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Kevin Soja

Drawn to compelling, mission-driven companies with big aspirations and talented colleagues, siblings Ian Bishop '06 and Laura Bishop '09 have discovered fulfillment and success working in the startup industry.

Ian is currently vice president of venture-studio Atomic and head of growth for the company Homebound. Homebound was started by Atomic in the wake of the 2017 California wildfires, and assists families trying to rebuild their homes lost in natural disasters. The first-ever fully tech-enabled, custom home building company, Homebound provides families with a more accessible and efficient “all under one roof” strategy that simplifies the home-building process. By helping to create something tangible that serves a real purpose in the world, the work Ian has done to develop and grow Homebound has been the most gratifying of his young and impressive startup career.

Laura is presently the head of marketing and partnerships at Graze, an online, interpersonal connection platform. While she quips that she was never going to work for an “online dating company,” Laura is a true believer in Graze’s commitment to “people not profiles” and to facilitating an authentic interpersonal experience, which has become even more necessary to people during the pandemic. Laura’s career choices are driven by mission and purpose. Undaunted by risk and challenge, she has clarity when it comes to her intrinsic need to believe in the work she is doing.

As Ian and Laura reflect on their decision to leave The Bahamas for boarding school, they both believe that the Berkshire experience had a profound impact on their lives. They grew more independent, broadened their worldview, developed self-confidence, and learned the value of stepping outside of their comfort zones to take healthy and calculated risks. They are also quick to joke that, even though they only graduated three years apart, it was probably a good thing they did not experience Berkshire together when they were adolescents!

Learn more about Ian and Laura Bishop’s journey to Berkshire and beyond in our Q&A below.

What led you to your current career choice and what do you find most rewarding about your job?

Ian: Like most things in life, my current career path has been a healthy dose of dumb luck followed by extreme bouts of hard work. Like all early-stage investors, founders, and operators, I am an opportunist. I meet each day as a new challenge and always try to find the edge. In my early career, I was lucky enough to land a job with Zenreach, the first portfolio company of venture-studio Atomic. I realized quickly that the exposure to incredibly talented people and near-limitless ambition was an opportunity far greater than any individual job. I was quickly indoctrinated with the Silicon Valley mindset that everything is a meritocracy and tenure means nothing. In that world, the only thing that matters is your ability to execute. Ten years later, I still work at Atomic, serving as vice president, having helped launch dozens of startups across a very diverse set of industries including technology, healthcare, and construction.
 
In my current role as head of growth for Homebound, I am responsible for a team that is currently working with over 200 families to rebuild their homes lost in natural disasters like the California wildfires and Hurricane Dorian. Being able to work with such a mission-driven company that is solving real-world problems is incredibly rewarding. 

Laura: I tend to think that you don’t seek startup life out — it finds you. The late nights, brainstorm sessions, silly jargon, and absurd hustle is either something you can handle or something you can’t. The brands I’ve supported have been filled with Type A personalities who push themselves into the chaos they are hardwired to avoid. I am one of those people. My desperate desire to work in social good for a mission I support has led me through my intricate path of female-focused content at First Media, sustainability at Bird, and interpersonal connection at Graze. Graze, specifically during this pandemic, has felt so important. Taking the stigma out of online dating to focus on telling the story of why human interaction is so vital has been so gratifying. 
 
The work performed by such small teams at startups is always jarring and impressive at the very least. If I’ve worked to solve a problem that bothers me personally, I can lay my head down at night with ease.

In what ways is your Berkshire experience present in your life today both personally and professionally?

Ian: Berkshire forced me out of my comfort zone and to take risks. Growing up in The Bahamas was relatively sheltered—there was little that was unfamiliar, and even less that felt overwhelming or unachievable. I will never forget my parents driving down the driveway after moving me into my freshman room in Eipper. I knew no one and was walking into a totally unknown world. I no longer had the comfort of familiar friends and teachers, and my parents were not at the end of the hall when I needed them. There were days in that first year where I was incredibly homesick and uncomfortable, but in hindsight, it was one of the best experiences of my life. The fear of total unfamiliarity and the confidence I gained knowing I was able to navigate it on my own, has enabled me to walk into new challenges and opportunities knowing that I can be successful. 

Mr. Piatelli's 10 Behaviors of Gracious Living

Laura: Moving to a new country, pre-cell phones, at the age of 13 is an undertaking in itself. Both Ian and I felt, with the support of our parents, that we were ready to tackle the next chapter under the Mountain. That level of independence can’t be handed over — it has to be experienced, absorbed, and earned. Without a foundation of sheer “figure it out” attitudes, I’m not sure either of us would take the personal or professional risks we have. Constant change, risk, and a sense of self-betting has always served me in a way that I owe gratitude to Berkshire for. Personally, as silly as it may sound, I still carry a laminated card in my wallet that holds 10 traits and 10 behaviors I was given while at Berkshire [the 10 Behaviors and 10 Traits of "Gracious Living," the legacy of the late Headmaster Lawrence Piatelli who served Berkshire in 2003]. As simplistic as they are, they ride the waves of life with me daily. 

What are your fondest memories of your time under the Mountain?

Ian: It's hard to single out an individual memory that tops the rest. I often think back on the overall experience, and it’s not the Mountain Days or wins on the soccer and lacrosse fields that stand out. It's the little mundane things. Post-study hall pizzas with friends, bus rides to away games, even cramming for finals in the library. The four years under the Mountain were a gift that I wouldn't trade for anything. 

Mr. Piatelli's 10 Traits of Gracious Living

Laura: Although Berkshire feels like a few lifetimes ago, I will always return to a memory of sitting on the wall of Eipper doing nothing with friends and teachers, all of whom remain in my life today. 

If you could offer any piece of advice to today’s students, what would it be?

Ian: Cherish your time at Berkshire. I know it's cliche but it goes by SO fast. Don't say no to things, take the class that sounds lame, play a sport you've never tried, and build great friendships with people you otherwise wouldn't meet. The exposure to new things and opportunities afforded to you by going to Berkshire are once-in-a-lifetime.

Laura: I’d simply say, soak it up. Every good, bad, and ugly memory. There is a fire lit in you when you realize what an opportunity is sitting in your hands. The athletics, the classes, the community yes, but the individual memories you will form will stay with you. The drive up, senior lounge, sitting in the same seat in the dining hall — it all stays with you, and that is priceless.