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AI Hot Takes: Deepfakes, The Big Stakes, and What to Make

August 9, 2023
Written By
August 9, 2023
Season 4 Episode 8
28:23
Written By

Is AI our salvation or is it going to kill us all? Tom and Vivek roam widely on others’ takes about artificial intelligence, adding their insight and experience to the mix. Along the way they consider Descartes, Ray Kurzweil, Salt Bae, Marc Andreessen among others. If you are looking for a down to earth conversation that tempers the extremes at either end of the debate, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

Hosts Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya delve into the multifaceted world of generative AI, examining its effects on truth, deepfakes, business integration, and the workforce. They explore provocative questions such as the potential for AI to befriend or betray humanity, touching on concepts like the singularity and reflecting on notable thinkers' warnings. The conversation also navigates the portrayal of AI in popular culture, challenging the often dystopian images and asking why AI can't be seen as a cooperative force. Tune in for a balanced discussion that embraces both the exciting possibilities and pressing concerns of artificial intelligence.

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Closed Session, How to Get Paid in Silicon Valley, with your host, Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez:

Welcome everybody to The Closed Session. My name is Tom Chavez.

Vivek Vaidya:

And I'm Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez:

What do you want to do this time?

Vivek Vaidya:

I think let's talk about generative AI, again.

Tom Chavez:

Again. But this is going to be like, this is, we get to swing at [inaudible 00:01:11], chop it up a little bit.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. No guests on this one. It's just the two of us. Yeah. Roaming widely. Let's roam widely, Tom.

Tom Chavez:

We've earned it.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

We've earned it. Daddy finally gets the big piece of chicken. Let's go.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Where do you want to start?

Vivek Vaidya:

What do you think about all this talk about AI will make truth irrelevant? Are you even looking at me right now, Tom? Do you know that? You don't.

Tom Chavez:

Well see, this is the problem with a guy like me. Okay, let's do this. Because once upon a time I couldn't decide if I was going to study computer science or analytic philosophy, and I decided, damn it, we're just going to smudge them together. And so I studied computer science and philosophy, which at the time was considered crazy. Why would anybody want to do that?

By the way, if there are any computer science and philosophy college people listening to this, good for you. It's a very ripe time. Here you are, asking epistemological questions about what is truth?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. What is truth?

Tom Chavez:

And it's computer science, AI problem.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Okay.

Vivek Vaidya:

There we go.

Tom Chavez:

Coolness. Well look, and so I won't go into a long acts of Jesus here, I promise. But it turns out Descartes was wrong, and this rationalist view we have of a truth out there, this positivist view of something that's false or true has been mostly debunked. The American pragmatists, God bless them, Emerson, Paris, all of these, and physicists, top ranked physicists now, will show up and tell you, "Is the cat alive? Is the cat dead? Is it in the box? Is it not in the box?" So these prior notions we had about live cats or dead cats in boxes at the realm of physics, and in other places, they just don't hold water. And I know that's very unsettling for people, 'cause we all want there to be truth.

So in the context of AI and deepfakes and so on, there are things that are truth here and more relevant and more practical and more useful and more believable than other things. You're a born again [inaudible 00:03:19] too.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. No. But I think it's good to go back and look at similar things, not identical, but similar things in the past. People talk about deepfakes a lot. And in our last podcast, I was talking to Rama, and he gave the perfect example of the original deepfake is a counterfeit note. A counterfeit dollar bill is the original deepfake.

Tom Chavez:

Right.

Vivek Vaidya:

And we figured out how to get around that.

Tom Chavez:

Absolutely. So I was taking the grandiose view of truth, but just wanted to establish at a first principles level, go easy. There are things that are more believable, more true. Is this note, is this dollar bill I'm looking at, now it turns out that we've established, and this is exactly the point that you're driving to. There's a standard and a threshold by which we determine this bill is true or not. Right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

And in the context of computer science and AI, good engineers figure out thresholds and protocols.

Vivek Vaidya:

Right.

And I think ... Because the thing with deepfakes, and generative AI in particular, is that the spectrum is so broad. You might want to argue that the counterfeit note problem is a very localized one. Right?

Tom Chavez:

Yeah.

Vivek Vaidya:

But with generative AI, the spectrum is so broad. There's text, there's image, there's video, there's audio, there's a whole bunch of things. But I think that we will figure out a solution.

Tom Chavez:

By the way, here's another good example of things that seemed non-figureoutable at the beginning, and then we figured them out. Know your customer in financial markets. Right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, exactly.

Tom Chavez:

Before 9/11, okay, that's impossible. Is this person behind the screen a terrorist or not a terrorist? How do I really know? It seemed impossible at the time.

And I guess the other relevant point to make here is that, do you completely banish counterfeits? Do you completely banish spurious bank account? Of course not, right?

Vivek Vaidya:

You can't.

Tom Chavez:

You can't. But you can, as we're saying, come up with really effective engineering protocols for reducing the frequency and impact when it happens. So you and I sound like shiny optimists on that one.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, no. I think that in the long arc, or in the grand scheme of things, there will be good solutions to this. And as with any technology, it will be misused. We just have to be open-eyed about that.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Unintended consequences abound.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Always.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

How about an easy one now? Because a lot of businesses are saying, "Well, should I add AI to my product, website, company, blah-biddy, blah-biddy." Everybody wants to sprinkle some AI on. It reminds me of Salt Bae. Wants to sprinkle some AI on it, right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

What do you think of that?

Vivek Vaidya:

Well first, I don't think it makes sense unilaterally. You say, oh, let me just sprinkle some AI on it and it'll just become shiny.

Tom Chavez:

But if you sprinkle some AI on it, you can add 200 million dollars to your evaluation right there.

Vivek Vaidya:

True. True.

Tom Chavez:

Because all investors want to hear-

Vivek Vaidya:

So if that's your goal, sure. Do that.

Tom Chavez:

By the way. Exactly. If there are entrepreneurs cobbling together pitches listening to this, sprinkle some AI on it. You're going to add a lot of money to your valuation right there.

Vivek Vaidya:

But every now and then you might come across an astute investor who might just ask you.

Tom Chavez:

That's where they screw you.

Vivek Vaidya:

Right?

Tom Chavez:

Wait, back it up. You said-

Vivek Vaidya:

An astute investors.

Tom Chavez:

An astute-

Vivek Vaidya:

There are ... Come on.

Tom Chavez:

No. You're right. You're right. I'm just being a little bit of an asshole. But they're out there.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, yeah. But actually, your customers might ask you too.

Tom Chavez:

Oh, see that's-

Vivek Vaidya:

Then that's when it gets really tough.

Tom Chavez:

Well, yes. But let's note, I mean ... Boy, okay, quick sidebar. You and I were at a privacy conference with many esteemed legal minds espousing and carrying on about AI. And then soon after that, I remember I was at a marketing conference. And the only thing I think that's worse about hearing CMOs speak so authoritatively about AI, is hearing lawyers talk authoritatively about AI.

