Esther Dyson

Internet Entrepreneur

Space Travel and Social Media
30 minutes, 14mb, recorded 2007-05-01

Motivated by her father's involvement in designing a rocket ship, Ms. Dyson's interest in "air and space" has culminated in her Flight School workshops, which focus on issues such as models, markets, financing, and strategy. Much of this future activity will actually take place on the ground, requiring the buildout of airports and spaceports. Her workshops explore what's necessary for all this to happen.

Entrepreneurs and financiers, she explains, face two key challenges: selling experience rather than business models, and persuading the financial community of the reality of the market. Flight School combines these two areas by providing experiences that attract thrill-seeking entrepreneurs and deep-pocketed investors. Above all else, however, the workshops teach that consideration must be given to the customers' experience and the likelihood of their return.

A focus on customers and their motivations lends itself to leveraging social media. This requires additional training and resources, but the payoff for businesses is gaining an understanding of what customers want before the competition does. A perception of caring and an emotional connection add value to a product; learning to respond by listening creates greater affiliation.

In responding to diverse interview questions that toggle between space travel and social media, Ms. Dyson discusses such topics as what she looks for in a new venture, the future of marketing and branding models, and her recent experiences with blogging. She also explains what CIOs need to know to stay competitive, and emphasizes the importance of security and aiding consumers in the management of their information.

Esther Dyson
Esther Dyson, former Chairman of the ICANN Board, is currently chairman of EDventure Holdings, a small but diversified company focused on emerging information technology worldwide. Her primary activity is investing in start-ups and guiding many of them as a board member. Her board seats include 23andMe, Boxbe, CVO Group, Eventful, Evernote, IBS Group (Russia, advisory board), Meetup, Midentity (UK), NewspaperDirect, Yandex (Russia)…and WPP Group (not a start-up). As a two-time weightless flyer, she is also active in the commercial space/airline start-up world, with investments in Constellation Services, Icon Aircraft, Space Adventures, XCOR Aerospace and Zero-G.


This free podcast is from our Talking Portraits with Tom Parish series.

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  • Series producer: Tom Parish