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.
How do you reinvent a world-renowned automaker for an all-electric future? At Mercedes-Benz, CEO Ola Källenius has set the jaw-dropping goal to put fossil-fuels in the rear-view mirror by 2030 — ahead of other competitors and well ahead of Paris Climate Accords recommendations. Pushing the company’s tech, customers, and workforce to operate in a new gear, Källenius says, is repositioning Mercedes for whatever challenges and opportunities are ahead. From strategizing for the luxury market — balancing volume with desirability — to grappling with the complications of economic disruption, Källenius takes us inside the epic transformation of an iconic brand.
Reid Hoffman and Bob Safian sit down once more to discuss how today’s hot-button stories are impacting business. The co-hosts address the key trends that all entrepreneurs should be up to speed on, from the travails of Twitter to the triumphant return of Bob Iger. Featuring PepsiCo’s Mauro Porcini, CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, and Color of Change’s Rashad Robinson.
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.
The tech industry and its investors have been captivated by the spell of the Unicorn for too long — and the ambitious goal of a billion-dollar valuation has done more harm than good. Instead, founders should aim to be resilient Dragons. That’s the view of Maëlle Gavet, who as CEO of early-stage investment business Techstars has unmatched insight into the hopes, dreams, and challenges of thousands of founders. Maëlle also shares her experience as a “Fixer and Scaler” and offers important lessons for all entrepreneurs, from pre-seed start-ups to corporate change agents.
Despite only 8% of Fortune 500 companies with women CEOs, women leaders more often utilize leadership skills that are perfectly suited for the current business climate. Julia Boorstin, who created CNBC’s Disruptor 50 platform, argues in her new book When Women Lead that counterintuitive approaches used by women leaders can have a great impact on business, and can be learned by anyone. Julia, as a senior tech and media reporter, also offers her in-depth knowledge on big tech from Twitter, Meta, and TikTok.
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.
Design is more than aesthetics. It is an essential competitive tool for an age of perpetual disruption. PepsiCo Chief Design Officer Mauro Porcini shares his 5-point system for sparking creativity at scale. Author of the new book The Human Side of Innovation, Porcini explains how anyone can deploy a designer’s mindset to improve their business and organization. Sharing stories from 3M to Mountain Dew, Porcini emphasizes the imperative of excellence and why innovation is “an act of love.”
To complete an audacious journey, you need to set short, achievable goals — or waypoints — to avoid getting wildly lost. But waypoints also need to be flexible because when you’re knocked off track, you need to be able to realign your waypoints to get back on course. Aurora’s Chris Urmson shares how he keeps returning to short, flexible waypoints on his daunting journey to make autonomous vehicles part of our everyday lives.
Three legendary culture-setters come together live at Masters of Scale Summit. In the first episode from this sold-out event, Angela Ahrendts, Dara Khosrowshahi, and Eric Schmidt reveal how they’ve built and rebuilt great cultures at Apple, Uber, Google and more. With host Bob Safian, they deliver surprising stories, counterintuitive anti-lessons, and live-show energy from the stage of San Francisco’s Presidio Theatre.
As a new leader, how do you honor an established brand while trying to shepherd it into the next era? Las Vegas Raiders’ president Sandra Douglass Morgan took the helm amid a front office scandal and a team new to the desert. Morgan talks about prioritizing customers over all else, taking risks at the beginning of a new venture, and why to bet on yourself from the moment you apply for a job.
Innovation is the lifeblood of the start-up — from product to processes and culture to creativity. But innovation is just as essential for scale companies. So how do you keep the innovation flywheel spinning at all levels of scale? The answer according to Linda Yates is to seed every level of your company with an intrapreneurial mindset. As CEO of Mach49, an incubator for large global companies, Linda shares her vast experience and strategies for injecting intrapreneurial thinking and bias-to-action across hundreds of large-scale organizations.
Hybrid, remote, in-person, a little bit of everything? Work has transformed into a giant experiment. Priya Parker, expert facilitator and author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, shares her advice on how to manage the new hybrid workplace. Where to start? Focus first, she suggests, on making your meetings better.
Taking risks can be the catalyst for immense scale or dire straits. Avoiding taking any risks at all leads to stagnancy and empowered competitors. The key is to know which risks are worth taking, and when and how to take them. This episode highlights the best conversations we’ve had recently about taking advantage of risk and how fortune favors the brave.
After slashing his NYC restaurant team from 2,400 people to just 45 in the teeth of the pandemic, Danny Meyer has rebuilt Union Square Hospitality Group back to its former size. But in his fifth appearance on Rapid Response since Covid struck, Danny says he isn’t yet triumphant. With inflation creating fresh challenges even at Shake Shack, Danny shares lessons on the good and bad of leading through a crisis, plus explains why he’s handed off his CEO title — and where he finds inspiration to fuel new innovations.
For truly sustainable long-term growth, you must prioritize your mission over your product — even if that means letting your product go. Noom founder and CEO Saeju Jeong has repeatedly turned his back on successful products in the name of his mission to help as many people as possible live healthier lives. In this episode, Saeju brings to life many of these make-or-break moments, and how his dedication to mission has driven his scale journey.
When markets are in turmoil, you can’t rely on business as usual, but that doesn’t mean you should panic. As the housing climate has turned volatile, rest estate marketplace Zillow has been forced to rethink some priorities, while doubling down on others. Zillow president Susan Daimler talks about the importance of a strategy focused on the future, despite layoffs and pullbacks, and how maintaining a clear shared mindset has enabled forward progress in a challenging climate.
Can a small entrepreneur make an impact within a massive, complex system, like healthcare or education? What’s the best framework to amplify the positive side of having co-founders and avoid the negatives? Reid Hoffman and Bob Safian answer these and more questions from small business owners in the Masters of Scale community. Plus: in our Need to Know segment, Reid & Bob take on a burning question: How can Black founders beat the odds and find funding?
Partnerships can be the secret weapon to rocketing your company to the next level. That’s what Cathy Zoi discovered when she became the CEO of charging station network, EVgo. Whether it be partnering with grocery and department stores, or aligning with the Tesla customer-base, targeting allies and collaborators are a crucial catalyst for how EVgo has grown to become the nation’s largest public EV charging network.
Too many businesses and organizations spend time planning and not enough in action, especially in times of emergency. José Andrés, world-famous chef and founder of the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, proves the value of fast action through his work, including his recent time in Ukraine serving over 150 million meals. José thinks businesses should flatten their power structure and treat food as a national security issue, even in places like the U.S.
When is it time to double down on your instincts, and when is it time to open yourself up to feedback? Sometimes it comes down to a hard call… that you might get totally wrong. In Part Two of our episode with Patreon’s Jack Conte, you’ll hear how he was able to raise capital by telling his authentic story after a series of pitches that went disastrously wrong! And you’ll hear how his worst mistake as a founder helped him reconnect with Patreon’s mission and community, and build Patreon into a $4B company. How can being wrong accelerate your business? It takes running at the solution with insatiable curiosity.
When it comes to racial justice, many companies and organizations haven’t matched their reality to their words. Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, the largest online racial justice organization in the U.S., is holding major corporations accountable. Hear Rashad talk through the difficulties of changing systems from Hollywood, Silicon Valley, to Washington DC, getting help from President Barack Obama, and what business leaders can do to actively change racial injustice.
Building a business means making mistakes. Lots of them. But how you’re wrong isn’t always obvious. Jack Conte has learned this lesson as a working musician — and while scaling Patreon into a company worth $4b. In Part One of a two-part series, you’ll hear how Jack wrote his own Wrongness Playbook, as he learned to answer questions like: If something isn’t working, is it time to trust your instincts? Or is there critical feedback you’ve been ignoring?
Amazon wants to get bigger, but with that scale comes great responsibility. So says Adam Selipsky, CEO of Amazon Web Services, the most profitable and fastest growing part of the tech giant. Selipsky, who also oversees Amazon’s climate change efforts, points to two additions to the company’s vaunted “Leadership Principles” as evidence of Amazon’s commitment. Arguing that AWS is still in early days, he shares what he’s hearing from other CEOs about their biggest concerns, why “carbon intensity” is the best measure of climate progress for businesses, and what Amazon’s aspiration to be “Earth’s best employer” really means.
How can small businesses survive in times of volatility? How should an entrepreneur balance limited resources with big ambitions? Reid Hoffman and Bob Safian answer questions from small business owners in the Masters of Scale community. Plus: another round of Pivot Point, and a Need to Know segment.
Creative energy is the raw fuel of entrepreneurship, but if you fail to direct that energy effectively, you risk chasing multiple ideas and delivering none. Tony Fadell learned this lesson time and again through his journey to co-create the iPod, iPhone, and Nest. He shares how he struck the tricky balance of channeling his creative experimentation into world-changing products.
The fallout from the pandemic is proving to be as challenging for business leaders to navigate as the pandemic’s onset. Target’s CEO Brian Cornell had to make difficult decisions in the second quarter of this year to manage an unexpected surplus of goods and home technology. He shares his most recent learnings, as well as lessons for handling skepticism, the need for agility, and why mental wellness is key to a successful team.
If you’re a leader right now navigating the global pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and your own mental list of what’s keeping you up at night, the issue of burnout is probably on your mind. You can’t shield your team from all stress, but you can find effective ways of supporting your employees through it. This episode highlights the best conversations we’ve had recently about stopping burnout in your organization, before it takes hold.
Featuring BetterUp’s Alexi Robichaux, Upwork’s Hayden Brown, Merck’s Ken Frazier, Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya, director J.J. Abrams, Girls Who Code’s Reshma Saujani, BW4BL’s Tokunbo Koiki, and FuelFinance’s Alyona Mysko.
Crypto winter isn’t a disaster, it’s an opportunity. That’s how Michael Gronager, CEO of $8 billion crypto data company Chainalysis, describes the crashing prices and bankruptcies that have roiled the cryptocurrency sector. Gronager offers an insider’s perspective on operating in a volatile marketplace, providing lessons on dreaming too big in boom times and on leaning into building and creating when lulls emerge. Chainalysis helps track financial flows on blockchains, including crypto criminals from North Korea and Russia. Despite current risks, Gronager argues, the still-emerging crypto sector is maturing, and he’s as confident as ever about its future.
Reid Hoffman and Bob Safian sit down to discuss how today’s hot-button stories are impacting business. The co-hosts address the key trends that all entrepreneurs should be up to speed on, from the looming recession and cryptocurrency’s possible demise to the hybrid workplace and moral leadership. Featuring Mercy Corps’ Tjada McKenna, PwC’s Tim Ryan, and Girls Who Code’s Reshma Saujani.
If you want to capitalize on an opportunity that you think could change the world, you need to drive full speed toward it. Back in 1994, when Ajaz Ahmed dropped out of college to start one of the first digital ad agencies, AKQA, he knew he was at the cusp of the next revolution in tech. And if he wanted to be part of it, he’d have to move fast. Ahmed shares stories about how a band of 21-year-old dropouts built the agency from ground up, winning over early clients by building prototypes ahead of the competition. He dives into how his inner voice demanding him to “get big or die trying” led him to transform AKQA into a global agency with thousands of employees and the biggest clients in the world, like Nike, Virgin, and Usher.
What’s the difference between an activist brand and an active brand? Impossible Foods CEO Peter McGuinness says that acting on your values defines a business — from climate change to Roe v. Wade. To unleash the next wave of growth for plant-based meat purveyor Impossible, McGuiness is rethinking how the whole category presents itself, taking aim at what he calls “safe and lame” approaches, partnering with the likes of Billie Eilish, and targeting the $1.4 trillion global meat industry.
Every company has its own internal factions: engineers vs. designers, East Coast vs. West, IT vs. everybody. The trick is turning factionalism into healthy competition that propels you toward your shared mission. At Motorola, Cisco, and now her start-up Fable, Padma Warrior has tapped into the power of internal divisions. It’s not about separating people into warring camps; it’s about building bridges from our differences, rather than divisions.
