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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.
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Now displaying: 2019
Sep 20, 2019

“Silicon Valley’s buzziest start-up” - The New York Times


Rahul Vohra is no novice to the startup world. He previously built and sold Rapportive to Linkedin before setting out to build “the fastest email ever made” for the power users who fell out of love with Gmail, Outlook, and others.

You can’t argue with their results. Superhuman have 220k+ people on their waitlist, which costs $30/month and they’ve raised north of $50mil at a $260mil valuation from elite investors like First Round Capital & Andreessen Horowitz.

But what stood out most to me while meeting Rahul was his focus on the long term. We discussed “building a company that can last for 100yrs” while convincing his co-founders to “do their life’s work” with him. At one point, Rahul described sitting in front of his computer in tears because he realized he hadn’t built what he had set out to.

A Unique Approach


Sometimes, their unique approach can feel counter-intuitive. For example, what if I told you they are happy to turn away paying customers if it would distract them from their “high expectation customers”.

Or their mandatory human onboarding where a Superhuman employee takes a new user through a 30-60mins call to get them setup, understand how they personally use email & customize their experience vs a more scalable online experience that would save money in the short term.

Superhuman have turned paying customers into their biggest fans – on average, every new user of Superhuman brings in one new user down the road.

In this episode, we go deep into the engine they’ve built, how they design their product using video game dynamics and learning how to listen to the right customers.

Five Things To Listen Out For:

(1) Building a product-market-fit engine – we discuss several product-market-fit definitions and the approach Rahul took to understand when they had hit this point

(2) High Expectation Customer – what this is and why it’s important to find

(3) Turning Email Into A Video Game – how to design products to make you feel a certain way by taking principles from video game design

(4) Following Your Passion – is this misguided or good advice?

(5) Preparing For A Recession – is this something Rahul is thinking about and how he thinks this might impact the business world

Subscribe and watch on:
YouTube.com/creatorlabfm

Full show notes:
https://www.creatorlab.fm/rahul-vohra-superhuman-product-market-fit/

Links:

https://superhuman.com/

https://twitter.com/rahulvohra

https://firstround.com/review/how-superhuman-built-an-engine-to-find-product-market-fit/

Connect with Bilal on social:
Instagram @bzaidi212 @creatorlabfm
Twitter @bzaidi @creatorlabfm

Thank you to our sponsors, who help make this show possible:
SquareFoot, where growing companies find their place, check out SquareFoot.com/creatorlab to find your next office space

Sep 4, 2019

Hiten Shah has built multiple SaaS companies including Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics & FYI. In this conversation, we discuss the future of remote work and lessons learned from building, investing and advising 120+ companies.

63% of US companies now have remote workers and 96% of remote workers would recommend working remotely to a friend.

But what does “remote work” actually mean?

Many people think of digital nomads galavanting around tropical islands while fitting in some Wifi work time. Or freelancers working out of trendy coffee shops…

But as Hiten and I discuss, most of us are already participating in some form of “remote work”.

Whether that’s a remote meeting we have with external partners, flexible work schedules or simply, “working from home” – this is an important macro trend that is going to impact all of us as the nature of work continues to evolve.

Five Things To Listen Out For:

  1. What remote work really means – Hiten’s team did a deep dive to uncover what remote work means in practice
  2. Understanding intent through keyword research – how Hiten used keyword research to understand the specifics around what people are really looking for
  3. Facts vs Feelings – mental frameworks to separate facts and feelings to make decisions
  4. Dealing with loss – the lesson Hiten’s dad shared when his mother passed away at a young age and how that has helped shape him today
  5. Why words matter – the difference between “self-funding” and “bootstrapping”

You can check out the full analysis Hiten and his team published here. Hiten on Twitter @hnshah.

Subscribe and watch on:
YouTube.com/creatorlabfm

Full show notes:
https://www.creatorlab.fm/hiten-shah-future-of-remote-work/

Connect with Bilal on social:
Instagram @bzaidi212 @creatorlabfm
Twitter @bzaidi @creatorlabfm

Thank you to our sponsors, who help make this show possible:
SquareFoot, where growing companies find their place, check out SquareFoot.com/creatorlab to find your next office space

Aug 14, 2019

I met Christophe when I first moved to New York.

I was drawn in by his infectious energy, French charm and distinct sense of humor. He had started multiple companies and our friendship grew over chats about life in America & the world of entrepreneurship.

