Category Archives: Podcasts – Insights

Running Through Walls: Technology Enables it and Culture Demands It

YouNow CEO and founder Adi Sideman talks with Venrock partner David Pakman about his dream of an interconnected and livecasted world, and how he made it a reality with the founding of YouNow. He shares his views on the one pure form of rich media creation, what it’s like to compete with Twitter and Facebook, and how his game development experience helps him to deliver a magical experience to customers. They also discuss how YouNow avoids common safety pitfalls of other social media sites and why New York is the perfect home for the company.

Adi Sideman is a pioneer in participatory media, with more than 20 years of experience creating apps and companies in the user-generated content space. Founded in 2011, YouNow’s mission is to create an interactive platform where anyone can participate and express themselves live.

Running Through Walls: Olympic Gold Medalist Turned CEO on Building a Business

Brent Lang, an Olympic Gold Medalist and CEO/President of Vocera, speaks with Venrock partner Brian Ascher about his journey from winning an Olympic gold in swimming during the 1988 Seoul Games to leading a public company. Brent shares lessons learned from competing in the Olympics and discusses his insights on becoming an effective leader and managing a board. He also reflects on maintaining Vocera’s strong company culture during times of transition, and what he’s learned about establishing a healthy work/life “harmony.”

Running Through Walls: The Yoda of Genomics

John Stuelpnagel speaks with Venrock partner Bryan Roberts about his career transition from large animal veterinarian to entrepreneur, the keys to Illumina’s dominance in the industry, and the future of genomics. As the founder and board member of many successful genomics companies including Illumina, Ariosa Diagnostics, 10X Genomics and more, John shares his advice for the next generation of entrepreneurs and offers his perspective on the next frontier of innovations in genomics.

Running Through Walls: Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin on the Unilever acquisition

As an early investor in Dollar Shave Club, I spoke with CEO Michael Dubin about the company’s acquisition by Unilever and the journey to this point on the latest episode of Venrock’s podcast, Running Through Walls.

Many people remember the humorous viral video that first launched the company. “I was freaked out that maybe we wouldn’t recover from our success,” says Dubin, after the site crashed thanks to the video’s unanticipated popularity.

The company did recover, and Dubin went on to build one of the most recognizable brands in men’s grooming. He knew he had a hit when he visited a distribution center and saw the volume of packages on the conveyer belt, bringing to life how many people interact with the company daily. He says, “Three percent of Americans wake up and engage with Dollar Shave Club.”

Dubin took improv classes early in his career, and humor has long played a role in the culture of DSC. He’s even adapted some lessons from improv to the role of CEO: “When you’re on stage with no script, it teaches you to live in a scary moment and still perform, which is great training for a young company.”

Following the acquisition, Dubin will stay on as CEO, and it will be “business as usual” at DSC with a focus on launching new products and expanding internationally. Dubin cites “Unilever’s position as one of the most progressive and innovative CPG companies in the world” as the reason the company is a good fit for DSC.

Dubin hopes that five years down the road, “We’ve been able to meaningfully change the way people think about shopping on the internet.”

Running Through Walls: 6Sense’s Amanda Kahlow on values that stick

For Amanda Kahlow and 6Sense, one of the most important aspects of the company is its culture. The values of the company have been baked into the operations of the team, how it interacts with itself and its customers.

Kahlow says it boils down to family — an acronym for fun, accountability, mindfulness, integrity, love and yes. And as a company, before they start meetings, Kahlow and her team acknowledges a member of the group for embodying the values of the company.

Every day, the executive staff acknowledges one of its own for adherence to the values… including Kahlow, who said, “Everybody wants to hear when you’re doing a good job or when you’re embodying love to somebody.”

This extremely positive culture even encompasses 6Sense’s approach to firing folks. “Letting someone go is a positive experience for everyone,” says Kahlow. “We like to wish everyone well and leave them with the highest positive intention for their future.”

In the tight labor market of San Francisco, the emphasis on corporate culture extends into the hiring process and maintaining a team culture through off-sites.

“We actually get to the biggest core issues that we have,” Kahlow says of the company’s multiple off-sites that management uses to engage and attract different views and strategies for the company’s vision and mission.

