Esther Dyson Visionary Extraordinaire

When I met Esther Dyson over 20 years ago she was already playing a very important role in tech. I subscribed to her Release 1.0 newsletter and flew in from Japan to attend her star-studded annual PC Forums in Arizona.

Historic Photo Esther and Macintosh 1984

Esther Dyson with Original Macintosh 1984 Digital Deli

Esther has never stood still. She is an observer, analyst, connector, investor, philanthropist and advocate who never tires of learning something new.

Early in her career following graduation from Harvard, Esther worked for Forbes. In 1974, she traveled to Japan, on her own vacation time to write an article that Wired Magazine referred to as “seminal” about the competition Japan would bring to computer hardware. I can attest that Japanese industry was largely ignored by the press in the 70’s and this was certainly an early sign of Esther’s ability to detect important trends.

She has used her multiple talents to foster start-ups over the years. Companies she has invested in include Del.icio.us and Flickr (both sold to Yahoo), Medstory and Powerset (sold to Microsoft), Brightmail (sold to Symantec), as well as ChallengePost, Doppler, Icon Aircraft, Patients Like Me, Relief in Site and Xcor Aerospace.

Her current board seats include 23andMe (personal genomics), Airship Ventures, CVO Group, Eventful.com, Evernote, MeetUp, WPP Group and Ameritocracy, AnchorFree, Choicestream, IBS Group, Keas, Live Journal, PGP Corp., ReframeIt and Viewpoint.

She is also a trustee of the Eurasia Foundation, the Long Now Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, Personal Genomes.org (for which she has posted her genome and soon all her medical records online), the Santa Fe Institute, Stop Badware and the Sunlight Foundation.

Esther is wrapping up a five month stint training as a back-up cosmonaut in Star City, Russia. Her father Freeman Dyson, and brother George Dyson will fly in to watch the launch with her on March 26th and then she will return to her home base in New York City. Esther looks forward to coming back to her whirlwind lifestyle – along with the opportunity to resume her daily swim again.

Esther Dyson with Spacesuit and Seat Mold Fitting Specialists in Russia

Esther with Spacesuit and Seat Mold Fitting Specialists in Russia

I asked Esther what she took from her experiences in the Russian space travel training program. She is invested in – and passionate about – private space travel, so she took joy in learning to be a space traveler, her enhanced understanding about the business and technical challenges, and her ability to be an advocate for NASA.

 

She also shared something about her cosmonaut training that resonated with me and – I expect – with the powerful women I surround myself with. She said, “I am not used to not controlling my life. [This experience] allowed me to learn to cede control with dignity.”

Where will her next investments be? “People talk about investing the way they talk about having sex , but in both cases you need to consider the consequences – the time it takes to raise the children or guide the companies to success.”

You can expect that Esther will continue to be a visionary, identifying new areas worth further investigation. Here she will follow one of her favorite mathematician quotes: “The remainder of the proof is an exercise left to the reader.”

Mathematician quotes come easily to Esther, since her mother is the accomplished mathematician Verena Huber-Dyson.

Esther Dysons Mother

Esther Dysons Mother, accomplished mathematician Verena Huber-Dyson

Esther Dyson Demonstrating Her Tenacity in 1958

 

esther dyson with buddha statue

A relaxed moment in St.Barts photo thanks to Peter Corsell

Esther Dyson balancing on a boat in Barcelona

Balancing Act Esther Dyson on a Boat in Barcelona

Photos above courtesy of Esther Dyson’s extensive Flickr photostream.

Esther receiving the Aenne Burda at DLD (Digital Life Design) Jan 25, 2009 from Hubert Burta

Esther receiving the Aenne Burda at DLD (Digital Life Design) Jan 25, 2009 from Hubert Burta, photo thanks to Eirik Solheim

Esther Dyson with Joi Ito, Barak Berkowitz and Jean Louis Gassee D Conference 200

Esther Dyson with Joi Ito, Barak Berkowitz and Jean Louis Gassee D Conference 2006, photo thanks to Dan Farber

John Doerr, Esther Dyson, Charlie Rose pre-taping a Charlie Rose Show at Technet 2005

John Doerr, Esther Dyson, Charlie Rose pre-taping a Charlie Rose Show at Technet 2005 photo thanks to CNET editor in chief Dan Farber

About Linda Sherman

International, multicultural marketing pro, Linda brings a distinguished background of international subsidiary CEO/CMO to her Social Marketing expertise. These include CEO Club Med Japan, Barilla Japan and CMO Wal-Mart Japan. Linda Sherman has been featured and quoted in Forbes, The New York Times, Christian Monitor and other leading publications. She devised and implemented an innovative guerrilla-marketing plan for ZIMA in Japan that produced a lasting, profitable success. Linda has hands-on technical skills in building and search optimizing WordPress websites and an influential on-line presence. Linda teaches social marketing for business at the University of Hawaii. Her company, The Courage Group, provides websites, digital film, branding and social marketing strategy and training.

Connect with Linda Sherman on Google+

29 comments
ADRIAN'S BLOG
ADRIAN'S BLOG

Esther is an amazing woman. I look forward to sharing this great article with others.

