• Ash Faraj: Founder & Host

$15,000 To Combat Wildfires?

About 3 1/2 years ago, when I was a senior at the University of Washington, a group of my classmates and I set out to solve the wildfire problem as part of a capstone project.

We thought, "what if we could use drones -- better yet a SWARM of drones equipped with special low-density chemicals that are shot out by the drones to put out small-sized wildfires to prevent them from growing... and what if we could detect those fires so early on that the whole process is automated?"

My classmates and I were undergraduates in chemical engineering, and we realized if we wanted to do this we probably needed other people to believe in our vision. So, I went out and recruited two business students in the Foster MBA program, and we all went out and recruited several undergraduates in aerospace engineering to help us with drone selection, programming, and all the technical aspects of flight. Within months, we had built a team of 13 people, competed in several business competitions, and applied for grants.

Was it overly ambitious? Yes.

Did we raise $15,000 dollars to fund our vision? You bet we did. Some of the money was used for R&D, and some for traveling to meet-up with potential customers.

I remember there was a two-week stretch of me missing my classes because I had traveled to Missoula, MT to visit the national fire labs, then Salem, OR to find out more about how we could help them fight fires, then Sacramento, CA, then Boise, ID -- you get the point. My grades did suffer quite a bit, but I felt so obligated to fulfill our ambitions. I mean think about it. We went from having one conversation that started with "Imagine if..." "What if..." to actually DOING what we envisioned. People believed in our vision. People gave us money because they felt our ambition regardless of whether our ideas seemed crazy or not!

Money follows ambition, not pessimists who call themselves "realists."

Is ExecuTalks an overly-ambitious venture?

Am I overly ambitious? Well, just before writing this article I sent an email to Jeff Bezos, (Amazon Founder), Doug McMillon (Walmart CEO), and other hard-to-reach executives asking them to be on our show.

Will I get a response? Will they come on the show? I might sound crazy, but every single cell of my body believes YES. "What happens if it doesn't work out?" Who cares, we can try again. "What happens if we never try?" is what really bugs me. There are people in my close circle that think I'm an "idealist" or think that I'm a little crazy.

If someone tells you that your ideas are crazy, you are on the right track my friend.



(Me with California's Fire & Rescue Chief, Kim Zagaris at the California Governor's Office)

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