Back in 2003, I had just started a job at Microsoft a few months after graduating from Rice. From Texas, I had moved to Seattle and was surrounded by tech geeks, all looking to do something with their degrees. We’d all been told we could do anything since the age of 5, and now that school was done, we had taken the next step with stamping our resume’s with Microsoft. (Back then, it was a very desirable thing!)
I realized that my group of friends would always end up talking about business ideas. We’d be gathering on a Friday night to go out, or at lunch during the week, and everyone would mention this company or that, and talk about ideas.
I went away for the holidays, and came back after New Years with a resolution to start a group formally to talk about business ideas. I circled up a bunch of my friends at the time, and started having them over to my house every Monday night. At the first meeting, I got a copy of a news profile of IDEO, the design firm, as inspiration. We named the group “HyperZen”. I’m not sure why, but it stuck.
We initially used to try to come up with ideas on those Mondays, and once we even tried to start a company over the weekend. (I think the idea was a site called BoostHope, where you could group donate to a cause… not unlike the idea that originally started Groupon, now that I think about it). It didn’t work. We were much better suited to discuss ideas than to execute them as a large group.
From there, we started an email list that still gets used daily,10 years later. Over the years, all but two people have left Microsoft. Many have started companies, some have changed industries. Many, including myself, have left Seattle. 5 of us are in the Bay Area now. Many of us have lived together at some point. We now have 13 people in the group, and we only lost one person early on.
A couple of years ago, one guy had a successful exit, and sponsored a retreat in Napa for a long weekend. Since then, we do an annual retreat so we can all get together in person. The person with the most successful year sponsors the retreat.
When I think about the things I’ve learned outside of college, I can attribute a lot of it to HyperZen. Not just because I learned from the other guys, but because it was a place where ideas were bounced around. We’ve long since branched from only talking about tech ideas and our careers, although that still is a dominant part of our conversations. Life, marriage, kids, women, money, meaning… nothing is off limits at our retreats.
I remember dreaming of “years from now” when i started the group 10 years back. I still think that way. I still think “just think of where we’ll all be 10 years from now”… and then I realized recently that it’s been 10 years, and starting HyperZen has already become on of the larger influences on my life.
I wish I could give the gift of HyperZen to others. It’s amazing to watch friends grow and change and feel like I have a constant source of inspiration and learning from people I respect. I hope it will continue for many decades to come.
Craig dos Santos