Allan Young is the founder and CEO of Runway, one of the biggest technology co-working and incubation spaces located in the heart of San Francisco and in the same building as Twitter’s new headquarters.
They don’t have a website, they don’t tweet or have a Facebook page; membership is by invitation only and available for the best early stage technology startups. Despite you don’t hear from them a lot, Runway is one of the best looking spaces for Startups I have seen and Allan Young is the most friendly and polite man I came across during my time in in the Bay Area. Before our interview he proudly showed me around the building. The incubator gets its name because of the big central runway that divides the space; they could have doubled the number of desks and startups but Allan personally decided to leave the aisle open to give the space some air and a sense of openness.
There are many conference rooms made of glassed walls where people take notes on and other mini conference rooms for phone calls with just a desk and a phone. But the coolest thing is the multi light color Igloo made of blocks which can be disassembled; this is where our interview took place.
“We’re building an amazing community of brilliant people working on interesting problems”, this is why according to Allan Young most entrepreneurs are social: they are creating value and making the world a better place, just like any good business is a social business. “Entrepreneurs value and produce a lot of good for the community, the environment, the world, their employees, their customers, partners and their suppliers. Any company which shares this view is a social one.”
I asked Allan why everyone talks about changing the world and what really does changes it, and he answered with a beautiful metaphor: “Art is something that changes the world. It helps you see things in a different way and challenges your assumptions. Therefore any company that is changing the world, in a way, is creating art. Your art may be delivered in a technology or a website or a mobile app, but it will still change your assumptions and behavior and it will make you do things that you didn’t do before.”
But, to create “art”, or in other words, to change the world, Allan believes the most important advice he can give is for people to take more risks: “I want people to step out of their comfort zone. To stick their neck out, put their name and reputation on the line and say -I want tocreate something new, I want to stand for something and I want to change the world. – This requires incredible courage and bravery, it requires you to ignore your largest fears and criticism.” According to Alan, this is common to hear in the Silicon Valley environment because people here are less afraid to step up to something new. If the rest of the world could be inspired by this mind-set we could see dramatic improvements in the world.