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Founder Real Talk

Author: GGV Capital

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From GGV, this is Founder Real Talk, where we get real about the challenges that founders and startup executives face, and how they've grown from tough experiences. Check out founderrealtalk.ggvc.com for more information on the podcast and how to reach us with your founder questions. Hosted by Glenn Solomon, Managing Partner at GGV Capital.
32 Episodes
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Michelle Zatlyn is Co-founder and COO of Cloudflare, a leading Internet security, performance, and reliability company that was named to CNBC’s Disruptor 50 List, selected by the Wall Street Journal as the Most Innovative Internet Technology Company for two successive years, and named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum. Before co-founding Cloudflare, Michelle held positions at Google and Toshiba and launched two successful startups. She holds a BS degree, with distinction, from McGill University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was awarded the Dubliner Prize for Entrepreneurship.    In this episode, we learn why Michelle turned down a job at LinkedIn in June 2009 to pursue an idea that started as a school project with Matthew Prince and Lee Holloway at Harvard Business School and ultimately turned into Cloudflare. Among Michelle’s recommendations to founders is to think about cofounders as Venn diagrams in an effort to cover as much surface area as possible. She also encourages founders to go after something you’re “proud" of, not necessarily something you are “passionate” about. Cloudflare has maintained its momentum by creating a culture of shipping projects fast, empowering team members to showcase their work and be human.
As President and CEO of Smartsheet (NYSE: SMAR), Mark Mader leads a company committed to transforming the way organizations plan, track, manage, automate, and report on work at scale. With over 20 years executive leadership experience driving innovation for high-growth Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies, Mark is a recognized leader in the technology community. He has been named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in Technology for the Pacific Northwest, and GeekWire’s CEO of the Year. Under his leadership, Smartsheet was named Washington’s Best Workplace by the Puget Sound Business Journal, and Seattle’s Next Tech Titan by GeekWire.   In this episode, learn how Mark grew Smartsheet from a six-employee startup to a publicly traded company with over 1000 employees serving 82,000 customers. When Smartsheet started in 2006, productivity apps were not ubiquitous like they are today. How did Mark and his team convince investors and customers that Smartsheet was solving for what spreadsheets don’t do well? Why did Smartsheet host their first customer conference just three years ago? What did Mark look for in new board members heading into Smartsheet’s IPO? Get the answers to these questions and more in this episode.
Aghi Marietti is an inventor, technology entrepreneur and angel investor. As the CEO and Co-founder of Kong — the API company on a mission to intelligently broker information across all services — he drives the company’s vision, strategy and long-term growth. Prior to Kong, he was the CEO and Co-founder of Mashape, the largest API marketplace, which was acquired by RapidAPI in 2017. Before that, he founded MemboxX, the first European cloud service for storing documents and sensitive personal data. Augusto holds a B.S. in Economics from the Catholic University of Milan. He is the lead inventor on five U.S. patents and an angel investor in more than 10 startups. In this episode, we learn from Aghi how he and his Co-founder & CTO Marco Palladino decided to move to an open core model. Kong Inc. was born from the first API marketplace, previously known as Mashape. Today, Kong has 75k downloads for its open source API gateway and more than 40k community members. Aghi and Glenn discussed the changing face of the enterprise software market, and how selling developer tools has changed as developers have more control over the software they use, even within larger organizations. Aghi’s advice for founders: “We tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what we can do in the long term.” This episode was recorded live at Heavybit in San Francisco.
Assaf Wand is the Co-founder and CEO of insurtech startup Hippo. Based in Palo Alto, CA, the company is modernizing home insurance through the lens of homeowners – building policies with more comprehensive coverage for today's consumers at up to 25% less than competitors. Prior to Hippo, Wand was founder and CEO of Sabi, which designed and produced elegant everyday products (Sabi was acquired in 2015), a consultant with McKinsey & Company and an investor with Intel Capital. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BA in finance and LLB in Law from the IDC Herzliya in Israel. In this episode, we learn how Assaf and the team at Hippo are modernizing the $100 billion home insurance industry. Now at unicorn status, Hippo is using data to deliver better and cheaper insurance policies to homeowners. Assaf talks about the importance of having a co-founder that counters you on a psychological level and notes why he and his co-founder, Eyal Navon, align in values. More often than not, companies fail due to misalignment between founders. Fun fact: Assaf reads The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand every few years. Listen until the end for the best falafel place in the world.
