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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Dec 7, 2018

Erika Alexander is an actress, writer & co-founder of Color Farm Media. She’s well known for her role as the iconic character Maxine Shaw, Attorney-at-Law in the 90s sitcom Living Single. She was a regular as Cousin Pam in The Cosby Show & appeared in the Oscar-winning film Get Out (2017).


Full show notes & timestamps:


 Here are five things to listen out for:
  1. Childhood – her candid experience growing up as a child actor from the age of 14, her relationship with her parents & how this impacted her throughout her life.
  2.  Being the “other” – feeling like an outsider when she first had some success
  3. Importance of Diversity in Film & Media – how she’s approaching this challenge with Color Farm Media, why it’s important to hire the best people regardless, but find a balance to tell diverse stories
  4. Role of Therapy – how she dealt with depression, navigated lows and the importance of mental health
  5. The Future – hip-hop in Bollywood, collaborations of color, the projects she’s working on with Lionsgate & the importance of long-form conversations


Time Stamps:

  • 2:32 – Introduction of Erika
  • 4:45 – Her role on Living Single
  • 8:38 – Erika’s childhood
  • 12:15 – Was Erika always outgoing?
  • 15:36 – The “look at me” gene
  • 18:26 – First time acting
  • 23:12 – Erika’s mom’s influence
  • 25:46 – Becoming famous and losing her family
  • 27:31 – Religion and belief when growing up
  • 30:40 – Early pain struggle & depression
  • 32:40 – Being the “other” in the family
  • 36:45 – Ways to cope with parent pain
  • 41:05 – Therapy and mental health
  • 50:41 – Race and misrepresentation in work
  • 51:52 – Race is an illusion
  • 54:13 – Color Farm Media & it’s mission
  • 57:06 – Ben Arnon help & info
  • 61:17 – Current work
  • 66:25 – Black Lightning
  • 71:53 – Making diversity authentic
  • 77:02 – Importance of diverse writers
  • 82:25 – How to change in industry
  • 85:33 – “I’m a badass at acting”
  • 93:00 – Collaborations of color
  • 95:50 – Hire the best writer, but include all
  • 98:14 – The impact of long-form conversation
  • 101:56 – Looking to the future
Oct 25, 2018
I visited Ben Van Leeuwen at his Brooklyn-based ice cream factory!  They have a truly remarkable story, starting from a single ice cream truck 10yrs ago, to building an epic brand with a cult following.
They’ve since grown to a $20mil business, going from 15 stores to 25 in the next few months after taking investment for the first time. They’ve also grown their wholesale business where they now sell their ice cream in over 1000 stores across 44 states.
We discuss their humble beginnings, meeting his co-founder, falling in love,  a focus on product excellence by sourcing the very best ingredients & you’ll hear what it took to build their business with zero investment after their modest friends and family round. 



Here are five things to listen out for:
(1) Travel – Ben leaving college to travel and explore the world.
(2) Kaizen vs 10x Moonshot Thinking – continuous improvement in all aspects of their company vs a mindset of massive transformational change
(3) Starting a business with his wife & brother – navigating a breakup, working with family & how they’ve made Van Leeuwen a huge success
(4) Product & Customer Excellence – focusing on using only the very best ingredients & bringing joy to their customers
(5) Growth – stories from starting their first ice cream truck to growing to 25 stores & 44 states & why they decided to take major investment for the first time


