Category Archives: Podcasts – Insights

Running Through Walls: Covered California’s Startup Ethos

Peter Lee, executive director for California’s health benefit exchange Covered California, joins Venrock’s Bob Kocher to discuss working with Washington and Peter’s goal of making healthcare a right, not a privilege. Lee started his career as a lawyer and became an AIDS/HIV activist in the 1980s. Peter humorously recalls the time he was arrested outside the Reagan White House for protesting the government’s lack of responsiveness to the AIDS epidemic, and how he had to disclose that story when he worked on the Affordable Care Act under the Obama Administration. Peter shares how he grew Covered California from 13 employees to 1,600, and how he allocates his $110 million marketing budget to successfully target specific consumers. Peter also speaks to the importance of creating a mission that employees believe in, and how he fosters a sense of start-up culture within the government.

Running Through Walls: YouNow Introduces PROPS, a New Cryptocurrency

Curious about cryptocurrency? Venrock’s David Pakman talks to Adi Sideman and Yonatan Sela about the upcoming launch of PROPS, a new cryptocurrency. The YouNow team pioneered mobile live video and they were the first to introduce an economy around interactive video, where on the one side people can buy a virtual currency, and on the other side, creators who perform can earn that currency. They discuss what led them to this point, and how YouNow is setting out to distribute network value broadly across users and break up the centralized control of media with the PROPS project.


Running Through Walls: Pivoting to Success

Brian O’Kelley, CEO and co-founder of AppNexus, started his entrepreneurial endeavors early, first in high school refurbishing old Apple II computers and later in college creating websites in the nascent days of the internet. Venrock partner Mike Tyrrell talks to O’Kelley about his path from odd jobs to CEO of a $1 billion company. He discusses the tough times at Right Media that led to his firing, and how he turned that experience into a positive one with the founding of AppNexus. And in the tough times of building the business, O’Kelley shares how his commitment to the vision of programmatic advertising led him to keep pushing. He also discusses how he mentors employees and promotes company spirit through all things orange, even his polished toenails.

Running Through Walls: Tales from a Turnaround

As the CEO of medical technology company ZELTIQ, Mark Foley was on the front lines of a major business transformation. Venrock’s Bryan Roberts talks to Foley about turning the company around by changing the business model and swapping out the majority of leadership, culminating in the successful acquisition by Allergan for $2.4 billion in April 2017. But the exit wasn’t all smooth sailing. Foley shares details on the initial failed bids that rocked the company’s culture, how he managed morale during this tricky time, and what led to the successful deal in the end. He also shares how investors can recover after an initial stumble, and how he made the transition from VC to CEO successfully.

Running Through Walls: How to Build a Sales Team

Steve Walske founded Parametric Technology Corporation in 1985 and is now on the board of several prominent Silicon Valley companies including Synopsys and 6sense. Venrock partner Brian Ascher talks to Walske about his unique formula for building a strong sales team and striking a balance between managing and empowering salespeople. Walske believes in efficiency above all else, and that means turning down opportunities until the company establishes a real sales presence in the area. They also discuss the truth about “bowling league syndrome” and why employee turnover doesn’t faze him.


Running Through Walls: I Don’t Like Hype

Steve Papa, founder and CEO of Endeca through its acquisition by Oracle in 2011, has thrived in many roles throughout his career: neighborhood Mr. Fix-it, entrepreneur, founder, CEO, mentor and angel investor. In this week’s podcast, Venrock’s Bryan Roberts talks to Papa — now founder and CEO of Parallel Wireless — about his early aspirations and founding Endeca during the rapid expansion of the Internet in 1999. The company survived through two major economic downturns and went through a smooth acquisition under Papa’s direction. He shares how he managed the team during these events, what he learned about perseverance and grit, and how he advises companies facing similar obstacles today.

Running Through Walls: Entrepreneur on a Mission

Venrock partner Nick Beim talks to Mark Gerson, co-founder and Chairman of Gerson-Lehrman Group, about his early entrepreneurial pursuits, why society should promote entrepreneurism and why it’s a bad idea to keep all of your ideas to yourself when first starting out. When Gerson’s innovations stretched to providing first-response services and healthcare for underserved populations, he came to the realization that philanthropy, like any other venture, focuses on the amount of return — social or financial — on any project. From a healthcare foundation operating in areas like Malawi and Kenya, to a network of first responders that treat victims of pre-hospital trauma in Israel, Gerson shares his wisdom on building connections and social awareness through business.

Running Through Walls: From Genentech to Facebook to Startup (Part II)

Part two of the discussion between former Genentech and Facebook CFO David Ebersman and Venrock’s Bryan Roberts centers on Ebersman’s time at Genentech, where he started working in his 20s and worked up his way up, eventually becoming CFO. He shares anecdotes about working with another executive dynamic duo, Art Levinson and Sue Desmond-Hellmann, and what he learned about problem-solving after working closely with them for several years. Ebersman also discusses Roche’s hostile takeover of Genentech in 2009, and his perspective on financial modeling following the deal.

Running Through Walls: From Genentech to Facebook to Startup (Part I)

In the first part of his discussion with Bryan Roberts of Venrock, former Genentech and Facebook CFO David Ebersman shares what he learned about leadership from the dynamic duo of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, and discusses his experience taking the company public in 2012. Now CEO and founder of Lyra Health, Ebersman discusses how Lyra solves the problem of finding quality care for mental health conditions, and talks about the most surprising aspects of being a startup founder after stints at large companies.

Running Through Walls: A Healthy Purpose

Virta Health CEO Sami Inkinen took a circuitous path to CEO, having grown up on a farm in Finland and studying physics before embracing his passion for computers and pursuing entrepreneurship. Inkinen speaks to Venrock partner Bob Kocher about what led him to co-found the real estate startup Trulia and now Virta, an online medical clinic that’s on a mission to reverse diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. They discuss how this goal impacts decision-making at the company and helps with hiring and motivating employees. Inkinen also shares the differences he’s encountered in healthcare after starting his career in tech.