2024

TRAILER

In the mid-20th century, US science fiction was one of the most inspiring arts. We believed we could achieve great things — and we did!

Today, the opposite is largely true: futuristic work tends towards dystopian, and in real life, govt & media mock and attack our greatest innovators.

Culture matters. What you believe and work toward tends to bring about that reality.

No matter your political views: there's no reason we can't achieve an astonishingly brighter future! Let's embrace a positive vision, and support our best & brightest to work toward it.

With American Optimist 2024, we hope to be a small part of helping to change the narrative.

GUILLAUME VERDON
EP. 076

What is e/acc (effective accelerationism) and why is it going viral among tech's elite? Who are the leaders behind this movement and what are their ambitions? 

This week, we explore e/acc with one of its pioneers, Guillaume Verdon (aka @BasedBeffJezos), a theoretical physicist at the cutting edge of quantum computing and AI.  Guillaume worked under Sergey Brin as the quantum deep learning lead at Google X before launching a thermal computing startup called Extropic.  He started e/acc as a cultural counterforce to the degrowth and doomer movements that sow distrust of technology and seek to undermine the advancement of artificial intelligence and other emerging innovations. 

In the 1950s, sci-fi was some of the most inspiring art in America.  It's no coincidence that it preceded the birth of the space and digital ages — the stories and narratives we tell ourselves as a society are the ones we tend to work toward.  Not surprisingly, as sci-fi took a dystopian turn in recent decades, society's view of technology and progress soured as well.  E/acc is the antidote; it aims to inspire a cultural, then technological, renaissance in the West.  While e/acc has gained popularity through viral memes on social media, it's also a cohesive framework designed to apply to the modern world.  In this episode, we discuss the first principles behind e/acc, steelman the arguments against it, and explore how it's compatible with religion and other ethical frameworks.  This is an important movement that resonates with us at American Optimist. 

MIKE SOLANA
EP. 077

Can investigative journalism prevail over sensational clickbait? Is it time to give up on San Francisco? Is the First Amendment sufficient to prevent the government from colluding with, or forcing, Big Tech to censor speech?

This week, join us for a one-of-a-kind conversation with Mike Solana, Chief Marketing Officer at Founders Fund and Founder of Pirate Wires, one of the fastest-growing and most influential new media companies. Mike is a must-follow on X for his wit and unique insights, but also for the work he's doing to expose corruption and revive investigative reporting. Pirate Wires recently revealed how San Francisco taxpayers are being forced to fund the protests that shut down the Bay Bridge!

We begin our discussion with the broken state of media, and why Mike believes a subscription model is the path to building a successful media outlet that isn't beholden to clickbait. Next, we discuss whether SF can be saved from the far Left and why we need better elites who don't blindly fund radical non-profits. We also cover several of Mike's seminal pieces of writing: the future of free speech when the government and Big Tech create a decentralized censorship regime, and how to revive our country's ability to build great, inspiring works. Can we restore competence in government or should we turn our energy and attention elsewhere? We discuss!

EMIL MICHAEL
EP. 078

By the summer of 2012, ride-sharing had arrived: Uber launched its everyman product, UberX, and Lyft debuted hot on its heels. Today, Lyft's market cap hovers around $5 billion while Uber's is north of $140 billion. How did Uber explode to global dominance? What was different about its culture? And how did it take on taxi cartels around the world and win? 

This week, we go behind the scenes with Emil Michael, one of Silicon Valley's great operators and dealmakers. As the former Chief Business Officer, Emil helped Uber raise a record $15 billion in two years and led its expansion into the most difficult markets, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Italy. (Yes, Italy.)  Emil recounts his biggest wins and toughest challenges, including how the Italian mafia threatened to kill Uber employees and why to this day ride-sharing is almost non-existent in Italy. 

Emil immigrated with his family to the U.S. from Egypt as a young child, and his success and character epitomize the American Dream. He graduated from Harvard, received his J.D. from Stanford Law, and began his entrepreneurial journey at TellMe, an early speech recognition company.  He quickly became known for his dealmaking skills, including transforming a $300 million acquisition offer into a $700 million deal with Steve Ballmer and Microsoft. After TellMe, he served as a White House fellow at the Pentagon and spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, before later joining Uber. We dive into his unique approach to high-stakes negotiations and lessons learned from his distinguished career. 

BJORN LOMBORG
EP. 079

What are the single most effective policies for helping the world's poor? And what are we doing right now that's ineffective and should be stopped? The answers may surprise you. 

In his new book "Best Things First," Bjorn Lomborg reveals the 12 most effective solutions to address the most pressing global challenges. He gathered the world's top economists to analyze the policies that would do the most good for the least amount of money. It turns out the United Nations and others are getting it wrong — climate policies didn't make Bjorn's list! 

In 2015, the UN released its Sustainable Development Goals — a mere 169 promises to achieve by 2030! Yet as Bjorn explains, these are largely virtue signaling or ineffective vows the UN will never make good on. Instead of overpromising or obsessing over climate change, Bjorn says the evidence points to 12 clear and measurable policy solutions: eliminating tuberculosis, investing in education the right way, and establishing clear land rights, to name a few. 

Bjorn is the Founder and Director of the Copenhagen Consensus think tank and one of the world's most influential writers and thinkers. He's made a career challenging misguided narratives, especially on environmental issues, while fighting to restore sanity and fact-based policymaking. His arguments are a direct challenge to the alarmism and doomerism surrounding us today, which is why YouTube and others try to censor him! 

LEONARD LEO
EP. 080

Leonard Leo is one of the most effective agents of legal and cultural change in America today. What's his playbook?  How can we apply it to other broken areas of society?  And why should the technology world be especially interested in his work?

In the mid-20th century, the U.S. judicial system took a sharp left turn, resulting in hyper-politicized courts, runaway bureaucracies, and many other distortions of our Constitutional system. Through his leadership of the Federalist Society, Leonard has led the charge to repair these broken institutions and, in the process, built arguably the most powerful legal network in the nation. He's been instrumental in the most important judicial elections and nominations of the past few decades. 

Leonard's wisdom is especially relevant for my friends in the e/acc movement — or anyone who values technological progress.  Standing athwart innovation is the ever-expanding administrative state, and Leonard has spent decades fighting to rightsize government and restore the separation of powers. He explains why property rights, limited government, and decentralized power are the bulwark of innovation, and why technologists must also join the effort to rein in the regulatory state and defend these sacred Constitutional principles. 

TYLER SCRIVEN
EP. 081

U.S. e-commerce sales eclipsed $1 trillion last year and are expected to double or triple over the next decade. As online demand increases, how can small businesses compete with retail giants like Amazon and Walmart? What capabilities do they need? And can a new model help level the playing field? 

This week, we explore the future of logistics and e-commerce with Tyler Scriven, co-founder and CEO of Saltbox. Tyler was a star talent at Palantir for many years (his first job title was "Predictor and Crusher" on account of his ability to eliminate operational challenges) before applying his learnings to help entrepreneurs nationwide. He identified a key gap in the market: small businesses have great software tools, but need help in the physical world with supply chain and logistics to compete against large retailers with scale advantages. With a dozen locations in major metropolitan areas, Saltbox provides a unique co-warehousing model to elevate storage and shipping capabilities. 

In this episode, we discuss Tyler's most important lessons from Palantir and how to cultivate a mission-driven culture. We cover his entrepreneurial journey from Palantir to acquiring his own small business and discovering the logistical shortcomings that Saltbox is designed to solve. We also talk leadership lessons and Tyler's compelling perspective on "courage for normal people." 