One evening after an epic meandering night out, we landed in Koreatown to chow down on plates of bibimbap & bulgogi.

It was a few days before his life was about to change with the birth of his daughter and I asked Christophe about any regrets he had from the past…he started to share this story:

“This one time, I had a call from the CFO of Groupon and they had made an $80mil offer on our company, Totsy! It would have been a 10X return for our investors and it was going to be a life-changing moment for me”…

The table went silent as we crept towards the edge of our seats…

“But then my board blocked the deal, we had to say no! A short while after, we got crushed by Zulily and had to sell for much less. I made nothing from the sale.”

It was the sort of honest conversation you could only have with real friends. And yet, it was a familiar outcome that 90% of founders face when starting a company. The type of story that hasn’t been perfectly crafted by a PR machine or used as the tee-up to the inevitable “but look at me now!”

It was just plain, honest, truth.

In this episode, we revisit that story in more detail to share the stark reality of entrepreneurship – the high highs and the low lows, what it takes to bounce back and move on to a new adventure.

We also get into how his world has changed since having a baby daughter, why he thinks being a parent can make you a better entrepreneur and what his new company, UpFlex, is focused on.

I hope you enjoy the honesty that Christophe shares in this revealing conversation – if so, shoot me a note, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Five Things To Listen Out For:

  1. Ups and Downs of entrepreneurship – the true reality for many entrepreneurs who start companies
  2. $80mil acquisition offer – what really happened when he had to reject this offer and what you can learn from his experience
  3. Being a parent and a founder – how to find your own balance and why Christophe says it makes him a better entrepreneur
  4. Leaving Your Company – when and why you might ever leave the company you started
  5. Upflex – his new company and why there’s a need for “Workplace-as-a-Service”

Subscribe and watch on YouTube.com/creatorlabfm

Full show notes:
https://www.creatorlab.fm/christophe-garnier-totsy-spark-labs-upflex/

Social:
Instagram: @bzaidi212 @creatorlabfm
Everywhere else: @bzaidi @creatorlabfm

Thank you to our sponsors who help make this show possible:

SquareFoot, where growing companies find their place, check out SquareFoot.com/creatorlab to find your next office space

Jul 26, 2019

Full video on YouTube:
https://youtu.be/KCjMwDpDm7g

Steve Schlafman is a Partner at Primary Venture Partners. He’s been an investor in the NYC startup ecosystem for the last decade. Prior to his roles in VC, he was the Director of New Ventures at The Kraft Group, owners of the New England Patriots. He’s worked at startups like Turntable FM & began his career at Microsoft.

Steve has worked on investments in companies like TheSkimm, Bowery Farming, Breather, Giphy, Percolate & SmartThings (sold to Samsung). He also works with founders & CEOs as a qualified leadership coach.

In this revealing conversation, we discuss how he thinks about personal + professional growth, building healthy habits, navigating your career, the fear of death, dealing with anxiety, overcoming “functional addiction”, sobriety & why the best performers – people like Eric Schmidt & Lebron James, all work with coaches.

Five Things To Listen Out For:

  1. Cornerstone Habits – habits that create a domino effect in other areas of your life
  2. What Lebron James & Eric Schmidt have in common -we discuss why you might feel resistant to the word “coach”, what a coaching practice looks like & examples of common discussions you might have
  3. Being A “Functional Addict” – dealing with addiction & why Steve has been sober for many years
  4. Dealing With Anxiety + The Fear Of Death – how Steve has consciously worked on his anxiety and coming to terms with death
  5. 360 reviews – why Steve recommends doing this after a recent experience, dealing with constructive criticism & how you can do this too

Subscribe to watch the episode on YouTube here.

Steve:

 

https://www.schlaf.me/

https://www.primary.vc/

https://twitter.com/schlaf

Bilal:
@creatorlabfm
@bzaidi212 (Instagram) & @bzaidi everywhere else

Full show notes: 
https://www.creatorlab.fm/steve-schlafman-primary-venture-partners/

Thank you to our sponsors who help make this show possible:
SquareFoot, where growing companies find their place, check out SquareFoot.com/creatorlab to find your next office space

Jul 12, 2019

Oz Pearlman is an Emmy award-winning mentalist & magician. He captivated millions across the world as the runner up & finalist on America’s Got Talent. 

In this episode, listen carefully as Oz baffles the senses by performing mentalist tricks live on air.

