The Hardware Entrepreneur Interview: Effective project-based learning from astrophysicist turned entrepreneur, professor, with Joshua Spodek

April 20, 2017 by Joshua
in Audio, Creativity, Education, Entrepreneurship

I’ve done a lot of podcasts lately. The latest is unique and more personal. Here’s why…

As a guy who

  • got a PhD in physics
  • became an entrepreneur
  • got passionate about improving in business, and
  • teaches experiential project-based learning,

I was pleased to find a guy who

  • got a PhD in physics
  • became an entrepreneur
  • got passionate about improving in business, and
  • teaches experiential project-based learning.

This other guy is named Balint Hovarth. He is from Hungary and lives in Switzerland. He hosts a podcast called the Hardware Entrepreneur. Our common backgrounds and interests make our meeting inevitable.

Our common background and interests also enabled me to talk about my early days and some stories about starting my first company, Submedia. Even before the founding to developing the hardware, business model, and vision. I haven’t talked about polar coordinates and partial differential equations in years.

If you want to learn more about hardware invention and research and development, listen to this podcast. It also gets to education, how to teach effectively, and the need to change how we teach, at least some fields.

I enjoyed the conversation a lot.

Listen to the interview!

The Hardware Entrepreneur podcast with Balint Hovarth and Joshua Spodek

The Hardware Entrepreneur podcast with Balint Hovarth and Joshua Spodek. Listen to the interview!

Here are the notes from the show:

I’ve interviewed Joshua Spodek, a professor at NYU and an entrepreneur. This has been an eye-opener interview for me on leadership, how to master it and also on his teaching methods, his entrepreneurial journey.

Joshua is a best-selling author of the book called “Leadership Step by Step”, which has recently come out. In this interview we talked about his leadership principles which he describes also in his book. He’s a professor and a coach, teaching about leadership and entrepreneurship. In addition he writes regularly for Inc magazine, holds five Ivy-League degrees, including a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA, both from Columbia University. Following his academic career he co-founded a company called Submedia, commercializing his hardware invention for in-tunnel motion-pictures. We talked also about this and what problems they ran into. Beyond his professional achievements, he completed six marathons, swam across the Hudson River, did over 90,000 burpees, wrote over 2500 blog posts, took over 250 cold showers. This means you’ll also get to hear about some of his habits.

Enjoy this episode, which I did very much. The highlights can be seen below.

One more thing: if you want to have access to a material that Joshua made available for you as my podcast listeners click here.​

Episode Notes

  • How does Joshua warp time? – [3:03]
  • What’s the common thing between Joshua, Balint and Nobel Prize winners – [4:32]
  • The motivation of a physics researcher to become an entrepreneur – [6:55]
  • What if it were straight instead of round – the story of a zoetrope – [8:45]
  • The timeline of starting their company– [10:35]
  • What he would have done differently when prototyping – [13:55]
  • “Don’t forget to do some experiment” – [16:55]
  • How did Joshua move from the business world of entrepreneurship into teaching leadership and teaching entrepreneurship – [18:00]
  • The other side of business [life] – [22:25]
  • How is project-based learning the future of education? – [ 25:10]
  • What it is about actors, musicians and sports people that inspired Joshua to write a book on leadership? – [26:55]
  • What is method learning? – [29:55]
  • An example of a project-based learning by a 10th grader – [33:30]
  • Some of the reactions to Joshua’s way of teaching – [37:20]
  • How does Joshua think we can incorporate innovative teaching methods in the current educational system? – [40:10]
  • If you could time travel and go back in time to your early 20s, what would you do differently or what information would you give yourself? – [44:30]
  • Books which had the biggest impact on Joshua’s career and entrepreneurial thinking – [45:25]
  • The habit of not messing around with your habits – SIDCHA – [46:17]
  • You believing it’s hard is one of the main things that’s making it hard – [49:40]
  • Some striking cultural differences in Joshua’s work that he had to overcome – [51:30]
  • “What do we have that’s all over the place that I’m not noticing?” – [53:40]
  • What is the best way to reach Joshua? – [55:46]

Books / companies / links mentioned

Listen to the interview!

Here is Balint from his about page:

Balint Horvath photo

What is THE HARDWARE ENTREPRENEUR and what is in it for you?

In this podcast I interview hardware entrepreneurs, who build physical products, to bring you the stories of how they started their companies and how they run them to enable you to start yours.


Our Earth runs on resources and is based on atoms rather than on bits. Our real progress thus depends mainly on our producing, selling innovative physical products, so hardware products. Hardware is Internet of Things, that is IoT, devices connected to the internet, or 3D printers, drones, robots that are in today’s headlines, and which actually have quite a lot of software running on them. But they can also be any physical product, e.g. a sustainable pencil that is purely hardware with no software element. Hardware is…different, different than software. Challenges are everywhere, in designing, manufacturing, getting funding, hiring, innovating, delivering to the customers.

I found that resources are scattered around on the internet in blogs, discussion forums or in a few recently published books on hardware. I consider the total amount of available resources little especially for this complex hardware field. Where do you get real, practical knowledge? Either by going through building a hardware company or by hearing it first-hand from others, what they have gone through when building their own companies.

I started this podcast exactly for this latter reason, to bring you stories of entrepreneurs of atoms, that is of hardware companies. We will uncover what their motivation was, what challenges they encountered, then overcame them regarding funding, strategies, business models they iterated on and found, as well as tackling some of the aforementioned topics, e.g. manufacturing, innovation, hiring, etc.

Who and where is the host?

I’m Balint Horvath, founder and host of The Hardware Entrepreneur podcast. I’m an entrepreneur and cosmopolitan, originally from Hungary and currently based in the heart of Europe, in Switzerland, where green is green regarding its pastures, mountains and where fresh innovations make the country as one of the top places for innovation.

You might know Switzerland as the place to be for high-quality chocolate, but it is also a place where next to green pastures, mountains, fresh innovations are born out of research labs of large companies, from startups or small-medium-sized companies. This makes this country as one of the top places for innovations, ranking it actually as Nr. 1 in the world for innovativeness.

My background and what drives me

As for my background, I am a physicist and an electrical engineer, with a PhD in the former, an M.Sc. in the latter fields. I have been always fascinated by technology and how things work which led me to a path to explore engineering and physics first in academia, then in the industry, in my last role as R&D Program Manager for Manufacturing. Inventions and ones that can be turned into innovations creating business opportunities are what excite me and if you want to find out more about my journey, I encourage you to listen to the first episode.

Listen to the interview!

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1 response to “The Hardware Entrepreneur Interview: Effective project-based learning from astrophysicist turned entrepreneur, professor, with Joshua Spodek

  1. Pingback: Call for action to you – for a new path to reduce climate change | Joshua Spodek

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