by Connected Legends, Connecting the technology players of the past and the present with tech newcomers.
Tech Geek Sean Paul Shanor is a Real Millennial Entrepreneur
Sean Paul Shanor: Mining Bitcoin Used to be the rebel thing to do!
As well as being a tech geek Sean Paul Shanor is a real millennial entrepreneur: a go-getter full of inspiring ideas and an abundance of energy that fuels his drive in helping others succeed. His passion for technology combined with his vision of a future where technology plays an increasingly important role allows him to help young tech entrepreneurs across Norway in getting their projects off the ground.
What is your current job title?
I am CEO of SynergySpace, a company I founded in 2017, where I work with and mentor early-stage tech startups and SMBs. I am co-pilot and lead facilitator for Valide’s Ipark Tech Startup Accelerator (ITSA) which is a government sponsored 12-week program to encourage entrepreneurship and fund tech-related solutions. I am also Global Facilitator for Startup Weekend (Techstars). In my spare time, I mentor young tech entrepreneurs in partnership with Valide and Connect Norge, a non-profit organization funded by Innovation Norway, providing mentorship, network, and technical guidance to early-stage startups.
What did you study and where?
I studied at Penn State University (University Park, PA, USA)
- Bachelor of Science, Finance (Smeal College of Business) (2005)
- Bachelor of Science: Hotel, Restaurant, Institutional Management (2005)
- Graduate Certificate, Business Analytics (as part of Data Analytics, Masters) (2015)
Up until a few years ago, technology was just a hobby for me. My friends and colleagues would come to me with their tech problems and I always managed to fix whatever was broken or had crashed! Then, while I was undertaking hospitality work experience in Dubai, I had the opportunity to build a booking system from scratch – this challenge became my biggest motivator and one of my first tech achievements. It was then that I realized I might just be able to turn my tech hobby into a real job and that’s just what I did! It was around this time that I started mining Bitcoin which was, at the time, the rebel thing to do…
If this is not your first job, where did you work before?
In 2016/17 I built, led and facilitated X2 Labs (A Startup Factory) – an experimental four-week accelerator program where teams are created based on skills, problem sets and guidance from corporate and government entities, with investment gates/milestones each week. 16 companies were built during that time, of which five are still alive and generating revenue today.
Overall the past several years, I’ve worked with multiple startups either as a tech consultant and/or a project manager. I’ve also written technical specifications for software that connects several IOT devices within a gym to a specific Learning Management System, allowing for complete gamification of physical activity and control of management processes.
I’ve also written a technical spec for a golf-entertainment project where drones can follow the movements of a golf ball after hitting, sends video to freelance editors for compiling, and delivers via an online community and CDN to customers.
What is it about this industry that incited you to pursue a career in it?
Simply put the opportunity to align passion with work that can positively impact us as individuals, guide its responsible usage, while at the same time making the world a more connected, and global entity. Technology is at the centre of everything we do – understanding it, building it, and supporting its growth in others is key to advancing society. I’ve always wanted to be a part of it, and now I am.
From an early age, I have always been interested in technology: how it works, how to build software, how to use digital tools to help us – not hinder us, how to make it easy, how to generate impact.
How long have you been in the industry?
My first “real” venture into the tech industry was in 2011 when I built a complete online golf tee-time booking system and community from the ground up, leading an in-house development team to success (golfcitizen.com). The underlying technology and data-logic were implemented in a second project (golfscape.com). This was the beginning of an “official” technology shift.
I have 10+ years of event operations and management experience, running major pro golf events in Dubai, Oman, and India – speaking to my ability to organize chaos, manage people, execute branding/marketing online and offline, as well as piece together major contracts with physical suppliers (building up the events) and digital (building up the back-end structures to support management and operations).
Did/do you have a mentor?
Yes, I make sure that I surround myself with smart, passionate people, working in areas to fill knowledge gaps. Currently the Chairman of Synergy Space as growth mentor and blockchain advisor. I also have a Life Coach who helps me with work-life balance, maintaining motivation levels, and building confidence levels for moonshots.
