Something Ventured -- Silicon Valley Podcast

Eliot Brown, with Maureen Farrell, is co-author of “The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion”.  As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal he became intrigued by the messianic founder who had raised billions of dollars, and developed a cult-like following at his startup WeWork.

“In little more than a decade, Neumann transformed himself from a struggling baby clothes salesman into the charismatic, hard-partying CEO of a company worth $47 billion - on paper. With his long hair and feel-good mantras, the six-foot-five Israeli transplant looked the part of a messianic truth teller. Investors swooned, and billions poured in.

Soon, however, WeWork was burning through cash faster than Neumann could bring it in. From his private jet, sometimes clouded with marijuana smoke, he scoured the globe for more capital. Then, as WeWork readied a Hail Mary IPO, it all fell apart. Nearly $40 billion of value vaporized in one of corporate America’s most spectacular meltdowns.”

In this episode Eliot Brown shares what he learned studying WeWork and it’s larger-than-life founder.

Something Ventured Podcast

Eliot Brown

The Cult of We

Direct download: Eliot_Brown_WeWork_2021_--_Compressed_to_upload__-_10_27_21_2.28_PM_1.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 5:51pm EDT

Brad Feld’s latest book (with David Jilk) is “Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche (A Book for Disruptors)”. Those familiar with Brad’s “Feld Thoughts” blog, will find the unexpected title – unsurprising.

While reading Nietzsche (um, yes) Brad noted that his favorite personality was a “free spirit: An obsessed individual with a vision of the future and the will to make it so, a rebel who creates the future with childlike enthusiasm.”  That, thought Brad, sounded a lot like…an entrepreneur.

The book is “a modern Art of War, connecting the dots to our high-tech business environment”.

Each short chapter takes a quote from Nietzsche and applies it to an area of entrepreneurship.

Brad Feld has been a famous venture capitalist for a long time.  He has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. He currently runs Foundry group, which he co-founded. Before that Brad co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures. Brad is also a co-founder of Techstars.

Brad is a writer and speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship. He’s written a number of books as part of the Startup Revolution series and writes the blogs “Feld Thoughts” and “Venture Deals”.

Direct download: Brad_Feld_Edited_and_Compressed_to_Upload_2021_-_91521_10.03_AM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 1:10pm EDT

Auren Hoffman is one of the most connected people in Silicon Valley.  In a place where the currency of the land is connections – Auren is near the top of the heap.

Auren is a Founder and CEO -- He founded SafeGraph in 2016, and previously founded LiveRamp, which is now public (NYSE: RAMP) – a leading data platform.

Auren is also an investor – he has invested in more than 120 active technology companies.

Auren went to UC Berkeley a B.S.E. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from UC Berkeley.

But perhaps most importantly – Auren shares his wisdom:  Often in napkin sketches, shared on Twitter.  In this podcast we discuss Auren’s journey, his wisdom and his view from his unique perch in Silicon Valley.

Auren on Twitter

Something Ventured 

Direct download: Auren_Hoffman_--_Edited__To_Upload_-_81821_3.02_PM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 6:10pm EDT

In Silicon Valley enormous wealth and huge need sit side by side.  The gap is bridged in large part by an important organization – Silicon Valley Community Foundation (“SVCF”).  SVCF manages more than $10 billion.  In this episode Nicole Taylor, SVCF’s CEO, tells us where the money comes from, where it goes, and the practical issues of giving to support Black Lives Matter.

Since taking the helm at SVCF, Nicole has led the organization to renew its focus on the many challenges facing residents of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties – two of the largest counties in Silicon Valley.

In April 2020, Nicole was invited by San José Mayor Sam Liccardo to be among the five co-chairs of the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable. This group was formed to  address how Silicon Valley will adapt and thrive in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early months of pandemic response, SVCF raised over $50 million for funds to meet the needs of individuals, families, nonprofit organizations, small businesses and education systems across 10 counties in the Bay Area.


Before joining SVCF, Nicole served as vice president of the ASU Foundation, and as dean of Students at Arizona State University. Prior to her time at ASU, Nicole was the associate vice provost of student affairs.  She has also served as dean of community engagement and diversity at Stanford University.

In this episode we discuss what SVCF does, how the increase in Bay Area wealth has impacted it.  We also discuss the practical giving aspects related to solving problems highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement.


Something Ventured

Direct download: Nicole_Taylor_--_Edited_Compressed_to_Upload-_73021_11.29_AM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03pm EDT

Avi Loeb is author of the book “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth”.  It’s a story you can hardly believe, once you hear it.  But here it is -- the story of the day in 2017 when telescopes around the world started tracking an object in our solar system.  It was moving in such a way that scientists around the world came to the same, startling conclusion:  It was an extraterrestrial spaceship. 

Avi Loeb is a professor of the Harvard Astronomy Department.  He is also a member of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (which is a collaboration of Harvard College Observatory and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. 

Professor Loeb received a PhD in plasma physics at age 24 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1986) and was subsequently a long-term member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (1988-1993), where he started to work in theoretical astrophysics. In 1993 he moved to Harvard University where he was tenured three years later.  He is now the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science and former chair of the department.

