From the Reader: Sean McClinton
Sometimes, purpose is clear, and sometimes your purpose needs to be discovered, like the Carl Sagan quote: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” That’s how it was for me. I wanted to do something great that honored those who came before me and inspired those coming after me, as well as those on the journey with me.
About 10 years ago in my professional life, I knew that I was not on that path. But which path was the right one? I had heard the old adage, “If you follow your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.“ I had always been interested in entrepreneurship professionally, inspired by stories of successful entrepreneurs in the tech and video game industries where pioneers blazed trails and created incredible products and services that people loved while doing very well for themselves along the way.
My goal was to find the next great industry—the next software or video game industry. I had also heard that people who did what they enjoyed or were good at as children, ended up being the most successful adults. I thought back about what I was interested in as a kid, and I remembered writing my fifth grade state report on Florida, and how I had written about the Space Shuttle program. I also remembered my homemade Halloween astronaut costume. Lastly, I remember watching Challenger live in my first grade classroom earlier that same year and the effect it had on me. I realized that even then, I had a budding interest in space, so I decided to look for ways I could learn more about the modern business of space.
I paid my own way to ISPCS (International Symposium of Personal and Commercial Spaceflight) in Las Cruces, New Mexico in 2012. It was there I rubbed shoulders with astronauts, high level aerospace executives, and generally friendly and welcoming people. I walked away from that conference with the feeling that something compelling was happening in space. The next question was—how could I apply my skills to space? Coming from a business, and not a STEM background, the path wasn’t totally clear. Once I learned that companies were actually selling tickets to space—in this case Virgin Galactic, I was hooked. Once I discovered the “Overview Effect,” a book written by Frank White, I knew what I wanted to do—help people have this profound experience.
These explorations led me to combine my new passion (space) with my old passion (entrepreneurship) to form the Space Entrepreneur’s Meetup in February of 2014. Our first meetup was three people on a Google Hangout, and our next meetup was almost 100 people in downtown Kirkland with a keynote speaker. Since then, Space Entrepreneurs has grown to well over 1,000 members, pointing to the interest in the business of space in the Pacific Northwest. I have met countless interesting and inspiring space entrepreneurs and professionals, like Christopher Richins, founder of RBC Signals, a satellite ground station company. An entrepreneurial dream of mine was to join an exciting startup early on, and I was fortunate to join RBC Signals just after they raised their seed round in January of 2017 and I have been helping them ever since.
Stemming from my involvement in the Pacific Northwest space industry also came the co-founding of Space Northwest, an organization that seeks to build upon the rich legacy of the Pacific Northwest’s more than 60-year space economy through innovation, technology, entrepreneurship and to build bridges to innovative careers for all.
The process of discovering my purpose has been an interesting journey. How do I know I’m on the right path now? I suppose there’s no way to ever know for sure. Maybe the fact that I was born on April 12th—U.N. International Day of Human Spaceflight (the day Yuri Gagarin became the first person to reach space in 1961 and Space Shuttle Columbia became the first shuttle launched in 1981)—is just a coincidence. Or maybe it’s one of life’s funny ways to let me know I’m on the right path.
This could end effectively with the prior paragraph…maybe don’t need this last one?
Beyond space, my first true passion is sports. I grew up playing all kinds of sports, and ended up playing football in college for the University of San Diego. I have three kids, all in different sports (Aiden, football; Mia, tennis; and Mason, baseball) and have coached all the way along. I enjoy building Legos and playing tennis in my free time.