Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: September 2020

146 Trae Vassallo: Defying Gravity in Silicon Valley

Trae Vassallo of Deefy
Photo by Chris Michel

Trae Vassallo is co-founder and partner at Defy, a venture capital firm she built with Neil Sequeira.  She was previously a general partner at Kleiner Perkins. 

Trae made her way to Silicon Valley from…rural Minnesota.  As a girl, Trae fell in love with coding – on an Apple II.  She went, sight unseen, to Stanford University, where she studied mechanical and electrical engineering.  After a stint at design firm IDEO, she co-founded and led product at Good Technologies.

In this episode we discuss Trae’s path to Kleiner Perkins, and her experiences being one of relatively few female venture capital partners in Silicon Valley. She contrasts the treatment of women in Silicon Valley before, and after, Ellen Pao’s lawsuit (Check out Episode 101).  We discuss why she struck out on her own rather than staying at Kleiner, and how she and her partner came together to form Defy.

Finally, Trae discusses a health scare that led to her discovery of integrative medicine and lifelong quest for healthy living. 

EPISODE QUOTES

On Her Early Experience with Computers

“It was like third or fourth grade where I have vivid recollections of seeing Oregon Trail (a video game), playing that game, and then learning how to build simple graphics programs. And that really was a spark for me:  That, you can logically build a sequence of steps and then have it go execute. And that kind of problem solving to me was incredibly exciting. And so that was the spark that made me realize I’m a problem solver, I’m a creative.” 

On Palm Pilot and Women Leaders

“I was fortunate to get on the engineering team that worked on the Palm V. And through that, I got to work with Donna Dubinsky (Palm’s CEO) and Jeff Hawkins (Palm’s Founder). And this was when they were justgetting started and they had this runaway kind of success. That was my first exposure to a startup into what it meant to be an entrepreneur and frankly, a female CEO, a woman CEO who is just amazing at her job. And so I thought, OK, I love this engineering thing, but I want to do what she’s doing.”

On Integrative Medicine
“When I left Kleiner, one of my top goals was” I’m going to get my health back.  I want to feel better than ever. I started reading up and looking at less conventional options, because I literally had been to Mayo and Cedars and Stanford and UCSF and nothing. Nothing, nothing. And I finally found this whole world of integrative medicine, which I’m now a huge fan of. The thesis behind it is really about root cause analysis instead of giving you a drug to alleviate the symptom of that issue.  Rather, we’re going to figure out why you have that issue to begin with and get to the root cause and solve that problem so we don’t have to cover up your symptom.”

Listen on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Defy:  https://defy.vc

Trae Vassallo on Twitter: @trae

Comments closed

145 William Davidow: “Civilization is Facing Its Third Phase Change”

Bill Davidow of Mohr Davidow

Listen on Spotify, iTunes or wherever you find podcasts.

William Davidow is a Silicon Valley pioneer, former Intel VP, and renowned venture capitalist.  He is author of the new book, with tech journalist Michael Malone, THE AUTONOMOUS REVOLUTION: Reclaiming the Future We’ve Sold to Machines (Berrett-Koehler).  It’s a provocative look at how to safeguard humanity from our autonomous future and how to harness its benefits.

Some ideas discussed

  • To adapt society to our new era and transform our relationship with intelligent machines the authors propose in the new book:
  • Creating tiered personal information “safety deposit boxes” over which users would have complete control to protect internet privacy;
  • Imposing a tax on sending emails, time spent on social networks, and gaming;
  • Programs that automatically block phone use while we’re driving;
    Regulation that puts limits on Artificial Intelligence;
    Proactive investment in the infrastructure of the future to offset inevitable job loss.

Davidow, having worked in the high tech sector even before there was a Silicon Valley, and Malone provoke a much-needed discussion about how we can navigate the autonomous revolution.

EPISODE QUOTES

On the Evolution of Technology Innovation

“When I was at Intel, we used to get up and feel like we were putting on our Superman shirts and going out and changing the world. And what we were doing was automating existing processes: In other words, we made a stoplight run better or we made a typewriter into a word processor.

But if you looked at it, there was still a factory or there was still a stoplight. We didn’t change the structure of things. And what is different today is that our technologies are changing the social and economic structure of things.”

The Problem of Virtual Worlds like Facebook

“We have real problem that people are choosing to live in a virtual world. It turns out that you evolved in a physical world, YOU controlled the physical world. A tree was not created to be firewood. You managed the world and made the tree firewood.   The physical world had no purpose and you were running the physical world. But when you go to a virtual world, a virtual world DOES have a purpose. And the purpose of the virtual world is to control your behavior. you you’re down to two senses, both of which are impaired. “

On the Accelerating Pace of Job Destruction

We keep finding new work for people to do, so we keep creating opportunities, I think today the challenge is that we may not be able to create the opportunities fast enough. I mean, these technologies have such broad impact. Netflix put Blockbuster Video out of business, when Blockbuster Video had nine thousand stores and 60,000 employees. And Netflix, I think, had one thousand employees. And those are the kinds of things will continue to happen. It’s going to turn everything upside down. I believe in a free market, but free markets have their flaws. They do not allocate wealth based on social contribution, they allocate wealth based on your ability to make money. In the future we may be living in a society where we’re going to have to find ways to compensate people based on their social contribution as opposed to whether they’re just a great high speed trader. “

https://www.davidow.com

Comments closed

144 Rob Chesnut: Airbnb’s Former Chief Ethics Officer on Intentional Integrity

Rob Chestnut

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

Rob Chesnut is an advisor to Airbnb, where he was previously Chief Ethics Officer and general counsel.  His recently released book is Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead An Ethical Revolution.

Rob started his career as a federal prosecutor, but decided he could do more good in the world by working for companies like eBay and Chegg.

Eventually joining Airbnb, he helped Brian Chesky navigate issues such as racial discrimination by Airbnb hosts.  He also helped Airbnb create a culture of “Intentional Integrity”.

In this episode we discuss Rob’s journey to and through Silicon Valley, and his experience creating ethical cultures those companies.  We also discuss what happened to Airbnb when the COVID crisis hit.

Rob Chesnut Episode Excerpts

On leaving the role of federal prosecutor to work for tech companies:

“After a while, it’s a real negative. It has a negative aspect to it.  You’re putting young people in jail for long periods of time, and you feel like you’re not contributing in a positive, proactive way to society.”

On the Future of Travel

“I don’t think that the pandemic is going to push people to stay in their homes forever. I think that people are going to travel. But what I think we’re going to see is that there’s a maybe a different type of travel. One thing that there’s a trend, I think, that may come out of the pandemic, which is really going to help Airbnb and that is ‘work anywhere’. So if you can work and do your job from literally anywhere that has Internet access, that suddenly frees you to go places and do things 52 weeks a year that you might otherwise have only been able to do three weeks a year.”

On Intentional Integrity

“I think that integrity is a word that people are often uncomfortable talking about because it gets to people’s morals, their purpose, maybe even their religion. And so leaders are uncomfortable talking about it and what they do is outsource it to lawyers and it becomes compliance. There’s a difference, though, between compliance and integrity. So the point of the title is we have to get over the discomfort, we have to have the conversation. And if we want integrity to be part of our company, we can’t just assume that it’s going to happen, that we’re just going to hire good people and that it’s going to happen. We have to make an intentional effort to weave it into our culture. And so the point of that title, is a call for getting through that discomfort and taking affirmative steps to make it part of what you do in business.”

Intentional Integrity

Rob Chesnut

Comments closed