Shanley Knox is a brand strategist and social entrepreneur based in New York.
In this conversation, we get into dismantling a business on the cusp on success, a dangerous bias around meaningful work, the audacious hope of building something new, and why a set of traffic lights in Downtown Manhattan changed just about everything…
08:00 A tipping point to dismantle a company
12:00 Returning to Africa
21:00 Recognizing real problems as a founder
28:00 The feeling of belonging and not belonging
32:00 The photographer as observer
41:00 Stakeholders that strategists don’t always notice
52:00 The audacious hope of building a thing
59:00 What happens when you freeze in the face of possibility
66:00 Cultural bias around meaningful work
Sims Foster is co-founder of Foster Supply Hospitality - a group of rurally independent small hotels and restaurants based in New York's Catskills Mountains.
In this conversation we get into facing up to the inevitably of hundreds of tiny failures, finding thought partners, the importance of the practice room, how the hospitality industry could rethink the ways it trains talent, and why local matters.
05:00 Introducing Foster Supply Hospitality (and a rogue refrigerator)
08:00 Why the Catskills is such a storied region, and how it’s changed so dramatically in the past few decades
15:00 Starting in hospitality: from dishwashing to digging into data
25:00 Bringing a music sensibility to the hospitality business - and the importance of the practice room
33:00 Facing up to the prospect of constant tiny failures
36:00 The future of training in the hospitality industry
45:00 How Sims assesses new hotel and restaurant opportunities
50:00 Underrated factors that make or break a hospitality company
54:00 The colossal financial failure - and making a recovery
63:00 Seeking out thought partners… and working with your life partner
70:00 Recognizing crisis, and moving forward
77:00 The importance of doing business for local good
Jonathan Stark is on a mission to rid the world of hourly billing. He helps freelancers, consultants and creatives of all flavours find better ways to do the work they want to do in the world. Jonathan’s own journey has gone from live musician to digital agencies, independent software developer to teacher. While his books, talks, and daily newsletter are now hugely successful - there have inevitably been some bumps along the way.
In this conversation we get into why artists and designers can be very opposite, the real value of music, unexpected occurrences of the employee mentality, and why marketing can make us mad.
04:00 Getting it wrong on-stage
11:00 Why creatives get pulled in two directions
17:00 Funding the mission
22:00 The value of music
35:00 What it means to have an employee mentality - even when you don’t think you do…
43:00 A big lesson from Disneyland
50:00 Wrangling with marketing
58:00 Getting comfortable with speaking and writing in public
67:00 The value of podcasting and newsletters
74:00 Daily publishing
Amsterdam is widely renowned as a global hub. It's a centre of art, creativity, forward-thinking approaches to sustainability, and a centre of incredible nightlife.
Olaf Boswijk has been at the very center of Amsterdam's nightlife scene for well over a decade: as the music programmer and resident DJ at the Club 11 venue, before setting up the legendary Trouw, and the equally vital De School. It's fair to say Olaf's had a big part to play in creating a worldwide buzz around electronic music in the city.
When Olaf decided to take a little break, he headed out of the city for a little while with his wife Mirla in their yellow camper van.
But this wasn't any old trip - they headed west to Canada, went south into the US, and then all the way through Latin America to Patagonia.
It was in southern Chile that they fell in love - with an incredible part of nature they've come to call Valley of the Possible.
Valley of the Possible is a place where Olaf, Mirja and their team invite and challenge artists, scientists and other creative thinkers and makers to envision alternative perspectives on our relationship with the natural world.
In this conversation Olaf shares the back story of launching this latest project, the questions he asks about his own creative work, his attitude to risk, and why less ambition may be a positive sign.
05:00 Hitting the road from Amsterdam to Patagonia
10:00 The tension between the DJ and club owner
18:00 The power of live vs pre-recording
24:00 Falling in love in Chile
30:00 Making career pivots
33:00 Bringing Valley of the Possible to life
42:00 Olaf's attitude to risk and ambition
55:00 Asking the difficult questions around climate and nature
59:00 Nightlife going from global to local
63:00 The impact of fatherhood
A lot's happened since 9 year old Dmitry Koltunov and his family packed a few suitcases, left the Soviet Union, and headed west into the unknown.
Today, he's known by many as the co-founder of Alice, a hugely successful tech company serving the hospitality industry. To many hundreds more, he's the indefatigable linchpin of a popular startup fellowship program. And to others, he's the creator of a new Broadway musical.
Before all these ventures, Dmitry had to learn a new language and culture, and found himself in the gladiatorial environments of corporate America. It was only after two very different visits to New York's Lower East Side that his current path began to emerge.
