Thor Culverhouse, CEO @ Skytap

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Thor Culverhouse, CEO @ Skytap

thor culverhouse

Thor Culverhouse is more than just an impressive name. He’s also the CEO at fast-growing cloud company Skytap, and although he’s new to the company, he has has hit the ground running. With years of experience running successful teams throughout the tech industry, Culverhouse expects to “hit the accelerator even faster” at Skytap, and grow their position as the cloud for developers even further. In this edition of Nextcast, I find out just where Thor Culverhouse came from and where he’s going next.

  • Thor Culverhouse might have been a professional football player, if a college injury hadn’t forced him to head down another career path. Thanks to an internship with a family friend, he found his way into engineering, and eventually got his MBA. “I had to redefine myself,” Culverhouse explains. He is, however, thankful to his windy early career path, since it gave him “broader exposure as a young developer and a young entrepreneur”. (4:30)

  • “Acquisitions can be both rewarding and challenging,” Culverhouse says. Having been through the experience himself, he can attest to the fact that leaders and their teams often feel “completely consumed” by the acquiring company. So what’s a leader to do? “Culture can, and very often does, change,” he says. A good leader will “recognize that those changes are going to happen, and prepare people for that emotional hurdle.” (5:17)

  • Culverhouse says his father is one of his greatest mentors, because he taught him the importance of “how you treat people, and who you surround yourself with.” Now, Culverhouse always makes a point of hiring people smarter than himself, he says. “Surround yourself with the best of the best. It elevates everything you do.” (6:00)

  • It’s no doubt that Culverhouse is a success, so I pressed him to see if there’s a secret formula behind his many career wins. Unfortunately, he said, there isn’t. “The devil is in the details,” Culverhouse explained, adding that “you can sort of expect some trends…[but] we run into something new every day.” The key to making it all happen is being “incredibly persistent” and having passion for what you do. “If you’re not passionate about the job that you’re in then it shows, and if you’re a leader it shows to more people.” (8:30)

  • Though he left Seattle for a while, Culverhouse says he is excited to be back working in such a thriving tech field in the Seattle area. Home to “great investors and a great talent pool,” Culverhouse says he is looking forward to the future. And as Skytap continues to grow, keeping a startup vibe is a main priority for the new CEO. “Everything we do is just at a faster pace.” (13:20)

 

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 Nextcast with Jon Jenkins, Head of Engineering at Pinterest

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Nextcast with Jon Jenkins, Head of Engineering at Pinterest

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Nextcast with Jon Jenkins, Head of Engineering at Pinterest from Nextcast on Vimeo.

Former Seattleite Jon Jenkins, the Head of Engineering at Pinterest, has taken the lead of a “super scrappy, super agile” team of engineers building one of the biggest social networks on the web today. Using billions -- or maybe even trillions -- of data points supplied by users around the world, he and his team are curating personalized experiences for every Pinner, helping to show them new things they didn’t even know they liked yet. I sat down to talk to Jon about solving some of the most exciting challenges of his career in this edition of Nextcast; here are a few of the highlights:

This PolySci graduate with a knack for “hacking around” has done the big company and the startup thing more than once in his career. After spending almost 9 years at Amazon in Seattle, he hightailed it to San Francisco to join the Pinterest startup team, who piqued his interest with an intriguing set of problems to solve. Jenkins says he is “fascinated by challenges associated with scaling things...and challenges associated with data mining or deriving useful information from large pools of data.” He adds, “Pinterest has both of those challenges at an even bigger scale.” (4:30)

The problems Pinterest is solving for its users are based on huge amounts of data providing huge amounts of value to customers, who may not even know they want that value until they get it. “A pin is an object...coupled with the user’s context about that object,” Jenkins explains. It’s not just about what gets pinned, but what it says about the Pinner’s interests. Jenkins and his team are using that information to present that user with even more things they might enjoy, even if the user doesn’t know they like it yet. “We can tell you things about yourself that you didn’t even know,” based on what you pin, within the context your boards and profile. “That’s something I don’t think anyone has done before.” (7:20)

Jenkins shares that his business philosophy is based on always putting the customer first. “In no matter what you’re building, you should absolutely understand how it’s going to positively impact...customers,” he says. If you can’t articulate that in a way a customer will understand, he says, you’re not likely to be successful. He feels just as strongly about APIs -- which helps to explain why there is no Pinterest API yet. “APIs are forever, and you need to treat them that way. You don’t get to release these things to the world and then pull them back, or at least you shouldn’t.” Jenkins adds: “Software is a promise.” (12:02)

