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Author: Kent Lindstrom

156 Is “Working Backwards” the Most Important Business Book Ever? Lessons from Amazon

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

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. 

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

https://workingbackwards.com/

Something Ventured

https://somethingventured.us/

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155 Amy Nauiokas: The CEO of Anthemis Group’s Journey from the Peace Corps to Managing Nearly $1 Billion

Amy Nauiokas
CEO
Anthemis Group

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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.

EPISODE QUOTES

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: https://www.anthemis.com/

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154 Vern Howard: Hallo’s CEO is NOT Your Deliveryman

Vern Howard
CEO and Co-Founder, Hallo

Spotify:
iTunes

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 like 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.”

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 VCs 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”

Visit Hallo here

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153 2020 Thank You-cast Extravaganza!

2020 Something Ventured Celebration

Spotify https://rb.gy/kpndpf
ITunes. https://rb.gy/be2lmb

An episode in which I thank each of the 2020 guests.  A podcast first (probably).  In which I briefly recall – fondly – a bit of each of the 2020 episodes. Is it interesting?  I think so.  Can I do it in one take?  Turns out, yes.  Enjoy, and thank you for listening.





Marco Zappacosta, Thumbtack Founder

Keller Fitzsimmons, “Lost in Startuplandia” Author

Jeff Macpherson, Tiki Bar TV Creator

Brianne Kimmel, worklife Founder

Paul-Henri Ferrand, Brex COO

Matt Hulett, Rosetta Stone CEO

Mike Stutz, Television Producer

Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle Senior Political Writer

Kaiser Kuo, Sinica Podcast Host

Eric Tarczynski, Contrary Capital Founder

Somesh Dash, IVP General Partner

Monique Woodard, Cake Ventures Founder

Michael Ellison, Codepath Founder

Promise Phelon, The Growth Warrior Founder

Scott Simpson, Comedian – Cheaper than Therapy Founder

Parker Conrad, Rippling Founder

Brad Feld, Foundry Group Founder

Domm Holland, Fast Founder

Garrett Smallwood, Wag Labs CEO

Deena Shakir, Lux Capital Partner

Rob Chesnut, AirBnB General Counsel

William Davidow, Mohr Davidow Founder

Trae Vassallo, Defy.vc Founder

Sarah Leary, Nextdoor Co-founder

Jaclyn Hester, Foundry Group Partner

Hooman Radfar, Collective Founder

Jeff John Roberts, “Kings of Crypto” Author

Stacey Bishop, Scale Venture Partners

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152 Stacey Bishop of Scale Venture Partners On Ascending the Venture Ladder and the Rise of “All Raise”

Stacey Bishop
Scale Venture Partners

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

Stacey Bishop is a partner at Scale Venture Partners where she invests in “business applications driving the Intelligent Connected World”. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of companies like Abstract, Airspace, Demandbase, Extole, Lever, and Textio.

Stacey is a founding member of All Raise – an organization frequently mentioned on Something Ventured. She is also an advisor to The University Growth Fund

Stacey got her MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA from The University of Michigan.

In this episode we discuss her path to becoming  a partner at a prominent Silicon Valley firm, and the role All Raise played in accelerating her career.

Notable quotes from this episode:

On the Early Days of “All Raise”

“Before All Raise, women in venture, we just put our heads down, did our job — just focused on trying to get ahead and do the right thing. And I think the most eye-opening thing – when All Raise started, it changed the dynamic. It suddenly brought all the women together. And even though we had all been kind of working side by side, we weren’t really — there were so few of us but there was little getting together.  Now there’s this whole network. And so I think it’s changed the industry.”

On Hedge Funds Moving Into Venture Capital

“Hedge funds have certainly been there later stage. Mostly because private companies are going public much later. So in order for them to get the returns they need, they started coming into the private markets. So they had been showing up at the late stage. But now we’re seeing them much earlier. That’s probably been the biggest change and that’s been over the last several years.”

On Valuation Trends of Tech Companies

“We just had (another) billion dollar exit:  Most people haven’t even heard of the company. But, if you had a five or six billion-dollar exit, everybody would have known about it. Snowflake went public last week…it was under the radar, but Snowflake was the biggest venture exit of all time.”

On The Future of Meetings

“In meetings ‘before’, somebody had to get in the car and drive to go see you and take all that time. So out of respect, you don’t want to not spend the time with them. So you spend a full hour or more.  Even if it’s just an introductory meeting you feel this obligation.  I don’t know how much in-person meetings will drop, but there will be a whole subset of meetings that can be done remotely.”

