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Chewbacca and Han Solo are back in Star Wars: The Force Awaken. Photo: StarWars.com
Chewbacca and Han Solo are back in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Photo: StarWars.com

The Force is strong in the tech industry. And you don’t have to travel to Dagobah to find it.

Star Wars fans can be found in nearly every corner of the geek galaxy. Perhaps no film has shaped the minds and imaginations of tech leaders like Star Wars, first released in 1977 just as the personal computer industry was taking root. (Microsoft was founded in 1975, and Apple was founded in 1976).

With the new Star Wars movie — The Force Awakens — set to be released this Friday, we thought it would be fun to catch up with some certified Star Wars geeks to get their take on business and life lessons from the film.

Enjoy, and the may The Force be with you!

Liz Pearce, CEO of LiquidPlanner

Liz Pearce
Liz Pearce

—Who is your favorite Star Wars character and why? Yoda, of course. What startup can’t relate to: “Judge me by my size, do you?” And well you should not.

—How many times did you see the original Star Wars in the theater? My family wasn’t into Star Wars when we were kids (yes, I know it’s bordering on neglect) but I’ve made up for lost time with my own family. We’ve watched them all in the original order multiple times.

—Do you plan to see the new movie? Yes, we’ve had tickets for opening day for months.

—What’s the best business lesson from Star Wars? Even the best managers struggle to get work done and need help managing their projects. Take Darth Vader for example, perhaps the world’s best-known Sith project manager. The rebels destroy half of his precious Death Star, yet he’s still able to put down an uprising and bring the second Death Star online, all while dealing with some serious pressure from his boss. Impressive.

—What’s the one technology from Star Wars that you’d like to have? A comlink and an army of Droids to do my bidding.

—If I could use the Force, I would… Convince a certain person vying for the presidential nomination that it’s not the job he should be looking for.

Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group

Spencer Rascoff
Spencer Rascoff

—Who is your favorite Star Wars character and why? Chewbacca. Because he looked like the dog I had as a kid.

—How many times did you see the original Star Wars in the theater? 5 times in theater. I loved my Star Wars bedsheets. I wish they made them in King Size (my wife might disagree).

—Do you plan to see the new movie? Yes I plan to see the new Star Wars, with my kids — who have been watching the other ones with me one by one. We just finished Return of the Jedi.

—What’s the best business lesson from Star Wars? A small group of dedicated people, led by inspirational but humble leaders, and motivated by an ambitious mission, can vanquish evil in the universe. The rebel forces were led by Princess Leia and Luke, with an assist from Han Solo and, of course, Chewy, R2D2 & C3P0. They were able to overcome Darth Vader. How is it possible that Goliath can slay David? Because of their belief in the importance of the mission.

—What’s the one technology from Star Wars that you’d like to have? Light Saber.

—If I could use the Force, I would… End some people’s intolerance and their hate stemming from religious and ethnic differences. We are all one race. If Star Wars teaches us anything, it’s that people want to be free and live peaceably in this universe that we all share.

Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona Venture Group

Madrona's Matt McIlwain
Madrona’s Matt McIlwain

—Who is your favorite Star Wars character and why? Obi-Wan Kenobi. He played the role of mentor and coach.

—How many times did you see the original Star Wars in the theater? Twice.

—Do you plan to see the new movie? Tickets for opening night.

—What’s the best business lesson from Star Wars? Trust your instincts about people.

—What’s the one technology from Star Wars that you’d like to have? Light saber is so cool

—If I could use the Force, I would… Sense when unexpected danger lies ahead.

Oren Etzioni, CEO of Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence

Oren Etzioni
Oren Etzioni

—Who is your favorite Star Wars character and why? That is such a tough question. I’d have to say R2-D2 because I’d love to be as resourceful. Besides, R2 and I speak the same language.

—How many times did you see the original Star Wars in the theater? Only once in a theatre.

—Do you plan to see the new movie? You bet!

—What’s the best business lesson from Star Wars? Never underestimate the power of a small, determined startup…(I mean band of rebels).

—What’s the one technology from Star Wars that you’d like to have? C-3PO’s language processing abilities.

—If I could use the Force, I would… Become a jedi… and exert some mind control on Congress.

Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington

Ed Lazowska
Ed Lazowska

—Who is your favorite Star Wars character and why? All the characters in the Cantina scene in Episode IV. Sometimes I feel as if I’m trapped there trying to deal with them.

—How many times did you see the original Star Wars in the theater? Only once in a theater.

—Do you plan to see the new movie? YES!

—What’s the best business lesson from Star Wars? The importance of mentorship.

—What’s the one technology from Star Wars that you’d like to have? Hoverbike: I’m getting too old to handle Seattle’s hills on my human-powered bicycle.

—If I could use the Force, I would…  Permanently muzzle every one of the Republican candidates for President.

Peter Marquez, vice president of global engagement at Planetary Resources and former director of space policy under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush

Peter Marquez
Peter Marquez

—Who is your favorite Star Wars character and why? I’d have to go with two. Luke Skywalker for all the obvious reasons (and I can’t wait to see him in Episode 7) and Willrow Hood. When Cloud City was being evacuated Willrow Hood was the only one with his priorities straight — he saved the ice cream maker.

—How many times did you see the original Star Wars in theater? I saw Return of the Jedi several times in the theater- unfortunately I was too young to see A New Hope and Empire in the theater.

—Do you plan to see the new movie? I will definitely be seeing the new movie. I am going to see the premier with Rep. Derek Kilmer (D–Wash) — a fellow Star Wars geek and an extraordinarily strong supporter of the aerospace and technology industries. (Rep. Kilmer is the second most knowledgeable Star Wars trivia expert in D.C. I recently beat him in a contest.)

—What’s the best business lesson from Star Wars? Don’t panic when you face adversity. If you dump your cargo at the first sign of Imperial trouble, you’ll find yourself hanging as a carbonite wall ornament in Jabba’s palace.

—What’s the one technology from Star Wars that you’d like to have? That’s a tie between a hyperdrive and an Arakyd Industries asteroid mining droid (obviously).

—If I could use the Force, I would… force choke Darth Jar Jar (Yoda did say the dark side was tempting).

Christina Lomasney, CEO of Modumetal (with assistance from her team)

Modumetal CEO Christina Lomasney.
Modumetal CEO Christina Lomasney.

—Who is your favorite Star Wars character and why? Yoda … for his immense power and his wisdom in knowing when and how to use it to greatest effect. He took on a daunting problem, showy adversaries, and enabled a capable team that won, all despite being relatively small in size.

—How many times did you see the original Star Wars in theater? I saw all three of the original Star Wars films (4-6) in theatre. Star Wars: A New Hope was actually the first movie I ever saw in the theater, but I’ve not seen them in some time and so reached out to my team to develop a Modumetal view of the films.

Do you plan to see the new movie? Much of the Modumetal team was too young to have seen the original Star Wars in theatre, sigh, but all of us are planning on seeing the new one!

—What’s the best business lesson from Star Wars? In addition to the overarching theme of teamwork, without which nothing could be achieved, we were reminded by Star Wars not to put all of our Deathstars in one basket, and that we must resist the Darkside…. Large and complicated machinery and systems can fail due to seemingly small errors in design and operation. The details are important!

—If we could use the Force, we would… Convince our city planners and councilmembers to invest covered sidewalks in Seattle supported with Modumetal superstructures that don’t corrode in the rain.

—What’s the one technology from Star Wars that you’d like to have? Lightsabers. Our production team also wants repulsorlift technology for material and equipment handling and our R&D team wants some of the batteries that run the lightsabers (must be very powerful) for a “Special Project.”

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