WHITNEY BAKER
EP. 082

What are the forces behind the scenes that drive financial markets? How do bubbles form — and are we in one now? What do the world's best investors understand and how do they consistently come out ahead?

This week we dive into global finance with one of the sharpest minds in macro investing: Whitney Baker, Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Totem Macro. Whitney previously worked at two of the world's leading funds, first in global macro & long/short strategies at Soros Fund Management and most recently as the Head of Emerging Markets at Bridgewater Associates.

In this episode, Whitney lays out the principles behind macro investing and how credit flows, borrowing cycles, and monetary policy drive global finance. She traces our current-day situation back to the 1970s when President Nixon ditched the gold standard and opened trade with China. She explains how a new age of deficit spending combined with China entering the US bond market paved the way for the dot com bubble, and ultimately where we are today. Whitney makes the case that inflation isn't going away soon and believes the Federal Reserve's actions over the past few decades have exacerbated inequality in America. Yet, despite these headwinds, Whitney believes technological progress can sustain the U.S. through these challenging times, so long as we set the right conditions for our best entrepreneurs to succeed.

IVAN DIMOV
EP. 083

Every year, more than 20,000 Americans receive a bone marrow transplant — a Nobel prize-winning procedure that saves many lives but also carries great risk. For leukemia patients, it's a choice of last resort, as nearly 20% die from the transplant.  Ivan Dimov, co-founder & CEO of Orca Bio, and his team have created a novel cell therapy alternative that has already saved over 400 lives in clinical trials with virtually zero rejection!

This week, we dive into Ivan's journey, the science behind Orca's cancer breakthrough, and the potential of cell therapies to cure a host of other diseases.  By discovering new, high-precision methods to manipulate cells, Orca is able to provide leukemia patients with a designer immune system that attacks the cancer while nearly eliminating rejection. By safely rebooting the immune system, Ivan and his team believe Orca also has the potential to cure autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, and impact the lives of millions of Americans.

Orca is currently seeking the first-ever FDA approval in this space, and since it's a unique one-time curative therapy, they are also commercializing the drug in-house — a rare move in biopharma. Ivan walks us through the path to bringing Orca's products to market, from collaborating with regulators to negotiating with insurance companies and scaling up its manufacturing. Though many challenges remain, you'll see why we're incredibly bullish on Ivan's leadership and Orca's potential to transform the future of medicine.

SRI GANESAN
EP. 084

India’s tech ecosystem has hit an indisputable inflection point in recent years. For decades, American corporations outsourced basic services to India, while India outsourced its top talent to Silicon Valley. But today, India’s tech economy boasts homegrown software giants and a flourishing startup scene.  

This week, we get a front-row look into India’s startup evolution with one of its top talents: Sri Ganesan, Founder and CEO of Rocketlane. His first company, Konotor, was acquired into Freshworks, which went public in 2021 for $10 billion and became one of India's biggest wins. Now, Sri is building Rocketlane into a leading solution for SaaS deployment and professional services automation, with teams in the U.S. and India. By combining American know-how with Indian talent, Rocketlane represents an important dynamic for the future of tech and expanding key partnerships around the world. 

In this episode, we dive into the lessons learned from Freshworks's success and how it paved the way for greater entrepreneurial risk within India. We also explore Sri's journey in scaling Rocketlane, from finding product-market fit to positioning the company to take advantage of the AI wave. We discuss what India’s rise to become one of the world's most important economies means for the future of tech and global talent distribution, along with the cultural differences between India and the US, and what it's like building on two continents simultaneously. Finally, Sri guides us through the various tech hubs in India, from Mumbai to Bangalore and Chennai, even down to his favorite restaurant and must-visit destinations for anyone heading to India soon.

REZA PAHLAVI
EP. 085

In 1979, Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi was attending fighter pilot school in Lubbock, Texas when the Islamic Revolution overthrew his father's reign. A radical theocracy seized power and began extinguishing freedoms, persecuting minorities, and taking a pro-Western Iran back to the Middle Ages. Since then, the Crown Prince has lived in exile as a leading voice for a secular and democratic Iran. What is his view of the Revolution? Why does he believe regime change is possible today? And how should the U.S. and the West deal with Iran?

Given Iran's recent attack on Israel, we get a rare and timely perspective on the power dynamics within Iran and why the current regime is more fragile than we realize. The Crown Prince paints a picture of his homeland pre-and-post Revolution, and explains why many governments misunderstand the fanatical leadership of Iran. He lays out his strategy of "maximum support" and how combining sanctions and external pressure with internal support, such as internet access and financial resources for protestors, could someday topple the regime. And if it does, he details a post-regime strategy to transition the government toward a secular democracy. We also discuss the longstanding history between the Persian and Jewish people, and how, with the right leadership, the region could once again become dynamic and prosperous.

[NOTE: this conversation was recorded shortly before Iran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel.]

DR. DAVID RUTH
EP. 086

STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) education is the backbone of the innovation economy. Yet at many schools, it's become stodgy and irrelevant to solving real-world problems. Not surprisingly, many of the best minds forgo college or drop out. What would it look like to design a STEM program that is inspiring, cutting-edge, and grounded in timeless truths? And how do you educate the next generation of great entrepreneurs who are also citizens of virtue? 

This week, we discuss a better model for STEM with Dr. David Ruth, Dean of the Center for STEM at the University of Austin (UATX). Dr. Ruth is a retired U.S. Navy Captain who worked on a nuclear attack submarine, an aircraft carrier, and as a war planner in Asia, before teaching advanced mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy for 13 years. 

In this episode, Dr. Ruth lays out UATX's approach to 21st-century STEM: a curriculum that balances first principles with practical application and unparalleled industry engagement. (We're already partnering with The Boring Company and other leading companies in Texas!) Many STEM programs bog down students in unnecessary tasks; UATX is taking a different approach with "computation-enabled thinking" that combines what humans do best (abstracting, modeling, and interpreting) with what computers do best (computation). We also discuss how to safeguard science and math from identity politics, and the importance of making STEM exciting and challenging through innovative games and challenges. If you're a student pursuing a STEM education, we hope you'll check out what we're building at UATX. 

DR. CLIFF WINSTON
EP. 087

Are government programs and interventions superior to market corrections? The truth is we don't know. Many economists obsess over market failures but seldom point the microscope in the direction of government, despite its many failures. And worse, the bureaucracy doesn't hold itself accountable.

This week, we examine some of the flaws of modern economic theories with Dr. Cliff Winston, a microeconomist and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, with a B.A. and Ph.D. in economics from UC Berkeley, and Masters from the London School of Economics. He is the author of numerous books and papers, including, most recently, “Indispensable: Market corrections in a U.S. economy beset by government failures.”

From antitrust to welfare programs and tax incentives, most Americans assume government interventions are preferable to allowing the market to correct itself, but as Cliff explains, we don't have scholarly evidence to back that up. He explains why we need government retrospectives and more widespread experiments to test what does or doesn't work. When has government been effective? Ironically, Cliff says, when it gets out of the way: deregulation. We talk about the benefits of airline deregulation, for example, and Cliff makes the case for deregulating the legal profession and other areas that require occupational licensure. Finally, we discuss examples where government involvement could be beneficial, such as setting adoption standards for autonomous vehicles.

DR. CLARENCE JONES
EP. 088

Dr. Clarence Jones is a giant of the civil rights movement. As the personal attorney and speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he risked everything to help save the soul of America, including smuggling scraps of papers in and out of Birmingham prison that would become Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail.  In fact, Dr. Jones never thought he'd live to see the age of 50. 