From reading Bilal’s mind, to elaborate tricks that you have to see with your own eyes to believe (youtube.com/creatorlabfm) & an epic conversation discussing human psychology, non-verbal communication & turning your side-hustle into a lucrative business – there’s so much to take away from this revealing conversation.

Five Things To Listen Out For:

  1. Tricks – 3 mind-blowing tricks performed live
  2. Side Hustle – Turning a side hustle into a lucrative business – from hustling in restaurants as a kid, to captivating millions on TV
  3. Social Dynamics – from cat string theory to time constraints & appearing to be a scarce resource
  4. Remembering People’s Names – how Oz approaches this in his work & what you can take from it
  5. Psychology – behind success + happiness

Subscribe to watch the episode on YouTube here.


Social:
@OzTheMentalist
@creatorlabfm
@bzaidi212 (Instagram) & @bzaidi everywhere else

Full show notes: 
https://www.creatorlab.fm/oz-pearlman-mentalist-magician-interview/

Thank you to our sponsors who help make this show possible:
SquareFoot, where growing companies find their place, check out SquareFoot.com/creatorlab to find your next office space

Jun 27, 2019

Nigel Eccles is best known for being the co-founder of FanDuel, a company that pioneered the daily fantasy sports market in the US.

You may have seen their high impact commercials on TV, heard of them becoming one of the few unicorn $1bil startups to come out of Europe or their eventual sale to Paddypower/Betfair for $465mil. You may have even seen him featured in the infamous John Oliver “This Week Tonight” episode covering the industry he helped to create!

It’s safe to say – there are not many people on the planet that have the experience that Nigel has – after starting & selling multiple companies – he’s been around the block & back as a serial entrepreneur.

At Fanduel his experience includes raising $400mil+ in venture capital, competing with their closest rival, Draft Kings who raised over $1bil+, to investing hundreds of millions of dollars in customer acquisition on channels like TV, radio & paid digital.

In this revealing conversation, he opened up to share his perspective on:

  • how to come up with business ideas in the first place
  • raising venture capital vs bootstrapping
  • how to accelerate paid customer acquisition & measure your marketing effectively
  • building a high growth team
  • the highs & lows of selling a company & lessons learned
  • why founders & early employees might not always make a return from a sale because of preferred vs common stock
  • creating a new market vs capturing an existing one
  • why “going viral” isn’t a good strategy for paid products
  • what to do if you’re a non-technical founder
  • the process of taking an initial idea & evaluating its business potential
  • applying the same logic to his new company, Flick, going after the podcast market

Subscribe to watch the episode on YouTube here.

Join the Creator Lab group on Nigel's new app, Flick:
https://flickchat.page.link/emPvGZnT7XwKGgz76

Thank you to our sponsor who helps make this show possible -SquareFoot, where growing companies find their place, check out SquareFoot.com/creatorlab to find your next office space

 
 
Jun 12, 2019
Watch the full episode on YouTube:
https://youtu.be/muxEUNAaLTE

How many times have you heard bitcoin, crypto, blockchain and thought to yourself – “what the hell are they talking about?” 

Well, you’re not the only one. This is a topic that has a lot of value but too often you’ll find so-called “experts” using complicated jargon to make things sound more complicated than it is.

In this conversation with Ali Hassan, an ex-Goldman Sachs banker & venture capitalist, turned entrepreneur – we try our best to simplify and discuss what bitcoin and blockchain is in simple terms and explore the practical applications of this technology.

Going beyond definitions – we discuss real use cases, why the value of bitcoin fluctuates so much, if bitcoin is a direct alternative to the traditional money supply system, comparing it to other assets like gold, and how his team has developed one of the leading passive index funds for investing in cryptocurrency

Here are five things to listen out for:
  1. What is Bitcoin? And what is Blockchain in simple terms? – Ali describes in easy to understand language and with examples, what bitcoin is and why it’s a valuable asset & technology
     
  2. Comparing Bitcoin to Gold – what makes an asset like gold valuable and why that idea can be applied to an asset like bitcoin.
     
