Running Through Walls

A Venrock Podcast

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EdTech’s Renaissance

02.7.2018

John Katzman, CEO and founder of the Noodle Companies, joins David Pakman to discuss the evolution of edtech. He shares what he learned from his time as founder and CEO of The Princeton Review, including hard lessons he learned as a first-time CEO. John shares with David the two values that all successful entrepreneurs must hold sacred, and why his focus on metrics has become a worthwhile obsession.

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No Trolls Allowed

01.23.2018

Ben Anderson, CEO and co-founder of Amino, joins Venrock’s David Pakman to discuss how Amino brings people together to share their passions. Amino is a mobile app where users join communities based on their interests, whether it’s Game of Thrones, robotics or modern art (to name a few). Unlike most gathering places on the Internet, Amino is rare in that it’s a positive place, almost always free of trolls. Being a first-time CEO, Ben tells David about the nuances of managing millennials and the importance of creating a constant stream of positive reinforcement. Ben shares how hustle, willpower, and perseverance have helped his team create one of the most highly rated apps in the App Store today.

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Medicine is a Family Affair

01.9.2018

Chris Chen, CEO of ChenMed, joins Venrock’s Bryan Roberts to discuss the challenges and successes of providing healthcare to the population that needs it most – the poor, the old, and the sick. Chris’s father, James Chen, founded ChenMed as a way of providing concierge-style healthcare to low- and moderate-income seniors. When his father faced a health scare, Chris spent 24 hours learning how to run the business. After his father recovered and Chris completed his fellowship, they expanded ChenMed to 42 medical centers and significantly decreased hospitalization rates of their patients. With cardiovascular, oncological, and orthopedic diseases plaguing his patient population, Chris emphasizes the importance of holistic healthcare practices and collaborating with doctors who understand the economics of healthcare. Although wanting to cure the world may be his kryptonite, Chris shares how staying focused allows him to help those who need it the most.

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Caring for the On-Demand Economy

12.13.2017

Noah Lang, CEO and co-founder of Stride Health, joins Venrock’s Bob Kocher to discuss the changing nature of work, and how his company is helping independent workers successfully create a “business of one.” Lang recalls his childhood love of building and creating, and how it led him to study product design at Stanford and later launch Stride Health. Stride Health delivers a toolkit that helps independent workers find healthcare coverage and other benefits that workers outside of traditional 9-5 jobs do not typically receive. This shift towards independent employment has fueled Lang’s passion for helping these workers keep more of what they earn and thrive in their businesses. Lang also shares how running and guidance from his coach have helped him continue to improve as a first-time CEO.

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Competing is for Losers

12.6.2017

Chris Lochhead, a three-time Silicon Valley CMO, co-author of Play Bigger, and former entrepreneur, joins Brian Ascher of Venrock to discuss the importance of category design and marketing on this week’s episode of Running Through Walls. From having a provocative point of view to not accepting the status quo, Chris outlines what every business needs to do to become a category king. He discusses the right time to think about category design, whose job it is, and why concentrated campaigns called “Lightning Strikes” will grab the attention of consumers more effectively than traditional marketing.

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Covered California’s Startup Ethos

11.22.2017

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.

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YouNow Introduces PROPS, a New Cryptocurrency

11.9.2017

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.

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Pivoting to Success

10.4.2017

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. 
 

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Tales from a Turnaround

07.19.2017

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.

 

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How To Build A Sales Team

07.5.2017

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.

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I Don’t Like Hype

06.21.2017

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.

 

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Entrepreneur on a Mission

06.7.2017

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.

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From Genentech to Facebook to Startup: Part Two

05.24.2017

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. 

 

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From Genentech to Facebook to Startup: Part One

05.10.2017

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. 

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A Healthy Purpose

04.26.2017

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.

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Culture Conscious

04.12.2017

When Matthew Prince and Michelle Zatlyn met in business school, they didn’t envision a class project turning into a billion-dollar company, but that’s exactly what happened. Bryan Roberts, partner at Venrock and Cloudflare board member, talks with the co-founders about the early days of company building and how their initial mission statement has remained the same years later, a rarity among Silicon Valley startups. Prince and Zatlyn discuss their measured and thoughtful approach to hiring, and why slower growth helps them keep Cloudflare’s culture strong. They also share their experience with public policy, and a time when they took drastic measures to protect the privacy of a Cloudflare user.

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Surviving a Slump

03.29.2017

Bruce Cozadd was a musician in his early years, but a passion for science and business led him to enter the biopharma industry. Venrock partner Camille Samuels talks to Cozadd, now CEO of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, about his journey to co-founding Jazz and the people who helped him along the way. He shares the joys of starting Jazz with a team that had worked together in the past, but also highlights the downside: that his team lacked diverse prior experiences to rely upon while building a company. When Jazz’s stock price fell to just $0.53 a share, Cozadd persevered and relied on grit and determination to turn the company around. He also shares his wisdom about managing people through all stages of their careers, and reveals what his mentor taught him about treating people well no matter how difficult a situation the company is in.