In this wide-ranging conversation we get into the surprises that come when following the American dream, why confidence can create fragility, the commonalities between hiphop and startups, and lessons learned from freestyling with one Lin Manuel Miranda.
6:00 Lower East Side free styling with Two Touch & Lin Manuel
17:00 Detecting the difference between startups and hobbies
25:00 The gladiator game of business - and going the other way
30:00 Following the American dream, and observing culture
43:00 Hiphop and startup communities
48:00 Being fragile from the confidence
58:00 Structures and segments of creative work
66:00 Handling success
73:00 Writing Broadway musicals
Steve Bodow is a writer and producer, most well-known for being executive producer of The Daily Show.
Jerry Seinfeld says writing is perhaps the hardest thing in the world.
But sometimes it feels easy. The pen just flows. What’s Jerry on about?
And then all of a sudden it gets hard. The page stays blank.
When you’re writing under time constraints, it can get harder.
And working under them pretty much every day - probably harder still.
How about writing for a TV show where millions of people are tuning in 4 times every week to be both entertained and informed? Yep, that's not always gonna come easy.
As a writer and then executive producer of The Daily Show, Steve Bodow's done just that.
He was an integral part of a team that won 16 - yes, 16 - Emmy Awards before departing the show in 2019 with well over a thousand episodes under his belt. Since then he’s worked on TV shows like Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, as well as high profile political campaigns, and a range of his own new projects.
In this conversation on writing, producing, and so much more we get into the joy of travel, juggling multiple projects, the allure of writing, finding a meditative state in improv, and what makes for a good host... yes I was taking notes.
04:00 The start of In Quarantine
08:00 Moving from behind the scenes to front and center
12:00 The flow of improv
17:00 The allure of writing
22:00 Shifting from writer to management
28:00 Recognizing the pace of selling
38:00 Working in sprints
43:00 Seeing the game slow down over time
48:00 Working to deadlines
When it comes to starting any new project - whether an app, a product, a course, a book - there are so many potential traps to fall into.
One of the biggest is not understanding what people actually want. After falling into this trap more times than he’d like, Rob Fitzpatrick decided to write a book to help others avoid it.
Fast forward a few years and Rob’s career is entering its third phase: from seeking scale in his days as a founder going through tech accelerator Y Combinator, which gave him the inspiration for that first book - The Mom Test; to going after the hammock lifestyle that comes with the freedom of working remotely; to focusing more on consistency and reliability.
This third chapter arrives alongside his third book, and brings together much of what he’s learned and built so far. Write Useful Books is a book, but it’s also a community, software product, and potentially a backer for independent nonfiction authors.
In this conversation we get into several topics Rob hasn’t talked about much in public before - from how he deals with tougher days; to changing his mindset about marketing; and the unique approach he’s taken with his business partner.
04:00: The gap between books two and three
10:30: Applying product design principles to books
16:00: The theme running through Rob’s books
24:00: Staying loyal to an audience, but also to yourself
28:00: Respecting marketing
35:00: Y Combinator Rob vs. Hammock Rob
40:00: Solo versus team and a novel way of being in partnership
47:00: Interlocking layers to support independent non-fiction writers
56:00: From 700 copies to 100,000
61:00: Comfort tasks
67:00: Overcoming the rough days, and disappearing
75:00: The importance of thinking as entrepreneurship as a career, not a company or project
In 2003, a new magazine launched. It felt a little different to what else was on the shelves at the time. Covering music, literature, street art and fashion, it featured a new generation of talent, and had a focus on quality: not just the content, but on bespoke cover art and high-end paper stock.
The magazine was called Blowback and one its co-founders was a 21 year old called Georgina Wilson-Powell. After the London-based company folded in 2007, Georgina spent time at one of the world's largest publishing companies, traveling around the globe as a journalist.
It was these gas guzzling trips that in fact led her back to entrepreneurship - this time as founder of sustainable living magazine Pebble.
This time, Georgina is going it alone, building an ethical media business as a solo female founder.
In this deep dive conversation we get into why not being an expert can be freeing; the challenge of intertwined identities as an entrepreneur, using grief as fuel; and how build support structures when you're going it alone.
Oh and you'll hear Georgina’s dog Maggie in the background a couple of times... we just couldn't bring ourselves to edit her out...
01:00: The craft of editing
05:30: The sudden end of Georgina’s first company
11:30: Why magazines have such a strong allure
14:30: Lost experiences post-failure, and the intertwined identity
23:00: Coming back for round 2 of entrepreneurship
29:00: Why not being an expert can be a positive
32:30: Dealing with grief
37:00: The differences being a solo founders vs. having multiple founders
40:00: Communicating with life partners in different work situations
46:00: Finding support structures
51:00: Being a female founder of an ethical media business
56:30: Why write a book
62:30: Being everything to everyone, and the challenges of staying visible
66:00: Bad advice
77:00: The importance of knowing your own mind, and overcoming fear
Starting a new company? Let's be honest - it's hard.
