From business to spirituality, Edward Silhol takes these two seemingly opposite fields and complements them through his actions and intentions. I had first met Edward through mutual friends and was intrigued by our conversation we had about his startup, Stample, his work with shamanism, and his thoughts on the self. Coming across Edward, you immediately become aware the enthusiasm he has for these topics and his keenness to share his knowledge about them with other people. After our discussion ended, it became clear to me what values drive Edward in his life and career; he asks himself “How can I help people realize their own potential” and “what can I do to aid in the impending environmental crisis.”
Edward was born and raised in France and attended the University of Toronto and the THNK program in Amsterdam for his higher education. During his time in school, he developed the idea that the technological advances of the previous centuries will result in environmental doom if people do not take action about it. One concept that stuck out to him was the one of waste. He explained to me that the concept of waste was a 20th century invention and that the advent of plastics and other not easily biodegradable products feeds modern society’s unconscious crusade against nature. These ideas motivated Edward to take on activism during his time in college. Caring for the environment became one of Edward’s foundational values, which guides his personal decision-making process. Upon graduation, Edward entered the world of fine art photography to follow a passion he developed early in life, and explore the impact he could have in the world as a visual artist.
By the late 2000s, Edward had established himself as a notable Paris-based photographer. Around this time he began to ponder the question, “What is beauty?” Having shot hundreds of portraits, he knew that the people in them radiated a magical aura that he could not describe in words. After developing an interest in human psychology, Edward spoke to a specialist in Neuro-linguistic programming, and she suggested he was capturing the limitless potential of the subjects of his photographs. The specialist pursued to caution him, saying that if he expected for everyone to behave according to their highest potential, then he would end up being disappointed all the time. It was this powerful insight that would seed the soil for Edward’s next project to take root.
In the summer of 2010, while Edward was looking at the websites of galleries around the world he wanted to contact, he noticed something disturbing about his browser’s bookmarks bar: with thousands of saved links to various sources, he came to the conclusion that the majority of those bookmarks would slip away from his memory and remain unopened forever. This realization annoyed Edward because he had saved those bookmarks for a reason, but there was no efficient way to remember it. Surely, a simple title and link weren’t sufficient. From this problem, a solution instinctively appeared in his head. What if there was a better more intuitive way to organize the web for oneself? Since we’re going to live the rest of our lives with the Internet, this question is absolutely crucial. This question led Edward to build Stample, a knowledge management platform that lets people create and share visual libraries of articles, files and notes. What makes Stample unique is that it allows multiple team members to collaborate with each other by allowing them to highlight, annotate, and comment on content. This collaboration to curate knowledge helps people manage time more effectively and improve productivity, which explains why many of Stample’s clients are companies who have a stake in saving time and money. But Edward is deeply convinced that all of us have a need for knowledge management, which will become more and more clear over the next couple of years.
Edward has been working tirelessly to make Stample a success. As an artist with no entrepreneurial track record, it took Edward time to raise funds but he eventually prevailed, and at some point, like many startup founders, the infamous burnout began to creep up on him. Refusing to take pills from doctors, Edward knew he had to take action to overcome the exhaustion. At first, he found refuge surfing in the ocean, a setting that he considers to be his greatest mentor. He stated that he only began to truly understand the concepts of resilience, balance, and determination from being out in the water learning how to surf. This setting was the first part of his “therapy”. A year after surfing in California, Edward attended Burning Man for the first time. Not knowing what to expect, Edward unknowingly walked into a camp known as Shamandome that practiced shamanic meditation/self-induced hypnosis. After spending three days under the direction of renowned Bodhisattva Barnaby Ruhe, Edward came out reborn and has become a Shamanista at Shamandome for the past few years.
What Edward learned at Shamandome is best described as spiritual alchemy. He told me that words contain energy and that their intention can have a powerful effect on manifesting reality. Becoming caught in the destructive cycle of negative self-image is deeply detrimental to a person’s well-being. Shamanism is the medicine of the soul that empowers people through deep personal reflection, energetic recentering and self-love. He went to on explain that in the Shamandome, he would ask the visitors “do you know why you are here?” and the participant would say “I want healing” in which he would respond “no, you are a healer.” The metaphor Edward uses to explain this point is that when you receive a cut on your skin, your body naturally repairs the wound. Since all of us are natural healers, we can repair old and deep traumatic memories, once we reconnect with this innate ability through these ancient techniques.
Edward went on to illustrate the shamanic meditation process as it is practiced at Shamandome (mostly inspired by the works of Michael Harner); it happens in two parts. First is a personal journey to find your instinctual spirit animal that empowers you. The second is partnering with a stranger and listening to their fears, then consulting your newly found spirit animal to overcome them. By putting yourself in the position of power through reversing your role from the person needing healing to the person that is the healer, you complete the spiritual alchemy required to turn lead doubts into gold tenacity.
From shamanism to startups, Edward’s work clearly display what kind of world he is pursuing to build. Stample’s mission to help people share higher quality information and cut digital waste is consistent with Edward’s foundational value of eradicating wastes of all types. Furthermore, knowledge sharing being a catalyst for innovation, it will accelerate the path to building what he calls a “mature industry”, which like nature can produce billions and billions of “products” each day without ever creating waste. Shamanism plays along to the tune of removing emotional waste by being the ‘medicine of the soul’ that transcends the mind’s self-imposed restrictions to create a clearer vision of one’s self. Furthermore, the knowledge curation of Stample and the self-actualization of Shamanism mirror each other with the goal of helping people realize their own potential.
If there is one thing about Edward, it is that he translates his innate desire to help others into substantial actions in the real world. I am looking forward to what he has in store in the future.
(The featured photograph in this article was taken by Alexia Barlier. You can see more of her work at alexia.barlier.com)