Volunteering and service are muscles that can close America’s divides and push social change. Speaking live at the 2022 Social Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C., AmeriCorps’ new CEO, Michael Smith, shares a vision for healing sociopolitical divides through partnerships and on-the-ground experiences. When it comes to tackling natural and social crises, he’s prioritizing impact over volume.
When a tech nonprofit competes against a $2 billion incumbent dominating the market, its odds are slim. But Zo Orchingwa took that bet, founding Ameelio, believing that access to communication and education for the incarcerated is needed for their future success. Ameelio is on a quest to partner with every prison district in the country until one day, it scales enough to be redundant.
The first stage of building up a business is to break things down. Michael Dell started a computer company in his dorm room by cracking open some early IBM PCs and figuring out what he could do better, faster, and cheaper. Then he did the same thing to the entire model of computer sales. Learn from Dell how to revolutionize an industry — using deconstruction to gain insight your competitors lack, and then building something bigger and better.
While gasoline prices soar, solar company Sunrun is poised to usher in a customer-led revolution of distributed energy technologies. Sunrun’s CEO Mary Powell combats a “no and slow” culture to transform more homes into virtual energy plants by preaching optimism and scorning bureaucracy. She’s moving with urgency to create a cleaner and more cost-effective future as fast as possible.
Delivering human dignity to your customers is more than just good practice. It can be a powerful engine of scale. This insight has inspired Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins her whole career, as a labor leader, a music manager, and now as a fin-tech entrepreneur with Promise. Her secret? Take a contrarian lens to existing systems. Find a space where human dignity is lacking, create a product that gives your customers flexibility, options, access they didn’t have before — and unlock new value.
Watch the signed version of Amber Galloway’s story on YouTube.
For Reid Hoffman, the way to live a meaningful and productive life is to focus on one key area: friendships. Speaking at Vanderbilt University’s 2022 commencement, he shares four lessons on why friendships are crucial for helping us achieve our potential and enact meaningful change.
Most future of work conversations revolve around the “where,” but Upwork CEO Hayden Brown says it’s more important to focus on the “who.” 10% of the workforce at Upwork, the global tech platform for millions of freelance workers, was directly impacted by the war in Ukraine. Hayden’s people-focused approach to the difficult decision of how to manage remote employees there and in Russia is the same mindset she applies to meet the needs of all workers, from people feeling conflict to working mothers.
How can a small business survive a David vs. Goliath competition? If two sets of stakeholders have opposing needs, how can a start-up pivot to keep them both happy? Reid Hoffman and Bob Safian answer these questions and more from small business owners in the Masters of Scale community. Plus: another round of Pivot Point!
Entrepreneurship is an essential tool for building a more equitable society — which is why Kathryn Finney is laser-focused on encouraging people who don’t fit the mold of the stereotypical founder to jump in. Her new book, “Build the Damn Thing,” taps into wisdom from her years at the venture studio Genius Guild and beyond. She brings a message to founders: The universe is conspiring for your greatness.
A diverse network of collaborators is key when making scale leaps. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel has cultivated a wide network of scientists, business leaders, and government officials across his career. When COVID-19 struck, Bancel called upon this nexus of experts to aid the warp-speed development of the mRNA-based vaccine in the race to save millions of lives.
It’s easy to have a grand idea; putting that plan into action is not. Victoria Yampolsky conceived of a global concert in support of Ukraine. Without any experience in entertainment or international aid, she shares how she didn’t accept “no” for an answer in her quest to book big-name guests like Pink Floyd and negotiate a streaming deal — to pursue a fundraising goal of $10 million.
If you’re launching a moonshot, success depends on how you manage the trajectory of risk. When Stéphane Bancel became Moderna’s first CEO, the biotech start-up was chasing a way-out idea many experts thought was impossible. Stéphane built a culture of calculated risk-taking to create a platform for extraordinary leaps — one that enabled life-saving mRNA vaccines when Covid-19 struck.
With the workplace in historic flux, consulting firm PwC is committing a whopping $2.4 billion to create an employee engagement platform offering a radically new level of choice. PwC’s U.S. chair, Tim Ryan, shares why the bold initiative is necessary in the face of the Great Resignation. It’s just one of several evolving crises, Ryan says, that has made leading a business more complex and demanding than ever.
Massive change isn’t something you can brute-force — you need to ignite buy-in, again and again, up and down your organization. Because even if your changes will make things more fun, more interesting, and more profitable, you’re going to face defiance and inertia until you clue everyone in. That’s what Bill Ford learned while working to remake Ford Motor Company as an environmental powerhouse — against surprising internal and even national-level resistance.
Has Gopuff cracked the code of instant delivery — a field where even Amazon has struggled? Co-founder Yakir Gola talks about the challenge of owning the customer journey from app to warehouse to doorstep, and the reasons why being outside Silicon Valley is giving Gopuff a big advantage as it expands across the United States and around the world. Yakir talks with host Bob Safian about why moving fast is only one piece of the growth puzzle.
We often hear the story about the great leader who joins a legacy company and guides it through massive transformation. But massive transformation can also start from the inside. Bill Ford, the executive chair of the Ford Motor Company, founded by his great-grandfather, is proof that great change can come from within. He has led not just one but multiple refreshes of Ford’s mission, culture, and, especially, their approach to sustainability. In Part One, you’ll hear about Bill Ford’s unusual entry into the family business.
Charity Dean was one of the first public health officials to set the alarm on COVID. When she searched for a tool to forecast future bio threats, she realized that it didn’t exist yet. So she co-founded the Public Health Company, where she uses lessons from her government experiences, but without the same rules or limits. She speaks with Bob Safian about why all companies must be public health companies.
Gayle Smith is the CEO of the ONE Campaign, the advocacy group founded by U2’s Bono — and last year, she was tapped by the U.S. State Department to coordinate America’s COVID response and vaccine distribution globally. Her experience both inside and outside government gives her a distinctive outlook on how business can and should help on humanitarian issues, from Ukraine dislocation to climate change. She also shares lessons about effective advocacy: tactics pioneered by ONE that can be useful to any organization trying to generate impact.
Amid pandemic disruption, Chief turned a small, NYC-based club for women executives into a national phenomenon with more than 12,000 members. Co-founder and CEO Carolyn Childers shares how she and co-founder Lindsay Kaplan managed the transformation, which recently yielded a $100 million Series B funding round for a whole new set of tools to support business leaders.
Alyona Mysko, the CEO of a B2B startup in Ukraine called Fuelfinance, walks us through the lessons she’s learned while leading her company in wartime — sometimes working with her team from bomb shelters during the day. All of Ukraine is running like a startup now, she says: Each citizen takes the initiative to pick up what needs to be done.
Learn the 5 mindsets that will reshape the way you hire, train, and retain — to build the team of superheroes that will power your business to scale. Hear real-world advice and great stories from Reid, Bob, and legendary leaders like PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, GoFundMe’s Tim Cadogan, Burberry and Apple’s Angela Ahrendts, and Vanderbilt basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse.
Eric Friedrichsen, the CEO of Emburse, a B2B software provider, has navigated risks and costs to meet the needs of their tech contractors based in Ukraine — like offering to relocate families, and funding housing costs for colleagues taking refuge in Poland. These choices haven’t come without obstacles. But the benefits are moral, communal, and quantifiable.
Your local community can be the power behind an epic scale story — because smart community investment always maximizes returns. In creating opportunities for new jobs, Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya created opportunities for massive scale.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the sanctions that followed, radically impacted supply chains around the world. Jennifer Bisceglie, CEO of Interos, a risk-management firm focused on supply chains, has seen her company’s risk dashboards light up in new and far-reaching ways. Meanwhile, a more sophisticated supply chain is coming together in real-time.
As refugees flee Ukraine, Airbnb.org is offering free, temporary housing for up to 100,000. Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia shares how the company is using business tools for humanitarian benefit — and how Airbnb became a tool to transfer money directly to individual Ukrainians. In crisis, he says, leaders should ask: What would make us proud?
“It’s not about fixing women. It’s about fixing the system,” says Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code and Marshall Plan for Moms. As the author of Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work, Reshma pushes the discourse around the “future of work” to include flexibility, childcare, and an end to the hustle culture — for all of us.
In Part 1 of our two-part series, Daymond shares lessons from FUBU’s earliest days in Queens, where he partnered with bouncers, bodegas, his neighbor LL Cool J, and his earliest collaborator and investor (his mom) to turn a great idea into a billion-dollar urban wear brand.
Watching the news out of Ukraine, Tokunbo Koiki saw reports of Black students struggling to flee the country. Tokunbo, an entrepreneur and social worker, linked up with two strangers, Patricia Daley and Korrine Sky, to build an aid organization for Black refugees — in a single weekend. Black Women for Black Lives helped some 1,200 Black students with direct assistance, a perfect illustration of how entrepreneurial thinking can mobilize action faster than you think it can.
“My big call to action would be to support existing organizations,” says Susy Schöneberg, the founder and head of Flexport.org, the nonprofit arm of the logistics firm Flexport. Schöneberg and her team are organizing complex shipments of relief goods to Ukrainian refugee sites across Eastern Europe; she breaks down how her organization has been safely managing the flow of goods toward displaced refugees and the best way you can get involved — as a citizen or company. She leaves us with a lesson that applies to any crisis: joining together can produce far better results than trying to do it alone.
In Part 2 of our two-part series featuring Daymond John, Daymond shows how aligning your mission with partners builds trust that can take your scale to a new level.
“We have to assume that cyberattacks will happen,” says Bipul Sinha, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Rubrik. State-sponsored actors and cybercriminals are both heightened threats now, and cybersecurity tactics must learn to counter them. Bipul shares what we can do to protect ourselves — starting with basic cyber hygiene.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine presents a new level of disruption to an already fragile global trade system. Sara Menker, the CEO of Gro Intelligence, offers a window into the shifts across all parts of the economy. She shares what we need to understand about Russia’s trade with China and largely overlooked impacts in the Middle East.
Tjada D’Oyen McKenna is the CEO of Mercy Corps, an NGO on the front lines of the Ukrainian crisis. They began scenario-planning well in advance of Russia’s aggression, and they’re now deploying food, cash, and social services to refugees in need. She shares their strategy — and how they’re also keeping focus on other struggles around the world.
For some entrepreneurs, risk is just part of the game. But for the reluctant entrepreneur, whose endeavors come as a response to a need they’ve identified, risk can feel more like a necessary evil. That’s why you need to learn to harness risk. Stacey Abrams, and her frequent business partner Lara Hodgson, share stories of how harnessing and balancing risk can be the key to your success.
GM is working on two daunting goals: an all-electric vehicle future, and building its rep as the world’s most inclusive company. Gerald Johnson, EVP of manufacturing and sustainability at General Motors, helped lead GM’s COVID-19 response; he’s now tackling these next, twin challenges.
“We should expect more volatility,” Reid Hoffman tells Rapid Response host Bob Safian in the first Need to Know session of the year, covering news and business topics impacting entrepreneurs right now. Reid and Bob discuss the implications of the Ukraine invasion, then dive into the pandemic-fueled troubles at Peloton, PayPal, and Meta, new climate-change urgencies — including Reid’s recent trip to Antarctica, and how Activision will be different after merging with Microsoft. Plus: pay transparency; the lessons of Theranos; and the business case for democracy.
It may appear off-brand for Betterment, a digital investment adviser, to acquire a cryptocurrency investing platform. But as CEO Sarah Levy says, Betterment approached this volatile space with long-term thinking. Levy, who became CEO in the midst of the pandemic, offers perspective on how new digital finance platforms are shifting the norms of the industry.
