Bob Wright

Bob Wright

Co-Founder of Autism Speaks. Former Vice Chairman of General Electric and CEO of NBC.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 06, 2016

Discussion

Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
Hi Everyone! Thanks for being here and asking questions - excited to be talking to a great community of builders and doers. I was chief executive of NBC when we created CNBC and MSNBC to provide the broadcast network with a foray into the cable world. I later founded Autism Speaks with my wife, Suzanne, when few in the medical community would even utter the word but autism families everywhere needed national support, advocacy and research. My book The Wright Stuff recently released. It has stories and lessons which detail my time at GE, NBC, and founding Autism Speaks.
Dan Feshbach
Dan Feshbach@danfeshbach · CEO MeasureOne
Bob I am so impressed with what you your wife and Autism Speaks have done for people like me who have children with autism . I am an autism entrepeneur and interested in engaging the tech community in leveraging their talents and abilities - what advice can you offer about how new comers can get started ? And your sense of the most pressing needs ?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@danfeshbach Hi Dan! Thank you for your question. Google is your best friend. Search through Autism Speak's website and its derivates for science and scientific products. We have held several new product science fairs in Boston, NY, and Silicon Valley. With the advent of our MSSNG project, (up to 10,000 whole genomes sequenced and stored on Google's scientific portal), there will be huge researcher activity which will lead to new directions to separate out from Autism out from the spectrum. All of this activity will provide significant tech opportunities. As soon as possible, we must break down the spectrum into definable autisms which can be further examined for medical and pharmaceutical treatments.
Dan Feshbach
Dan Feshbach@danfeshbach · CEO MeasureOne
@bobwrightnbc Bob thanks and makes sense - off the top of your head do know who is doing the best work on defining the "autisms" INMO the lack of population data is a barrier to innovating in autism tech and software
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@danfeshbach check this out: https://www.mss.ng/ - MSSNG is the best scientific project for Autism in the world. It has been developed and supported by Autism Speaks, Google, Dr. Steven Scherers, Genomic Lab in Toronto and public support from the Province of Ontario and Canadian Federal Government.
Dan Feshbach
Dan Feshbach@danfeshbach · CEO MeasureOne
@bobwrightnbc thank Bob and for your service - and the fact you turned your knowledge and network into an amazing force for good and change - in gratitude - it's truly an inspiration Dan
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@danfeshbach thank you! Much more work needs to be done. My wife of 48 years and partner in every aspect of Autism Speaks, Suzanne was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer on October 29, 2015. Pancreatic Cancer is not well understood, completely underserved by the NIH while having the highest mortality rate of any disease in the country, at 93.5%. How could this be possible? Well, I'm working hard to see if I can make some real progress over the next year or two. 52,000 will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year and only 1% of them will live 10 years or more!
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Bob, how was the transition from NBC to founding Autism Speaks? What has surprised you most about the change?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@ems_hodge great question, Emily! I structured AS as a real business. We got licenses in every state to operate and to fundraise all of our financials are audited each year in addition to extensive 990 not for profit annual files. We have hired outside counsel and consultants when necessary to speed up the path of growing without encountering significant setbacks.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
How do you feel about the future of live television?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@andrewett Hi Andrew! TV is any electronic device that can show pictures or video clearly. The future is very bright. Everyone wants to personalize his or her pictures and video in an on-demand way. Content old and new will be extremely popular on many devices simultaneously.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What were the biggest challenges about writing your book? What advice can you offer new writers just starting out?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@ems_hodge Hi Emily! I started out with a vision of a 150 page Twitter like business book. It soon migrated through research into 1400 page document, which required editing down to the final 400+ pages. My advice is to frame your thoughts well ahead in terms of scale. Don't just write to see what happens.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What are the biggest differences between public companies and non-profits? Similarities?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@andrewett Non-profits don't have public shares, quarterly income targets, nor heavy regularly review. The 990 is an annual regulatory filling for all non-profits that provide significant detail. Not for profits have much more flexibility in terms of the breath of their mission but also require constant fundraising to support the development of the mission. Borrowing public money is dangerous for a non-profit.
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What are the 3 resources that have most improved your life? (blogs, books, movies, advisors, etc)
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@jacqvon Great question! My marriage to my wife Suzanne & my family. My opportunity to be involved in so many different businesses over the course of my career. And my faith, which has guided my since I was a child.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
How was your experience at GE and how do you think they are getting on in terms of a huge company innovating in the space?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@bentossell Hi Ben! GE has gone through a terrible time between 2000 and 2009. It has in its recovery many businesses have been sold and GE Capital has been dismantled. GE's future is based on several very large global industrial businesses and the development of operating software to enhance the performance of those businesses and many other businesses who will have an opportunity to use it. The going forward picture looks very bright, almost like coming out of a terrible storm into the sunshine. - Thanks!
