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Marketing in the Age of AI with Rex Briggs

October 11, 2023
Written By
October 11, 2023
Season 4 Episode 10
52:46
Written By

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.

Marketing has always been about connection, but what happens when AI becomes the mediator? With vast strides in AI-driven campaigns, how do marketers ensure they remain true to their brand and their audience? Who ensures that campaigns are not just data-driven but also ethical and impactful? As we stand on the precipice of an AI revolution in advertising, how does one navigate the intricate balance between personalization and consumer control over their data?

Rex Briggs, a luminary in marketing measurement, envisions a future where AI-driven campaigns resonate deeper and more personally with audiences. With vast industry experience, Rex sheds light on emerging trends and their implications. Joining Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya, the trio  explores the frontiers of AI in marketing, from its transformative capabilities in content creation to the nuanced ethical challenges it presents. They uncover strategies and insights essential for marketers in this AI-dominated age, emphasizing the synergy of technology and human intuition.

Find Rex Briggs on his LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/rex-briggs-2811b3/) and X (https://twitter.com/rexbriggs).

PLUS bonus content: super{set} Spotlight on Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak and his experience so far working alongside Tom, Vivek, and the super{set} team at Headlamp Health. Hear about Andrew's maniacal commitment and find out how Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya show up as "true co-founders FOR REAL."

Learn more about Headlamp Health at www.headlamp.com

Find Andrew Marshak on his LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-marshak/)

Read Andrew's latest blogpost on superset.com  - "Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health"

Transcript

Welcome to The Closed Session, how to get paid in Silicon Valley with your host, Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez: Welcome back to another episode of season four of The Closed Session podcast. I'm Tom Chavez. 

Vivek Vaidya: And I'm Vivek Vaidya. 

Tom Chavez: Today, I'm excited to have Rex Briggs with us. We've had a chance to work with Briggs... with Rex along the way. Rex is an author, public speaker, consultant, and an absolute expert in measuring marketing ROI, leveraging advancements in tech to reshape the industry, a place where you and I have dwelled very meaningfully over the last couple of decades. So you can run, but you can't hide from Rex Briggs. He's everywhere in AdTech, MarTech and modern developments in how AI has the opportunity to reshape legacy marketing. We're going to get into some of that here as we go. So Rex, so great to have you with us. Welcome! 

Rex Briggs: Ah! It's good to be with you guys again. 

Vivek Vaidya: Thrilled to have you with us here today, Rex. Let's dive right in. 

Tom Chavez: Let's do it. So, Rex would love to have you just back it up for us a little bit here for our listeners. You've been at this a while and so, you know, how did you get into marketing ROI? Because, you know, you are kind of, I don't want to sound too, uh, breathless about it, but you're kind of the OG of marketing ROI. So back it up and tell us how you got into this in the first place. How did this interest take root? 

Rex Briggs: You know, I started at Yankelovic partners before the internet and so we were doing segmentation and the goal was to create segments of one, which is pretty pure... purely theoretical at that point. 

Tom Chavez: Right. 

Rex Briggs: But the idea was, man, if you could talk to an individual and understand their hopes and their dreams and their fears and their aspirations, man, you could connect with them and you could serve what they really wanted from a business. And so...

Tom Chavez: One-to-one marketing, right? Way back in the nineties. Who was... 

Rex Briggs: Yes, before Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, 1 to 1 Future. 

Tom Chavez: Peppers and Rogers. That's right. 

Rex Briggs: That's right. And so, uh, what was, what happened was I happened to be doing a study for Intel, uh, actually it was for IBM. It was about the Intel Pentium chip, which couldn't do math. You guys might remember that vaguely. 

Tom Chavez: That's right. Arithmetic at problems in the chipset. 

Rex Briggs: Yeah, and you know, Intel was saying, look, this is not a problem except for this tiny, tiny, tiny percentage of people that need that level of precision in our floating point math. 

Tom Chavez: Right. 