Ken Frazier, the longtime CEO of Merck, was one of the few Black CEOs at the top of corporate America. Now as an adviser at General Catalyst and co-founder of the social impact organization OneTen, he’s re-shaping how business addresses racial and health equity. There’s an important role business can play, he says, by stressing our commonality.
How do you best prepare for entrepreneurship? Reid Hoffman answers five burning questions from our Masters of Scale Members about tough pivots, growth targets, name changes and more. With Members Antoni Gruca (HEC-42 Launchpad), Krystal Lucado, Tudor Mihailescu (SpeechifAI, Inc.), Hoda Mehr (Stock Card), and Shamini Dhana (D/Sphere).
As the global chip shortage unfolded in 2021, Qualcomm’s engineers quickly redesigned their products – an effort that tapped into “every possible capacity we could find,” says CEO Cristiano Amon. Their story is a great lesson in how an established company can and must move with the speed of a startup.
The Drone Racing League has built a fanbase previously untapped by pro sports. President Rachel Jacobson, formerly an NBA executive, calls their fans “techsetters” – young, enthusiastic, techy fans who are “invested in what the future looks like.” It’s a demographic that loves the league’s positioning that intersects sports, entertainment, and technology. As Rachel says, companies that aren’t planning for future demographics of consumers will “age out really quickly.”
Throughout her career, Natalie Massenet has proved her ability to spot – and act on – a trend. Natalie and Reid share tactics about how to deliver the future to consumers, manage pushback, and navigate uncharted territory.
Faced with long odds, how do you keep your team motivated and moving forward? Alexis McGill Johnson is focused on building hope. As president of Planned Parenthood, Johnson is preparing for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade — and modeling a sense of relentlessness for her team, so they too can be fearless.
Sir Jeremy Farrar is UK’s pre-eminent scientific authority on Covid-19 and the chief executive at the research foundation Wellcome Trust. He shares the latest learnings of the Omicron variant – and offers a framework for handling the uncertainty. He shares two leadership lessons he’s learned during the pandemic: find time for yourself, and take warnings seriously.
Paul English, co-founder of travel search platform Kayak, guides us through five critical lessons for the hiring journey. As you’ll hear, English is passionate and relentless about the subject of recruiting – and the scale of the stakes.
“Go for the megatons.” That’s John Doerr’s recommendation for how we need to combat the existential threat of climate change. Doerr, a venture capitalist and author of the new book Speed & Scale, discusses decarbonization, what he calls “the greatest economic opportunity of the next century.” Business plays a critical role in advancing that movement.
Marc Lore is all too familiar with leaping into the unknown. One thing he’s learned from all of his audacious endeavors: you can’t leap alone. You need to convince your team, and more importantly, your customers to leap with you.
As an early internet founder and iconic venture capitalist, Marc Andreessen has thought deeply about the role timing plays in a startup’s success: when to launch that first product; when to ramp up scale; when to move into a new market. Getting the timing wrong can have a catastrophic effect. Getting it right can help you get to scale ahead of your competitors.
Crate & Barrel CEO Janet Hayes started her role in August 2020, when stores were closed and the future of retail was uncertain. Her move? Lean into digital and sustainability for her brands, and flexibility and trust for her employees.
How can you entice funders to invest in a niche business? Business from our signature three-act ads ask host Reid Hoffman critical questions for challenges they’re facing now. With John and Kendall Antonelli (Antonelli’s Cheese Shop), Brit Rettig Wold (GRIT Fitness), Matthew Goins (Puzzle Huddle), Monisha Edwards (Scent & Fire Candle Company), and Ricardo Regalado (Rozalado Services & Route). Plus: the Pivot Point game show, w/Tara Wilson (Fierce Lab), Tudor Mihailescu (SpeechifAI), Greg Gallimore (Gensler Group & WUBI), Becky Pallack (Arizona Luminaria),
Since GoFundMe’s inception, the for-profit crowdsourcing platform has facilitated $15 billion in giving, through more than 200 million donations. The key to the company’s success? According to CEO Tim Cadogan: Asking for help unlocks more possibilities than people realize – a lesson for GoFundMe users, and for businesses overall.
When Paul Polman joined Unilever as CEO in 2009, the consumer goods company had been stagnated with years of lackluster performance. His famous turnaround of the company centered around his ability to redraw the boundaries of Unilever’s mission to emphasize sustainability and long-term growth.
In the summer of 2021, Fidji Simo became CEO of Instacart, replacing founder Apoorva Mehta. Stepping into the role, Fidji is emphasizing an evolved company mission, diversifying the company’s leadership and focusing on the technology that helps retailers best serve their customers.
Reid Hoffman and Rapid Response host Bob Safian break down what you need to know right now about the most important issues and opportunities impacting entrepreneurs. The co-hosts dive into inflation reactions, Facebook quandaries, metaverse mania, AI & crypto trends, and lessons from the Great Resignation. Plus: why LinkedIn pulled back in China, and what pundits are missing in the big tech backlash.
In May 2020, as companies began making promises about how they’d help Black-owned businesses, Aurora James launched the 15 Percent Pledge with an Instagram post. Tagging major retailers, she declared that 15% of retail shelf space should belong to Black-owned businesses. Learn the tactics and strategies that allowed one small, dedicated effort to unlock $10 billion in revenue.
Your board of directors can make or break you. In fact, Reid believes, the wrong board member can break your company faster than the right board member can make it. Learn the five vital mindset shifts that can help you create a better board.
Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, breaks down his insights on artificial intelligence. The co-author of “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future,” alongside Dr. Henry Kissinger and MIT’s Daniel Huttenlocher, says we’re entering an unknown era – one that requires vigilance. His advice to business: You need to be running as fast as you can toward AI applications. If your competitor gets there first, you’ll be in trouble. AI, he says, will change business, society, humanity itself.
Too often, companies only focus on the type of scale that’s visible: massive campuses, thousands of workers, offices around the globe. But as Land O’Lakes proves, there are less conspicuous ways to scale – ways that supply your business with structural integrity. This is something CEO Beth Ford knows well.
Skepticism and doubt are no strangers to John Foley, the founder and former CEO of Peloton. In 2020, the company was supercharged by pandemic demand. However, in 2021, the company faced a slew of new headwinds, from product-safety issues to investor skepticism. But he doesn’t see skepticism as a sign of weakness. He expects it, and learns from it.
Reid Hoffman and Masters of Scale executive producer June Cohen gather five of their favorite guests – Brian Chesky, Tyra Banks, Angela Ahrendts, Sallie Krawcheck, and Franklin Leonard — for a raw, honest, open dialogue filled with nonstop insights.
How do you respond when your own users resist your data? That question is top-of-mind for Nielsen CEO David Kenny. For decades, Nielsen has measured ratings and demographics across TV and media. But as industry norms shift to streaming, Kenny has had to revamp expectations, taking heat from traditional customers. As he notes, nostalgia is the opposite of optimism – it assumes a known past is better than an unknown future. Kenny is choosing optimism.
Since stepping down as Walmart’s president of e-commerce at the start of 2021, billionaire entrepreneur Marc Lore has had a busy year of big ideas. Chief among them: a new American city called Telosa, centered around sustainability and inclusion. Lore approaches moonshot ideas by reverting to the fundamentals: “VCP: vision, capital, people.”
In 2021, Sarah Hirshland faced one daunting issue after another as the CEO of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee: pandemic disruptions, social action protests, sexual misconduct scandals, mental health stress and more. Through it, Sarah has motivated her team around a mission to reflect not just where America is now but where it’s going.
Jessica Alba’s approach in founding and building The Honest Company revolves around three letters: IRL, a useful acronym for “In Real Life.” This phrase acts as a reminder for the company to shine the spotlight onto their customer’s real needs – not only to understand them, but to address them as well.
Last year, SolarWinds became the subject of a massive and sophisticated cyberattack, potentially affecting thousands of organizations. CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna, who joined the company soon after the breach was discovered, speaks with host Bob Safian about how he and the company responded, and how other companies should approach the ever-looming threat of cyber-risk. “There is no such thing as ‘I won’t be breached because I’m too secure or too smart,’ says Ramakrishna. “You could be breached. And when it happens, be humble. Learn from it, adapt, and act with a sense of urgency.”
No matter what phase of growth you’re in, you need useful, cost-effective data. Data is essential to scale. Take it from Sheila Lirio Marcelo, the founder and former CEO of Care.com, the two-sided marketplace connecting working families with care providers. Marcelo scaled her business past the competition by getting the right data at the right time. As she says: “Something I coach a lot of entrepreneurs: You can have a great vision and idea, but start with a lot of data and testing.”
To compete against bigger players, you need an edge. Sridhar Ramaswamy, who led Google’s huge ad business, is now going head-to head against his former employer with an ad-free subscription-based search engine called Neeva. Ramaswamy offers lessons on growth, monopolistic threats, and why challenging even great companies is necessary right now.
To get the most out of your talent, you need to create an environment that allows them to thrive. Nobody knows this better than Indra Nooyi, who spent 12 years as the CEO of PepsiCo. Her drive to support talent underpinned the initiatives that transformed the company. “I looked at each person in my company, not as a tool of the trade,” she says, “but I looked at them as an individual asset that had to bring their head, heart, and hands to the company for us to be successful.”
Your ability to make quick decisions in the face of a crisis can define your career. That’s been the case for Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, the now-retired president of Spelman College, the all-women’s HBCU in Atlanta. To solve complex conflicts, she stresses one point above all: listen. Dr. Campbell demonstrates how consistent leadership builds confidence and resilience.
Collaboration drives performance in the modern economy. Yet the uncertainty and dislocation of our pandemic experience has unsettled workplace expectations and cultures. Managing a team today requires a new mindfulness about physical and mental health, what motivates performance, and how to build creativity in remote, hybrid, and fluid conditions. In this special episode, we share five moves that are essential to building a successful team spirit right now.
When hard times hit, the show must still go on. But as Drama League board president and Broadway HD CEO Bonnie Comley explains, even when the lights are dark, progress can be made. Broadway’s 41 theaters were dark for 18 months, but the 18-month pandemic closure created an opportunity for the $16 billion industry to expand the customer base and embrace digital engagement.
As dangerous as obstacles and setbacks may appear, they can also present opportunities. Robert Reffkin, founder and CEO of the real estate platform, Compass, knows this well. The trick, he says, isn’t to avoid obstacles at all cost, but rather, to identify them quickly as resources you can harness. “You can’t do great things in the world if you don’t have that entrepreneurial, ‘I can do it’ energy,” Reffkin says. “And how do you get that energy? You dream a big dream.”
Creating a truly self-driving car is a complex and interlocking problem. As the founder of the autonomous driving company Aurora, Chris Urmson, says: “Given the scale of the problem, the complexity and breadth of it, we had to build the company almost ahead of the product.” He is determined to transform transportation – a goal that requires a great amount of energy and investment upfront.
How do you expand to a country where you’re not located? What was the insight that led Reid from entrepreneur to investor? Host Reid Hoffman answers seven burning questions; and gives advice to a recent grad who wants to change the world.
“You have to preserve your energy; this year has been about pace,” says restaurateur Danny Meyer, as he catches us up on the past seven-plus months of operating in the midst of pandemic. In the beginning of summer 2021, when Covid rates were plummeting in New York City, he was full of optimism: His restaurants were back to indoor dining, and despite a limited workforce, “progress is progress.” Then came the Delta variant.
To achieve massive scale, you don’t just need founders, you also need a re-founder – someone to come in at a later stage to keep the mission and culture on track. As Microsoft’s third CEO ever – after Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer – Satya Nadella is doing just that. He discusses how he has transformed Microsoft from a cutthroat culture towards embracing social networks, collaboration, and cloud.
Andrew Wilson, the CEO of Electronic Arts, explains how he’s playing in the metaverse – and how an industry-wide cultural referendum on harassment keeps him up at night.