Today, he's 93 years old, and one of the last living civil rights icons. In this episode, we trace the journey of an American hero — the son of domestic servants who became valedictorian of his high school and studied at Juilliard before becoming a successful entertainment lawyer. That is until Dr. King showed up at his California home asking for legal assistance. After initially turning him away, he went to hear Dr. King preach and his life — and the direction of our country — changed forever. 

We discuss the key moments in his fight for justice, the significance of the black-Jewish alliance, and the legacy of Dr. King, including his thoughts on today's debate over DEI, Critical Race Theory, and colorblindness.  He also shares his powerful approach to radical non-violence and his advice for young people today: pursue excellence. Dr. Jones has lived an extraordinary life, and his wisdom on issues of race should be heeded over many of the voices in popular culture today. 

COLEMAN HUGHES
EP. 089

At Columbia University's freshman orientation, Coleman Hughes and his classmates were separated into groups by skin color to discuss the effects of racism, with minorities portrayed as victims and white students as beneficiaries. Why have exercises like this become commonplace in elite institutions? How did this neo-racism take hold? And what are the counter-arguments and better approaches to race and diversity? 

These questions are at the heart of Coleman's new book: "The End of Race Politics: Arguments for a Colorblind America." A talented, rising public intellectual, Coleman was one of the first courageous voices pushing back against the "anti-racist" pablum popularized by Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. He's a contributor to The Free Press, analyst at CNN, and host of the popular podcast "Conversations with Coleman." 

In this episode, Coleman argues for a return to colorblindness and the ethics of MLK — not that we pretend we can't see race, but that we strive to move beyond it and focus on character, culture, and merit instead. He makes the case that socioeconomic factors, not race, are more accurate proxies for helping the most disadvantaged in society, and our public policy should be oriented as such. He also exposes the lazy thinking and platitudes that permeate conversations about race, along with some of the worst ideas done in the name of diversity, such as rejecting standardized tests. Finally, we discuss a better way to acknowledge America's past sins while moving forward in a way that unites our country. 

ETHAN PENNER
EP. 090

Is greatness a choice? If so, why doesn't everyone choose greatness? And more broadly, what are the prerequisites for a great society?

This week, I'm joined by Ethan Penner, author of the new book "Greatness is a Choice" and one of the most influential figures in modern real estate. In his early 30s, Ethan pioneered the creation of commercial mortgage-backed securities and helped build a new market at a critical moment in history. We discuss his journey from the streets of Yonkers to the heights of Wall Street and what he learned from industry greats like Sam Zell.

Ethan is also a student of history, religion, and philosophy who cares deeply about advancing freedom and helping others find purpose in life. His new book argues that most people misunderstand greatness and equate it to the top one percent of society. Rather, he believes that greatness is a daily decision to choose excellence, and by deliberately choosing excellence we can bring newfound meaning and fulfillment to our daily lives. Through concise and pointed chapters, like "The Debilitating Effects of the Victim Mentality" and “Equality Is Not the Point," Ethan diagnoses where our modern culture has gone awry and offers an antidote that can inspire us all to pursue greatness.

2023

ANDREW YANG
EP. 040

Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur, former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and author of "Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy." A lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, Yang explains how he transformed early startup failures into success and why he's now intent on bridging partisan divides in America.  In 2021, Yang became an Independent and launched the Forward Party, which seeks to counter the political polarization in America. He and Joe discuss what policy reforms are needed to change incentives and repair America's political and cultural fabric.

IYINOLUWA ABOYEJI
EP. 041

I've known Iyinoluwa "E" Aboyeji since he was an aspiring, 19-year-old entrepreneur.  Today, he's the founder of two African unicorns, Andela and Flutterwave — the latter of which is now the continent's most highly valued tech startup at over $3 billion. We discuss the challenges he overcame, plus those that remain, and why he's bullish on Africa's future.  As the general partner and co-founder of Future Africa, "E" now invests in over a hundred African startups. He shares strong opinions on the cultural differences between Nigeria and the U.S. -- and the unique positive aspects we can learn from each society.

KIMMY SCOTTI
EP. 042

Kimmy Scotti is Founding Partner of 8VC and the Co-Founder & Chairman at Fig.1. After launching a popular consumer brand as a teenager, Scotti went on to tackle the convoluted and broken PBM industry and built a powerful cost-saving alternative for millions of consumers. She explains her philosophy for building in complex sectors and how she applies that at 8VC through mentoring founders, identifying talent, and generating alpha.  She also takes us behind the scenes of building Fig.1 and using cutting-edge science to create a superior skin care product.

ryan holiday
EP. 043

Ryan Holiday is a college dropout turned best-selling author and publisher of the world's largest podcast and newsletter focused on Stoic philosophy: the Daily Stoic.  Holiday began his career exposing the media manipulation playbook and then used those same tactics for good, educating millions on applying ancient wisdom to modern life. In this episode, he explains Stoicism's impact on America's Founding (did you know the most popular play in 18th-century America focused on a Stoic philosopher?) and why many of our challenges today stem from society's ignorance of Western Civilization's core principles and virtues. He also offers poignant personal advice that will transform how you think about bedtime with your kids and other daily routines.

clay johnston
EP. 044

Clay Johnston is the Former Dean of the University of Texas Dell Medical School and Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Harbor Health. Johnston received his MD from Harvard and Ph.D. from UC-Berkeley before leading a distinguished career as an academic neurologist. He then spearheaded the launch of UT's Dell Medical School, pioneering a more innovative curriculum and cutting costs within the system - sometimes as high as 80%, while improving patient results!  Learn how he's scaling these lessons into our broader health system with Harbor Health - a new startup designed to transform healthcare as we know it and dramatically reduce costs while improving patient outcomes.

JOHN MACK
EP. 045

John Mack is the former CEO and Chairman of the Board of Morgan Stanley and author of the new book, “Up Close and All In: Life Lessons from a Wall Street Warrior.” Mack details his unlikely journey from small-town North Carolina to the heights of Wall Street and the leadership lessons that got him there. He explains why personal character and respect are paramount, powerfully illustrated by the unlikely relationships he forged that ended up saving the firm during the 2008 financial crisis. Mack is not only a Wall Street legend, but he and his wife Christy led Morgan Stanley to build New York City's first children's hospital and contribute to many other philanthropic causes.

sec. mike pompeo
EP. 046

Sec. Mike Pompeo is a former entrepreneur, congressman, CIA Director, Secretary of State, and author of the new book, "Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love." From his early days running an aerospace company to negotiating with the world's most notorious authoritarian leaders, Pompeo discusses his leadership philosophy and how to project strength in critical moments. He details his efforts to reform Langley and Foggy Bottom, and warns against dysfunctional ideology seeping into our military and intelligence agencies. He also reveals how the Abraham Accords came to fruition, why the Trump Administration failed to ban TikTok, and how close the U.S. came to a deal with North Korea that may have changed the course of history.

Nile
EP. 047

John Chambers is the former Chairman and CEO of Cisco, responsible for growing the company from nearly $2 billion in revenue to almost $50 billion during his tenure. John is a legend in Silicon Valley, and a close advisor to leaders around the world including many CEOs and heads of state. Pankaj Patel was Cisco's former Chief Development Officer and led a $38 billion portfolio with over 26,000 engineers. Together, they made Cisco a global leader.   Now, they're reinventing enterprise networking with Nile, a new startup that will bring networking into the cloud and apply AI to improve the customer experience and cut tens of billions of annual cost and hassle. Learn lessons from how Chambers and Patel took Cisco to the top, and how they're transforming networking again.