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The Doctor is Online

02.15.2017

Hill Ferguson joined Doctor on Demand as CEO in 2016. Venrock’s Bob Kocher talks to Ferguson about his first day on the job and hallmarks of a successful founder to CEO transition, including the delicate balance of fixing problems while preserving what’s already great with the company. Ferguson was on the employee side of this transition in previous roles, and learned the importance of creating an environment where all employees, regardless of position, feel comfortable asking questions. They also discuss Ferguson’s product expertise, and how he views all products as solutions to problems. What products inspire him? Those that help humanity and create economic value while improving people’s lives. Hint: not foie gras delivery. Ferguson also shares the nuances of recruiting doctors for telemedicine and what a good day looks like for Doctor on Demand’s physicians. 

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Talk About (Your) Mistakes

02.1.2017

Steven Aldrich, Chief Product Officer at GoDaddy, has thrived professionally at both large companies and startups, something Brian Ascher of Venrock notes is unusual during this interview. Aldrich shares lessons startups can learn from more established companies and vice versa, noting that startups often try to be scrappy and do things internally regardless of expertise, while hiring someone with expertise would save them time and money. Conversely, big companies need to encourage experimentation and find ways to maintain the sense of urgency that energizes a team around problem solving. Aldrich says having a growth mindset (Carol Dweck, Mindset) is at the bedrock of how he hires and manages, while fixed mindset folks have no place in Aldrich’s organization. Aldrich also talks about GoDaddy’s famous Super Bowl commercials and what impact they had on the company then and today. Spoiler alert: you will see a new GoDaddy commercial during the upcoming Super Bowl.

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Apple Intern to Entrepreneur

01.18.2017

Matt Rogers, co-founder of Nest, started his career as an intern at Apple and it was during that first week on the job when he met his co-founder Tony Fadell. While speaking with David Pakman of Venrock, Rogers talks about stretching people to help them grow, why he and Fadell chose to reinvent the thermostat, and why Apple is a breeding ground for entrepreneurs. Nest was going after a market dominated by well-entrenched players, but Rogers says they were prepared for a fight and ultimately these older companies have made it easy for Nest to stay one step ahead. Rogers also recalls a low point in the company’s growth – a product recall – and how they navigated that situation with transparency and continued focus on the whole customer experience. Now a part of Alphabet, Rogers says it’s hard to know what to expect when your company is acquired, but building a good relationship with the acquirer is key. Roger’s kryptonite? Large crowds!

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Fail Quickly

01.4.2017

Founded as Microbia to explore and develop antifungal and antibacterial drugs, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals now has two drugs on the market helping patients with IBS and Gout. After nearly 20 years and many different approaches and targets, founder and CEO Peter Hecht tells Venrock’s Bryan Roberts that he is proud of the failures along the way as the end goal was always to build an enduring pharmaceutical company. The key is to kill programs that aren’t working early and not let them go too long – research is cheap, development is hard. Hecht also talks about managing people when you have a moving target. You have to have great people with the right skill sets and you have to help people who don’t have the right experience move on to a new challenge. Hecht’s superpower? Knowing what he doesn’t know. Though Roberts thinks it is Hecht’s ability to attract a variety of assets – people, ideas, capital...

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Priority One: People Matters

12.21.2016

Gio Colella, co-founder of RelayHealth and Castlight Health, speaks with Bryan Roberts at Venrock about starting companies and the importance of surrounding yourself with amazing people. Colella advises other entrepreneurs to find partners you can trust, who are very different from you, and who are aligned with the vision for the company. Colella and Roberts also talk about the early days of Castlight and the iterative process that revealed the foundation of the company, as well as the challenges related to managing through the highs and lows as a public company. They also talk about what made RelayHealth’s acquisition by McKesson so successful, in a world where M&A horror stories are rampant. Colella immigrated to the US from Italy and left his psychiatry practice to answer the call of entrepreneurship.

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Data Driven Healthcare

12.7.2016

Farzad Mostashari, founder and CEO of Aledade, speaks with Bob Kocher at Venrock about bringing a data-driven approach to solving problems and the importance of knowing the question you want to answer, so you can apply the appropriate analysis. Mostashari, who went to medical school, knew quickly that he would not pursue a traditional career as a physician. In medical school he was an outlier, asking questions about population/public health, and then during his residency was mostly curious about the systems, so it’s no surprise that Mostashari went on to hold positions with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York City Department of Health and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Despite loving government service, Mostashari saw an opportunity to improve healthcare through Accountable Care Organizations, that would be better for patients, better for doctors and better for society. And in 2014 Aledade was born.