Times Stamps 

  • 3:02 – Who is Ben Van Leeuwen
  • 3:58 – How did Ben get into ice cream
  • 10:45 – Where Ben’s food awareness came from
  • 13:23 – Ben’s parents and his upbringing
  • 16:56 – How Ben developed his entrepreneurial spirit
  • 18:00 – The “ice cream idea”
  • 20:44 – Being healthy in an ice cream world
  • 23:46 – Ben’s travel memories
  • 26:38 – Ben’s craftsmanship in his work
  • 29:35 – Company values
  • 30:54 – Ben meeting his cofounder
  • 33:10 – How the company began
  • 36:21 – Writing initial business plan
  • 42:09 – Logo, branding and naming
  • 45:55 – Tactically building your team
  • 48:34 – Beginnings of the business
  • 50:25 – Putting the best ingredients into their first chocolate ice cream
  • 55:47 – First real day of business
  • 65:19 – What the business looks like today – 15-25 stores, selling in 1000 stores across 44 states
  • 67:02 – Ben’s thoughts on expansion
  • 70:38 – First year revenue numbers
  • 71:33 – Focus moving forward
  • 73:30 – Working with brother and wife
  • 74:35 – Working with ex-wife
  • 75:42 – Difficulties with raising money
  • 79:18 – Dealing with rejection
  • 80:58 – 20 years from now…
  • 83:45 – Admirable trait: not taking shortcuts
  • 84:54 – Other products for Ben to explore
  • 86:29 – Final remarks and advice
Dec 14, 2017
Edgardo embodies the word creator.  He’s a writer at Marvel Entertainment, Editor-in-Chief at Darryl Makes Comics working with the legendary hip-hop icon: DMC from RUN DMC, Art Director & founder at Somos Arte production studio, and the creator of La Borinqueña, an original comic book character that has grown into a cultural phenomenon and a nationally recognized symbol of Puerto Rican patriotism, social justice, and equality for all. His work has been featured on CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Atlantic.
Full show notes and time stamps:
Five things to listen out for:
  1. Growing up as a Puerto Rican in NYC – what life was like growing up poor in the Bronx, memories from being a young activist, poet, and creator.
  2.  Comic Books – how he got into creating comic books, writing for Marvel + creating his own publication: La Borinqueña.
  3.  Teaming up with DMC from RUN DMC – how they met, their creative process and how they split up responsibilities.
  4.  Direct-to-Consumer – publishing directly to people and spreading his creative work to fans.
  5.  Generating Buzz + Press – Edgardo has been featured on CNN, New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and more – how did he approach this and get his work out there?


  • 2:38 … who is Edgardo and what does he do?
  • 4:14 … Edgardo describing pictures Bilal shows from growing up
  • 9:50 … power of the arts, reflecting on what’s going on in society
  • 10:09 … challenge of being viewed as a second class citizen
  • 11:10 … hypocrisy within Latin American communities and media
  • 12:05 … “I’m not a race, I’m an ethnicity”
  • 13:31 … stories as a form of evolution
  • 15:00 … self-awareness from an early age + growing up
  • 17:03 … learning about Mandela + apartheid
  • 17:57 … college + local activism
  • 23:30 … comic book has become a  symbol for people + the women’s march reaching out to him
  • 27:19 … being proud of his heritage
  • 28:40 … distributing book directly to the people + direct to consumer trend
  • 30:37 … comic book world / who’s buying books
  • 35:36 … working alongside DMC from legendary hip-hop group: RUN DMC
  • 40:12 … our heritage and culture is the true superpower
  • 40:38 … approaching press and social media to promote his book
  • 42:13 … people want to know who you are and “why” you create … not “what” you create
  • 49:51 … an ask for the people who are listening
Nov 11, 2017

Julien Smith is the co-founder & CEO of Breather. They provide an on-demand network of private meeting rooms designed for work, meetings and focus. They’ve raised over $80m to date and are on a strong trajectory of growth. Before that, Julien was a best selling author, speaker & podcaster. In this conversation, Julien and Bilal discuss how he thinks about pattern detection, how he used these frameworks to develop the idea for Breather & how you can apply this to your own work.


Full show notes & timestamps:


Time Stamps:

  • 1:52 - Who are you/what do you do
  • 2:30 - Detecting patterns. Is that that what you’re good at?
  • 4:10 - Scale & growth of Breather, how did Julien get there
  • 6:43 - When Julien started Breather, how many units did he start with & how do they keep them secure?
  • 8:09 - What does Breather's customer base look like? What are their customer segments?
  • 8:58 - How big is this market? How do you estimate market size?
  • 9:50 - Thinking about security for a physical space - digital vs analog locks.
  • 11:30 - Growing up in Canada & what did Julien want to be when he grew up?
  • 13:20 - Learning what you’re good at and 360 reviews 
  • 17:10 - How Julien thinks about detecting patterns? Is this something we can learn to become better at?
  • 20:25 - Is detecting patterns a skill or luck?
  • 24:10 - Detecting patterns: is it a learned behavior? Discussing Charlie Munger and Warren Buffet. 
  • 28:30 - the value of the expert generalist
  • 30:00 - What sources of information do you follow? Books, podcasts, people, etc?
  • 33:30 - What can people do to accelerate the process of growing and connecting with people they can learn from?
  • 36:00 - Jeff Bezos story of the regret minimization framework
  • 39:30 - What were some of the macro trends he identified to help start Breather? Are there certain macro trends that he sees right now?
  • 42:20 - Cities + network effects + timing
  • 46:02 - Bilal discusses idea for supper clubs platform
  • 47:50 - Omnifocus app he uses for tasks
  • 48:10 - Developing healthy habits? Streaks app
  • 51:40 - What is Julien’s routine and a typical day? Morning pages. The creative habit. 
  • 55:05 - What is motivating Julien right now?
  • 56:30 - What does success mean to you? 
Sep 10, 2017