Rex Briggs: But it was still hurting sales for their chip. And so IBM was doing research trying to figure out what implications would it have. I was doing the research on their behalf. And midway through that point, Intel decided that they were going to reverse directions and they were going to replace that chip. And so in the research and the data, there wasn't a World Wide Web yet, but there was CompuServe, and that's where the IT tech people would go to get information on this Listserv. And we could see people who were part of that Listserv change their opinions within 48 hours of the announcement. We've never seen anything like that before. It used to take weeks and weeks. In fact, they were diffusion models would tell you how communication would filter through the population. And so when I saw that, I'm like, wow, I've seen prodigy before. My dad was a computer, you know, database guy and used it and so forth. But it made me realize it was going to change marketing. And so, you know, fast forward a little bit later, you know, yeah, I created the first study to... when the web was launched to figure out who these people were that were adopting this tool. Louis Rossetto, the founder of Wired, recruited me to be the first director of research. And all of a sudden I'm sitting on the other side, which is people are asking me, what is this ad worth? And, uh, is there anything besides a click-through that we get from this? And how do we know what the value was? And that's when I began to create the first lift study to create a control and expose group and figure out what impact that had. And then it was about, well, okay, after we did that study and prove that online advertising worked 1996 and 1997 with the IB study, the next logical question was, but should I reallocate money from television to digital from magazines to digital, which one gives me the better ROI? And answer that question I had to invent multi-touch attribution to try to connect to that information. So, I mean, that, that, that was really the process is you get confronted with a challenge to answer a question for business, to make things logically line up, to make a good decision. And you have to invent new tools and new capabilities to do that sometimes.

Vivek Vaidya: Wow! yeah. So you've obviously went go way back in terms of leveraging data and in advertising and marketing. So can you share a little bit about your perspective on the connection between marketing tech and data. What kinds of data were you using? How did you collect it? What did that process look like?

Rex Briggs: Well, some of it's quite shocking how long it takes for an industry to adopt a good idea. I mean, if you think about the... think about the internet, you're thinking, we actually knew that the advertising on the internet had value in 1996. And by 1997, we had expanded to, to measure, you know, 13 different industries. But it took another eight years before you really began to see the curves and the cycles taking off. And when we had behavioral targeting by 1996, in fact, we, I, the first study where I use neural networks to try to, to change the content that was being served on the Wired site was in 1996 as well. So you look at how long does it take them to have that adoption and oftentimes it's not a MarTech you know, challenge gap, it's an education gap and a business decision making gap. So, you know, it's remarkable how much data and information we had decades ago. And yet we're really only starting to grapple with how to effectively manage it today. It does remind me a little bit of the Industrial Revolution story of the first factories that were built with the steam engines were still organized the same way that you'd organize a factory along a river if you had a water wheel. 

Vivek Vaidya: Oh, yeah. 

Rex Briggs: But you weren't constrained to a water wheel anymore. So why were you still designing it that way? And we really have had that for the last decade to two decades in marketing, which is why are we still designing marketing as if we don't have the internet and one-to-one connections and communications. So I feel like we're finally turning the corner on that part. Uh, it's not that the data has changed, it's that some of the, though it has gotten better, it's some of the mentality has changed and the generation of people running marketing grew up with this data and this technology. 

Tom Chavez: So I'll, I want to pick that up a little bit, Rex, because you have been here from the get. It's not, you know, you are the inventor of media mix modeling, multi-touch attribution, measurement of ad efficacy and, and its value, it's open market value. I mean, this is... and, and so you're pointing out that it takes a long time, it seems for organizations to sort of metabolize the possibility right at hand. Why, you know, on the one hand, yeah, it's encouraging that it happens. On the other hand, for people like us, you know, who've been excited about what we know the technology can enable today, that latency is damn frustrating, right? The time it takes for organizations to get off their duffs and actually do it. What's your theory? What? Why? Why so slow? 