In the midst of a global pandemic? Yep, definitely hard.
Compared to a decade ago there are now far more places to get support in those early days, but Andrew Hutton and the team at Day One feel there are still some gaps that urgently need to be filled.
With the belief that entrepreneurship is going to be the most important skill of the 21st century, Day One are seeking to rethink the way early stage companies get built, going beyond the narrative of venture capital as the be-all and end-all, and to support all kinds of founders who are focused on outcomes, not just achievements.
In this conversation we get into challenging the conventions around building early stage companies, the identity shift when becoming a founder, how to focus on outputs first, and understanding which game you're really playing.
06:30: The conventions around ‘early-stage’ startups
14:00: Conforming to typical milestones and points, and what’s shifting
20:30: What emerges during the early stages, and the questions of identity around being a founder
32:30: Chasing dreams with rigor, and the shift from inputs to outputs
40:00: What Andrew rewired in himself as he became a company founder
47:00: The meta game of running a business that helps other businesses
52:00: Building a community and education business that isn’t built around a guru
55:00: Launching, relaunching, and what happens when the energy starts to dissipate
61:00: Pockets of influence and figuring out the game you’re playing
64:00: Underestimating time
Back in 2008, Kevin Kelly wrote a now legendary article on the long tail, and the concept of 1000 true fans. It's a concept that's gained ground in the 12 years since it was first posted, and in 2020, those trends around fandoms and the wide creator economy are - like a lot else in the world - accelerating.
Today here are many new voices and platforms. 1000 true fans becomes 100. There are Macro trends in micro communities and micro payments. The way we create and consume content of all kinds is changing at an extraordinary rate.
In the middle of all this, both as a guide for brands and creators, and as a creator building a brand of their own, is Zoe Scaman.
Zoe's spent time at some of the world's leading brands and agencies - from Naked Communications and Droga5; to Adidas and Ridley Scott's Creative Group.
Today she runs the strategy studio Bodacious, helping develop and define compelling brands of all flavors.
Unafraid to share what she's learnt, and shout out the successes in public, she's built a significant following over the past 12 months in particular. But it's not all been an upward curve.
We talk about the ill-fitting nature of the word 'fit' when organizations are looking for talent; rejecting linear progression and social conventions; the deep fear held by many people in the advertising industry; and the value - and challenges - of putting yourself out there in the world.
04:00: Why ‘fit’ is dangerous for many businesses
08:30: The vindication of having ‘Range’, and rejecting the linear path
16:30: Who was missing for Zoe when she was at school
20:00: What it means to ‘bang down the door’
22:30: Persistence vs. Confidence
28:00: The Phoenix and The Magpie
32:30: What 22 year old Zoe would make of Zoe today
34:00: The shift from employee to owner
40:00: The bit before Bodacious, and dealing with the self doubt
45:00: What happens when a full-time gig comes along… and making a vote of confidence in yourself
50:30: Putting yourself out in the world, and managing energy
57:00: The anger and fear held by others
64:00: Homesteading, and staying curious
69:00: Culivating fandoms - for others, and for yourself
Taneshia Nash Laird is a social change agent and community developer with a pretty incredible resume.
She's served as the Executive Director of the Arts Council of Princeton, notably as the first person of color in that role. She's been the Director of Economic Development for the city of Trenton New Jersey; and co-founded Legendary Eats in LA's Staples Center alongside NBA legend James Worthy. With her late husband Roland, Taneshia she also co-founded MIST Harlem, a popular entertainment center in New York City.
She was also a special government employee during the Obama Administration, and her nonprofit board service has included the the Advocates for New Jersey History, Artpride, and the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.
Today, Taneshia is the President and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, a historic performing arts center, currently undergoing a $40 million renovation, including a huge neighborhood revitalization project called Symphony Works.
Widowed in 2013 and a pink lady warrior since an early stage breast cancer diagnosis in 2019, above all these achievements Taneshia is most proud of being a mother to two young daughters.
In this conversation we talk about lessons from The Great Depression that can help move today's world forward; how to stay resilient when selling; the misconceptions around arts organizations; her hopes for the next generation; and how to come back towards a dream that's been deferred.
