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Creating a People-First Performance Culture for Startups

February 7, 2024
Written By
February 7, 2024
Season 5 Episode 1
50:38
Written By

Talent and career development in startups is typically nonexistent - so at super{set}, we're changing that. While a startup’s opportunities for rapid growth and trial by fire are incredible, we believe startup employees can still benefit from intentional mentorship and development. No - it's not about bringing in professional coaches who lack hands-on company-building expertise. And no, it's more than advice from the balcony unmarried to what life is actually like in the startup trenches.

Joining Tom and Vivek in the studio are the first graduates of super{set}’s coaching program for its employees: Jen D’Amico (Head of Business Development at Ketch), Anupam Gupta (Head of Customer Success at Ketch), and Ted Flanagan (Chief Customer Officer at Habu, recently Acquired by LiveRamp). 

How can startups improve outcomes by becoming more self-aware and assessing strengths and development areas better? How can entrepreneurs create the soil conditions for their employees to perform, even within the fast-paced startup environment? What advice do Jen, Anupam, and Ted have for startup employees - and the founders at the helm - around the globe? 

Join us in the first episode of Season 5 of The {Closed} Session!

Learn more about Ketch at www.ketch.com

Learn more about Habu (acquired by LiveRamp) at www.habu.com

Learn more about super{set} - including co-founding with us and open roles across our portfolio of companies - at www.superset.com

Transcript

Tom: Welcome to the Closed Session Season 5. My name is Tom Chavez.

Vivek: And I'm Vivek Vaidya.

Tom: V, we got a big one today. We got quite the entourage with us in the studio, right?

Vivek: That's right. First time, so many guests.

Tom: So many guests. So many assassins, homies, executives. Look, at super{set}, we talk about people, product, customers in that order, which is to say, people first. And if you're building a company, you are on the hero's journey. You're doing something that everybody knows is impossible. You're doing things that you didn't think you could achieve. And it's just been such an awesome that, arguably V, that's like the coolest best part of the whole thing for us, right?

Vivek: That's right. But the people first part is really an immense source of joy and pride for both of us. It's really great to see everyone who's come into the hive and do amazing things. Things that even they didn't think they were capable of. So... Yeah.

Tom: And look, sometimes in startups, people get so enthusiastic about it. It's this kind of a Esprit de corps you have with your coworkers that is hard to replicate in many, many other places. So sometimes that idea kind of overtakes you and it's easy to lose sight of the fact that, Oh, wait, results matter, performance matters, right? So our commitment to all of the amazing executives we work with is look. You've got to make yourself happy, you've got to take care of yourself. What we can do is create the soil conditions for you to perform at ever higher, higher levels. And that's why we've started something we've been referring to as the "Dojo". The super{set} Dojo. You want to say a little bit about that, V?

Vivek: Yeah. So the dojo is essentially a program that we run which is led by Casey Maxwell, who's our chief collaboration officer at, at super{set} and it's really a people can think of it like a coaching program, where we bring in executives across our various companies and, and really high performing employees, too. And we create a personalized coaching program for them based on what they want to do just in the next two years and in the next five, ten years. And also where we think what they're good at and what potential they can achieve. So, uh, that's, uh, in a nutshell, what the dojo is. We've have, we've had, quite a few people in the dojo in the first iteration. And, uh, we're excited to talk more about that with some of the first graduates from the dojo in this episode.

Tom: And I'd also say this is really, really personal for you and me on, on so many levels, but let's also just take a moment and reflect on where we've been. I do vividly remember when I was a puppy in my first company, that board meeting, where I walk out of the board meeting, I ask Howard Charney, one of my long term mentors, Hey man, you know, am I fired? How bad was that? And Howard, in his wonderful Long Island tone, says, Well, I wouldn't say you totally screwed the pooch, but you came pretty damn close. And so that's when I started getting hands on coaching help, right? And because I had a lot of work to do, we're all works in progress, as we like to say, we're making mistakes every day, but hopefully new mistakes. So, you know, you and I have both, you know, been right there. We've been on that bubble and we, the stakes were high. We knew we needed to put on some new moves, try some new things, improve our effectiveness as leaders, managers, technologists. So... So it's, it's very personal and important for us on that level too, huh?

Vivek: Yeah, absolutely. And my reflection on the journey I've taken and when I've been through these programs is that it's scary. It's scary when someone shows you the mirror, right? And you have to reflect on what, what you do well, what you don't do so well and where you can do better. And, uh, so we we come to this... I'm saying that because we come to... The whole approach that we've designed comes from, uh, from a place of empathy. Like we've been there. We've struggled ourselves. And those are the insights and the discipline that we bring to this program working with our executives across the hive.

Tom: With that, let's introduce our guests. We've built up all of the suspense. So, three members of the first cohort of the dojo with us here today. First, uh, we have Jen D'Amico, Head of Business Development at Ketch. Anupam Gupta, Head of Customer Success at Ketch. And Ted Flanagan, Chief Customer Officer at Habu, which was just recently acquired, this week in fact, by LiveRamp for $200 million.

Vivek: That's right. Congratulations, Ted. Yeah.