RAHUL GANDHI
EP. 048

Rahul Gandhi is the CEO and President of Clutter (formerly MakeSpace) – a leader in the self-storage industry. The son of Indian immigrant entrepreneurs, Rahul cut his teeth serving customers at his father’s Arby’s franchise. He saw his family succeed — and almost lose everything — in the highly-competitive restaurant business. He talks candidly about overcoming the fear of failure and making the leap from venture capital to launching MakeSpace. He learned every inch of the business, from driving the trucks to packing boxes, in order to build a software solution that could disrupt the $38 billion industry and dramatically improve the moving and storage experience for consumers.

eboo patel
EP. 049

Eboo Patel is the Founder and President of Interfaith America and author of "We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy."  Why did a Rhodes Scholar like Patel — and so many in academia — become social activists preoccupied with race and oppression? And how did a college professor jolt him out of this dogmatic ideology toward embracing pluralism and social entrepreneurship? Learn from Patel's journey and efforts to steer more Americans away from zero-sum thinking toward building better alternatives. He uses powerful vignettes from history, like the Ottoman Empire welcoming Jewish refugees in the 15th century, to remind us that our shared heritage can — and should — transcend identity politics.

troy carter
EP. 050

Troy Carter is an iconic music manager who helped launch Lady Gaga to stardom and worked with many prominent artists like Eve, John Legend, and Meghan Trainor.  Carter's work ethic and obsession with hip-hop helped him rise from a tough upbringing in Philadelphia, where his mother often had to choose between paying the water or electric bill each month. He ran errands for Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) before interning for P. Diddy and eventually launching his own management company. He fought through adversity at each stage of his career; he reveals how long it took before a single radio station would even play one of Lady Gaga's songs.

He's currently supporting independent artists through his new company Venice Music and his passion for representing the "little guy" also extends to one of the most important policy issues of our time: school choice. Wait until you hear his courageous views on teachers unions and why he's not afraid to stand up for opportunity and accountability in spite of potential backlash.

ADm. bill mcraven
EP. 051

Admiral Bill McRaven is an American hero and former Commander of U.S. Special Forces Command who oversaw the planning and execution of the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. He's a retired Navy SEAL and four-star admiral whose command experience and academic writings helped shape U.S. Special Forces into the finest fighting force in the world. He's also a best-selling author and former Chancellor of the University of Texas System. In this episode, Adm. McRaven shares leadership lessons from his distinguished career, explains how the Bin Laden raid almost went awry, and reflects on why his "Make your bed" commencement address went viral to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. He also weighs in on current events like modernizing the Defense Department, Russia's surprising failures in Ukraine, and how the U.S. should address the rise of China.

yitz applbaum
EP. 052

Yitz Applbaum is a philanthropist, international bon vivant, and accomplished venture capitalist specializing in Israel and the Middle East. He began his career building a banking software company (acquired by Bank of America) before joining Lightspeed Ventures and later founding MizMaa Ventures.  In this episode, he discusses how Israel transformed from a nation of impoverished refugees into an innovation powerhouse. Looking ahead, he explains how the Abraham Accords are reshaping the Middle East economically and culturally  — Yitz, an orthodox Jew, is currently Chairman of a genome sequencing company in Saudi Arabia!

He also expounds on some of the most important recent archeological discoveries in Israel, given his role on the Board of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.  Moreover, Yitz is a prolific collector of whiskey and Kosher wine — we open our favorite bottle of scotch in this episode!

joe gebbia
EP. 053

Joe Gebbia is the co-founder of Airbnb, which grew from an experiment in his San Francisco living room into a multi-billion dollar global company that transformed the hospitality industry. And his new startup, Samara, is reimagining how homeowners utilize their backyards by offering state-of-the-art Accessory Dwelling Units.  In this episode, Gebbia explains the unlikely genesis of Airbnb, the challenges in unlocking the sharing economy, and how Samara could address many of America's housing issues.

We learn about Gebbia's most famous high school prank - and how he channels his creative, entrepreneurial energy into reshaping how people live, travel, and engage with the world around them.  We also discuss Gebbia's inspiring philanthropic work, which has touched millions of lives, and hear why he changed his perspective on nuclear energy and now believes it’s one of the most important technologies for the future of the planet.

peter attia
EP. 054

Peter Attia is a renowned physician, podcast host, and best-selling author of "Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity." Peter received his M.D. from Stanford University and was awarded "Resident of the Year" in general surgery at Johns Hopkins University, but left medicine before coming back years later with new perspectives and becoming one of the world's most sought-after longevity experts. In this episode (we are also joined by our mutual friend and best-selling author Ryan Holiday), Peter explains the core principles and exercises to maximize and extend quality of life. We also discuss the obesity paradox and why Americans, on average, are becoming increasingly unhealthy -- and how we can reverse that troubling trend.

Peter is trusted by a lot of amazing people I know, and he continues to innovate and test his theories, diets, and exercises on himself. His wisdom and expertise have improved lives around the world, and will challenge you to rethink your daily habits.

nathan mintz
EP. 055

Nathan Mintz is the Founder and CEO of Spartan Radar and, previously, the Co-Founder and CEO of Epirus.  In his twenties, Nathan sought to reform California's broken government and ran for state assembly twice, albeit unsuccessfully. Yet, his loss became our gain as he's become a leading entrepreneur in directed energy and radar systems.  In fact, Nathan has built a reputation for attracting some of the best engineering talent in the country.

He began his career at Raytheon and Boeing, designing sensors and electronic warfare systems for the U.S. military.  He used that knowledge to launch Epirus, which now boasts the world's most powerful directed energy system (Leonidas).  He's currently building Spartan Radar and developing software that can dramatically improve automotive radar and accelerate the path to ubiquitous self-driving vehicles.  We discuss his entrepreneurial journey and knack for attracting top talent, as well as the economic and cultural implications of widespread autonomy.  He also explains why he's bullish on a new space age and predicts SpaceX will reach Mars in the next several years!

maria davidson
EP. 056

Maria Davidson is the Founder and CEO of Kojo. Each year, the U.S. construction industry spends roughly $250 billion on materials, much of which is still managed by pen and paper (Excel is considered cutting-edge). Kojo is a software solution that digitizes the process, à la Amazon for contractors, and vastly improves productivity, efficiency, and safety. Learn why it took an immigrant entrepreneur and industry outsider like Maria to help modernize a giant sector of our economy that is notoriously slow to change.

Maria was born in the Soviet Union, raised in Israel, and moved to London at 13. She graduated from Oxford University where she served as President of the Oxford Union. We discuss the most controversial speakers she invited and why encountering divergent viewpoints is fundamental to the health of a free society. After Oxford, she landed at Goldman Sachs in London before making the leap to Silicon Valley and joining the 8VC team. Applying her philosopher's perspective, Maria sought to understand why it's extremely difficult and expensive to build in America today. That led her, at only 26-years-old, to found Kojo, which is now processing over $1 billion in materials orders for thousands of customers nationwide.

balaji srinivasan
EP. 057

Is the U.S. on the verge of an unprecedented banking crisis? Other than Bitcoin, where is Balaji keeping his money? Could the government try to confiscate assets like FDR's gold seizures in the 1930s? Will red and blue states break into a cold civil war over the fiscal fallout?  Learn why Balaji is sounding the alarm and why these scenarios may not be as far-fetched as you might think. We also discuss the roots of the current banking crisis and debate whether America's dysfunctional and broken institutions can be saved, or if it's too late to rescue our republic.  

Balaji is one of the leading investors, entrepreneurs, and writers of our time. For years, he's been an outspoken advocate for cryptocurrency and the larger decentralized finance movement, while boldly warning of the consequences of our nation's reckless fiscal policy.  He was formerly the Chief Technology Officer of Coinbase and General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz.  He's also the author of "The Network State: How to Start a New Country" and host of the Network State Podcast.

eliot hodges
EP. 058

How do we ensure that capital flows more efficiently to the best ideas and creates more value for society? One way is to enable more people to access the best investment opportunities, many of which are in private markets (aka alternative investments) that are notoriously difficult to navigate. It can take a team of lawyers to manage the mountain of paperwork and outdated analog processes — a stark contrast to one-click retail investing in public markets. 