Finally, Kahlow sees her experience as a female entrepreneur has been a benefit rather than a disadvantage. “Find your true self and believe in yourself and love yourself.”

Running Through Walls: Entrepreneurship is Stressful

Six-time founder Ned David speaks with Venrock partner Camille Samuels about why he doesn’t particularly enjoy being an entrepreneur, but feels compelled to build companies, including newly formed Unity Biotechnology. They discuss Unity, and why Ned is passionate about eliminating the aches and pains of old age and extending human “healthspan.” He also shares how his hiring tactics have evolved from “The Bad News Bears” to “The Expendables” over the years, and why he wants to make his son proud.

Ned has founded a series of companies in the biotechnology and sustainable energy sectors, including Syrrx, Achaogen, Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, Sapphire Energy and now Unity, which designs therapeutics that prevent, halt, or reverse numerous diseases of aging.

Running Through Walls: Making Cars Smarter

Entrepreneur Bryson Gardner speaks with Venrock partner David Pakman about how his experience at Apple – where he worked on the iPhone and iPod – led to the creation of Pearl Automotive. Bryson shares his vision for Pearl and why you shouldn’t have to buy a new car to get the latest technology. They also discuss which aspects of Apple culture he emulates and which he purposefully avoids.

Bryson Gardner has over 20 years of experience developing consumer products, most recently at Apple. Founded in 2016, Pearl is dedicated to improving the more than 1.2 billion cars on the road today through advanced automotive technology that updates automatically to deliver ongoing feature enhancements.

Running Through Walls: Mightybells executive Gina Bianchini advises to focus on inputs

In this episode of Running Through Walls, I sit down with Gina Bianchini, CEO and founder of Mightybell. Gina is an expert in community building.

Many also know her as the co-founder of Ning, the largest social platform for communities that grew to 90 million monthly unique visitors and 300,000 monthly active networks.

We discussed the secrets to building healthy communities online, our experiences with “revisionist history” in Silicon Valley and how to build trust among teams. Gina also shares why sponsors, not mentors, helped her the most when first starting out in her career.

The online world is more interesting than the real world (1:14)
How to know when a product isn’t working (3:10)
The difference between mentors and sponsors (6:38)
Why the tech industry doesn’t celebrate failure (11:14)
When hiring, you can’t be half-in on somebody (13:46)

Key links:
NPR 5 Nerds To Watch In 2013

Running Through Walls: Grand Rounds CEO on healthcare startups and hiring

In this episode of Running Through Walls, I caught up with Grand Rounds CEO and co-founder Owen Tripp, one of the first successful technology entrepreneur crossovers to the fight against complexity and confusion in healthcare.

Prior to Grand Rounds, Owen co-founded and grew the company into the worldwide leader in online reputation and privacy management.

We talked about Owen’s goal to make everyone a medical insider, how they maintain a transparent culture and what he loves about Millennials. Owen also revealed his weakness in evaluating candidates and we discussed the prominence of women in healthcare IT. 

Why tech entrepreneurs are starting healthcare companies (3:16)

Why not to hire the overnight-success seeker (7:28)

What’s great about the Millennial generation (8:56)

Gender diversity leads to better decision-making (11:05)

Keys to maintaining transparency in a growing organization (12:22)

Key links:
Gender diversity study
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown


Running Through Walls: Dynamic Signal CEO Russ Fradin on how good businesses constantly pivot

For the inaugural episode of Venrock’s new podcast, Running Through Walls, I spoke with Russ Fradin, CEO and founder of Dynamic Signal, about his long history as an entrepreneur.

I have known Russ for years and was also an investor in Adify, where he was founder and CEO. Having founded 3 companies, today Russ also advises several other start-ups as a board member.

Our conversation covered a variety of topics, including lessons learned from Dynamic Signal’s early pivot, Russ’s contrarian view on fundraising, and why he’s the only CEO I know who answers every email he receives.

Takeaways from raising 25 venture rounds (3:11)

Why it’s not that challenging to be accessible (7:28)

How to build a good relationship with VCs (12:48)

Why it’s stupid to be stealth in the enterprise world (13:39)

The three things that matter the most about culture (16:43)