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Posted on 31, December 2013 December 31 2013 2013年12月31日 by alexander-berger

23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before 23

Sometimes I feel like I am done with dating, being single, and worrying about who I will spend my life with. Wouldn’t it be more pleasant to just end all the uncertainty and get married already? There are strong arguments on both sides of the aisle.

On one hand “Unmarried twenty-somethings are more likely to be depressed, drink excessively, and report lower levels of satisfaction than their married counterparts” (The Case for Getting Married Young).

On the other hand “Delayed marriage has elevated the socioeconomic status of women, especially more privileged women and their partners, allowed women to reach other life goals, and reduced the odds of divorce” (The Knot). Tough decision.

If you are like me, and have decided to postpone marriage until you have the rest of your life more or less sorted, here are 23 things you can (and some you should) do to fill the emptiness inside and become a more interesting, well rounded person at the same time!

1. Sneak into a hot tub that isn’t yours

2. Learn to dance and go dancing

3. Learn a skill that pays more than $8 an hour

4. Explore the Outdoors: Go camping, skiing, hiking, rafting, etc

5. Buy expensive toys you wanted as a kid and play with them

6. Start a small business

7. Make Youtube videos with your friends

8. Throw a party

9. Learn to cook and use it on your friends/dates

10. Move out and support yourself financially

11. Clean up your act: drink less, eat healthier, work out more, tidy your room

12. Play hide and go seek outside at night (Also Fugitive)

13. Help a random stranger who needs it

14. Do a photoshoot with a friend and try to look like models

15. Graduate high school and college or Stop-out of school and Hack Your Education

16. Make out with a stranger

17. Build something with your hands

18. Revamp your wardrobe for adulthood (Girls, Guys)

19. Learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

20. Travel as much of the world as you can

21. Formulate your worldview

22. Vote in an election

23. Keep a journal/diary of it all (or at least the best and worst parts).

Happy New Years!

I borrowed the concept and title for this article from

Further Reading:

Knot Yet - A Very Comprehensive Report on this Topic

People who marry young are happier, but those who marry later earn more - Washington Post article based on the above mentioned report.

Posted on 14, March 2013 March 14 2013 2013年3月14日 by alexander-berger

The Defining Decade

Last week my friend Matt came to visit me in Palo Alto. This was three weeks after my resignation at Google (More to come on that in a different post) and I was starting to feel a bit down and directionless, a feeling I had taken to describing as “empty inside”. Matt and I held an ongoing discussion over the course of the following week about why I felt this way, what the point of life is, and how to best go about the process of becoming fully formed adults.

Near the end of our week together we attended a lecture by John Doerr at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. John Doerr is one of the richest men in the world and he had a number of interesting things to say:

Your business school grades do not matter, the connections you make do.
He was not accepted into Stanford when he was a student.
He recommends getting real world experience at startups before becoming a venture capitalist.
Hard technical skills are important for entrepreneurs.
Every twenty-something should read The Defining Decade by Meg Jay.

When a man worth over two billion dollars tells you to read a book it is almost always in your best interest to listen.

While Matt and I agreed on some of the points Meg addresses in her book before we read it, there were many new realizations to be had and great confirmation for ideas that we had already discussed. The Defining Decade is divided into three sections: Work, Love, and The Brain and the Body.


Perhaps the most relevant for me at this point in my life is that I must pick a direction for my career and commit without worrying about the other directions I am potentially killing off. I am worried that by choosing to go down one route, I am losing the opportunity to take a different path as I will spend at least a year or two exploring direction A and I won’t be able to afford making a U-turn to try option B if things don’t work out. Apparently this is a common worry and Meg points out that by not making a choice not only am I not leaving my options open, I am actually letting them slowly diminish as time goes by. By taking action immediately and beginning to build “Identity Capital” (The experiences and skills that define who we are as adults) I will actually have more options down the line as going out and doing things opens doors and broadens horizons.