Just out of college, Gary grew his family wine business from a $4M to a $45M business in five years. Now, he runs VaynerMedia, one of the world’s hottest digital agencies with more than 800 employees and $100m in annual revenue. Along the way, Gary became a prolific investor. He’s investing in companies like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Venmo.

He’s a 4x NY Times best-selling author & recently starred in Apple’s original series: “Planet of the Apps”, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and 


(1) Childhood stories – before the lemonade stands, what Gary was like as a kid
(2) Luck – believing in luck, but wanting to eliminate excuses
(3) What matters most – if this was his last Thursday, how would he spend his last week?
(4) Depression – Gary discusses a recent suicide and why he thinks the culture of entrepreneurship being cool isn’t necessarily helping
(5) Legacy – how his view of legacy has changed over the last 10yrs
-Gary shares some childhood stories [1m36s]
-Before the lemonade stands [4m19s]
-Trading attention [5m27s]
-Thoughts on luck and eliminating excuses [6m9s]
-“I take no credit for my success” [8m46s]
-If this was his last week to live, what would Gary spend his time doing? [12m4s]
-A reoccurring nightmare as a child [15m52s]
-Entrepreneurial depression + suicide [17m27s]
-Navigating self-doubt vs self-awareness to know you’re not doing the right thing [20m54s]
-How Gary’s view of legacy has changed over the last 10 years [22m46s]
-Building a business that lives on without you [25m56s]


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May 14, 2017

Jos White is a serial entrepreneur and investor at Notion Capital. In this interview, he shares his life story from growing up in England, to getting expelled from school, starting businesses with his brother & how they managed to sell 3 different companies for more than $800 million. 

(1) Growing up in England – going to the same school as Richard Branson and getting expelled from school.
(2) Starting a business with his brother – early signs of entrepreneurship and what it was like setting up a company with his family.
(3) Multiple exits – most entrepreneurs dream of having a multi-million  dollar exit once. But Jos did this time and time again with 3 different companies. We go into what he built and how he sold the companies.
(4) Learning from his entrepreneurial journey – funding their businesses, finding a CTO, navigating the crash of 2000, knowing when it was the right time to sell, common mistakes people make when pitching for investment
(5) Legacy – what he cares most about, what makes people happy & how we wants to keep having an impact
  • [3m38s] What he was like as a kid
  • [5m35s] Going to same school as Richard Branson and getting expelled from school
  • [9m33s] Can you learn to be an entrepreneur and what he studied at school
  • [10m58s] Earliest exposure to business
  • [15m10s] Moving to Thailand
  • [17m29s] Genesis of RBR Networks
  • [20m25s] Making more than £1m a month and getting their first sale
  • [22m02s] Splitting up responsibility
  • [23m03s] Transitioning from marketing person to leader
  • [24m50s] Knowing his weaknesses
  • [27m17s] How they funded their business
  • [31m42s] Hiring good people
  • [34m06s] Selling the company for $50M
  • [35m47s] What they did the day they sold the company
  • [38m44s] Coming up with the idea for Message Labs
  • [42m05s] Finding a CTO
  • [47m03s] Navigating the crash of 2000
  • [48m21s] Knowing when to sell a company
  • [54m59s] Switching to an investor, what he looks for in an investment
  • [56m56s] Common mistakes people make when pitching for investment
  • [58m52s] What is keeping him motivated? Having a chip on your shoulder
  • [1hr] What success means to him
  • [1hr2m] Having financial success & social responsibility
  • [1hr5m] Legacy


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Mar 16, 2017

This is a new format where I bring experts from different fields to have a roundtable discussion on a particular topic. Today we speak about the state of transatlantic tech and what you should be thinking about if you’re looking to expand internationally. Note that this was recorded late Dec 2016 just before President Trump came into office.


