Wednesday, March 26, 2014 was “Proving Ground” day at the Detroit Public Library. On that day, I spoke to 200 (middle school and high school) students from the Detroit Public Schools about my journey through technology, race, and business as told in “Proving Ground: A Memoir.” Each of the students had received a copy of the book prior to the event, and it was clear from their questions that many of them had read at least a good portion of it. Some of the questions I got: “Why would you leave such a great job to start a business in your basement?” “Did you feel like you had to succeed or you would be letting your parents down?” This was my personal favorite: “If you loved what you were doing so much, why did you sell the business?” The Q&A session lasted much longer than I had anticipated — more than 40 minutes. This was an intelligent, engaged group of young people.
The “Proving Ground” event wasn’t just about storytelling though. We had a discussion about who entrepreneurs are and what they do, and I gave the students a challenge: clearly define a problem that you experience or witness in your community, and indicate how you might create a business solution to solve the problem. I offered to present a Mac Mini computer to the student who delivered the clearest, most compelling problem description. I didn’t know how many responses to expect, but it appears that nearly all of the students either turned in a written response after the event or posted one on davidtarver.com later. When we announce the winner, I’ll post the information here.
I came away impressed with the quality of both the students and their teachers. The visit confirmed for me that these students do indeed have a hunger to change their world for the better, and that many of them want to do so through entrepreneurship. I’m committed to supporting their aspirations.
Thanks to Mr. Atiim Funchess and the staff at Detroit Public Library for organizing such an outstanding event. I’m ready to come back anytime.