I plan on getting married around 26. People always laugh at me when I say this because “You can’t plan love” or something like that. I’m not saying I can but that seems like a good time to get married and Meg agrees. Up until 25 the divorce statistics are in favor of waiting but after reaching that milestone the biological statistics tell you to get married right away, at least if you plan on having kids. Who to marry though? My biggest fear about getting married is that I might end up divorced or unhappily married to the wrong person. Meg explains that although opposites may sometimes attract, sames actually stay together. When measured by attractiveness, age, religion, political views, education, religion, and intelligence more similar couples tend to stay together more than those with vast differences. Researchers call these obvious matching qualities “deal breakers not match makers”. While a muslim/atheist marriage might end in divorce, there is no guarantee that two atheists will live happily ever after. In The Defining Decade Meg has the best framework I have ever encountered for quickly quantifying your personality compatibility with a potential partner. I don’t want to spoil anything so flip to page 112 when you get the book and check it out.

The Brain and The Body

Unfortunately for us twenty-somethings we have to make some of the most important decisions of our life in the next ten years but our brains aren’t fully formed yet and we don’t really know how the world works. If we wait until we have enough experience to make fully informed decisions with fully formed brains we will be 30 and forcing marriage, kids, and career success into the five years in between 30 and 35 is nearly impossible. In this section Meg urges us to think about the long term trajectory of our lives and make a simple timeline plotting out Education, Career, Marriage, and Kids to make sure we are making logical choices

These are just the most important things I took away from The Defining Decade and I’m sure that if you read the book you will have other realizations as well. I’m really glad I found this book when I did (three days before my 20’th birthday); it really helped me clear my head, lose some anxiety, and prepare to head out and dominate the next ten years. I hope it does you as much good as it did me.  

Posted on 25, February 2013 February 25 2013 2013年2月25日 by alexander-berger

Move to the Bay Area

I am always talking about how the Bay Area is the best place in the world to find opportunities. If you are young and want to change the world, have an influential position in biotech, nanotech, artificial intelligence  graphic design, venture capital, grow as a person, or just make a pile of cash this is one of the best places to be.

Since moving here in February 2012 my worldview has expanded in ways I wouldn’t have been able to understand before. I met people that I used to read about in the news (in fact I work for one of them and live with another), I worked at one of the best companies to work for in America, met a number of awesome people who convinced me to apply for the Thiel Fellowship, attend numerous awesome events at Stanford, and of course partied hard with the future business leaders of america.

I invite you to come join me in the center of the world.
Here are the events I will be attending next week:

Events in the Bay Area for March 4’th-8’th

Massive Party at My House - March 1
Dale Stephens Book Launch Party - March 2
Launch Hackathon Judging - March 4
Andrew Ng Talk at Stanford - March 4
Geoff Donaker Talk at Stanford - March 5
Launch Hackathon Finalist Pitches - March 5
Gideon Yu Talk At Stanford - March 6
Adam D’Angelo Talk At Stanford - March 7
Guy Kawasaki Talk at Stanford - March 8

Posted on 15, November 2012 November 15 2012 2012年11月15日 by alexander-berger

20 Under 20 Summit in NYC

Recently I have experienced a number of crazy firsts. The latest in this series of events is my spur of the moment trip to NYC for the 20 Under 20 Summit.The 20 Under 20 Summit is an event hosted by the Thiel Fellowship to bring the applicants and recipients of the fellowship together in one place for a week of speakers, workshops, and networking.

Alexander Berger in NYC

I was aware that the summit was happening but had no plans of attending until I discovered one of my new roommates was going to present — A great example of serendipity in action —. I checked the flights and was able to book one for about $400 so I decided to join him! I had a great time and took lots of photographs and a few videos.

I came away from the conference with four important takeaways:

Networking is not about making connections, it’s about making friends.

I am relatively new to the idea of networking and it has taken me until now to realize that most people are doing it wrong.  

The most common type of networking is to meet as many people as possible and try and get something from them, whether that be a meeting, an introduction, or advice. This is going about things incorrectly. This is very impersonal and doesn’t build a real connection. People have no obligation to give you anything and going around asking is plain rude, inconsiderate, and generally off putting.

There is a second group of people (Which until the summit  I was pretty firmly a part of) who are doing essentially the same thing, except they are looking to offer value to the other person rather than asking for something straight away. This is not terrible as at least you aren’t being rude, and hopefully if you are offering real value this can be effective.