02:30: The city of Newark, its history, and its cultural institutions
07:00: What it’s like to take over running a 90+ year old arts organization
13:00: Taking ideas from recovery after The Great Depression and mapping them to 2020
21:00: Misconceptions of the operation of a nonprofit arts organization
24:00: Life’s a Pitch - how to sell, and stay positive and resilient
31:00: Seeing, touching, and deferring dreams
37:00: 4 parts of a daily practice, and coming back to the work each day
47:00: The meaning of purpose, impact, and legacy
55:00: Lessons from 2020
61:00: Taneshia’s peak moments to date
69:00: The importance of bringing others into the room
From his first release on XL Recordings in 1990, through to being called 'The Baron of Techno' by legendary BBC Radio 1 presenter John Peel; to his most recent project with classical musician Mathilde Marsal, and continuing to eschew trends in an industry that has a new flavor of the month almost every week - you can't pin down Dave Clarke as just another dance music producer and DJ.
Shaped by punk, rap and acid house in a youth where he ran away from home, sleeping in car parks and on beaches, today he plays techno with the flair and ferocity of a hip-hop turntablist, hosts his own stage at the enormous Tomorrowland festival, and is close to publishing the 800th episode of his White Noise radio show that has dozens of FM partners around the world.
He's opinionated, erudite and - by his own account - has an anarchist streak a mile wide. All of which shine through in this wide-ranging conversation.
We get into what punk represents, building long-lasting relationships, what the future looks like for new artists in the electronic music scene, and why he's maybe a little misunderstood.
04:00: The current mood in Amsterdam, and the Dutch approach to tackling Covid-19
08:30: Dave’s shift in focus in 2020, and taking the time to recover
15:00: Engineering as procrastination
17:30: Working with classical musicians
23:45: Professional environments
27:00: Long-lasting relationships, and staying consistent over a long period of time
30:15: What does punk does - and doesn’t - mean
34:30: What happens next for electronic music
38:30: The path forward for the younger generation of artists
41:00: The draw of radio
45:45: Following technology, and improving the work
50:00: Managing the balance of introvert and extrovert
54:00: Untangling hard work, skill, talent, and luck
57:00: Hope for the future - politically-driven music, and shifts in social media
Luciana is the founder of fashion brand Naissant - a womenswear line that takes a modular approach to female accessories.
Coming from a family of Argentinian architects, Luciana has a unique perspective on product design, and balancing form and function. We talk about the importance of the women in her life, going from prototype to products, and why big cities matter.
03:45: The first few weeks post-launch
06:00: Conversations around the family table
10:00: Growing up in a architects’ family in Argentina
18:15: Feeling different, and the impact of big cities
21:45: Understanding London’s fashion hub
38:30: Being underestimated by the institutions, and underestimating NYC
43:00: Dealing with uncertainty of being a founder
47:30: Balancing creativity and business
52:00: Aspects of architecture in fashion
57:15: How do you know when something is working, even in prototype phase?
64:00: The importance of the muse
69:00: The impact of women on the work
- Naissant Instagram
Joey Cofone is co-founder of Baronfig - a company that makes tools for thinking.
We talk about the mirage of failure, recognising the spectrum of what’s difficult, and alternative approaches to rebranding. Joey also explains what designs means to him, and why he doesn't identify with most of today's design industry.
02:15: Learnings from two Luigis
10:00: Developing a love of books
13:00: Rebranding Prince - in an unexpected way
21:00: What design means, and the fracture between two types of design
28:30: Bringing literature into design school
36:00: The catalyst for Baronfig
39:30: Dealing with the unknown between Kickstarter and a ‘real’ business
42:30: What failure really means
48:30: The spectrum of difficult, and dealing with tragedy
52:00: Are things fated? Exploring fate vs. free will
56:30: Framing lack of fate in an empowering way
57:30: Going remote in 2020
65:00: What a notebook does for its owner
70:00: Why video games are the ultimate form of creative expression
73:00: How school needs to change post-pandemic
- Joey Cofone
To be human in the information age is to experience deep-seated tension. Many of us feel what seems to be a constant pressure to iterate, ideate and innovate.
To strive, do better, think bigger, be more productive. To be creative, entrepreneurial, do work that matters. To make an impact.
We exist in a constant overdose of information, yet we're also starving for meaningful engagement.
Being given co-ordinates and directives to follow is reassuring, but they're straight lines on the surface: a version of where someone else thinks we should go, or a smoothed out narrative that can mislead us when we seek to follow it.
A path to the secret, when the secret doesn't really exist.
In today's tsunami of information and ideas, we need something different to help us move through the waves.
Under the Current is a podcast that seeks to amplify the stories behind the life and work of creative people who come at things in unconventional ways.
They’re globetrotting DJs and design studio owners; magazine publishers and makeup artists; comedy writers and chefs.
Like you, like me, they're all out there in the world - and they're in it - right now.
I hope the ideas, stories and challenges they share will help provide some fuel for your journey, whichever waves you're riding.
Hope you see on board.