ADRIAN'S BLOG’s last blog post..Post Your Resume Will Get Paid

Rhonda Hostetler
Rhonda Hostetler

In 1985, as a young female software developer, I had the opportunity to demo my team’s decision tree software (TI’s Arborist) to Esther Dyson in her NYC office.

She made quite an impression on me and I felt fortunate to meet such a highly-respected female in the tech field (a rarity in those days!).

Rhonda Hostetler’s last blog post..Girls Trip to Loreto Bay, Mexico

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

I had been planning this post for months. It took time to capture Esther for an interview.

I posted to coincide with Ada Lovelace Day. A bit sadly, the Ada Lovelace posting list was compromised, the map never worked, the audio on the video interview with Ada was sans pin mike - but the spirit and response of an effort like this shows that huge progress has been made for women in IT/tech/science. We must not forget to continue to encourage young girls to participate.

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

@Brandy Thank you so much for coming over from http://SingularCity.com to read my article. I'm glad to hear you were inspired.

@Maria @Brian I'm so glad to be the one to introduce you to Esther Dyson

@Brian @David @baxter I'm so glad that I could add to what you already admire about Esther.

@midmad You have a good point - Esther is an inspiration not just to women.

@Britt I absolutely love your comment

@Michele One of the many things that I enjoyed about writing about Esther is that it drew traffic from all over the world. Thank you for sharing your experience with Esther in Sweden.

@Gigi Coming from an accomplished multicultural TV news reporter, your compliment is most appreciated.

@Karen Great point for mothers and so important to support young girls to excel in the fields of science, technology and math.

@Ted I appreciate your timely addition of Esther's Ad Age article.

Ted Rubin
Ted Rubin

Linda... great article. Have been corresponding on and off with Esther since I entered the online world at Yoyodyne with Seth Godin in Q4 1997 and read Release 2.0. She has always given me the courtesy of a reply when I had a specific question or requested some form of input. Her recent article in AdAge@TedRubin
"Transparency is a mechanism for companies to get better and better" E Dyson puts into a biz model what all brands should put into practice

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis
Dr. Karen Gail Lewis

My first reaction, after reading this, is a huge WOW. My next reaction (given that I’m a family therapist) is a question: What helps a woman get this big? Did she know when she was a little girl she would be so useful to society and successful? Did she just fall into it, not knowing the necessary skills were within her? Did she have a powerful supportive family network that encouraged and supported her achievements?

Without knowing anything about Esther, I’m so thankful to see this article and I hope women all over see it. Esther is a great example of how it can be different for girls – and I add, for women. Esther’s success is helpful to society and helpful to use as women. What a great role model if you have daughters and a great role model for yourself (it’s never too late.)

If you have children, reread this and think what you could do maximize the special skills within your daughter. Don’t push her; if she doesn’t have the drive (now or even later), let her be herself. But, if you see the potential (and she is willing), do what you can to give her the opportunities to push herself. Note, I said for her to push herself. You can’t expect a daughter who doesn’t want the push to be pleased and productive -- at least not without paying a huge price later in her resentment or her later failure. But if she wants, go for it.

For yourself: Prill Boyle’s Defying Gravity tells the story of a dozen women who blossomed late. There’s a woman who started medical school in her 40s, a woman who always wanted to be an airline steward and finally was successful in her 70's! These women took longer to learn what Esther learned. But, all of them could be speaking to you. Are you doing what you want? Do you know what you want? Don’t let your age, or your family or friends, or society tell you you are too old. Figure out what you want and go for it.

This is why I run Unique Retreats for Women Ready For Change. It gives women a place to figure out what it is they may different in their lives. Perhaps there should be such an opportunity for mothers and their high potential daughters.

Michele Anenberg Poma
Michele Anenberg Poma

Dear Linda,

Thank you for this fantastic article. I agree. Esther is an amazing women and I have been so lucky to have had the joy of meeting her two years ago while she was at SIME in Stockholm. I am an American living in Stockholm for the past 18 years. I am also the Founder/CEO of an up and coming 501 c3 organization called KidsGiving2Kids.org." Thank you for sharing !

Britt Raybould
Britt Raybould

What a lovely profile of such an accomplished woman. I get the impression that she's lived her life by never waiting for permission from others to pursue her goals. More people should have the courage to live life with her passion. Thank you for highlighting a life worth admiring.

Britt Raybould’s last blog post..Graphics Novels, Politics, and Tropicana

baxter
baxter

What a great read, thanks Linda! :) I had no idea Esther Dyson was on the board of so many organisations!

baxter’s last blog post..How do you use Twitter?

MidMad
MidMad

Great story about a great person - seems like Esther Dyson can be a role model for not only women, but also - men. Being who she is now, I just know we will hear about her more.

David Berkowitz
David Berkowitz

Thanks for sharing - wonderful piece! While I don't know her nearly as well as you I have had the pleasure of meeting her and she is really extraordinary. This is a great recap of her contributions and your own inspiration.