What I discovered this weekend, however obvious this may seem, is that there is a third kind of networking and it is the best of all. It is simply called making friends. Far more enjoyable and effective than the previous styles of networking, making friends makes much more sense. Rather than walking around talking about what projects you are working on, what you have to offer, and what you need; forming a real personal connection ensures that both people will want to work together in the future and there is always another time to talk about the details of your current project. Is this more work? Sure. You have to set your ego and insecurities aside and open up to another person on a real level. This is something I am still working on myself, and I think all of us will be better off if we move towards this model of networking.

There are a lot of other amazing bright and inspired people your age, they just aren’t evenly distributed.

I’m not going to lie, as a kid I really thought I was the shit. In my environment there were very few people who were motivated, forward thinking, and driven. This lead me to think I was going to just absolutely dominate life without ever having to try too hard. Boy was I surprised when I moved to the bay and realized there were thousands, maybe even millions of people just like me and many significantly farther along than I am. Being around these amazing individuals has been humbling but also inspiring, providing me a target to shoot for. Going to the Summit was another such experience. Being in a room with 250 people that are every bit as awesome as you are really helps to both put things in perspective and motivate you to work even harder.

Side note on this topic: I noticed this weekend that the most interesting people tend to talk the least about themselves. If you want to meet someone really cool, engage the guy or girl that is spending the least time talking themselves up and the most time learning about others. Chances are they are more accomplished than most of the people in the group.

It’s generally best to spend at least a little time planning a trip BEFORE leaving.

I have never spent more than a few hours in NYC (With my parents) and I spent exactly zero  minutes preparing before the trip. Diwank and I arrived late at night in the middle of blizzard and immediately after hurricane Sandy to a situation that was a bit like something you would see in a disaster movie like Day After Tomorrow.

As we asked around it became more and more apparent we should have planned transportation before arriving. Could we take the subway? Yes, no problem, head to ??? Beach Station. Oh, actually no we can’t do that, according to a passerby its underwater. No problem though the doorman told us, we can take Skytrain to Jamaica Station transfer to X train, then transfer to Y train at Atlantic and then walk 6 blocks in the blizzard to our AirBnB apartment. Yeah right. We ended up taking a taxi down the HIGHWAY at 40MPH due to the snow and slush coating the roads. There were cars spun out on the sides of the road, tow trucks and police everywhere, and miles of houses without power along the north side of the road.

We arrived safely (For $60+ dollars) but it took us at least another day to really figure out the subways. Thankfully the blizzard was short lived and the weather was amazing for the remainder of the visit. Notwithstanding, next time I will plan (Especially transportation) a bit more before I arrive. Good times, just not necessarily something you want to repeat every time I visit somewhere new.

You can push yourself WAY beyond what you perceive as your current physical limits for lack of sleep and food given enough motivation.

The night before the conference Diwank and I had a surge of motivation. We decided to create a social movement to promote women in technology and discuss the issues surrounding this topic in a fun way. Grumpy the Bear was born. (More info on Grumpy: In order to pull this off we stayed up all night right before the beginning of the conference. Looking back this was probably I’ll advised, but seeing what we were able to accomplish with $100, the computer in Staples, and a teddy bear is pretty cool. It’s easy to make excuses when it comes to executing on ideas (Especially those that could result in you appearing foolish if they fail) but what separates the winners from the losers is the ability to set aside excuses, do the work, and put yourself out there for the world to see. As Jim O’Niell said in his closing remarks “Just Do It”.

Pictures and Videos of Alexander Berger’s Adventures In New York

Posted on 21, October 2012 October 21 2012 2012年10月21日 by alexander-berger

Dreamforce 2012 - Part 3

Tony Robbins with Alexander Berger at Dreamforce
Day 3 - Friday 9/21

This is the final installment of a 3 part account of my experience at Dreamforce 2012.
Part 1 is located here, and Part 2 is here. 

Going into the Tony Robbins Keynote today I was extremely skeptical. Through reading an article on The Verge which lead me to the following article on, I learned that Tony used his good name to add legitimacy to a scamy info product called New Money Masters created in association with Frank Kern, Mike Koenigs and other shady characters, all members of The Syndicate. These people sell info products of questionable legitimacy/quality/originality and many of them have been fined heavily by the FTC. James Ray, one of the “Experts” featured in the film/book/web series The Secret, even spent time in prison for killing a few of his seminar attendees!

