In Depth
In Depth
Nov 19, 2020
Lessons from a first-time CEO — Steve El-Hage on learning everything the hard way
Play • 1 hr 32 min

Our third episode is with Steve El-Hage, Founder and CEO of Drop (formerly Massdrop). Drop is an electronics brand that creates products based on feedback from enthusiast communities. Steve and Drop aren’t household names — you’ve very likely never heard of them. But we think his gritty growth journey is one of the best untold stories in Silicon Valley. 

Put simply, it was a heads-down, 8-year grind with wild swings. After dropping out of school and starting Drop as a first-time founder when he was just 22, Steve and his co-founder were short on cash and Silicon Valley connections — but they quickly spun up an interesting business that generated tons of traction early on. After wrapping up their first fundraise, the challenges started to set in, from revenue immediately dropping off a cliff and key hires not working out, to painful pivots, severe burnout, and all the obstacles that come with scaling faster than you can handle. As Steve puts it, he “learned everything the hard way” on the journey from founder to CEO.

In today’s conversation, Steve unpacks those lessons and gets candid about the misfires. He also shares tactical advice for hiring folks overlooked by the market and getting more out of your startup’s advisors.

It’s a must-listen for leaders looking to build teams and companies that can go the distance. Even if you’re not an aspiring CEO, there’s still plenty of inspiration to go around.

You can follow Steve on Twitter at @stevelhage and you can learn more about his approach to engaging users on First Round Review: https://firstround.com/review/How-To-Build-The-Product-Your-Users-Actually-Want/ 

You can email us questions directly at review@firstround.com or follow us on Twitter @ twitter.com/firstround and twitter.com/brettberson