Are you part of a Tech Community/Network? Which one/s?
- Valide’s Tech Community Meetups (internal + external), meeting regularly to discuss current and future challenges specific to tech companies under Valide, pitfalls, successes, guidance.
- Techstars + Startup Weekend online/offline communities, keeping tabs on new technology, startups in each, and individuals to learn from.
- Multiple Telegram/Discord channels on specific Blockchain companies such as Signals, FriendUP, Dock.io, Phillip Nunn Crypto Community
- Various LinkedIn groups (Blockchain + Bitcoin Startups, On Startups – The Community for Entrepreneurs, IT Startups – Let’s Innovate, Together, and others tech/non-tech)
What kind of information were you missing and what Knowledge gaps did you experience when you joined the industry?
- An easy way to connect with industry leaders, companies, and learn “how they got to where they are”. Everything was very much learning by doing, wasting time reinventing the wheel instead of building on what others have already done.
- Information and guidance on funding projects and how to speak “VC language”.
- Knowledge pertaining to project timelines – “how long and how much would it cost to build this software?”
- Guidance on project timelines and “how to develop in phases while aligning with business goal and timelines”
- Freelance/hire resources were not available so visibility and opportunity to learn from asking questions was low.
Where do you go to look for information (apart from Google)?
The internet is a beautiful place, filled with humans who either share knowledge freely or provide information as a part of their pitch to clients. The key is to connect with the right person that has the knowledge you need. I use many different social engineering tactics to do this. The core concept here is to “Ask for help, be humble, and offer advice back”. We all want to share so it’s mostly a matter of finding the right group, platform, community – where they interact together and talk – that provides the information needed and builds my network to fill knowledge gaps:
- Social media for connections
- Specific platforms for targeted responses
- Groups, chat rooms and communities
- Local and international conferences, events
Do you attend many exhibitions and conferences? Which ones?
- Most events across the local and regional, including Nordic Edge (IOT, Smart Technology), SpacePort Norway, 37 Degrees (Life Science), Katapult Future Fest (Online Tech), Smart Care Cluster events.
- Slush (Finland), STEP Conference (Dubai), GITEX (Dubai)
- I’m planning on attending CES in 2019
Do you attend online training and webinars? Which ones?
Yes, these are key to learning and connecting with new people, platforms, and technology. I make a habit of attending webinars for software that I find interesting (insightful), so I can learn how they work, keep up to date, and understand their mechanisms to potentially guide future features for teams. I use and continuously upgrade my skills on several learning platforms.
Please share a story that might help someone else who is starting out in a technology related job
When I started building the golf booking system, I had no idea where to start. I spent days and months putting together (what I thought) was a great technical specification – all by myself, in a silo. I was laughed at by the development team. I decided there and then to never let that happen to me again – that lit a fire inside me (not anger, but a burning desire to learn and do better). So, I reached out to a friend in the tech community – and from there I learned something core to my strategies today: ask for help, reach out to people around you who know more than you, be humble – there is zero pride in “figuring everything out yourself” – that will fail.
My current focus on early-stage tech startups and young entrepreneurs comes directly out of my realization that my upbringing, schooling, and corporate-life never encouraged entrepreneurship (or for lack of a better word, a «geek» as an option).
As soon as I got the taste at my first Startup Weekend in 2012, I’ve had laser-focus on ensuring others never have that option hidden behind a corporate wall. I believe everyone is an entrepreneur at heart – with technology as the glue – and it’s just a matter of giving everyone a chance, teaching, and providing guidance where it’s needed the most.
I’ve held multiple talks on this subject, with my foundational talk titled “Life (Startup) Lessons of an Oil Brat”, which I presented at the University of Stavanger, AIESC (University of Oslo), Innovation Dock, Professional Women’s Network Norway, 37 Degrees Life Science Conference, and other local organizations that set out to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit amongst its members.
- Rise on. Shine on. Vision on.