Stacey on Twitter https://twitter.com/StaceyCurry

Scale Venture Partners on Twitter https://twitter.com/ScaleVP

Scale Venture Partners  https://www.scalevp.com

Something Ventured Podcast       https://somethingventured.us

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151 Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts on “Kings of Crypto” and the Rise of Coinbase

Jeff John Roberts
“Kings of Crypto” Author

Listen on Spotify, iTunes or…anywhere.

In 2013, Fortune’s Jeff Roberts visited “Satoshi Square” in New York.  It was the name of the location where a group of crypto anarchists and Wall Street traders bought and sold Bitcoin in the open air. Since that day, Jeff became fascinated with Bitcoin and new forms of money. That fascination led him to write the book “Kings of Crypto:  One Startup’s Quest to Take Cryptocurrency Out of Silicon Valley and Onto Wall Street”.

Said Fortune Senior Writer Robert Hackett, 

“Kings of Crypto tells the story of a ragtag band of rebels who saw the future of finance before anyone else and who wrenched the revolution into their orbit. Reading this book is like using a stethoscope to open the vault containing the cryptocurrency industry’s origins. Click, click, click—and a wealth of secrets spills out. Learn what made Coinbase, one of the most improbably successful Silicon Valley startups, hit it big—and what makes its founding ‘Vulcan Swiss bankers’ tick. As long as Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity remains secret, this is the closest you’ll come to understanding the rise of crypto—and where it’s all headed.”

In this episode, Jeff John Roberts discusses his fascination with cryptocurrency, the rise of Coinbase, and the potentially world altering-ascendance of Bitcoin.

Jeff John Roberts Website

Twitter  @jeffjohnroberts.

“Kings of Crypto” https://www.amazon.com/Kings-Crypto-Startups-Cryptocurrency-Silicon/dp/1647820189

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150 Hooman Radfar: The Rise of the ‘Business-of-One’

Hooman Radfar
Collective Founder

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iTunes
Spotify

Hooman Radfar is co-founder and CEO of Collective, an online back-office platform designed for freelancers, consultants and other ‘businesses-of-one’. He is also a Venture Partner at Expa, a San Francisco-based start-up venture firm and studio where he was a founding partner (along with Uber Co-Founder Garrett Camp). Previously, he was co-founder and CEO of AddThis.  AddThis was acquired by Oracle in 2016.

Recently, Hooman took the somewhat rare step of leaving a perfectly good venture capital job to start a company. In this episode, he describes why the idea he is pursuing felt so compelling he had to make the move.  He also discusses his path to building and selling a company, as well as his immigrant parent’s path to the US.

On How Startups Emerge from their Initial State

There’s this murky period prior to figuring things out which people tend to write out of history. Where you’re kind of trying to find out what’s now called ‘product market fit’. Instagram went through it with Brbn, Twitter went through it with Odeo. You know, you get a group together, you create a chemistry, you start working on projects, and maybe that project works or it doesn’t work. But it takes that initial leap to get that precipitate and go.”

On the Time People Mocked Websites that Were “Collecting Eyeballs”

‘I think the way to express it in modern terms is that when you have a flywheel with effectively a cost of acquisition of zero, it’s uncommon. And I think now people realize how hard that is and how valuable it is because they know the distribution has value, that data has value. There are a LOT of monetization models:  premium, ad-supported, data-supported.” 

On Why He Started Collective

“There are ‘businesses-of-one”:  Freelancers, consultants and whatnot. It’s the largest set of entrepreneurs in the country. And ultimately, if you believe in the next ten years, it could be fifty percent of the workforce. Not just the largest set of entrepreneurs, but the largest part of the workforce. And that’s all I’ve been doing my whole career. And I said, wow, this is amazing. It looks like a straight line in hindsight.”

Hooman Radfar on Twitter  https://twitter.com/hoomanradfar

Collective https://www.collective.com

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149 Fabrice Grinda: Four Incredible Stories from the OLX and FJ Labs Co-Founder

Fabrice Grinda
FJ Labs

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

Fabrice Grinda is a wildly successful entrepreneur and investor.  In this episode he recounts in detail four stories that any entrepreneur – any person, really – will find fascinating.

The first is the story of building one of Europe’s first marketplaces before eBay got there – and what happens when you turn down $100 million for your company.

The second is the story of Zingy, and what it’s like to grind without capital and miss payroll 27 times, before ultimately succeeding.

Third, Fabrice talks about building OLX, the global trading platform, after Craig Newmark refused his offer to fix Craigslist.  Learn what happened when OLX and its competitor go to war and spend billions on – TV advertising.

Finally, Fabrice offers his considered view of the future:  On how climate change is being addressed through technology, and how COVID has affected startups that will ultimately change the world.

