Fri, 19 February 2021
In their new book “WORKING BACKWARDS: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon” (St. Martin’s Press, February 9, 2021.) Bill Carr and Colin Bryar share Amazon’s secrets. They had a front row seat for most of Amazon's history, and they are sharing what they learned in their new book.
Not only is Amazon one of the most valuable companies in the world, it has succeeded across a stunning array of categories from web services to movies. So it’s hyperbolic, but possible to make the case that this is the most important business book….ever.
“Like being in the room with Jeff Bezos”
Working Backwards is a practical guidebook and a corporate narrative, filled with the authors’ in-the-room recollections of what “Being Amazonian” is like and how it has affected their personal and professional lives. They demonstrate that success on Amazon’s scale is not achieved by the genius of any single leader, but rather through commitment to and execution of a set of well-defined, rigorously-executed principles and practices—shared here for the very first time.
The authors you’ll spend some time with on this episode:
Bill Carr joined Amazon in 1999 and spent more than 15 years with the company. As Vice President of Digital Media, Bill launched and managed the company's global digital music and video businesses, including Amazon Music, Prime Video, and Amazon Studios. After Amazon, Bill was an Executive In Residence with Maveron, LLC, an early-stage, consumer-only venture capital firm. Bill later served as the Chief Operating Officer of OfferUp, the largest mobile marketplace for local buyers and sellers in the U.S. Today Bill is co-founder of Working Backwards LLC where he coaches executives at both large and early-stage companies on how to implement the management practices developed at Amazon.
Colin Bryar joined Amazon in 1998 — four years after its founding — and spent the next 12 years as part of Amazon's senior leadership team as Amazon grew from a domestic (US-only) seller of books to a global, multi-dimensional powerhouse and innovator. Colin served as a Vice President at Amazon, and for two of his years was "Chief of Staff" to Jeff Bezos, AKA "Jeff's shadow", during which he spent each day attending meetings, traveling with, and discussing business and life with Jeff. After Amazon, he and his family relocated to Singapore for two years where Colin served as Chief Operating Officer of e-commerce company RedMart, which was subsequently sold to Alibaba. Colin is co-founder of Working Backwards LLC where he coaches executives at both large and early-stage companies on how to implement the management practices developed at Amazon.
Fri, 29 January 2021
155 Amy Nauiokas: The CEO of Anthemis Group’s Journey from the Peace Corps to Managing Nearly $1 Billion
Amy Nauiokas is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Anthemis, a leading digital financial services investment firm. Anthemis manages nearly $1 billion. Amy is also Founder and Chair of Archer Gray, a media production and content company.
Straightforward for a venture capitalist, right? Except maybe for the TV/Movie company she also runs. But wait – she’s also a liberal arts major who joined the Peace Corps out of college. In this episode we discuss how she made her way from the Peace Corps to leading one of the biggest fintech venture capital firms.
We also talk about the early 80s women in finance who she views as pioneers truly worth paying homage to, and whose issues she contrasts to those faced by women in today’s finance/venture world.
On the Diversity of Anthemis and Its Investments
“We brought together people of very eclectic, different and diverse backgrounds to form this platform. And now we're 50 people around the world and we're working out of three physical offices and probably about 10 virtual offices. And we're north of 50 percent female. Sixty five percent of the decision-makers at the firm are women. We have, I think, about 40 percent people of color and and 12 percent LGBTQ. Twenty five percent of our portfolio is led by women. Twenty percent of our portfolio is led by someone who is Black or a person of color.”
On Sand Hill Road
“We’re realizing it's a lot of the same people with the same backgrounds, with the same capital base sitting in the same office on Sand Hill Road, which isn't even in San Francisco, it’s in the Valley. Entrepreneurs elsewhere don’t realize these guys aren't leaving their desks, let alone going to Oakland to meet a company or going to San Francisco to meet a company.”
On How to Support Women and People of Color
“Shut up, listen and make some space. I honestly think that's the main thing. Imagine that anybody who isn't you is thinking about it all the time. Every single part of every single day, I think about my identity and what it means to my existence. I think we have a responsibility as allies to any community to take the time to be quiet and to listen and see what we might be able to learn in that very quiet moment when we let other voices be heard.”
Anthemis Group: https://www.anthemis.com/
Something Ventured: https://somethingventured.us/
Mon, 11 January 2021
Vern Howard’s story is remarkable. Vern was a math prodigy who left high school early, when he tested into Virginia Commonwealth University to study Computer Science and Math. He paid his way through school by teaching math and serving as a janitor on campus.
He went on to sell men’s suits, which taught him the art of selling. After joining Capital One – whose signing bonus he used to rebuild an Alpha Romeo – he built Capital One’s first mobile banking application. He also built out the Application Security Team at Capital One before, naturally, becoming a securities trader.
Hang on, we’re not done yet. He became an entrepreneur. He sent a book to Steve Case’s partner at Revolution and….well, listen to find out what happens!
On Getting Started as an Entrepreneur
“So two people I met accelerated everything. Ted Leonsis kind of introduced me to this network of people. Mike Lincoln over at Cooley was like, “Yeah, everyone is raving about you. You didn't go to an Ivy League school, you're not from this background. But you’re just going into all these office and people are saying: Who's this kid? Vern, right.” So they got me started and did our legal work for free, util we got funded.”
On Why Employers are So Focused on “Top Colleges”
“So I think it's a two pronged problem. One is, these are businesses, right? So there's budget, and once you start talking about like numbers and budgets you start looking at ROI. And every recruiter says, OK, great. If we spend one hundred thousand dollars to go to thirty one schools this season, what's the ROI now? If we go to Stanford or we go to Michigan, we kind of know what we get there, because some of our current engineers went to school there. So we know their level of output is XYZ, as far as coding goes.
But if we take a risk and go with something we've haven't done before, like going to Sweetbriar College, which is an all-women's college in Virginia, (the founder of TaskRabbit went there). We may want to take a risk, by going there. We might spend fifty thousand dollars and have no ROI to show. So the best play, much like VC culture, is we go to Stanford, we get 3 students --great.
But what happens is the competition, right? If your brand isn't as big as you think it is as a company, your recruiting line is nonexistent. Everyone went over to the Robinhood line.”
On Black Founders Being “Over-Mentored”
One thing I see amongst the Black founder community is a ton of mentors. And I think Black founders are over-mentored and under-funded. I don't know who coined that term, but a ton of people DO want to mentor. That's funny. I have people fill my inbox from the top VC's in the nation and just say, hey, Vern, let me be your mentor. And, you know, I'm always greatly appreciative, I like the advice. But I’d also like to get funded”
Something Ventured: https://somethingventured.us/