(1) Daniel Glazer – partner at Silicon Valley-headquartered law firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where he leads the New York office’s Technology Transactions practice. He also helps lead WSGR’s US Expansion practice, advising UK and other non-US technology companies on US expansion

(2) Pru Ashby – head of North America at London & Partners who are the official promotional company for London. She works on attracting and advising US companies to set up and grow in London

(3) Alliott Cole – director at Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s largest venture capital teams. Some of their investments include: Secret Escapes, yPlan, Zoopla, Swiftkey (sold for $250M to Microsoft) & Lovefilm (sold to Amazon for $200M)


(1) Similarities and differences between US and UK/European markets
(2) Startup ecosystem post-brexit
(3) Future outlook under a Trump presidency
(4) How do you structure an expansion into US or Europe
(5) What companies have done this well?


  • [3m21s] Intros
  • [6m16s] State of UK post brexit
  • [18m49s] Investment growth in London since 2010
  • [19m28s] It takes 10.2yrs for companies to IPO on average
  • [20m23s] Has the market overreacted to Brexit?
  • [23m9s] Mood post US election
  • [24m16s] How will entrepreneurs think about globalisation
  • [30m9s] Similarities and differences in business culture in US vs UK
  • [42m11s] Recommendations on hiring people in US when you’re a startup
  • [43m35s] How do you structure an expansion
  • [48m27s] Where do you start your first US office
  • [51m41s] When do you know it’s the right time to move
  • [58m36] Examples of companies that have done a good job of expanding
  • [1hr6m] What do companies struggle with when they move
  • [1hr14m] What should US companies think about when expanding to UK
  • [1hr18m] Looking forward 

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Feb 7, 2017
Daymond John is a rare force of nature. He’s a true serial entrepreneur involved with more than 80 businesses & investments. He founded FUBU, the lifestyle fashion brand that has brought in more than $6 billion in sales. He’s a regular on the Emmy award winning show “Shark Tank” and has published three books including the NY Times best seller: The Power of Broke.

He was named by President Obama as a “Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship” and travelled with him on his historic trips to Cuba & Kenya.

We discuss what he’s learned from all those years, how he thinks about new business ideas, applying the “power of broke” to test out customer needs, focusing on the best opportunities, his role as a leader in the current political climate & his latest venture, a co-working space in NYC called Blueprint + Co. 


(1) Ideas – how he thinks of business ideas & focusing on the most important opportunities
(2) Blueprint + Co – why he’s opening a co-working space and how he thinks about differentiating from WeWork and startup spaces
(3) Power of Broke – why it’s important and how he applies this mindset to all his businesses
(4) Role In Society – thoughts on the current political climate and how he sees his role as an entrepreneur & leader
(5) Fear – using knowledge to combat fear
  • Who is Daymond? [1m22s]
  • What is Blueprint + Co and similarities to FUBU: For Us By Us  [2m14s]
  • Where the idea came from & differentiating from WeWork / startup co-working spaces [3m41s]
  • Having a need yourself and turning it into a business [3m58s]
  • Members of blueprint + co include: Ashley Stewart & Leesa mattress [5m5s]
  • Focusing on best opportunities with 80 businesses & investments [7m37s]
  • Investing vs starting business himself [9m17s]
  • What he enjoys most: starting, investing or corporate? [10m31s]
  • What is the power of broke? [11m51s]
  • Problem for small businesses when they are overfunded [13m35s]
  • You cannot buy your customers & thoughts on customer acquisition [14m4s]
  • Selling one hat at a time, comparisons to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook [14m27s]
  • Applying power of broke to blueprint + co [14m36s]
  • Finding product market fit for blueprint + co and thoughts on adapting product over time [17m6s]
  • What matters to him most and what keeps him going? [18m41s]
  • Current political climate and what he thinks his role is as and entrepreneur and leader [20m39]
  • Dealing with fear [23m44s]
  • Knowledge + Fear [25m21s]

