This week, Cory speaks to self-made billionaire, owner of the Houston Rockets and chairman of a hospitality and entertainment empire encompassing over 600 restaurants, various casinos and even amusement parks. Some of his famous restaurants you may of heard of include Morton’s Steak House, Chart House, Dos Caminos, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and more. Fertitta shares the secrets to his success in his new business book, Shut Up and Listen!
In this week's episode, he talks about his upbringing, where he got his earliest business lessons, what it feels like to be on the Forbes 400 list of richest people on the planet and the importance of adapting to new technological cycles in business.
Marc Randolph is a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur, advisor, and investor. As co-founder and founding CEO of Netflix, he laid much of the groundwork for a service that’s grown to 150 million subscribers, and fundamentally altered how the world experiences media. He also served on the Netflix board of directors until retiring from the company in 2003.
Marc’s career as an entrepreneur spans four decades. He’s founded or co-founded six other successful startups, mentored hundreds of early stage entrepreneurs, and as an investor has helped seed dozens of successful tech ventures (and just as many unsuccessful ones). Most recently, he co-founded analytics software company Looker Data Sciences, where he now serves as director.
Outside of the tech and startup world, Marc sits on the boards of Chubbies Shorts, Augment Technologies, the environmental advocacy group 1% For The Planet, and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), which he’s been involved with for most of his life.
A resident of Santa Cruz, California, Marc travels and speaks all over the world, and still probably manages to go surfing more than you do.
This week, Cory speaks to renowned psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant. Adam is Wharton's top-rated professor and one of the world's 10 most influential management thinkers and a member of Fortune's 40 under 40. He's also the author of three New York Times bestsellers such as Give and Take, Option B and Originals, which combined have sold over a million copies.
In this week's episode, Adam talks about how to strive for an extraordinary career, the science of becoming well-known, how to build an audience with no agent or publisher backing, the landscape of education and more.
In this episode we hear from technology executive and entrepreneur Marissa Mayer, who is known for formerly serving as the President and CEO of Fortune 500 giant Yahoo and being the 20th employee of Google. She is currently the co-founder of Lumi Labs, an early stage technology incubator.
Marissa recently gave a keynote address at Internpalooza 2018, an event which is the largest gathering of Silicon Valley interns, young engineers and STEM students, which was founded by Cory Levy. It was a great chance for her to speak about when she graduated and how she decided where to work, which lead to her extraordinarily successful career.
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur and angel investor Daniel Gross. Daniel is the founder of Pioneer (an experimental fund that breaks down barriers to find the next great humans through tournaments and mentorship) and runs YC AI. Prior to this, he co-founded Cue, a personal search engine that was acquired by Apple. He is also a successful angel investor being involved with Coinbase, Cruise Automation, Github, Opendoor and more. In this week's episode, he talks about being admitted into Y-Combinator at just the age of 18, how to create life changing opportunities, the launch of his new company Pioneer, importance of celebrating victories, plus many more.
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur, technology executive and angel investor Elad Gil. Elad has assisted in the growth of tech companies like Airbnb, Twitter, Google, Instacart, Coinbase, Stripe, and Square as they've developed from small companies into global brands. Across all of these break-out companies, a set of common patterns has evolved that Elad has packaged into a repeatable playbook called "High Growth Handbook.”
In this week's episode, Elad talks about why he invested in Airbnb early on, how to achieve product market fit and what to do after it, how to decide what to work on, recruiting for scale, how to pick the right executives while in a high growth company, and weird but exciting industries he's looking at.
This week, Cory speaks to author and keynote speaker Alex Banayan. Banayan is the author of the highly anticipated book release of “The Third Door,” which covers a decade-long journey tracking down Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg and dozens of the world’s most successful people to uncover how they broke through and launched their careers.
The Third Door is available in bookstores everywhere, including Amazon, iBooks, Audible and thirddoorbook.com. In this week’s episode, Banayan talks about coming up with the idea for his book as a college student, funding his book by hacking The Price is Right, common traits of successful people, a 2-year journey of landing an interview with Bill Gates, and more.
“SOMETIMES STATISTICS CAN BE REALLY MISLEADING BECAUSE THEY’RE ASSUMING THAT THERE ARE NO WAYS TO IMPACT THE VARIABLES.”
As a pre-med student destined to become a doctor, Alex Banayan was miserable. “I was laying on this dorm room bed staring at these biology books, feeling like they were dementors sucking the life out of me.” Instead of his textbooks, Alex really wanted to read a book on how successful people got to where they are now. Since that book didn’t exist, the then 18-year-old set out to write it himself.
But before he could write the book of his dreams, he had to earn enough money to support himself while writing it. Instead of studying for his finals, Alex decided to test his luck on The Price is Right. The odds were against him even getting called down to compete on Price is Right, but Alex spent all night learning how to “hack” the show and beat the odds. “Sometimes statistics can be really misleading because they’re assuming that there are no ways to impact the variables,” said Alex. Alex impacted those variables and won prizes worth over $30,000. But this was just the first step of what became The Third Door.
This week, Cory Levy speaks to entrepreneur JD Ross, co-founder of OpenDoor, a company that makes it possible to sell a home in minutes. Opendoor has raised a total of $320 million in venture funding and has surpassed a multi-billion dollar annual revenue run rate. Before Opendoor, Jd started 2 successful businesses during college and went on to lead growth as the VP of Product at Addepar.
In this week’s episode, JD and Cory talk about JD’s college experience, avoiding bankruptcy, landing in Silicon Valley, and how to accelerate your personal growth curve.
“MY LIFE HACK IS JUST THE WILLINGNESS TO DO THE THINGS THAT ARE SIMPLE AND HARD; SLEEP EIGHT HOURS A DAY, EAT HEALTHILY, BE NICE TO MY GIRLFRIEND, SPEND TIME IN THE GYM.”
Entrepreneur JD Ross uses his curiosity to his advantage. “My superpower is just an incredible level of curiosity. I just get obsessed with certain things and dive as deep as I possibly can,” says Jd. He has used this superpower to quickly understand extremely complicated industries and business models.
Four years ago, Jd Ross and three co-founders launched Opendoor, a company that gives homeowners the option to sell a home online in just minutes. The company has raised a total of $320 million in venture funding and has exceeded $1B in annual home purchase rate. Before starting Opendoor, Jd founded two startups while in school at Washington University and soon became employee number five at Addepar.
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur, author and early-stage investor Scott Belsky, who is well known for co-creating the online portfolio platform Behance, which later sold to Adobe in 2012 and wrote top-selling books ‘Making Ideas Happen’ and ‘Maximize The Middle’. Scott is currently the co-founder of referral network startup Prefer, he is the Chief Product Officer and Executive Vice President at Adobe and a Venture Partner at Benchmark. He is also a seed investor with over 100 investments which range from Pinterest to Uber. In this week’s episode, he takes us back to when he landed a job at Goldman Sachs, how current graduates should decided where to work, when he quit to start Behance, how to turn an idea into a product, convincing talent to work for you and his first investment (which was Pinterest).
“DON’T OPTIMIZE (YOUR WORK) FOR THE ADDITIONAL BUCK, ESPECIALLY EARLY IN YOUR CAREER. JUST DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO GET INCREMENTALLY CLOSER TO WHAT YOU’RE GENUINELY INTERESTED IN.”
Dear Old People, Meet Today’s Teenager
“THEY (TEENS) WILL CREATE MASSIVE CHANGES IN THE WORLD OVER THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS, AND FOR US TO BE ABLE TO TEACH AND INFLUENCE THEM AS THEY BEGIN TO MAKE THOSE CHANGES, WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THEM.”