Though he still loves Seattle, Jenkins admits he wishes he’d moved to San Francisco earlier. The vibrant, connected, sharing-focused community is something he would like to see carry over to other tech communities. Another thing he wishes? That’d he’d pushed himself harder, earlier in his career, to take more risks. “Being successful in technology is really about pushing the boundaries,” he says, advising tech upstarts to not let a fear of failure control them. And though risk-taking and idea-challenging are now part of his daily routine, he explains, “I should not have been afraid to break things or challenge conventional thinking earlier.” (17:00)

Jon’s advice to other startups and leaders is concise, but powerful. “You better understand what your customer wants,” he says first. “[Be] incredibly pragmatic in how you deliver,” is his second tip, which is all about the power of fast iteration and agility. The quicker you can notice problems and do something about them, the better off you are. And finally, he says: “[Build] an engineering team that actually wants to deliver stuff.” Not every engineer gets excited by shipping, but you need to make sure your team is staffed with only that kind. Getting your product in front of customers is the difference between success and failure. (24:25)

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Jesse Rothstein, Cofounder and CEO of ExtraHop Networks

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Jesse Rothstein, Cofounder and CEO of ExtraHop Networks

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Jesse Rothstein ExtraHop from Nextcast on Vimeo.

Jesse Rothstein wants to help the folks who “keep the lights on” in your IT department spend a little less time keeping things running and a little more time innovating big ideas. How’s he going to do it? He and his team at ExtraHop are delivering a platform for enterprise IT organizations to manage all the applications of a complex technology system. What does that mean for you? Well, it may mean your next flight gets off the tarmac just a little bit faster...

One of ExtraHop’s customers, Alaska Airlines, uses complex IT software to do pre-flight calculations that help determine if a plane can take off -- and when there’s a delay in that work, there’s a delay in your departure. Though much of this kind of work takes place in the background of most big companies, it’s these small details that are so critical for success. Rothstein wants to make sure the people who “keep things up and running” are always able to do so.

“A lot of the legacy approaches we used to take in IT are no longer tenable,” Rothstein explains. “We build better tools to help us manage daily complexity,” he says, explaining that as he sees it, technology is going to keep getting more complex, but we are also going to keep getting better at managing it

Though he never saw himself as an entrepreneur, Rothstein made a choice to create his own job at ExtraHop: “I couldn’t find the job that I wanted, so I had to build it,” he explains. That’s when he realized he may have been more of an entrepreneur than he realized. “Entrepreneurs always have something to prove,” he says, “I wanted to take a product from conception all the way to market, and prove that I could do it.”

These days, Rothstein sees himself “primarily as a team-builder”. He spends his days “finding the talent and growing the team” that will help ExtraHop as they continue to expand. “You judge a leader by the team that they’ve built,” Rothstein says, adding that the best leaders are the ones who surround themselves with the smartest people they can.

Besides growing his team at ExtraHop, Rothstein is hoping Seattle’s entrepreneurial and startup scene and can continue to grow and thrive as well. Seattle has “access to talent, access to customers, and access to capital,” he says. “I would love to see Seattle be even more of an entrepreneurial hotbed.”

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Paul Thelen, Founder and CEO of Big Fish Games

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Paul Thelen, Founder and CEO of Big Fish Games

Paul Thelen Big Fish Games

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/104154319" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] Paul Thelen didn’t mean to become a CEO. But after an illness brought his life into sharp focus, he decided to quit the job he thought he “should” have and build the career he knew he wanted to have. From that pursuit of passion, Big Fish Games was born.

Now, Paul runs a 11-year-old company of over 700 and is hoping to keep growing his team and breaking down barriers in the video game industry. What’s up next? A video game launched directly into the  cloud, where it can be played by any user on any device. (Not too shabby.) Driven by a love for his product and intense focus on his customer, Paul says the sky’s the limit in terms of what he and his team at Big Fish Games can do.

(1:56) “I never considered myself an entrepreneur,” Paul says. In spite of that initial doubt, though, Paul is still running his “accidental company” several years later, and couldn’t be happier to have finally chosen to pursue his passion. A lifelong gamer and programmer, Paul explains, “You’re handicapping yourself for success” when you make your passion your job.

