Yobie Benjamin: The Angel Within the Investor
The Global Filipino Network (GFN) through its partnerships with various educational institutions such as the Stanford US-Asian Technology Management Center has been organizing the “Entrepreneurs and Innovators Speaker Series” for quite some time now, and has had a number of distinguished speakers. This time around, GFN was privileged to have Mr. Antonio “Yobie” Benjamin lecture at the Skilling Building auditorium at Stanford University last November 19, 2015.
Mr. Benjamin’s topic was “Latest Trends on the Internet of Things (IoT) and Wearable Technologies.” The first part of the lecture was about the main product of his company Avegant, referred to as the Glyph, a Smart Headphone described as “a mobile personal theater with built-in premium audio.” For this video headset, Yobie was able to raise around $ 1.1 million dollars via Kickstarter, a crowdfunding source. Still on the topic of wearable tech, he expressed that one of his ventures, the Skully motor helmet, is now ready to ship. See him in the YouTube clip which he had handy on his mobile. In it, he was wearing the Skully as he does “crazy things” with his motorcycle (he jokingly annotated). Ah, feel the wind blowing through your hair! Oh, of course not, since your hair will be tucked inside the Skully, silly.
Yobie’s lecture, like his diversified business and humanitarian involvements, soon evolved into a discussion of his variegated active interests. Listening to his virtual and actual adventures and achievements, I could see the Dos Equis guy in my mind, and then imagining Yobie to be the younger version of someone who would say, “Stay thirsty, my friend,” because from the looks of it, Yobie has no plans of slowing down and resting on his laurels. He has gone past X billions of dollars in retirement-worth several times, a
nd yet there he goes again, coming out of “retirement” – helping start-ups, innovating on the way we deal with currency (Token.io), creating code, saving huge swaths of land and wildlife, partnering in a synbio company that aims to “disrupt” health care through a revolutionary blood testing system… you get the idea.
Yes, Yobie is a master at multitasking. Just type in “Yobie Benjamin” on Google search and one of the links that will come up would be his LinkedIn profile, a long list of his positions in companies which he founded, co-founded, or in which he is a major partner. There is a barely contained restlessness in his persona that’s always looking for a challenge to overcome or a problem to solve. In fact, when asked about what advice he could give to engineers in the room who would like to transition into business, Yobie quipped, “Solve problems. Find problems to solve.” In his capacity as an angel investor, he was asked about what he looks for in a business model, and his short answer was, “Sustainability.” His advice to the computer science students in the crowd, “Your first course should be Logic or Logic Systems, or else the field will confuse the hell out of you. After that, then take your usual subjects.”
But perhaps the most telling about the humanity within Yobie Benjamin’s beating capitalist heart could be found in this Huffpost article that he wrote, titled “A Healthy Dare in Love and Life.” In it, he says that Silicon Valley denizens are always looking for the bottom line, but he himself is choosing different path. From the article: “Well… as much as I live in the bubble of Silicon Valley, the rest of the world does not. In fact most of us live with the simple values of simplicity, love, loyalty, family and honesty. We strive to love our partners, raise our children, put food on the table, aspire for clean water and live in a planet free of conflict.”
I highly recommend reading the rest of the article here: A Healthy Dare in Love and Life (Huffington Post)
So is that the shadow of a halo that we’re seeing around Yobie’s head? Nah. Chances are it’s just his Avegant Glyph video headset or maybe his Skully motorcycle helmet. And the beat goes on.