Erica Brescia is GitHub’s Chief Operating Officer, where she leads the business development, support, and workplace teams. Prior to joining GitHub, she was the COO and co-founder of Bitnami, where she was instrumental in leading the team's business development efforts with all of the leading cloud platform providers. Erica’s leadership in the technology space extends to serving on the board of directors of the Linux Foundation, as well as being an Investment Partner in X Factor Ventures, which empowers female-led businesses to succeed. In this episode, we learn how Erica Brescia went from balancing a Y Combinator interview while caring for her then 2-week-old baby to growing Bitnami’s team with her Co-Founder, Daniel Lopez to about 100 people with little outside capital. Erica explains why taking her current role at Github felt like “coming home,” despite not being a developer. When she’s not helping scale Github’s product roadmap and global expansion, Erica is supporting the next wave of female founders at XFactor Ventures, a seed fund that only invests in female entrepreneurs. Listen to the full episode for Erica’s book recommendations and advice for founders.
Kunal Agarwal co-founded Unravel Data Systems, Inc. in 2013. Prior to that Kunal led sales and implementation at several Fortune 100 companies. Earlier, he also co-founded Yuuze.com, a pioneer in personalized shopping and what-to-wear recommendations. Before that he helped Sun Microsystems evaluate Big Data infrastructure like Sun’s Grid Computing Engine. Kunal holds a Bachelor’s in computer engineering from Valparaiso University and a M.B.A from The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. In this episode, we learn how Kunal and his Co-Founder, Shivnath Babu, convinced top notch talent with cushy jobs to make sacrifices for a common vision at Unravel. He shares how Unravel has kept its cultural values in check while growing from 11 to 100+ employees across multiple continents. We learn why the “shout-out” Slack channel is the 4th most used Slack channel at Unravel and why the Unravel team spent 3 years defining product-market fit. Spoiler Alert: Kunal’s recommended reading is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Listen until the end to get a crash course in race car driving. Highlights: 1:24 your co-founder is Shivnath Babu. He's a tenured professor in computer science at Duke. Is that where you guys met? 1:55 How did you convince a professor at a great university to get off that train and get on the startup. 2:41 Give us the elevator pitch of what unravel does and tell us about kind of the initial vision and how it evolved over time. 3:58 Where did the vision for the company come from? 5:17 how did you convince at such an early stage good people to come onboard? 8:19 When people are sacrificing for a common vision, did that build strength and resiliency into the company? 10:41 Do you think it was the right move to have a consultant and do you suggest to other founders to do something similar as they’re going forward? 13:39 When you're recruiting somebody who's gainfully employed and doing well it's not easy. What are some of the tricks when hiring? 16:03 How hard have you found it to hand over control? How do you manage the process? 19:26 So on that point about culture you've mentioned hungry but humble. Is that the kind of the essence of how you’d describe Unravel’s culture today? 22:17 Have you had some hiccups on culture as a result of growth and how have you tried to deal with those? 24:54 A lot of people talk about emojis on Slack, do you guys use photos too? 25:44 You are not IBM yet and you are serving big companies. How are you managing to do that? 29:24 Internally, how do you align product, sales and engineering to ensure that you’re building the right thing at the right time for what the market needs? 31:46 Lightening question round!
Anne Raimondi is an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience driving growth for B2B and B2C companies - taking them from startups to nationally recognized brands. Currently, she is the Chief Customer Officer for Guru, a leading AI knowledge management platform. Prior to Guru, Raimondi served as the SVP of Operations for Zendesk. Prior to Zendesk, Raimondi served as a product leader and executive for technology innovators - including Survey Monkey, TaskRabbit, Blue Nile and eBay. Anne holds an M.B.A. from Stanford University and currently lives in the Bay Area. In this episode, we learn from Anne why face-to-face engagement with customers and prospects is critical and why we should stay in cross-functional pods for as long as possible. Anne encourages founders to hire inherently curious “evangelists” who are already passionate about your product. Pro tip from Anne: The quickest way to end internal debates about what should or shouldn’t be built is to listen to customers talk about their pain points. Listen to the full episode for more pro tips. This episode was recorded live at the first annual SMB Tech Summit, co-hosted by GGV Capital, NFX and Fenwick & West. Episode Highlights: 01:41 If you’re building a company that’s going after the SMB, your functions need to be tightly aligned within the organization. What are tricks of the trade to make sure that happens? 03:41 So how do you build a management team that can manage cross-functionally, particularly with sales? 05:14 What can go wrong and what can go right when hiring more traditional enterprise folks into a company focused on the SMB space? 07:33 As a Chief Customer Officer now and you’ve seen a lot of great companies this world, what are the hacks to make sure your customers are happy, but that you’re not spending a lot of time and resource making that so? 10:39 What have you seen work well related to renewal rates? 13:25 What have you seen work well is you’re attempting to grow accounts? 15:45 For renewal and for expansion who should own those within a company that’s going after SMB? 17:12 What benefits do you get from segmenting your customers? 19:55 What about Net Promoter Score NPS. Is it a useful tool, how is it used well, and when it goes awry, what problems do you need to avoid? 20:47 Is the move up market deliberate and when do you know you’re ready? If it’s not deliberate, how do you make sure you don’t mess it up? 22:27 [question from the audience] How do you maintain connection and understanding of customers as humans as the companies you’ve been with have grown?