Eliot Hodges, the CEO of Anduin, and his team are solving this problem. Anduin's software platform is digitizing the private markets and democratizing access — they've already helped more than 25,000 investors onboard at nearly 500 funds and raise over $45 billion in capital.  An early employee at Palantir and Blend, Eliot explains his entrepreneurial journey and why Anduin's success is important for the innovation economy. What also makes Anduin unique is that it's a Silicon Valley startup employing top talent in Vietnam.  Eliot discusses how he encourages collaboration across different cultures and why the caliber of engineering skills outside the U.S. is reshaping the tech landscape. 

ADITYA BERLIA
EP. 059

In India, "entrepreneur" was once a dirty word; today it's one of the most desirable career paths for young people. How did this transformation occur? How did the world's largest democracy break out of socialism? What does the remarkable rise of India augur for the 21st century?

We explore these questions and more with Aditya Berlia, a serial entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, and the co-founder and pro-chancellor of the Apeejay Stya University (ASU). Adi discusses his pioneering efforts in India's education sector, including building ASU — the country's first industry-focused technology and liberal arts university. He also explains his work around the world in biotech and how the U.S. FDA can more effectively partner with international manufacturers looking to access U.S. markets.  Finally, he provides a unique perspective on America's challenges and how the world's two largest democracies can more closely ally and partner in the decades ahead.

dr. rebekah gee
EP. 060

Could modernizing one of medicine's oldest practices — the home visit — dramatically improve care for disadvantaged populations? What if doctors and nurses could treat an entire family in their home through a value-based care model that aligns incentives for both providers and payers? These are the questions Dr. Rebekah Gee aims to answer with Nest Health, a new health startup that's reinventing in-home care.

Dr. Gee is uniquely suited to lead this effort: she's a mother of five and OBGYN who led Louisiana State University's healthcare program from 2020 to 2022 and the state of Louisiana's Department of Health from 2016 to 2020. She made a name for herself by deftly managing a $14 billion budget and negotiating drug pricing to make a costly Hepatitis-C drug available for tens of thousands of Louisianans. Previously, Dr. Gee served as the Medicaid Medical Director for Louisiana Medicaid and also worked on the healthcare transition team for President-elect Barack Obama. She's now applying the learnings from her extensive public service to build Nest, which is focused on improving health outcomes for Louisiana families on Medicaid. Dr. Gee explains the hurdles she overcame to innovate within Medicaid and how Nest's in-home care model could scale throughout the country to transform lives, cut costs, and increase productivity in American healthcare.

guillermo rauch
EP. 061

How did a high school dropout from Argentina build a multi-billion dollar web infrastructure company that supports many of the world's largest companies and brands? This is the story of Guillermo Rauch, CEO of Vercel.

At an early age, Guillermo developed a passion for open-source projects and began building websites and products for clients around the world at only 13 years old. He dropped out of high school to program full-time and eventually made his way to the U.S. where he's now leading one of the world's fastest-growing internet infrastructure companies.  Walmart, Facebook, Mr. Beast, and many other industry leaders build and deploy products online using Vercel because of its superior reliability, functionality, and speed.  If you want to learn more, check out this helpful explainer.

In this episode, Guillermo details his entrepreneurial journey, the origins of Vercel, and how he cultivates top engineering talent.  We also dive into what precipitated Argentina's fall from global power, and why pessimism and political dysfunction may go hand-in-hand.

ben rubenstein
EP. 062

What are the three most important attributes of a successful salesperson? How do you identify talent capable of withstanding constant rejection? And how do you hire hundreds of salespeople while maintaining mission and culture?

Discover how Ben Rubenstein scaled two startups to big exits, and why he believes resumes are largely meaningless for sourcing top sales talent. His first company, Yodle, took on the Yellow Pages by bringing thousands of small businesses online and into the digital age. Ben started as a one-person sales team living with friends, sleeping on an air mattress, and moving every few months until he broke through, eventually building a thousand-person sales team. Next, he founded Opcity, a real estate lead referral service, and once again scaled it into a large salesforce until the company was acquired by Realtor.com.

Ben is currently building Setpoint, a software platform that automates asset-based lending and capital markets operations, enabling real-estate, auto, consumer, and other asset-backed borrowers to offer next-generation credit options to consumers. In addition, Setpoint has launched a second debt fund to support Proptech startups. Learn about the most exciting innovations in real estate and why Ben believes AI will upend how we think about careers and areas of expertise.

eddie margain
EP. 063

Eddie Margain quickly ascended the ranks as a Mexican entrepreneur but fled the country when the cartels threatened his family.  How does a nation lose its rule of law and does he see similar trends in America? Why was he inspired to build Austin FC and what did it take to bring the first professional sports team to the capital of Texas?

We explore these topics and more with Eddie, co-founder of Austin FC and Managing Partner & Founder of Pixiu Investments (current investments include, among others, the historic Scarbrough Building and apparel maker Outdoor Voices). Eddie is a true leader and pillar of the community who serves as President of the Greater Austin Crime Commission and also supports myriad other philanthropic causes.

His entrepreneurial journey began in Mexico, first by founding an internet access provider and later building companies to manufacture and distribute mobile phones. In this episode, Eddie explains how his homeland surrendered to narcoterrorism, why he fell in love with Austin, and what motivated him to build the city's first soccer club.

dr. alex karp
EP. 064

Over the past two decades, Palantir has prevented a large number of terrorist attacks, deployed the most advanced civil liberties data infrastructure throughout Western countries, and changed the course of history. Today, its technology is most evident on the battlefield in Ukraine, where its software has provided the Ukrainians a devastating advantage over Russian forces.  And now, Palantir is quickly becoming the leading AI platform in the world for large organizations.

How did a small startup overcome overwhelming institutional resistance to become one of the most important software companies in the world?  And what can we learn from its CEO, Dr. Alex Karp — How does he attract the very best engineering talent?  How did his dyslexia and outsider upbringing impact his views on the world and how Palantir is designed?  We cover these questions and more in a special conversation between two of Palantir's co-founders.

Dr. Karp holds a B.A. from Haverford College, a J.D. from Stanford Law School, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, where he studied under Jürgen Habermas and other leading intellectuals. In this episode, we explore the impact of philosophy on his life and why he ultimately left academia to build.  We share some of our favorite stories from Palantir's early days, discuss how to reform the Pentagon to improve its results, and look ahead to how AI is changing the nature of warfare.  Dr. Karp is one of the wisest leaders I know, and you'll learn how his iconoclastic views on software, patriotism, talent, and innovation have been proven right over the past years, and what they mean for the future.

marc andreessen
EP. 065

What's the best optimistic case for AI? Could AI actually save the world? What do the AI doomsayers get wrong? 

We dive deep into the AI debate with Marc Andreessen, cofounder and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, for a special conversation held during the 2023 University of Austin Forbidden Courses. We explore Marc's recent essay and why he believes AI could improve productivity, reduce human drudgery, and allow us to spend more time creating art or music, investing in relationships, and doing things that make us more human.  Marc challenges the popular narratives on machine learning — why do we assume superintelligence will turn evil, for example? — and applies lessons from history to make a powerful case for embracing the AI age. 