(4:35) Paul’s secret to Big Fish’s success is a finely tuned understanding of his customer and his data. You’ve got to “balance analytics with true understanding of what customer needs are,” he says, explaining that you can’t ignore the real world in favor of data. Understanding your customer’s motivations should be your top priority at all times.

(5:38) Culture is another thing Paul keeps intense focus on at his growing company. “I have a lot of ideas,” Paul says. “I’m an idea guy.” And he leaves it up to his team to decide which ones are good. “I encourage my team to keep me honest,” he says, adding he encourages them to “prove my ideas wrong.”

(12:22) Paul credits his whip-smart team with helping the company achieve so much success. “What made us successful versus a lot of our competitors in the same space is that we had a very, very intense focus on doing one thing and doing it very well.” He adds that product and customer are king: “Intense focus on the product, and intense focus on what the customers are saying about the products.”

(13:08) Paul’s advice to other startups? “Work hard but have fun while you’re doing it.” Oh, and maybe invest in tougher phones. Citing the struggles and frustrations common in a young startup, Paul mentions that more than one phone met a violent end in the early days of Big Fish Games. These days the office phones can rest easy, though. Big Fish Games isn’t going anywhere.

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Gary Flake, CEO of Clipboard

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Gary Flake, CEO of Clipboard

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Gary Flake and his team and Clipboard have been slowly, steadily growing a new way for you to save information from the web. Find out what this former machine learning researcher-turned-CEO has to say about building a business, running the startup marathon, and how it feels to be named one of Time’s Top 50 Websites.

  • Of being named to Time’s Top 50 Websites, Gary says, “It was a huge honor, totally unexpected.” And he means it - the company has kept a fairly low profile since launching earlier this year. Only now, after several iterations, is the Clipboard team confident they have a product they can start evangelizing.
  • We’ve had a pretty charmed existence,” Gary says of his Clipboard team. “Clipboard wants to fill a small and simple role,” he explains, adding that their whole mission is to solve on fundamentally broken part of the web - that there was no good way to reliably save a section of a web page.
  • Gary’s advice to other startup founders is wise: “Doing a startup is not a sprint, it’s an endurance race.” He adds, “People who approach it as a sprint almost always fail; you can’t start thinking your vision of success is to become an acqui-hire.”
  • Values and culture are essential to the success of the Clipboard team, says Gary. “Pick your values wisely and stick to them.” Also important? “Team dynamics - focus on the team, not just one individual on the team.”
  • Though they haven’t focused much on marketing or PR, Clipboard has been growing in public since the product was just 12 weeks old. Now, Gary says, “This is our opportunity to go big or go home.” He adds, “Aspire for scale or don’t play.”

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Dave Mathews, Founder of DailyCred

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Dave Mathews, Founder of DailyCred

Dave Mathews DailyCred

Dave Mathews wants to solve really big problems. The latest Internet foe he’s facing off with is the user login field on your website, and he wants to fix it for good. How’s he going to do it, and what makes him want to change the Internet forever? Let’s find out on the latest Nextcast.

  • Website owners are spending time and energy creating sign-in fields, but "none of that work computes back to the core product,” Dave says. “That’s not why someone came to your website.”
  • Driven by a love for “being able to do something for the last time”, Dave and his team at DailyCred are building a product whose goal is to ensure no one will ever struggle with the issues of sign-in forms and security again.
  • What keeps Dave going while he tries to change the world? His philosophy is simple: “Be honest; try to do excellent work.”
  • Picking a good cofounder, says Dave, is one essential key to startup success. “Trust and being friends” are foundations of a good cofounder relationship. “You work extremely long hours with lots of stress and uncertainty.”
  • When he’s not working those long hours, Dave makes a point to pursue other interests like photography. “It’s good to have another outlet,” he says. “It rolls back into your work, and changes the way you approach problems.” He concludes, “You’ve got to live in the world if you want to change it.”

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Chao Zhang, Cofounder of UBI Interactive

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Chao Zhang, Cofounder of UBI Interactive

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Chao Zhang has followed technology all around the world. From China to Germany and finally to Seattle, where he worked in the Microsoft Accelerator to help launch his company UBI Interactive. What’s next? Touch screens on any surface and exploring the future of human computer interaction. Find out more on this Nextcast.