Max Levchin is the Founder & CEO of Affirm a financial services technology company that offers microloans to consumers at the point of sale. Affirm allows shoppers to pay for purchases across multiple months with transparent, fairly priced fees built into every payment. Max is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of Glow, a data-driven fertility company, and was one of the original co-founders of PayPal where he served as CTO until its acquisition by Ebay in 2002. He has served on several boards such as Yahoo!, Yelp, and Evernote. Max is an engineer by training, serial entrepreneur, computer scientist, investor and philanthropist. In this Founder Real Talk / 996 crossover episode, we learn how Max used the guiding principle of HVF (Hard, Valuable, Fun) to found Affirm. Max talks about writing a pivotal note to self to crystalize what he wanted to accomplish and how the financial industry is ripe for disruption. This episode is co-hosted by Glenn Solomon and Hans Tung. [03:14] Why is and how is affirm hard, valuable and fun? [09:06] There's obviously a very well established banking industry that you're kind of going up against in some ways. What about that industry makes it ripe for disruption? [15:08] Can you talk about how do you manage to figure out who to underwrite and avoid fraud. [16:29] So given the business you guys are in, are there any new wrinkles that you've had to deal with? [21:13] How have you been able continue to create a differentiated product and what does it take for you to stay ahead of your competitors? [26:27] Some of the merchants that you work with have told us a sales conversion with you has increased by as high as 30%. How are you able to do that? [28:02] What techniques have you used to maintain such a high NPS score? [29:41] How do you use data as an advantage in your company and when you advise startups, what do you tell them about use of data? [32:42] When you look back in your career, how have you seen yourself grown as a leader? [36:33] Did you come up with the core values before founding the company on your own or was it a team effort? [38:53] How have you approached diversity and inclusion and what have the benefits been for you? [42:33] What made you decide on Pittsburgh and how did you come to the decision to have a second office? [43:54] How do you solve for engineers and product people in different offices? [46:29] What's your schedule like? How do you feel about working smart vs. working hard? [52:42] Lightning round
Rich Waldron is the Co-Founder and CEO of Tray.io, a next gen workflow and integration technology company that allows automation of business processes without IT. Tray puts the power in the hands of non-technical users or “citizen automators” to quickly integrate the myriad cloud solutions that every company runs today to easily build and streamline bespoke workflows. In this episode, we learn how Rich and his two co-founders and lifelong friends, Ali and Dom, built a competitive product and high growth company with customers the likes of Lyft Forbes and New Relic. Rich explains how Tray has leveraged London and SF offices to define and maintain a strong company culture and shares tips for founders who are fundraising. Episode Highlights: 01:43 How did you decide to come together with your co-founders and what problem were you guys trying to solve initially? 03:43 How and why did the vision for the company expand beyond just email? 07:01 In the beginning, did you raise very little capital by design or was a result of a difficult situation? 15:24 How does the team stay in sync across offices in two continents? 18:15 What problems are your customers are having and why do they use Tray? 20:06 Do you feel Tray is part of the “low code, no code” movement”? 22:06 How do you rise above the noise in the market and handle your competition? 24:03 Why do you think Tray has hit on such a tremendous growth curve in the market? 25:24 How has word of mouth enabled Tray to grow rapidly? 26:16 What are you noticing to date as the difference between serving mid-market type customers and larger enterprise? 29:22 As your team grows, how are you trying to maintain the team spirit that you built with your co-founders? 30:56 How did you make the decision to raise early when the market gave you the signal that it was ready to invest? Any tips for others who are working with VCs? 35:40 How do you think about the future and what are you trying to accomplish? 39:33 What’s your recommended reading for other founders? 43:22 What’s your top piece of advice that you've gotten as a startup founder that you you would like to give to others?