  3. Real World Applications – where can bitcoin and blockchain be useful in the real? From the idea of a bitcoin being a store of value, to ethereum helping to automate processes through smart contracts, to helping the unbanked people of the world – we discuss where blockchain could provide real utility in the long run
     
  4. Comparing Ethereum to the Apple app store – we discuss in simple terms what ethereum is and why it’s allowing people to build on top of their ecosystem, similar to how Apple did with their app store
     
  5. Creating An Index Fund For Crypto – why Ali and his team left their traditional finance roles at companies like Goldman Sachs & VC firms to create a leading passive crypto index fund, Crescent Crypto.
Subscribe to Creator Lab videos on YouTube here.
Thank you to our sponsor who helps make this show possible,
SquareFoot, where growing companies find their place, check out SquareFoot.com/creatorlab to find your next office space
 
 
 
Apr 3, 2019

Watch the full episode on YouTube:
https://youtu.be/SGPMfHxFmgo

<br>

Fabrice Grinda has been called the most prolific angel investor in the world, even being ranked #1 in Forbes based on investment volume + number of exits.

<br>

He’s exited hundreds of millions of dollars from 500+ investments in companies like Alibaba, Viagogo, Tencent, Airbnb, Betterment, Uber, Fanduel & Palantir.

<br>

Before setting up his “startup studio” & investment fund, he started and sold multiple companies including OLX, the leading “Craigslist” marketplace of countries like India, Brazil & Pakistan.

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But things weren’t always so rosy.

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Fabrice shares stories of living on $2/day, living in his office because he couldn’t afford an apartment & missing payroll 27 times!

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We also discuss the future of marketplaces, how he’d think of business ideas if starting today, the science of happiness, minimalism, and why we’re still at the very beginning of the tech revolution.

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Here are five things to listen out for:

  1. Reasons to be optimistic – why we’re the luckiest people in the world to be alive at this time and why we’re only at 1% of the tech revolution
  2. Minimalism – from living on a 20-acre estate in Bedford, New York, to “island shopping” and then selling all his possessions – Fabrice has lived both extremes and shares his perspective on a healthy balance
  3. The Science of Happiness – factors that make people happy and hacks to maximize your own “mean level of happiness”
  4. The Future of Marketplaces – 3 trends in marketplace businesses and a framework for thinking about business ideas
  5. How Venture Capital Works – the typical startup fundraising cycle, from initial investment to venture capital at series A, B, C etc.

<br>

CONNECT ON SOCIAL:

https://www.instagram.com/creatorlabfm

https://www.instagram.com/bzaidi212

<br>

Full show notes:
https://www.creatorlab.fm/fabrice-grinda-fj-labs-interview/

<br>

Thank you to our sponsors who help make this show possible:

SquareFoot, where growing companies find their place, check out SquareFoot.com/creatorlab to find your next office space

Instasleep Mint Melts, the drug-free sleep aid that melts in your mouth. Use the code “creator8” to get 20% off your order on Amazon.

Mar 19, 2019

Watch the full episode on YouTube:
https://youtu.be/Lc07mxx3CII

<br>

Nathan Latka is making more than $100k/month from 30+ revenue streams. We go into all of the details documented in his book: “How To Be A Capitalist Without Any Capital”

<br>

From his approach to building systems that scale beyond himself, growing his podcast to 10+mil downloads, investing in real estate, food trucks, buying software companies, building teams around the world and even landing a TV show – there’s so much packed into this conversation!

<br>

We also go into why someone should be a capitalist in the first place, the pros, and cons of capitalism and the many creative ways he's finding success in many different areas. 

<br>

Nathan is a true capitalist in every sense of the word & a savvy entrepreneur that likes to break the rules. 

<br>

You can check out his WSJ bestselling book, “How To Be A Capitalist Without Any Capital”, on Amazon here

<br>

Five things to listen out for:

  1. Capitalism vs Socialism – why you would want to be a capitalist in the first place and the pros & cons of a purely capitalist society.
  2. Making $100k/month – why he chooses to spread his risk by working on many things at once and examples of investments you can make to generate income
  3. Systems vs Goals – why you should focus on building, multiplying & stacking systems instead of setting goals
  4. “My Podcast Is A Massive Front” – how he’s developed a piece of code to automatically turn his daily podcast into a database that he sells to VCs for $20-30k/month
  5. His Book – what you can expect, including specific page numbers you can skip ahead to

<br>

CONNECT ON SOCIAL:

https://www.instagram.com/creatorlabfm

https://www.instagram.com/bzaidi212

<br>

Full show notes:

https://www.creatorlab.fm/nathan-latka-capitalist-book-interview/

Thank you to our sponsor, Instasleep Mint Melts, the drug-free sleep aid that melts in your mouth. You can check them out on Amazon here 

Mar 7, 2019

Watch the full episode on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/qpA2CEoDg-M

<br>

Faraz Zaidi, is the founder & creative director of Profound Co, a multi-million dollar fashion brand that sits at the intersection of streetwear and high fashion.