The CEO of Illumina, Francis deSouza, has been locked in a multi-year battle with the FTC over the re-acquisition of a company it previously spun out, called GRAIL, that has a breakthrough cancer screening test. Talking with Bob Safian, deSouza reflects on the lessons of grappling with regulators, highlighting levers that can help to accelerate scale.
Reid’s personal advice on the most important success factor for any scale leader: your mindset. Talking with editor-at-large Bob Safian, Reid shares how he approaches every challenge with a learning mindset: ask the right questions, leverage networks, and build curiosity and resilience. To cement the idea, he shares Lesson One from the new Masters of Scale Courses app, starring Sir Richard Branson! You’ll learn an exercise from Reid that you can practice daily.
As a longtime motorcycle rider and a longtime champion of sustainability, Jochen Zeitz of Harley-Davidson is setting out to square those two passions.
Unconventional ideas can fuel scale dreams — but they also attract naysayers. When Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and CEO of Birchbox, introduced her idea of subscription beauty boxes, she knew this novel business model went against beauty-industry norms — and was hard for some tech-focused investors to connect with. To woo investors, suppliers and customers, Katia learned to describe her industry-flipping idea in conventional terms, connecting on common ground.
CEO Libby Wadle looks back at J Crew’s heyday, to make the case that the best is yet to come. The key to refreshing the brand: circularity, making purposeful choices about sustainability in fashion.
What are the best fundraising options if you can’t access a major VC firm? When should you hire your replacement as CEO? Is blitzscaling still the best strategy in a context of uncertainty? Reid Hoffman answers critical questions from six entrepreneurs across many industries and stages of scale. Co-hosted by Anne Kave, Capital One Business.
“Hate is not a one-community issue,” says Sonal Shah, president of The Asian American Foundation. Launched in May 2021 to address discrimination against Asian Americans, TAAF raised $1 billion in its first few weeks – and is now grappling with what all startups face: how to iterate fast, pivot, lose what’s not working, and scale what is working, fast.
When the pandemic clipped tens of millions from BuzzFeed’s revenue, co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti cut back on costs – but kept the growth flywheel spinning. By the end of 2020 his team had engineered a rebound, finishing the year with record profitability. With the acquisitions of HuffPost and Complex Networks, Peretti’s ambitions are just beginning.
To move at the speed of opportunity, you need to accelerate expertise. Mellody Hobson is co-CEO of Ariel Investments, the largest minority-owned investment firm in the United States, as well as board chair of Starbucks. Her entrepreneurial journey was fueled by an intense attention to learning from every mentor, every opportunity, and every mistake. Becoming both a fast and a deep learner is rarely something you’re born with, but it’s a practice we can all develop.
Scott Harrison’s success at Charity: Water flows from an unwavering belief that there’s no better investment in people and communities than clean water.
The ability to ask the right questions at the right times of the right people is an essential skill for every entrepreneur. For Michael Seibel, managing director at Y Combinator, action sometimes needs to take a back seat to asking: “Is this working?” Michael learned early on that by stopping to ask the counterintuitive question, he gained the wisdom – and avoided time lost to big mistakes – that ultimately propelled him forward.
Deep into the pandemic, Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson, unexpectedly passed away. His successor, Stephanie Linnartz, draws on an unrelenting entrepreneurial spirit to help bring Marriott back from pandemic lows — and honor Sorenson’s legacy.
“Will some people lose their shirts with crypto? Absolutely. Will new great industries be built upon this? Absolutely,” Reid Hoffman tells Rapid Response host Bob Safian in this unfiltered conversation. The co-hosts dive into cryptocurrency strategy, why cybersecurity “is an emperor-has-no-clothes situation,” what’s driving new climate-change habits, and more. Plus: What Reid missed most in the pandemic. Cameos: Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, Guild Education CEO Rachel Carlson.
“Corporations can be a force for good,” says Ken Chenault, chair of investment firm General Catalyst and the longtime CEO of American Express. Ken has been an outspoken advocate for business leaders to engage in social issues. After George Floyd’s death, he and Merck CEO Ken Frazier launched OneTen, a coalition to create 1 million jobs for Black Americans with major brands like IBM, Nike, and Walmart. His Responsible Innovation platform builds “social due diligence.”
You can’t predict your next a-ha moment — but you can create the circumstances for serendipity to happen. No one knows this better than J.J. Abrams, director, producer, screenwriter, and co-founder and co-CEO of Bad Robot Productions, behind some of the most successful TV series and films of the last 20 years, from Lost to Star Trek to the Star Wars sequel trilogy. J.J. explains how creativity and collaboration are things you cultivate, not conjure; and that making room for magic isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential part of entrepreneurship.
Amid 2020’s Covid lockdowns (and sweatpants-only life), Rent the Runway ran into layoffs and furloughs. But as co-founder and CEO Jenn Hyman explains, the business saw a surprising rebound early in 2021, fueled by a consumer focus on sustainability. Jenn’s experience shows how accelerated change is remaking the marketplace.
Wendy Kopp founded two networks that each became flywheels for change: Teach For America and Teach For All, where she’s now CEO. Yet the two networks are surprisingly different. While they both feed similar goals – helping educators find what they need, share what they learn, build enthusiasm, and motivate talent – the two organizations each brought their own surprising lessons. Kopp’s journey illuminates how listening, adjusting, and open rethinking are key to building a network that thrives.
Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine would not have scaled without Ginkgo Bioworks. Reshma Shetty, co-founder and COO of Ginkgo – slated to go public via SPAC acquisition at a reported $15 billion valuation – explains how biotech innovation can build a better future now. The key, Shetty says, is propelling progress but not at the expense of principles. Engineering genes is a high-stakes pursuit, so Ginkgo is trying to pair the ambition of Silicon Valley with a “higher level of care.”
Shift your mindset. Tighten your focus. Map your future. In this special episode, Reid Hoffman presents a five-step playbook for post-crisis success. Moving from chaos to calm requires a revised agenda, whether the pandemic crushed your business or boosted it. Peace-time strategies need to be just as sharp as wartime strategies.
How do you win the war for talent? Send your frontline workers to online school. That’s the pitch Rachel Carlson has made to businesses from Chipotle to Disney, Walmart to Waste Management. As co-founder and CEO of Guild Education, Carlson helps workers get online degrees and certifications as a free employee benefit. To meet the ongoing need for upskilling, Carlson says, company-sponsored classes should be as ubiquitous as company-sponsored health plans — because the ROI is astonishingly high.
Even all-star athletes are coached. So why not you? Alex Rodriguez, former professional baseball player, leaned into outside advice at the most challenging moments in his career – and in building his successful business, A-Rod Corp. He shares what he’s learned from mentors like investing guru Warren Buffett and NBA icon Magic Johnson, and how mentorship can help sharpen your skills and open up opportunities. The best way to find great mentors? Build the mindset of a mentor yourself.
“We may not be able to survive this,” thought Robert Reffkin, founder and CEO of real estate platform Compass, in early 2020 when pandemic lockdown rules essentially outlawed U.S. home selling. Yet now, the housing market is booming, and Compass has successfully IPO’ed. Reffkin shares how he kept his team together, why he stayed optimistic, and what businesses lucky enough to have benefited from Covid times owe their communities.
Creating a prototype isn’t the same as leading a team of thousands. You need to keep your mission constant, but your tactics fluid as you scale. This is the challenge President Barack Obama faced after winning the 2008 election. In the second part of interview, we dive into how he grappled with the Great Recession, the Affordable Care Act, and the disastrous rollout of healthcare.gov. Through it all, he learned to let first principles guide the way, even as he and his staff adapted to new realities and changing rules.
Google search may be the world’s most powerful public health platform. Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google’s chief health officer, has built a team of doctors, scientists, and clinicians who — alongside engineers and designers – together determine what information and advice shows up when we search for answers about Covid-19. Learn how Google approaches personal risk assessment.
Politics and entrepreneurship have much in common: Both versions of scale leadership require strategic patience, hard work, a clear vision of a better future, an unshakable belief that you can bring that future to life – and the ideal opportunity to make it all come together. President Barack Obama sits down with Reid Hoffman in Part 1 of our two-part episode on finding the right moment to act, and when the moment chooses you.
Harry’s took a one-two punch in 2020 – right on the chin. First, the federal government blocked a $1.37 billion acquisition of the shaving products company; then Covid-19 lockdowns hit. Rather than reeling from the abrupt change, Harry’s kept its balance. Co-founder and co-CEO Andy Katz-Mayfield explains how the team launched new brands amid the pandemic, tapped into unexpected demand, and even raised fresh capital. It’s a classic entrepreneurial feat: finding new opportunity amid disruption.
Five years of growth in five weeks. That’s how Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 accelerated Instacart’s business. A year later, the company faces another “crucible moment,” says Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta – to amplify the appeal of tech-enabled shopping, even as in-store buying revives.
To win at scale, you need more than great players – you need a team of great coaches. Alex Rodriguez learned this in baseball, and now as an investor at A-Rod Corp., where his mentor is none other than Warren Buffet. Alex and Reid, with Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox and HBS professor Mihir Desai, take questions from the HBS class of ’21.
As the pandemic set in, cooking at home got a renewed boost, and meal kit outfits saw a rise in demand. But a year in, the trend toward at-home dining faces a new inflection point. Linda Findley Kozlowski, CEO of meal-kit pioneer Blue Apron, is on the frontlines of understanding which pandemic-fueled behaviors will persist.
Frustration is an important signal: it indicates an opportunity, a problem to be solved, a path to scale. Adi Tatarko founded the online home-design site Houzz with her husband after their own home reno turned into a nightmare. By building a tool that flipped their frustration on its head, they’ve grown Houzz into a bustling platform and marketplace for homeowners, designers, architects, craftspeople. Learn how to identify frustration – and flip it.
Shelli Taylor explains why the movie chain Alamo Drafthouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the spring of 2021, as movie-goers slowly began to return to theaters.
“The future is sooner and stranger than you think,” Reid Hoffman tells Rapid Response host Bob Safian, in this unfiltered conversation. “The rulebook will be changing month by month.” The co-hosts dive into US government stimulus efforts; Gamestop, SPACs and potential froth in the investment markets; rising pressure on business leaders to engage on social and policy issues; and how vaccinations are impacting all of us. Plus: the 10-year anniversary of Reid’s book “The Startup of You.”
Ed Bastian bet at the start of the pandemic that focusing on consumer confidence and reinforcing Delta’s brand would pay big rewards.
The customer isn’t always right. As the founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown has spent years navigating misconceptions about plant-based foods. But smart entrepreneurs listen instead of arguing. Only by obsessing over what customers say they want has Brown been able to create a product that succeeds in the marketplace. What every entrepreneur should learn: You must first build trust from customers, making sure they feel heard, before you can educate them about the value of your innovation.
Ad revenue for Morning Brew’s newsletter dried up when the pandemic hit, but its audience remained devoted. Morning Brew CEO Alex Lieberman, who started the business with co-founder Austin Rief as undergraduates at the University of Michigan, leaned into the brand’s distinctive personality, fueling a sharp rebound. Next step? Selling a majority interest to Business Insider for a reported $75 million. An authentic voice, he says, is a shortcut to business success.
No one knows the fundraising game like Mark Cuban, serial entrepreneur, investor, and star of Shark Tank. For founders, identifying the right source of capital, under the right terms, can provide a thermal updraft. But as Cuban explains, there are always strings attached when you bring on a financial partner — and those strings can pull you crashing down if you don’t understand them properly. Cuban shares what investors look for in a founder, and what entrepreneurs should be looking for in return.
Daniella Ballou-Aares of the Leadership Now Project argues that corporate activism is about embracing both responsibility and opportunity.