Dave McJannet joined HashiCorp as CEO about three years ago when the company was approximately 30 people. Today the company employs more than 400 people, the company’s value has grown more than 20x and customer adoption for both the company’s open source platform and enterprise products have exploded. Prior to joining HashiCorp, Dave ran marketing at GitHub and HortonWorks, and earlier in his career spent time at VMware, Microsoft and webMethods. In this episode, we dig into HashiCorp’s growth and how it balances open source communities and enterprise revenue models, Dave’s journey to becoming the CEO and his relationship with HashiCorp co-founders Mitchell Hashimoto and Armon Dadgar, and the secret to selling software to large enterprises. Episode Highlights: 02:36: What’s it like to join a startup as a CEO when you’re not the founder? What are some of the challenges? 05:23: What made you think you were the right CEO for the CEO role at Hashicorp? 06:40: How to do split things up – between yourself and the two co-founders? 08:05: How do you manage disagreements? 08:54: How does your open source business model work? 10:40: Are there key indicators or metrics that you use to monitor the health of the business? 12:05: How do you think about time and resource allocation between the open source and commercial sides of the business? 13:11: How much time are the founders spending with open source communities vs. commercial customers? 14:15: How do you prioritize what's going to be part of the open source roadmap and what you're going to keep for commercial? 15:50: What do you need to do to be successful in selling to the enterprise as a young company? 17:39: In selling to the enterprise, it is just fake it till you make it? 19:21: How big a deal is support when working with enterprise customers? 20:05: What value do you get from your user conference? Do you recommend annual events for users? 22:08: As you scale from different revenue phases, what have you had to re-tool? What’s on your mind next? 25:07: What's your favorite book that you recommend for founders? 25:33: If you were a investor or board member in a Series A or B company what's the one piece of advice you'd give to the founder? 26:12 What's a company that you admire and why?
Kevin Hartz is one of the few leaders in Silicon Valley who has had an incredible career as a repeat founder, business builder and investor. He co-founded Eventbrite, the born digital ticketing leader, in October 2005 with his wife Julia Hartz and Renaud Visage. Kevin served as Chairman and CEO through late 2016 before turning the CEO reins over to Julia while remaining Chairman. Eventbrite had a very successful IPO in September 2018 valuing the company at well north of $2 billion. Prior to building Eventbrite, Kevin co-founded Xoom, the money remittance business, in 2001, and he served as CEO until 2005. Zoom also had a successful IPO before being acquired in 2015 by PayPal for about a billion dollars. Kevin's been a very successful investor as well. Some of his most successful early stage investments include Airbnb, Pinterest, Trulia, Skybox Imaging and NewFront Insurance which we talk a bit about in this episode. Kevin was also a partner at Founders Fund. In this episode, we mainly talk about Kevin’s journey in creating and building Eventbrite, including the spark behind Eventbrite in creating user experiences, the secret to making successful acquisitions and how to navigate being married to your co-founder. Episode Highlights: 2:36: What was the spark for Eventbrite? 5:11: How is Eventbrite used to create live experiences? 6:12: What are the benefits of a platform? 7:49: Are there things you did early on so that the platform could thrive? 8:34: Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently or re-prioritized that would have allowed you to move quicker? 10:11 What do you look for in a great hire? Anything to avoid? 12:46. Eventbrite is well known for its organic user adoption. Is that something that you planned? How can other companies learn from your success? 14:35: How do you get the right fit? 16:19: How do you keep a leg up on the competition? 17:43: Has starting a company with your spouse given you added perspective about how to evaluate teams and how they interact with each other? 20:27 How much time do you spend on what competition is doing? Should founders get hyper focused on entrenched competition? 32:49 What are some of the rules of the road for making acquisitions? 24.52: What other benefits have you had as a business builder from being an investor? 26:13: Tell us about New Front Insurance, a new company that you’ve just invested in 28:03: What is your favorite book to recommend to entrepreneurs 29:13: What's something that you believe that isn't conventional at most others don't believe 30:15: What's one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you were just getting started as a founder.