Ted: Thanks. Yeah, it's been, uh, it's been an exciting week, guys.

Vivek: And the other interesting fact about both, all, all of Jen, Anupam and Ted is that all three of them have been working with us for a long time. Actually, they were with us at Krux. And now they're at Ketch and Habu, respectively. So we've seen them actually grow a lot in their roles across multiple companies. Right, Tom?

Tom: Absolutely. And, and they were with us. Let's also just note they were in an important individual contributor roles or, or team roles. Now they're heads and leads and co-founders and, you know, doing amazing things at a whole nother, whole nother level. Well, so let's, um, gents, how are you say? Hi,

Jen: Hi, everybody. I'm doing well. Thank you. I'm excited to be here. My first podcast.

Tom: Anupam.

Anupam: Hello. This is my first one too. And in a different environment, a bit nerve-wrecking, but it's good.

Tom: And, and we heard from Ted so everybody can recognize voices. Hey, so tell us quickly as we just round robin this thing. How long have you been at your company? And give us a quick note on how you think about professional, personal growth. How do they hang together? Is professional growth the same as personal growth? How do they hang together? How are they different? A quick reflection there. If you would, Jen,

Jen: Yeah. So I've been at Ketch coming up on four years now. It'll be four years in March. It's been an absolutely amazing ride so far. I loved every second of it. And yeah, it's a great question. I think about professional growth, you know, from the sense of I, I've always been like, I love to learn. I'm a lifelong learner. I'm a proud generalist. So for me, learning is growing. They're, they're one and the same and professionally and personally. If I am, you know, achieving new skill sets, learning new things, dipping my toes into new waters. I'm happy and I feel like I'm growing. And, you know, similarly, if I can reflect back and I'm like, what don't I know yet? What do I need to learn to improve? To me it's all one in the same. That's growth.

Tom: Brilliant Anupam.

Anupam: Yes. So professional growth in my simplistically would be sphere of control and sphere of influence. How do you grow in a new role? Every time you go, you do better. You influence more. So that's professional growth. But personal growth, I think is the super set of professional growth and some other things. You look at How do you improve yourself? Whether it's empathy, how you show up anywhere. How do you interact with your kids? How do you interact with your spouse? How do you interact with your colleagues? So In a cliche term, just be the better of yourself.

Tom: Right, because there was that time, I think when I was coming up the old schoolers had this idea of like, there's my work self, and then there's my personal self. And never the twain shall meet. I'm going to go to work and put on this little suit. And that's going to be one version of me that barely corresponds to how I show up for my wife and kids. I really appreciate what, you know, especially these days. And it's something I think we've all learned from the Gen-Z-ers and the Millennials. It's like, why do we have that weird dichotomy? We talk about showing up at work as your authentic self. So there shouldn't necessarily be that, that weird gulf anymore.

Anupam: Absolutely. And especially if you, half of your life you are in the professional environment. Why do you want to fake it? You want to be your whole, the whole day. Absolutely. Ted, how about you?

Ted: I've been with my, uh, in my current role for 4 years and, uh, at Habu for 4 years. And so I'd say during that time, yeah, I, I would say defining growth and even part of that, constantly learning and then as Anupam was saying sort of scaling the impact of, of the work I do, right? Just like we're all putting in the shift and when you put in the shift, you want the impact of that work to just keep growing at a larger scale, touching more people, touching more customers, you know, driving more and bigger results. And I think when that's happening, that's a function of growth. And so, yeah, I, I think on the personal front, again, I just echo what you guys have already said I think. You can't be successfully professionally if you're not in a good place personally and, or it's just really hard to do. And so I think, you know, making sure that we all have the capacity to, to manage both of those things is a, is a part of sort of understanding it's a long game. And if you want to have long term professional growth, you have to set yourself up to, to play the long game, which, which comes with being in a good place, good place personally.

Vivek: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for sharing that. I can, I can relate to all of that. And I think both my, my family at home and, and everybody I work with. will agree with me when I say that I've become a different, hopefully better, human being, both professionally and personally, because of the influence one has had, my personal life on my professional life and vice versa. So that all, everything you said echoes.

Tom: Can I just, a quick personal story. So, and I said at the beginning, I went through that coaching cycle, right? When I'm about to get fired, we called for emergency help. There's a 360 and I start getting, this is in the late nineties, early, early aughts. My coach does the 360. And several board members and employees said, you know, Tom is much too informal. He needs to carry himself more like a CEO. And so I remember my coach saying, look Tom, you gotta change this up. You need to go to the store and buy some, some pleated khakis and some, and some blue shirts to wear to work. And I'm trying to inhabit this professional persona at the time. So yes, boss, I'm, I'm, I'm going to do that. Vivek is laughing here because he remembers he was there. I go to work and there's Vivek and there's another guy named Moish and they see me in my little pleated khakis, which is something my normal personal self would never do and they just burst out laughing, right? And I remember that because what a good moment for me to remember, like, yeah, I can't sell this, right? And here we are now again. That was something that used to happen, but no personal growth, professional growth, personal self, professional self, it's got to be the same, right? If you're trying to sell some version of one or the other, everyone is going to see right through it, right?