Creator Lab - interviews with entrepreneurs and startup founders
Creator Lab - interviews with entrepreneurs and startup founders
Bilal Zaidi
Gagan Biyani, Udemy // Lessons From Building An Education Unicorn + The Future Of Online Learning
Gagan is the co-founder & former President of Udemy, an online education company that's worth more than $2bil. He later co-founded Sprig, a food delivery startup & went on to become the interim head of growth marketing at Lyft. Gagan recently announced a new education startup with Wes Kao. They've raised $4.3mil from investors like First Round Capital, Naval Ravikant & Li Jin. Let us know what you think on Twitter: @bzaidi @gaganbiyani Watch the full interview on YouTube: https://youtu.be/IifuGSaEkkU In this conversation, we discuss: * lessons in building Udemy + Sprig, from high-highs to low-lows * why cohort-based courses will play a major role in the future of online education * what it was like being fired by a co-founder * the impact of financial struggles & the unique pressure of being the child of immigrants * perspective gained from traveling to all 7 continents Timestamps: * 00:00:00 Intro * 00:02:47 Who is Gagan Biyani? * 00:05:20 Udemy Origin Story * 00:10:54 Starting Up a Business When You Have A Work Visa * 00:12:57 Setting A Timeline * 00:16:54 Parental Pressure + Traditional Careers * 00:20:53 Struggles * 00:26:54 How Do You React To Financial Troubles? * 00:29:27 Living Within Your Means * 00:30:34 Being Content * 00:33:27 Getting Fired By A Co-Founder * 00:42:20 The Rise & Fall of Sprig * 00:44:05 Chamath: "You're Going to Fail" * 00:50:07 Failure + Cognitive Dissonance * 00:52:40 3 Years of Travel * 00:57:20 Finding Hidden Gems * 00:59:24 Figuring Out What's Next * 01:00:59 Naval's Advice * 01:04:51 Evaluating Business Ideas * 01:07:28 Gagan's New Startup: Cohort-Based Courses * 01:13:37 Opportunities In Online Education * 01:17:29 Formats That Work Best * 01:21:19 Wrap-Up
1 hr 23 min
Wharton FinTech Podcast
Wharton FinTech Podcast
Wharton Fintech Podcast
Samir Chaïbi, Investor at Insignia Ventures - Fintech in Southeast Asia
Miguel Armaza sits down with Samir Chaibi, investor at Insignia Ventures Partners, a Southeast Asian growth and venture investing fund with over $350 million in assets under management, where he specifically focuses in backing fintech startups. Prior to Insignia, Samir spent many years working around the world and got his MBA at our Wharton School. We discussed: - Samir’s background and his path to venture capital - Company history for Insignia Ventures Partners, their investment thesis, and a bit about the portfolio companies - The evolution and current state of the fintech ecosystem in Southeast Asia - The surprising parallels between fintech in Latin America and Southeast Asia - His outlook of the regional future of the industry - And a lot more! Samir Chaibi Samir Chaibi is a Principal at Insignia Venture Partners (IVP), a Southeast Asia-focused growth and venture investing fund with US $350M+ in AuM. Prior to IVP, Samir was a venture investor at STRIVE, a Tokyo headquartered VC fund deploying capital into seed rounds across Japan, Southeast Asia, and India. Samir started his career in investment banking with Lazard (France) and Citigroup (UK) before transitioning to private equity and joining the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), a US $400bn+ sovereign wealth fund. Samir also co-founded DocEx Legal, a legal technology startup, leveraging an experienced team of lawyers based in South Asia to solve the legal talent gap across the Middle East. Samir graduated from a three-year dual-degree MBA/MPA program at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government with a focus on entrepreneurship, finance, and technology policy. About Insignia Ventures Partners Insignia Ventures Partners is an early-stage technology venture capital firm focusing on Southeast Asia since 2017, managing capital from premier institutional investors including sovereign wealth funds, foundations, university endowments and renowned family offices from Asia, Europe and North America.
22 min
The Twenty Minute VC: Venture Capital | Startup Funding | The Pitch
The Twenty Minute VC: Venture Capital | Startup Funding | The Pitch
Harry Stebbings
20VC: Hims Founder Andrew Dudum on Hims Going Public, The Reasoning and Benefits of SPACs, The Biggest Misconceptions of Successful Company Building & Wall St's Changing Perceptions Towards Growth and Profitability
Andrew Dudum is the Founder & CEO @ Hims & Hers, offering a modern approach to health and wellness and one of the fastest-growing companies to reach $1Bn. Prior to their going public on Tuesday this week, Hims raised over $158M from some of the best including Thrive, Forerunner, Founders Fund, IVP, Redpoint and more. As for Andrew, alongside his role at Hims he is also Co-Founder of Atomic, a company builder and venture fund all in one, backed by Peter Thiel and Marc Andreesen to name two. Prior to Atomic, Andrew led product at TokBox managing a team of 30 leading to their acquisition by Telefonica in 2012. In Today’s Episode You Will Learn: 1.) How Andrew made his way from Head of Product at Tokbox to venture capitalist with Atomic to changing healthcare with Hims? 2.) What are the biggest misconceptions people have with regards to what it takes to build a successful company? Why do you not need big teams? How can leaders drive efficiency within small teams? What have been Andrew's biggest lessons in acquiring the best talent in market? What works? 3.) Hims is the fastest company to scale to $1Bn, how does Andrew reflect on how he managed hyper-growth? What did he do well? What was the first to break? What would he do differently? When is the right time to go from generalist to specialist? When is the right time to add more products? 4.) Why did Andrew believe now was the right time to IPO just 4 years into the founding of the business? How did the SPAC process play out? What are the core advantages to Andrew of the SPAC over an IPO? Why will more founders use it in the future? How does Andrew assess the importance or lack of, when it comes to the pricing pop on IPO day? 5.) How does Andrew reflect on his relationship to money? Why does he feel more scared of it now than ever before? How does he think about bringing up his children with an appreciation and respect for money? What 3 traits would Andrew most like his children to have? Item’s Mentioned In Today’s Episode Andrew’s Favourite Book: The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World As always you can follow Harry and The Twenty Minute VC on Twitter here! Likewise, you can follow Harry on Instagram here for mojito madness and all things 20VC.