  • Growing up with scientist parents, Chao “had a lot of toys, but they were all chemistry sets.” When it came time to specialize in school, he pursued computer science which eventually led him halfway around the world to Germany, and eventually to Seattle to an intensive mentorship program with Microsoft.
  • When asked he’s learned from building UBI Interactive, Chao smiles and says, “Starting a comany is really, really hard. That’s what I learned.” Coming from an international background and struggling with visas, legal statutes, and networks, he explains, “It’s hard to just come here and get into the environment.”
  • While UBI Interactive wants you to be able to turn any surface into a touch screen, Chao hopes the interaction between humans and computers doesn’t stop there. “If humans want to work together with machines, there needs to be a more comfortable way to interact,” he says. He looks forward to a day when “normal, ordinary people can talk to computers”.
  • “In the future, it could be a 3D screen instead of a touch screen,” Chao says, musing on the future of technology. “All the surfaces, all the walls, all the places - you can control them or they can read your mind.”
  • Chao follows one mantra when he works: “Always make things perfect.” He continues, “In software development, the perfection never stops. The end user’s satisfaction is most important, so if they feel good that’s a kind of perfection for us.”

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Nick Huzar, CEO of OfferUp

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Nick Huzar, CEO of OfferUp

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Nick Huzar knows you have a bunch of stuff in your garage, and he wants to help you sell it. Improving the way we buy and sell online and on our phones is the next big problem Nick and his team at OfferUp are aiming to solve. With a history in startups and a passion for solving big problems, Nick shares his ideas on simplicity and “the rhino principle” with me on the latest Nextcast.

  • “I like to build and create things,” Nick says. “That’s what gets me excited.” Breaking down the very complex into the very simple is what Nick strives to do in every part of his business. Standing at the intersection of clean design and wild creativity, Nick explains, “When I’m building something, I want you to experience it.”
  • Nick’s passion for the consumer means he will launch a company - even when he doesn’t want to. “I tried to convince myself not to do another startup,” says Nick, but eventually he gave in and launched OfferUp to help people sell off the stuff in their house. Smartphones are “the macrotrend we need to pay attention to” for buying and selling, and OfferUp wants to do it better than anyone else.
  • Inspired by the time he was actually charged down by a rhino in Africa, Nick calls the powerful driving force behind his startup momentum “the rhino principle”. What does it mean? “Charge forward and no matter what, you keep on charging.”
  • If there’s one lesson Nick wants you to know, it’s the importance of networking. “A lot of reasons you’re not able to move things forward is because of the people you have around,” he says. When launching a company, the key is the people you bring in with you from coworkers to advisers. “Be a networker.”
  • Nick’s advice to startups is equally direct, “Find the best people you can and work with them.” Oh, and one more thing: “If the wheels aren’t falling off, you’re probably not going hard enough.” Spoken like a real startup veteran.

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Paul Watts, Cofounder and CEO of gatherball

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Paul Watts, Cofounder and CEO of gatherball

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Paul Watts says, “Building software that people will hug you for, that’s what drives me every day.” That’s why he and his team at gatherball are working to make trip-planning fun again by taking email out of the equation altogether. What led this entrepreneur to move from being philosophy major to startup CEO? He lets us know on this episode of Nextcast.

  • Even though he entered college as a philosophy student, Paul figured out that computer science may be more his speed. “It turns out I knew as much if not more than the computer science majors,” he says, which is why he changed majors and charted a different course.
  • After leaving a position at Microsoft, Paul entered the startup world. One of his first projects was building a smartphone for teens, but eventually shifted “from atoms to bits” and traded building hardware for building software.
  • Gatherball wasn’t always the visual travel-planning guide that it is today. The first incarnation of the product wasn’t bringing in numbers like the team had hoped it would. “We had to thoroughly change the direction,” Paul says, explaining that it was a struggle to give up on an idea the team loved.
  • “It’s time to pivot when experiments reach diminishing returns.” That's the lesson Paul and his team learned while trying to save their original product idea. “We started talking to people and asking what we could do,” he adds. Brainstorming led them to create their new product, gatherball, that is evolving more every day.
  • “Startups are much, much easier now,” says Paul, a startup veteran. But Paul still seeks the challenge: “It encourages you to be humble and to continue to think.” He adds, “I learn something new every day.”