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Building A Cancer Killer

11.23.2016

Sam Mazin, Founder and CEO of RefleXion Medical, speaks with Colin Cahill at Venrock about managing a big project with a lean budget, raising money, and communicating an evolving and complex vision. They explore the evolution of RefleXion’s addressable market as clinical data showed better results than the standard of care, and what that means for some cancer patients.  Sam and Colin also talked about learning to manage “on the job” and how you manage people who have more experience. Sam’s research as a postdoc at Stanford led to the idea of combining radiotherapy with PET imaging, and RefleXion Medical was born.  

 

 

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No Straight Shots in FinTech

11.9.2016

Ryan Gilbert, co-founder of SmartBiz Loans, speaks with Brian Ascher of Venrock about building a fintech company and what went wrong along the way. The company mastered the art of pivoting and ultimately found its niche in small business loans. Gilbert advises new fintech entrepreneurs to partner with large banks rather than focusing on disruption, as banks have started to embrace new technology. A catch-phrase master, Gilbert wonders where truly novel technology can be found in the finance industry – where is the tech, in fintech? They also discuss the war for talent, giving non-obvious candidates a shot and promoting loyalty. Gilbert also talks about becoming a VC and what has surprised him most about his new role.

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Genetic Truths, No Veneers

10.26.2016

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.

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The Serial Entrepreneur

10.12.2016

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.

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Healthcare. It’s Complicated.

09.28.2016

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.

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Managing Diversity at Pinterest

09.14.2016

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.

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Technology Enables it and Culture Demands It

08.31.2016

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.

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Olympic Gold Medalist Turned CEO on Building a Business

08.17.2016

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.” 

 

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The Yoda of Genomics

08.3.2016

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. 

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Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin on Unilever Acquisition

07.20.2016

Venrock partner and early Dollar Shave Club investor David Pakman speaks with CEO Michael Dubin about the acquisition by Unilever and the company's journey to this point. 

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Entrepreneurship is Stressful

07.6.2016

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.

Cami has invested in all of Ned’s life sciences companies and currently sits on the board of Unity. 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.

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Making Cars Smarter

06.22.2016

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.

 

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Let Someone Tell You That You Can’t, and Let That Be Your Fuel

06.8.2016

6sense founder and CEO Amanda Kahlow speaks with Venrock partner Brian Ascher about the importance of identifying company values and her unique spin on making those values a part of her company’s DNA. Amanda also discusses the most telling questions she asks every potential new hire, the ups and downs of letting people go while maintaining a positive culture, and shares how a little competition with her brother pushed her to succeed early in her career. She also has some advice for her fellow female entrepreneurs.  

Amanda Kahlow is a product-focused CEO who is passionate about bringing the power of predictive marketing and sales intelligence to B2B enterprise and mid-market companies. The 6sense predictive intelligence platform uncovers net-new prospects at every stage of the funnel and determines which existing prospects are in market to buy.

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Focus on the Inputs

05.26.2016

Gina Bianchini, CEO and founder of Mightybell, speaks with Venrock partner David Pakman about the secrets to building healthy communities online, “revisionist history” in Silicon Valley, the No. 1 product mistake she’s made, and how to build trust among teams. She also shares why sponsors, not mentors, helped her the most when first starting out in her career.

Gina is an expert in community entrepreneurship. Mightybell is designed for entrepreneurs and company innovators to launch communities that need to exist in the world. Before founding Mightybell, Gina Bianchini co-founded and led Ning, the largest social platform for communities, started in 2004.

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When Something Scary Happens to You

05.25.2016

Grand Rounds CEO and co-founder Owen Tripp talks with Venrock partner Bryan Roberts about the move from tech into the healthcare industry, his goal to make everyone a medical insider, and what he loves about Millennials. He also reveals his weakness in evaluating candidates, and discusses the rise of women in healthcare IT.

Grand Rounds’ vision is to create a path to great health and health care, for everyone, everywhere. Prior to Grand Rounds, Owen co-founded Reputation.com and grew the company into the worldwide leader in online reputation and privacy management.

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Good Businesses Pivot Constantly

05.16.2016

Russ Fradin, CEO and founder of Dynamic Signal, talks to Venrock partner Brian Ascher about his long history as an entrepreneur and how that experience has impacted the way he approaches running a business today. They discuss lessons learned from Dynamic Signal’s early pivot, as well as Russ' contrarian view on fundraising, why he’s always open to blind emails and why it’s stupid to be stealth in the enterprise world. 

Russ is a digital media industry veteran with nearly 20 years of experience at companies such as Adify, comScore and Flycast. Dynamic Signal’s employee advocacy and engagement platform changes how companies communicate, turning employees into experts, advocates and contributors.