Sonophilia: You emphasise the importance of “courage” and pursuing things with a “whole heart”. How do you know if an idea is worth pursuing (by even quitting your day job) as you did in the 80s for EA?
Jeff Burton: Most of the time one does not know if an idea is worth pursuing – there is rarely that “ah, HA!” moment of recognition. Every idea must begin more as a monolith, whose edges over time get chipped away and eroded by challenges and tests and re-thinking. Especially in the context of a diverse and open group of minds in an honest, collaborative exchange, the idea gets reshaped in a way that eventually engages everyone’s hearts and minds. Courage is ever-present; a necessary component of the trust that is required in order to commit one’s whole heart to an idea as it gets refined – with its own set of flaws and failures – until it reaches its full potential. This image always comes to mind…*
Sonophilia: You had a pretty impressive career already but still don’t give up and start new companies in an age where others enjoy cocktails in Bahamas;-) What is your fuel?
Jeff Burton: First, I love to learn new things, new ideas, new people. To be honest, I think I have exhausted all of the possibilities that cocktails have to offer, whether in the Bahamas or anywhere else in the world. I have found that the most satisfying accomplishment(s) I have had in life are those in which I can play a role in helping others achieve their goals, understanding the value of the pursuit, and not just the result. Young people tend to have an itch that I love to scratch. They want to learn and grow. They have dreams. They have passion. All of that gives me fuel. Too many in my age-cohort just want to play golf or indeed, enjoy cocktails in the Bahamas – their ambitions and dreams have been spent. The future is with the young, and I enjoy helping to shape it.
Sonophilia: One of your latest ventures Holodeck VR is based in Europe. What is HolodeckVR doing? and how is starting a business different in Europe than in the US? Advantages/Disadvantages?
Jeff Burton: HolodeckVR starts with a technical infrastructure created in the labs of the Fraunhofer Institute, but its mission is to help people create better worlds together. It allows from one to sixty people to roam freely and interact with each other, all within the same virtual reality setting. Each person can see all the others (represented as avatars), and everyone’s movements are tracked and displayed to all in real time to within 1 millimeter of movement. The company begins with collaborative and competitive games, and has a future in other segments without limit. Starting a business in Europe compared to the US is fraught with subtle complexity due primarily to cultural and social mindset differences. Some of the most significant are attitudes toward trust, risk, failure, and confidence. Silicon Valley has evolved some distinctive characteristics in these realms that are particularly beneficial to starting businesses. Europe is still learning how to employ and maximize those benefits.
– Thanks Jeff! We are looking forward to seeing you in January.
*The Atlas Slave, by Michelangelo.