Vivek: Absolutely. We all have our, uh, funny wardrobe stories. Mine is more recent, actually. And, uh, it's actually a Habu story where, in the pandemic, everybody's working from, especially when the pandemic started, everybody's working from home and, and I had this early morning meeting with a customer and I'm wearing my pajamas and, I have to explain something. So I had recently installed a whiteboard in my office. So I walk up to my whiteboard and I start drawing. I'm not realizing now that my full profile is visible on camera. So everybody saw me in my pajamas and I was totally comfortable with that.

Tom: Okay, in your Spider Man pajamas?

Vivek: They weren't Spider...

Tom: Was Winnie the Pooh or Spider Man? It was one of the

Vivek: No, no, no, no. These were cars pajamas, Tom.

Tom: Oh, cars.

Ted: Extra, extra allowances were made during the pandemic. Vivek. Don't worry.

Vivek: Yeah, hey we we closed that deal and they are still a Habu customer. So there you go

Ted: That's all you need to know.

Vivek: Yeah, that's all you need to know. Anyway, just let's let's start and and go deeper into your journeys now. So you... and I, I don't know, Jen, you spent a little bit of time at Salesforce and, uh, but Anupam has been at BT is a big company. Ted has been at IBM. And so all of you have had some exposure to big companies versus startups. Talk a little bit about how you think startups have, working at startups has accelerated your career. And given you opportunities that you may not have had at these bigger companies, Jen, why don't you start?

Jen: Yeah, I mean, the ways in which working in a startup has accelerated my career, there's just countless ways. You know, I did... I worked at Salesforce for about four years. I really enjoyed my time there. But I was singularly focused there. I stayed in the enablement group and I, I rose up within the enablement group and I really enjoyed my time. But that's what I did was sales enablement. Coming back into the startup environment and part of the big reason why I came back over was I was just looking for, you know, new things to learn, new things to try. And, and I, and for me, that's, you know, that's career acceleration. At Ketch I've had the opportunity to help build out the go-to-market function, build out the business development team, get my toes into everything from, you know, cold email writing to SEO optimization to growth, you know, growth hacking, it's just the... and that's on a similar 4 year period. So when I compare the two in terms of the remit of the areas in which I've had the opportunity to, to learn and grow. It's just the opportunity there at the start, in the startup environment to me is far greater.

Vivek: How about you, Ted?

Ted: Yeah, I, I, I agree with that. I think it's a function of, you know, by definition, usually in these startup environments, it's a, it's a high growth business. And, and so first and foremost, there's a rising tide lifts all boats. And when you're in a high growth company that new opportunities are getting generated at a rate that they're not, you know, when I was working at IBM, right, which was obviously 100 year old business probably at that point. So, I think it's, it's very it's different when you're in a, in, you're in a high growth environment. And, and I think the other thing about it is just like the velocity at which you have to figure things out. And things are not solved. Things are not well known patterns of, of whether it's product, process, the things that we're trying to deliver for, for customers. It's, it's not figured out and, and the velocity at which you have to figure something out net new is so much greater than when you're at a company that's already figured things out at a, at a really large scale. And so I think that that demand to constantly be figuring things out is, is an incredible accelerant for, for professional growth.

Tom: 100%. What about you Anupam?

Anupam: Yeah, just building on what Ted said. It's the feedback loop. The speed at which things are happening, you can, you get feedback. Is it working? Is it not working? And personally for me, iterative approach is what gets me growing, gets me thinking more, I learn more. So faster feedback absolutely the thing. And the second thing is you've got a lot more autonomy and you are more accountable for your decisions. So just by making more decisions, you build the muscle of becoming confident of making those decisions. Whereas in a large corporate, I remember I'll ask my boss and I'll ask four people, I'll build consensus over a month before I take a small decision. Whereas here I'm going to take it and I'm going to stand behind it because I need to make it work.

Vivek: Tom really likes people who take their time and set up committees to make decisions. Don't you, Tom?

Tom: No, you need a, you need a committee. Well, before you get the committee, you need to set up a process to define the framework by which you will determine who needs to be on the committee. Stop rushing, Vivek. And then, you set up a separate small gear process to decide which topics will be considered. In the committee hearings. No, I hate all that stuff. Just go,

Vivek: But you were doing pretty well over there, Tom. You could gone on for another 10 minutes.

Tom: One day I'm going to be a big cheese at the UN, Vivek. Just, just wait for it. No, but to Anupam's point, listen, once you get a hit of that drug, is there anything better? Right? Because you're in a large company and it takes all types. By the way, I know some people who are Shaolin Temple masters at getting the big carrier group to turn. three degrees and that's a skill. But on a personal level to your point like when you're in a big company and you're, you're fighting your two terabytes of email follow up you know with all the committees and groups that you need to participate with in versus taking a shot at a startup and seeing if it worked like that Dopamine cycle right where you can do a thing and then see if it worked or if it didn't work I just like, that's addictive, right? Once you get it.