However, his optimism is tempered by the realities of politics, and we debate whether it's the fault of the citizenry or special interests for stymieing innovation and progress.  We also discuss how philosophical frameworks, like the precautionary principle, have been used to inhibit progress, and why, sometimes, it takes great leaders creating exponentially better products or policies to overcome the status quo. Finally, we field a variety of smart and fun questions from students on AI, politics, and venture capital. 

bob mcgrew
EP. 066

Bob McGrew is at the epicenter of the AI revolution.  As the VP of Research at OpenAI, he's instrumental in breakthroughs that are reshaping the world, from building GPT models and launching ChatGPT to overseeing the Dall-E project.  How was GPT-4 trained and what will GPT-5 look like? Why does ChatGPT respond with certain biases and how do they correct for that? What breakthrough led Bob to believe AGI could be achievable?

Bob and I were in Phi Psi together at Stanford and both interned at PayPal in its early days.  We hired Bob as the second engineer at Palantir, where he built and shipped the first products for the intelligence community and went on to lead engineering and help run the company.  Bob joined OpenAI part-time in 2016 and full-time in 2017, where he's been at the forefront of AI innovation.  In this episode, we discuss the early days of Palantir, how he knew AI's moment had arrived, and the most important research projects underway at OpenAI.  We also look ahead to what GPT-8 could unlock for humanity and what's needed for Large Language Models to move beyond mimicking humans to higher forms of intelligence and creativity.

brad gerstner
EP. 067

Nearly half of all Americans don't have investment accounts.  Financial literacy is the exception, not the norm, in most households.  Is it no wonder that so many young Americans distrust capitalism and misunderstand wealth creation?

Brad Gerstner is stepping up with a solution: a legislative program called Invest America that would create an investment account seeded with $1,000 from the Treasury Department for each of the 3.7 million children born every year in the U.S.  His aim is to educate the next generation on the merits of free markets and give every child a financial upside in American innovation.  With nominal recurring contributions starting at birth, a child turning 30 today would have over $250,000 in an Invest America account!

Brad is the Founder and CEO of Altimeter Capital, a firm he grew from less than $3 million in 2008 to billions of dollars in assets under management today.  A leading voice in Silicon Valley, Brad is a four-time founder with a knack for identifying major trends early, from Booking.com and Zillow to Uber and Bytedance to Snowflake and Mongo.  In this episode, he provides his macro outlook on the economy and explains why he believes AI is the next big supercycle but also why being early in a cycle isn't always the right play.

jacob miller
EP. 068

Will high interest rates and inflation be the norm for the foreseeable future? Are we living through a 1970s redux? How should investors navigate these uncertain times?

We discuss the volatile financial markets with Jacob Miller, co-founder of Opto Investments [an 8VC Build company] and head of its Advisory Practice.  Jacob studied economics and classics at the University of Chicago and cut his teeth at Bridgewater Capital, the world's largest hedge fund. In this episode, he draws on historical parallels to explain why the U.S. is heading into a long-term debt cycle similar to the late 1970s, and why a prolonged period of readjustment is more likely than a major crash.

He discusses the challenges investors face in the coming years, and why it's vital to find differentiated investments that can generate alpha. One area of opportunity is the private markets, but they have been historically difficult to access and navigate.  Jacob explains how Opto is equipping wealth managers with a new tech-enabled platform to understand and invest in these markets with confidence.

boyan slat
EP. 069

We've all seen the images — garbage patches twice the size of Texas accumulating in the Pacific Ocean. Yet nothing was being done, despite billions of dollars a year spent on environmental lawyers and bureaucrats. That is until a young engineer from Holland set out to do what bureaucrats couldn't — clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and stem the flow of plastic into the oceans.

Boyan Slat is the Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, the most effective organization ever built to rid the oceans of pollution. They're already cleaning up an average of 750kg of plastic each hour this year, and Boyan estimates their latest technology will eliminate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within 10 years! Moreover, Boyan and his team have also identified the top polluting rivers in the world and are building interceptors to prevent pollution from reaching the seas in the first place — all for a tiny fraction of other environmental spend.

But it hasn't been easy. Boyan explains how they overcame numerous engineering challenges, as well as intense criticism and cynicism from media and activists hoping they would fail. Boyan's inspiring journey reflects the power of an innovation mindset, and the ability of a small group of highly-motivated builders to achieve what an entire class of experts and bureaucrats couldn't. I'm a supporter of Boyan's work and hope you'll consider supporting him as well.

andrew mcafee
EP. 070

In the last generation, the U.S. technology sector created many of the most valuable companies in the world. Has Silicon Valley figured out a better way to build and scale a business? How did this cohort of outsiders — “geeks” — create cultures that continually redefine the limits of science and technology? And how can others, especially our government, learn from the very best organizations?

These are the questions at the heart of best-selling author Andrew McAfee's new book "The Geek Way: The Radical Mindset that Drives Extraordinary Results." A principal research scientist at MIT, Andrew explores the geek mindset — an obsessive maverick, as he defines it — and explains how geeks developed a new management philosophy that permeates Amazon, Apple, SpaceX, Palantir, and other pioneering organizations. He breaks it down into four norms: speed, science, ownership, and openness, and details the principles behind each.

He also explains why even the most successful companies are vulnerable to bureaucracy and sclerosis, and that human nature and status-seeking have something to do with it. Instead of fighting it, he describes how geeks have figured out a better way to align these innate tendencies with the mission of the company. I've bought copies of this book for all our CEOs, and hope you'll check it out too!

tade oyerinde
EP. 071

Ten million students attend community college annually, but only 30% ever graduate!  It's a massive economic loss to students and society.  What if a new model could drastically increase completion rates while maintaining a high-quality education, and leave students with zero debt? That's what Tade Oyerinde is aiming to build with Campus, a new way to conduct community college. 

His approach is two-pronged: improve quality and increase completion rates. First, Campus is pioneering a gig economy for top adjunct professors. Recognizing that adjuncts at elite universities are often underpaid and drowning in debt, Campus offers them the opportunity to teach part-time online — a win for adjuncts and students alike. Next, they surround students with support designed to reduce attrition: tuition includes a laptop, wifi, and a personal coach, all at a cost less than the annual Pell Grant (currently $7,495). Campus also recently acquired a brick-and-mortar school in Sacramento that offers hands-on skills training for in-demand career tracks, such as medical coding and cosmetology. 

Instead of taking on large sums of debt to attend mediocre private schools, Tade believes community college is the smarter path for most students, and hopes Campus will be at the forefront of a new era in higher education. But it won't be easy. Learn about his journey to reinvent one of America's most entrenched and misaligned sectors. 

rep. mike gallagher
EP. 072

Secret police groups, illegal bio labs, and large-scale influence operations — China is engaged in these activities inside the United States today. How should we respond? Is economic divorce the answer? And are we destined for conflict, or is there a path toward peace and mutual prosperity?

We discuss these pressing issues with Rep. Mike Gallagher, Congressman for Wisconsin's 8th District and Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). A distinguished warrior-scholar, Chairman Gallagher served in the Marines and deployed to Iraq, earned two Master's degrees and a Ph.D., and now leads one of the most consequential committees in Congress.

In this episode, he details some of the CCP's most nefarious activities within the U.S., and our government’s inadequate responses. We discuss the right strategy for addressing the CCP, including when and where economic decoupling makes sense. Chairman Gallagher also provides an update on new legislative efforts he believes will finally succeed at forcing a sale of TikTok, and he explains why China's economic woes and looming demographic crisis might make Xi Jinping more likely to take aggressive action. If you want to understand the extent of the CCP's malign actions and influence campaigns, follow the bipartisan work of Chairman Gallagher's committee.

candid health
EP. 073

The U.S. spends $280 billion annually on healthcare billing!  It's an irrationally complex and outdated system in which most claims are adjudicated manually, resulting in massive inefficiencies and bogus claim rejections. Why is it so broken? How do we fix it? And what would healthcare look like if it functioned properly?

That's what I discuss with Nick Perry and Doug Proctor, co-founder & CEO and COO of Candid Health, respectively. Two talented Palantir alumni, Nick and Doug represent a trend I'm watching closely: leading technologists with a top culture, the right software, and new breakthroughs in machine learning taking on the most broken areas of our economy.

In this episode, they explain the origins of Candid and how they first learned the billing process by hand in order to build the information architecture necessary to process myriad types of claims with extremely low denial rates.  At scale, Nick & Doug envision Candid as Stripe or Shopify for healthcare: the infrastructure layer that automates revenue cycle management and dramatically lowers the barrier to entry for new healthcare startups. And if we ever want the U.S. to move from its broken fee-for-service model to value-based care, we'll need platforms like Candid to enable that shift — another reason I'm bullish on Candid and the leaders behind it.

university of austin
EP. 074

In the wake of October 7, the decadence and rot of our legacy universities have been on full display. We've seen feckless leadership from college presidents, moral cowardice from faculty, and, as a result, shocking displays of anti-Semitism unchallenged on campus. It's time to build anew.

That's why we founded the University of Austin — America's first new top university in almost a century. And we are now accepting students for our inaugural class in the fall of 2024!  In this episode, three of UATX's founders — myself, UATX President Pano Kanelos, and world-renowned historian Niall Ferguson — discuss this critical moment for UATX, and the nation. We dive into what sets UATX apart: a constitution that safeguards freedom of inquiry and expression; a curriculum that combines the intellectual foundations of Western Civilization with real-world applications; and a faculty and support network made up of the world's leading scholars, writers, entrepreneurs, and builders.

As Niall and Pano explain, we're training the Navy SEALs of the mind — the next generation of leaders who can reason, debate, build, and restore our republic to greatness. Right now, we're looking for our first 100 students. If you're a maverick and have what it takes to help us forge a new path in higher education, we encourage you to apply.

scott cook
EP. 075

Who should be in charge of the culture of a company? How do you maintain a spirit of innovation as an organization scales?  How can executives be transparent about their shortcomings while also improving as leaders?

Scott Cook, the founder and former CEO of Intuit, has navigated these challenges himself while mentoring hundreds of other leaders on how to do the same. Scott is a legend of Silicon Valley. In 1983, he founded Intuit and pioneered consumer finance software, first with Quicken and later TurboTax, Quickbooks, and other products that quickly became household names.

During the 8VC Leadership Summit, I sat down with Scott to discuss some of his most important lessons learned and advice to CEOs and founders. He begins with the responsibility of the CEO to set the company culture, and why leadership doesn't get to play by a different set of rules than its employees. He also explains how success can make organizations slow and stupid, and how to fight the forces of inertia. One way is by orienting decision-making around experimentation, not opinion or status, and he illustrates how Intuit learned to adopt this mindset. Finally, he advises CEOs to advertise their failures, not bury them, and seek out accountability and outside scrutiny from coaches and advisors.

2022

BO MARR
EP. 018

Over the past few decades, the U.S. military’s long-held advantages have waned. Today, we are reliant on outdated technologies and in jeopardy of falling behind China. Bo Marr, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Epirus, is bucking the trend. Marr and his team invented the world’s most powerful phased array, Leonidas, that can disable drones and other electronic systems from great distances. This modern force field fills a vital technological gap for the U.S. military as it prepares for 21st-century warfare and a new era of asymmetric threats. [Joe co-founded Epirus in 2018 with the Build Program of 8VC, the venture capital firm he founded and manages.]

Maleka Momand
EP. 019

Maleka Momand is the co-founder and CEO of Esper, a technology platform that transforms how governments oversee the regulatory process.  In recent decades, the size of the administrative state has exploded. Yet, many regulators still operate via Word, Excel, and, in some cases, pen and paper!  This has led to a lack of transparency and accountability, not to mention a morass of outdated, disjointed regulations.  By applying data analytics and artificial intelligence to augment regulators and regulatory processes, Esper is improving how governments function and interact with the business community. [Joe and his wife Tayler are proud co-founders of Esper.]

Ro khanna
EP. 022

Congressman Ro Khanna is the Democratic Congressman from California’s 17th District, which covers large swaths of Silicon Valley.  A self-described "progressive capitalist," Khanna bucks the current political norms and works to advance meaningful bipartisan legislation.  In this episode, we debate income inequality, wealth taxes, and other hot-button issues, but also find common ground on reasonable regulations for Big Tech, introducing more innovation into healthcare, and promoting nuclear energy.  His forthcoming book is titled “Dignity in a Digital Age” and focuses on closing the digital divide in rural America.

Chris sprowls
EP. 023

Chris Sprowls is the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.  Under his leadership, Florida has set itself apart as one of the most innovative state legislatures in the country, slashing regulations that prop up entrenched interests and injecting true competition into the marketplace.  We discuss his strategy for successfully combatting cronyism in healthcare, pioneering the biggest school choice expansion in the country, and other courageous reforms  -- many of which passed on a bipartisan basis.  Speaker Sprowls's success should embolden other like-minded reformers and leaders across our country.

Charles Koch
EP. 024

Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, is one of the great business minds of our time.  He grew a small engineering firm from $21 million in revenue to over 10,000 times the revenue.  Yet in both his business and philanthropic work, he is first and foremost a philosopher.  Koch explains how thinkers such as Abraham Maslow and Joseph Schumpeter shaped his outlook on the conditions for human flourishing, and why it's important to enable every employee to self-actualize.  Rejecting centralized top-down systems, Koch developed Market-Based Management -- a philosophy that enables his companies to constantly reinvent themselves through virtuous cycles of mutual benefit that provide value to both employees and customers.

Amb. Kelly Craft
EP. 025

Ambassador Kelly Craft is a businesswoman, philanthropist, and former diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2019 to 2021 and U.S. ambassador to Canada from 2017 to 2019.  She played an integral role in shaping major foreign policy decisions and achievements, such as the landmark Abraham Accords and the USMCA trade agreement.  In this episode, she discusses some of the most pressing U.S. challenges abroad, including speaking up for human rights during the Beijing Olympics, developing a comprehensive strategy for China, responding to Russian military threats against Ukraine, and galvanizing U.S. allies to defend our shared values.

pano kanelos
EP. 026

Pano Kanelos is the President of the University of Austin (UATX), the most ambitious new university venture in America in decades. Recognizing the plight of America's higher education system, Pano stepped down as the President of St. John's College to build a new institution rooted in the pursuit of truth, open inquiry, and educating the next generation of American leaders. In this episode, Joe and Pano discuss the failures of modern academia and why it's time to take on the bold task of building a new world-class university. [Joe is a co-founder of UATX and Chairman of the Board of Trustees.]

tyler cowen
EP. 027

Tyler Cowen is a professor, best-selling author, blogger, podcaster, and one of the most influential economists of this generation.  In the early days of the pandemic, Cowen launched the Fast Grants program, which funded COVID-related science in less than 48 hours -- a remarkable feat in the medical sector.  He discusses his efforts to accelerate innovation, including his work to transform how investors identify and back the next generation of brilliant entrepreneurs. An all-around polymath, Cowen also reveals the technologies and breakthroughs that excite him most for the decades ahead.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
EP. 029

Thomas Chatterton Williams is a writer, cultural critic, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of two critically-acclaimed books on race in America. In this episode, he discusses the dangers of Critical Race Theory and how to move beyond race-first, collectivist mindsets.  He also discusses his forthcoming book, "Nothing Was the Same," which traces the recent rise of illiberalism and polarization in the U.S.  Even though we may find certain ideas or theories (like CRT) noxious, Williams argues for more engagement and debate, not banning or censoring materials, as the best path toward progress.

