Support for your Side Project

Scott Francis
Next Post
Previous Post

My good friend (and former coworker) Gary Chou has started a new venture that I hope flourishes and establishes a branch in Austin!

It’s called Orbital.  And he already has some great press coverage for his new project:

Gary Chou’s new Orbital is part co-working space and part accelerator program—though Chou would likely frown at both characterizations. He’s trying to do something genuinely new that combines elements from both concepts but focuses squarely on independent creators—in teams of no more than three, and bootstrapped rather than venture-backed—and giving them the physical and mental opportunity to turn side projects into reality. He’s also open to more than just tech-focused undertakings; Orbital is meant for creators and projects that can be artistic, civic, social, educational, or experimental in nature, not to mention the good old-fashioned commercial variety.

The pictures in the article look fantastic, sharing a rich heritage having formerly been Kickstarter’s offices.  The spaces look warm and collaborative, just how he would want it.  Gary is starting with a boot camp- with a focus on “experiential learning.”  This is directly related to some of the concepts in the recent “do you have to build to design” post on our blog. Gary’s project is almost a direct outgrowth of the idea that learning requires designing and building – experience.

I’ve known Gary since we both worked together back at Trilogy in the 90’s.  We’ve collaborated twice now on content for a very popular (within Trilogy circles) conference called OTB, and the whole effort was dramatically improved with Gary’s involvement. His ability to synthesize multiple perspectives and ideas into themes and discussions is really uncanny.  You have an idea? he can weave it into the discussion and reflect back to you through the prism of his experiences (which include some startups and time at USV).

Gary’s been really generous with his time and energy over the years-  Orbital gives him a way to do this full-time – in a sense to make it his business to help you.  Eventually it will be a coworking space as well as a hobbyist space.  To give a sense of Gary’s expansive perspective, combined with pragmatic and specific action:

We’re at a time of tremendous uncertainty. I don’t think we need to do a better job of creating more factory workers, we need to help people learn how to navigate their own uncertain futures. It’s highly individualized learning, it’s very confrontational, and you’re likely to get lost along the way. But that’s okay. Launching a side project is a great way to do this. It’s much more experiential.

Gary’s not the only one who believes in side projects, we’ve seen that theme in other places (say, another Trilogy and Lombardi alum – the CMO of Spredfast Jim Rudden, on learning guitar).

If there’s a takeaway from Gary’s own journey, and his newest project, Orbital – I think it is that there’s no right answer or right destination – the journey is the only thing that matters. In effect, this is all about the process – and not about the destination.  Experiments, side projects, and hobbies are critical elements of personal development and even sanity in a world of uncertainty.  And Gary is just the kind of person to help you unlock the potential journeys in front of you.