Today’s teenagers are part of what many call Generation Z, a group that is now the largest segment of people in the U.S. with over 26% of the population. With their recent success advocating for stricter gun laws and spreading awareness of issues that are important to them, it’s clear that this generation will impact all of our lives and the world significantly, but what do we really know about them?
In late March, OFF RCRD host Cory Levy spoke on the subject of teens at a Talks at Google presentation. Cory, who is in his mid-twenties, has stayed on top of what teens are up to even though they would now consider him an “old person.” As the Co-Founder of teen-focused social network After School and Internapalooza, it’s Cory’s job to understand young people.
Weeks before the talk, Cory tapped into his network to ask teens what they think “old people” don’t understand about them. Cory turned their responses into 10 points, which he shares in this special edition of OFF RCRD.
Listen to Cory’s talk to hear the 10 points, which include that today’s teens have no interest in working with big companies, idolize gamers, and think that you’re close-minded.
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur and author Kathryn Minshew, the founder and CEO of The Muse. The Muse is the fastest growing career discovery platform for 50+ million professionals a year and helps over 700 companies looking to hire talent and grow. Kathryn is also the co-author of “The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career,” available on Amazon and other retailers.
In the episode, Kathryn tells us about going from working in international relations to McKenzie and then in technology, gives tips and guidance on finding the right career path, how to approach employers the right way, and where job seekers go wrong.
“I DIDN’T START THE MUSE BECAUSE I HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, I STARTED IT BECAUSE I NEEDED THEM.”
As the Founder and CEO of Founder of The Muse, Kathryn Minshew (@KMin) spends “every day making work more human.” The Muse is an online career resource that gives a behind-the-scenes look at opportunities and companies. “We believe that you can and should love your job—and be successful at it—and we want to help you make that happen.”
Kathryn joined Cory Levy on OFF RCRD to talk about her journey as an entrepreneur and what she has learned about work and hiring.
Kathryn didn’t always want to become an entrepreneur. “As I started to get to know people who worked in the startup sector who were building businesses from scratch, I just fell in love,” says Kathryn. At the age of 25, Kathryn, who originally planned on studying and working in international relations, started The Muse, which was her second company and has grown significantly over the past seven years. The company reaches around 50 million people a year in over 100 countries, and works with around 700 employers who are customers of The Muse. Their team now features around 125 full-time employees, mostly based out of New York City.
Similar to her company, Kathryn has grown as well. “I have absolutely loved it (being an entrepreneur), but I think it surprised me how much I’ve had to learn about topics that I didn’t know anything about.” From raising venture capital (over $20M) to managing a large team of employees, Kathryn has had to pick up new skills throughout her journey, and has learned a lot about jobs and hiring through her own experiences as an employer.
The New Rules of Work
In mid-2018, Kathryn and The Muse co-founder Alex Cavoulacos published The New Rules of Work, which took the lessons they learned from years of running their company to give to millions of people across the country in a rule-like format.
One of the surprises that came from writing this book, according to Kathryn, was what readers resonated with, which was the idea of starting with your values.
“Most career advice; it has you start with ‘what do you think you want to do or what are you good at?’ We said, of course, that’s important but before that, what do you value? Is it flexibility, is it creativity and autonomy, is it compensation or prestige. There’s so many different things that a career can give you. What is it that you want, and that changes, right? Not only from person to person but it changes at different parts of your career. What you want straight out of college might be different than what we what you want five or 10 years later and that’s okay.”
Kathryn and Cory also touched on mistakes that ruin many careers before they even start. “I’m constantly amazed by how many people will sometimes put at risk getting a job that they’re otherwise highly qualified for because of something small.” Kathryn stresses the importance of the basics like a strong handshake, looking people in the eye, knowing how to interview, and understanding the company. “Even if it’s just 15 minutes, brush up on the basics of applying to a job and interviewing,” says Kathryn.
This week, Cory Levy speaks to three guests from different backgrounds in life who have each experienced depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. They are also willing to talk about it and to share how they’ve overcome their lowest points through entrepreneurship and technology.
We hope this episode will help anyone listening who is going through a similar experience. If you are, you’re not alone. There is hope and people here to help. If you would like to speak with someone, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and our friends at Crisis Text Line are available 24/7 through an anonymous text service. Text 741741 to speak with a trained Crisis Counselor. Today we speak with Zach Latta, Amanda Southworth, and Ben Yu.
“MY PLATFORM IS DEVELOPMENT. WHENEVER I HAVE AN ISSUE WITH SOMETHING THAT I SEE, I MAKE AN APP ABOUT IT.” — AMANDA SOUTHWORTH
None of us are beyond mental health issues. In this unique episode of OFF RCRD, host Cory Levy speaks with three young entrepreneurs who have all had to face mental health issues, depression, and more head-on, and overcome additional obstacles to get to where they are now. We combined three interviews into this one powerful episode, intersecting the stories of entrepreneurs Amanda Southworth, Zach Latta, and Ben Yu.
Amanda Southworth (@amndasuthwrth) is the homeschooled 16-year-old iOS developer behind apps AnxietyHelper, Verena, and Whizard App. After struggling with depression and attempting suicide between 5-20 times, Amanda found her platform–something she could turn to as a powerful and creative outlet. “My platform is development. Whenever I have an issue with something that I see, I make an app about it.”
Asked for her advice for others who are struggling and contemplating suicide, Amanda’s advice is to slow down, think, and wait. “I really felt suicide was the only option….the future and opportunities that are coming up are so vast and expansive that you have no way of guessing what they’re going to be based on this little sliver of your life.”
Zach Latta (@zachlatta) is the founder of the Hack Club, is a Theil Fellow, and was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30. Through Hack Club, Zach helps students lead “coding clubs where beginners learn to code through building things.”
Before getting to a point where he could create opportunities for others through Hack Club, Zach had to find a way out of what he described as a “horrible pit” of depression. “One thing that really helped to get me out of that horrible pit I was in was finding an outlet that let me connect with other people. For me, that was coding.”
Thiel Fellow and entrepreneur Ben Yu (@Intenex) left Harvard after a semester to save his life. “I knew for a fact that if I’d stayed there any longer, I definitely would’ve killed myself. I wanted to figure out something else to do.”
Before getting into entrepreneurship and tech, Ben decided to see the world. Around the time he conquered Kilimanjaro, Ben learned about the Thiel Fellowship and was accepted into the program. Ben later went on to co-found Sprayable and The Stream Token, and he credits his success to being able to overcome his struggles. “I think the worse thing that happens to a lot of people is that they get in a place where they’re unhappy with their lives, but not so unhappy that it really propels them to change. Whereas, for me, I was so unhappy that it was very clear if I didn’t actually do something about it, then, I would not be willing to go on living. “
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur, bestselling author, and philanthropist Adam Braun, who is best known for being the Founder of Pencils of Promise, a non-profit organization that builds schools and increases access to education for children in the developing world. He also wrote a New York Times best selling book The Promise of a Pencil and more recently the co-founder of one-year debt-free college alternative called MissionU. In this weeks episode, Adam talks about his personal upbringing and what lead him to start his organization, his offers advice to current college students, he opens up about past failures and says what are the biggest misconceptions about the outcome of a degree.
“YOU SHOULD BE A SAVVY ROI-DRIVEN CONSUMER OF YOUR EDUCATION”
Adam Braun (@AdamBraun) is a New York Time Bestselling Author, the Founder of Pencils of Promise, and the Founder of MissionU, a college alternative.
Cory Levy interviewed Adam on the OFF RCRD Podcast about his past and advice for others based on his experiences. “I would say to any student, that you should be a savvy ROI-driven consumer of your education…thousands of the schools around the country that are charging enormous prices without particularly strong results.”
