PayPal CEO, Dan Shulman, recently did an interview with Alyson Shontell for Business Insider’s podcast, “Success: How I Did It.” During the interview, he addressed being homeless for a day in New York City in order to bring awareness to homelessness- particularly homelessness among the youth. . Here is an excerpt of that below:
“QUESTION: One interesting thing that you did when you were CEO of Virgin Mobile is you spent 24 hours homeless on the streets of New York City, begging for money and food. Why did you do it, and what did you learn?
ANSWER: It was quite an informative and impactful thing for me, not just doing that, but going forward as well. At the time, Virgin Mobile decide that the cause we were going to draw attention to was homeless youth. There is obviously a homelessness problem in the country, but there’s also a couple of million kids who are homeless on the street for different reasons and they don’t really have a voice. They’re usually pretty much preyed upon, and we thought, Virgin Mobile is a youth-oriented service, we want to do something in which we can give back. But I quickly realized that if you want to talk about something, if you want to believe in something, you can’t just intellectualize it, you have to experience it because I think the power of your voice comes from your brain, obviously, but also your heart.
I went with a person who was the executive director of a homeless youth organization, and we met and we basically went in jeans and a T-shirt. I hadn’t shaved in a while. We could only carry a quarter to make a phone call from a pay phone if we were in trouble. We had to beg for money, for food, for coffee. It was only 24 hours, so let’s not turn this into some heroic thing, but what it really did give me is an appreciation of just what people go through and how difficult life is when you don’t have the things that you just take for granted. This carried over as we went into financial inclusion and some other things that I’ve really been a champion of. But actually living what it’s like not having a checking account, not to have a credit or a debit card, and waiting in lines and seeing how much it costs and seeing how much it costs and seeing the environment around you and feeling that sort of indignity that can go on with not having things again that affluent.
QUESTION: Where did you sleep, and how did you eat, and what did you do for that day?
ANSWER: The day goes on forever because you don’t have much to do and it’s hot and we tried to sleep in a couple of different places, but you get kicked out of them quite a bit. So we climbed over a fence and slept in a skateboard park on the Lower East Side. I can only imagine what it’s like for that being your life for the foreseeable future. I became a very fierce advocate for it. I went down to Congress, testified, bought in people like Jewel to come in to testify at Congress. She was homeless for a while as well. We got the Senate to pass some resolutions on it. We gave free concerts, but people had to volunteer at homeless shelters. It was really all about raising awareness for homeless youth.”