Anne Wojcicki, founder of 23andMe, speaks with Bob Kocher of Venrock about her path to entrepreneurship, the importance of authenticity and health as the ultimate equalizer of humanity. Wojcicki was dismayed by the lack of transparency in healthcare, which led the company to sell direct to consumers and empower them with information to get the care they want. In addition to understanding how their genetic information impacts their health, 23andMe has allowed people to engage with their genetic information to understand where they come from. Ancestry has been an addictive component of the product for consumers as people are often surprised to find that their roots and connections may not be exactly what they thought. Long lost cousin? Mostly, Wojcicki loves the honesty in healthcare.
Kevin Ryan, co-founder of DoubleClick, MongoDB, Business Insider, and Gilt Groupe (among others), speaks with Nick Beim at Venrock about building teams and what to look for in a VC. Ryan advocates taking risks as an entrepreneur, even if it leads to a failure or two. You can learn a lot from unsuccessful ventures and it prepares you for the next thing. They also discuss how entrepreneurial optimism is essential as there will always be rejection and bumps along the way, but it can also cloud judgement when it comes to an exit opportunity. Overconfidence may make you want to pass up a good deal when it comes along. Ultimately, you have to have fun. It’s what keeps you going.
Blue Shield of California (BSCA) CEO Paul Markovich speaks with Bob Kocher at Venrock about bringing the healthcare system out of the stone age and the opportunities for entrepreneurs to bring much needed change to the industry. They talk about how Paul’s career path led him to healthcare, how he fosters an open environment that welcomes feedback and what BSCA is doing to create new efficiencies through a collaboration with Anthem Blue Cross, called Cal INDEX. They also discuss “what insurance companies actually do” and who is making money in healthcare. Paul is currently president and CEO of BSCA, a four million-member nonprofit health plan. Their mission is to ensure Californians’ access to high-quality healthcare at an affordable price. Paul was previously an entrepreneur, having cofounded MyWayHealth, a consumer-driven health plan.
Candice Morgan, Head of Diversity at Pinterest, speaks with Venrock’s Richard Kerby about her experience so far balancing recruitment and retention of diverse candidates at Pinterest, and challenges of recruiting in San Francisco in particular. They also discuss the less sexy side of diversity initiatives that are rarely covered in the media, and Morgan shares experiences from earlier in her career of executives not being supportive of diversity efforts. She also highlights the Rooney-rule like requirement at Pinterest that promotes hiring underrepresented minorities and women in leadership roles. Candice is currently Head of Diversity at Pinterest, leading strategy and programs to enhance a diverse and inclusive company. She is a frequent speaker at global conferences and events. Formerly, Candice was a Senior Director in Consulting Services at Catalyst, the leading nonprofit for research, advisory, and practices on women in business.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.