I'm sorry I had to get that out there. But everyone's talking a big game.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

It's a little depleting.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. I think, and I will come back to one thing I say a lot: what's the problem you're trying to solve? AI is a means to an end.

Tom Chavez:

There you go, again.

Vivek Vaidya:

You have to focus on the problem you're trying to solve. So if AI helps you solve that problem, then by all means put it in.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah.

Vivek Vaidya:

But I think in the wake of ChatGPT, everybody is kind of moving towards, oh, let me just call the API and get an answer, and then I'll build a feature. That's stuff is going to be obsolete.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

Everybody's going to be able to do that. Right? ChatGPT ... OpenAI.

Tom Chavez:

Can we also just say on a sidebar, the people who are doing that naively should put the numbers to what it's going to cost them.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so I think that the blindly going into just saying, "Oh, yeah, this works with AI." Is maybe gets you a little more of what you want in the short short term, but when things start to stabilize, when the hype cycle starts to subsidize or subside, people will get found out.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah.

Okay, so a related topic is: AI is going to replace us all. Or is it going to replace what kinds of jobs? We'll get to the question of whether it's going to kill us all a little bit later, but right now, here on earth, go easy. Go easy.

Vivek Vaidya:

We're still alive. We're still alive, baby.

Tom Chavez:

We're still alive.

So we'll get to the doomsday stuff in a minute. But in the shorter term, is AI going to replace all of our jobs? And let's start with something about which you know a lot which is coding.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Have you used Copilot?

Vivek Vaidya:

I have a little bit, and it's good. It's good. Actually, again, I'm going to copy Rama's lines here. He had a very interesting way of looking at this, and I've been copying it. So his point was that with generative AI, and in particular tools like ChatGPT and Copilot, etcetera, the unit cost of producing output has gone down.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

So you have two choices, now. You can either keep your output constant, or you might want to increase your output.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

So if you want to increase your output, you keep the same number of people and you give them these tools, Copilot, the ChatGPT, etcetera, and your total output goes up. Or you can choose to keep your output constant, the same as it was before, and reduce the workforce. Give them tools like ChatGPT and Copilot, and keep the same amount of output. What you decide to do depends on the function. So in the case of coding, you might want to keep the same number of engineers, and you might get better product, more product, faster, because you have these tools.

Tom Chavez:

Right.

Vivek Vaidya:

In the case of marketing, you might want to reduce your workforce because you can't deal with the extra content that your marketers will generate. You might not have a large enough sales team to process all the leads that might come in because you're not putting out more content, for example.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

So these are things you can think about and then make decisions based off of.

Tom Chavez:

Okay. That's good. That's good, old-fashioned marginal costs, labor economics at work right there.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Going in a little deeper now, it does depend on what kind of function we're talking about here, right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yes.

Tom Chavez:

So let's agree, there are jobs ... If you are doing a job that can be completely replaced by a robot, and an example that immediately comes to mind for me is marketing copy. You got to look at some of the stuff that ChatGPT is generating for marketing copywriters and compare it to what we have traditionally paid marketing copywriters a lot of money to do. Oh my gosh. If I were in that patch, I'd be a little worried.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. But let me actually pose a question to you as the CEO. So say you decide, okay, you know what, marketing people in marketing is obsolete. I'm just going to use output generated by, copy written by, ChatGPT. The first mistake that's made, the first hallucination, the first wrong fact, the first wrong tone. What are you going to do then?

Tom Chavez:

Right. Which gets to, so here's my little framework, my suggestive framework for this. You're either doing something that: you're working for a robot, you're working alongside a robot, or you're telling a robot what to do. Okay. So in your example, and exactly to the point I think you're getting at is, no, no, no. It's not going to be a hands-free do what the robot says.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yet.

Tom Chavez:

Yes. And yeah, put a thumbtack in that. Let's come back to it. But you're co-piloting with an AI that's enriching, accelerating, extending what you're able to do.

Vivek Vaidya:

Correct.

Tom Chavez:

And that's a very, it's an optimistic, but it's also a very practical vision of where we're headed.

Vivek Vaidya:

Practical. Exactly.

Tom Chavez:

Boy, we were in unison on practical.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Say it one more time. 1, 2, 3. Practical.

Vivek Vaidya:

Practical.

Tom Chavez:

Bang. But the time before that wasn't ... It's 25 years.

Vivek Vaidya:

You know what we didn't do? We didn't say, jinx, you owe me a soda.

Tom Chavez:

That's right. My kids do that, but jinx, no backsies. Oh my god. Focus.

So now, if you're telling a robot what to do, if you're programming, designing these systems, I mean, that's an interesting place to be. And by the way, especially speaking of Copilot, and that's for people who have traditionally thought, look, I'd like to be in computer science, but I don't know if I'm a very good coder. We are approaching a time where organized thinking and superior systems design becomes a first class kind of capability as the prequel to the code. Yes, you've got to do your hundred pushups and do some coding at some point, but we are approaching a time wherein the creation of these software systems becomes a lot more conversational.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yes. I think-

Tom Chavez:

You can see that coming.

Vivek Vaidya:

I agree with you. And I think that there will be ... The curriculum in computer science departments I think will shift to allow for this conversational kind of modality. But also, you need to be able to understand the code that is generated by tools like Copilot.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

And you need you to be able to assemble it into systems in a way that you can understand if I assemble it like so, it's inefficient. If I assemble it like so this other way, it's more efficient. Right?

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

So that will become a skill.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

So, yeah.

Tom Chavez:

And to the point about working alongside an AI as a helpercollaborator. I think we touched on this in a prior podcast when we were in NewOrleans when we did the Boombox podcast. But let's mention it again here,because this one has really become clear to me. If you are making music, yourAI collaborator actually becomes a helpful partner.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, [inaudible] partner. Exactly.

Tom Chavez:

And it certainly doesn't supplant or replace you. Itprobably just can't. But it does make your work output, your art, cooler,faster, smarter, better. You can get to a place now where you can start to tellthe Boombot at boombox, "Hey, those were good ideas." Just speakingof, sprinkle some AI on it, sprinkle some strings on the chorus. Come back withsomething cool. Give me something I think I might like.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

And that's coming, right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. So I think AI will not ... I mean, we're talkingabout the creative process over here. And I don't think AI replaces creativity,I think AI makes creators more creative.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah. It's a helpful collaborator. It enriches andaccelerates your art.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

And that's, again, there we are being shiny andoptimistic, but it's all of the ground level facts here bear it out.

Do you want to go to something a little more crapospheric?

Vivek Vaidya:

Sure. What do you have in mind?

Tom Chavez:

Well, AI, is it going to kill us all? Is it going to leadto our doom?

Vivek Vaidya:

Is AI going to lead to our doom? I don't think AI willlead to our doom, because ultimately AI is programmed by human beings. But no,I don't think so. I don't think so. I think, again, I'm an optimist. In mylifetime, I don't see it.