Anupam: Oh yeah,

Vivek: No, for me, it's, it's really just this at a startup, there's just this, not just willingness, but this requirement even to try on new ideas and, and ask questions at big companies, that's, that's just not there. And, uh, I've had, I have so many stories about why that, that sucks at big companies and it's one of the main reasons I've, I've never actually fitted in into, uh, into a big company. But, but you guys have worked at big companies Uh, so, and, and work life at startups is hard. There are lots of ups and downs. Has the grass ever fed greener and greener on the other side for any of you?

Anupam: I would be lying if I said it was blank now. Because there are certain aspects, and picking on Tom's stuff, it requires a different skill to turn three degrees a big carrier. The startups have something going that everybody's swimming in the same direction. In our large corporate, they move in different directions. So building that skill to bring people together, align them, build patience, because things don't move fast, but how do you persevere and keep going at it? So there are certain aspects which I generally appreciated when I was in large companies.

Vivek: You know, and I think you're absolutely right. And I think one, one place where that kind of experience does come in handy is that at startups inside the startup, you can move as fast as you want, but but when you're working with customers, your customers may be bigger companies. And so you have to understand how those processes work, because at, oftentimes it does feel like you're having to turn a mammoth carrier by seven degrees to make your startup's product implementation successful, right? Ted, you've seen that, uh, times,

Ted: For sure, for sure. And I, I think you get, I would agree with Anupam's, you know, I think you get exposure to how things need to work at scale, right? And, and that is extremely valuable. And, you know, I talked about, You know, having a bigger impact and wanting to scale impact. And so I think when you've had exposure to how you need to work at a certain level of scale, as we're in these companies that we're trying to scale quickly, we can now be really selective about this is the little piece of that that I want to introduce now. This is the, this is the, this is the thing I saw that actually, yeah, that does work really well when you're hitting that next stage of growth, that next stage of, of, of just volume that you've got to manage. And so, so I want to selectively pull from all these things I saw, I don't want, I don't want the 10 other things that maybe drove me crazy, but there's two or three things that worked really well, and I want to bring that back because that's going to help us get our business to the next level.

Vivek: Yeah. Any experiences from you, Jen?

Jen: Yeah, I, I echo what Ted said closely, like, and not that the grass is greener, but, you know, it's I, I, my time at a larger company was definitely extremely valuable for me. I draw on experiences that I had there all the time and try to incorporate them into what I'm doing in the startup environment. So, yeah, I think back on it often and, you know, sometimes it's what not to do, but a lot of the times it is what to do and what works because, you know, they figured something out. So I found it very helpful.

Tom: Really good stuff. Listen I want to keep us moving here now cause when we started the dojo, the conception of it, by the way, we used to say it's, it's not really a dojo, it's just a tent in an open field to get going. And the three of you were very gracious to, to join us for the training. But the conception as we started was to say, look, there are lots and lots of methods and coaching. I mean, boy, the planet is rife with coaches now, right? So you, you can throw a dart in an open room and find a coach. We felt like, okay, maybe we know some things and maybe it's not the only approach, but there, there's a concrete set of patterns and habits and mindsets that we've developed over the last 25 years. We wanted to try to impart those, right? And so, as I mentioned at the beginning, it's not just, you know, camp super{set}, you know, let's, let's uh, roast marshmallows around the fire here. We're trying to get shit done, right? So, so we started with, like, we have a set of patterns. We want to do it our way, right? We weren't going to apologize for that. There's a, there's something that we thought could work. And it began with, as Vivek mentioned earlier, feedback. You're going to get pungent, plain spoken feedback in the 360s that we conduct with your peers, your bosses, colleagues, other people at a distance who might be catching some of your vibes and seeing you in action. So talk to us a little bit about what that What the results of that appraisal felt like to you? I sure remember mine and it stung the first time we did it. Like, wow, no one's pulling punches, that's rough. Talk to us a little bit about what it was like when you, when we did the 360s and you got that feedback, was it in line with what you were expecting? Were there, you know, pungent surprises to it? Everything in between, Anupam?

Anupam: Yeah. So my experience had been slightly different. I look at sometimes 360 and you find some nuggets which you didn't give yourself credit for. You think, ah, the person thinks I'm good at that. I never really give myself that piece. So that was great. In terms of other constructive criticism, most of it you can realize and rationalize why they are coming from. And that's what I like about it. People you work with together, they'll spend time and they'll give you something which is more fundamental. But people you work with once or twice, they'll give feedback based on one anecdotal event. But the feedback I take it is, how did I show up on that event? And how did they perceive me? And if they perceived me wrongly, I didn't show up correctly. It might not be the character trait or a habit, which I need to change, I can discount that, but I need to fix how I showed up in that event. So it was revealing because it was with my peers, my team members, my bosses. So yeah.

Tom: See, that's, that's the thing that runs through a lot of this, Anupam is, well, it's easy to dismiss some of the feedback as well. That's, that's unfortunate that all of that nonsense is going on inside your head, but I know I'm great. The step is to realize, no, no, no, no, no, I'm actually accountable for other people's mental states, whether I'm Intentionally doing that or not, the fact that I'm getting this feedback is itself the issue, is itself Potentially a problem I need to fix

Anupam: Absolutely, absolutely

Tom: How about you, Jen?

