Creator Lab - interviews with entrepreneurs and startup founders

Revealing conversations with the leading creators of our time. From proven entrepreneurs building the companies of the future, to non-profit founders creating change and the artists shaping our culture - we go beyond the surface to find the nuance in what it takes to turn your ideas, into action.
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
Creator Lab - interviews with entrepreneurs and startup founders








All Episodes
Now displaying: 2016
Dec 8, 2016
Analysts are calling it the country’s "fastest-growing industry" and Arthur Frommer (godfather of the travel industry who founded the Frommer's guide) said “get ready for the era of marijuana tourism”.
In the US, 8 states have legalized its recreational use and more than half of all US states permit it for medical purposes. In Dec, The New York Stock Exchange listed its first public marijuana company. 
Times are changing, so I sat down with Joe Dolce, author of “Brave New Weed” to explore the future of the weed business and its social impact. 
Joe Dolce is a seasoned journalist who worked with Anna Wintour at Vogue, introduced Jamie Oliver to the US audience as the chief of Gourmet magazine and spent a week in Mexico trying to outdrink Anthony Bourdain. He has a treasure trove of stories spanning an impressive 20yr career as a journalist. 
For the last 3yrs, Joe travelled the globe researching the uncharted world of the cannabis industry. From legal states in the US, medical research in Israel, weed tourism in Colorado & the criminal justice system - Joe has dug deep into this topic. 
(1) His Journalist Background - stories of interviewing Hugh Hefner in the playboy mansion & Anna Wintour eating cheeseburgers at her desk. How his background in journalism got him onto this topic for his book.
(2) History - Why has it been such a taboo subject, what is changing now, legalization vs decriminalization, positive & negative impact.
(3) Current Landscape  - what does the landscape look like right now? How are people like Snoop Dogg, Whoopi Goldberg & The Marley Family setting up to profit?
(4) Future Growth of the Weed Business - comparing it to the beer business & wine country, big pharma, tobacco companies, investment, weed tourism & medical use.
(5) Social impact - the US has 5% of the global population but 25% of its prisoners, what impact will legalization have on the criminal justice system? How will it impact people of color who are disproportionately impacted by minor drug offenses?
  • [1m32s] - Who is Joe Dolce
  • [2m51s] - Stories from being a journalist -Anna Wintour eating cheeseburgers
  • [3m27s] - Interviewing Hugh Hefner at the playboy mansion
  • [5m44s] - Hanging with Jamie Oliver in Essex
  • [6m54s] - Why did he start writing this book
  • [7m56s] - Importance of language, plant vs drug
  • [9m38s] - History, why it has been a taboo subject & the war on drugs
  • [13m37s] - Legalized states
  • [14m34s] - Difference between decriminalization vs legalization
  • [15m53s] - Parallels between alcohol prohibition 
  • [17m27s] - Why has it taken so long to legalize
  • [19m10s] - Gateway drug & negative impact
  • [24m23s] - What Obama had to say about it
  • [26m27s] - Positive uses that researchers have found
  • [29m31s] - What is THC and CBD?
  • [31m53s] - Painting a picture of current business landscape
  • [35m16s] - Future of business, comparing it to the beer industry
  • [37m47s] - Future of weed tourism, comparing to wine country
  • [40m04s] - Big pharma and alcohol companies stance
  • [43m38s] - Tax revenue & growth, estimates for California being a $30bil market
  • [45m16s] - How Snoop Dogg, Marley Family, Whoppi Goldberg and more are investing
  • [46m59s] - US is 5% of global population, 25% of prisoners, impact on criminal justice system and people of color
  • [52m24s] - Impact of decriminalization of all drugs
  • [58m05s] - About his book: Brave New Weed - link here:

All show notes and other episodes available at:

Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal:
Nov 24, 2016
In many ways, Avinash is the king of "the side hustle":
  • Speaker & Advisor - An established speaker who has consulted for some of the world’s largest brands
  • Entrepreneur - Recently sold the education company he co-founded for a reported $10M
  • Writer - A thought leader in the world of analytics who wrote the best selling book: “Web Analytics: An Hour A Day” as well as building a large following on his blog: Occam’s Razor
  • Googler - Leads a team of 70 story tellers, as Google’s Digital Marketing evangelist
I’ve known Avinash for a few years from our time at Google. But in prep for our interview, I realized how little I knew about his personal story. 
  • Who was the real Avinash behind the guy on stage frantically shouting out "THIS SUCKS" to bewildered CEOs?
  • What experiences shaped his outlook and how did he end up in such a unique role at Google?
  • What role did his writing play in shaping where he is today? 
He hasn’t shared much of this before so I’m thankful we had a chance to get personal & discuss his incredible journey. From living in a factory as a kid in India, to building a life in the US, becoming a best selling author & thought leader in his space. 
Here are five things to listen out for:
(1) Early Years - Growing up poor & living in a factory in India
(2) Starting his career - Moving to Saudi Arabia, the US & why he was attracted to web analytics
(3) Writing & Building An Audience - How he built an audience of 150k monthly readers on his blog, wrote a book & landed a high profile role at Google
(4) Starting From Scratch - If he was starting again, how he would focus his time to build his brand and audience again? 
(5) Personal - His fear of being broke, what motivates him & what success means to him personally. 
All show notes and details can be found on:
Time Stamps:
  • Background of how Bilal & Avinash know each other [1m38s]
  • Explaining what his job is to his mum [2m51s]
  • How he got his job at Google [3m44s]
  • Growing up poor in India & living in a factory [5m16s]
  • What he wanted to be when he grew up? [7m38s]
  • Where his work ethic came from [10m31s]
  • Moving to Saudi Arabia & the USA [12m44s]
  • Earning $500/month - still 7x more than he would have made in India [14m16s]
  • What it felt like to be poor [18m10s]
  • How he uses the fear of going broke and losing his job to motivate himself [20m45s]
  • Losing his job again at Silicon Graphics [26m17s]
  • Why it can make sense to take a title & pay cut [28m40]
  • What attracted him to web analytics [29m46s]
  • Taking the plunge to start a company and knowing when it’s the right time to go for it [30m28]
  • Starting a blog and role of personal branding [32m40s]
  • Why he was wrong about people not wanting to pay for a book when they could get it online for free [38m22s]
  • Taking 6months to get to 1000 visitors, now at 150,000 visitors a month [41m15s]
  • Content vs Amplification [43m39s]
  • “If I can listen to 50 podcasts, why should I listen to you” [45m35s]
  • Career limiting moves [51m33s]
  • Owned vs Rented platforms, eg. email vs social [58m39s]
  • Why he gets more engagement from 9.5k email subscribers than 200k twitter followers [1hr47s]
  • Advice for growing an email list [1hr2m14s]
  • What’s motivating him [1hr3m53s]
  • Can you be happy if you always want to stand out? [1hr5m43s]
  • Spending 4 hours a week to learn something new [1hr7m12s]
  • Advice to 18 year old Avinash [1hr8m15s]
  • What success means to him [1hr9m28s]
  • 4 people he mentions: [1hr9m40s]
    • 1) Thomas Baekdal writes about media, analytics, social and broad digital trends:
      2) Mitch Joel is a marketing rockstar, his blog illustrates why:
      3) Seth Godin’s incisiveness and pithiness, and of course his take on marketing is legendary
      4) Kaiser Fung is incredible with big data, advanced math and visualizations
  • Examples of failure [1hr10m38s]
  • What matters most [1hr15m5s]

All show notes and other episodes available at:

Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal:
Oct 26, 2016
Fereshteh Forough is the founder & CEO of Code to Inspire, an award winning organization that is empowering Afghan girls by teaching them how to code. Fereshteh was a TED speaker on digital literacy & communication without borders in 2013. Code To Inspire was awarded a Google Rise Award for their work & she was recently featured in a “change is made with code” campaign linked on the Google homepage in Sep 2016.
In this incredibly raw conversation, we discuss everything from growing up as a refugee in Iran, to her struggles overcoming gender bias in Afghanistan, to what it took to set up Code To Inspire. We discuss why she thinks girls aren’t encouraged to go into technical fields like coding & what we can do to change that. 
5 things to listen out for:
(1) Growing up - as a refugee in Iran & what it was like to return home to Afghanistan after the Taliban rule where female students made up 0% of the population. 
(2) Getting into computer science by accident - why she hated it at first and the story behind how she ended up becoming a computer science professor. 
(3) Unique challenges of setting up in Afghanistan - overcoming growing up with only 3hrs of electricity per day, dealing with gender bias & the cultural stigma attached to women in the work place.
(4) Embracing negativity to motivate yourself - how she uses negative comments to fuel her mission!
(5) Women in technology - why she thinks there are less females in technical fields & what we can do about it.
This conversation reminded me how much I take for granted & I hope it does for you too!
Time Stamps:
  • What does Fereshteh (her name) mean? [1m30s]
  • What problem are they trying to solve [2m]
  • Out of 900k students, zero were women during Taliban regime [2m26s]
  • Growing up as a refugee in Iran & returning to Afghanistan [3m40s] 
  • Not liking computer science and how she accidentally got into it [11m11s]
  • Challenges of being a girl learning in Afghanistan [14m25s]
  • Having 3hrs of electricity a day [14m46s]
  • Becoming a professor [16m48s]
  • Genesis & where she got the idea for code to inspire [21m15s]
  • Finding what you’re passionate about and dealing with a slump [22m41]
  • Supporting herself with little income [24m28s]
  • Process of fundraising [25m30s]
  • Challenges of shipping laptops to Afghanistan [29m12s]
  • Being awarded the Google Rise award and being featured on the homepage [29m47s]
  • Recommendations on fundraising for other people [31m15s]
  • What it takes to make a coding school [36m21s]
  • When do you know when to pay yourself a salary [38m35s]
  • Security & stigma attached to education for girls [40m36s]
  • Dealing with negative comments on social media [43m11s]
  • What does the future look like [47m25s]
  • Academic vs practical learning [48m47s]
  • Why are there fewer women in technical fields and can we do to impact this [52m12]
  • Remembering women in the history of computing like Ada Lovelace [59m]
  • What success means to her [1h]
  • Last time she felt lost and dealing with it [1h2m]
  • Books that have impacted her [1h2m50s]
  • What she wants people to think of Afghanistan [1h5m]
Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal:


Oct 12, 2016
Daire Hickey was named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2016 for his incredible work in helping Web Summit grow from 200 attendees 6years ago, to 50,000 attendees in Lisbon this year. They are on course to achieve double digit millions in revenue ($XXm) and have had everyone from Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, Chris Sacca & Eva Longoria attend their events. 
5 things to listen out for: 
(1) Starting up - how Paddy, Daire and Dave started Web Summit in Dublin, where they quickly established themselves as the hottest event in town. 
(2) Hanging Out With Al Pacino - how he tracked down famous celebrities like Al Pacino to get them to attend events at Trinity College. And later, using those same skills to convince the world’s press & top entrepreneurs including the founders of Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Tesla and more to attend their events. 
(3) Reinventing The 'Tech Conference'- how they use technology to be smarter about marketing, logistics, attendee experience and more. 
(4) Growing into emerging markets - how they’ve grown into building events around the world in India, New Orleans, Madrid, Hong Kong and more. What were the mistakes made along the way and what he would do differently? 
(5) Getting Personal - What does success mean to him? Who does he look up to? What does his future look like? We even get to talk about his favorite 27 course restaurant in New York. And some taco recommendations to finish off!
Time Stamps:
  • Myspace pics [5m24s] 
  • What did he want to be when he grew up? [11m42s]
  • Hanging out with Al Pacino [14m59s]
  • Finding email addresses for publicists & getting in contact [21m19s]
  • Starting the Web Summit [22m13s]
  • Convincing the world’s press to attend their event [29m36s]
  • Events that went wrong [43m38s]
  • Fire in Paddy’s house! [44m10s]
  • Story of Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox singing Oasis to a bar full of people in Dublin [46m30s]
  • Hiring good people & the future of Web Summit [47m]
  • What they have engineers working on [49m10s]
  • What makes a great story [52m35s]
  • What is he most excited about in the technology space [56m]
  • Emerging markets [58m52s]
  • Meeting Elon Musk [1hr1m]
  • The market is giving Twitter a rough time [1hr3m47s]
  • Story of Uber closing Series B round in Dublin [1hr7m44s]
  • What does success mean to him [1hr8m43s]
  • What are his future plans  [1hr17m12s]
  • Quick fire questions [1hr18m12s]
  • Favorite NYC restaurant & favorite taco place [1hr22m37s]
Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal:


Sep 29, 2016

Ever wondered where that barely-used bar of soap went after your last hotel visit?

