Welcome to Season One of American Optimist hosted by Joe Lonsdale, entrepreneur, investor, and founder of four multi-billion dollar companies and other mission-driven organizations. American Optimist is an alternative to the fear, cynicism, and zero-sum thinking in mainstream media. Learn from the innovators and leaders who are solving our nation's most pressing challenges -- and doing it in a way that will lift everyone up. Hope should dominate our discourse, and American Optimist will show you why.
Curing cancer, eliminating diseases, reprogramming cells to help 80-year-olds feel like they're 30 -- could it all be possible in our generation? America is in the midst of a biotech revolution that is transforming modern medicine and will save countless lives. At the forefront is Dr. Rick Klausner, former director of U.S. National Cancer Institute, co-founder of Juno Therapeutics, GRAIL, and MindStrong Health, renowned scientist, and billionaire innovator.
Hollywood superstar Ashton Kutcher is an innovative technology investor, extraordinary family man, and philanthropist. He founded Thorn to protect children online and makes the case for why tech companies must do more to protect the vulnerable. He also explains how hard work propelled him from modest origins to a career as a world-famous actor and model.
When Kimbal Musk and his brother Elon immigrated to the US from South Africa to start their first company, they couldn't afford both an apartment and an office—so, unbeknownst to their employees, they slept in the office. The brothers have come a long way from their humble origins. Hear Kimbal's story from entrepreneur to restauranteur and board member of Tesla and SpaceX.
This moment in our culture was made for a writer and thinker like Bari Weiss. What can Americans do to beat back the wave of illiberalism currently sweeping through our institutions? Weiss took her stand last summer, resigning from the New York Times to launch her own Substack newsletter. Her courage has since inspired others to defend free speech, diversity of thought, and other core American values.
Palmer Luckey is as close as it gets to a real-life Iron Man. As a teenager, he worked on virtual reality headsets until he eventually created the Oculus Rift, the most groundbreaking VR headset ever assembled. After single-handedly shaping the field of virtual reality, and selling Oculus to Facebook, he founded Anduril, one of the fastest-growing defense companies in America today.
The United States is the most prosperous and advanced nation in the history of humanity—but it's currently facing a crisis of happiness. What went wrong? Arthur Brooks, Harvard professor, best-selling author, and renowned social scientist, has dedicated himself to tackling America's satisfaction deficit, and in this episode, he reveals his four keys to authentic happiness. (Not on the list: riches, power, or fame).
How do you transform a startup into a household name? Ask Sujay Jaswa. When he joined Dropbox in 2010, the company had 16 million users. By the time he left in 2015, hundreds of millions of people relied on Dropbox for their daily web storage needs. As head of the business side of Dropbox and later CFO, Jaswa had a leading role in this transformation, building the business team from scratch and raising over a billion dollars. Today, he serves as Founder and Managing Partner at the investment firm WndrCo and lectures on entrepreneurship at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.
From 2006 to 2015, the Right Honorable Stephen Harper served as the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada. His premiership confronted challenges ranging from a global recession to the war against ISIS, but his smart and courageous leadership increased Canadian prosperity and bolstered security. Small businesses surged, while tech hubs from Waterloo to Toronto to Ottawa cemented their place as global centers of talent and investment. In this episode, Harper offers lessons from his tenure as Prime Minister, from how global leaders should address the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic to the challenges of a new multipolar world.
Ronnie Lott is an NFL Hall of Famer, four-time Super Bowl champion, and one of the greatest defensive players of all time. But his impact and legacy off the field are equally impressive: He's a successful businessman, philanthropist, and community leader who has mentored and shaped the lives of underserved youth across three decades.
Balaji Srinivasan is a bold and forward-thinking writer, investor, and entrepreneur, who was formerly the Chief Technology Officer of Coinbase and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Currently, he's launching innovative ventures, such as his 1729 Project, while also advocating for cryptocurrency and the larger decentralized finance movement. In this episode, he explains how to understand the world by looking through the lenses of three competing factions: the Chinese Communist Party, the "woke" mob, and cryptocurrency maximalists. He also discusses topics ranging from decentralized social media and startup cities to network states and what makes him optimistic on aspects of American innovation.
Niall Ferguson is a renowned historian, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and prolific author of more than a dozen best-selling works on economics, culture, and politics. In this episode, Ferguson explains why the rise and fall of civilizations do not fit into predictable patterns and cycles. He does not see American decline as inevitable and holds out that America’s best days may yet be ahead -- if it can stay on the right path. Ferguson also pulls back the curtain on the Chinese Communist Party, revealing the ways in which the CCP's strengths are exaggerated and why the United States’ support for smart policy and innovation will bolster its dominance in the years ahead.
Adrian Fenty is currently a founding managing partner at MaC Venture Capital, a former advisor at Andreessen Horowitz, and served as the Mayor of Washington, D.C. from 2007-2011. During his tenure as Mayor, he took on special interests and the teachers' unions, fought for accountability in government and greater opportunities for children while also overseeing a dramatic reduction in violent crime. His courage reshaped the direction of the city and is much needed in our nation today.
This week's episode features three talented and successful innovators behind many game-changing technologies and companies. First is Sal Churi, a former law professor who is now general partner at Trust Ventures -- an Austin-based venture capital firm. Next is Keri Findley, a top innovator in the finance industry who was the first female partner at Third Point, a prominent New York-based hedge fund. Finally, Wesley Chan is an engineer turned venture capitalist who was an early employee at Google, and he shares some fascinating insights from those early days.
Jake Kloberdanz is the CEO and Founder of ONEHOPE Wine, an award-winning vineyard located in the heart of Napa Valley. What sets ONEHOPE apart is its unique business model: every bottle of wine sold helps fund a charitable organization. Kloberdanz is a champion of cause-centric commerce, and to date, ONEHOPE has donated over seven million dollars to organizations that help disadvantaged communities break the cycle of poverty. In this episode, he describes his journey from selling wine out of the back of his car to building a world-class winery that also uplifts its community and advances the role of business in society.
In 1978, John Mackey co-founded his first natural foods store in Austin, Texas with only $45,000. Two years later, he and his business partners launched the first Whole Foods Market, which quickly became the nation's fastest-growing organic grocery store. In 2017, Amazon acquired the company for over $13 billion. In this episode, the Whole Foods Founder and CEO discusses his journey from democratic socialism to "Conscious Capitalism" -- the title of his book in defense of free markets and how business, conducted properly, can elevate humanity. He also explains the cultural divide in America today as a clash of three worldviews - traditional, modern, and progressive - and describes how we can pull the best wisdom from each to bridge division and continue to move our society forward.
Maureen Hillenmeyer is the Founder and CEO of Hexagon Bio, a cutting-edge biotech company whose mission is to harvest new drugs and cures from the natural world, beginning with fungi. In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin launched a new age of antibiotics derived from fungi. However, the process of discovery was slow and laborious. In this episode, Hillenmeyer explains how Hexagon is using genomic sequencing and artificial intelligence to analyze the millions of types of fungi on earth and uncover new drugs and cures for a host of diseases. She also issues an important warning about the looming crisis of antibiotic resistance and how Hexagon's work could avert a medical disaster.