Jen: I was so excited for my results. I really, I could not wait to see. I, you know, some, I think Anupam started with, you know, it, it, it was nice to, to take credit and some of those areas where I was getting positive feedback, maybe that I hadn't even thought about. I'm like, oh, that's great, that's, you know, I appreciate that feedback and it, you know, makes me feel good about some of my approaches. But I found that it was I was far more. I wanted the negative. I was like, Oh, that's great. Like good positive feedback. But let's look at like, what's going wrong here. And, uh, some of it's just so valuable, valuable to have comprehensive feedback like that. Because there's things you wouldn't even consider. Like, I remember one of the points that I got was my team wasn't as visible as the person thought that it could be in the organization. And I would have never without that feedback, without that perspective, you know, I'm chugging along thinking that I'm, you know, putting on my team's efforts out there and it turns out I'm not, so that's fantastic. And how can you get that without similar, you know, kind of blind, blind feedback like that. So that's just one example for me, but, you know, I still think it was months ago that I got that feedback and, and, you know, positive and negative, I think about pieces of it every day. You know, if I, you know, maybe one negative piece of feedback, I'm going to go move to do something. I'm like, Oh, wait, remember what that feedback said? Maybe I shouldn't do that. So, so useful. I think everybody should, should have a 360 done at some point.

Tom: Ted, you, you had a lot of as all these things go, and I appreciate it, Anupam, it's not just getting negative feedback. You're getting surprised by the things that you're doing extraordinarily well. That's important. Ted, I remember, you know, your, your bell curve, like, there's a lot of amazing stuff on one side, and then there was some other you know, work to be done, and some pungent criticisms that I remember your just accepting and receiving, and your super thoughtful way, like, once you work with Ted, he's going to really think about this stuff. How did that unfold for you, Ted?

Ted: Yeah. So I certainly was receptive to, to the, to the criticism aspects of the, the feedback, because I found that, you know, and, and we talked about this a lot when, when generally all of us, Hey, we, we've had some success in our careers. We didn't land there by accident. And so what, what was manifesting the feedback is the things that are real tremendous strengths for me can manifest in a different way as, you know, things that also create challenges maybe for my team in a different context, right? And in that the super strength are related to the weaknesses. And there's a, there's sort of, an inherent relationship between those things. And like, so, for example, you know, some of the things that I was doing really well, and that worked really well in 360. Great problem solver, optimistic, you know, always basically finding a way tthrough well because that's worked for me so well and so often, and I defer to that muscle sometimes I'm not, you know, uh, may, maybe I'm not as direct or embracing conflict when conflict needs to happen as I should be if I'm always trying to find the, the happy path and find a creative solution, right? And so I think it was really interesting to just think about what are the, how are the, the things that are both strengths and weaknesses related and, and not, not to kind of do a 180 because I don't want the strengths to go away in any way, but I have to know how the way I show up at work can also in certain contexts, right, maybe not be the best approach. And therefore, when do I need to be more self aware about that? And approach something a little bit differently, even if it's not sort of the hammer looking for the nail going back to the thing that always works for me.

Tom: Yeah, I think that's, that's just so important and what's running through all of the conversation here from, from these three, especially was a willingness to dig in, do the work, and, and look in, you know, take that feedback, don't brush it aside, but to really thoughtfully, you know, take it in. I, we've been doing similar stuff to this at, at the prior project, Vivek, you remember we called it Krux. I can so vividly remember one person who said, and you know who I'm talking with, they will remain nameless. Absolutely, I want to get the coaching, put me in there, I need to do this work. In his heart of hearts, as far as he was concerned, he was already pretty damn perfect, right? And so, and so, you know, happy to receive feedback that sounds like sometimes you're a little too awesome. Like, but no, no willingness to listen to anything that was less than, than absolutely shiny, instructively, kind of wobbling, right? Just kind of not really doing much. So take getting this feedback and really taking it in is the precondition. That's the start. Vivek, where do we go from here? Once you've got the feedback, you know, where do we, where do we take it?

Vivek: Right. So once we had the feedback, we, uh, work with all of these folks to create that personalized kind of coaching program that that we were talking about. And with a specific intention, attention... specific attention to how we were going to put all of these mechanisms, mechanisms in place, where everybody would get to practice and and put into play the specific moves that we would, we would develop within the dojo with them, and they would try them out and and put put them in action in their day to day, day to day jobs. So, you know, from there, like this, this program kind of got designed and and, uh, I want to just ask everyone actually how did that work out? Like, what were the specific parts of the program that you felt were, were really helpful? How did you very intentionally put it all in practice? Anupam, why didn't you start?

Anupam: Yeah, I can start. And Tom and I had a chat sometime back about this. The benefit of this program for me was real feedback. Because when you work with coaches, they don't know what you're doing on a day-to-day basis. They're relying on your own interpretation of how you perform, how you change. Here I had the benefit that it was my peer and my boss, who were the coaches, they could see me every other day.