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Jan 5, 2017
Sushi Nakazawa stunned the restaurant world when they were awarded a notoriously difficult 4 star review in The New York Times by legendary food critic Pete Wells.
But what really goes into creating such a world class restaurant? 
We get to hear directly from Alessandro (Alex) Borgognone, co-founder of Sushi Nakazawa, famous for its all star chef, Daisuke Nakazawa, who was the protege of Jiro One, the renowned chef from the award winning documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
This is a remarkable story like no other. 
From tracking down Nakazawa on Facebook, to using Google Translate to communicate & convincing him to start a restaurant in NYC - Alessandro personifies the entrepreneurial spirit that’s needed to make a fine establishment like this a reality. 
Here are five things to listen out for:
(1) Early Years - starting in the family business aged 13 & what growing up in Brooklyn as an Italian American taught him.
(2) Genesis of Sushi Nakazawa - how the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi inspired Alex to find Chef Nakazawa on Facebook, communicate via Google translate to turn his vision into one of the best restaurants in NYC. 
(3) The Restaurant Business - with 10 restaurants under his belt including Chumley’s and Sushi Nakazawa - how does Alex think about building a restaurant concept from scratch? Finding a chef, location, naming, costing, crating a menu, launching, promoting and getting people through the door. 
(4) Personal - what he thinks about success, what motivates him, his daily routine and why legacy matters. 
(5) Fun Questions - his favorite NYC restaurant, pizza places & how his worst job ever involves getting a car stolen!
  • What is Sushi Nakazawa and intro to Alex [1m51s]
  • His 10 restaurants, including Chumleys and Nakazawa [2m24s]
  • Starting in the restaurant business at 13 yrs old [3m19s]
  • What he loved about the food business [3m44s]
  • Growing up as an Italian American in Brooklyn [4m13s]
  • Working in the family business [5m33s]
  • Bringing back ideas from summer trips to Italy [6m30s]
  • What he wanted to be when he grew up [7m26s]
  • What he learned from the family businesses that he applies to his business today [8m58]
  • Genesis of sushi nakazawa - watching jiro dreams of sushi, using google translate to send a message on facebook to Nakazawa [9m50]
  • Who is and what is the significant of Jiro Dreams of Sushi [11m9s]
  • Who is chef nakazawa from jiro dreams of sushi [12m6s]
  • Navigating Japanese vs Italian culture [12m33s]
  • Using google translate to communicate on a daily basis [14m45s]
  • What does it take to start a restaurant in New York & why sushi is different [16m24s]
  • Deciding on a location [17m54s]
  • His thought process & attention to detail with Nakazawa [18m15s]
  • What it takes to create a menu and what they did differently [20m26s]
  • Importance of sequencing [21m22s]
  • Comparing business partnership with marriage [21m57s]
  • Launch - 3500 requests on open day [22m24s]
  • What they did to build up buzz [23m27s]
  • Hiring good people for a restaurant [25m35s]
  • Getting a 4* review from Pete Wells of The New York Times [26m54s]
  • Marketing & how to stay relevant [30m12]
  • How much does it cost to start a restaurant in Manhattan? $500k-$750k benchmark [34m31s]
  • Why is it harder to start a restaurant business now than in the past [36m25s]
  • What are some hidden costs of starting a restaurant [37m33s]
  • What numbers (KPIs) are they looking at to work out success [38m32s]
  • What is the role of technology in restaurant business [39m47s]
  • How do they think about and manage reviews on yelp, foursquare etc [41m19s]
  • What is driving him and keeps him going, how to be content [44m33s]
  • Daily routine [46m42s]
  • Restaurants he likes in NYC & talking about David Chang [51m11s]
  • “Do you like chick filet or fuku better” [52m27s]
  • Franchise vs creating your own brand - making a statement [52m48s]
  • What is motivating him, leaving a legacy, making a statement [54m01s]
  • What does success mean to him & who are others he thinks are successful? [55m03s]
  • Common traits amongst successful people [56m33s]
  • Best advice he's ever received - cameo from his best friend Tom & partner at Chumley’s [56m58s]
  • Word association game, fav restaurant, best slice of pizza, best food publication, worst job & favorite chef [58m32s]

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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:

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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:

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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]
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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]
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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!

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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.
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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

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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

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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'

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