As I posted previously, I was incredibly honored to be selected as a Rice Outstanding Engineering Alum. In October, I attended a wonderful dinner and ceremony in Houston to recognize the honorees. The event was a love fest for Rice Engineering and it was incredible to share the stage with so many of my heroes!
Each award recipient had a few minutes to share remarks and below are a rough approximation (what I can remember through the fog of two months) of mine:
Thank you, Rice, for this incredible award!
As a child of the space industry, I have always been inspired by moonshots, so it is not a coincidence that I chose to study engineering at the one school that would also let me play football in the very stadium where Kennedy gave his famous moon speech.
But I have always found that, in order for me to have the courage and conviction to take my own bold, ambitious moonshots, I need people to believe in me. My relationship with Rice has been a story of people believing in me – and several of them are here tonight.
Joe Warren, who invited me into his office to tell me about the CS curriculum and encourage me to apply when I was a high school senior visiting campus – neither of us knowing at the time how important design and engineering would become in my career.
Dan Wallach, who gave me one of my first opportunities to mentor and develop younger talent as a TA for his keystone CS course – neither of us knowing at the time how much mentorship would become a keystone of my leadership style.
Moshe Vardi, who supported me in launching the Rice CS Club – my first startup! – neither of us knowing at the time how starting new organizations would become my professional focus.
Bart Sinclair, who, many years after being my professor, created a new role for me as the School of Engineering’s first Entrepreneur In Residence – neither of us knowing at the time that that would become a platform for me to pay it forward by believing in and supporting the next generation of Rice Engineering innovators and change makers.
Past REA President, Dick Wilson, who mentored me into leadership of the REA and inspired me with Rick Smalley‘s vision of a transition to a sustainable energy future – neither of us knowing at the time that that would rapidly become the North Star to which I would orient the blood, sweat, and tears of my career.
Dozens of Rice-related investors, who have believed in me through both successes and failures.
And, of course, my partner, whom I met at Rice, and who – for some reason – believed in me enough to sign up for a lifetime together.
Like every good Rice story, though, this one keeps on going. I’m proud to share that my next bold, ambitious moonshot comes from Rice too, commercializing an incredible technology out of Matteo Pasquali‘s lab: advanced carbon nanomaterials that blow current materials out of the water. This is industrial revolution-scale innovation; we’re building a trillion dollar company that will have gigatons of positive climate impact – the most ambitious climatetech venture ever before attempted!
And it’s all due to Rice. So thank you, Rice, for believing in me then. Thank you for believing in me now. And, in the immortal words of Journey, don’t stop believin’, because the best is yet to come! Go Rice!