Tom: And I think that's important, Anupam, because I've been through coaching myself and we've done, we've had other people work with coaches. They're distant. They're not on the ground. They're not in the flow, right? So I remember a couple moments where like, okay, we're working together and we have enough trust. Now I could just say, okay, meeting's over. Anupam, real fast, right? You did... remember the thing that moment you did the thing, you know, and so yes, it's otherwise it's too abstract in my view.

Anupam: Absolutely. And the constant feedback comes along because you need that nudge. You have the natural tendency to slip back. So if you see people in a regular way, a quick one second check in, that helps, that gets you back on the ground. So I love that part and I'm eternally grateful for that part.

Vivek: Ted, you didn't have that experience because Tom's, Tom, neither Tom nor I were your bosses at at least Habu. So, how did that work out for you?

Ted: Well, something Anupam said is, is I think resonates tremendously, which is that if you're not deliberate about it, the tendency to slip back and just go to the way you've always done things is, it's just going to naturally happen because there's so many other things flying in over the course of the day to day. So for me, and in working with Tom and Casey was like designing the, thinking about design and work architecture and actually two things, designing my day, my week personally, and then the work architecture of the team and, and just thinking about, I need space for personally in my day and my week, I need space for these, these things where there's currently not space. And where's that going to come from and how will I get it? And then, and then making sure that that was created and held, right? And then so that that helps make sure that there was the capacity to go focus on the things that we were talking about in the dojo. And then from there it was okay. So now it's about implementing on in the business, which was for us worker architecture and just thinking about, you know, how do we clarify some of what I'm doing? So what the team's doing other functions and without over engineering it because I was probably never going to be one to over engineer it. But but clearly needing to sort of put a little more of that work architecture in place and found as we did that some of the things that we diagnosed as missing were starting to get, be more present in, in just like the team dynamics. And so, so it was really just kind of thoughtful design of the day and the, the, the work I found to be real helpful.

Vivek: Great. And Jen, what were some things that you picked up that you put into place in your day to day? You mentioned a few already, but what were some others?

Jen: Yeah, you know, I came in knowing that I was transitioning for a bit more from an IC type role into a manager and I really, with that I came in saying, I want to be more strategic. And that's the big thing. That's what it felt like I needed to be at the time. And I got so much more out of it. What I really found was, the, the ability to give authority and help others, you know, to delegate to others and help them grow similarly work architecture. You know, if I'm delegating, I'm delegating some of, a portion of this work, because I need time to reflect and think and strategize about, you know, where we're going to go next. And with that came some of the strategy piece, like, enrolling the team into, you know, the journey that we're about to take and kind of how we're changing things. And I saw it play out for me real time, I knew that I had kind of a strategic shift I wanted to make in the way that we operated as a team. And I had done something similar previously, but I felt that I like didn't enroll the team to the best of my ability. And with the help and the coaching directly from, from Tom and Casey and the dojo. I was, I truly feel that I was able to do this, this time, you know, I delegated to my team and I, they all are plugged in and bought in on why we're doing what we're doing. And just watching them grow and develop too personally, has been an amazing result. So, yeah, I think someone said it earlier, like, you know. What is it? The, the, the rising tide lifts all boats. Like, I've really seen that play out in my journey. And, and, uh, and a lot of the skills, were directly from, all of the skills were stolen directly from the dojo in that sense.

Tom: Ted, go.

Ted: Well, something Jen just said reminded me of one of the other things that worked really well. Uh, so, so Tom, you sent me the note cards, right? So the, the, one of the feedback was, look, I was not being, I was not doing an awesome job delegating clearly. And, And, I was thinking about it and I was like, what the hell? I thought, I thought I had delegated that, but maybe I didn't. And then, and then Tom sends me note cards and it's like, here's, here's the kind of words you should use to, to, to effectively delegate. It's like, ah, now when I actually use those words, this by this date, this is what I expect, I'm enrolling you to write. And it was like, okay, I've heard these things before. I don't use these as much. Maybe if I start using these in the process and it was, it was, it's true. It's just like, these are, some of this stuff is small tweaks, right? Cause like the intent, the intent to say, Hey, this is yours run with it was there, but I wasn't conveying that effectively enough and just some small tweaks to sort of how we do that. And it was amazing, kind of just a few of those things, how that kicked in.

Jen: That's so funny, Ted. I didn't want to out Tom on the cards because I didn't know was doing lots of them. But I'm not, sorry, Tom, you might have a lot of writing to do after people hear this. I keep these things on my side...

Ted: publish your book.

Jen: ...to me because you're right, Ted, it's the phrasing.

Tom: We're chuckling here. Look, every, every one of you and anybody we work with is their own precious snowflake. But when I talked about the super{set} approach, yeah, there are specific work architecture, right? Giving authority, scripts, right? We're big believers in neolinguistic programming, right? There's this concept from the philosophy of language called the illocutionary act. You stand in a holy place, and you say to somebody, I do. Like, something just happened. Those aren't just idle words, right? And the same concept applies in our business dealings. There are moments of truth, right? Where with words, you can, you can affect action in a different way, and actually change your own mental states. Like you start to inhabit a different kind of person, right? Become a different kind of person. As you use those words. So yeah, I'm just chuckling here to see...