From Pixar to Marvel to Lucasfilm, Disney’s Bob Iger defied expectations, acquiring world-renowned brands and meshing them seamlessly with the House of Mouse. In Part 2 of our epic conversation with Iger – Disney’s executive chair and former CEO – we delve into the next phase of the process, how he helped build a diverse, sustainable ecosystem for Disney companies in the China market, and how all the lessons learned played out in the massive acquisition of 20th Century Fox.
As Airbnb’s business cratered in the spring of 2020, CEO Brian Chesky realized: It was a moment to step back, rethink, and do more than anyone expected.
To succeed in business, you need to strut your stuff with a personal brand that supports your career, wherever it may lead. No one represents this better than Tyra Banks. As a model, a producer, and an entrepreneur, Tyra has forged a personal brand that helped her make big pivots, building fame, wealth, and impact. Think of a personal brand as a promise to a solution – bringing everyone, from customers to investors, a clear picture of who you are and what you bring to the table.
How does a startup geared to healthcare workers give back during Covid? FIGS, which makes premium scrubs for medical professionals, offered free PPE, isolation gowns and more. Co-founder and co-CEO Heather Hasson shares how these moves helped drive brand allegiance among a workforce that, until Covid hit, was often overlooked.
An acquisition shouldn’t be a fight to the death. No one knows this better than Bob Iger, executive chair and former CEO of the Walt Disney Company. In this special two-part episode, Iger takes us through how he supercharged the House of Mouse by acquiring Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox.
When he became CEO of Nike in January 2020, John Donahoe had a game plan. But then lockdowns began and he had to adjust, assuming what he calls a “wartime” approach to leadership. Donahoe’s view is that, in crisis, top-down stewardship matters more than ever. To not only survive but come out in a stronger position, he is leaning into the brand’s legacy, his team’s strengths, and booming direct-to-consumer digital engagement.
Successful daredevils aren’t really winging it, even if it looks that way from the outside. They have a method. No one knows like Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. Sir Richard has been willing to take death-defying entrepreneurial leaps again and again, into new markets and industries, as one of the most prolific, successful founders ever. You can’t help but marvel at his bias to action: his eagerness to ask “What if?” and then follow up. He shares how you too can learn to take the right leaps, in the right moments, to generate outsize opportunities.
Maintaining high performance in business has become harder than ever, between health challenges, economic obstacles, and political uncertainty. But we all still work to win. Jerry Stackhouse, coach of the Vanderbilt University men’s basketball team and former NBA all-star, is focused on winning–in the near-term, and the long term. His experience offers a compelling parable for every business leader these days. With Covid 19, his team has faced cancellations, testing protocols, and a pandemic reality of isolation and empty arenas. Coach Stackhouse is balancing the high stakes of health, racial equity and media scrutiny with the quest for performance. Leading a team has never been more difficult, or more important.
It’s vital for governments to stay on the leading edge of tech. In the US, that’s Mike Brown’s job, as the director of the Defense Innovation Unit within the U.S. Department of Defense. During the Covid-19 crisis, he’s used that position to introduce cutting-edge projects to advance the health safety of military personnel.
As Chief Executive Officer of Feeding America, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot oversees the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization and second-largest U.S. charity. She details the immense challenge of responding to food insecurity during the pandemic.
We’re taking questions from our listeners, on the topics that are top of mind right now for every founder: emerging tech, company culture, the investment climate. Plus the big question: Would Reid ever go on Shark Tank? Host Reid Hoffman and editor Bob Safian dig into questions from entrepreneurs right now.
As we grapple with change in business and as a society, we’ve become more fractured, more divisive, more vulnerable. Adam Grant, best-selling author and professor at Wharton, says that recognizing what we don’t know is the key step on the road to insight, competitive advantage, and community peace. In his book “Think Again,” Grant shares why taking a fresh look at our assumptions, about others and about ourselves, is such a powerful tool.
Great entrepreneurs aren’t just product obsessed; they’re impact obsessed. Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO of Affectiva, has spent most of her career thinking about how to project – and steward – the possible uses of artificial intelligence. Affectiva uses AI to read people’s emotional states, but Rana won’t put her software to work for just anyone. She’s walking a fine line between thoughtfully nurturing her idea and being a cranky custodian: potentially throttling the scale of her business. It’s a risk she’s willing to take. She understands that entrepreneurship isn’t just about providing a product or service that people love, or creating jobs; it’s about asking: “Am I making a net contribution to society – not just right now, but for future generations?”
Going head-to-head against Tesla is daunting enough. But for solar power company Sunrun’s CEO Lynn Jurich, that’s just the beginning. Expectations for solar are high under a Biden administration, and Sunrun’s stock price has quadrupled in the past year — in the most partisan environment in generations. Her touchstone, in a key lesson for entrepreneurs, is to focus on long-term trends.
The biggest challenge for founders often isn’t winning the strategic game – it’s winning the mental game. For a master class in mastering your emotions, we turn to Sam Harris, author, neuroscientist, and philosopher. His podcast “Making Sense,” his app “Waking Up,” and his many books have drawn a devoted following among entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond. Leadership experts often talk about the importance of adding new skills to your metaphorical toolbox, but less attention is paid to the actual toolbox itself: your mind. Sam shares how you can manage your own emotions, and master your own runaway thoughts, to not only make it through the entrepreneurial journey but learn more, and scale faster along the way.
Danny Meyer knows the restaurant industry overall is teetering on the edge, desperate for federal help and active intervention to be able to return to the communities they once served.
Sallie Krawcheck knows firsthand the obstacles women face as well as the struggles big institutions can have in reconfiguring their practices to help.
This special episode of Masters of Scale is full of lessons learned from the often devastating, sometimes inspiring year of 2020. Some of our guests share stories about doing everything right – and still ending up in crisis. Others are about overcoming the odds with grit, heart, and compassion.
Host Reid Hoffman and editor Bob Safian talk about the pandemic-disrupted year of 2020, filled with unexpected twists and lessons. From the rise (and risks) of remote work to accelerations in tech; from supply-chain disruption to opportunities in manufacturing; from stock-market fluctuations to social justice demonstrations, 2020 was a turning point. As Reid says, we have reached a moment for entrepreneurs to rise, to create, and to blaze the path forward.
Salesforce’s president Bret Taylor talks about how the pandemic helped Salesforce and Slack bring their businesses together.
Peggy Johnson explains why she left a safe perch at Microsoft to take the helm of one-time startup darling Magic Leap, which had just barely avoided bankruptcy.
Onboarding isn’t just for employees. The step-by-step process to join a product or company lays the foundation for everything that follows. No one knows this better than Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Canva. From the moment she started the Australia-based graphic design platform, she knew she had to engage newcomers with simplicity and speed. First, onboard early users to her product; then, onboard investors and employees to help her build her values and her vision.
Even before the pandemic forced us to stay home, loneliness was snaking its way through our lives, says economist Noreena Hertz, affecting everything from how we vote to how we work. The author of The Lonely Century, Noreena has advice for businesses about how loneliness impacts productivity, the bottom-line advantages of in-person connection — and why kindness is key to retaining talent.
Scaling isn’t only about scaling UP – it’s about scaling OUT: to new products, new verticals, new customers. And to do this, you’ll need to build bridges. No one knows this better than Daniel Lubetzky, the founder and executive chair of snack food company KIND. Daniel has spent his whole life working to bring together disparate supply chains, products, and communities. Through it, he’s learned the right – and the wrong – way to connect. That means building bridges that people actually want, letting people meet him halfway, and focusing on the foundations so those bridges last forever. Cameo appearance: Bianca Wylie (Public tech advocate).
After record-shattering drops in revenue from Covid-19, JetBlue had to rethink every plan and every assumption. Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s president and COO, shares how they built a new system for flexing the business, to ramp up when demand rises, finding cost cuts but no furloughs. Decisions rely on brand-new types of data — as well as gut feeling.
Colleen DeCourcy knows that meshing an economic goal with an emotional message has never demanded more creativity.
Forget looking for a needle in a haystack – instead, build a new type of metal detector, to find undervalued assets that others don’t see. That’s exactly what Franklin Leonard did when he started The Black List, an annual survey of screenplays everyone loved (but no one was making). Devise ways to find things no one else has found – or didn’t think to look for – and it could be the difference that drives you to scale. Cameo: Software engineer Tatiana Mac.
Drew Houston knows if Dropbox is going to design for the future of work, then its own workforce needs to live in that future, right now. He discusses Dropbox’s move toward the virtual-first workplace — and how its benefits extend far beyond pandemic times.
Great branding is about identity – and it’s about matchmaking too. No one knows this better than the legendary co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight. When he and his partner, Hall of Fame track coach Bill Bowerman, started the sneaker company, they never tried to force-feed customers a product just to drive up the bottom line. They focused on one thing: making an excellent product for people who believed in the edgy Nike ethos. Because they knew, when there’s a mismatch between product and market, the bottom usually drops out. Instead, they told the world who the are, and then did everything they could to find their ideal customers. And made history. Cameo appearance: Eddy Lu (GOAT).
Toward the end of 2020, some saw signs that the Covid pandemic was soon to be over. But as Dr. Bon Ku says in this prescient conversation, without significant change, we will just sleepwalk into another cycle of pandemic.
Small business is being taxed emotionally as well as financially, and that tax is rising, says H&R Block CEO Jeff Jones. As the pandemic hit, entrepreneurs did what entrepreneurs do: solved problems, protected teams, served customers. But their anxiety keeps riseing, according to an H&R Block study from which Jones shares important takeaways.
Arne Sorenson admits the hotel industry will take years to recover. That hasn’t dimmed his personal belief that travel matters more than ever.
A social network that limits your network? Yes. Meet Nextdoor, a hyperlocal social network that’s all about who you really are and where you really live. Although it goes against everything that we’ve come to expect from social networks, Nextdoor’s secret to scale lies in real personal connections based on empathy and kindness. And this is what Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar knows: No, these connections don’t scale as fast – but they tend to be stronger. And they can be the flywheel that drives you to scale.
As big movie chains shut down in response to the pandemic, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Shelli Taylor is determined to keep her theaters open — and ride out the drama.
What’s more important than product-market fit? Product-VALUE fit. If you choose the right values to drive product development, you’ll draw the people, resources and speed you need. It’s true for for-profits and for nonprofits. And Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales knows this well. Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has famously stuck to its values of openness, neutrality, and remaining not-for-profit. But he arrived at those precise values through trial and error — on an earlier free encyclopedia project that stalled. Once he found the right product-value fit, Wikipedia rapidly scaled from a niche side project to one of the most valued treasures on the internet.
Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, walks us through the choices, costs, and protocols to keep an entrepreneurial team, and all of us, safe.
When you scale at warp speed, it’s easy to lose your bearings. You have to establish your company’s true north, or the dizzying pace of growth will push you off course. No one knows this better than Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. Under her leadership, YouTube has grown to be the world’s largest video platform. And in her previous role at Google, she was a chief architect of its advertising and analytics model. In both roles, she achieved massive scale – and grappled with massive challenges. Susan shares the guiding principles that help them stay the course — as well as stories from Google’s early years that you’ll hear first here. Cameo appearances: Dr. Becky Smethurst (astrophysicist, Oxford), Shishir Mehrotra (Coda, Google, YouTube).
We’re talking with Baratunde Thurston on how companies can show up as citizens — citizens with the potential for outsize impact.
You might not know Trevor McFedries yet, but if you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably met Miquela. She has millions of followers, hit singles and lucrative contracts with brands. But she’s not actually real. Miquela’s the creation of Trevor’s stealthy creative media studio Brud, and the delicate balance they strike between artificial and authentic is a master class for any scaling company. In this first-ever in-depth interview with Trevor, he shares his bold plan to create celebrity at massive, multilingual scale; his advice for entrepreneurs of color as they fundraise; and his guidance for anyone connecting at scale: That once you build that connection with your audience, they don’t care HOW you made it. All they care about is how it makes them feel. Cameo: Alison Darcy (Woebot).