Tony Robbins and Frank Kern

So obviously I was pretty skeptical of Tony as a person, and the value of his talk. The main concept covered in his 3 hour session was that your emotional state is a key part of performing well in your career, relationships, and life in general. This is an idea that is found in other areas of success training from sports to dating and I absolutely agree that controlling your emotional state is a very important skill. Tony incorporated some partner exercises and the like to try and help people develop “triggers” for getting into a good state, the idea being that focus (What you chose to think about mentally) and physiology (What you do with your body) combine to create your state. Being in a positive mental state allows you to be in the moment and perform at a higher level. This was nothing new to me, but it was a nice surface level refresher.

Summary: Tony may be a bad man, but he is a great charismatic public speaker. Wouldn’t want to work with him.

Posted on 13, October 2012 October 13 2012 2012年10月13日 by alexander-berger

Dreamforce 2012 - Part 2

Biotech and Alexander Berger at Dreamforce
Day 2 - Thursday 9/20

This is Part 2 of a 3 part account of my experience at Dreamforce 2012.
Part 1 can be found here, Part 3 is here.

Emerging medical technology sounds cool but until today I knew next to nothing about this industry. I started today by attending 2 talks hosted by UCSF.

The first talk by Thomas Ferrin covered using interactive 3D models to guide drug development. His group, Resource for Biocomputing, Visualization, and Informatics or RBVI for short, created Chimera to help researchers build these models and print them via commercially available 3D printers.


Up next was Mobility and Healthcare - Promises and Reality, discussing the social and mobile nature of healthcare in the future. The product I found most fascinating, a Web/Mobile app called GreenDot, uploads data from Glucose/Insulin monitors/injectors to the web and creates an intuitive and shareable visual dashboard that helps amateurs and professionals alike easily discover trends in a patients blood sugar levels and remedy dangerous irregularities.

This is the first generation for something that could eventually act as an artificial; pancreas: Reading the glucose level in the patient’s bloodstream and injecting the appropriate amount of insulin intelligently (and socially) in realtime. Unfortunately for diabetics this may still be a few years of due to the extremely tough FDA approval process for medical devices.

Revolutionary stuff!

After grabbing some biscuits and gravy with hash browns for $2 at Denny’s I headed over to the main and final event of the evening: Fireside Chat with Colin Powell and Jeff Immelt CEO of GE.

They talked about the future of education, why Iran is not really as much of a threat as the media makes them out to be, and the increasing speed of technological change. Definitely a talk worth watching.

One more day to go!

Posted on 03, October 2012 October 03 2012 2012年10月3日 by alexander-berger

Dreamforce 2012 - Part 1

Marc Benioff, Richard Branson, and 75,000 Fans
Day 1 - Wednesday 9/19 

This is the first installment of a 3 part account of my experience at Dreamforce 2012.
Part 2 is located here and Part 3 is here.

Last week I was super excited to be able to attend Dreamforce X at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. I got to listen to inspiring talks, meet wonderful people, and experience the insanity that is a 75,000+ person conference.

This is the 1’st of 3 posts covering my Dreamforce experience.

Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA

Day 1 - Wednesday 9/19
Today began with the main keynote address from Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and host of this event. This was a 2.5 hour long address with visits from many senior executives from firms such as Ford, GE, Virgin Airlines, and Yelp among others. The main concept that was repeated over and over is that “business is social”. What exactly that means varies from company to company but the basic model that seemed to carry across every business is connecting the customers to the company, the employees to the executives, and the suppliers to their vendors and retailers. In the case of Coke, Toyota, and GE, this chain extended all the way down to connecting the companys physical products to the customers via social media. This is essentially the first generation of semi-intelligent communicative machines. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the GE example (Something about hooking Jet Engines up to a facebook style feed in order to monitor, and eventually tweak them for efficiency) but Coke’s idea is nothing short of brilliant: Coca Cola Freestyle is a new socially aware coke machine that knows who you are when you approach it to buy a drink, allows you to create custom drinks on the fly, and shares your mixes with your friends.