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@bobwrightnbc I actually used to work at GE Capital in London although cant say that I enjoyed it all that much
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
How has the landscape of Autism changed since you founded Autism Speaks and what have been the biggest challenges for you?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@bentossell The primary reason we started AS was to build awareness among general public, politicans, the medical/scientific community. We quickly added advocacy to provide insurance and reimbursement for the care and treatment of autistic people, especially newly diagnosed children. The result is - we have significantly improved the awareness of young people especially and married couples between the ages of 30-45. We've gotten insurance in 44 states and $3.2 billion of congressional funds for research at the NIH and services through HSS over the last 10 years.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What have been some of the biggest challenges in getting Autism Speaks into the public eye?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@ems_hodge Hi Again! Purely a lack of knowledge with the general public, we built an awareness engine by partnering with the Ad Council and BBDO to create a series of public service spots which have appeared on television, over radio, on billboards, magazines, and newspapers over the last 10 years with a market value of $220 Million. That has really moved the needle with all of our constituents.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
How was your experience with Gary Vaynerchuk and what big things did you take away from him?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@bentossell Hi Again Ben! I found it very exciting even though Gary is very low key! I actually love the show and loved the entrepreneurial success that he has enjoyed starting with the wine business in Springfield, NJ, to a mega online content house.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@bobwrightnbc gary being low key doesn't seem to be something I'd assume haha - in what way is he low key?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Bob! What's one thing you fervently believed that you now see as misguided?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@eriktorenberg Hi Erik! All companies especially tech driven companies need to be carefully examining bubbles. If you don't see the bubble developing you're likely to be very hurt when it bursts. Traditional businesses are measured by price/earning ratios and ROI/ROE, there is less excuse for a traditional business to be damaged in a bubble but it happens all the time. The tech bubble is harder to control and analyze but it happens quite often. See Twitter, GoPro, Groupon, etc.
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What's one piece of advice you constantly find yourself giving?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@jacqvon Hi! "I want to get into the media/communications business, what's the right entrance?" I tell younger people to go to the technical side of the business right away and learn as much as you can since the technical structure of these businesses needs to be understood in order to develop new businesses or market existing ones in a crowded changing media/communications marketplace. In other words, you need to be as tech savvy as you can possibly manage before you break into subsets like marketing, sales, etc. - Thanks!
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What are the first tabs you open on your computer/phone every morning?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@jacqvon That's a great question! Weather channel, my news sites (CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, NYTimes, NYPost, WSJ -- in that order), and ESPN - on my iPhone & iPad.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What else needs to change to make autism more widely understood, accepted, and supported across all professions?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@ems_hodge We need to breakdown the spectrum into individual autisms that can be diagnosed and treated, much in the same way the cancer spectrum has been broken down in the last 70 years. Autism is not retardation and there is the hope of the productivity and the use of a strong mind for every person with autism. Professionals need to recognize that just because a person has poor communication skills it doesn't mean they can't process huge amounts of information. In other words, don't be fooled by differences that an autistic person has, because that person could potentially be a high performing employee.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Do you think there are other medical areas like Autism that need people to tackle in the way you are with Autism Speaks? If so, which one and how would you go about advising them?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about autism?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
@eriktorenberg People don't realize that every autistic person is different. Some will work at Google or the NIH while others will never work and will remain at home living with their parents. Some do not speak, some don't speak well, others have social issues but keen minds. All these factors apprehension about Autism especially if an individual doesn't have some modest knowledge about the condition.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
For anyone thinking of founding a nonprofit, what are the key characteristics they need to have for success?
Bob Wright
Bob Wright@bobwrightnbc
Thank you so much for having me. I've enjoyed my time here. It was a new experience for me - thank you for giving me your time and attention. I hope some of these remarks are helpful to you in your own journey. A few parting words: Life is a trip and there is plenty of time on the trip to do a lot of wonderful things for yourself and also help a lot of other people in need. When the trip ends you want look back and hope you've done well for both parts of it.