A study in the fall of 2020 — deep into the work-at-home movement — makes a persuasive case that shared offices are productive places to work and, especially, to co-create. Gensler Group co-CEO Diane Hoskins shares fresh insights on the future of our workplaces.
Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and current lead at Schmidt Futures, shares a clear-eyed, and priorizied, roadmap for moving toward a healthy, just, and economically vibrant post-pandemic world.
School founder Eva Moskowitz shares how to make decisions in an uncertain environment, how to communicate with constituents – and who we should all prioritize.
Casual fans come and go. But converts stick with you – and spread the word. The trick is knowing how — and WHEN — to convert skeptics into superfans. No one knows this better than Peloton Co-founder and CEO John Foley, who has one of the most epic “No-to-Yes” stories in startup history. When he founded the company in 2012, skeptics abound — especially among investors. But John pushed forward, convincing co-founders, angel investors, and then riders, one at a time. As he converted those skeptical customers — in their flagship fitness studio, in their stores, and on their at-home bikes — the feedback loops kicked in. After pedaling in place for years, Peloton rocketed up the hill to its 2019 IPO. Cameo appearances: Melanie Curtis (professional skydiver).
You need more than a good product to scale – you need strong rituals that help build your culture, cohere your team, and home in on your targets. Shishir Mehrotra learned this when he scaled YouTube to a billion hours of watch-time each day. In his new role as CEO and founder of Coda, he’s learned to constantly ask: What old rituals are holding us back? And what new rituals can we create together that keep us all moving forward?
Some products are vitamins and some are painkillers – the best, though, are both. This is what Clara Shih, founder and CEO of Hearsay Systems, learned when she launched her software startup. To survive, she needed to shift her platform from a nice-to-have into a can’t-live-without. In doing so, she learned a key secret to scale: Solve your customers’ urgent needs now… while looking ahead to their future wants. Cameo appearances: Shellye Archambeau (MetricStream), Gary Alexander (Interactive Education Concept).
How to keep a university’s doors open? This is the question for Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College. In summer 2020, Dr. Campbell announced Spelman’s plan for the new academic year – with many fewer students on campus. Meanwhile, as the head of a historically Black college, she’s grappling with social unrest and calls for change.
How can you be transparent – but inspiring – with your board and your team? What does the future of blitzscaling look like now? Reid Hoffman answers questions from Endeavor entrepreneurs, alongside founder Linda Rottenberg.
The pandemic has hurt many businesses but PayPal isn’t one of them. CEO Dan Schulman takes us inside PayPal’s unique opportunity to spur emerging economic recovery – and to make a longterm impact in the fight for racial justice.
There’s no quick fix to 400 years of oppression, says Color Of Change’s Rashad Robinson. But by working together, says Rashad, we can make a lasting difference.
To survive a crisis, you have to double down on who you already are as a company. This is something Ellen Kullman knows, having led DuPont through the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and taken the CEO role at 3D-printing unicorn Carbon only weeks before Covid hit. Through her years as a leader, Ellen has developed four crisis principles that allowed her to lead teams and thrive through pandemic, economic meltdown, and beyond. The key? Practicing the principles in calmer times, before crisis hits. Because as Reid says: there’s no such thing as a crisis playbook. There’s just your playbook. Cameos: Amy Shira Teitel (spaceflight historian), Jonah Peretti (BuzzFeed), Brian Chesky (Airbnb), Neil Blumenthal (Warby Parker), Stacy Brown-Philpot (TaskRabbit).
“This was like 1918, 1929 and 1968 in one week,” says Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, with pandemic, economic crisis, and civil unrest all coming together after George Floyd’s death. Walker’s advice to CEOs mixes clear-eyed messages with optimism about the opportunities ahead.
Charles Best knows: Sometimes the best way to achieve that monumental success tomorrow is to take a teeny tiny step today. That’s what he did when he founded one of the world’s first crowdfunding platforms, DonorsChoose. Cameo appearance: Stephen Colbert.
A candid interview from the industry hardest hit by the pandemic: travel. Delta saw seat bookings fall to less than 5% of normal, had 40,000 employees go on unpaid leave, and raised $14 billion in funding, to withstand a cash burn that still stands at $30 million a day. To rebuild traveler trust, Delta CEO Ed Bastian has enacted a slew of new safety standards.
What can your business do right now in the struggle against racism? More than you think, says Shellye Archambeau, former CEO of MetricStream, now a board member at Verizon, Nordstrom and Okta. The struggle is a marathon, but businesses are uniquely poised to demand accountability and transparency from their communities.
Forget writing that business plan. Design an experiment instead. So many products and companies fail because the assumptions in their beautiful business plans were just wrong. So stop writing and start testing. No one knows this better than Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup and founder of the Long Term Stock Exchange. After his first product failed, he developed a new method of product design based on running small, fast experiments, measuring the results, and learning from them. It’s a system built on data, not assumptions, and it works with almost everything — from app development to airplane design. It starts with establishing your own measure of success — then experimenting, improving, and trying over and over again. The feedback loop never stops.
GM shut down its auto plants in March 2020, temporarily reducing pay for 69,000 employees, and making a fast pivot to produce ventilators. As the plants began to make vehicles again, GM’s chair and CEO Mary Barra speaks to what they learned in this fast pivot — and her optimism that the country and her company will bounce back.
Startups never stop – not even during a global pandemic. But how do you stay agile and find your markets in times of crisis? And do constraints always lead to creativity, really? Entrepreneurs from Village Global ask Reid Hoffman their top-of-mind questions.
During Covid, BuzzFeed saw audience at record highs — but it crushed the bottom line. Founder and CEO Jonah Peretti shares how they’re enduring near-term pain with an eye toward long-term opportunity, and leaning into BuzzFeed News. There’s a clarity of purpose, he says, in bearing witness to things that are happening in the world.
New graduates are like entrepreneurs — standing on the edge of that cliff, ready to build their own plane and fly. But what if the blue skies and calm winds disappear? In a commencement speech for 2020 graduates — and anyone embarking on something new — our host Reid Hoffman says: Be optimistic. Be bold. But most of all, steer toward the opportunities emerging in this new world. How do you find them? Cultivate a network of people smart, curious people. This network creates a map of the world. And at uncertain times like these, you’ll definitely need that map.
After shutting his iconic New York City restaurants, laying off 2,000 staffers (with hopes to re-hire) and returning a $10m PPP loan in the early days of the pandemic, Danny Meyer finds himself reconsidering nearly everything about his business model.
Since One Medical’s IPO in January 2020, CEO Amir Rubin has been constantly adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, as healthcare needs, expectations, and behaviors shift. But if you have a consistent platform and mission, he believes, your operating system can be applied to even fast-changing environments.
Crowdsourcing is more than a group of people interested in the same cause, it’s a way to tap skills – and scale – that you don’t have. And when it works, it can be the rocket fuel that launches you to scale further than you could have ever imagined. No one knows this better than Luis von Ahn, founder and CEO of Duolingo. Duolingo is a language app with over 300 million users worldwide, who complete over 7 billion exercises a month. It’s their passion for learning that drives them to create even more content for the app – igniting the rocket fuel that Duolingo needs. Cameo appearance by Elizabeth Sampat (game designer and author).
At Warby Parker, planning for the future has meant leaning into the present — from physical changes in their factory and stores that ensure social distancing to optimizing online vision tests. In May 2020, co-founder Neil Blumenthal shares their process for decision-making.
Tapping into both organization wisdom and her intuition, Lifeway CEO Julie Smolyansky embraced action amid uncertainty as she worked to keep her manufacturing open and kefir beverages on supermarket shelves during the pandemic-driven food crises of 2020.
In Part 2, Angela arrives at Apple, which feels like another planet after her years in fashion. In never-before heard stories, Angela shares how she learned the language of tech (the physical store is the ‘hardware’; the experience inside the ‘software’), then introduces innovations that change the face of Apple retail, from an app (The Loop) that let store managers collaborate to the landmark “Today at Apple” program, building community through free classes inside each Apple store. Throughout, Angela shows her team, through words and actions, that each person matters, and that they’re all a part of something much bigger than themselves. Cameo: Eric Trigg (Trigg Ranch).
Boom times don’t necessarily mean easy times. Early in the pandemic, the world relied on telecommunications services like Verizon more than ever before. CEO Hans Vestberg takes stock, and looks at what the future might be like for Verizon.
The Apple logo. The iconic Burberry check. These images inspire loyalty of customers and employees alike. But it takes more than a beloved brand to power a company and motivate a team. No one knows this better than Angela Ahrendts, former SVP of retail at Apple, and the former CEO of Burberry. Angela has spent most of her career learning how to imbue those logos with meaning — and support them by down-to-earth, everyday, human connection. Why? Because to unite a team — especially a one that’s large, global and dispersed — you need to turn them into mission-driven families.
In sports, everyone has an opinion on your every move. That’s the reality – and the privilege, says Scott O’Neil, CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. When the NBA shut down its season in March 2020, O’Neil faced leadership challenges that include both missteps and discoveries about the future of sports.
Dr. Bon Ku, an ER physician and director of the Health Design Lab at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, takes us inside the practice and mindset that medical professionals — and all of us — require to perform under extraordinary pressure.
Will the U.S. run out of food? Can the world’s food supply chains survive coronavirus? Sara Menker, founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence, shares eye-opening insights based on real-time facts.
Dr. David Skorton, head of the Association of American Medical Colleges, shares what health institutions are grappling with as pandemic sets in —how they need to rethink how they operate, and what all of us can learn from this moment.
What do you do when you can’t serve your customers in cafes? You come to them, says Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary. The company’s bold pandemic pivot built on a years-long digital loyalty strategy that paid off in deeply unexpected ways.
The onset of pandemic in 2020 forced many businesses to make decisions in crisis mode. Are crisis-driven decisions better, or easier, than deliberate ones? Retired General Stanley McChrystal shares some hard truths about decisions in crisis.
For Chewy, the pet-supply company, the pandemic is driving unprecedented demand. Ultra-rapid growth has its own set of challenges that CEO Sumit Singh is responding to by: hiring, setting up a task team, rolling out customer-facing innovations in a weekend, and more.
In crisis, having a strong neighborhood makes you more resilient. Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar shares new features, like Help Maps and Groups, that rolled out during the pandemic to help residents connect and coordinate. Some are new products, some in development pre-Covid — but all can help neighbors act as the frontline of support for one another.
The onset of pandemic exposed deep flaws in many national governments’ plans for crisis response. Jen Pahlka of U.S. Digital Response, a nonpartisan group offering tech help to local governments, shares what she’s seeing now – and what a modern government could do in the future.
Can you turn the remote-work scramble into a long-term benefit? Wences Casares runs a fully distributed company at his unicorn bitcoin startup, Xapo. For Wences, remote work is an intentional choice, one that celebrates the creativity and freedom of being released from geographical boundaries – and turns remote work into a striking advantage.
Every day in a pandemic is different, and that’s true for people and for corporations. CEO Brian Cornell has promised Target will keep its doors open. To do that, Target is becoming “a good student,” he says.
TaskRabbit was founded during the 2008 financial crisis — and then and now, says Stacy Brown-Philpot, the business remains a necessity, for the community, and for the gig economy.
While ride-sharing fell sharply down at the start of the pandemic, transportation remains key – for essential workers and for our supply chain. So Lyft is flexing some new muscles, says John Zimmer.
Ellen Kullman knows how to survive a crisis. While leading DuPont through the 2008 financial crisis she developed four crisis principles, forged through the fire of experience. She’s putting those to the test now, at the helm of 3D printing unicorn startup Carbon.
As the pandemic hit, Airbnb was preparing for an IPO. Within a matter of days, everything changed dramatically. Chesky shares what gives him hope and explains why he’s bringing Airbnb back to its roots as a scrappy, resilient startup that can adapt and evolve.