FJ Labs:

Fabrice Grinda

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148 Jaclyn Hester: Foundry Group’s New Partner!

Jaclyn Hester
Partner, Foundry Group

Jaclyn Hester has just become a Partner at Foundry Group.  So first, “Congratulations, Jaclyn”.

Listen on iTunes: Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts

Jaclyn joined Foundry Group – the Boulder-based tech company and venture fund investor — after a few years at big law firms.  As a lawyer, she worked on everything from startup formation and financing to large M&A processes. 

During graduate school at CU Boulder, she caught the entrepreneurship bug and immersed herself in the local startup community, serving as the Executive Director of Startup Colorado. She has also built a startup with her husband, Anders.   Their family’s bootstrapped tour and activity software company was successfully acquired in 2018 by Booking.com. She becomes a partner Foundry just as it raises its first Foundry Group Next (“FG Next”) fund.  

Episode Quotes:

On Her Path from Lawyer to Entrepreneur

“I always had a feeling that there was something more interesting about the businesses themselves than about the legal aspect. I think for me, it felt like being the attorney was just a way to be connected to the business. And I enjoyed going to law school. It was an incredible education.  But I must have known that I liked the businesses, maybe, better.“

On the Purpose of the FG Next Fund

“It is important to remember that the pools of capital at the institutional level — so the pension funds, the endowments — these are multi billions of dollars.  Venture capital is just a teeny tiny thumbnail inside of their private asset or private equity asset class, which itself is one a bunch of other asset classes that they invest in. And so it’s probably among the riskiest highest reward of the things that they invest in. But it’s a really small piece. So if you think about, a 10, 20, 30 billion dollar pool of capital spending time on making 1 to 10 million dollar investments in a venture capital fund — just doesn’t make sense.”

On COVID-19’s Impact on Companies

“We’ve always believed that you can build great, great companies anywhere and that the talent is not concentrated in the Bay Area. That trend is accelerating with more openness to remote work. Not having to have everyone in the same place means that people are thinking about talent differently.”

Foundry Group

Jaclyn on Twitter

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147 Sarah Leary: Nextdoor’s Co-founder Becomes a VC

Listen on iTunes or Spotify

There are only so many iconic social networks in the world – and Nextdoor is one of them.  While perhaps not as fast-growing as Facebook or even LinkedIn, Nextdoor has steadily become the hub for neighborhoods around the world.

Sarah Leary founded Nextdoor, along with Nirav Tolia, Prakash Janakiraman, and David Wiesen.

In this episode, Sarah tells the story of getting Nextdoor off the ground.  She talks about the painstaking work they did to figure out how to build a healthy community around a neighborhood, before they were ready to scale.

We talk about the impact COVID-19 had on Nextdoor communities, and how and why she decided to become a venture capitalist at Unusual Ventures.

Notable Episode Quotes

On Starting Her Career at Microsoft

“I joined Microsoft at really a golden time:  The early 90s.  I was on the product team that launched the first version of Microsoft Office, and that was an all-star team. It was a time when Microsoft was just taking off and went from being this software company that some people had heard of to a household name. I was fortunate enough to, for example, be on stage where we launched Office ninety five with Bill Gates and Jay Leno.  We were writing the script as we went along and that was an amazing learning curve.”

On the “Pivot” from Fanbase to Nextdoor

“If you don’t get the seeds of a community right in the beginning, it becomes very difficult to fix it. And after about six months, we actually offered to give the money back to Bill Gurley, who was the lead investor in Fanbase. He said, ‘That’s the easy way out. I’ll give you three months to work on some new ideas. It doesn’t have to be directly related to Fanbase. But why don’t you guys take another crack at it?’ That was hard. It was very hard to step back and say.  ‘This isn’t working and confess to each other that we didn’t think it was going to be the next ESPN’, but I’m so glad that we did.”

On the Earliest Days of Nextdoor

“The idea of Nextdoor changed pretty dramatically in those early stages before we ever wrote a line of code. And thankfully, it’s probably saved us from years of going down the wrong path and frankly, probably losing faith in what it was that we were trying to. The prototype was actually launched in the Bay Area and with one neighborhood in Menlo Park, and it worked. People wanted to talk to their neighbors, but we were very cautious and said, OK, that’s not enough. Let’s try some other ones. In Seattle, Washington, we had one in upstate rural New York. We had one outside of Washington, D.C., and one in Tennessee. And we just started to see how people were using the platform. And that gave us the confidence after we did about five of those to say, ‘OK, this is the winning idea and we’re going to double down on it’.”

Unusual Ventures:  https://www.unusual.vc

Something Ventured:  www.somethingventured.us

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