Interview with Pascal Finette
What first got you interested in the internet industry?
I got started with that whole “Internet thing” before most people used web browsers. I was a student at the University of Cologne, Germany in economics and psychology – and as I was always interested in computers (my dad bought me my first computer when I was 8 years old), I quickly got involved with the Universities’ computer center.
I installed one of the first versions of NCSA Mosaic on the universities SUN computers and was just blown away by what was possible once you connect computers with each other and make it easy for people to leverage those connections. From that grew a deep interest in the early commercial efforts on the Web, which led to me building the first web store for Germany’s largest Apple retailer. And from there it was a small step to building my first Internet startup during the crazy days of the Dot-Com boom in the mid to late Nineties.
What are your biggest goals in your life/career currently?
I believe we have an unprecedented opportunity at our hands to make the world a much better place for all of us. Exponentially accelerating technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics or synthetic/digital biology allow us to tackle problems at a deeper and more fundamental level than ever before. And at the same time with those great powers come great responsibilities. As I have the privilege to have a front row seat in witnessing these technologies take shape, I see my responsibility and opportunity in helping people, organizations and societies figure out how to build the world of tomorrow we want to live in.
Who or what inspires you?
Having the opportunity to work and interact with some of the smartest minds in the world plus entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who are truly changing the world for the better, I am constantly in awe and full of admiration for those of us who chose to do the hard work of building what matters.
It seems like you’ve been part of so many different projects! How do you manage to keep so active and productive?
I try to stay in balance as much as I can – be it by spending time with my family, doing sport, sleeping well, eating healthy and having the discipline to say No to most things which cross my path. And trust me – it is a constant struggle.
How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?
I learned a lot from Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s famed first evangelist who is an exceptional public speaker. Guy taught me that a good part of a keynote is entertainment – as entertainment buys you the permission to talk about what matters AND it allows the audience to retain much more information than in a dry tech talk. For me my talks are about mindset shifts – how do I give you information and more importantly how do I arm you with the tools and the energy to change what you are doing? And humor plays a big part in this.
What do you gain personally from being a public speaker?
There is little more gratifying than the privilege of teaching – of helping someone else see the world through a different lens, of inspiring, educating and empowering her or him to take action.