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Georges Khoury, CEO of Attendible

Georges Khoury has been all around the world in the name of technology. From Lebanon to Vancouver to Seattle, Georges has spent his career making advances in the tech space, eventually founding the Seattle-based start-up Attendible. What keeps him going, and where is he headed? Find out below:

  • “I got my first computer and thought, ‘This is something good’,” Georges says of his early entrance into the world of computer science. He followed that feeling and made a career as a software engineer working with Microsoft. “The best thing about software is the quick feedback, the ability to create stuff.”
  • Georges loves seeing his technology making a positive impact on people’s lives. He explains that his favorite part of working in software is “seeing other people use it and interact with it.” He continues, “I love to see it helping people.”
  • What’s running through Georges’ head as he create a new agile piece of software? His mantra: “Keep refining.”
  • At the end of our interview, Georges looked forward to the future of startups and technology. “The cloud is definitely a game changer,” he says, adding, “Mobile - oh, it’s going to be big. They’re going to get bigger, smarter, faster.”

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Don Rule, Founder of Translational Software

If your doctor could have easy access to your entire genome, how would it change the future of healthcare? That’s what Don Rule and his company, Translational Software, want to find out. Doing business at the intersection of computer science and biology, Don wants to make it easy for doctors to get all the information new technology can provide. We’ll see how he got here on this edition of Nextcast.

  • Starting out in finance and discovering he had a knack for computer software, Don spent much of his career learning how software can change the name of the game in business. Now, Don says, he’s working “at the intersection of computer science and biology - and it opens up a whole new world.
  • Don wants to put increasingly available genetic information into the hands of doctors who can use it to make better decisions about patient care. If he had all the money in the world, he’d be doing exactly the same thing, he says. “I’d translate the information we have from the genome and put it in the hands of doctors.”
  • For now, Don’s business is all about “getting involved with a customer base and community base”. Though many healthcare facilities can’t afford to integrate new technologies into their everyday business, Don sees a future in which lower costs for bioinformatics to use data to improve health. “More will be known about medicine in the next five years than in all of human history.”

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Jenni Hogan, KIRO Social7

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Jenni Hogan, KIRO Social7

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Jenni Hogan from Kiro and Social7 on Nextcast from Nextcast on Vimeo.

Jenni Hogan wants to change the way you interact with news - and the way it interacts with you. With a vision for connectivity, communication, and entrepreneurship, Jenni is working with her KIRO news team to evolve the conversation between people and information. What lessons has Jenni learned along the way, and what’s she up to next? Find out in this social-media savvy Nextcast.

  • Jenni Hogan doesn’t just want you to watch the news, she wants to have a conversation with you about the news. Turning the one-way, “outbound” communication of the news into a two-way interaction is what she’s all about, and she loves the possibilities “With your iPad you can design the news you want,” she says. (2:11)
  • Keeping an open mind and being ready for anything is how Jenni stays on top of the best ways to innovate. Be ready for “things that come out of the blue” because that’s where the game-changers are, she explains. “Be open to letting the community create what’s next.” (9:30)
  • Who is Jenni’s hero? Anyone who can “jump,” she says. What does she mean? “People who are trying and failing; they’re not secure, but they’re following their dreams.” A KIRO entrepreneur herself, Jenni thinks anyone trying to make something new happen (no matter what) is worth admiring. (17:14)
  • KIRO’s viewers have a platform in Jenni - and she likes it that way. “My audience is everyday people,” she says. “My people are powerful. Together they can be huge; they voice is amazing.” (21:55)
  • Jenni loves the possibilities of social media to connect everyone from celebrities to the everyday news viewer. Her goal? “Empowering people to give them a voice. If there’s a way to use technology to empower people to have a platform, a lot of people have something great to add, but they don’t have the spotlight,” she says. And if Jenni has her way...we won’t be waiting long for that spotlight to arrive. (23:45)

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Marc Barros, CEO and Cofounder of Contour

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Marc Barros, CEO and Cofounder of Contour

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“I was supposed to be an accountant,” says Marc Barros, co-founder and CEO of Contour, one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the Pacific Northwest (though he recently left the position to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures). At Contour, he set out to solve a simple problem (find a way to shoot high-quality video while skiing), and led a massively successful team while learning a lot along the way. What are the biggest lessons he’s learned? What technology would he get rid of “in a heartbeat” if he could? Find out in this exciting new Nextcast!

