Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman
Rather than pursue conventional milestones, define your own. Babylist’s founder and CEO, Natalie Gordon took baby steps to grow her e-commerce site from a 45-minute-a-day side hustle to a platform used by over 50% of new parents in the U.S. Natalie learned that as Babylist grew, her goals must grow with it. Despite wins and losses along the journey to scale, Natalie continued to play her own game and no one else’s.
What drove the meteoric rise of David Droga’s trailblazing agency Droga5? A series of daring, unexpected leaps — tactics he’s now applying at mega-scale as head of Accenture Song. Conventional wisdom tells you to ‘climb the ladder’ of success linearly — as an individual or a company. But David’s unexpected moves — leaning into creative partnerships and controversial programs — accelerated his path to scale. David tells us: “I’m more scared of repetition than I am of failure.”
Smart entrepreneurs know one of the secrets to scale is leveraging wisdom from others. (In fact, that’s the mission of this show!) But not all advice is right for you right now — and some can even be disastrous. As the founder of the proto-fintech platform LearnVest, Alexa von Tobel scaled her business by seeking advice from mentors and friends … and then, taking only the advice that served her mission. Following Alexa’s story, you’ll learn how to become a good advice detective, with the power to sort the transformative advice from the traps.
A strong company culture emerges when every employee feels they own the culture — and this starts before the first job interview. Netflix’s outgoing CEO Reed Hastings built a high-performing culture at Netflix by being upfront about who Netflix is, in the company’s famous culture deck. It won’t appeal to everyone — and that’s the point. If you can define your culture, while resonating with a diverse group of employees, you have a winning formula.
All great teams need to improvise under pressure, but underpinning this should be a set of tried-and-tested playbooks that let you orchestrate and replicate winning strategies. Cisco’s John Chambers created a library of living playbooks — covering culture, acquisitions, crises, and more — to astounding effect as he took Cisco from a small tech supplier to the most valuable company on the planet.
Running a business can be a lonely job. The long hours, the existential threats — it can feel like the weight of the entire company is on your back. That’s where the transformative power of co-founders comes in. Co-founders provide more than added manpower; they bring fresh perspectives and talents that help businesses conquer problems at speed. And the co-founder effect extends beyond the people who started the company: The lessons hold true for every team member that contributes in a foundational way. The more voices you add, the more resilience you build in yourself, and your organization.
In June of 2020, executive producers June Cohen and Jordan McLeod sat down with comedian Stephen Colbert to discuss how, as host of The Colbert Report, Stephen pivoted a satirical run for U.S. president into a massive fundraiser for the nonprofit Donors Choose. They dive into how that presidential run came to be, and how Donors Choose helped Stephen solve the challenge of collecting “campaign contributions” without breaking federal election law. It’s a master class in “Yes-and”-ing your way to scale. Plus, Stephen describes daring his show’s parent company to stop him, when they tried to clip his electoral wings.
Businesses run on incentives — from attracting customers with great prices, to drawing in talent with great salaries. But incentives aren’t something you set once; you must constantly revisit them to adjust to changing times. Cindy Mi, founder and CEO of the learning platform VIPKid, has leveraged the power of incentives to build a thriving global learning community — and, to shepherd her organization through a black hole-sized disruption.
What can an entrepreneur learn from a world-class musician? How to create a world-class team, and unite around a clear mission. In this special crossover episode with our sister podcast, Spark & Fire, you’ll hear world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma tell the story of co-founding The Silk Road Project — a musical collective that brings together musicians from wildly different traditions to write and perform original music.
Some aspects of your brand will be defined by what customers tell you; others, by what you tell them. In their stories of how they scaled Warby Parker from scrappy e-commerce site to comprehensive eyewear and eye care juggernaut, co-founder and co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa give a master class in how to articulate crystal-clear brand values while also building and iterating based on fast customer feedback. Their lesson? Branding isn’t static. It’s a conversation.