In the interview, Adam also talked about the financial burden that college puts on students. “College is supposed to be this great economic enabler. My wife went to college and initially (went) out of state and transferred back in state because the tuition fees were so high and she just got absolutely decimated by this crazy amount of student debt and had to leave school before even completing her bachelor’s degree.”
MissionU is a tuition-free college alternative that earns money from students based on their future earning potential instead of charging fees upfront. Adam explained that MissionU students aren’t looking for a traditional overpriced college education. “They don’t just want to learn about theory, about these abstract ideas. They want to do things that they can actually present to the real world and that employers will actually value as a skill that’s going to be needed for the rest of their career.”
Adam believes in following your purpose but is skeptical of the advice that young people should follow their passion. “I think this idea that you should follow your passion is not a great piece of advice because passions are incredibly fleeting. The idea of following your passion means follow whatever you’re excited about at this moment, and I don’t think that it stretches people to really do the tough, introspective work, to not discover passion but to discover purpose. I’m a huge advocate of following your purpose.” Adam has followed his purpose, which has led him to become a best-selling author and the founder of two impactful companies.
This week, Cory speaks to Catherine Hoke, the founder of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) and Founder and CEO of Defy Ventures. Defy is a national organization that transforms the lives of business leaders and people with criminal histories through their collaboration along the entrepreneurial journey. Before quitting her corporate job to start PEP, Catherine was an associate at private equity firm Summit Partners and went on to become the Director of Investment Development at American Securities.
In this episode, she tells us how she went from the corporate world to prison, her experiences working with the incarcerated, second chances, forgiveness, and the similarities between prisoners and CEO’s. Catherine also offers advice on how to overcome a crisis. She has just released her new book now available to purchase, A Second Chance: For You, For Me, And For The Rest Of Us.
“YOU ARE NOT YOUR PAST. YOU ARE NOT EQUAL TO THE WORST THING THAT YOU HAVE DONE.”
This week, Cory speaks to author, marketer and entrepreneur Ryan Holiday, who is well known for being a controversial media strategist, particularly when he was the Director of Marketing at American Apparel and founder of creative consulting firm Brass Check Marketing. Ryan, in addition, is a bestselling author of six books, including “The Obstacle Is the Way”, “Ego Is the Enemy” and “The Daily Stoic” and has written for several of the worlds largest publications while being a media columnist and editor-at-large for the New York Observer. He has a new book out today which you can get now on Amazon and elsewhere titled “Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue”. In this week’s episode, he tells us why he left college at the age of 19, how he was then hired and mentored by prolific writers Robert Greene and Tucker Max, to landing an advisory position to American Apparel’s founder only to in only a year become its Director of Marketing. Ryan goes over his most controversial marketing campaigns, some of the best lessons he’s learned along the way and discusses his new book.
“WHEN YOU’RE BORING, WHETHER YOUR PRODUCT IS BORING, WHETHER YOUR ADVERTISEMENTS ARE BORING, IT COSTS A LOT MORE.”
Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday) has never shied away from controversy, from leaving school at the age of 19 against his parent’s wishes to casting porn stars in commercials as the young marketing director of American Apparel. It has worked in his favor as he has risen the corporate ranks and then gone on to write over a half dozen books including Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, The Obstacle is the Way, and Ego Is the Enemy.
When it comes to giving others career advice, Ryan cautions against following a passion. “The common career advice is to find your passion, and that can somewhat be dangerous, right? Just because you’re passionate about something, doesn’t mean that you’re good at it,” said Ryan in his interview with Cory Levy on OFF RCRD.
Cory Levy spoke with Ryan about his journey as a controversial young marketing director and successful author of the OFF RCRD Podcast. Ryan’s newest book goes behind the scenes of a groundbreaking court case involving a famous sex tape, a professional wrestler, and tech investor Peter Thiel. The book, Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, is now available on Amazon.
Ryan credits his success to his mentors, including authors Robert Greene and Tucker Max. Because of his experience with mentors and how he’s been able to leverage their help to build his career, Ryan is often approached by aspiring writers to become their mentor.
This week, Cory speaks to journalist, author and startup analyst Billy Gallagher, who is well known for covering early-stage startups at TechCrunch and being an analyst at Khosla Ventures. Billy attended Stanford and was in the same fraternity as Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel, which he has now written a new book out today on Amazon titled ‘How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars’ covering the events that lead to its skyrocketing multi-billion dollar success. In this week’s episode, Billy talks about how he landed a job at TechCrunch while at college, his exposure to early-stage startups while in venture capital, how he met Evan, and if he thinks Snapchat can become the next Facebook and tells us more about his new book.
“LAUNCH AS EARLY AS YOU CAN.”
Billy Gallagher (@GallagherBilly) is an investor and author, who recently published How To Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story.
Billy first met Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel as a sophomore at Stanford.
“We were in the same fraternity. He had already left the fraternity by the time joined, but we ran in similar crowds. He was two years above me, big personality on campus, had some mutual friends. Met him a few times socially and then, my new editor at TechCrunch was telling me to cover a story on Stanford and the two hottest startups at the time were Snapchat and Clinkle so I started chasing those down.”
Cory Levy talked with Billy on the OFF RCRD Podcast about his early interactions with Snapchat, their wild journey, and what other founders can learn from the Snapchat story. Among the questions asked was “what was the first interview (with Evan Spiegel) like?
“Evan was already very similar to what he is today, cocky, very brash, but also really intelligent…I remember one of the lines from our interview…he thought the sexting narrative was overblown because it’s not as fun as having real sex, which is a pretty funny line to have in the press.”
As Billy described in the interview, Evan and the Snapchat team took a unique and aggressive approach that helped get them to where they are today.
“Intense focus, Snap’s managed to stay pretty focused on what the core use case is. They learned a ton from their users. They came out with these things where, at first, when it was just photo and video messaging, users didn’t ask for Stories; they actually asked for group messaging. But Snap focused on Stories and made that a hit and then, much, much later added group messaging. I think that combination of listening to users but not just blindly doing what they say and actually saying to yourself, ‘What are they telling us? What is the problem they want to solve? What’s the best way of long-term for us to solve that?’ not just, ‘You asked for a feature, let’s blindly go build it.’”
Through his work with the company, time spent as an analyst for Khosla Ventures and interviews with Evan Spiegel, Billy had the ability to learn about and see Snapchat in action first-hand from the very start back in 2012. How To Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story dives inside the life of Evan Spiegel, the early roadblocks the company had to overcome, turning down billions of dollars, and much more.
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur, investor, author, speaker, influencer and future owner of the New York Jets Gary Vaynerchuk, who is well known for being the CEO and founder of digital agency giant VaynerMedia, athlete representation agency VaynerSports, venture capital firm VaynerRSE, host of the popular DailyVee show and a 4x New York best seller. Prior, he grew his family’s wine business from $3 million to $60 million in revenue and was an early investor in multi-billion dollar behemoths Twitter, Snapchat, Uber, and Venmo. In this weeks episode, Gary talks about his secret life-hack, the biggest thing holding people back, easy skills you can learn that will benefit you in the long run and what’s next for influencers.
“TOMORROW, GO AND DO SOMETHING YOU’D BEEN WANTING TO DO THAT YOU’RE DESPERATELY SCARED ABOUT WHAT YOUR PARENTS, THE WORLD, THE MARKET YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS WILL THINK DO IT. THEN SEE HOW NOT SCARY.”
If you’re not familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk (@Garyvee), you probably haven’t been on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube for the past five years. Gary is a leading entrepreneur, author, digital marketer, and speaker whose online following is in the millions and constantly growing.
After building his family’s wine business up from $3 million to $60 million, Gary began branching out to help entrepreneurs as a mentor, advisor, and investor. His current company, VaynerMedia, has grown into one of the leading digital agencies in the world with over 800 employees and $100 million in annual revenue.