He also holds a visiting professorship at the Weizmann Institute of Science and a Sackler Senior Professorship by special appointment in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University.

Loeb has authored nearly 700 research articles and 4 books.

Avi Loeb:

Something Ventured:

Direct download: Avi_Loeb_Compressed_to_Upload_2021_-_62521_11.08_AM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 2:16pm EDT

Big Vape is a nicotine-high of a book:  An intense ride-along with the story of the rise of Juul.  The story begins innocently – a couple guys don’t want to quit smoking, but also do not want to suffer the ill effects of cigarettes.  They start Juul, and its rise – the massive wealth created, the social phenomenon, and the arrival of Big Tobacco -- are the touchpoints of Jamie Ducharme’s book “Big Vape:  The Incendiary Rise of Juul”.

Jamie Ducharme is a staff writer at TIME magazine, where she covers health and science. (Right now, that means she’s writing almost exclusively about COVID-19.) Her work has won awards from the New York Press Club, the Deadline Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. Previously, she was the health editor at Boston magazine.

Jamie Ducharme’s first book, Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul, was published by Henry Holt on May 25, 2021. It’s a deep-dive into the e-cigarette company Juul Labs and an exploration of the complicated search for an alternative to cigarettes.

Direct download: Jamie_Ducharme_to_upload_-_61821_2.43_PM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 5:52pm EDT

Ryan and his dad are one of only two father/son NFL players to both win Superbowl rings.  Today Ryan a venture capitalist at the firm he founded,  Next Play Capital.  His many co-investments include Hippo, ByteDance (TikTok), Flexport, Hims, Impossible Foods, Peloton, (IPO), and Rubrik among others.

We’ve covered a lot of paths to becoming a VC on Something Ventured, but none has run through the NFL!

In this episode we discuss the football roots of the name “Next Play”, and why there were historically so few Black people in venture capital, among many other topics.  We finish with an amazing thought from Ryan on how someone might be supportive of diversity in Silicon Valley – one of the most thoughtful and poignant I’ve heard.

Next Play Capital

Something Ventured

Direct download: Ryan_Nece_fixed2_Edited_to_Upload_-_6421_8.23_AM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 4:05pm EDT

Ali Tamaseb pulls the curtain back on the myths about billion-dollar startups – and he does it with data.  That’s not surprising for a guy who is a partner at DCVC, the multi-billion dollar venture firm focused on deep tech.

Ali is a scientist turned engineer who works on a broad spectrum of areas ranging from computational health/bio to cybersecurity. More specifically, Ali identifies early-stage highly technical and defensible startups in diagnostics tools, neuro-technology, precision medicine, synthetic bio and bio-logic, disruptive healthcare models, financial technologies, alternative data, next-generation computing, cryptography and blockchain.

“Super Founders” analyzes 65 factors to determine what differentiates billion-dollar companies.  Interviewees in the book include:

  • Arie Belldegrun - Co-founder, Allogene, Kite Pharma: Founded Two Billion-Dollar Startups While a University Professor
  • Nat Turner - Co-founder, Flatiron Health: Founded a Billion-Dollar Startup With No Industry Experience
  • Max Mullen - Co-founder, Instacart: Founded a Massively Successful Business in The Second Try
  • Neha Narkhede - Co-founder, Confluent: Built a Billion-Dollar Startup Initially Originated at a Large Tech Company
  • Tony Fadell - Co-founder, Nest – Inventor of the iPod: Built Highly Differentiated Products That Generated Billion Dollar Outcomes
  • Rachel Carlson - Co-founder, Guild Education: Built a Billion-Dollar Startup Outside Traditional Tech Hubs
  • Max Levchin - Co-founder, PayPal and Affirm: Did Both Market Creation and Market Expansion
  • Mario Schlosser - Co-founder, Oscar Health: Founded a Billion-Dollar Startup With Perfect Market Timing
  • Eric Yuan - Founder, Zoom: Founded a Billion-Dollar Startup That Won Against Fierce Competitors
  • Tom Preston-Werner - Co-founder, GitHub: Bootstrapped a 7.5 Billion-Dollar Company For Over Four Years
  • Michelle Zatlyn - Co-founder, Cloudflare: Founded a Billion-Dollar Startup In the Depth of the Financial Recession
  • Elad Gil - Angel Investor: Invested in Over 20 Unicorns Including Coinbase, Stripe, Gusto, Square, Wish
  • Keith Rabois - General Partner, Founders Fund: Invested in YouTube, LinkedIn, Palantir, Yelp, Lyft
  • Alfred Lin - Partner, Sequoia Capital: Invested in iconic companies like Airbnb, Houzz, DoorDash, Zipline
  • Peter Thiel - Co-founder Palantir, PayPal: Invested in Facebook, SpaceX, Stripe, Spotify, Asana, TransferWise


Something Ventured:

Direct download: Ali_Tamaseb_May_2021_to_Upload__-_51821_3.29_PM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 6:35pm EDT

Suneel Gupta is author of the book “Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance”.  Backable tells Suneel’s journey from first-time entrepreneur to being named “The New Face of Innovation” by the New York Stock Exchange. Suneel’s ideas have been adopted by firms like Greylock and Google Ventures, and he served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He has personally backed startups including Impossible Foods, AirBnB, 23&Me, Calm, and SpaceX.