  • What’s Marc’s secret for founding such a successful company? Well, he stumbled into it. “We wanted to solve our own problem,” he says, explaining that he and his friends sought a better way to shoot video while skiing the slopes. He found something he was passionate about and strove to create the best product he could.
  • To Marc, the foundation of your company is everything. It comes down to asking the right questions, he says. Instead of asking “what do we have to offer?, he suggests thinking this way: “why does our company exist?” Having a core set of values and vision will always lead you in the right direction. (3:13)
  • Marc says all of his success has been tied to one mantra: “Don’t give up.” That, and constant self-reflection and feedback. You’ll save a lot of time if you can take advice from a trusted source.“I appreciate when people give you the honest truth because it saves you a lot of time,” Marc explains. (7:40)
  • “I think the best entrepreneurs have a gut instinct,” Marc says about running a successful startup business. Learning as much as you can and bringing on investors and advisors to keep you on track is always good, but listening to your instincts can be your secret weapon. (10:50)
  • We haven’t heard this one before! Without hesitating, Marc tells Jeff, “I think email’s the worst. I’d get rid of it in a heartbeat.” (12:40) He maintains a good work-life balance by never checking email on his phone or when he’s trying to take time off from the office. (6:13)

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Cooper DuBois, Co-Founder of Double Down Interactive

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Cooper DuBois, Co-Founder of Double Down Interactive

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Cooper DuBois wants you to step out of your real world and come into his for a few minutes a day. How’s he going to do it? He and his team at Double Down are creating fun, social gaming environments where everyone can take a spin around a casino and share the fun with their friends. After a long career in game design, Cooper has found the perfect intersection of passion and success - and it’s only getting better.

  • If you ask Cooper DuBois what roles he fills as co-founder at his growing gaming company, you’ll get a long list of titles. “Cheerleader, mascot, art director, the guy who loses it in meetings,” he says, and the list goes on. A jack-of-all-trades on the Double Down team, Cooper has seen it all.
  • Cooper DuBois attributes much of the success of his team with the people on it. He encourages other entrepreneurs to “take a chance on people, have some trust, and develop friendships”. He reminds anyone who wants to make it big: “Don’t stay in your box.” Taking chances is key if you’re going to create something big. (8:20)
  • How do you know when you’ve got a hit game on your hands? “If you like the game you’re making, that’s great. If your mom likes it, then she loves you. If your friend’s mom likes it, then it’s a good game.” (12:00) Double Down wants to create a fun, sensory environment users can have a great time in and escape the everyday, even just for a few minutes.
  • Cooper thinks the future of gaming lies in the social space. The Triple A game companies are “digging their own graves,” he says, by sticking to one formula that works and producing sequel after sequel. Double Down designers love the excitement of creating social games fast and trying a little bit of everything (and taking some risks too!). (13:47)
  • Cooper’s favorite thing about Double Down is the team of people he works with. He proudly tells Jeff, “We hire great human beings”, and it looks like that will take them far. What does he see down the road? “We’ll still be here, we’ll be bigger, and we’ll be a well-oiled machine.” (22:08)

 

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Chuck Edwards, Co-Founder of Blue Gecko, SVP Marketing of Datavail

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Chuck Edwards, Co-Founder of Blue Gecko, SVP Marketing of Datavail

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Life as an accountant wasn’t quite enough for Chuck Edwards, so when he was given the opportunity to learn Oracle and grow his database skills, he jumped at it. Now he’s at the forefront of data management after spending 12 years growing his own startup, Blue Gecko. What did he learn along the way? It’s all about value - the importance of corporate values, the value of a great team, and of course, the value of a fantastic product.

  • Chuck’s got plenty of advice for other startup leaders, since he spent 12 years growing from a small “bootstrapped” team doing outside consulting work to make ends meet to becoming a successful player in the database world. “It takes a lot of perseverance,” he says. (6:18)
  • One key tip he has for startup leaders with multiple co-founders: ““Founders need to be on the same page and check in with each other on their personal goals.” Which makes sense - as the company grows, so do the people who run it, and priorities should be out in the open. “As the founder’s personal goals change, it influences where they want to steer the company.” (7:12)
  • When it comes to values, Chuck says, “Maintaining high values is kind of easy - just don’t compromise them.” Decide what’s important to you as an organization and never, ever deviate from the values you set forth. (8:25)
  • For Chuck, company culture is what can be hard to pin down, but is so essential for success: “We’re a technology service company, so your technology competence is sort of a given, but within that there is a wide range of people who either fit or who don’t. You can put a bunch of really really smart people in a conference room together, but if they don’t get along nothing’s going to get done.” (10:03)
  • At the end of the day, to Chuck, having a successful business and product is all about what value you can offer your customer. “You want to be a value add,” he says. “I don’t mean being the condiment on top of the hot dog; you are the hot dog. If you’re providing value, you’re probably going to be okay.” (13:40)

