Ever had those moments where you have wondered why somebody hasn’t done this as yet. That may be a feeling you will get often when you go through two black notebooks that a 22 year old from Stanford keeps. This young man – Ayush Sood may be one of the smartest minds to come out of one of the best universities in the US.
Ayush Sood has a hyperactive mind. So much so that he keeps two black notebooks. These two notebooks contain hundreds of ideas, ideas that have kept popping up in Ayush’s mind over the last four years. The ideas are varied, ranging from new products to new startups. These myriad ideas range from helping jewelers design custom jewelry to sketches for an expandable power strip, an application that lets people reduce their health insurance premiums to apps that help charities connect with willing donors. The list now has over 700 entries with scribbles, drawings and questions and it all started in 2010 when Ayush joined Stanford.
Sood’s abilities lie not just in generating myriad ideas. He has opened a window to one of the most challenging problems that entrepreneurship faces, the ability to sift through and generate the right ideas.
To be able to achieve that very goal was why another 21 year old from Stanford; Karthik Viswanathan joined forces with Sood to create the Garage. The Garage is a one of a kind platform, which allows Stanford’s brightest minds to try out their ideas, an accelerator for prototypes. It aims to achieve two objectives. First, to give these hyper tech savvy students an opportunity to understand various business sectors by giving them the much needed exposure to sectors such as retail, manufacturing and healthcare . Secondly, they act as an incredible filtration system, a sieve of sorts, one that filters through the many ideas that brainstorming generates. The result, a more focused approached by individual members on ideas that finally made the cut.
How this group came together makes another interesting story. Sood who was already pursuing a master’s program by then and Viswanathan who was his junior nominated a couple of classmates through an informal process. The common thread being that each one of them should have some entrepreneurial experience. This motley crew along with venture capitalists Mar Hershenson and Pejman Nozad, Garage’s other co-founders meet regularly. Unlike most venture capitalists, Nozad and Hershenson don’t act as investors. They convene and mentor the group instead. Their Palo Alto office is now the ideation clubhouse.
The name too has connotations to the many multi-billion dollar successes that all started from humble garages, Google, Apple and HP to name a few. But it’s not just that – the literal meaning also plays a significant role. Garages are where you park your vehicles. For Sood and his team, it’s the place to park themselves. A place that they have all to themselves, away from all the clutter that otherwise takes center stage. Here they toy with ideas and goad each other on. This is also the place where they have weekly meetings with some of the biggest names in the business. John Doerr, the man who funded Google and Apple amongst others, Yahoo’s co-founder; Jerry Yang and many others.
The big names in the business are what Nozad and Hershenson bring to the table apart from opening up their office to serve as the Garage’s headquarters. Surprisingly, the use of their office as Garage’s headquarters is without any monetary considerations. The business model for Nozad and Hershenson is very unlike the traditional VC. For all the time and energy that they invest without any financial considerations can only mean one thing – the will to do well. The fact that they may have first access to some of the best startups may be an additional incentive.
This ideology seems to run through the group. All of them are extremely ambitious but they are also idealistic. Getting rich is not the first thing on their agenda, doing something worthwhile and meaningful is. ‘Social apps’, the current big thing is not their ticket to stardom.
Not all the projects are successful. Even after all the filtering, things do go wrong but that is not a deterrent for Sood. The learning experience is what counts. For him, finding a job isn’t what he is after. He has two black notebooks to fall back on.