Cory Levy spoke with Gary Vaynerchuk on OFF RCRD about life hacks, what’s holding people back from accomplishing their goals, and his approach to controversy, which isn’t what you might think. “I don’t think you run into controversy for awareness. I think getting the right awareness matters,” says Vaynerchuk, who is not afraid to speak his mind and give direct responses to questions about business and entrepreneurship.
Asked what stops people from getting to where they want to go in life, Gary responded, “To me, other people’s opinions is the number one reason people are held back.” Gary encourages people to fight through these opinions and start taking action. “Do one thing that makes you uncomfortable. See the reaction from the audience and your inner family and your friends. (you will) Realize very quickly that it wasn’t as scary as you thought.”
This week, Cory speaks to the Hollywood psychiatrist and author Phil Stutz, who is well known for his client list boasting top writers, actors, producers, and CEOs. Together with Barry Michels, Phil is coauthor of Coming Alive: 4 Tools to Defeat Your Inner Enemy, Ignite Creative Expression, and Unleash Your Soul’s Potential and The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower—and Inspire You to Live Life in forwarding Motion, a New York Times bestseller. In this weeks episode, he talks about the common problems faced among the rich and famous, advice for those facing their fears and how to overcome failures, a few tools such as the reversal of desires, the dynamic evaluation, merit & power system and even gives wisdom on how to build long-lasting relationships.
“WINNING IS THE ABILITY TO FAIL AND MAKE A QUICK RECOVERY.”
Phil Stutz is a world-renowned best-selling author and Hollywood psychiatrist. Before moving his practice to Los Angeles in 1982, Stutz worked as a prison psychiatrist on Rikers Island. He’s been called the “Shrink to the Sars” because of his high-profile clients, and his ability to give them tools to overcome fear and roadblocks in their lives.
A key to overcoming fear and achieving success, according to Stutz, is to place something in your life higher than the specific result of an action. For example, if you’re studying for a test, you should have a goal tied with your studying that isn’t related to whether you get an A or an F. “Whether you want to get good grades, whether you want to have a successful business, a good marriage, it doesn’t matter. There’s got to be something higher than the results. If there’s nothing higher than the results your fear is going to eat you,” says Stutz.
One tool Stutz mentions in his OFF RCRD interview with entrepreneur and investor Cory Levy, is called the reversal of desire. “The normal desire that everybody has is to avoid pain, or if you want to say, it’s to avoid being afraid, avoid situations that scare you, even thinking about them. The tool is called the reversal of desire. Instead of the normal desire to avoid, the reversal of desire says, ‘I’m going right into the fear.’” Stutz continues, “If you approach fear aggressively and go right into it and that includes the circumstance that frightens you, fear actually shrinks. If you avoid fear, if you back away from it, if you run away from it, you avoid the situation, your fear gets bigger.”
“Worrying is a complete waste of time.”
While all of us worry to some degree, we also know it doesn’t get us anywhere. But what does? According to Stutz, moving past our worries and doing something about them not only helps us rise above worrying, it leads to knowledge. “Action breeds wisdom. You think wisdom comes from studying and all that. It’s okay. You get something from it, but it’s action itself. The action puts you in the middle of the world.” So if you’re worried about approaching a pretty woman to ask her out on a date, you will gain information and wisdom by taking action and approaching her. If you just walk away because of fear, that fear grows larger.
Not every action leads to success, and that’s okay. In fact, failure may actually lead us closer to success based on how we deal with a failure after it happens. “Highest achievement isn’t succeeding; it’s not avoiding failure. The highest achievement is to fail and recover quickly which requires a lot of things but mostly determination and the idea that I actually can recover from this.”
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur and investor James Hong, who is best known for having founded fun viral project turned multi-million dollar dating property HotOrNot. He’s also an active angel investor and has invested in more than 80 startups. In this weeks episode, James talks experiencing virality back when it was rare, the importance of understanding peoples motives when designing products, the drastic differences in scaling today vs 2000’s, what it was like turning down multi-million dollar offers to then selling his company for more than he’d ever imagined and fast forward to today where James talks about trying to juggle being a founder and parenting.
“YOU CAN ONLY COME UP WITH OUT OF THE BOX SOLUTIONS IF YOU’RE ACTUALLY WILLING MENTALLY TO BE OUT OF THE BOX AND DIFFERENT.”
James Hong (@JHong) is an entrepreneur turned investor. James and several co-founders started Hot or Not in 1999, a website that let users rate user-submitted pictures. “Today, you see pictures of people all over the place, on Instagram, on social networks and so on. It’s not as big a deal today,” says James. In the early 2000’s it was a very big deal. After a single week, the site reached an average of nearly 2 million page views a day. Within a year, the site was a top-25 advertising domain according to NetNielsen Rating’s. “It’s a very human thing to want to look at people and also to show yourself off.”
Instead of focusing on what’s worked in the past when building a product or starting a company, James works to increase his understanding of the people who will become the company’s customers. “When you want to study a product, fundamentally what you’re doing is you’re trying to study users and try to understand users. To understand them, I think you have to understand people; users are people.”
Entrepreneur Cory Levy spoke with James Hong on OFF RCRD about Hot or Not, his transition from entrepreneur to investor, and what other young entrepreneurs should focus on when starting a business. “If they want to come up with good products, they should think about psychology and try to understand people, try understand users, what they like, what they don’t like and why,” says James, who has gone on to invest in over 80 companies after selling Hot or Not.
For James, successfully investing in startups goes far beyond a good idea or even a well-written business plan. “I would have done better if I just ignored reading the business plans and just bet entirely on whether I liked the people.” While he’s been asked repeatedly when he’s going to start a new company, James is more focused on his family. “The only thing I should really value is my time, because you can always make money but you can’t make more time, we have finite amount of heartbeats.”
Asked about what he’s learned from the successful entrepreneurs he’s worked alongside, James said that they are all somewhat similar. “They are ultra-smart, but they are able to think of things at a meta level. They like things that are slightly odd or different. They don’t mind being slightly odd or different. Every successful person that I know is like that. They are slightly quirky.”
This week, Cory speaks to venture capitalist Niko Bonatsos, who is well known for being a managing director at General Catalyst, a multi-billion dollar venture capital firm where he was instrumental in the investment in Snapchat. In this weeks episode, Niko tells us about how he went from being an entrepreneur to a VC, the behind the scenes details on meeting Snapchat and what happened in the initials meetings that’d lead to being one of the most lucrative investments in the firm. He also gives us what metrics he looks for when evaluating a startup and he tells us which side of the Bitcoin debate he’s on.
“IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO…FIND PEOPLE THAT CAN INSPIRE YOU.”
When Niko Bonatsos (@Bonatsos), Managing Director of General Catalyst, started in technology, he didn’t consider becoming an investor because he was too focused on trying to build his social networking company. “I wasn’t looking to become a venture capitalist. I ended up becoming one because my startup failed,” says Niko, who talks with entrepreneur Cory Levy on this episode of OFF RCRD.
Niko was able to turn this failure into an opportunity to identify startups worth investing in. He was one of the first employees at General Catalyst, which is now one of the top 10 VC firms according to InvestorRank. One of the early deals that helped get General Catalyst to where they are now, led by Niko, was an investment in Snapchat.
When working with other investor groups to raise funding during the early days of Snapchat, investors were skeptical, to say the least, according to Niko. “All of them would think, ‘Oh great, this is about sharing dick pics and sexting with your friends.’”
While investors were worried about inappropriate pictures didn’t help to fundraise, Niko thinks controversy is “great.” “It’s actually a gift. If you leverage it over short periods of time and you graduated from it in order to jump into a new set of controversy for a new customer segment,” says Niko. “Basically, the reason why I like controversy in the early days of a newly launched product is that it amplifies word of mouth. A young startup that launches a product frankly does not have the resources to do paid user and customer acquisition.”