Next up was my favorite event of the conference, a fireside chat between Marc Benioff and Richard Branson. This was the first time I made it into the actual room where the events were held (VS videoconferencing overflow rooms across the street at Moscone West) and I was blown away by the size of the room. Much larger than a highschool football stadium.

Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA

I was really inspired by Richard Branson. He started his empire with a record company, expanded his brand into several hundred others businesses, and is currently working on the first commercial space flights.

Richard says he likes to manage his companies like a family, truly caring for his employees. This attitude stems from his first startup where he says, “We were sleeping together”. He then went on to say that when you sell a company, “You’re selling a group of people”. All sounded a bit strange and sexual to me, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was just sage business advice, worded a bit strangely :)

Describing his unique marketing tactics: “If you are a smaller company, taking on a bigger company, you have to be ready and willing to pull their tail quite a bit”. As an example, you have to check out his British Airways prank. Definitely their best stunt ever.

Richard lives life much like a rockstar. He has a private island, once upon a time took some interesting pictures (NSFW), and in his own words “I spent many a night getting stoned as you do when you’re a teenager… Or whatever…” This is likely due to the people he hung out with and the crazy stories he experienced as a young music producer: “Keith Richards was [at my house/studio] one day. He wasn’t there with his own wife, he was there with someone elses wife.” And then shit got crazy… This story does involve nudity and a gun, you have to watch Richard tell it himself.

I couldn’t agree more with his stance on drugs. He is on Brazil’s National Drug Commission and believes the war on drugs has completely failed. He is in favor of decriminalize all drugs, and treating  addiction as the health problem that it is. Before moving on to the next topic he quickly adds, “In America It’s almost a racist issue because 80% of people that end up in prison in America happen to be black.” I learned about that in John Fox’s sociology class but you won’t hear that mentioned too often in public. Major bonus points from me.

Final point about Richard Branson:
Richard Branson wants to make the world a better place. In contrast to many activists, he actually has the power to institute change. I think people say money corrupts because they don’t want to recognize the truth: many normal people ARE corrupt, having money simply gives someone the power to act out their designs on the world. Richard however obviously has good designs. In a prominent example, The Elders program assembles independant world leaders to work together for peace and human rights. They even tried to stop the Iraq War before it started!

Summary of Day 1: Massive conference, very impressive. Massive amounts of hype about the social enterprise, some of it likely true. Richard Branson is my new role model: he came off as a deeply compassionate, intelligent,  and powerful man and I hope that I have the chance to work with him/be like him in the future.

Posted on 29, September 2012 September 29 2012 2012年9月29日 by alexander-berger

The Future of Education

This afternoon I was listening to NPR: All Things Considered coverage of the teacher strike in Chicago and I noticed a glaringly obvious oversight that I would have missed in the past. The story covered the issues at hand (Pay cuts and a new method for evaluating teacher performance), two sides of the debate (The mayor of chicago and the teachers union), and the possible political implications for Obama (Chicago being his hometown and all) but completely failed to get any input from those affected most: The Students Themselves!This is not just a one-time oversight. The reality it is part of a larger problem in the way education is managed in America, and likely around the world. Education is seen as a path for stodgy academics to design, and kids to follow without question. While this may have worked to fill jobs of the past, nowadays many teachers haven’t even heard of the jobs many middle schoolers will be doing when they graduate. In a report titled “The Shape of Jobs to ComeFast Future, an organization dedicated to the Identification and analysis of future trends, “highlighted examples of the kinds of jobs, careers and professions that could result from advances in science and technology in the period from 2010 to 2030”. A few of the jobs they found are likely going to materialize as key professions are Nano Medic, Bodypart Maker, and Memory Augmentation Specialist. There are already 3 million US jobs that can’t be filled because there aren’t enough people possessing the skills necessary to do them. This is a massive failing of the education system and that gap will only widen if our schools stay stuck in a 20’th century paradigm.

Education should be about empowering students to adapt and innovate in an ever changing world, not memorizing terms or formulas for a test. Recently I came across a  catchy business event titled “Ideas Are Worthless” and  I can’t help but apply this to education. “Information is Worthless”, or at least highly overrated. There is so much raw information in the world today, spending middle and high school memorizing random snippets of it seems incredibly useless for most students. While collecting information in their heads may be great for academics, the majority of students need to learn how to interpret the world around them, solve problems, think critically and independently, communicate effectively, and it definitely wouldn’t hurt if they knew how to program a computer.