<br>

Profound has built a loyal following over 10yrs+, with celebrity fans like Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar and Justin Bieber wearing their clothes. They’ve been featured in Time, Fast Company & Forbes and have collaborated with leading musicians & major brands like Pepsi.

<br>

In this in-depth conversation, Faraz shares the full backstory of their humble beginnings, scaling their business and how he would approach building a fashion brand from scratch if he was starting again today.

<br>

Five things to listen out for:

  1. Genesis – how Faraz started with a couple of t-shirts & a printer
  2. Starting a Brand – how he would start a brand from scratch today
  3. Celebrities + Influencers – how a Profound intern landed a connection to Rihanna and their approach to working with influencers
  4. Retail – getting into physical stores like Selfridges & boutiques around the world.
  5. Struggles – examples of when things haven’t gone so well, mistakes made and how he mentally deals with the lows

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CONNECT ON SOCIAL:
https://www.instagram.com/creatorlabfm
https://www.instagram.com/bzaidi212

<br>

Full show notes:
https://www.creatorlab.fm/profound-aesthetic-co-faraz-zaidi/

Feb 14, 2019

Subscribe and watch the full video interview on YouTube:
https://youtu.be/GZAgTCFPxxk

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Tyler Riewer (head of creative at charity: water) shares 5 principles that can make you a better storyteller. We discuss the concept of the "hero's journey" and how the best brands, writers & politicians use this idea to tell effective stories.

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Five Things To Listen Out For:

  1. Role of storytelling – and its impact on every part of an organization
  2. The Hero’s Journey – how savvy brands, politicians, and writers use the concept of the hero’s journey to tell effective stories
  3. 5 Principles – that Tyler has picked up along the way as a professional storyteller that you can apply to your own life and work
  4. From Concept to Campaign – how they took an inspirational letter from a 6yr old and turned it into a successful brand campaign through the principles we discuss
  5. Stories from his travels – and the stories that make up the 663 million people that lack access to clean drinking water

<br>

SOCIAL:
https://www.instagram.com/creatorlabfm
https://www.instagram.com/bzaidi212

<br>

TYLER:
http://tylerriewer.com
https://twitter.com/tylerriewer

<br>

charity: water
Watch The Spring: https://cwtr.org/2lJhZix
Nora's story: https://www.charitywater.org/world-wa...

<br>

Full show notes:
https://www.creatorlab.fm/where-do-good-stories-come-from-tyler-riewer-charity-water/

Thank you to our sponsor, Instasleep Mint Melts, the drug-free sleep aid that melts in your mouth. You can check them out on Amazon or instasleep.us 

Feb 1, 2019

Watch the full video interview & subscribe on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgDgNfvm4qY

<br>

Jane Lu has been named “Cosmopolitan’s Girl Boss of the Year”, “Forbes 30 under 30” and her company, Showpo, was crowned Australia’s “Online Retailer of the Year” in 2018.

<br>

But rewind a few years and Jane was struggling for motivation in her accountancy career. We discuss what it took to take a risk to go all in on her business while having to hide it from her parents while living in their house!

<br>

We dig into the details of how she took her first steps, grew the company with zero investment, built an audience on social with millions of followers, and how she would approach starting an e-commerce business from scratch today.

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Show Notes

Here are five things to listen out for:

  1. Leaving her job + keeping it a secret from her parents – how Jane plucked up the courage to leave her job in the middle of the financial crisis
  2. Her first failed business – connecting the dots from her first failure, getting out of debt and launching Showpo
  3. Working ON her business vs IN her business – how a trip to Ultra Music Festival forced Jane to replace her work by hiring someone full time and the lessons from that experience
  4. Growing to $60mil with zero investment – we go into detail from when she was bringing in $5k/month, and the things she did to grow step-by-step, why she chose to never raise money, keep control and grow
  5. If she started again today – how she would start an e-commerce business today & actionable tactics around growing a social following, paid vs organic, youtube content strategy & more

<br>

Thank you to our sponsor, Instasleep Mint Melts, the drug-free sleep aid that melts in your mouth. You can check them out on Amazon or instasleep.us 

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