However, Niko warns against being controversial for the same reason and same set of users for an extended period of time. “If you are, your users and customers will demonstrate fatigue, and they’re going to be like, ‘Oh, my god. This company doesn’t get it.’ Or, ‘This company’s a waste of time.’” Snapchat was able to grow past this controversy quickly, in large part due to their team’s leadership, which Niko knew from the beginning had the ability to successfully build the company.
Asked by Cory “How do you find the diamond in the rough?,” Niko said, I’m very enthused about partnering with founders who have nothing else to do. They are grinders, the problem their solving is their life. If I try to change the topic and talk about giants or Bitcoin or anything else, they’ll just shift the conversation back to the product they’re building.” To find these types of entrepreneurs, Niko doesn’t focus on pedigree or even relevant experience. “Amazing talent can come from anywhere…If they’re given opportunity, they can shine,” said Niko, who also stated that he looks for “learning animals.” “They’re not domain experts in what they’re doing today but, if we put them in the room with a fortune 500 CEO of that particular industry that they’re in, that person will be intimidated by the knowledge of the first time founder.”
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur and investor Justin Kan, who is well known for being the founder of Justin.TV turned Twitch.TV, a live streaming powerhouse that was bought by Amazon for close to a billion dollars. He is also a partner for Y-Combinator and recently has started video Q&A platform Whale and is the CEO of legal startup Atrium. In this weeks episode, Justin tells us how he got into technology, the story of selling his first startup on eBay, the inception of his billion-dollar startup Twitch, some of the crazy moments building the company, what he’s learned and observed over the years as a founder and his strategies for recruiting top talent.
“THE BEST FOUNDERS AND THE BEST STARTUPS REALLY BASE WHAT THEY’RE DOING ON CONSTANTLY GETTING FEEDBACK FROM THE MARKET, FROM CUSTOMERS, AND ADJUSTING THEIR PLANS ACCORDINGLY.”
Justin Kan (@JustinKan) is an entrepreneur with an impressive track record. He’s the co-founder of Justin.tv and Twitch.tv, and is now the founder and CEO of legal tech startup Atrium.
Cory Levy talked with Justin Kan on OFF RCRD about Justin’s journey as an entrepreneur, his advice for others, and more.
When launching his first company (Kiko Software), Justin and his co-founders had little to lose. “I first started in tech when one of my friends and I decided it was a good opportunity to start a company while we were in school because we had almost no opportunity cost,” says Justin. “Our opportunity cost was playing World of Warcraft and drinking beer.”
When it came time to sell that company in 2006, several potential buyers walked away during the acquisition process, forcing Justin and his team to look at non-traditional ways of selling their business. They turned to eBay, and listed Kiko for sale with a minimum price of $50,000. A week later, the company sold for $258,100. Eight years later, Justin sold another company, but this time, it wasn’t on eBay, and it sold for $970,000,000 to Amazon.
To someone just looking at his success with Twitch and new company Atrium, it might seem like Justin doesn’t make mistakes. However, Justin is willing to discuss his failures along with advice for other young entrepreneurs and does so in his interview with Cory.
Asked where most startup founders go wrong, Justin says that some founders “don’t base what they’re doing in reality or customer feedback, or feedback from trying things.” Instead, Justin says, “they base it on their preconceived notions of how something should work or their own limited worldview or what’s in their head that they really want to create, and 1 in 20 or maybe even 1 in 10 get it right.”
Be one of the 1 in 20 to get it right by basing everything you do on real feedback, not your preconceived notions. Learn more from entrepreneurs like Justin Kan on OFF RCRD, and make sure to listen to the full conversation between Cory Levy and Justin Kan only here on OFF RCRD.
This week, Cory speaks to product veteran and venture capitalist Josh Elman, who is best known for his integral roles in designing, building and scaling consumer products at Robinbood, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, & Zazzle. Josh is also a Venture Partner at Greylock. In this weeks episode, Josh talks about the early days of the dot com era, his roles at LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, what it was like working with what are now the icons of the industry and what are the questions and qualities he looks in a founder before writing a check.
“THE ONLY THING YOU CAN DO AS AN ENTREPRENEUR IS TO GET ONE MORE PERSON EVERY DAY, EVERY HOUR, EVERY MINUTE, TO ADOPT YOUR PRODUCT, TO ADOPT YOUR NEW WAY OF THINKING, TO ADOPT THE SYSTEM OR THE PRODUCT THAT YOU’RE ACTUALLY BUILDING AND ENGAGING PEOPLE WITH.”
Venture capitalist and Greylock Partners investor Josh Elman (@joshelman) has built a successful career on finding new trends worth investing in, and using his skills and interests to move those trends forward. Before becoming an investor, Elman worked as a product manager for iconic companies in their early days, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Cory Levy talks with Josh on OFF RCRD about his journey from product manager to an investor, discovering what’s going to be the next big thing and his advice for startup founders and others who might not know what they want to do yet. “I think part of this whole startup journey is finding these things that you might believe 100 million people will use or you can actually cause this behavior change that will happen that most other people don’t believe,” says Josh.
If you don’t yet know what idea you’re going to pursue as an entrepreneur or what company you would like to join, Josh recommends answering this question; “what do you believe will happen in the world in the next 10 years that you would love to be a part of making?” Josh says, “if you believe that something (could become) really, really big, you’re going to have more fun and work harder to try to make that happen every day.” After you figure out what that is, find a way to get started working in that field and on that trend you think could become “really, really big.”
Capitalizing on a trend as Josh mentions in the interview with Cory Levy doesn’t have to be through entrepreneurship. There are hundreds if not thousands of companies working on problems that you’d like to solve and in industries, you’re interested in. Josh found these opportunities consistently throughout his career while finding new companies to work with. “If you pick the right trends and you pick the right mission, you can even jump from company to company like I did, from LinkedIn to Facebook and Twitter, and still come out with a great set of outcomes and be very proud of the work you did.” Other than regretting how early he left LinkedIn, Josh has few regrets in a successful career in tech. Asked what has contributed most to his success, Josh said that there are two things.
The first is clearly luck.
The second is this constant curiosity where I’m trying to guess what I believe the world could be in the future and trying to actually go work on that.
This week, Cory speaks to venture capitalist, angel investor, and entrepreneur Albert Wegner, who is best known for being a partner at venture capital firm Union Square Ventures. Before joining the firm, Albert founded several companies and was the president of del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo. He was also an angel investor in successful startups such as Etsy and Tumblr. In this weeks episode, Albert gives us his take on blockchain and bitcoin, tells us what skill every young person should do more of, his secret on making hard decisions, how you can figure out your career path and towards the end gives a very interesting insight into the AI debate.
“I THINK ANYTHING THAT YOU LOVE TO DO; YOU SHOULD ALWAYS JUST CONTINUE TO DO IT BECAUSE (IT WILL) FULFILL YOURSELF, (AND) YOUR PROFICIENCY IN THAT ACTIVITY WILL GROW.”
What do you want to do with your life? If you don’t know, start by working on things you’re interested in, but you first have to know what you’re interested in. According to Albert Wenger, most people haven’t been forced to seek out and gain experience in their interests. “The school system doesn’t give people necessarily the room, the freedom, to explore their interests, but that’s what you should do,” says Wenger.
Albert Wenger (@albertwenger) is interested in many things, including technology, specifically artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. Albert talks with entrepreneur Cory Levy about these interests and gives advice for young people and startups in his interview on OFF RCRD.
