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Month: August 2020

143 Deena Shakir of Lux Capital on her Amazing Journey; The Post-COVID Future

Deena Shakir
Lux Capital

Deena Shakir is a partner at Lux Capital, a venture capital firm that manages more than $2 billion.  She is particularly interested in entrepreneurs building breakthrough companies enabling human and environmental health, access, and productivity.

While her immediate background before joining Lux sounds familiar – she was a partner at GV (previously “Google Ventures”) – her path before that is a bit more unusual.  As a journalist, Deena once hosted the pilot episode of a bilingual Arabic-English TV news series modeled after 60 Minutes.  

Deena was also a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Department of State under Secretary Clinton, where she helped launch President Obama’s first Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2010. 

She is the first-generation daughter of immigrants from Iraq and speaks fluent Arabic and French.

In this episode, we discuss a range of topics, from her experiences as an Arab-American to her path from Washington to Silicon Valley.  We also discuss the impact COVID is having on the venture business, and families like hers.  Also covered:  The unique craziness of online parenting groups.


On Education

“Education, is an area I’m passionate about, where I’ve made investments like that in a company called Mos. Mos is using artificial intelligence to make the process of searching for financial aid easier. Clearly, there were already platforms for you to search for scholarships. However, they’ve made that much more sophisticated, and the process is so much easier now. And this was meaningful for me personally because that was a process I went through. I paid for college by myself, patching together all these scholarships. And now that is something that is changing the lives of students on a daily basis.”

On Women in Venture Capital

“ In terms of women in venture, I think we’ve obviously we’ve come a long way, particularly in the last three years. I joined the venture world maybe three months before that moment, if you want to call it that, where everybody realized this was an actual problem.  It was in the summer, I think, of 2017 when a lot of this came to light. I think we still have a very long way to go. Some of the solutions may have potentially created additional problems around tokenism, for example, around cliques around  certain folks or groups taking up all the oxygen in the room, et cetera. But that being said, I’ve seen some really great progress.” 

On Software

“When it comes to software specifically, the democratizing piece of it is what gets me really excited. I get really excited about technology that streamlines analog industries — that allows people to do things more quickly — whether that means grassroots organizing or whether it means accounting.”

On the Impact of the 9/11 Attacks

“Being in high school, a teenager, during 9/11 — being a Muslim and Iraqi American, that was a really pivotal moment for me. It was the first time where I felt like these two parts of my identity that really always felt like they were fluid and just part of who I am — all of a sudden it seems like they weren’t to some people.  That really was troubling for me.” 



Lux Capital                   

Something Ventured 

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142: Wag! CEO Garrett Smallwood on Pets in a Time of COVID-19

Garrett Smallwood

Garrett Smallwood was recently promoted to CEO of Wag Labs, the popular on-demand dog-walking service backed by venture firms from Freestyle Capital to Softbank.

New York Times said about the company “”Most dog owners should consider installing Wag on their phones just to have as a backup option. It is the best-designed and most efficient app for summoning a dog walker with some or no advance notice.”

Garrett previously founded Finrise, a startup that Wag acquired.

In this episode, find out what happened to the market for walking dogs and checking in on pets during COVID-19.  It’s not as obvious as you might think.

We also discuss what happened to Wag’s employees — and how they responded  — when COVID forced them out of the office.  

Finally, we answer the questions – is there a market for cat walking?

Listen on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts!

Wag’s investors also include:

  • Tuesday Capital 
  • Structure Capital 
  • Social Leverage 
  • Slow Ventures
  • RRE Ventures
  • Ludlow Ventures
  • Haystack
  • Greylock
  • General Catalyst
  • Sherpa Capital

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141 Domm Holland: The Fast CEO on Guiding a Rocket Ship Through a Pandemic

Domm Hollad
Co-Founder and CEO of has raised over $20 million from firms like Kleiner, Index and Stripe.  It bills itself as the world’s fastest checkout – one click, no passwords.  A fascinating but typical story, such as it is, in Silicon Valley.

But then there’s this: Domm didn’t go to Stanford.  He isn’t even from the US. He’s from Australia, where his first business was…a towing company.  A more than $50 million business.

His co-founder is a woman.  He met her on Twitter.

So in this episode – find out how Domm made his way from Australia to Silicon Valley, and how he used his status as a Twitter power user to build his business.  Also learn what it’s like when your rocket ship startup is hit by a global pandemic.

Listen on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts!


Something Ventured

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140 Brad Feld: Thoughts on Startup Communities in a Post-COVID-19 World

What makes communities of startups thrive, and how have they been impacted by the recession, COVID-19, and the remote work trend?

Brad Feld
Foundry Group

Brad Feld addresses these questions in this episode and in his new book “THE STARTUP COMMUNITY WAY: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” and the second edition of his book “STARTUP COMMUNITIES: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.”

You may know Brad as the legendary investor who co-founded the Foundry Group, and who has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Brad previously co-founded Techstars, and was an early investor in Harmonix, Zynga, MakerBot, and Fitbit. He writes the widely followed Feld Thoughts and Venture Deals. He currently is chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology and on the boards of Path Forward, the Kauffman Fellows, and Defy Ventures. 


On the Chemistry of Silicon Valley

“Today’s Silicon Valley, if it started from scratch, could not create Silicon Valley.”

 On Initial Conditions of Startup Communities

“The punch line of that is that you don’t have a deterministic outcome. When you have a child, raising a child is a complex system. You can’t say that when the child is twenty-four years old, these are the things that child will be doing and will have done and how they will be living. All of the interaction effects over time in the moment affect what happens in the evolution of that child. Same thing with the startup community.”

On Racism in Startups and Venture Firms

“There is no question that empirically the number of non-white, black and brown voices and black and brown founders’ is a very low single digit percentage of the (startup and venture) population. And if you add in women into that mix and say black or brown women, that’s an even smaller percentage of the population. And so then the question is in now, what do you do? Its a complex system so you can’t just say, ‘OK, here are the new rules and this is what’s going to happen’.   Rather you’ve got to have participation of ALL of the different actors that have influence and ability in order to change things.”

On the Effect of COVID-19 on the Importance of Place for Startups

“Startup communities are complex systems that go through phase changes. In February, if you had said to anyone: “In three months, ninety nine percent of office workers around the world will be working from their houses.” That person would have said, you’re crazy, that’ll never happen. It can’t happen. The technology won’t support it. People won’t tolerate it. Not possible. But lo and behold, that’s what happened. And it works OK. We understand that place still has a lot of importance, especially around startup communities. However, the notion of connecting places together and building things that have a virtual component or that have a bigger geographic spread is also important.”

Listen on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get podcasts.

Foundry Group

Feld Thoughts

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