Conscious Entrepreneurship: May I introduce Riley Gibson
Riley Gibson’s dad is an entrepreneur in the tech space and his mom is an artist. He always felt this tension between going the ‘business or engineering’ route or more of the ‘artistic and creative’ route. He thought for the longest time growing up that it was an either-or proposition. Then, Riley started reading about IDEO and industrial design and taking a design approach to creatively solving problems. It was like a lightning bolt when he realized that those paths could be convergent. He ended up studying entrepreneurship and really focusing on the process of design and design thinking.
Since then, Riley had worked at agencies, started his own tech company and worked in marketing technology in various leadership roles. This background has given him a broad view of the various business functions, but in each role, he has fallen back on design as an approach to solving problems and it’s proven incredibly valuable. He has also had the good fortune of working alongside some brilliant people along the way.
CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP — What meaning do you give this term?
I think, in the past, innovation has been focused on finding opportunity through the lenses of desirability, feasibility and viability. To me, conscious entrepreneurship adds a new lens — finding ideas and pushing innovation that meets a true need and considers the larger social and environmental impacts.
CAREER — What led you to your particular career path?
Despite having many successes along my professional journey, I always felt like something was missing. I was doing good work with great people, but got to a point where I was wondering how what I was doing really mattered in the bigger picture. During this time, my brother started an incredible mission-driven company called Recursion Pharmaceuticals. They actually have a wall in their office with photos of kids with rare genetic diseases that they are working on finding cures for. It was really in watching my brother where I realized my next step was either finding or starting a company where success meant truly impacting the lives of thousands or hundreds of thousands. When I met the team at Silvernest and learned about their mission to advance homesharing as a means to address some of our rapidly aging society’s greatest challenges — from access to stable and affordable housing to the detriments of social isolation — I knew it was something I had to work on.
MENTORS — We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been an invaluable mentor for you? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so my father, brother and mother have all constantly mentored me along my career path. I recall having an especially impactful conversation with my brother early on a Christmas day walk when he shared how a lot about his mission was to build a truly enduring company that would be thriving a hundred years from now. The way he framed the mindset of building a company has always stuck with me. Amid the pressures of today, it’s easy to lower your gaze and become shortsighted about decisions and what is being built. The exercise of stepping back to understand what you want to build, as well as how that could outlast you or a generation, gave me new perspective.
TO THRIVE — When you see yourself thriving: Do you see yourself opening up opportunities for others along the way to participate in your success, and how?
I don’t think it is possible to really succeed without creating opportunity and success for others. The best organizations I have been part of have a purpose and culture that revolves around team success and achievement over individual success.
CAUSE — What are the causes close to your heart, and you are supporting right now? Can you share a story how you got involved? How did it make you feel?
I’m very passionate about the challenges and opportunities around longevity and how we help our older populations age with dignity and choice. I think Silvernest is just getting started as we think about new ways and means of creating mutual opportunity by bringing people together through technology.
Most of my career has been in the marketing technology space, but I was always reading about issues around longevity and the aging experience in the United States, in particular. When I had the chance to join Silvernest, one of my first priorities was meeting users (homeowners and renters). Hearing their stories of isolation and the challenges of really thriving in their homes gave me a deep sense of purpose and responsibility to make this idea of homesharing the norm. It was particularly inspiring to hear users talk about how a need led them to homesharing, and how the experience then turned into deep and lasting friendships. These stories have made every workday richer and more meaningful.
THE FUTURE — How do you see the face of entrepreneurship in 5 years? How do companies /brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future?
My hope is that startups and businesses will take a more holistic and long-term view of their impact on society, and begin to view things such as diversity and inclusion, sustainability, purpose and community involvement as competencies that fuel growth vs. add overhead.
ADVICE — What kind of advice would you like to give to an aspiring entrepreneur who feels limited due to their background or lack of resources?
I would say they should begin by just getting involved in the entrepreneurial community around them. When I started my first company, I was amazed by the number of meetups, open coffees and other events that were always taking place, and how open and accessible many of these events were. They were often led by very influential entrepreneurs in the area, and they were prime opportunities to get to know some of them over time and tap into their knowledge and networks.
DRIVE — Do you sometimes feel bad for “wanting more out of life”, and if so, why? What is your personal motivation that leads you through the hardships of entrepreneurship?
Nothing about entrepreneurship is easy, but I find motivation in the fact that I’m working every day to build a movement around how the sharing economy can benefit our mental health, mobility, financial stability and connectedness. Making homesharing ubiquitous and a more modern approach to aging in place is a big piece of this. Just imagine if 1 million people opened their extra space to others. That could mean $850 million a month in extra passive income for a population that often struggles to make ends meet as life expectancy grows and savings dwindles. That could mean $350 million in monthly savings on housing costs from generating more affordable housing options. This would mean people being able to live independently — on their terms — late into their lives, and fewer aging adults emotionally and physically affected by the detriments of social isolation.
CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?
I don’t think I have found just one — I’ve actually discovered many small mechanisms that, together, have helped me cope. That includes exercising, reading other stories of entrepreneurship and struggle (shout out to The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Howowitz), experimenting with different mindfulness practices, and yes humor! One of the hardest things is giving yourself permission to invest time in your health and wellness when things get hard and busy. One mentor helped me reframe this to think about health and exercise as part of your job, which for some weird reason really helped me prioritize it.
INSPIRATION — Is there an entrepreneurial book or podcast that inspires you that you would like to share with our readers?
It’s not about entrepreneurship, per se, but I recently finished The Book of Joy, which is a series of interviews with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. There were a lot of discussions around building mental immunity and avoiding comparisons that I found helpful to apply to entrepreneurship and everyday life.
Reach out to Riley Gibson at LinkedIn.
Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
Conscious entrepreneurship for me is about building a sustainable business that values and respects the resources used and makes an effort of giving back to society.
I believe we need entrepreneurs to really get involved in the causes close to their heart.
This is why I reach out to entrepreneurs that aim for more than generating profit. With this interview, I aim to share entrepreneurial purpose-led passion to inspire others.
Looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.