Five Questions For … Joseph Kopser, Ex-Army Officer, RideScout founder
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go back home for a week on the holidays.
I would tell them to kind of just wander around, join AmeriCorps, Teach For America. Do something in the service for others and there you might find or fall in love with something that really drives you. Or you might find you want to be an intern at a dentist office.
The alarm clock test can be given to people of all ages. If you hit it two or three times, you’re kind of in trouble. That means, whatever is waiting for you, you’d rather stay in la la land then get up and do it.
X: If you got stranded on a desert island, what’s the one thing you would have to have with you?
JK: Anything that can keep my mind occupied. I’ve gotten to a point now where I just always love being engaged, connected, learning, whatever you want to call it. I’m not that person who, on an airplane flight from Austin to DC, can just sit there and stare at the back of the seat. I don’t know how they do it. They must be very reflective or meditative in nature. I would go crazy.
Or maybe I just need a towel.
X: You were in the military. You were teaching at West Point. Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
JK: For the first 20 years of my life, everything that I was doing, I truly believed I was moving the needle. After 20 years in the Army, as I looked at the positions available, the bottleneck starts to squeeze. There are fewer and fewer jobs for you to be able to make a contribution. I thought I could do more in the private sector to help people with their daily commute than staying on in the Army.
X: Were you big into technology as a kid?
JK: I was the kid who had those early science kits where you pull it out of the box; it had transistors and capacitors wires and light bulbs. I loved that kit. My parents were able to get me an IBM PC Junior; that was the game-changer. Holy cow. When I saw what I was able to do in programming, the whole track of science and engineering, I could really visualize myself going into NASA and the space program. I had to learn the science of technology, thermodynamics, all that stuff. It was so much fun. It was not easy but I really did enjoy it. I’m not as much of a practitioner in the day-to-day but I’m still very much a student of technology. I love thinking about big ideas.