Tom Chavez:

See, this is the place where I get a little moreconcerned. So let's back it up here. When I first heard about the singularity,Kurzweil singularity, I thought, come on. And the singularity is this ideawherein human beings and machines become one. When I first heard of thepremise, I thought, it's wrong on every level. And there's no way that that canhappen. And then I started reading his book. So I started as an absoluteskeptic. And then, I don't know, by page about 85, it was washing over me, thisrealization like, holy cow, he's onto something. And what was happening for me,and this is born out by our personal experiences, like the cost and power ofcompute. That ratio is not like a 10 x or a 100 x in the last 10, 15, 20 yearsthat we've been at it. It's a million X.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. It's gone down significantly.

Tom Chavez:

And so you start to lay it out and you start to becomemaybe, or I started to become a lot less certain about some of these underlyingpremises around what machines can actually start to do. And then I thought alittle bit harder, and we're going to talk about this in an upcoming podcast,this whole issue of alignment and the people who are so certain that, wait aminute, machines can't think. They're not human beings.

My worry, and by the way, Andreessen had a post on thisrecently about Baptists and bootleggers and trying to consider whether or notAI is going to be net positive. Will it kill us all? And I remember at onepoint in his post, he says, "AI doesn't want. It doesn't have goals, itdoesn't want to kill you, because it's not alive. AI is a machine. It's notgoing to come alive any more than your toaster will." See. Yeah.

Vivek Vaidya:

That's such a broad statement.

Tom Chavez:

It sure is. And it's a little too breezy.

Vivek Vaidya:

Breezy. Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Because now coming back to, all right, two things. First,million to one, million to one, power compute, cost trait improvements in thecore machinery. But the related thing I want to get out there is this kind ofshiny view we have of our own brains that, well, what does it mean for me tohave goals? What does it mean for me to want anything?

Vivek Vaidya:

Well, but just actually focus on just that piece. AI doesnot have goals. That's just wrong.

Tom Chavez:

It is factually incorrect.

Vivek Vaidya:

Because when I try my self-driving car has a goal to getme from place A to place B. When I tell self-driving car, "Take mehome." It knows where home is. Its goal is to take me home safely, ontime, avoiding accidents, avoiding traffic. What else? What is that other thannot having a goal?

Tom Chavez:

Trying to role-play Andreessen, because he's not here inthe studio with us, maybe at a future time he'll join us. If I'm trying to becharitable to his point of view, he would say, "Ah, but a human beingprogrammed the car with that goal in mind. The goal came from a humanbeing."

Vivek Vaidya:

Okay.

Tom Chavez:

To my earlier point, a human being told the robot what todo.

Vivek Vaidya:

Okay.

Tom Chavez:

But I think your point still stands because we have a lotof emergent behavior. And the entire premise of unsupervised reinforcementlearning is let the machines unfurl, let them go without training, withoutdirection, without examples. So look, I mean, the problem is this: don't giveyourself too much credit and presume that your precious human brain ... Thesethings about reasons and logic and so on is also emergent behavior.

By the way, if there's one big lesson learned in AI fromthe last 20 years, because I was one of those students 20 years ago who wasdoing all of the logic chopping truth-based AI systems that didn't work at all.What's worked is when AI was just allowed to become more associative, like ahuman brain.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

And so this thing that we feel, our experiences, ourreasons, and our logic and our objectives, it's associative. It's a bootstrap.

Vivek Vaidya:

I've actually sometimes wondered what happens if pick adate, say 31st of August 2025. On that day we erase people's memories with alot of things that we know about. Say things like religion.

Tom Chavez:

Right.

Vivek Vaidya:

And what happens then? What happens to new kids who areborn after that? How do they learn? What things do they learn about all this?And how does that change all of this? Our reactions, our motivations, ourbiases, whatever you want to call it. So I think that you're right, machinesare programmed by humans. That is correct. But at the rate at which thesethings are learning, especially with unsupervised reinforcement learning, theyare going to get better and better and better at learning. Now, whether thathappens 10 years from now or 100 years from now, I don't know, but the robotsare going to become a lot smarter than they are right now.

Tom Chavez:

Let me give a personal example. I was telling my kids whenthey were eight, nine, and 10 at our dinner table, and they'd look at me like Iwas from outer space. I'd say, "Listen, by the time I die, we're going tohave a really great shiny approximation of me on a screen talking to you, and it'sgoing to sound like me, and it's going to have my little turns of phrase. It'sgoing to sound like ... It won't be Dad, but it's going to sound like me."I said that, whatever, 10, 15 years ago.

Now I rescind all of that. And what I would tell them is,"Oh, by the way you die, there will be a perfect replica of you. And wecan just beam your bits into the universe and you will live forever" Irescind it because back to Kurzweil, my timing is totally off, like there'szero questions. By the way, go get your scans. Have you gotten your scans?Because I want the hologram of you that's speaking to all of us 10, 15 yearsfrom now to be awesome and as beautiful and sexy as you are today.

So you [inaudible] the point? This is happening now. Weare going to have an AI replica of you and I in the next 20, 25 years. It'sgoing to unsettle us. Oh, that's not really Vivek. Oh, that's not really Tom.It's on you to de-compile and explain exactly where and why it's not exactlyTom, and how it doesn't have Tom's quote "goals", or Tom's movements-

Vivek Vaidya:

Aspirations or wants or whatever. Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

This is so beyond Turing. This is post-Turing test. Imean, we are already passing the Turing test, obviously. But if you can't pointto a single place where what you perceive to be Tom's reasons or objectives orgoals isn't the same as what Tom, the biological Tom, was all about, well,that's on you.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

And so that, bringing it back, when we get too certainabout how AI doesn't have goals and objectives and aspirations, it's on you toexplain, "Well, what do you mean exactly?"

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. But then going back to your question.

Tom Chavez:

Okay.

Vivek Vaidya:

Do you think that when we get to this state, it is necessarilygoing to be doom and gloom? In other words, is AI going to kill us?

Tom Chavez:

So the guy who got all of this going, and I'm not surehe's given enough credit when we go into these AI gloom discussions, is thisguy Nick Bostrom, who wrote the book Superintelligence. He's at Oxford. It's ahard book. It's an analytic philosophy book. And a lot of people I find, say,"Oh yes, I've read Nick Bostrom." No, I think they've read the[inaudible], or maybe the ChatGPT summary, but not really.

So he's the one who came up with what he called thetreacherous turn. Such an exciting concept of the AI being trained and calmly,in an apparently docile way, doing what it's told. And then the treacherousturn happens, where the AI suddenly says, "I'm not going to work for thosehuman masters anymore. I'm taking over." Now that sounds grandiose, but hedid it in a very sort of analytically rigorous way. This is the paperclipexample everybody loves to give. Tell the AI to just make paperclips, and thenit consumes all of the planet's resources to make billions of paper clips thatwe don't need.

Vivek Vaidya:

Paperclips. Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

What he was pointing to is what everybody you know is nowconcerned with is the alignment problem and how do you control for the unintendedconsequences? So when you read this stuff, just like for me when I readKurzweil, I was rejecting it. If you do the 100 pushups and read it through,it's hard to swat it aside. I think that there are so many difficult issues andunintended consequences, again, in terms of how you specify the constraints andguardrails for these systems, the back doors and fail safes and kill switchesto make sure that the AI does exactly what you want it to do.

Vivek Vaidya:

But what I wondered, and I wondered this for a long time,and this is a thought experiment. Think about all of the novels, movies,etcetera, that have been written or made on this topic. Why is AI, or why islife on other ... The entities that live on other planets, extraterrestriallife, why is that always destructive?

Tom Chavez:

Right.

Vivek Vaidya:

Why does it always come to get us? It's in a way, we arereflecting ourselves and our thinking on that.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah.

Vivek Vaidya:

It is because we would do the same thing. We would go and conquerthem, so they are of course going to come and conquer us. Nope, I don't see, Idon't think anybody's written about, well, they just come and say, "Hi, myname is Gobbledygook."

Tom Chavez:

Let's be friends.

Vivek Vaidya:

And I'm here to be friends.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah. Well, listen, I'm sure it's a really apt point. Wealways ... And the reason we have those movies is because we're fascinated andterrified by it at the same time. But I think it's a really good point, likewhy couldn't AI overlords from other galaxies just come in and want to befriends?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Now-

Vivek Vaidya:

Or, why couldn't AI we create be friends with us?

Tom Chavez:

Right. But see, then I'm back to, but listen, you've builta lot of software. I've built a lot of software over time. All of theseunintended consequences, they're called bugs. Well shit, I wanted the system todo that thing, and then it comes off and does this other thing. The here andnow, very pedestrian version of it is a bug. But the large version of it inthis context, the bugs here are catastrophic.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

And I guess if you net it out, look, let's have a quietmoment as we round out this discussion. Think about all of your best intentionsand all of the software engineering you've done.

Vivek Vaidya:

Well forget software, just life even, right?

Tom Chavez:

Sure. Life, facts on the ground, get in the way of yourbest laid plans. Bugs happen. Right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

And when you net all of that out, I think my beef withAndreessen and others is, I'm sure I don't know ... These questions by the way,don't have answers.

Vivek Vaidya:

[inaudible].

Tom Chavez:

But breezy, move on, nothing to see here attitude, I thinkis intellectually irresponsible. If you've been close to the engineering ofthese systems for a while, you can't just swat that shit aside.

Vivek Vaidya:

Saying that it's like a toaster is being too-

Tom Chavez:

Come on now.

Vivek Vaidya:

And flippant. Yeah. Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Well we went from being shiny and optimistic to being alittle more sober there at the end. But I guess it's good to be sober.

Vivek Vaidya:

I'm still an optimist. I think it can be ... In the longrun, I think there'll be a lot of good that'll come out of it.

Tom Chavez:

And I am net optimistic with a nice heavy dose of what Ihope is open-eyed skepticism and concerned about the things we can still getright.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. Well, I think on that note, we'll call it. Thank youfor listening. Be sure to check out this episode and others at our website, andwe'll see you next time.

Tom Chavez:

Thanks, everybody.

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Introduction to The {Closed} Session

In the first episode of The Closed Session, meet Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya, serial entrepreneurs and podcast hosts.

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Starting From Scratch

In the second episode of The Closed Session, Tom and Vivek discuss the framework for starting your own company from scratch, and the three dimensions that should be taken into account.

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The Business Plan

You’ve decided to launch a business, but before you hurtle blindly into the breach, you need a bulletproof plan and a perfect pitch deck to persuade your co-founders, investors, partners, and employees to follow you into the unknown.

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Early-Stage Funding Do’s and Dont’s

In this episode of The Closed Session, Tom and Vivek talk about dilution, methods, mindset, benchmarks and best practices for raising investment capital for a new tech startup.

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Early Team Formation

Now that you've written the business plan and raised money, it's time to recruit your early team. In this episode, Tom and Vivek cover the do's and dont's of building a high-output team - who to hire, how to build chemistry and throughput, how to think about talent when your company is a toddler versus when it's an adolescent.

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Creating a Winning Culture: Must-Haves, Memes, and Tips

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Building a Kickass Product & Technology Engine

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Women in Tech

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How to Interview for a Startup

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Is Tech Stingy? The Case for Doing Well *and* Doing Good

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And, we’re live at super{set}!

Welcome to Season 2 of The Closed Session! In this first episode of 2020, Tom and Vivek talk about the five companies super{set} launched in 2019 and the lessons they’re learning as they go.

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To Sell or Not to Sell

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Quarantine Edition: Let the Rants Unfurl

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Equity and Inclusion

Tom and Vivek talk about inclusion and reflect on their personal experiences as brown guys in tech. Inclusion feels like a moral imperative, but does it really make for stronger, better companies? Are there unintended consequences of acting on good intentions to 'fix' an inclusion problem at a company? Why is tech so lacking in diversity, and what can we do to get it right?

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Big Tech and Regulation

The drums are beating for Big Tech, and for good reason. In this episode, Tom and Vivek break it all down and explain why you need to watch your wallet, or at least raise your antenna, whenever Google or Facebook say they're making a new product decision "to protect user privacy." Exactly how do their product decisions erode competitive markets and our own data dignity? Recorded at the tail end of 2020 before all of the post-election events unfolded, this episode explains exactly how the major platforms abuse data, why you should care, and what we can do to fix it.

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super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

We are living in a time of extraordinary concern about the negative consequences of online platforms and social media. We worry about the damage interactive technologies cause to society; about the impact to our mental health; and about the way that these platforms and their practices play to our most destructive impulses. Too often, the experiences we have online serve only to polarize, divide, and amplify the worst of human nature.

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Back to the Office, Kinda Sorta

With vaccines on the horizon, the idea of getting back to the workplace doesn't seem so far-fetched anymore. In this episode of The Closed Session, Tom and Vivek discuss what it's been like working from home, their likes, dislikes, and lessons learned. What pandemic habits are here to stay, and what pre-pandemic routines are likely to re-emerge? Between the 'back-to-workers' and the 'work-from-homers,' Tom and Vivek wonder whether a middle course is within reach.

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To SPAC or not to SPAC

Harpal Sandhu, a Silicon Valley veteran and friend of super{set}, joins Vivek and Tom and explains what the excitement about SPAC's is all about. How did we get from IPO's to SPAC's? What's a PIPE? And why does the $10 price show up? In this episode you'll understand why entrepreneurs might prefer a SPAC and how they navigate its possibilities and pitfalls with investors.

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From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

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Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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The Studio Model

What’s a startup studio? Is it just “venture capital” with another name?

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

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New Venture Ideation

Where do the ideas come from? How do we build companies from scratch at super{set}?

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Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

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Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

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The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

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VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

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People, First

What does it mean to be a super{set} co-founder and who do we look for? Why is the Head of Product the first co-founder we bring on board?

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The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

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Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

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Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

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Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

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The Product Heist

Tom and Vivek describe how building the best product is like planning the perfect heist: just like Danny Ocean, spend the time upfront to blueprint and stage, get into the casino with the insertion product, then drill into the safe and make your escape with the perfect product roadmap.

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Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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Early Stage Customers

Tom and Vivek discuss what the very first customers of a startup must look and act like, the staging and sequencing of setting up a sales operation with a feedback loop to product, and end with special guest Matt Kilmartin, CEO of Habu and former Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Krux, for his advice on effective entrepreneurial selling.

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Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

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How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

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Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

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The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

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The super{set} CEO

Tom and Vivek describe what the ideal CEO looks like in the early stage, why great product people aren’t necessarily going to make great CEOs, and what the division of labor looks like between the CEO and the rest of the early team. They then bring on special guest Dane E. Holmes from super{set} company Eskalera to hear about his decision to join a super{set} company and his lessons for early-stage leadership.

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How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

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When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

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Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

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Calling BULLSHIT

Tom and Vivek jump on the pod for a special bonus episode to call BULLSHIT on VCs, CEOs, the “categorical shit,” and more. So strap yourselves in because the takes are HOT.

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Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

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Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

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When and Why to Bring on VCs

Tom and Vivek describe the lessons learned from fundraising at Rapt in 1999 - the height of the first internet bubble - through their experience at Krux - amid the most recent tech bubble. After sharing war stories, they describe how super{set} melds funding with hands-on entrepreneurship to set the soil conditions for long-term success.

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Startup Boards 101

Tom and Vivek have come full circle: in this episode they’re talking about closed session board meetings in The {Closed} Session. They discuss their experience in board meetings - even some tense ones - as serial founders and how they approach board meetings today as both co-founders and seed investors of the companies coming out of the super{set} startup studio.

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Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

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Arthur Patterson on Venture Investing

Arthur Patterson, the founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call.

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Four Tips for a Distributed Workforce

This month we pass the mic to Sagar Gaur, Software Engineer at super{set} MLOps company MarkovML, who shares with us his tips for working within a global startup with teams in San Francisco and Bengaluru, India

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Arthur Patterson on Company Building

Arthur Patterson, legendary VC and founder of Accel Partners, sits down with Tom Chavez to discuss insights into company building. Tom and Vivek review the tape on the latest episode of The {Closed} Session.

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7 Ways to Turn an Internship Into a Job at a Startup

Chris Fellowes, super{set} interned turned full time employee at super{set} portfolio company Kapstan, gives his 7 recommendations for how to turn an internship into a job at a startup.

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Frida Polli, CEO and co-founder of pymetrics

Kicking off the fourth season of the {Closed} Session podcast with a great topic and guest: Frida Polli, CEO and co-founder of pymetrics, which was recently acquired by Harver, joins us to talk about the critical role that technology and specifically AI and neuroscience can play in eliminating bias in hiring and beyond.

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Diamonds in the Rough

Obsessive intensity. Pack animal nature. Homegrown hero vibes. Unyielding grit. A chip on the shoulder. That's who we look for to join exceptional teams.

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The RevOps Bowtie Data Problem

Go-to-market has entered a new operating environment. Enter: RevOps. We dig into the next solution space for super{set}, analyzing the paradigm shift in GTM and the data challenges a new class of company must solve.

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Alysa Hutnik, Chief Privacy and Data Security Architect @ Ketch

We are delighted to share our new episode of the {Closed} Session podcast with guest Alyssa Hutnik. Alyssa looms large in the privacy world, and she’s been thinking deeply about the intersections of data, technology and the law for nearly two decades. She’s also the Chief Privacy and Data Security Architect at Ketch, a super{set} company, as well as a lawyer. Hope you enjoy the episode!

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The Information: "TikTok Is Not the Enemy"

Tom writes a nuanced take on the TikTok controversy and outlines ethical data principles that will restore people’s sense of trust and offer them true control over how and when they grant permission for use of their data.

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boombox.io Raises $7M to Build Out Creator Platform for Music Makers

super{set} startup studio portfolio company’s seed funding round was led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Ulu Ventures Raise will enable boombox.io to accelerate product development on the way to becoming the winning creator platform for musicians globally

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Building the Creator Platform for Music Makers at Boombox.io

On the heels of boombox.io's $7M seed fundraise led by Forerunner, Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya sit down with boombox co-founders India Lossman and Max Mathieu for a special episode straight from super{summit} 2023 in New Orleans!

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From Chords, to Code, to Chords Again: The Story Behind Boombox.io

super{set} founding general partner Tom Chavez wasn’t always set on a life of engineering and entrepreneurship – music was his first love. For a time, he was determined to make a career out of it. With boombox.io, Tom has combined the best of both worlds into a product that inspires and delights both the engineer and the musician.

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Horizontal Scaling at super{summit}

Vivek gives us the rundown on what the hive is buzzing about after super{summit} 2023: how to 'horizontally scale' yourself.

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Generative AI + Creative Work with Big Technology's Alex Kantrowitz

Alex Kantrowitz, journalist and author of Big Technology, joins Tom and Vivek in the studio to discuss his road to journalism, ad tech, and the business and ethical considerations of generative AI.

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Jamming with Habu’s Matt Kilmartin on Partnership Strategy

Discover how Habu, a trailblazer in data clean room technology, utilizes strategic partnerships with giants like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS to expand its market reach and foster the potential of an emerging category. Learn from CEO Matt Kilmartin's insights on how collaboration is the secret sauce that brings innovation to life.

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MIT Professor Rama Ramakrishnan on How ChatGPT Works

MIT Professor Rama Ramakrishnan joins Vivek on the pod to delve into the evolution of Generative AI and ChatGPT, as well as his own journey as an entrepreneur turned business school professor.

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Pivots and Possibilities

Discover how lessons from law enforcement shape a thriving tech career. Ketch Sr. Business Development Representative Brenda Flores shares a bold career pivot in our latest "Pass the Mic" story.

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The Future of Work and Talent in Tech

Does it matter where you go to college? Should the SAT be abolished? Do you have to have a degree in computer science to work in tech? What are the differences between higher education in the US and in India? Why did Tom and Vivek ban Harvard and Stanford degrees from working at their first company?

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AI Alignment with Brian Christian of 'The Alignment Problem'

What does ‘AI alignment mean? Can philosophy help make AI less biased? How does reinforcement learning influence AI's unpredictability? How does AI's ‘frame problem’ affect its ability to understand objects? What role does human feedback play in machine learning and AI fine-tuning?

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Hold Fast: Game-Changing Wisdom from Seamus Blackley

Creator of the XBox and serial entrepreneur Seamus Blackley joined Tom Chavez on stage at the 2023 super{summit} in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a free-ranging conversation covering the intersection of creativity and technology, recovering back from setbacks to reach new heights, and a pragmatic reflection on the role of fear and regret in entrepreneurship.

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An Intro to Product-Led Growth from MarkovML

Want to grow your product organically? This blog post breaks down understanding costs, setting up starter plans, and pricing premium features using MarkovML as an example. Learn how to engage new users and encourage upgrades, enhancing user experience and fueling growth through actionable insights.

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Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

In an interview with Ketch co-founder Max Anderson, the focus is on data privacy laws and AI's role. Anderson discusses the global privacy landscape, highlighting Ketch's approach to helping businesses navigate regulations. The conversation also emphasizes data dignity and Ketch's unique role in the AI revolution.

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AI Hot Takes: Deepfakes, The Big Stakes, and What to Make

Is AI our salvation or is it going to kill us all? Tom and Vivek roam widely on others’ takes about artificial intelligence, adding their insight and experience to the mix. Along the way they consider Descartes, Ray Kurzweil, Salt Bae, Marc Andreessen among others. If you are looking for a down to earth conversation that tempers the extremes at either end of the debate, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

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Lessons from the Startup Circus

super{set} Technical Lead and resident front-end engineering expert Sagar Jhobalia recaps lessons from participating in multiple product and team build-outs in our startup studio. Based on a decade of experience, Sagar emphasizes the importance of assembling the right engineering team, setting expectations, and strategically planning MVPs for early wins in the fast-paced startup environment.

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Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

Are you a launcher, or a finisher? The balance of conviction, a guiding vision, and the right team to execute it all make the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. Tom Chavez delves into his journey as a first-time CEO and the invaluable guidance he received from a key mentor.

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Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

Vivek Vaidya recaps his conversation with AI researcher and author of "The Alignment Problem" Brian Christian at the 2023 super{summit}.

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High-Velocity Personal Growth

What's the price you put on personal growth? In his most recent note to founders, super{set} Founding General Partner Vivek Vaidya outlines 7 points of advice for startup interviews and negotiations. Vivek explains his compensation philosophy and the balance between cash and the investment in personal and career growth a startup can bring. Here’s the mindset you need to reach your zenith at a startup.

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Harvard Computer Scientist James Mickens on The Ethical Tech Project

Are we walking a tightrope with AI, jeopardizing humanity's ethical core? Is AI more than just algorithms, acting as a mirror to our moral values? And when machine learning grapples with ethical dilemmas, who ultimately bears the responsibility? Harvard's Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, James Mickens, joins Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya on "The {Closed} Session."

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

In a conversation with boombox's co-founder India Lossman, the discussion pivots to the art of fostering customer collaboration in music creation. Lossman unveils how artist-driven feedback shapes boombox's innovative platform, with a glimpse into AI's empowering potential. Understand the synergy between technology and user insights as they redefine the independent music landscape.

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ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

ActiveFence, the leading technology solution for Trust and Safety intelligence, management and content moderation, today announced its successful acquisition of Spectrum Labs, a pioneer in text-based Contextual AI Content Moderation.

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How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

Do you get an uneasy feeling anytime you get added to a customer call? Do you ever struggle to respond to a frustrated customer? Peter Wang, Product lead at Ketch, discusses how customer feedback can help drive product development, and how engineers can use customer insights to create better products. Learn best practices for collecting and interpreting customer feedback.

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Tech Crunch: Answering AI’s biggest questions requires an interdisciplinary approach

Tom Chavez, writing in TechCrunch, calls for new approaches to the problems of Ethical AI: "We have to build a more responsible future where companies are trusted stewards of people’s data and where AI-driven innovation is synonymous with good. In the past, legal teams carried the water on issues like privacy, but the brightest among them recognize they can’t solve problems of ethical data use in the age of AI by themselves."

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Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

Justin Davis and Josh Newman, Co-founders of Spectrum Labs (acquired) launch Nurdle to get AI into production faster, cheaper & easier.

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Spotlight Series: Gal Vered, Co-founder of Checksum.ai

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio every episode. Up first: Gal Vered is co-founder and Head of Product at Checksum (checksum.ai), end to end test automation leveraging AI to test every corner of your app.

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The Product Mindset for Engineers

Ever find yourself scratching your head about product management decisions? Join India Lossman, co-founder of boombox.io, as she unpacks the product mindset for engineers. Unravel the art of synergy between PMs and engineers and delve into strategies to enhance collaboration and craft products that users will adore.

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Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

Co-founder of Headlamp Health, Andrew Marshak, describes the frustratingly ambiguous state of mental health diagnoses - and the path forward for making mental health a precision science.

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Marketing in the Age of AI with Rex Briggs

How is AI steering the future of marketing strategy? With the convergence of AI and marketing tactics, Rex Briggs paints a compelling picture of what's possible: AI agents that revolutionize user interactions, and generative techniques that craft persuasive content. Drawing from his deep expertise in marketing measurement, Rex joins Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya to explore the cutting-edge of AI-driven marketing strategies. Listen for insights on harnessing AI's potential in modern marketing.

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Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing in the Huffington Post: "My Mom Sent Me And My 4 Siblings To Harvard. Here's The 1 Thing I Tell People About Success."

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Developer tools that are worth their while: KEDA and Boundary in action

Running cloud platforms efficiently while keeping them secure can be challenging. In this blog post, learn how two of super{set}’s portfolio companies, MarkovML and Kapstan, are leveraging tools like KEDA for event-driven scale and Boundary for access management to remove friction for developers. Get insights into real-world use cases about optimizing resource usage and security without compromising productivity.

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Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

Sandeep Bhandari, Former Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Risk Officer at buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Affirm, joins Vivek Vaidya, Founding General Partner of super{set}, in conversation.

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Spotlight Series: Andrew Marshak, Co-founder of Headlamp Health

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio every episode. Up now: Andrew Marshak is Co-founder and Head of Product at Headlamp Health (Headlamp.com), a healthtech company bringing greater precision to mental health care.

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Philosophy, Data, and AI Ethics with NYT Best-selling Author + Data Scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

From unpacking Google search patterns to understanding the philosophical underpinnings of big data, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz offers a unique lens. As the NYT Best-selling author of “Everybody Lies” and a renowned data scientist, he delves into the ways data mirrors societal nuances and the vast implications for tech and its intertwining with everyday life.

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Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

It's still early for the startup studio asset class - and we hear misconceptions about the studio model every day, ranging from the basic confusion of accelerators versus studios to downright incorrect assumptions on our deep commitment to the build-out of every company. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

read more

Ringside Tales from Serial Startup Champion Omar Tawakol

Like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the fiercest competitors can sometimes become friends. Omar Tawakol is a prime example. As the founder and CEO of BlueKai, he went head-to-head with Tom, Vivek, and the 'Krux mafia' for dominance in the Data Management Platform arena. A serial entrepreneur with roots in New York and Egypt, Omar eventually steered BlueKai to a successful acquisition by Oracle before creating Voicea, which Cisco acquired. Today, he's pioneering a new venture called Rembrand (rembrand.com), which innovates in product placement through generative fusion AI.

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Spotlight Series: Lindsey Meyl, Co-founder of RevAmp

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio in every episode. Today's guest is Lindsey Meyl, Co-founder at RevAmp (rev-amp.ai), a "Datadog for RevOps" platform that offers observability across the revenue engine, monitoring performance, flagging when something is amiss, and determining the root cause of how to fix it.

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Why Proprietary Data Is the Linchpin of AI Disruption

Read Vivek Vaidya's latest in CDO Magazine and learn why in this new AI landscape, those who harness the potential of proprietary data and foster a culture of collaboration will lead the way—those who don't risk obsolescence.

read more

MedCity News: It’s Time for the Tech Revolution to Come to Mental Health Diagnoses

Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak writes in the MedCity News that "We need to take inspiration from the progress in oncology over the last few decades and challenge ourselves to adapt its successful playbook to mental illness. It’s time for precision psychiatry."

read more

What Consumers Think of AI and Their Privacy

Everyone’s talking about AI - so The Ethical Tech Project decided to listen. Joining forces with programmatic privacy and data+AI governance platform Ketch, The Ethical Tech Project surveyed a representative sample of 2,500 U.S. consumers and asked them about AI, the companies leveraging AI, and their sentiment and expectations around AI and privacy. On the latest episode of The {Closed} Session, get an inside look at the survey results in a deep-dive conversation with the team at The Ethical Tech Project.

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Why the AI Revolution Will Be Data-Centric

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder of MarkovML, joins super{set} Chief Commercial Officer Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the role of data in gaining a competitive advantage in the AI revolution. Learn the difference between optimizing models and optimizing data in machine learning applications, and why effective collaboration will make or break the next-gen AI applications being created in businesses.

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Podcast: Tom Chavez on How AI Startups Can Show Us What’s Next in Marketing

Tom Chavez joins the "Decoding AI for Marketing" podcast published by MMA Global and hosted by well-respected international marketing & AI experts Greg Stuart (CEO, Author, Investor, Speaker) and Rex Briggs (Founder/CEO, Inventor, Author, Speaker).

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

read more

Jamming with Habu’s Matt Kilmartin on Partnership Strategy

Discover how Habu, a trailblazer in data clean room technology, utilizes strategic partnerships with giants like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS to expand its market reach and foster the potential of an emerging category. Learn from CEO Matt Kilmartin's insights on how collaboration is the secret sauce that brings innovation to life.

read more

Why CTOs Should Care About Gross Margins, Cost-to-Serve, and Product Management

Why should a tech exec care about profit and loss? Aren’t our jobs to make the product great, and someone else can figure out how to make the numbers add up? That was my attitude for a long time until I finally appreciated the significance of gross margins for SaaS businesses during the early part of my tenure as the CTO of Krux.

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Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

read more

Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

Are you a launcher, or a finisher? The balance of conviction, a guiding vision, and the right team to execute it all make the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. Tom Chavez delves into his journey as a first-time CEO and the invaluable guidance he received from a key mentor.

read more

Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

Vivek Vaidya recaps his conversation with AI researcher and author of "The Alignment Problem" Brian Christian at the 2023 super{summit}.

read more

MedCity News: It’s Time for the Tech Revolution to Come to Mental Health Diagnoses

Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak writes in the MedCity News that "We need to take inspiration from the progress in oncology over the last few decades and challenge ourselves to adapt its successful playbook to mental illness. It’s time for precision psychiatry."

read more

From Suitcases to Startups: Why Immigrants Innovate

How are immigrants like entrepreneurs? Peter Wang of Ketch arrived in the U.S. at age 7 with two suitcases and a box. Read his story in the latest "Pass The Mic."

read more

Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

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super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

We are living in a time of extraordinary concern about the negative consequences of online platforms and social media. We worry about the damage interactive technologies cause to society; about the impact to our mental health; and about the way that these platforms and their practices play to our most destructive impulses. Too often, the experiences we have online serve only to polarize, divide, and amplify the worst of human nature.

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The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

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From Chords, to Code, to Chords Again: The Story Behind Boombox.io

super{set} founding general partner Tom Chavez wasn’t always set on a life of engineering and entrepreneurship – music was his first love. For a time, he was determined to make a career out of it. With boombox.io, Tom has combined the best of both worlds into a product that inspires and delights both the engineer and the musician.

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How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

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Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

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An Intro to Product-Led Growth from MarkovML

Want to grow your product organically? This blog post breaks down understanding costs, setting up starter plans, and pricing premium features using MarkovML as an example. Learn how to engage new users and encourage upgrades, enhancing user experience and fueling growth through actionable insights.

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Diamonds in the Rough

Obsessive intensity. Pack animal nature. Homegrown hero vibes. Unyielding grit. A chip on the shoulder. That's who we look for to join exceptional teams.

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Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

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The Information: "TikTok Is Not the Enemy"

Tom writes a nuanced take on the TikTok controversy and outlines ethical data principles that will restore people’s sense of trust and offer them true control over how and when they grant permission for use of their data.

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Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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High-Velocity Personal Growth

What's the price you put on personal growth? In his most recent note to founders, super{set} Founding General Partner Vivek Vaidya outlines 7 points of advice for startup interviews and negotiations. Vivek explains his compensation philosophy and the balance between cash and the investment in personal and career growth a startup can bring. Here’s the mindset you need to reach your zenith at a startup.

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How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

Do you get an uneasy feeling anytime you get added to a customer call? Do you ever struggle to respond to a frustrated customer? Peter Wang, Product lead at Ketch, discusses how customer feedback can help drive product development, and how engineers can use customer insights to create better products. Learn best practices for collecting and interpreting customer feedback.

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Why the AI Revolution Will Be Data-Centric

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder of MarkovML, joins super{set} Chief Commercial Officer Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the role of data in gaining a competitive advantage in the AI revolution. Learn the difference between optimizing models and optimizing data in machine learning applications, and why effective collaboration will make or break the next-gen AI applications being created in businesses.

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CalMatters: Why visa reforms benefit not just California’s tech sector but the economy overall

Vivek Vaidya writes that America needs more H-1B workers. Common sense reforms to the program will even the playing field for startups, not Big Tech, to bring innovative talent to American's shores.

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Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

Justin Davis and Josh Newman, Co-founders of Spectrum Labs (acquired) launch Nurdle to get AI into production faster, cheaper & easier.

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super{set} Celebrates First Exit: LiveRamp to Acquire Data Collaboration Software Startup Habu for $200M

LiveRamp Enters Into Definitive Agreement to Acquire Habu, Reinforcing super{set}'s Unique Company Building Model of Founding, Funding, and Scaling Data+AI Businesses

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Pivots and Possibilities

Discover how lessons from law enforcement shape a thriving tech career. Ketch Sr. Business Development Representative Brenda Flores shares a bold career pivot in our latest "Pass the Mic" story.

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The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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Tech Crunch: Answering AI’s biggest questions requires an interdisciplinary approach

Tom Chavez, writing in TechCrunch, calls for new approaches to the problems of Ethical AI: "We have to build a more responsible future where companies are trusted stewards of people’s data and where AI-driven innovation is synonymous with good. In the past, legal teams carried the water on issues like privacy, but the brightest among them recognize they can’t solve problems of ethical data use in the age of AI by themselves."

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The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

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Developer tools that are worth their while: KEDA and Boundary in action

Running cloud platforms efficiently while keeping them secure can be challenging. In this blog post, learn how two of super{set}’s portfolio companies, MarkovML and Kapstan, are leveraging tools like KEDA for event-driven scale and Boundary for access management to remove friction for developers. Get insights into real-world use cases about optimizing resource usage and security without compromising productivity.

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Jeremy Klein on Leading super{set}'s Data-Driven $90 Million Fund II

Jeremy Klein is a general partner at super{set}. Jeremy helped build super{set} from day one alongside Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya, designing super{set}’s structure, recruiting co-founders, and laying the plans for a scalable buildout. super{set} recently announced the closing of its $90 million Fund II. He sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to provide insights into the strategic timing and vision behind launching Fund II, his professional journey from a legal expert to an integral part of super{set}'s fabric, and how his unique background and approach have been instrumental in building super{set} and recruiting top-tier co-founders.

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Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

Co-founder of Headlamp Health, Andrew Marshak, describes the frustratingly ambiguous state of mental health diagnoses - and the path forward for making mental health a precision science.

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Four Tips for a Distributed Workforce

This month we pass the mic to Sagar Gaur, Software Engineer at super{set} MLOps company MarkovML, who shares with us his tips for working within a global startup with teams in San Francisco and Bengaluru, India

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Detecting Software Bugs with AI

Gal Vered is co-founder and Head of Product at Checksum (checksum.ai), an innovative company that provides end-to-end test automation that leverages AI to test every corner of an app. He sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the exciting problem that Checksum is solving with AI and what Gal likes best about working in super{set}'s startup studio model.

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Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

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Lessons from the Startup Circus

super{set} Technical Lead and resident front-end engineering expert Sagar Jhobalia recaps lessons from participating in multiple product and team build-outs in our startup studio. Based on a decade of experience, Sagar emphasizes the importance of assembling the right engineering team, setting expectations, and strategically planning MVPs for early wins in the fast-paced startup environment.

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super{set} Fund II: $90 million to intensify our serial focus on data+ai company building

Announcing super{set} Fund II

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Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

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Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

It's still early for the startup studio asset class - and we hear misconceptions about the studio model every day, ranging from the basic confusion of accelerators versus studios to downright incorrect assumptions on our deep commitment to the build-out of every company. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

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The Information: The People OpenAI Should Consider for Its New Board

Tom Chavez writes in The Information that "OpenAI’s board needs a data ethicist, a philosopher of mind, a neuroscientist, a computer scientist with interdisciplinary expertise and a political strategist."

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The Product Mindset for Engineers

Ever find yourself scratching your head about product management decisions? Join India Lossman, co-founder of boombox.io, as she unpacks the product mindset for engineers. Unravel the art of synergy between PMs and engineers and delve into strategies to enhance collaboration and craft products that users will adore.

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

In a conversation with boombox's co-founder India Lossman, the discussion pivots to the art of fostering customer collaboration in music creation. Lossman unveils how artist-driven feedback shapes boombox's innovative platform, with a glimpse into AI's empowering potential. Understand the synergy between technology and user insights as they redefine the independent music landscape.

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Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

Sandeep Bhandari, Former Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Risk Officer at buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Affirm, joins Vivek Vaidya, Founding General Partner of super{set}, in conversation.

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ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

ActiveFence, the leading technology solution for Trust and Safety intelligence, management and content moderation, today announced its successful acquisition of Spectrum Labs, a pioneer in text-based Contextual AI Content Moderation.

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Redefining Customer Experience in Data-Driven Tech Startups

Ted Flanagan, Chief Customer Officer at super{set}-founded Habu, sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to provide insights into how Habu's strategies in customer experience set it apart in the data collaboration market. Learn how customer experience strategies helped Habu land a $200 million after being acquired by LiveRamp in January 2024.

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Tech Crunch: Boutique startup studio super{set} gets another $90 million to co-found data and AI companies

Startup studio super{set} has a fresh exit under its belt with the sale of marketing company Habu to LiveRamp for $200 million in January. Now, super{set} is adding another $90 million to its coffers as it doubles down on its strategy of building enterprise startups.

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When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

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Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing in the Huffington Post: "My Mom Sent Me And My 4 Siblings To Harvard. Here's The 1 Thing I Tell People About Success."

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Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

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Building Fast, Scaling Globally

Harshil Vyas joined the super{set} Hive (i.e., portfolio companies community) in March 2023 as Co-Founder of Kapstan and employee number one in India. We jumped on a Zoom recently to talk about accelerated timelines, globally distributed workforces, and what is unique about the super{set} model.

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7 Ways to Turn an Internship Into a Job at a Startup

Chris Fellowes, super{set} interned turned full time employee at super{set} portfolio company Kapstan, gives his 7 recommendations for how to turn an internship into a job at a startup.

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Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

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From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

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Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

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Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

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The RevOps Bowtie Data Problem

Go-to-market has entered a new operating environment. Enter: RevOps. We dig into the next solution space for super{set}, analyzing the paradigm shift in GTM and the data challenges a new class of company must solve.

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How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

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Forbes: Why The Biden-Xi Talks Should Put A Microscope On San Francisco

The prettifying and securing of downtown San Francisco, where super{set} is headquartered, should be the norm - not just for special state visits from the world's dictators. Here are 3 things the city of San Francisco should be doing all year round to make the city better to live, work, and invest in. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

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Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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Why Proprietary Data Is the Linchpin of AI Disruption

Read Vivek Vaidya's latest in CDO Magazine and learn why in this new AI landscape, those who harness the potential of proprietary data and foster a culture of collaboration will lead the way—those who don't risk obsolescence.

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Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

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VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

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Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

In an interview with Ketch co-founder Max Anderson, the focus is on data privacy laws and AI's role. Anderson discusses the global privacy landscape, highlighting Ketch's approach to helping businesses navigate regulations. The conversation also emphasizes data dignity and Ketch's unique role in the AI revolution.

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Horizontal Scaling at super{summit}

Vivek gives us the rundown on what the hive is buzzing about after super{summit} 2023: how to 'horizontally scale' yourself.

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Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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boombox.io Raises $7M to Build Out Creator Platform for Music Makers

super{set} startup studio portfolio company’s seed funding round was led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Ulu Ventures Raise will enable boombox.io to accelerate product development on the way to becoming the winning creator platform for musicians globally

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Hold Fast: Game-Changing Wisdom from Seamus Blackley

Creator of the XBox and serial entrepreneur Seamus Blackley joined Tom Chavez on stage at the 2023 super{summit} in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a free-ranging conversation covering the intersection of creativity and technology, recovering back from setbacks to reach new heights, and a pragmatic reflection on the role of fear and regret in entrepreneurship.

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Forbes: Why A Collaborative Approach Trumps "Lone Genius" In Company-Building

Off the heels of super{set}'s first exit - the acquisition of data collaboration company Habu by LiveRamp for $200 Million - Tom Chavez writes how the super{set} approach to collaboration in company building leads to successful outcomes.

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