Le Web: Passion and adrenaline as a future-shaping cocktail

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Susi Mai

What on earth does kite-surfing have to do with startup culture? The MaiTai events mash together kite-surfers, investors and entrepreneurs in an adventure sports/entrepreneurship party.

Susi Mai’s parents were wind-surfing hippies. Done her own thing with competitive kite-urging. Bill Tai is more tradition – an angel investor and board member.

MaiTai is a “life changing bonding experience” where you put a load of high-energy people in one place, you get a super-networking event. Susi brings the kite-surfing, and makes sure everyone gets on the water – and hang out with top athletes.

Companies have got funded, companies have built exits at the event. Forbes reported $7 million in exits off the back of the events. Bill suggests that events like this allow you to invest in people rather than technology. Putting them into an adrenaline-fuelled environment allows you to make a judgement on them, and how they’ll react to the pressures of startup life.

Susi adds that kite-boarding is co-dependent. You need friends to help you launch, and to watch you and the area around you while you surf. It gives you an opportunity to assess their team skills.

There’s also a synergy between the kite-surfers’s desire to measure – and generate data – and the startup desire to analyse and use it…

The event series is growing, with six worldwide events and a rising “TEDx-like” culture of spin-off events and competitions.

Bill Tai

“The bonds you form when you do something challenging with people can be life changing”, says Bill.

They’re still figuring out their business model. Bill describes it more as a movement than anything. They’re putting it into a non-profit structure.

“I want to see it grow and be preserves as a tool which allows us to play,” says Susi.

Scott Dunlap

They do it because it’s a passion, and that’s what Scott Dunlap sees behind all interesting things. Passion makes things feel effortless, which is why it’s behind pretty much everything we love as a human race. The passion in endless, and it can be amplified. But can it be measured?

Well, we have the internet of me – monitor tool we wear. And the internet of now – tools that track time and location. Scott is an ultra-runner. He shows us a bunch of data on calorie burn, steps and water on marathons versus ultra-marathons, versus huge mountain runs.

He has a watch built where he can record his mood every 30 minutes. Over time, he goes through a series of cycles of struggling and euphoria, with the amplitude magnifying. He calls the down phases “The Wall” “The Pit” and “The Abyss”.  A test of the body, the mind and then the spirit.

Interestingly, he hits “flow” in those euphoric moments, where his heart rate is lowest, but his speed is fastest. It’s a human condition known by many names. Anandamide is the chemical that’s triggered to create it. It’s also in weed.

His lessons:

  • Encourage passion in those around you.Force people to take vacations to explore their passions
  • There’s no such thing as work/life balance. There’s just life balance.
  • The marathon is a sprint, so pack lean. Cut loose the things that drag you down.
  • Predict and celebrate the pain – because that’ll help you get through the pain to euphoria.

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.