Tom has worn many hats in his time at BitSight, including EVP of Sales and Marketing, COO and CEO. In this episode, he walks us through how to navigate relationships with founders as an incoming CEO, how to use content marketing in an enterprise market, and how to think about go-to-market strategy for a global business. Tom Turner is CEO and President of BitSight. Tom has extensive security industry experience, and has helped build category-defining companies. Prior to joining BitSight, Tom was a founding member of the executive management team of IBM Security Systems, a new division within IBM Software group that was created on the heels of the Q1 Labs acquisition. Formerly, he was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Channels at Q1 Labs. Before joining Q1 Labs, he served as Director of Marketing for endpoint security at Cisco Systems. Tom also served as VP of Marketing at Okena, Inc., where he helped pioneer the intrusion prevention market and led the company to its successful acquisition by Cisco.   1:36 Tell us about your company 2:17 How did you become the CEO at BitSight? 4:34 What is it like to be a CEO of a business where the founders are very engaged with the company? 5:52 How do you manage instances where you disagree with the founders? 7:06 Tell us a bit more about your choice to take on the VP of Sales role during a transition in leadership 9:32 What is it like to find enterprise sales talent in the Boston market? 12:00 What is it like to be in a business where you have to create a new market? 13:41 How do you find the ideal profile of a customer for your product? 14:57 How should a founder or CEO think about marketing spend for a new enterprise product? 16:30 Tell us about your decision to host a customer conference and how do you measure its success? 18:55 In thinking about your go-to-market strategy, how did you decide between selling to large companies versus mid-market customers? 22:31 How are the support models different for the two types of customers? 23:49 What are the challenges in being a globally distributed company? 27:01 What did you learn about fundraising for a rapidly scaling company? 30:06 What is your favorite book or piece of content that would be useful to our listeners? 31:11 Who is a founder or business executive that you respect and why? 32:05 What’s something you believe that other’s generally don’t?
This week we are joined by Caryn Marooney for a salon episode that focuses on PR and communications. Caryn shares tips on how to build a brand, when to take PR in house, and how to handle a publicity crisis. Caryn leads global communications for Facebook and its family of apps including Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and Oculus. Prior to joining Facebook in 2011, Caryn co-founded OutCast Communications, one of Silicon Valley's premier technology communications firms. As co-founder, partner and CEO, Caryn was responsible for planning and executing communications strategies for companies of every size, including Amazon, Netflix, Salesforce and VMware. Caryn was named to the board of directors of Zendesk in 2014. She is originally from New York City and holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. Highlights from the episode: 2:29 What was the biggest challenge that you saw startups facing with respect to communications? What types of pain points did you see them encounter most frequently? 3:22 What should startups focus on first when it comes to letting the outside world know they exist? 5:00 What process do you recommend founders go through to define brand and communicate company values? 7:10 How prescriptive should a founder be about their brand versus letting it evolve?  9:03 Can a brand get away with different brand personalities or does it need to consolidate around one identity? 9:53 How do you get attention from the press? How do outside PR firms help with that? 12:26 How do you vet if a PR firm is good and how do you get the most value out of working with one? 16:07 If you don’t have a significant “mic-drop” moment to launch a product, should you avoid PR altogether? 17:01 At what point should they bring a PR function in-house? 18:58 How do you ensure you get enough attention from your agency? 24:44 Tell us about the REBS model and give a example of messages or communications that fit the model well 24:37 Does a company’s communications strategy change as it grows? 26:56 In times of crisis, how do you handle PR? 29:02 Should founders seek marketing and communications executives for their boards? 30:59 What is your favorite tagline or slogan from a tech company? 31:35 What’s a book you’d recommend to founders in your area of expertise? 32:08 What’s something that you believe that most others don’t?