Charles Best shares how Donors Choose pivoted from supporting classrooms to supporting teachers and virtual learning during the pandemic. It’s a lesson in how to listen to your community’s changing needs – and pivot fast.
Early in the pandemic, Karen Cahn of IFundWomen shared a quick tutorial on how to access the US’s then-nascent emergency relief funds for businesses. While some specific advice in this episode is past its sell-by, her mindset of using crisis to clarify your purpose is evergreen.
Crisis Text Line provides free, confidential crisis counseling via text, 24/7. To help counselors meet the moment, they anonymize and analyze real-time data on how their users are feeling – and that data is telling them the story of the onset of pandemic.
At Boston’s Cue Ball Group, Tony’s portfolio includes companies that employ hundreds of nail care workers, cooks and servers. So he’s asking: How can we protect hourly workers and help them prepare for an uncertain future?
What will the entrepreneurial world look like on the other side of the pandemic? Early in the lockdowns of spring 2020, Reid Hoffman shares his thoughts on first-principle thinking in crisis.
Danny Meyer, head of Union Square Restaurant Group and the founder of Shake Shack, shares how and why he acted so quickly to initiate layoffs at the start of the pandemic.
At Automattic, the company that makes WordPress, founder Matt Mullenweg runs an almost entirely remote team. As more of us shift to remote work, we asked him: How does he do it?
What if your idea is so radical that people have trouble grasping what it is – or even believing it won’t harm them? Every founder believes their product is revolutionary – and the more revolutionary their product, the more reassuring they’ll need to be to get consumers on board. No one knows this better than Wences Casares, the trailblazing entrepreneur credited with bringing crypto to Silicon Valley (and convincing Reid himself). With his unicorn startup Xapo, a Bitcoin wallet, Wences aims to reassure the masses that Bitcoin isn’t as different – or as dangerous – as they may think.
Growth vs innovation, scale vs stability, founders vs CEOs? High-performing scale-ups from around the world ask Reid their urgent strategic questions. This episode features Endeavor’s Outliers – the fastest-growing, highest-performing entrepreneurs from this global incubator.
The secret to massive scale? Be a platform. Build a virtuous cycle where everyone wins, and you’ll emerge the biggest winner of all. This is what Tobi Lütke did when he built Shopify – and then opened it up to the world.
Building a company to scale requires a delicate balance of macro and micro – and knowing where to focus. Josh Silverman has perfected the skill over decades of experience at multiple companies and three CEO roles, at Evite, Skype, and most recently, Etsy. Josh has learned that success isn’t just about zooming in on the details OR taking the long view but about knowing exactly WHEN to switch between these perspectives. Cameo appearances: Scott Suko (Domino expert); Nik Money (professor at Miami University).
When’s the right time for hypergrowth? Should you take investment when you don’t need the money? How do you deal with an exhausted team? A global panel of entrepreneurs from Endeavor ask Reid Hoffman their questions about raising capital, pivoting their product, bootstrapping vs. blitzscaling and more.
Behind every successful business is a hidden back-end business powering it behind the scenes. No one knows this better than Jenn Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway. RTR is known for creating a glamorous “closet in the cloud,” but it achieved ‘unicorn’ status by mastering the businesses behind their public-facing brand — including the world’s largest dry-cleaning operation and a data insights practice that’s changing the fashion industry. Cameo appearance: Kevin Venardos (Venardos Circus); Stewart Butterfield (Slack)
In part two of this special two-part episode with Bill Gates, we’re talking about the biggest success story ever told on the podcast – and not just for Bill Gates, but for humanity. And it was achieved not through Microsoft, but through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill & Melinda Gates have built the foundation into one of the world’s single largest private philanthropies and they’ve done it by taking lessons learned at Microsoft – on how to massively capitalize on inflection points – and applied them to the nonprofit world. Here’s how.
Faced with an impossible challenge? Don’t reinvent the wheel. Find someone who’s already solved the problem – and help those inventors keep inventing. Megan Smith calls that technique “scout and scale.” She did it as United States CTO under President Obama (launching the U.N. Solutions Summit and a tech jobs tour). She did it at Google (acquiring startups to bring famed products to life). She did it as CEO of PlanetOut. And she continues today with her new company shift7. Cameo appearance: Monique Sternin (adjunct professor at Tufts University).
Every great founder has a second purpose — something outside their main business they’re trying to get done in the world. And every successful company is like a Trojan Horse, carrying this second purpose forward. No one knows this better than Robert F. Smith. You may know him for his legendary Morehouse commencement speech (in which he promised to pay off the student loan debt of the entire graduating class), but Robert’s scaling success and philanthropic work go far beyond that. As founder, chair, and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, Robert finds profound ways to serve both his business and his second purpose — liberating people to reach their true potential — at scale. Recorded live at Summit LA 2019.
Healthy debate, even argument, can shine a light on holes in a critical theory, it can stop a disaster from occurring, and it can lead you to discover radical new solutions. This is something legendary investor Ray Dalio knows. But there’s a difference between constructive and destructive conflict – and Dalio is a master at spotting the difference. In constructive conflict, a team has a shared goal, whether or not they have differing opinions. And this is the key to success. Cameo appearances: Steve Horgan (USA Field Hockey Director of Umpiring), Daniel Amen (psychiatrist, founder Amen Clinics).
Every leader has to set the drumbeat for their company — the culture, mission, and values that get the entire team in sync. And the rhythm has to be true to them. Jeff Weiner is a master at this. As CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff grew users from 33 million to 660 million. He grew revenue to more than $7 billion and ultimately stewarded LinkedIn through its acquisition by Microsoft. Jeff’s drumbeat? Compassionate management. Cameo appearances by: Chris Tomson (Vampire Weekend), Monica Worline (Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education), Keesa Schreane (host, “You’ve Been Served”).
How did Bill Gates scale both a global business and a global philanthropy? He spotted an inflection point in history — and accelerated it, with a great idea, great timing and great partners. Because even Bill Gates doesn’t go it alone. In Part 1 of a two-part episode, Bill reflects with Reid on the founding and growth of Microsoft — how he not only spotted an inflection point (hello, PCs) but accelerated it to massive scale (forget PCs, let’s talk software platforms).
What can entrepreneurs learn from a genre-crossing, multi-platinum musician? How to take a big opportunity — and leverage it into something epic. From his earliest days, as a founding member of the Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am learned from mentors how to not only identify big opportunities, but compound them. From the Super Bowl to the first iTunes commercial; from the founding of Beats and his tech company i.am+ to a song beamed back from Mars — his ability to bring multiple stakeholders together to leverage partnerships and compound possibilities will inspire founders at any stage of scale. Cameo appearance: Jeremy Siegel (urban designer, Bjarke Ingels Group).
Tory Burch built a billion-dollar business from the ground up, by speeding forward when others might have hit pause, and showing watchful patience when others may have gone full tilt. In our live onstage interview, she shows how this approach plays out in her global business — and in her impactful foundation that supports women business owners. With appearances by the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Lehua Kamalu and Affectiva’s Rana el Kaliouby.
How do you gain your users’ trust? How do you build a team and company culture at the same time? Reid Hoffman answers questions from eight early-stage entrepreneurs all over the world. Co-hosted with Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine.
When Drew Houston founded Dropbox, he knew he faced some fierce competition (hello, Google, Apple, and Microsoft). But he didn’t back down from the fight. Why? Because he believed in his product, and he knew he had an advantage those big, cumbersome competitors could never exploit: Dropbox was lean, focused, and fast. Hear how he outmaneuvered the big guys – and what’s next for Dropbox. Cameo appearances: Mark Pincus of Zynga, Shellye Archambeau of MetricStream.
When Anne Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe, she carved out a brand-new space in personal health — helping people become experts on their bodies right down to the DNA level. Then the federal regulators came calling. But instead of trying to outwit, sneak past or straight-up fight the FDA in the name of moving fast, Wojcicki made the call to work with regulators directly and collaboratively. Hear how (and why) she embraced red tape. Cameo appearance: Daniel Ek of Spotify.
Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd knows: The smallest feature can make or break your product. The challenge is recognizing the impact of that feature – and making sure it’s actually positive. This is what Wolfe Herd tapped into when she founded a dating app that required a whole new way of communication. She has become a master of understanding what her users want, and then making the small changes to Bumble that help them achieve their goals. While small changes typically lead to incremental improvements, every so often the impact is exponential. With cameo appearances by Steve Spohn (AbleGamer), and Marissa Mayer (Google, Yahoo).
It’s never too late to join the entrepreneurial party. We’ve all heard the stories of young geniuses, but plenty of influential entrepreneurs founded companies in their 30s, 40s, 50s. There’s value to being a late-stage founder — like the fact that you’re bringing along all your life experience. That’s what Gwyneth Paltrow did when she launched Goop. Paltrow transitioned from Hollywood star to startup founder with her lifestyle brand, which now has over 8 million subscribers — and she did it by leaning in to what she knew, embracing what she didn’t, and coming up with strategies to fill the gap. With cameo appearances by Sara Blakely (Spanx), Brian Chesky (Airbnb), Boyd Martin (Olympic horse rider), and Ruben Harris (Career Karma).
On Masters of Scale, we talk a lot about how businesses grow. But we also talk about how people grow: how key decisions (and happy accidents) can shape your future, and how your setbacks can actually set you up for success. On this special Graduation Episode, guest host Jordan Harbinger teams up with Reid Hoffman to share advice that will help you navigate choices in your career. Including clips from Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Spotify’s Daniel Ek, and more.
Early-stage startups are a lot like pirate ships – they need a buccaneering spirit to survive. But every startup needs to shed its pirate nature at some point, and evolve into something more akin to a navy – no less heroic, but more disciplined. Dara Khosrowshahi, as Uber CEO, took on the most extreme pirate-to-navy transition in startup history. Though Uber blitzscaled to become the most valuable startup in the world, it was also notorious for its toxic culture – and Dara turned the company around. His method? Truth-telling and doing the right thing. Cameo appearances: Arianna Huffington (Thrive Global) and Ben Chestnut (Mailchimp).
You can bootstrap your business to scale, but you’ll have to make your own luck. Nobody knows this better than Mailchimp’s Ben Chestnut. He used a DIY ethos to grow a $600M company without ever raising a dollar of outside funding. The Mailchimp story is the exception to Reid’s rule (Generally: Raise more money than you think you need!). The episode explores a range of options for those who don’t fit the VC-funding mold for any set of reasons. Cameo appearances: LeVar Burton (Star Trek, Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton Reads), Don MacKinnon (Milq), Karen Cahn (iFundWomen).
No organization that’s entirely closed – or entirely open – can scale as successfully as an organization that combines both. Yes, organizations that are open invite a bit of chaos – but that chaos breeds innovation. Knowing which aspects of your organization should be open and which should be closed will set you on a path to rapid scale. No one knows this better than Joi Ito. He has spent his career championing radically open systems, from Creative Commons to cyber currency. Now as Director of the famed MIT Media Lab, he’s focused on facilitating open conversations so we can keep pace with the shifting challenges we face in our companies, institutions, and societies. Cameo appearance: Megan Smith (former U.S. Chief Technology Officer).
If you try to avoid risk, you actually risk total failure. Or worse: mediocrity. Take it from Shellye Archambeau. She led the most stunning Silicon Valley turnaround you’ve never heard of. She took the role of CEO for a failing tech company, months from bankruptcy. Through a series of calculated risks, she led it through a complex merger, a head-spinning pivot, and grew it into MetricStream, which now boasts 1200 employees and a valuation in the hundreds of millions. How? Clear goals and big risks — the same principles that have defined her career. With a cameo appearance by champion poker player Liv Boeree.
Sallie Krawcheck knows: Companies dominated by one type of person run the risk of tunnel vision. You might move fast – but you’ll often drive straight into traps. Truly scalable companies need a diverse portfolio of viewpoints to see the opportunities others miss. From her Wall Street years to her new startup Ellevest, Sallie makes the business case for diversity of all kinds.
