watch interviews and hear from the Instagram co-founders, Slack founder and many more inspiring success stories. We even got to meditate with the real life voices from the Headspace app!

Kindness in business

The theme of this year’s summit was ‘kindness’; asking questions such as ‘how can we invite more kindness into our work?’ and ‘can kindness be a true metric for success?’. This is something I’ve spoken about and written about previously and is something that, I think, is a crucial ingredient to sustained success, so it was great to hear this reverberated through from these hugely successful entrepreneurs in the tech hub of the world, Silicon Valley.

Key takeaways

There were some incredible insights over the course of the two days of talks, interviews and workshops but my main take aways are below;


Sara Blakey, founder of Spanx and one of the wealthiest women in America, said;

“I am not a fearless leader, I am courageous – there is a difference between fearlessness and courage – courage is doing things despite feeling fear.”

As someone who is often pushing themselves out of their comfort zone (but feeling petrified whilst doing it!) this really resonated.


She also spoke about squashing that negative self talk -“self doubt will kill more successes than failure ever will”.

Your pitch

Stewart Butterfield, founder of Slack – a team messaging software worth billions of dollars, said it’s essential that you nail your elevator pitch – if your business or your sell is hard to explain, you’re at an enormous disadvantage.

Mental health

In a talk about how anxiety can be fuel for leadership, we found out that 90% of employees wish their employers took mental health more seriously and we were told the future of work will be focused around this next wave of change.

Lifelong learning

Marcia Kilgore, a serial entrepreneur who has set up over five hugely successful beauty businesses is a great advocate for lifelong learning – she scans, reads, listens to as much as she possibly can.

The co-founders of Instagram (who have spent the year since they left Instagram/ Facebook learning how to fly, travelling constantly and generally just coming to terms with their new billionaire status!) spoke about how important it is to be a beginner at something over and over again – never stop learning.


Marcia also spoke about how spending a small amount of time every day being thankful can change the neural pathways in the brain and how optimism is essential for entrepreneurs and big success.


After over 20 years setting up many companies, she has learnt that you get what you give – if someone asks for a favour, say yes – do it, you never know how that will come back to you.

Hard work

Above all else, every single person on that stage has worked incredibly hard and has shown extreme tenacity, drive and commitment to their passion – this was completely consistent across the board.


Probably, the most eye opening thing for me was the prevalence of meditation at the summit. As well as having dedicated meditation sessions run by Headspace, the one thing that almost every one of the founders and entrepreneurs that spoke on stage could attribute their success (and sanity) to was meditation. In the crazy start up tech world of Silicon Valley, things operate at a fast pace and people work hard –  these highly successful people understand that they need to train their brains to be present and to disconnect, even if for a short time each day.

As someone who has meditated on and off for years and who provides access to weekly meditation to all staff in our office, the importance they all placed on it really stood out to me. Silicon Valley titans are a few steps ahead of the rest of the world and the energy feels a bit different, but they all know how important self care and balance is.

I took a lot away and it was a fascinating experience, but, ultimately, it reinforced what we know already – success in any form comes down to hard work, consistency and being kind along the way – (and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a lot will get you far!)