My Lesson on Giving Back From The 2015 Launch Festival by Jenna Abdou


The first picture on Park House Academy’s kindergarten roster is a round face with uncontainable curls and missing teeth. Below it reads: ‘Jenna Abdou - Teacher.’ 

Twelve years later my teaching plans turned into profiling startups on 33founders. As I tuned into the 2015 Launch Festival this week I couldn’t be more grateful. 

Whether I was listening to Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, share the five tenets of great products or watching my friend DJ demo his revolutionary fitness wearable Athos, I continuously felt guilty for not working. 

The realization that I was not only working but gaining valuable insight to live a more meaningful life is the most impactful wake-up call I’ve experienced since I graduated. 

My favorite part about 33founders is the opportunity to learn from people who are smarter than me.

The Launch Festival was no different, and I walked away with important insights about the agency we each possess to make a difference. 

I think Chamath Palihapitiya, Peter Thiel, and Marc Benioff put it best when they emphasized our responsibility to give back.

In his fireside chat with Jason, Peter Thiel, Partner at the Founders Fund, encouraged individuals to stop thinking about the future as a ‘what if’ and take action on designing on it. 

Chamath, Founder of The Social + Capital Partnership, magnified the statement by revealing the urgency to solve problems with a global rather than local perspective. 

His take on giving others an equal opportunity to innovate is the insight that will stay with me most from the conference. 

How many really smart people are there in the world who are being left behind?

Chamath Palihapitiya

Chamath’s declaration was eye-opening for me because I know I can’t even begin to comprehend the scope of it. 

Marc Benioff, the Founder of Salesforce, addressed it with the 1-1-1 mentality driving his company. 

He cites the 1% equity, 1% profit, and 1% employees model as the driving force behind Salesforces’ culture and success. 

Serving the community, both in terms of building software and giving back, have made a profound difference in the world, highlighting Benioff’s ultimate vision that business and service are one in the same. 


You are making your company better by making the world better. There is no separation.

Marc Benioff

One of the simplest ways to give back is to acknowledge people. 

The text from my friend Mike with a picture of Jason and Chamath on stage and Jason, Chamath, and Gary Vaynerchuck favoriting my tweets made me feel like I was at The Fort Mason Center rather than here in San Diego. Their kindness further demonstrates Chamath’s call to invite everyone into the conversation. 

Whether you’re responding to an individual who admires you, volunteering during the weekend, or using a service that empowers others, like Power to Fly, you can make a difference regardless of where you are.

We may not all contribute to policy decisions and health care reforms like Chamath, but it doesn’t mean that our contributions aren’t valuable.

Take Fred Wilson, the Co-Founder of Union Square Ventures, for example, who’s made it a habit to respond to 20 cold emails every day. Why? Because he believes that underdogs are worth being discovered. 

Just like Benioff shared, we all benefit from giving back. 


I do that because I believe there are people out there who are amazing, who just aren’t part of the establishment...If you know, someone nobody else knows you’re going to make money.

Fred Wilson

The most memorable part of The Launch Festival is how little it taught me about project management, tips to get ahead, and scaling strategies - The questions I thought were important in entrepreneurship. Instead, each of the speakers and the questions Jason asked revealed the gaps in our system, whether in health care or gender equality, that I’m eager to address moving forward. 

A huge thank you to Jason Calacanis and the Launch team for putting on such a meaningful conference.

If you’d like more insights from the 2015 Launch Festival you can tune into each of the live streams here: 

Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3

Photo added from @Launch


Further Reading
  • Michael Serbinis: What I've Learned — Visionary Entrepreneur, investor and CEO and Founder of the new healthcare startup, LEAGUE, Michael Serbinis shares what he learned building three disruptive startups, selling two of them and working with Kimbal and Elon Musk.
  • The Leadership Driving Coolhaus’ Ice Cream Empire — “The earth is craving people who try to be revolutionary, push the envelope, and take risks,” Natasha Case shared, reflecting on her time as a student at Berkeley. An architect by trade, the first step Natasha takes to fulfill this calling is physically drawing her vision.
  • Common Founder Brad Hargreaves Shares How His Time at General Assembly Inspired Him to Reimagine Co-Living — Albert Wegner, a partner at Union Square Ventures, recently wrote a moving post about finding and living our purpose. Despite the question ‘What is your purpose?’ proposing deep self-reflection, a challenge he dually recognizes, Albert’s writing inspired me to ask the guests who join me on 33founders the same question. As 33founders has evolved, my highest goal is to give individuals an opportunity to share their lives outside of their title; Unveiling their desires as well as the drive that keep them awake at night.


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