Meet Eric Schulze.
He’s the creative brains behind ThirstDC.
The Washington Post’s Sara Schwartz recently called ThirstDC, “a social event that aims to meld networking and drinking with stimulating discussion.”
Mr. Schulze recently spent a few minutes with us for a Famous 5 interview.
1. What is ThirstDC. Why did you start it?
thirst DC was the culmination of a three-year jog around my head. I was in graduate school finishing up my PhD out in Los Angeles and two things occurred nearly simultaneously that drove me to begin planning thirst. First, I was completely dissatisfied with how most of my scientist colleagues communicated. For such a socially important human endeavor, most of these brilliant people were terrible at conveying their thoughts and reasoning. Second was the fact that I was living in LA, a cultural melting pot of superficiality, but also world-class thinkers, artists, musicians, and scientists. And I wanted to meet them. I did my undergrad in New Orleans, Louisiana, and there, it was common to drink with professors over a lecture. I loved how drinking and music plus a change in venue can open up even the most entrenched critic to healthy debate.
So, I stumbled upon Mindshare LA, a brainchild of some smart people who wanted to meet interesting people as well. Mindshare really captured the “learn at night” vibe. My only criticism is, like TED, Mindshare employs the “locked in” lecture format. I hate sitting and being forced to listen. I should want to listen. Even if it’s science, I should be entertained. So, after I moved to DC, I decided this city might work for a new type of event, and after a year of scoping out the scene, I decided to pull the trigger and launch a totally new “learning in a lounge” style event called thirst DC that focuses on earning your attention through short, curated talks on a variety of subjects such as science, technology, art, and fashion. We are focused on creating and fostering thought leaders. You won’t see a pre-packaged talk here. We build the talk over time, creating a custom message, visuals, and practiced delivery that seeks to entertain while you learn. Oh, and I almost forgot: You drink, dance, flirt (or network – same thing really, just different goals) and learn! Who wouldn’t want to do all of that in one evening?!
2. You have been in DC about a year and a half. What is your favorite thing about the nation’s capital city?
I am a Southern boy. This is the farthest north I have ever lived. Snow still scares me.
My favorite thing? The quantity and intensity of the talent in this city. Holy Darwin’s finches, there is so much concentrated intellect, passion, and culture that appears to be building in this DC! We’re all young folks seeking a creative nerdy outlet, and we at thirst try to provide that. Oh, and this city is becoming a foodie’s wet-dream.
3. The White House calls and says that Obama wants to kick it this Friday night. Where are y’all going and what are you doing?
I am a former college basketball player, so I’m first gonna see what kind of game he has. I’m tall for the non-bball world (6’6″), but in college I was a guard/small forward. I’d like to get Obama off his game, playing such a tall guard. It’s a good chance to assess reaction in odd or unconventional situations (He doesn’t have any experience with that, now does he? *wink wink*).
I think, President or not, Obama is likely an amazing wingman. I take him out through the 14th street corridor and let him loose (Sorry, Michelle).
4. What does “Noveau Nerd” mean to you?
When I came up with the term, I meant it to mean a young-ish urbanite that embraces how truly nerdy, geeky, and unabashedly stylish they are. In other words, the nouveau nerd has swagger. It doesn’t have to be about science. It just means you have a passion for learning new ideas, enjoy thinking critically, are socially deft, and you look good doing it. Nothing irks me worse than the idea that nerds are social awkward and ambivalent about the culture that surrounds them. Often, nouveau nerds drive the culture and shift perceptions about science, technology, and the arts. And I love that about our attendees.
5. If you could book anyone to speak at ThirstDC – who would it be & why?
Two people actually: First choice will be and has been Dr. Carl Sagan. He embodied everything I have ever wanted to be in a science communicator and an advocate for human understanding of the world. Sagan made learning interesting and fun. He was just a great human being and thinker.
Barring that, Seth MacFarlane. People don’t give him the credit for how diversely talented he is. Not just Family Guy, he has won multiple awards for his musical curation on the show, his singing voice is amazing, and he gets paid to be a total geek. Plus, he is re-booting the Cosmos series in prime time on Fox (helmed to much acclaim by Carl Sagan and now Neil DeGrasse Tyson), marking the triumphant return of science to network television.