Geek vs Nerd:
One of the disappointing things I encountered in trying to form our team is that several good candidates declined because they didn’t want to be seen as “geeky” (or any of the other labels in the overlapping regions of the Venn Diagram below). As an adult and one who generally ignores unthinking convention, it was hard for me to understand why a tween/teen would be so unduly influenced by such 3rd order influencers but the VC and Y-Incubator founder Paul Graham does did a humorous job analyzing the perilous nadir of his nerd years (approximately 11-14).
Ensconced here in rural Gambier, these kids have no ideal that for leading edge hipsters from Palo Alto to Williamsburg to everywhere in between Geek Chic and Hacker Culture is in and only growing in influence (minus the Social Ineptitude circle above).
The pop book “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth” by Alexandra Robbins discusses some of this phenomena and the general happy life outcomes for outsiders in general. It’s still frustrating to see talent being sub-optimized and a general anti-intellectual atmosphere become the default for our community. Although most kids will turn out fine, the world they live in is very different from the one I grew up in.
Coming from a no-frills midwest education I was woefully under-prepared at a top engineering undergrad program with competitive students from Asian, Europe and students from elite schools in the US. Still, I was able to catch up with some difficulty. I’m not sure that would be the case in today’s more connected and competitive world where the intellectual winners-taking-it-all are increasingly determined by narrower margins. It would be nice to redefine our culture, create a critical mass of intellectual excellence/curiosity and level the future playing ground for our kids.