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Visit with a game-loving billionaire

Photo by Brian Hansel Josh Lund contacted Internet entrepreneur Jay Adelson via a YouTube address he found and asked him to do a Skype question and answer session with his Wadena-Deer Creek STEM class Tuesday morning.1 / 2
Internet Entrepreneur Jay Adelson talks with Mike Schrode's STEM class Tuesday morning via a Skype hookup.2 / 2

A tousled, T-shirt clad gamer joined Mike Schrode's STEM class Tuesday morning for a chat.

Jay Adelson had the look of a guy who had just crawled out of bed, and since it was 8 a.m. in his time zone he probably had, but the 41-year-old entrepreneur was all smiles.

Wearing a headset, Adelson took questions for an hour from Schrode's Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary classroom 1,500 miles away via a Skype hookup. At the same time, a picture of the class was being beamed back to Adelson on the West Coast.

Adelson needs no introduction in some circles. Certainly not to WDC student Josh Lund, who invited him to make the trip to Wadena via cyberspace.

"I was just on the computer and I saw that he had a YouTube Channel and I emailed him," Lund said.

The email was answered by Adelson's secretary and a time was arranged for the meeting. Adelson enjoys answering questions. His parents and his mother and father-in-law have all been teachers, so Adelson has recently started responding to queries on business, technology and entrepreneurship.

Who is Adelson?

In 2008 Time magazine thought enough of him to make Adelson one of their 100 Most Influential People in the World along with people like Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and George Clooney.

At that time, Adelson was the CEO of Digg Inc. - an opinion-based social networking site founded by Ken Rose. While it was Rose who had the idea of creating Digg, it was Adelson who took from 20,000 views a month to 35 million and made it a web-based giant.

The Detroit, Mich. native is the founder and chairman of Revision3 -- the leading interest television network.

He also co-founded Equinix, a corporation that stores, powers and connects the Internet. What started as a research project in the basement of a lab moved to a billion-dollar building complex that Adelson and his partner, Al Avery, gained by appealing to investors. Right now 75-80 percent of the planet's Internet traffic passes through Equinix hubs located all over the world.

Adelson's incredible wealth, reputed to be in the billions of dollars, is the result of his being on the ground floor of the Internet in 1993. He was one of the people who breathed life into the industry.

While Adelson is all in favor of "net neutrality," he is too practical to believe the Internet can be regulated by any one government. When Adelson was called before a Congressional committee to testify about the ability of the U.S. government to regulate the Internet, his answer in a nutshell was that it would be impossible.

What inspired Adelson to get involved with technology?

"The honest answer is games," Adelson said. "When I was around 12 or 13 I found out that the easiest path to playing games was to understand the technology behind them."

Adelson was asked if he knew what he wanted to be when he was a teenager.

I remember being asked that question when I was in high school and not knowing the answer," Adelson said.

Through experimentation he found he enjoyed communication and all of it forms. The Internet was the perfect vehicle for him.

"The only way to achieve my goals was to start new concepts because they didn't exist," Adelson said. "This was no way I could get a cool job at a Facebook because Facebook had not been invented yet so I had no choice but to take a leadership position and drive things. And I feel it became an addiction because you realize it's possible and then you don't settle for less, your bar gets much higher."

One student asked Adelson about the future of technology. His take on the future of the industry comes down to the integration between the real world and the tech world.

"To me the future of technology is literally when we stop thinking of it as technology and it becomes integrated in our world," Adelson said.

Another question posed to Adelson had to do with entrepreneurship.

"The No. 1 thing is not to be afraid to fail," Adelson said. "You have to keep trying new things over and over and over. This is what is necessary; this is actually the learning necessary to be successful."

The other piece of entrepeneurship is passion.

"Passion is more important than a good business idea," Adelson said. "That passion is what is going to get you through the bumps."