We’re back with season four — and part two of our turning the tables episode with Reid Hoffman. (If you missed part one, go listen now!) In this episode, we follow Reid through PayPal, LinkedIn (and Microsoft’s acquisition), and Greylock, and catch up him as host of Masters of Scale — all the while proving our theory that you can chart an epic journey to scale if you make everyone a heron along the way. Hosted by June Cohen, executive producer of Masters of Scale and CEO of WaitWhat.
In this special episode, we turn the tables on host Reid Hoffman. He’s the guest and we tell his story, while proving a theory that’s perfect for Reid: You can chart an epic journey to scale, if you make everyone a hero along the way. Guest Host is June Cohen, Executive Producer of Masters of Scale, CEO of WaitWhat, and former Executive Producer of TED.
That constant roar of customer feedback? Be thankful for it. It holds all the secrets to your success, if you learn how to read the signs. Listen to what users say, sure. But also watch what they do and interpret what they need. Eventbrite’s Julia Hartz embodies this principle. She believes passionately in learning from her customers, and has made rapid response to user feedback the driving force behind Eventbrite’s strategy — as it grew from a simple ticketing app to a full-service platform for event creators, offering everything from ticket sales to custom-made RFID readers.
You need a great story to build a great company. No one embodies this principle more fully than Scott Harrison, founder of Charity: Water. A master storyteller, Scott built his nonprofit on 3 radical principles: (1) 100% of donations would go to water projects (2) Progress reports would be transparent, sharing victories and defeats (3) The brand’s storytelling would lead with hope instead of guilt, inspiring joyful participation without sacrificing honesty.
You can marshal the power of millennials to grow your company, but you have to redefine your concept of loyalty. To keep millennials as users (and employees), you’ll need to keep evolving — and help them evolve. No one understands this better than Brit + Co founder Brit Morin. As a maker and media creator, Brit is constantly co-evolving with her (mostly millennial) audience—and team. It’s a secret to scale with the generation adapted to a world of constant change.
Your first hires are your cultural cofounders. And it’s worth your time to get every one right. Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri personally interviewed his first FIVE HUNDRED employees at Workday. He knows how to map back from the culture he wants, to employee attributes to interview questions. Today, with 8000+ employees and $2b in annual revenue, Workday is consistently rated one of the best places to work.
To revolutionize an industry, you have to cast off received wisdom. Shake Shack’s Danny Meyer knows this well. When he opened his first restaurant, received wisdom told him food was the star attraction. But Danny knew to focus on how customers FEEL. And it’s this feeling – Danny calls it “enlightened hospitality” — that he’s scaled. As he tells the dramatic scale story of Shake Shack, Danny shows how he cast off received wisdom and wrote his own rules.
To survive your entrepreneurial journey, you have to learn to recharge. In fact, knowing when to turn the lights out may be key to keeping the lights on. But you have to know when and HOW to refuel. Few know this better than Arianna Huffington, who dramatically scaled the Huffington Post — and then experienced profound physical burnout. Her venture Thrive Global now scales the idea of balance across an organization.
Normally, trust = consistency + time. But when you’re scaling fast, you must find shortcuts with your partners and your users. When Daniel Ek founded Spotify, he did what few disruptors had ever done before: He worked WITH the industry he was trying to reinvent. How did Ek build a relationship with a music industry wary of piracy? He found shortcuts to trust. And not just with the music industry, but users too.
You can scale big with a simple idea (and a tiny team!) — but only if you catch the prevailing winds. That’s what Kevin Systrom did when he co-founded Instagram: The simple photo app tapped the right trends, built on larger social networks, and dodged the complexities that would have slowed them down. The result? 30M users in 18 months. And a $1B sale of a 13-person company.
Can’t find the star employees you need? Then make them. That’s what Marissa Mayer did when she founded the Associate Product Manager program at Google — one of the company’s crown jewels. She mentored a team of young, hungry, talented employees in the ways of Google, and they helped drive its success. She followed that same mindset when she became Yahoo CEO, a role she reflects on in the show.
To succeed, you have to be relentless about pursuing a big opportunity — and ruthless about killing your own bad ideas along the way. Zynga founder Mark Pincus up-ended the gaming industry with social games like Farmville and Words with Friends. And he did it by gathering data; killing ideas that didn’t move the needle, and going all-in on the ones that did.
You may think that to scale you need to cut humans out of the equation. The opposite is true. You can harness the power of the “human cloud” to solve almost any problem — as long as you keep the word “human” in the equation. That’s what TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot champions for this community of people who work with each other, teach each other, and continually learn from each other.
To find your big idea? Look for it. And look for it. And be ready to act. Spanx founder Sara Blakely was actively seeking a business idea when she thought of Spanx. Then she moved fast, found help in the right places, and went all-in. The result: A billion-dollar company & women’s wardrobes transformed.
You can scale social impact as you scale your business. But you’ll have to get creative. In fact, you’ll need to be as innovative about doing good as you are about your business itself. Starbucks Chair and former CEO Howard Schultz has proven this at a massive scale — from offering free college tuition to employees in the U.S., to providing healthcare for employees’ parents in China.
Guest host Tim Ferriss shares advice you’ll want to etch into stone: The 10 Commandments of Startup Success. We teamed up with Tim’s own podcast, the Tim Ferriss Show, to bring you this special remix. You’ll hear actionable lessons from every episode of Masters of Scale’s epic Season One.
Medium and Twitter founder Ev Williams knows: You should never put a limit on your first idea. It could span your entire career. Ev shares what he learned in every iteration of his grand vision to connect the world’s brains. A reminder that passion and perseverance can be paths to scale.
The price that bleeds your business could also save it. When you invent something innovative, you can’t know how to price it on day one. First, get people in the door — get a LOT of people in the door — even if you have to price your product fatally low at first. In this episode, ClassPass Founder and Chair Payal Kadakia shares their winding path to pricing and how it revealed what was invaluable about their service.
Forget being a unicorn. Learn to be a phoenix. Your company can last 100+ years — but you’ll need the resilience to rise and fall, and rise again. Fiat’s chair John Elkann shares the principles that helped the “horseless carriage” company founded by his great-grandfather survive the ups and downs of a century of business. One key: Resilience. Another: Deciding which company traditions to keep, and which to leave in the past.
Better to have 100 users love you than 1 million that kinda like you. The true seed of scale is love, and you can’t buy it, hack it, or game it. Ask Sam Altman, the CEO of Open AI and past president of Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s legendary startup accelerator. He knows that a product that’s deeply loved — even by a tiny base of users — is one that can scale. Plus: an epic story of customer love from Chef Dominique Ansel, famed inventor of the Cronut.
Starting a business? You’re also starting a community. Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and an early investor in everything from Etsy to Kickstarter, says it’s vital to establish guidelines for your community early on — because the tone you set is the tone you’re going to keep.
To move from one success to another — learn to un-learn. Take everything that helped you win the first time, then discard it and learn a new way. That’s how Barry Diller, titan of “old” media (ABC, Paramount, Fox), mastered the new dot-com world. His company IAC owns everything from Expedia to Vimeo to Match.com.
Tinder. Top Gun. Roots. The Simpsons. What do they have in common? Media icon Barry Diller. Barry is what we call an “infinite learner.” He’s only interested in things he’s never done before. And if they’ve never been done by anyone? Better yet. He succeeds by embracing that he is, in fact, a master of nothing. Entrepreneurs, take note: You just might be an infinite learner yourself, and Barry shares a lesson or two you can use.
In your company’s darkest moment, remember: You CAN pivot from failure to success. But only if you slash and burn everything that isn’t working. And then bring everyone else along. Slack’s Co-Founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield has twice navigated this kind of Big Pivot. He launched two different game companies, which turned into game-changing communications platforms (Flickr and Slack).
You don’t need a scaleable idea from day one. You might not know what your product will look like, or how you’ll get to market, or how you’ll make money. It’s OK. The most scalable ideas often come at you sideways. We talk to Diane Greene, who brought us into the age of cloud computing as the founding CEO of VMWare and now the head of Google’s cloud division. Learn how she leaned sideways into a market of boundless potential.
Your goal isn’t to beat the competition — it’s to escape the competition altogether. No one knows this better than Paypal founder Peter Thiel. “Competition is for losers,” he’s been known to say. Thiel is a former colleague, frequent co-investor and long-time intellectual sparring partner with Host Reid Hoffman. Enjoy the sparks.
The Masters of Scale team brings you a special blend of leadership tips from Season One guests — including clips we haven’t aired yet. In this bonus episode, we’ll share our favorite insights from Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Zynga’s Mark Pincus and more.
The best entrepreneurs? They let fires burn. Knowing which problems NOT to solve is just as critical as knowing how to solve them. You have to conserve energy for the biggest blazes, and learn how to sleep easy while other fires smolder around you. Learn from serial entrepreneur Selina Tobaccowala about how to choose which fires to fight.
What’s Silicon Valley’s secret? Can any other region nurture such a thriving startup scene? Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor, makes the case that a startup culture can be nurtured almost anywhere, so long as you have the raw ingredients — a few initial entrepreneurs with access to capital and a willingness to pay it forward. She shares the fledgling startup scenes that could ultimately give the Bay Area a run for its money.
Strong company cultures emerge when every employee feels they own the culture — and this begins even before the first job interview. CEO Reed Hastings has built a high-performing culture at Netflix by being upfront about who they are and who they aren’t. The company’s famous culture deck offers a 100-slide description of how Netflix sees itself. 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.
More than timing, money, and luck, entrepreneurs need grit to succeed: one part determination and one part ingenuity, and an endless supply of Plans B. Nancy Lublin has a boundless supply of grit, which fueled her success scaling three not-for-profits: Dress for Success, DoSomething.org, and Crisis Text Line. With practical wisdom and wicked humor, she shares her innovative approach to technology, financing, data, and development. If you think the for-profit world has a monopoly on scale thinking, think again.
Google doesn’t tell its employees how to innovate; it manages their inventive chaos. Their secret? Mix free-flowing ideas with disciplined decision-making. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google since 2001 and now chair of parent company Alphabet, shares the decision he made to support a crazy idea that he was certain would bankrupt the company.
To lead a fast-changing organization, you have to be as skilled at breaking plans as you are at making them. Take it from Sheryl Sandberg, who helped grow Facebook to 2 billion users and 14,000 employees in her first six years. She shares the practical, tactical, on-the-ground lessons she learned at Google and Facebook — everything from hiring people for roles that never existed before to navigating make-or-break crises.
If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released it too late. Why? Because your assumptions about what people want are never exactly right. So don’t fear imperfections; they won’t make or break your company. What will make or break you is speed. No one knows this better than Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. He shares the origin story of his early mantra, “move fast and break things” and how it applied as Facebook evolved from student project to tech giant.
The best business ideas often seem laughable at first glance. So if you’re hearing a chorus of “No’s” — it may actually be a good sign. So don’t be discouraged by rejection. Instead, learn the different kinds of “no.” That’s what Tristan Walkder did. After stints at successful startups, he launched Walker & Company, makers of the Bevel razor, and learned the secret of how to talk with investors who may or may not share your vision.
Think you’ve raised enough money for your startup? Think again. You’ll face a minefield of unexpected expenses — and opportunities. So raise more money than you think you need — possibly a lot more. MInted founder & CEO Mariam Naficy shares her white-knuckle experiences founding startups that survived two financial crashes – online cosmetic company Eve.com in the ’90s, and the design boutique Minted.com today.
If you want your company to truly scale, you first have to do things that don’t scale. Handcraft the core experience. Serve your customers one by one, until you know exactly what they want. That’s what Brian Chesky did in the early days as co-founder and CEO of Airbnb. He shares their route to crafting what he calls an “11-star experience.”