Also -- In 2018, Suneel ran for election to the U.S. House to represent Michigan’s 11th Congressional District. Before running for Congress, Suneel co-founded and served as CEO of RISE, a mobile health company that partnered with Michelle Obama to lower the cost of quality care for thousands of patients. Just two years after launch, One Medical acquired RISE.

If that wasn’t enough: Suneel is also a lawyer and filmmaker. Yup. He started his career in the Clinton White House where he served as a speechwriter, learning from West Wing staffers like Michael McCurry and Rahm Emanuel. A few years later, he was asked to co-author the national platform for the Democratic Party.

Suneel produced the Kahani Movement, an interactive film project about the first generation of Indian-Americans, which debuted at South by Southwest with his brother, Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN). He also worked for the president of Sony Pictures Television when the studio was investing in new creative concepts like Breaking Bad.

And then there’s…happiness. Suneel is the co-founder at Gross National Happiness Center of America in partnership with the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Something Ventured


Direct download: 159_Suneel_Gupta_--to_upload_5521_12.13_PM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 5:06pm EDT

David Bohnett founded GeoCities in the 1990s, well before the internet attained its current ubiquity.  GeoCities became publicly traded on NASDAQ and was acquired by Yahoo! Inc. in 1999. In a 2007 article, the Wall Street Journal described it as a Facebook prototype and noted, “Back then, entries were known as home pages, not profiles. But the basic, expressive elements of today’s Facebook and competitor MySpace … were all right there.”

David found himself wealthy with the ability to do whatever he wanted for the rest of his life.

He became a philanthropist and social activist.

In addition to serving as Chair of the David Bohnett Foundation, he is the Chairman of the Executive Committee on the Board of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Vice Chairman of the Board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and Trustee of the Brookings Institution, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the University of Southern California (USC).

Since 1999, the David Bohnett Foundation has focused on several funding areas: The Fund for Los Angeles, supporting a broad spectrum of arts, educational and civic programs including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, LACMA and CicLAvia; LGBTQ-related causes; graduate school leadership programs at the University of Michigan, UCLA, NYU and Harvard; voting rights and registration initiatives; supporting research and public policies to reduce the toll of firearm violence; and animal research and rights.

Grants totaling over $115 million to date have supported the work of a wide range of organizations including the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, The Wildlife Alliance, the ACLU Foundation, Equality California, and the David Bohnett Gay & Lesbian Leadership Fellows program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The David Bohnett CyberCenters are another major undertaking — currently at over 60 LGBTQ centers nationwide, they offer business, educational, research, and recreational opportunities to the local gay and lesbian community via access to the Internet.


David Bohnett Foundation.


Something Ventured 

Direct download: David_Bohnett_To_Upload_-_41321_2.13_PM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 5:24pm EDT

Kara Nortman is a Managing Partner of venture firm Upfront. Upfront famously hosts the “Upfront Summit” – a hard-to-describe, but massive confab of celebrities, entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders held in Los Angeles.

Kara is a founding member of All Raise – you’ve heard about All Raise a number of times on Something Ventured. She’s also an owner – along with Natalie Portman and Serena Williams – of LA’s women’s soccer team Angel City Football Club (“Angel City FC”).
As co-Managing partner of Upfront, she is one of the first women promoted to a leadership role at a major venture capital firm.


On Being Asked to Join Natalie Portman and Serena Williams as Co-owner of Angel City FC Soccer Team

“It is probably the craziest story of my life and one that I have a great amount of gratitude for. I think it's made me realize that butterfly effects do happen. But you can't force them. When you get the pocket of energy in from a butterfly flapping, you have to follow it. And that’s what happened with the soccer team.”

On Choosing People You Want to Work with for the Long Term

“You should pick people you want to look at in your cap table and you want to see show up on your cell phone late at night and you enjoy spending time with and whose bar mitzvahs and weddings you might want to go to.”

On Being a Great Board Member

“One of my venture capital mentors said to me at one point in time, ‘You have three daughters. You are going to learn more from raising your daughters around how to be a good board member than you are going to learn from any board.’ And I think about that a lot. It's role modeling, right? Treating people the way you want to be treated.”



Something Ventured: 

Direct download: Kara_Nortman_Edited_to_Upload_-_31621_10.57_AM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 2:25pm EDT

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.

Working Backwards

Something Ventured

Direct download: Working_Backwards_Edited_-_21921_10.00_AM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 4:10pm EDT

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:

Something Ventured:

Direct download: Amy_Nauiokas_t--_To_Upload_-_12921_3.09_PM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 6:42pm EDT

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!

Episode Quotes

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:


Direct download: Vern_Howard_2__Edited_To_Upload.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 2:36pm EDT