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Jesse Robbins, Chief Community Officer and Co-Founder of Opscode

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Jesse Robbins, Chief Community Officer and Co-Founder of Opscode

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Former firefighter Jesse Robbins is comfortable under pressure - in fact, he thrives on it. Channeling positive energy and optimism into his growing organization, Jesse and his team at Opscode have been changing the game in enterprise software and say they are just getting started. “We want to be a stand-alone giant,” says Jesse. Something tells us Jesse’s motto - “don’t fight stupid, make more awesome” - might just be their battle cry.

  • Though he grew up as a computer kid, Jesse’s interests weren’t just technological - in the past he’s studied theater and worked as a firefighter. In fact, his history as a firefighter helped him develop his past role at Amazon and his future philosophies: “On 9/11, I realized my training and skills really could have a profound impact on a technology organization that would depend on me if things got worse. I decided ‘I’m going to figure out a way to mix these two worlds together.’”
  • Relentless positivity and optimism are the secrets behind Jesse’s success. “I’m a dreamer, I believe in the incredible potential of people,” he says. It’s this attitude that led him to create a company culture founded on “making more awesome” in the world. His priorities always lie with what can be done next, and exploring all possibilities.
  • Despite his positive outlook, when he and Opscode were first starting out, they faced their fair share of lows; he explains, “When you’re trying to change the way big organizations work, a lot of people say no a lot. Rather than try to fight them, you’ve got to find a way to make them say yes...Being a force for awesome in the world is finding ways to say yes.
  • Culture is incredibly important to Jesse and his Opscode team. “Early on we made a lot of decisions about how to respect and interact with our community,” he explains. “We exist as peers with a community bigger than us.” This is why he believes in “the golden rule of email” - send unto others only the emails you’d want to receive yourself.
  • Despite bumps in the road along the way, the future looks bright for Jesse and Opscode. What’s his advice for the next generation of startups? Get used to challenges. “If you’re struggling, recognize it’s going to be this way forever.” And that might be a good thing.

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Ron Erickson, CEO of Visualant

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Ron Erickson, CEO of Visualant

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Some Nextcast guests have seen it all, and Ron Erickson has seen even more. Starting out in public policy and law, Ron made waves in a few fields (including selling zucchini squash at age 6) before settling in technology and entrepreneurship. Now he’s leading the team at Visualant, using his skills as “investor, coach, mentor, cheerleader” to continue his successful run as a leader in his field. He sits down with Jeff to talk about luck, the future of apps, and waking up at 3am - and plenty more.

  • After an extensive career in the field, Ron knows that entrepreneurial success has a lot to do with two pretty basic factors: “timing and luck.” He explains, “There’s no substitute for preparation; luck serves the well-prepared”, so if you’ve got a good idea and the right timing, you might just hit it big.
  • As an investor and business leader, Ron listens to his gut when a decision has to get made, calling himself an “intuitive investor”. He says that unless he knows right away that he wants to pursue a concept, he’s usually just “slow-walking it to ‘no’”. Citing Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, Ron says we know a good idea and a good team when we see it. (2:47)
  • 3:26 is one of our favorite moments from this interview. Jeff asks Ron what he’d be doing today and Ron replies, “Exactly what I’m doing today.” He counts himself as blessed to be so passionate about what he does, and able to experience the joy of being alive.
  • “Unrelenting effort” is a quality Ron sees in successful startup leaders. “You have to be dogged,” he explains. “If this were easy, everyone would be doing it. But it’s not easy, it takes that unrelenting effort, you’ve got to get up early in the morning you’ve got to work late, you’ve got to take ‘no’ and you have to stay at it.”(12:37) All that, and patience too. (7:10)
  • What’s going to be the most exciting app? It’s the one we can’t imagine,” says Ron of the future of technology. (11:40) He’s excited about the growing global marketplace and can’t wait to see where the industry goes next. For some reason, we have a feeling he’ll be right there on the leading edge...