David Berkowitz’s last blog post..Forrester Marketer Survey: Interactive Taking Money from Traditional Media

Brian Ginn
Brian Ginn

I was really struck by coming to your web site for the first time after you left a comment on mine and low and behold a lady in front of a 1984 edition Macintosh 128k. wow, just wow. And I so enjoy the space program and this lady did that too!

Brian Ginn’s last blog post..Right here, right now downtown Louisville, a walk home.

Maria Palma
Maria Palma

Hi Linda,

What an extraordinary story and thank you for sharing it. I am truly inspired! This is my first time learning about her...

Maria Palma’s last blog post..Studio 747 Blog Round-Up

Brandy Sprunger
Brandy Sprunger

Wow! In my own profession, I aspire to be what Esther is to technology....what an inspirational piece on an amazing woman. Proof that we can make it in a 'man's world!'
I feel like I need to get out and work even harder now!

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

@Ray Thank you dearest hubby for your completely unbiased comment

@Amy Interesting enterprise from Canada with "Women Make News", I'm glad I found it because of Ada Lovelace Day.

@Susan Esther is indeed wonderful to interview. And I'm so glad I had a chance to meet you at SXSW. Go DishyMix!

@Mary It's delightful to know you. You are yourself an inspiration.

Mary Hall
Mary Hall

Great article on Esther! It's inspiring to read her story as another woman in the high-tech world, I view her as a real pathfinder.

Mary Hall’s last blog post..Recessionista Shop 'n' Swap: A Great Idea Sweeping the Globe

Susan Bratton
Susan Bratton

Esther inspires me to no end. I've interviewed her for my podcast, DishyMix and at a keynote for ad:tech and in every conversation, her insights and world view astound me.
She makes herself available to anyone and her impressive range of interests ensure her a legacy of honor.
I adore Esther. Thank you for this excellent and well researched post, Linda.

Susan Bratton’s last blog post..DM 091: John Cecil on Video Spokespersons, Pickle Fights and Surfing in OC

atanas entchev
atanas entchev

A great writeup about an extraordinary person.

atanas entchev’s last blog post..E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Tracked Down on Google Street View

amy cross
amy cross

Nice post about ED. I agree, she is the top of mind woman in tech. But what I was trying to say that personally, I find there are so few women in the public eye,after 20 years, ED is known. There are thousands of women in the next generation with almost zero recognition in the larger cultural sphere.

Sorry about the comment function --I just added the editor's blog section, and I realized we didn't open the comment mode. The main part of my site is the content provided by others, and commenting works there.

I will correct it immediately! The whole point of my site is supposed to be open source, no need to register. I'm trying to collect the voices of many women on issues of the day--sort of a collective op ed page for women

amy cross’s last blog post..American Women who Can't Vote: The Tigua Women of Texas May Not Want That Casino or The Leaders Who Want it

Ray Gordon
Ray Gordon

It's fantastic that you personally know one of the great pioneers in technology. She is truly an historic figure of our times, and your profile makes her life and legacy come alive for everyone that reads the post. Great job!

Ray Gordon’s last blog post..An Energy Desert in a Sea of Oil

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

@Joy @Richard @Bob @Vanessa - thanks so much for your comments!

@Mark I do hope you'll get a chance to do your demo. Make note of April 7 - she'll be in your area

@Tatyana Thank you for the Flickr link and some details on Esther's April 7 visit to Silicon Valley.

Marsha Collier
Marsha Collier

I'm moved that you wrote about Esther. I never met her, but had software clients way back in the beginning, and her columns always made me feel good. Those were the days when men would look over your shoulder when a woman spoke to them at Comdex. It was tough in this industry and Esther paved the way.

Vanessa
Vanessa

Hey - Go Superwoman.

Bob Conti
Bob Conti

Daughter of physicist Freeman Dyson and mathematician Verena Huber-Dyson, sister to digital technology historian George Dyson. Do you think it runs in the family? An amazing woman who still has time for "a daily swim." Ms. Dyson is an inspiration to not only women everywhere but to anyone who aspires to greatness. Thanks for shining a light on this exceptional person.

Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman

Great research. Highly informative and informational. It is great to see what a difference one person can make.

Mark Seligman
Mark Seligman

Esther and I met around 1983-4 when I was training customers in the use of an artificial intelligence programming toolkit for IntelliCorp. She was a quick study.

I'd purely love to demo my current company's speech-enabled real-time translation product for her -- any time of day or night!

Meanwhile, I'll continue following her exploits and enjoying her infectious joie-de-vivre.

Mark

Joy Nordenstrom a.k.a. Joy of Romance
Joy Nordenstrom a.k.a. Joy of Romance

Dear Linda,

Thank you for this blog on Ester Dyson. She is truly an inspiration to all women. I especially love the fact that when she supports a company she wholeheartedly getting behind them to passionately spread their message. She is definitely the type of investor or board member who makes a significant difference to the life of the company she supports. I appreciate her zest for life and exuberance for learning.
I hope to have the opportunity to meet her in-person some day.

Much appreciation and delight,
JOY