Pandora Founder and former-CEO, Tim Westergren, joins Founder Real Talk to reminisce on how his experiences playing in a band prepared him for running a company. From the first moment of product-market fit, to the right partnership that doubled growth rates, Tim shares the ups and downs of his 18-year journey with the company.  Tim started the popular personalized radio service in 2000 with the Music Genome Project. In addition to Pandora, he is an award-winning composer and accomplished musician with 20 years of experience in the music industry – spanning production, audio engineering, film scoring and live performance. Presently, he works extensively with technology partners, distribution partners, advertisers and investors to help shape the future of Pandora and personalized radio. Highlights from the episode: 1:57 How did being in a band prepare you for starting and running a company? 3:02 How did you motivate the team in a challenging fundraising environment? 5:40 How did you find conviction in the product before it was proven in the market? 8:39 How did you switch business models? 11:44 How did you deal with skeptics and disbelievers inside the company? 14:13 How did you deal with the regulatory challenges of creating a new technology? 17:28 How did you leverage the power of a grassroots community to grow the business? 19:20 What led you to the decision of bringing on an outside CEO? What characteristics do you look for? 21:46 How did you make the decision to support a new platform as a method of growth? 24:25 How did you manage the internal morale after a high fluctuation IPO? 26:21 How did you think about competition and what would you have done differently? 28:36 What is your favorite book or piece of content that you recommend to founders? 30:32 What’s one thing you believe that most others don’t? 30:51 What’s your favorite channel or favorite song to seed a channel on Pandora?
Serial entrepreneur and Color founder Elad Gil joins Founder Real Talk to share insights and his experiences in starting and building high growth start-ups. We talk about how a founder’s role changes over time, how to build a team that scales, and what conditions need to be in place for “high growth” to happen. His recent book “High Growth Handbook” is a must-read for any startup founder starting to scale up or hoping to get to that point one day. The book is also highly relevant for executives at high growth startups. Elad Gil is an entrepreneur, operating executive, and investor or advisor to private companies such as Airbnb, Coinbase, Checkr, Gusto, Instacart, OpenDoor, Pinterest, Square, Stripe, Wish, and others. He co-founded and is the Chairman of Color Genomics, and was its CEO until December 2016. Before that, he was the VP of Corporate Strategy at Twitter, where he also ran various product (Geo, Search) and other operational teams (M&A and corporate development). Elad joined Twitter via the acquisition of Mixer Labs, a company where he was co-founder and CEO. Mixer Labs ran GeoAPI, one of the early developer-centric platform infrastructure products. Elad spent many years at Google, where he started the mobile team and was involved in all aspects of getting that team up and running. He was involved with three acquisitions (including the Android team) and was the original Product Manager for Google Mobile Maps and other key mobile products. Elad received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has degrees in Mathematics and Biology from the University of California, San Diego. Highlights from the episode: 3:18 What is your definition of “high growth” and what does it look like when a company is in that stage? 5:32 What conditions must be met before a company reaches “high growth?” 7:06 What is the role of a founder/CEO in a high growth situation? How do CEO priorities change as the company scales? 9:03 How should a founder/CEO of a high growth company define “winning?” 10:36 What types of skills does a leader need to develop as the company scales? 12:14 Any tips for time management? 14:20 Is it important to have a chief of staff? What should someone look for in that role? 17:31 Do you think CEO coaches are helpful? Do you think mentors are helpful? 18:28 How do you know when to add a specific executive? Which executives should be priority hires? 19:19 What is the best way to ensure you’re hiring the right person? 22:45 How do you think about the tradeoff between functional expertise and culture fit in hiring for an executive position? 25:03 What is the role of an independent board member? What traits should you be looking for in this role? 27:23 How should a founder think about the process of looking for a CEO? 29:44 When thinking about financings, do you recommend founders accept capital before they reach defined milestones? What are the pros and cons? 32:11 What’s a favorite book or blog you recommend for founders? 32:44 Name a growth stage company you admire and why? 33:42 What piece of advice were you given as an entrepreneur that served you well?
Will gives an inside look at Stripe, one of the most valuable venture-backed startups in the U.S. In this episode, he talks about Stripe’s developer-first ethos, how the company is expanding into international markets, and how to run a great board meeting. Will is the CFO at Stripe, where he leads Stripe’s financial operations, including economic strategy, business forecasting, financial planning and analysis, and treasury duties. Prior to Stripe, Will was a general partner at Thrive Capital, where he worked closely with internet businesses across all stages and geographies, particularly within software and e-commerce. He's also worked as a software developer and company founder.  Will holds degrees in mathematics from Harvard University and law from Yale.   1:10 Tell us about your background and what led you to join Stripe as CFO 4:35 What made Stripe an interesting company to join and where do you think the company is headed? 7:33 What was it like to join a team with two well-known founders? 9:45 How does the API business model drive value for the company? 12:17 How has the team built the business to focus on the developer and make sure the developer feels well served? 14:13 Do you have any stories where something in the developer community didn’t go quite as planned? How do you get ahead of issues so they don’t become bigger issues down the line? 16:12 What are some tactics to drive loyalty with developers? 17:02 How do you balance working with customers of all sizes, ranging from startups to big companies? What challenges does that create? 20:50 How does the company think about capturing the global market? 21:58 What tactics does the company use to spur international growth? 27:27 What are concerns for a CFO of a company that has achieved high valuations? How do you manage investor expectations? 30:50 What book do you recommend to founders and executives of high growth companies? 32:19 What makes for a really great board meeting? 34:30 Who is a mentor that has helped you in your career and how might others think about how they can recruit a mentor?