Vivek: Actually, here's an idea for, for all of you. So Tom just started his substack. It's called Tom-ism. So Tom wants to write about controversial things, LinkedIn won't allow him to do that. So he's using Substack now. So maybe all of you should collect these things he's written on these note cards and that should, that could be the start of a substack post may, and then maybe, Ted it turns into a book also.

Ted: There you go.

Jen: I'd subscribe to that. I'd sign up.

Tom: I'm feeling totally outed. What was that? There was a book. What was that book called? Um? Shit, my dad says.

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: It was just like...

Jen: shit sounds...

Tom: It's really good stuff. I remember what I had that book a long time ago and I'd only remember one thing and that I cop it frequently. It's the shit my dad says. Right now, you are a tornado of bullshit. Can you please go blow yourself out over somebody else's house? Right? I don't know if Tom-isms are as good, but maybe, you never know. Hey, should we do our, our totally unpaid for promotion now?

Vivek: Let's do it. Let's do it.

Tom: Okay, so people, product, customers, and people first. And by the way, speaking of the dojo, one of the things that we've talked a lot about with people is, you've got to take care of yourself. Like self care is the root condition of successful professional growth. So, how about if everybody gives us their quick, one quick example of something they do to take good care of themselves. Jen, how about you?

Jen: Oh man. So I'm a first time mom to a two year old boy. And, uh, so I've needed to lean on a lot of different self care strategies I found in my, in my motherhood journey. But I gotta say outsourcing grocery shopping to like Instacart has been a game changer for me. I hate the grocery store. I don't want to go. So what do you, I just put that order in there online and they show up at my door and uh, you know, everyone in the family's got food for the week. And that has been for me. Some, some good self care.

Tom: Brilliant. Ted?

Ted: Yeah, so, uh, actually going, it was, it was related to our conversations around. Hey, well, where, what part of the day do you have space to think and to decompress? And so a quick plug for Seastreak. So I live outside New York city. And I'm fortunate that my commute into the city on the day as I go into the office that I try to go in a few times a week is, is on the Seastreak ferry. So it's a 45 minute ride from, from Jersey into, into, makes two stops, lower Manhattan, Midtown and listen, it beats the train, it beats driving through the tunnel, you pay a little premium for the ticket, but it's a nice ride, and you can decompress, read a book, think about what you have to do for the day, and, and honestly, it's like the self care that gets me the buffer between work and home, and uh, you know, commuting is not so bad when you're, when you're doing it on the boat, so uh, quick plug for Seastreak.

Anupam: Well, I'll be shallow. I have a Redken Rough Clay 12. This hair doesn't look like that without that product.

Tom: All right, right. I was, say what, Redken, Red Clay? Rough Clay 12, you know, mysteries revealed here on this podcast. I've always wondered how Anupam looks so damn good. I'm going to try it.

Vivek: I have so many stories about Anupam and his hair that we could consume a whole podcast episode with just that.

Tom: Okay, we're going to have you back.

Vivek: We're not gonna do that right now. Um Yeah, so continuing on and let's, let's try to bring this to a close any, any surprises, any controversial things that you adopted, opinions, points of view, things you learned from the, uh, coaching sessions?

Tom: And that you, that you are shocked by today, right? It's, it seems so different and so, far from what your former self would have done. A move that your former self would have applied at work. Yeah, it's a doozy, right? So everyone...

Anupam: I can, I can start.

Tom: Okay.

Anupam: So I'll start with a story about, be succinct. When you're talking to people. So I took your advice down and I recorded my update just using the sound recording on my phone and I listened to it. I said God, what am I saying? Okay, let's try again. Let's try again. I think I took it eight tries. I moved from one minute 15 to 25 seconds. And it was yeah, I could have done that in 25 seconds I, I tripled that time, and that was a revelation. And now I reflect back on my previous conversations in large corporates. I lost people. I could have done things much faster and hopefully convince them. So that's the shocking part that I didn't take the time and effort to prepare. Yeah.

Tom: It is amazing how that works, right? And back in the old days, while we, we don't, nobody leaves voice messages or, or voicemail anymore. But I'm so glad that you did that. I've always recommended people when we used to leave voicemail, Hey, press whatever the code is on your phone before you hang up. Listen to yourself. And, and it's shocking and usually terrible, like, oh my god, I'm wandering in the jungle, caring on about the dinosaurs, and then there were these flowers, and wait a minute, don't forget the bumblebees, like, you know, get to the effing point, right? It's, it's hard, hard work, but it, it pays off, you know? Jen, you look thoughtful.