While I don’t believe that middle school teachers need to be preparing their students to be nano medics (Although that sounds amazingly cool) it is time we realize that our current education model is clunky, slow, inefficient, and completely removed from reality. We need to accept that massive change is INEVITABLE and  create a new model that prepares our students to adapt, innovate, and thrive in the environment they will be graduating into. The future is here, and we are not ready.

This was originally a guest post on 

As of now I am listed on EduBlogs! 

Find this blog in the education blogs directory

Posted on 13, September 2012 September 13 2012 2012年9月13日 by alexander-berger

How to Pitch a Startup to Investors

4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Startup Pitching Skills

This week I attended Startup Pitch Bootcamp hosted by Adeo Ressi CEO of the Founders Institute. 

I pitched Bets Between Friends, an idea I came up with last week: A web/mobile app for 18-30 year old males to formally place and collect on bets with their friends. To place a bet you simply specify the terms, duration, and amount of the bet and it is sent to your friend via email/the app on his phone. He can then chose to accept or decline the bet. While casual bets with your buddies often go unpaid, the simple process of placing the bet through Bets Between Friends formalizes the wager and increases the likelihood that you will be able to collect on your bet in the future. With Facebook and Paypal integration, betting between friends couldn’t be more simple.

There are three different types of pitch: Elevator Pitch (1-2 Minutes), Competition Pitch (3-5 Minutes), and Funding Pitch (30 Minutes). They each have their own format and purpose. At the bootcamp we focused on elevator pitches and this is what I learned Adeo:

You are going to use your elevator pitch EVERYWHERE: networking events, parties, co-founder events, chatting up investors, recruiting team members, and even explaining what you do to friends. In order to have an amazing pitch, you must demonstrate that you are passionate, knowledgeable, confident, and sincere. An elevator pitch is definitely the first pitch to master as it it is unlikely you will ever get the chance to make a longer pitch if you can’t adequately explain your business succinctly first.

1. Follow The Basic Template
Adeo was a proponent of the following format for the first sentence or two of your pitch and I have to agree, this seems like the best way to introduce your idea/company:

My company, insert name of company, is developing a defined offering to help a defined audience solve a problem with secret sauce.

Once you have your first sentence perfectly optimized, you will be able to communicate what your company is all about in less than 30 seconds! The leaves you an additional 30 seconds to a minute to add details and end with a strong ask whether that means letting your listener know you are looking for investors, office space, or a software engineer. 

2. Practice Your Pitch A LOT!
Even before you have your pitch perfectly dialed in you should start practicing it. Practice In front of the mirror, with family and friends, at toastmasters, in front of a camera, at a pitch event, wherever. Get as much feedback as you can get but don’t put too much weight on positive feedback especially from family members/friends. Just keep practicing until it feels natural. When I competed in a public speaking competition I must have repeated my 5 minute speech over 50 times before getting onstage. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it can keep you from making embarrassing mistakes when you are under pressure. 

3. Don’t Sound Like an Idiot
Adeo was very clear that using buzzwords like disruptive technology, or best in class or superlatives like first, only, or fastest, makes you sound extremely naive and drives investors to the exit at the first opportunity. Acronyms are best avoided as well. Remember your point is to inform, not try to sound smart and tech savvy. 

4. Be Confidant
You have to display confidence via body language, eye contact, and voice tone. If you aren’t confident about your company no one else will be either. To start with, don’t cross your arms or put your hands in your pockets. These are defensive/insecure postures. You want to stand up straight, smile, and speak clearly and loud enough that the people in the back of the room can hear you easily. 

But hey, don’t take me too seriously. I’ve never actually raised funding. I’ll update this post after I raise a $1 million seed round :) Here are some actual great pitches I found online: 

Detailed Breakdown of Next Big Sound Pitch (Skip to 8 minutes for the good stuff)

Top 10 Pitches from Founders Showcase (Strictly Startups)

12 of the Best Pitches on The Web (Some product launches etc mixed in)

Misc Pitch Resources from the Founder Institute