Feb 7, 2020
Eric Schultz was working as an executive chairman for a tech company, and on his way home from a fundraising presentation at a venture firm when he had an epiphany.
A longtime executive with a personal interest in history, he had been struggling with how to frame a new book he was working on about the history of innovation in America. But sitting around a makeshift bar with some of the other executives who had just laid out rosy scenarios and hockey-stick returns to potential investors, the truth came out. One of the executives was running out of cash. Another had a new competitor they didn’t have a few months prior. One had lost her star software developer to a rival. This, Schultz thought, was the perfect framing: Take all of the historical entrepreneurs he was focusing on for his book, and put them in a bar. Let them trade stories, tell jokes, share insights, and see what commonalities these icons could find over a few pints.
The result is Schultz’s new book, Innovation on Tap: Stories of Entrepreneurship from the Cotton Gin to Broadway's Hamilton, and on this episode of Skydeck, he and I discuss what two artists separated by more than a century can teach us about innovation, and why it’s important for business leaders to reflect on history. —Dan Morrell