Albert is an entrepreneur and investor with a history of success in both running companies and investing in them. Albert is graduate of Harvard, majoring in economics and computer science, and has a Ph.D. in Information Technology from MIT. Currently a partner at Union Square Ventures, Albert was previously the president of del.icio.us, which was sold to Yahoo in 2005.
Instead of running startups, Albert now helps young entrepreneurs grow theirs as an investor. During their OFF RCRD conversation, Cory and Albert talk about what startup founders need to know and focus on, which can be difficult when launching a company due to the many roles a founder takes on. “Knowing what the one thing is that you need to get right, and working on that, and pushing everything else aside is critical to making a startup succeed,” says Wenger. Once that product/market fit is found, importance can once again be placed in the other areas of the business.
In his interactions with young entrepreneurs and students, Wenger is often asked for career advice. Before he gives a single piece of advice, he asks the question, “What’s your purpose in life?” Their response isn’t always an answer according to Wenger. “That stops a lot of people dead in their tracks because they’ve never been asked that question so directly. Also, it’s a little unfair because they didn’t expect that I was going to ask that question necessarily. I do think when people coming for career advice, not asking that question is almost like malpractice because that is the central question. How can you give somebody advice on what they should do in their career, if you don’t understand that, or if, more importantly, they don’t understand what the answer to that question is?”
If you have yet to find your purpose in life, take Wenger’s advice and explore your interests. Doing what you genuinely enjoy doing well can lead to many opportunities, and just may lead you to find your true purpose in life.
This week, Cory speaks to musician, businessman and philanthropist Aloe Blacc, who is best known for his hit singles, “I Need A Dollar”, “The Man” and writing and performing vocals on Avicii’s “Wake Me Up”. In this weeks episode, Aloe takes us back to his teenage years, telling us the defining moment when he went from corporate America to landing a record deal and then he offers advice for how young people should feasibly follow their passions. Later in the episode, he very interestingly touches on the current intersection of technology clashing with music and what he thinks the future of streaming will be like.
“I THINK ANYTHING THAT YOU LOVE TO DO; YOU SHOULD ALWAYS JUST CONTINUE TO DO IT BECAUSE (IT WILL) FULFILL YOURSELF, (AND) YOUR PROFICIENCY IN THAT ACTIVITY WILL GROW.”
Aloe Blacc (@aloeblacc) always loved music; he just didn’t think he had a future in it while in high school or even college. After being laid off from a corporate job, Aloe began to dedicate himself to his music and shifted from a rapper to a singer. It was a good choice. Aloe had breakthrough hits in “Wake Me Up,” which he co-wrote with Avicii, and “The Man” in 2013. The music video for “Wake Me Up” has over 1.4B views on YouTube, and “The Man” played in the background for several Beats by Dr. Dre commercials featuring Kevin Garnett, Colin Kaepernick, Richard Sherman, and Cesc Fabregas.
Cory Levy talks with Aloe Blacc on OFF RCRD Episode 11 about his journey as a musician and his advice for fellow musicians and singers along with young people trying to figure out what to do with their lives. “For young people who are trying to figure out what they want to do, there’s probably something you’re already doing that you’re really good at and that you love. I’d say, keep doing that. Even if it’s not a career path right now, it could end up being something that is, number one, just fulfilling to your soul, and number two, could end up being something that yields your life’s income,” says Aloe.
Aloe’s path to becoming a Grammy-nominated artist for Best R&B Album in 2015 was anything but traditional. “I’m not a trained singer. I am a rapper and MC, and hip-hop is in my life’s blood, but when I got signed to this Indie Label, they wanted me to be a vocalist. I took that on and I thought, “It can only make me a better artist.” It ended up being true and it also ended up being my career path and my stability in life in terms of financial stability and being able to make so many other dreams come true. Not just my own, but other people around me,” says Aloe.
By being willing to be uncomfortable and try new things, Aloe was able to find where the best fit in the industry instead of only pursuing a career as a rapper, which may have resulted in missing many of the opportunities he has taken advantage of in his career.
For those trying to start a career, Aloe’s advice is to do what you love. “If you’re young right now…whatever it is that makes you really, really smile, and that you would do, whether you’re being paid or not, that’s something to really focus on and hone in on. Those are the things that will sustain you in the long run.”
RIP Jordan Feldstein. Thoughts & prayers go out to his family. He was an inspiring leader in the music industry who will be very missed It’s with a heavy heart but much gratitude that I was able to interview Jordan a few weeks before he passed.
This week, Cory speaks to prolific music manager Jordan Feldstein, who is best known for being the founder and CEO of Beverly Hills-based Career Artist Management overseeing 16 clients — among them: Maroon 5, who has sold 12.4 million albums and 48 million digital songs in the United States alone. In this weeks episode, Jordan talks about what inspired him to go into the music business, what his high school and college experience was like, his favorite part of being a manager, what artists should do now to build a fan base and the hardships that came along with managing what would become one of the biggest bands in the world.
“IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A STATEMENT THAT’S ARTISTIC, MAKE THAT STATEMENT FEARLESSLY.”
Music manager and producer Jordan Feldstein has spent the last two decades working with some of the top artists and bands in the world, and even after many successes, he still enjoys his work. “At the end of the day, if you get to be around something that you inherently love, you should just be grateful for that,” Jordan Feldstein says.
In addition to managing Maroon 5 and co-running a production company with Adam Levine, Feldstein has also worked with Barenaked Ladies, Relient K, Keyshia Cole, and Robin Thicke.
Cory Levy talks with Feldstein on OFF RCRD Episode 11 about his career, working with Maroon 5, and to ask for his advice for other artists and entrepreneurs. In response to “What grabs your attention?,” Feldstein says “To be honest, at various times, it’s been various things. It’s two things for me now. One, is it something I want to play in my car on the weekend? It’s that simple for me. Or two, do my kids like it?”
During the conversation with Cory, Feldstein stresses the importance of cutting through the noise to get people’s attention and entertain them. Feldstein says that artists need to answer the question “How do you remain relevant to people who are constantly being fed entertainment all the time?” For Feldstein, he sets himself apart by working harder than anyone else. “(success in the music business is) based on how great of a hustler and who’s going to work the hardest.”
All successful people have routines and strategies that they swear by. Feldstein says that each morning, he purposely doesn’t check his phone for the first hour of each day, and he’s also started meditation. “On the weekends with my kids, I have no phone time, things like that. You got to create boundaries for yourself.”
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant, who is best known for having founded Angel List, a platform where you can find a great startup job, invest in a startup, or raise money. He’s also an active angel investor and has invested in more than 100 companies, which includes Twitter, Uber, Yammer, Postmates and more. In this weeks episode, Naval talks about the perfect way to find what you’re good at, how to get started in learning about cryptocurrencies, what’s most exciting about the effects of blockchain, the startup ecosystem for both vc’s and founders and also what he’d change about the current education system.
“FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU’RE THE BEST IN THE WORLD AT, AND THEN GO SEE IF THE WORLD NEEDS THAT THING.”
In addition to being one of the most well-known and respected investors in Silicon Valley, Naval is the CEO and Founder of AngelList, “where the world meets startups,” and a mentor to many founders and young entrepreneurs.
Cory Levy talked with Naval Ravikant on OFF RCRD about his advice for young people on education and starting a business, cryptocurrencies, and Silicon Valley. Asked what’s his best advice for people trying to discover what they should do with their life, Naval advised that they shouldn’t stress out about finding their purpose in life at an early age. “There’s this bad idea that somehow at the age of 16 to 21, you’re supposed to somehow figure out what you’re going to do for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years of your life.” Instead, Naval encourages people to “do what is intellectually interesting to you, and is difficult…study the hard things.”
Naval spends his time reading and learning about things that are interesting to him and likely to change the world, like cryptocurrencies. “I think it’s one of those rare things where you can combine something that is good for humanity with something that is technical, intellectually interesting and is being developed right in our time.”