Erin Zaikis goes into her incredible journey in founding Sundara: a nonprofit organization that partners with slum women in India, Myanmar & Uganda to recycle soap & provide hygiene education to the communities that need it the most.


5 things to listen out for:


(1) How a trip to rural Thailand inspired her to take action and start a soap company 


(2) Making bars of soap in her Manhattan apartment and why she transitioned from a social business to a non-profit


(3) Why soap is often overlooked and why it is so powerful in preventing disease, empowering women and saving lives


(4) The steps she took to fundraise, spread the word and build her nonprofit


(5) Personal: what inspires her, what success means to her, what her plans are for the future, what makes a happy life, books that have helped her through the process and more


I hope you enjoy the conversation - please share this with your friends and help spread the word!

Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal:


Sep 8, 2016
What does it take to get to 5 billion views? Cenk Uygur goes into his story and explains what it took to build the number one news channel online: 'The Young Turks'.
5 things to listen out for:
(1) Coming to America - Cenk talks about growing up in Istanbul and his 'coming to America moment'
(2) How he got started in media after sending 400 tapes to radio stations
(3) Starting 'The Young Turks' & bootstrapping their business by spending only $25k in 4 years
(4) Growing from hundreds, to millions of views! What were those pivotal moments that moved their business forward?
(5) Personal - we talk about what success means to him, his day-to-day routine, his thoughts on meditation, managing stress, how much of his progress came from chance vs his own skill.
Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal:


Aug 18, 2016

Nico Perez and the Mixcloud team have managed to get to 17M monthly visitors with zero outside investment. We talk about how they bootstrapped their way to a unique and profitable business. Listen out for when they lived in a 60k square foot warehouse.

We go deep in this conversation, so 5 things to listen out for:

1) Living in a warehouse and having no internet connection – many people say they “had no money” when they started, but Mixcloud really had to live that mantra when they failed to raise any investment. We go into how they paid their rent every month with limited income after Nico quit his job to go full time.

2) Getting rejected by Y Combinator and other investors – how they turned that into positive momentum and became revenue generating early on.

3) How he found a technical co-founder – in today’s digital world, a common question that comes up time and time again is “how do I find someone to help me build this” – we go into how Nico approached this problem with a “skill share”.

4) How they got the head of growth at Facebook to be on their advisory board – Building a great team isn’t just about the employees and founders of an organization. There are mentors, board members and in many cases: “advisory boards”. Nico tells us how they organically made relationships to convince smart people to be a part of their advisory board.

5) Other Topics – We had a free-flowing discussion with a few other topics we touched on: getting more women on their advisory board, artificial intelligence, building an MVP (minimum viable product), splitting up equity amongst co-founders, benefits of having 3 co-founders, books that have impacted him & what success means to him

Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal:


Aug 18, 2016

After 10yrs as a New York party promoter, Scott Harrison went on an epic journey that turned his life around. We talk about how he built charity: water, one of the most impactful and innovative non-profits around.

We discuss:

Water Problem & Non-Profit World – the global water problem that impacts 1 in 10 people and its disproportionate impact on women, education & disease

What changed him – what changed him to start charity: water, from a life of bottles and models as a New York party promoter, to completely changing his life around 180

Convincing top entrepreneurs to back him – how he got people like Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Sean Parker (Facebook), Chris Sacca (famous investor) and Daniel Ek (Spotify) to back charity: water

Birthday campaigns – how the famous birthday campaigns started & what is next for them with “The Spring”

Private sector – what he’s learned from the private sector and the role technology plays in their org, eg. how they use virtual reality for story telling

Social businesses – what he thinks of socially conscious businesses like Warby Parker & TOMS Shoes and if he thinks the term non-profit need a rebranding

Personal – why he could drive a $70k volvo but not a $25k mercedes, always flying coach/economy class and the pressure to be frugal while running a non-profit,

Success – what success means to him and common traits amongst successful people he knows

-Books that have impacted him

Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal:


Aug 18, 2016

I speak to Brian Wong, the CEO & Founder of Kiip on what he learned from building his company, being one of the youngest people in history to raise venture capital and we get a preview of his new book: 'The Cheat Code'

Stay connected:
Connect with Bilal: