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Max Chafkin on Peter Thiel: “The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power”

Max Chafkin
Author, “The Contrarian”

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Max Chafkin is the author of “The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power”.  Max is a technology reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.  “The Contrarian” isn’t just about Thiel.  It’s about that, too, of course — from PayPal to his Facebook investment to his failed hedge fund, etc.  But it’s also about “Silicon Valley’s political coming-of-age”, as the New York Times describes it.

We discuss how Peter Thiel came to wealth, the many controversies surrounding him.  We also discuss the calculations that led him to back Donald Trump’s presidency, and ultimately take a role in Trump’s transition campaign.

Max Chafkin on Twitter

The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power

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Howard Morgan: From Renaissance Technologies to First Round Capital, and Beyond

Howard Morgan
B Capital Group Chairman

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Howard Morgan is one of those few – very few – people who have built multiple game-changing firms.  He is co-founder of Renaissance Technologies (sometimes known as “RenTec”).  While a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he divined the opportunity to apply emerging computer technologies to investing.

The resulting firm – Renaissance Technologies — is one of the most famous, and successful, hedge funds.  It pioneered systematic trading using quantitative models derived from mathematical models.  It famously hires people who are incredibly smart – but don’t have previous investing experience.

While some might consider that enough of a career for one lifetime – Howard went on to co-found First Round Capital with Josh Koppelman.  First Round is one of the most respected seed venture capital firms, with investments in firms like Notion, Roblox, Uber, and Square.

At last Howard is ready to retire….wait no.  No, Howard is now the chairman of B Capital Group, the global investment firm founded by Eduardo Saverin.

In this episode we discuss how this remarkable journey unfolded, and what he sees for the future.

B Capital Group https://www.bcapgroup.com/

Renaissance Technologies https://www.rentec.com

First Round Capital https://firstround.com/

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Jenny Lefcourt: Freestyle Capital Partner’s Path from Entrepreneur to VC

Jenny Lefcourt of Freestyle Capital. from Barron’s “100 Women Shaping the World of Finance”

Jenny Lefcourt is a partner at Freestyle Capital, a seed stage venture firm overseeing $450 million in seed investments. Jenny dropped out of her Stanford MBA program – before that was cool — to co-found online wedding registry startup WeddingChannel.com (with classmate, Jessica Herrin)

After The Knot acquired WeddingChannel.com, Jenny started another company – Bella Pictures – also subsequently acquired.  Today she is a partner at Freestyle Capital, and was recently named one of Barron’s “100 Women Shaping the World of U.S. Finance”.

In this conversation we discuss her path through these entrepreneurial experiences to becoming a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and co-founder of All Raise. She shares what it’s like to join and then become partner of a venture firm that already has a couple high-profile partners; why she thinks entrepreneurs make great VCs, and the role of All Raise in Silicon Valley.

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Freestyle Capital

Something Ventured Podcast

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Joe Hudson: The Coach Behind Silicon Valley’s Unicorn CEOs

Joe Hudson

I talk to a lot of founders and CEOs in Silicon Valley.  They started telling me “you know, I couldn’t have done it without…” When I heard that multiple times, I just had to meet the guy they were talking about – Joe Hudson.

Turns out, Joe Hudson is a sought after executive coach and creator of The Art of Accomplishment, an online learning platform for personal development.  And get this – he quit his job as a venture capitalist to become a coach.

Yep — as a venture capitalist Joe found that the most rewarding aspect, and the part he was most successful at, was the mentorship and coaching of the leadership of his portfolio companies. This insight moved him to his present role as a coach, business consultant and teacher.  He now coaches 12 CEOs and leaders in prominent companies and runs transformative programs for both individuals and businesses. He is says he is practicing a craft that makes big, lasting, and overwhelmingly positive impacts on the lives of people in his programs and in the companies he works with.

In this episode we discuss his journey, why he only coaches 12 people a year – and how you can participate (since you’re not one of those 12 people!) (Hint:  Go to https://artofaccomplishment.com/connection/ and use code “VENTURED”)

The Art of Accomplishment. https://artofaccomplishment.com/

Something Ventured Podcast https://artofaccomplishment.com/

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Eliot Brown on the Crazy Life and Wild Times of WeWork Founder Adam Neumann

Eliot Brown, along with Maureen Farrell, is 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.

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Brad Feld: “Friedrich Nietzsche is the Patron Philosopher of Today’s Entrepreneurs”

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”.

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https://feld.com/

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Auren Hoffman — Silicon Valley’s Hyper-connected Founder, CEO and Investor Shares his Wisdom

Auren Hoffman
CEO
Safegraph

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.

Safegraph’s podcast: “World of DaaS” | Safegraph | Auren on Twitter

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Nicole Taylor: Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s CEO On Giving in Silicon Valley; Responding to Black Lives Matter

Nicole Taylor
CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

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.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation:

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163 Avi Loeb — Extraterrestrials in our Solar System: What Happened in October of 2017?

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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:  https://astronomy.fas.harvard.edu/people/avi-loeb

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162 Jamie Ducharme on her book “Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul”

Jamie Ducharme
Staff Writer, TIME

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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.

Jamie Ducharme

Something Ventured

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