35 min
Equity
Equity
TechCrunch, Chris Gates, Alex Wilhelm, Danny Crichton, Natasha Mascarenhas, Grace Mendenhall
The only take about the future of media is that media is the future
Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week we — Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace -- had more than a little to noodle over, but not so much that we blocked out a second episode. We try to stick to our current format, but, may do more shows in the future. Have a thought about that? equitypod@techcrunch.com is your friend and we are listening. Now! We took a broad approach this week, so there is a little of something for everything down below. Enjoy! * Hims is going to SPAC itself onto the public markets, which should prove interesting for other D2C startups eyeing the same move. * The final quarter of 2020 and the full year brought an ocean of capital to bear on US startups, something that we delighted in chewing on. Fintech is also hot as all heck. * Plaid is building a fintech accelerator, which we thought was cool. * An edtech startup based in Nigeria raised a $7.5 million Series A on the back of a really neat distribution model. The march of live, tech-powered tutoring lives on! * TripActions raised a pallet of new capital despite having had a somewhat rough 2020 due to the pandemic. It's a fascinating wager, and one that we will track as it earns out. * There was lots of news in the movement space, including Microsoft helping put $2 billion into self-driving startup Cruise, electric vehicle startup Rivian raising $2.65 billion from Amazon and others, and Bolt Mobility expanding to new markets. * Danny's GPS story. * Wattpad exits for $600 million, leading to Alex detailing his love of science fiction. * a16z is doubling-down on its in-house media project, and Forbes is building out a paid newsletter service that we think is very neat. Like we said, it's a lot, but all of it worth getting into before the weekend. Hugs from the team, we are back early Monday.
29 min
Fintech Insider Podcast by 11:FS
Fintech Insider Podcast by 11:FS
11:FS
495. Insights: The VC gender investment gap
As COVID-19, the ensuing economic crisis, and recent calls for racial justice show, the cost of complacency toward matters of equity is reaching an inflection point. With statistics that show that both those making the decisions and those receiving the benefits are overwhelmingly white and male, the VC industry clearly has a diversity problem that needs to be addressed from top to bottom. In this episode of Fintech Insider: Insights, Simon Tayor is joined by some great guests to dive into the topic: Jillian Williams - Investment Principal at Anthemis & Head of BLCK VC NYC David Mott - Chair of the Venture Capital Committee at the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association & Co-Founder of Oxford Capital Jennifer Neundorfer -  Co-Founder & General Partner at January Ventures This podcast is brought to you by Jack Henry Digital (https://hubs.ly/H0w__kt0) the pioneer and creator of personal digital banking that helps community financial institutions strategically differentiate their digital offerings from those of MegaBanks, BigTechs and FinTechs. This podcast is also brought to you by Mitek (https://bit.ly/3bAy2HL)(NASDAQ: MITK). Mitek is a global leader in mobile capture and digital identity verification solutions built on the latest advancements in computer vision, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Mitek’s identity verification solutions enable an enterprise to verify a user’s identity during a digital transaction, which assists businesses operating in highly regulated markets to reduce financial risk and meet regulatory requirements while increasing revenue from digital channels. Financial services, marketplaces and other organizations around the world use Mitek to reduce friction creating the digital experiences their customers expect. Mobile Deposit® and Mobile Verify® are used by millions of consumers for check deposit, new account opening and more. The company is based in San Diego with offices in New York, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris and St Petersburg. Learn more at www.miteksystems.com. Banking as a Service is deconstructing the banking stack. It's enabling brands to embed finance more easily, and to tailor financial products to specific customer needs. This is presenting new opportunities for specialised providers and offers banks extra revenue streams. Download our report for a comprehensive, no BS view of what Banking as a Service is and what it means for the industry. Head to bit.ly/bankingasaservice (https://bit.ly/bankingasaservice). Fintech Insider by 11:FS is a podcast dedicated to all things fintech, banking, technology and financial services. Hosted by a rotation of 11:FS experts including David Brear, Simon Taylor, Jason Bates and Sarah Kocianski and joined by a range of brilliant guests, we cover the latest global news, bring you interviews from industry experts or take a deep dive into subject matters such as APIs, AI or digital banking. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to subscribe and please leave a review Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fintechinsiders where you can ask the hosts questions, alternatively email podcasts@11fs.com! Special Guests: David Mott, Jennifer Neundorfer , and Jillian Williams .
48 min
Acquired
Acquired
Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal
Bitcoin