Michelle created a movement to empower women from the first piece of clothing they put on in the morning. She shares the secrets of how she built a culture-driven business that has inspired more than 40,000 brand ambassadors, the role of customer feedback in her product strategy, and how she took a direct-to-consumer brand to multiple offline retail locations. Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Founder & CEO of LIVELY, has spent her career creating brands and product for some of the world's largest retailers including Federated, VF Corporation, Limited Brands/ Victoria's Secret and Thrillist Media Group. Grant realized that her passion was in supporting, creating and developing amazing brands and products and instantly fell in love with the entire process from concept to customer. While working with Victoria's Secret, she learned that the $13B lingerie category, in the US alone, was dominated by a single brand, with a single point of view, so Grant was inspired to create a completely new experience for the category — one she calls Leisurée — and LIVELY was born.   2:45 What prompted you to start the company and this movement 4:42 What are your company’s values and how did it affect how you built the company? 6:25 How did you grow the brand-ambassador community to 40,000 strong? 8:31 How does the brand leverage Instagram? 9:13 Talk about your company's social media strategy. What kind of metrics do you think about, how do you staff your team to optimize for social media? 10:27 Beyond Instagram, what other social platforms are relevant as a direct-to-consumer brand? 11:25 How do you think about competition? 12:09 What’s an example of your company implementing a customer-driven strategy? 13:48 What are the challenges of being both a digital brand and selling a physical good? 15:09 What’s an example of a time where you tried something and it didn’t go as planned? 16:23 As a digital-first, direct-to-consumer brand, why go offline? What are the benefits and what is the long-term strategy? 17:41 What are some learnings from opening your own shop compared to launching within a known retailer? 19:48 On your most recent trip to China, what made it an eye-opening experience? How did it change your perspective or influence your strategy? 23:28 Tell us more about the choice to expand into other categories. Why did you make this choice and how did it go? 25:23 How have you built your team? 30:19 What is a book or piece of content you’d recommend to entrepreneurs and founders? 30:52 Who are some mentors that helped you along the way? 31:28 Tell us about an entrepreneur you really admire and why? 31:51 If LIVELY was a person, what would you tell her?
Mitchell turned his hobby into a business that now serves 100 of the Fortune 500 companies. In this episode, he talks about how he grew the HashiCorp open source community, monetized an open-source product, and decided to bring on a CEO. Mitchell Hashimoto is best known as the creator of Vagrant, Packer, Terraform and Consul. Mitchell is the co-founder of HashiCorp, a company that builds powerful and elegant DevOps tools. He is also an O’Reilly author. He is one of the top GitHub users by followers, activity, and contributions. “Automation obsessed,” Mitchell solves problems with as much computer automation as possible. Highlights from the episode: 3:31 How did you get to where you are now? 5:30 How did you know when your hobby should be a company? 6:55 How did you find your co-founder? Why did you think a co-founder made sense? What are the positives and negatives of being best friends with your co-founder? 9:07 When you left your job, what was your vision for the company and how has it changed to your vision today? 10:05 How did you nurture and grow the HashiCorp API community? 12:08 How did you transition from an open source project to a commercialized one? How does it change your job as a founder? 14:06 Within your open source customer base, how do you identify which customers to monetize? 17:08 How did you and your co-founder decide to bring on a CEO? 21:01 How do you run a distributed business? What are some of the challenges and how have you dealt with that? What are some tools you use to overcome the lack of proximity for people? 24:21 Tell us about your user conference. Why did you decide to do an annual conference so early in the life of the company and what benefits have you seen from doing it? 26:08 As your company has scaled from 5 to 300 people, how has it changed your relationship with your customers and what burden do you feel? 28:15 What is your product philosophy and how do you share that with the product and engineering teams? 30:35 Favorite book, blog, or piece of content? 31:04 What do you believe that not many others believe? 31:39 What is your hobby? How do you recharge?
Jen shares her experience working with start-ups as a talent and search specialist and answers all your most pressing questions. This episode is the first of many salon episodes where we feature an expert from the field who has worked extensively with founders, from early to growth stage. Jen Holmstrom joined GGV Capital in 2016 and leads the firm’s talent and recruiting efforts. To support founders as their companies scale, she created Founders+Leaders, a leadership development platform that provides training, mentorship, network and more. Prior to joining GGV, Jen was a Talent Partner at Highland Capital Partners and a leader on the executive search team at Facebook. Jen’s career has been focused on team building in fast growing companies. Before Facebook, Jen was a Director at San Francisco-based Riviera Partners, an executive search firm focused on recruiting engineering and product leadership for fast growing venture-backed technology companies, and also worked with SPMB, a technology focused talent search firm. Jen received an MBA from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and BS from Boston College. Highlights from the episode: 3:13 What’s the biggest pain-point you hear from founders?  4:28 What are some things that people should be looking for in cofounders or first couple of employees if they want to scale?  5:14 How important is it to define culture early on? Does it help with hiring later on?  6:24 What happens after I’ve exhausted all the people in my network? What do I do about hiring?  7:07 When is the right time to bring a recruiting function in-house?  8:46 Have you seen any companies doing unique things on candidate experience that help them standout from the crowd?  10:33 What are some best-in-class practices for recruiting?  13:37 What is a head of people and why is it becoming a prominent role in startup land? What makes someone good at that job?  17:59 How do you think about employee engagement? How do you hold people accountable in an organization but also ensure that they have high satisfaction? What types of tools help with this?  19:51 How do distributed teams work? How do you maintain culture in a distributed team? What tools do you recommend for helping distributed teams?  24:11 How does a start-up compete against large companies like Facebook and Google when you can’t pay as much as the competition?  27:05 How do you have hard conversations? What are tricks to help make these conversations go better as opposed to being terrible?  29:08 How do you become a more successful manager? What are some tips to managing teams?  30:20 What book or article do you recommend?  30:56 What’s your favorite interview question? 
Jay started his career at the NSA and brought his love of uncovering cyber vulnerabilities to the private sector through Synack. In this interview, Jay gives his perspective on how to find product-market fit in cyber security, how early customers shape the product, and how to balance the sales and leadership responsibilities of being a CEO. Jay Kaplan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Synack, the hacker-powered security platform for the enterprise. Prior to founding Synack, Jay served in a number of cyber-related positions at the Department of Defense and NSA, as a member of the DoD’s Incident Response and Red Team and as a Senior Computer Network Exploitation and Vulnerability Analyst at the National Security Agency. He received multiple accolades for classified work conducted while at the NSA, where his focus was supporting counterterrorism-related intelligence operations. Jay was a former member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th President. He received a BS in Computer Science with a focus on Information Assurance and a MS in Engineering Management from George Washington University while studying under a DoD/NSA-sponsored fellowship. Highlights from the episode: 4:02 How do you go from the NSA to building a hacking company? 6:21 How did you find your cofounder? 9:33 How did you find product-market fit? 11:03 How did you launch your go-to-market strategy and break into a new geography? 13:01 Why did you choose to launch your business in SF? 13:45 How did you win your first customers? 16:33 How did early customers change what you are building? Did you change certain things you weren’t expecting to in those early days? 17:46 How have you thought about building your team and what’s important when you’re hiring somebody new? What’s worked well for you and what are some pitfalls to avoid? 20:27 How do you balance the job of selling the product with the other responsibilities of being a CEO? 22:05 When building your team, how did you decide it was the right time to bring on execs? 24:07 How did you generate demand around a new product? 26:35 What’s the worst moment you’ve had in a meeting? 27:55 Tell us about your hiring philosophy 29:18 What’s the best thing you’ve done to maintain the spirit and culture of your company? 30:59 What is the best book that you’ve read recently?
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Austin Peek

If you're looking for other real talk with Founders... Here's another sweet podcast for ya 😚: Entrepreneur Stories 4️⃣ Inspiration 👌...

Dec 5th
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