Jen: Yeah. I think more generally for me, I think this was a, an experience that's been building over my time, you know, in the super, super{set} family, starting at Krux and then kind of the cherry on top was everything I learned in the dojo. But, just the level of confidence that I've gained. I remember early days at Krux like, I was terrified to do most things, like, I took, you know, I was one of those, I didn't think, even though I'm a millennial, I didn't think that I could bring my real personality to work, you know, I was a little timid to do that and, um, I just looking back over the course of my career, like the way that people have believed in me and empowered me and helped me to grow and then bring it all together in the dojo and be given, being given the opportunity to lead a team and then realize that, you know, I have the ability to help people up a little themselves and feel more confident about their skills. Like, that's just been such a positive thing for me. Um, you know, I just, yeah. I'm like the fact that I'm every week like standing in front of my team or having meetings and facilitating all these things, in my wildest dreams early days in my career that would have mortified me Truly. And now it's nothing It's not a thing at all and i'm happy to do it and I love to do it. So for me, that's enormous growth and you know, all of that has just been, um, through, through things i've learned in the dojo and just my time, you know, uh with this crew. So yeah

Tom: And we've seen it, Jen. I mean, it's funny, funny stuff, right? We look, here we are now. I'm gonna get all goopy on you, but the journey you've taken is ridonkulous, right? From, from individual contributor to leading managing teams, giving the count, driving results. it's really something.

Jen: Thank you! Appreciate it.

Tom: Ted? about you ted?

Ted: So so I think, um, I would echo something that Jen said, which was, I think part of it is getting comfortable with things that maybe before we would have been uncomfortable with. And, and 1 thing, I'll, I'll go back to something I said earlier was I was always creative problem solving, right? And always solving problems, solving problems, solving problems. And sometimes letting the conflict happen is the best way to better move and I think I was probably not all that comfortable with that before we started talking about it more in the dojo. And then obviously has been a really consequential sort of set of months and weeks for Habu and not without conflict, right? Internal, external. And, and I think being sort of prepared and comfortable with those conversations and just there's no time to waste sometimes with long term problem solving creative thinking. And I think, like, being able to have conversations where we're okay with conflict and where we can articulate positions, and it doesn't always go your way one way or another, but like, those were tremendous, tremendous experiences. And I think, like, working with our customers and being comfortable with those in those scenarios. And, and, uh, I just found like, yeah, look, that's, that's something that maybe I was a little, not, not as comfortable doing prior. And as I have gotten more comfortable with it, you know, you, you do see, it's just, sometimes it's, it's so much clearer for everybody to be able to have these conversations in that way. And so, so that was definitely a, a really sort of eyeopening part of the the coaching for me.

Vivek: Yeah. So, as we end this Now let's, you know, you've, we've talked a lot about the value of feedback and how all of you have benefited from it. What advice slash feedback do you guys have for people aspiring to join startups and then actually superset startups? 'cause we're still building. So yeah, Ted, why don't you start this time.

Ted: Yeah. Listen, I, I, I would encourage, I would encourage everyone to just jump in, you know, and and not wait for the perfect opportunity, because I think You know, my experience, it was sort of this way at Crux, but it was certainly this way at Habu. I think when you're looking at, when you're looking at jobs outside of startups, you're trying to pick the role, you're trying to pick the company, you're trying to figure out, you know, what exactly is the path going to be if I start here. And what, what people don't have adequate appreciation for is when you join companies at this stage, you're shaping that. And, and, and so I think. Not overthinking in my picking the right role. Am I picking the right company? Of course you have to do your due diligence. Of course you have to feel amazing about the team that you're going to work with. But the reality is, is, is you will shape the rest of it once you're there. And I think kind of really locking in on that is, is a great way to think about joining a startup and especially a super{set} company.

Vivek: Jen how about you?

Jen: I would tell somebody embrace non linearity, you know, realize like, like, like Ted said, and when you come to companies, like, your, your career path isn't going to be linear. It's actually probably better if you're, if you have kind of diverse interests and you're getting a chance to try out different things.

And, and. You know, for me, that also looks like focusing on skill transfer ability. What can I really learn that can help aid both me and then, you know, the area of the company that I want to grow in. And then I guess just to, to work at a startup, I think it's really beneficial to always keep a growth mindset.

So view all of those challenges that come up as, as opportunities and, and, uh, you know. Lean into your problem solving and know that you know, things can be difficult and challenging, but I find that through those times, usually comes the best and most inspiring work. So that's what I would you know, tell anybody who's looking to get into a startup to kind of to focus on.

Vivek: Yep. Anupam you?

Anupam: I think it's the same as Jen and Ted. You gotta lean in, you gotta be all in. Go in, you have to suspend some of the belief system. You have to go in and lean in. The classic thing about don't be a passenger on the bus, you have got to find a way to contribute whatever way you can. And personally for me, I look at people, again, I am going to spend most of my day time and probably thinking time about this job. I want to do with people I enjoy. Otherwise its, then It becomes work and personal life.

Vivek: That's Great. So jump in, embrace non linearity and do it with people you love and like. That's such great advice, actually. Yeah. Thanks for joining us here, guys. This has been a lot of fun.

Ted: Thanks all.

Anupam: Thank you

Vivek: See you next time.

Jen: Thank you. Bye bye.

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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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

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

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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."

read more

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."

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

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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.

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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."

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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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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 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 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.

read more

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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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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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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

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

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.

read more

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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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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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 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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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.

read more

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.

read more

Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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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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Overheard @ super{summit}

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

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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

read more

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.

read more

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

read more

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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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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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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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

read more

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.

read more

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."

read more

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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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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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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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 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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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.

read more

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.

read more

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

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.

read more

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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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.

read more

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.

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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."

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

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

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.

read more

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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