We had to do it. After 12 years and 3,000,000x appreciation, we kick off Season 8 with the best investment of all-time and our biggest episode ever: Bitcoin. From the first bitcoin transaction of 10k for two Papa John's pizzas (worth about $350m today!!) to $40k+ BTC and maybe the moon beyond, we cover the whole crazy, improbable journey of how a single 8-page PDF document changed the world of money — and perhaps the world itself — forever. If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/ Sponsors: * Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny * Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at: * https://bit.ly/acquired-vouch * http://bit.ly/acquiredcapchase The Bitcoin Playbook: (also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/bitcoin ) 1. Technological paradigm shifts are ideal opportunities for attacking incumbents. * The traditional finance system worked fantastically well for 500 years, but it wasn't built for the internet. The fact that sharing your bank account or credit card number is required in order to transact, but there's no really robust way to protect against fraud when doing so, provided the perfect seam for a new entrant. Bitcoin and its creators saw this shortcoming and created a new form of money that worked like email. 2. In the early days of a network-effect system, usage matters more than use-cases. * Because the value of a network grows as a function of Metcalfe's Law (value = # of engaged participants squared), in the early days simply growing the number of engaged participants matters more than the specifics of what those participants are actually doing. As the network's value grows, it will become attractive to successively more groups of users and use cases. * Bitcoin started as the domain of researchers and fringe libertarians, then illicit transactions (Silk Road), then speculation (the ICO boom) before finally reaching adoption by the mainstream investment community. Each wave built enough monetary value in the network to make it attractive to the next set of users. Similarly Facebook went from sharing photos of attractive undergrads to how billions communicate, and Airbnb went from ratty airbeds to ~10x larger than any hotel chain, all within a few short years. 3. Distributing network value out to its participants creates large incentives for adoption. * Rewarding miners with bitcoin itself created a huge incentive for participants to join and stay in the Bitcoin network. Although this dynamic got a bad rap during the ICO bubble when it was overused and overpromised by grifters and scammers, it remains a powerful strategy and will likely be used more going forward. * Perhaps most excitingly, this incentive unlocks massive new potential for open-source software development: people who work on open-source software (or provide other functions) can now receive direct value for their contributions, without being employed in any traditional sense. 4. Just HODL, baby. (aka let your winners run) * You can get rich quickly by getting in early on a winning investment. But you can only get really rich by holding a compounding asset for an extended period of time. Sequoia learned this lesson painfully with its Apple investment in the 1970's: selling its entire position for just a ~$6m profit within a few years. Similarly, anyone who bought 1,000 bitcoin for $10 a piece in 2012 could have sold them for $1m four years later in 2016. But four years on from that, they're now worth $35 million. If you continue to believe Bitcoin has a bright longterm future (which, to be fair, you may not!), what could they be worth in 2024? 5. We're only just realizing the implications of digital scarcity. * For its entire existence before Bitcoin, computing and the internet was all about turning scarcity into abundance. (via infinitely replicable + easily distributable software and other digital goods) For the first time in history, Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain have introduced the opposite: scarce, non-replicable digital assets. Native digital currency (Bitcoin) and smart contracts (Ethereum) are the first big outcomes of this advancement, but there may be many more seismic shifts to come. Links: * Satoshi's Whitepaper: https://www.bitcoin.com/bitcoin.pdf * Matt Huang's "Bitcoin for the Open-Minded Skeptic": https://www.paradigm.xyz/Bitcoin_For_The_Open_Minded_Skeptic.pdf * Nellie Bowles's "Everyone Is Getting Hilariously Rich and You’re Not": https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/13/style/bitcoin-millionaires.html * Square’s $50m investment in BTC: https://images.ctfassets.net/2d5q1td6cyxq/5sXNrlEh2mEnTvvhgtYOm2/737bcfdc15e2a1c3cbd9b9451710ce54/Square_Inc._Bitcoin_Investment_Whitepaper.pdf Episode Sources: * Full list of episode sources available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16QCDNm2qzG3Bn5h1j1KXisxL_JGT7egDx7czX9ThHLY/edit?usp=sharing
3 hr 12 min
The NFX Podcast
The NFX Podcast
NFX, Jed Kolko, Twilio, Pete Flint., Jeff Lawson, Dave Packard, HP
The Founders’ List: The Bitcoin White Paper by Satoshi Nakamoto
This is The Founders' List - audio versions of essays from technology’s most important leaders, selected by the founder community. Originally written under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s original white paper titled 'Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System' was released over 12 years ago. Considered the most seminal piece of work in the cryptocurrency movement, the Bitcoin White Paper outlines blockchain technology and the entire decentralized revolution. The content of this 9-page document incited what can only be described as a revolution in the world of fintech. More relevantly, Bitcoin’s white paper laid out an inspiring new definition of money at a time when faith in the traditional financial system was still being salvaged. Satoshi launched the first Bitcoin client in early 2009 and then handed the project off to the community in 2010, where it has since thrived as the open-source of study, work, and fascination for millions across the globe. Today we bring this infamous memo to The Founders' List so you have a chance to listen to his original outline of such a world-changing idea. Examining the white paper origins is a great exercise in understanding why Bitcoin has the influence it has in today's world. Satoshi Nakamoto’s blueprint is the official “birth certificate” of Bitcoin. Read the white paper here - https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf
14 min
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