When Cory asked what people are wasting their time on, Naval responded that, especially in schools, “people waste a lot of time learning things that no longer have value.” An example Naval gave was memorization. Since we now have access to smartphones and endless sources of information, less importance should be placed on forcing people to memorize pieces of information.
One way to avoid wasting your time and energy according to Naval is by finding out what you’re good at. “What is the thing that comes easily to you that is difficult for other people?” Naval said that the answer to this question is likely something that you enjoy doing as well.
One of the things that come easily to Naval is dissecting businesses and staying on top of developing technologies. “I still think that technology’s underrated relative to the impact it’s going to have…either you’re telling a computer what to do, or the computer is telling you what to do…you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that transaction.”
This week, Cory speaks to singer-songwriter and record producer Mike Posner, who is best known for having multiple Billboard Top 100 hits while also writing chart-topping songs for other artists such as Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams and more. In this weeks episode, Mike tells us details on how he got started and what he did early on to become a success, what new artists should focus on when creating a project, how music distribution has changed and how up and coming artists should decide to release their music.
“DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME TRYING TO BE POPULAR. SPEND YOUR TIME TRYING TO BE GOOD OR GET BETTER.”
Singer-songwriter Mike Posner (@MikePosner) knows that nothing worth doing is easy–you have to keep working at it. But when he signed his first record deal, he thought things would change. “I really thought that when I got that record deal, that my experience of life would change, that I would be happier and I’d be in the ‘promise land’, that just my experience of life would be exponentially better and I wouldn’t have, really, problems anymore,” says Mike.
“It didn’t make my life worse or make me more sad and more happy, it just was overwhelmingly the same. That was disappointing and disillusioning because I really thought, before, it was going to solve all my problems, and it just didn’t.” Mike then thought, “maybe I just need a big hit song or something’, and I set about acquiring that, and I did.” In 2010, Posner’s single Cooler Than Me finished #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the year and was RIAA Certified 2x Platinum.
Mike Posner talked with Cory Levy on OFF RCRD about his start as an artist, getting signed to a record deal, lessons learned from Big Sean, and much more.
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur, founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg, who is best known for have founded Automattic, which is behind brands WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote and more; reaching more than a billion people a month. In this weeks episode, Matt talks about how he got into technology, what his high school and college days were like, being young and in a position within a big company to leaving and risking it all to become a founder, what’s his trick to meet great people to work with or invest in and the great story of how he misplaced a half million check!
At the age of 20, Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt), launched Automattic–the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, and others. Now 33-years-old, Matt is still working at the company he built, helping it change the landscape of websites and blogs throughout the world and give nearly anyone the ability to create and manage their web presence.
In the interview with Cory Levy on OFF RCRD, Matt discusses founding the company and some of its growing pains before he hired now former Automattic CEO Toni Schneider, including losing a $500,000 check from an investor. “Toni had been part of startups for 20 years. He had a ton of experience,” Matt says. “I think something I still learn from him…he can approach things and really connect with people in a way that makes everyone feel really included, and I think it’s one of his superpowers.”
Asked what his superpower is, Matt says “Probably hiring and the non-hiring parts of hiring, which are finding great people to work with. I’ve been very lucky or good at finding great partners within the investment side and other folks I worked work with like Toni.”
Outside of the business, Matt is a musician, and is currently learning a new language (French). For more from Matt Mullenweg, listen to the full OFF RCRD episode here!
This week, Cory talks to music management veteran Paul Rosenberg, who famously became Eminem’s manager and recently the CEO of record label giant Def Jam. Paul describes his humble beginnings as a pre-med student and how he experienced a 180 turn into a profession that’d change his life forever. He talks about the risks of starting his own management company, insights into what he did differently to stand out from the crowd and a behind the scenes of what led his company to skyrocket to success.
No successful person makes it to the top without surrounding themselves with talented and trustworthy people. Music manager Paul Rosenberg (@rosenberg), who is also the CEO of Def Jam Records, is best known for the large role he’s played in one of the careers and lives of one of the most successful artists of all time–Marshall Mathers, also known as Eminem.
As explained in his interview with Cory Levy on OFF RCRD, Paul first started working with Marshall as his lawyer. After building up trust with Marshall and learning how the industry works, Paul adapted to become Marshall’s manager, which is a job he’s now had for nearly twenty years. In addition to his role as Marshall’s manager, Paul also runs his own management firm, Goliath Artists, is co-producer of the Shade 45 SiriusXM radio station, and is the new CEO of Def Jam Records. As the new CEO of Def Jam, Paul says that he is working to “go back to the blueprint, and make that label the thing that everybody got so passionate about in the first place.”
Paul has a long history of adapting to changes in his life and the music industry, from shifting from lawyer to music manager, to navigating music streaming, which has drastically changed the music industry. “You have to figure out what’s working to propel the industry forward, and become that. For me, I had always seen this coming for a really long time–the place that we’re in now. I had always hoped for it, so I was mentally prepared for a world of streaming. I for one, am very happy that we’re here,” says Paul.
Cory first met Paul, who is also an investor in After School, at a party for the U.S. launch of Spotify, and then again later through mutual friends. In this episode of OFF RCRD, Cory and Paul discuss how Paul got his start in the music industry, his experience working with Eminem, his work building companies, his new role with Def Jam Records, and his advice for young entrepreneurs.
“The most important advice that I can give, is try to work in something that you’re passionate about, because if you can do that, then you can always find enjoyment in your employment and enjoyment in your career. Because there’s going to be elements about it even through all the bad stuff that you don’t like; there’s going to be elements about it that you do. If you can find a way to work your passions into a career, overall you’ll be a much happier person,” says Paul.
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur, founder and CEO Sean Rad, who is best known for creating the revolutionary dating app Tinder, which has made more than 20 billion connections, garnered more than 50 million active users across 195 countries and was recently valued as a public company worth a staggering $6 billion dollars. In this weeks episode, Sean talks about how he got into technology, advice to non-technical people getting started at building technology companies, he takes us back to the very moment the idea of Tinder was born, what he did to get it on the map, early day controversies, the moment he knew it would be transformative to society, and the evolution of its users.
Entrepreneur Sean Rad (@seanrad) is Founder and Chairman of Tinder, the world’s most popular app for meeting people. While Tinder is one of the most successful apps of all time, Sean cautions young entrepreneurs who come up with app “ideas.” “A mobile app is just the delivery mechanism, that’s not an idea,” says Sean.
His idea to make introductions easy and less awkward, which turned into Tinder, started with seeing a pretty woman across the room at a coffee shop. “When I was sitting in a coffee shop one day, I was with a bunch of friends and there was a girl across the room that I really want to talk to. I lacked and courage, my friends lacked the courage. This is a common occurrence people probably experience every day. She looked at me across the room and I looked at her. In that moment, it was almost like an invite. She was giving me a signal that she’s interested and I was giving her a signal. As I realized that, that took away the anxiety, the pressure, the fear of rejection, then I became obsessed with the idea of how can I turn that moment, that behavior that happens, that real-world behavior that is natural but it’s not a common occurrence, how can I make that a more common occurrence as the cure to meeting new people? That was the impetus of Tinder.”
What was a great idea didn’t turn into a successful company without a great team that listened carefully to their users. “When you have thousands of opportunities…you really need to listen to the people who are on the front lines,” says Sean, who discusses in the episode of OFF RCRD Tinder’s efforts to make their platform friendly to trans users based on their feedback.
Despite the massive growth of Tinder and Sean’s accomplishments, he takes little for granted and doesn’t rely on his past successes. “It’s really important to stay humble and stay hungry.” Stay hungry and listen to the full interview with Sean Rad only on OFF RCRD, and listen to all of our episodes here.