Jared Meyer
EP. 030

Jared Meyer is the Executive Director of Cicero Action. In this episode, Jared discusses how special interests stifle competition and why Cicero Action is using the special interests' playbook against them to promote innovative, bottom-up reforms.  He explains the government affairs strategy that creates real policy changes in states across the country, from expanding telehealth and improving parole and probation reforms, to realigning higher education incentives and fixing homelessness.  This conversation shows how transparency, accountability, and competition are possible when political leaders have the tools—and the courage—to stand up to cronyism and entrenched interests. [Joe is the founder and Chairman of Cicero's 501c3 and 501c4 organizations.]

Jeannette zu Fürstenberg
EP. 031

Dr. Jeannette zu Fürstenberg is Co-Founder and General Partner of “La Famiglia”, a Berlin-based Venture Capital fund, and holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Entrepreneurship from the Free University of Berlin.  She’s also a princess of one of Europe’s oldest royal families by marriage, as well as a thoughtful leader in the innovation and business world. In this episode, she traces the birth of entrepreneurship from the Renaissance and explains how breaking down the silos of guilds led to a creative explosion -- and how we can apply those lessons today. Dr. Fürstenberg specializes in connecting old and new world industries and discusses how to transform the 21st century by moving from incremental to disruptive innovation.

Judge Glock
EP. 032

Judge Glock is the Director of Research and Policy at the Cicero Institute and an expert on housing and homelessness in the U.S.  In this episode, Glock dissects the root causes of America's affordable housing shortage and explains how the right incentives can jumpstart development and bring down home costs for working-class families.  He also exposes how policies like “Housing First” encourage the homeless to live and die on the streets while waiting for free and permanent housing, which won’t solve the root of their problems: addiction and mental illness. Instead, Glock explains how cities like San Diego combine bridge shelters with treatment and accountability to reduce homelessness -- a recipe that other state leaders can use to save lives and bring healing to hundreds of thousands of people. [Joe is the founder and Chairman of Cicero's 501c3 and 501c4 organizations.]

Mark Esper
EP. 033

Dr. Mark Esper served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2019 to 2020 and Secretary of the Army from 2017 to 2019. He's currently the Distinguished Chair of the Modern War Institute at West Point and sits on the Board of Directors of Epirus [a defense startup co-founded by Joe]. His forthcoming memoir is titled "A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times.” In this episode, he dissects Russia's military weaknesses and explains how its invasion of Ukraine may ultimately strengthen NATO and change China's calculations with regard to Taiwan. He and Joe also discuss the risk-averse, top-down management culture at the Pentagon and what needs to change to bring new, better technologies to the Department of Defense.

Jacob DeWitte
EP. 034

Jacob DeWitte is the Co-Founder and CEO of Oklo, a nuclear energy startup building small advanced reactors that can reuse spent fuel from conventional reactors. In this episode, DeWitte explains how the regulatory state has stymied new reactor designs for decades, and how he's working to break through and bring game-changing nuclear power technology to market. Shortly after the initial conversation was filmed, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) denied Oklo's application for its new small reactor design -- evidence of the persistent regulatory challenges. Stay tuned to the end of the episode where Jake rejoins the show to explain how Oklo plans to address the NRC's findings and continue the process toward final approval. [Joe's venture capital firm 8VC is an investor in Oklo.]

Francisco Gimenez
EP. 035

Francisco Gimenez is Partner at 8VC and focuses on Bio-IT investments. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford in Biomedical Informatics and B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from UC Berkeley. In this episode, Francisco explains how breakthroughs in AI, gene editing, and cell therapies converged to jumpstart a new age in biology. He predicts that biomanufacturing platforms, armed with mountains of data and new tools, will bring down the costs of creating and commercializing drugs so smaller companies can treat rarer diseases and deliver more personalized cures. By decentralizing the pharma industry, Francisco is optimistic that the future of medicine will evolve from reactive care to preventative medicine that will help people fully self-actualize and lead their best, healthiest lives. [Joe is a founding partner of 8VC, his venture capital firm.]

Gene Berdichevsky
EP. 036

Gene Berdichevsky is the co-founder and CEO of Sila, a next-gen battery technology company. Previously, he was the seventh employee at Tesla, where he served as Principal Engineer on the Roadster battery and led the development of the world’s first mass-produced lithium-ion car battery. In this episode, he explains how Sila's new battery chemistry innovations can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and help electrify the future.  He discusses the challenges in mining rare metals, battery recycling, and what's needed to sustainably build batteries at scale. By mid-century, Berdichevsky is optimistic that EVs will become ubiquitous, and we'll be able to fully integrate renewables into the electric grid. [Joe's venture capital firm 8VC is an investor in Sila.]

Zach Latta
EP. 037

Zach Latta is the Founder of Hack Club, a non-profit network of high school coding clubs with over 15,000 members worldwide.  At age 15, Zach helped design one of the most popular apps in the world.  At 16, he dropped out of high school to become a programmer before founding Hack Club.  He then received a Thiel Fellowship and decided to forgo college to build Hack Club full-time.  In this episode, he talks about rethinking education and challenges teenagers to look beyond conventional, safe paths and take full advantage of the Internet Age. He paints an inspiring picture of what our world would look like with more coders and builders -- and explains how Hack Club provides teens with the skills to improve society and realize their full potential. [Joe is a proud early supporter of Hack Club.]

TONY FADELL
EP. 038

Tony Fadell is one of the great engineers, designers, and business leaders of our time, responsible for creating the iPod, iPhone, and Nest Thermostat.  He runs the investment firm Future Shape and recently released his memoir titled “Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making."  In this episode, he discusses the lessons he learned at General Magic (which was building the iPhone 15 years too early) and Philips Electronics that paved the way for building some of the world's most popular devices at Apple. He explains why self-imposed constraints are essential to creating exceptional products and reveals where engineers and designers often go wrong. His passion for building is inspiring and informative for both business and everyday life.

Sebastian Caliri
EP. 039

Sebastian Caliri is Partner at 8VC with a focus on healthcare investing. Previously, Sebastian spent four years at Palantir where he was responsible for growing its commercial healthcare business.  In this episode, Sebastian diagnoses the core problems in U.S. healthcare and explains why traditional fee-for-service care misaligns incentives, resulting in rising costs and inferior health outcomes.  He makes the case for new models like value-based care and also highlights the potential of psychedelic medicine and other exciting innovation. Sebastian holds a BS and MS in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry from Yale University and spent a year in Stanford's MD program before pursuing a career in tech and investing.  He argues that the conventional path in medicine is broken and often produces a risk-averse, complacent culture; he challenges the next generation of doctors and health care professionals to think boldly and take on the status quo.

2021

RICK KLAUSNER
EP. 001

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. [Joe has invested with Dr. Klausner in multiple companies, most recently in Dr. Klausner's latest venture, Altos Labs.]

SUJAY JASWA
EP. 007

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.

Rt. Hon. STEPHEN HARPER
EP. 008

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. [PM Harper has been a Senior Advisor to Joe's venture capital firm 8VC for several years.]

BALAJI SRINIVASAN
EP. 010

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
EP. 011

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.

SPECIAL EPISODE
EP. 013

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
EP. 014

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. [Joe is the Chairman of the Board of ONEHOPE.]

JOHN MACKEY
EP. 015

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
ep. 016

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. [Joe's venture capital firm is an investor in Hexagon Bio.]