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Joe Justice, Founder of Wikispeed

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Joe Justice, Founder of Wikispeed

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Joe Justice knew from a young age that he wanted to get involved in technology and change the world (he even found a childhood diary entry to prove it!). Now he and his team at Wikispeed are taking on some of the biggest challenges in the automotive industry and playing by their own rules, using open source and lean methodologies to develop a 100 mile-per-gallon car. What ideas get Joe fired up about business and technology? And what was it about a book on animal tracking that taught him so much about decision-making? Find out in the Nextcast interview below.

  • When his brother started programming on their family’s computer, Joe joined in and eventually began to develop more and more ideas about how he could apply his skills to make a big difference. He even found a recent diary entry that included the passage: “When I grow up I want to be an inventor. I want to find the secret to all knowledge and share it with the world.” (4:11). Pretty ambitious!
  • Joe believes in keeping things simple when it comes to business. The most complex business theories don’t hold weigh here; instead Joe says, “Let’s get as much customer feedback as early as possible and iterate on that..make the tiniest thing that customers will love and will value.” (6:36)
  • Joe learned a valuable life lesson from his father at a young age about how to achieve greatness. He asked his dad why all car bumpers weren’t the same, and wouldn’t it make more sense for them to be interchangeable? His dad replied, “‘A lot of people have really good ideas, not many people actually do them.’” Joe says, “It stuck with me that I need to make something to actually make a difference in the world; I can’t stop at the idea.” (9:20)
  • Joe advice for startups is equally pragmatic. “Take it to a ridiculous degree of simplicity,” he says. What does this mean? Don’t buy a bank of servers when you can start out on a laptop, and embrace rapid change while being as frugal as you can.
  • One of the biggest lessons Joe learned about testing a product came in the middle of a stormy night while preparing for the Automotive XPrize. “I was doing an endurance test – driving [the car] until something broke and find out why it broke.” As sleet poured down, a wiring harness broke and Brian found himself working under a tarp, realizing a little bit of testing could have saved him a rough night. (19:10)

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Chris Hewett, Founder of Mindbloom

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Chris Hewett, Founder of Mindbloom

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Chris Hewett and his team at Mindbloom want to make sure you are living your healthiest, happiest life. Though he was once no stranger to the hectic schedule and eighty-hour work weeks common in the tech startup space, Chris took a step back and decided it was time for a change. Now, he’s all about helping users manage their own journeys to personal satisfaction through interactive technology. “I had my Oprah moment,” he says. ““I want to see people living their dreams and following through on their passions.”

  • Chris didn’t come to found Mindbloom by accident; he used to be overworked and motivated by negativity. He understands how easy it is to “fall into the trap” of thinking working more means working better - “if I work a lot, I must be getting a lot done.” But he realized it was actually just causing him to “lose perspective and be less effective.” (2:24)
  • After taking time off to improve his own life balance, Chris noticed how many others were struggling with the same problems he had faced. That’s when he decided to do something about it, and founded a company that makes self-improvement “fun and simple”. Mindbloom was born out of a desire to make life improvement accessible to anyone, where users can start small and work self-improvement into their routine. (3:28)
  • “Some companies create an environment where they’re trying to keep people there all the time...We try to create an environment of personal life balance.” says Chris of his corporate philosophy. He makes sure his team doesn’t just work hard on Mindbloom all day every day; he makes sure they have time for their own activities too. (6:04)
  • Chris credits his Mindbloom team with helping him enact a company culture and corporate strategy that has led them to success thus far. Especially in the early days of the startup, it was essential to “maintain the vision and the passion. It’s easy to get pulled in a lot of directions and squander your efforts.” (12:00)
  • Chris summarizes his vision by sharing a fantastic story of how he decided to stop being motivated by fear and to start being motivated by visions on his own success. (20:00) And the future looks bright - “It’s really exciting because there’s a big opportunity to do something that can affect a lot of people’s lives and get them to change their behaviors - that’s the brass ring.”

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Kabir Shahani, CEO of Appature

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Kabir Shahani, CEO of Appature

Kabir Shahani and his team at Appature want to help marketers create intensely personal customer experiences. How are they going to do it? By leveraging the incredible opportunities the current technology space is affording them, aggregating massive amounts of data, and always striving to solve a new problem. Oh - and maybe trying to create a new unicorn too.

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