This week, Cory speaks to business woman and social leader Aria Finger, who is best known for her role as the CEO of DoSomething.org, which is one of the world largest organizations for young people and social change, boasting over 5 million members in over 131 countries. In this weeks episode, Aria talks about her 12-year journey from joining as an associate to becoming the CEO, she also shares her method of overcoming hard decisions, the importance of transparency and her thoughts on the future of non-profit organizations.
Aria Finger (@AriaIrene) joined non-profit DoSomething.org in 2005 as an associate with a dream of changing the world, a tongue ring, and a resume that she posted on idealist.org. Ten years later she became the organization’s CEO and has led DoSomething to engage millions of young people in making positive changes in the world.
DoSomething.org uses tech and a growing team of passionate employees to reach and activate youth in activities from clothing the homeless to sending happy Ramadan cards to mosques throughout the U.S.
In this episode with host Cory Levy (also a DoSomething.org board member), Aria shares her story of how she got started with DoSomething.org, advice on how to keep great employees, her thoughts on the future of nonprofits, and her advice for people who aren’t quite sure what they want to do with their lives. “Go all in on what you’re amazing at and then you’ll be the most successful that you can be,” says Aria.
Since her start at the organization, DoSomething.org has grown from a team of around 10 to over 60 employees. Asked about how to retain great employees, Aria says that there are three key factors, including that the employee feels like they are doing important work that they are personally contributing to, great perks, and their co-workers. Aria credits her success to developing strong bonds with co-workers. “Create deep relationships with your peers and support them, because then they will support you.”
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur, actor, investor and social media creative and mogul Jake Paul, who’s well-known for founding modern-day media conglomerate TeamDom, the talent incubator Team 10, starring in Disney’s Bizaardvark, partner and co-founder of venture capital firm TGZ capital and is currently one of the biggest YouTube stars, boasting over 11.2 million subscribers and over 2.6 billion views, at only 20 years of age. In this weeks episode, Jake talks about how he first started in social media, what made him stand out, the various controversies throughout his career and what you can do to get your content seen.
Jake Paul (@JakePaul) is a 20-year-old with a massive following and influence. The actor and YouTuber has over 11.4M subscribers on YouTube and his videos have been viewed more than 2.6B times. Jake, an Ohio native, is also the founder of Team 10 and starred on Disney Channel’s Bizaardvark.
Jake’s biggest competition is his own brother Logan Paul, who has over 12.6M YouTube subscribers. The brothers have a long history of competing against each other that goes back to the first time they took their dad’s video camera when Jake was 10-years-old.
In this episode with host Cory Levy, Jake shares advice for other content creators, including the importance of persevering and working harder than anyone else. “If it’s really what you want to do and it makes you happy, then you should never ever stop. Hard work beats talent 10 times over.” During this episode, Jake also talks about how he became the #1 star on YouTube, controversy, and how he deals with criticism.
Jake is still just getting started with his brand and has big plans for the future. “I feel like I have so much more to offer to the world, and so much potential and so many more ideas and creativeness.”
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneur and investor Kevin Hartz, who’s well-known for co-founding the leading global self-ticketing platform Eventbrite. In this weeks episode, Kevin talks about how he got started as a 26-year-old founder, gives advice on how to connect with brilliant people, the moment he knew he was onto something big, the best way to attract and retain talent and much more.
Eventbrite Co-Founder and investor Kevin Hartz has always placed a significant amount of importance on learning. While earning a Master’s Degree in British History from Oxford University seems like an odd path for a tech entrepreneur, Hartz says that it “was an opportunity to learn how to learn.” Kevin has used that ability to grow a company that in 2013 surpassed $2B in sales.
In the early days of Eventbrite, Hartz and the Eventbrite team shared offices with other entrepreneurs and startups including Clickster (acquired by Warner Brothers), Tripet (acquired by Concord), and Zynga. “Mark (Pincus) had his first office in the office we had…we always had these really great founders around us.” Kevin has learned important lessons from entrepreneurs and investors from Roelof Botha to Peter Thiel. “Peter has always challenged me on conventional thinking. I think that we can always be in this mode of kind of going with the flow and not even realizing it, realizing that there are other realities out there. Peter, in any conversation, always has a provocative, unconventional view of the world.”
Early in my journey as an entrepreneur, many have learned, from Kevin and others, the importance of surrounding myself with other motivated and talented entrepreneurs, and people with other views and skillsets. While Cory was building relationships with and learning from hundreds of entrepreneurs, he was encouraged to find a way to bring those connections together while providing them value. Cory created the NextGen Conference in 2009, which is now Internapalooza, and I invited Kevin to speak. He spoke at the first event and they’ve stayed in touch since.
This week, Cory speaks to entrepreneurial executive and investor Keith Rabois, who is best known for his early-stage startup investments in YouTube, Airbnb, Palantir and also his operative roles in building PayPal, LinkedIn, Slide and Square. He is also currently a partner at Khosla Ventures and the co-founder and executive chairman at Open Door. In this weeks episode, Keith talks about how he transitioned from law to tech, what convinced him to leave the safe path into the uncertain times of the dot-com era, the early PayPal days, the hardest role to fill in a company today and how to discover a hidden talent.
Keith Rabois (@Rabois) is a highly respected tech entrepreneur, investor, and business leader. He’s most widely known for his involvement in PayPal, LinkedIn, Square, Yelp, and YouTube. Keith is now a partner and investor at Khosla Ventures.
Keith got his start in tech in February 2000 after friends convinced him that he needed a career change. He dropped off of his career path at the time, which was headed towards becoming a lawyer, to work in tech. A month later, the “Dotcom” crash began, but Keith never gave up. “Building a company from scratch to success is a very rare and very challenging thing. By definition, It’s not intuitive; it’s not easy; it’s not something you can just pick up a book, read, and say ‘I’m going to be a successful founder.’”
Keith primarily focuses on the leadership and composition of a startup. As a former COO, Keith helps companies form strong teams that can overcome early challenges. “One of the things that a good investor can do is help identify gaps between core team and key DNA that’s required for success, and help bridge that gap in networks and help find and identify people that may be the appropriate fit,” says Keith.
This week, Cory speaks to venture capitalist, actor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Ashton Kutcher, who has famously transitioned from a successful A-list actor to starting venture capital firms A-grade Investments and Sound Ventures with a portfolio including Spotify, Uber, Airbnb and many more. Alongside he has founded non profit foundation Thorn, which drives technology innovation to fight the sexual exploitation of children. In this weeks episode, Ashton talks about how he transitioned from acting to tech, what he learned from working with some of the worlds best entrepreneurs and investors, his insights into the future of jobs and a reflection on his teenage years and more.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) got his start in the entertainment industry as a model and then as Michael Kelso in That ‘70s Show. Aston is now widely recognized as a successful actor, tech investor, producer, entrepreneur, and activist. Ashton is the Founder of nonprofit Thorn and co-founder of venture capital firm A-Grade Investments. He has invested in over 60 early-stage companies, including Change.org, Skype, Foursquare, Fab.com, Airbnb, and Airtable.
In 2015, Kutcher and Guy Oseary, who was also an A-Grade Investments co-founder, launched Sound Ventures. Ashton has won 9 Teen Choice Awards, a People’s Choice award, and continues to gain experience and achieve what many thought was impossible in the world of tech and entrepreneurship for someone who was once just considered an actor.
In this episode with host Cory Levy (co-founder of After School, Internapalooza), Ashton and Cory discuss entrepreneurship, how Ashton got his start in business, and what Ashton expects from founders he’s investing in. “If you’re going to meet with an entrepreneur and they’re not smarter than you about the thing that they’re tackling, it’s probably not a very good investment.”