Rex Briggs: First, a quick correction. I didn't invent marketing mixed modeling that was Professor Little in 1972. And what's even more depressing is it took till the mid eighties until that was adopted. So it's not like this is the first time that only a decade was, I mean, I was the first person and I did have a patent for how do you put digital advertising into a marketing mix model. And, but again, even that took, that was in 2002 for P&G and, and J&J and a couple of other brands we worked with, and it's taken, it took another 10 years before that was broadly adopted. So you have these, this long lag. And so the question I've asked again and again is how do you shorten, shorten that cycle? And I do think this is where ROI becomes really important because if you can show the financial impact much faster then people adopt much more quickly. If they have to wait months to understand the return on investment or it isn't tangible, it isn't direct, then there's a lot of places for people to hide who don't want to change. But if you have black and white, here is how many more sales you will get here is how many more customers you will attract. It's a lot harder to hide from that and it gives the ammunition to the people who are the change agents that wanna move faster. So, you know, I, I, I think we've made a lot of progress. The cycles are getting shorter. I mean, I, I also did some of the original research on social media when we actually, when it was Myspace before Facebook was even open to the public. That model was repeated by Facebook and that helped them accelerate how much dollars moved in that space. We did the work with Greg Stuart at MMA global on mobile and that... shorten that cycle. And I think this cycle with AI working with arts AI. And, you know, I introduced and connected them with Clara tossed and here's a news flash that you'll read about tomorrow morning. They merged. So they will be bringing that technology to their customers. And I think that that if you have the enablement and you have the speed of this information with black and white ROI. I mean, they, they can now do like a money back guarantee, which is like, if you don't see this much lift or payback, you will get your, your budget back. So I mean, I think that that makes it adoption happen a lot faster. 

Tom Chavez: So it's speeding up is what I'm hearing you say. 

Rex Briggs: It should, but I think we should still ask the question, how do we go faster? And I don't fully know that answer. I know what we're trying to do. What I've seen cycle on cycle is that if you can get a consortium of marketers to do it together and publicly share that information. I mean, this is really what Greg Stuart's model is at MMA Global is bringing these consortiums together, getting them to share it, getting them to stand on stage and be public about it. Then it puts, it gives, it puts pressure on others to move faster. And it also gives, um, safety because you can look and say, Hey, it's not just our results that were good, but look at, you know, Kroger or look at ADT or look at monday.com. And the, they also had strong results and therefore we have more confidence to move faster. So I think that that's a big part of the formula. It's more human psychology than frankly, it is data and, uh, and reporting. 

Vivek Vaidya: That makes sense. But. Let's come back to the data bit for just a minute, Rex, and go back to your cross media research, which was the first of its kind back in the day. And that's when you said you invented multi-touch attribution, which kind of combined different, uh, studied the impact of different forms of channels of advertising. What role did data play? What kinds of data did you collect? And what was the process that you followed to collect the data that went into this study? Uh, if you can recall. 

Rex Briggs: The key, the key parts for the data that, that were really, you know, in my view, there was three parts that we needed to get together. We needed to understand the full funnel. So we needed to know attitudinally, uh, whether there was a shift in, uh, in favorability, brand perceptions, a brand I love, you know, these types of things. And we need to understand how that's correlated with behavior at the bottom of the funnel. Like, which of these things really explained why someone bought or didn't buy that product? Because within that, there's an interesting insight, which is that there are things that people overstate and they believe influence their brand, usually the physical attributes of the product. And then there's these emotional and social cues that they understate. But if you have both of that data, you can correlate how those understated, uh, you know, the brand that's growing more popular. I don't think that's important for how I buy, you know, maybe you buy that way, but I don't buy that way. But it turns out that when you correlate the data and see what you actually buy, you care a lot about more about social proof than you would believe. So I thought. The attitudinal part and then the behavioral part was critical. We had to be able to connect to offline sales. 

Vivek Vaidya: Hmm. 

Rex Briggs: It wasn't good enough to have purchase intent increase. We need to see actual, you know, we measured for Ford F-150. That was one of the a academic papers that was published in I think 2004. We need to know how many trucks were sold. 

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah. 

Rex Briggs: We could directly connect back to it online, in order to really know the incrementality, you had to have a control group so that you could see what would have happened if you didn't serve them an ad, but they were still on that same webpage. And so really when we think about the overall data measurement, we think of both the data that you need, the attitudinal and survey data, the behavioral data, the ability to correlate the two because people tend to understate the social impact of something, but they overstate the functional reasons. And so, but if you have both the questions about why did you buy and then, you know, whether or not they bought or not, how, and you ask them, how important are these variables about, you know, is it a brand that's going more popular or a brand your friends would drive or a brand that it gets, you know, good fuel economy or whatever people say, fuel economy is really important. Turns out not as important as you say it is, Mr buying the F-150. 

Vivek Vaidya: Exactly. 

Rex Briggs: So you can connect those data. And then the other part is profile data because if you see someone who's reached by the ads, and then they visit the web page, or they learn more information, But then they don't buy, why not? What's the difference in the profile between those people? And that's where you unlock the insights about how do you maybe change the, uh, change the message or change the audience. And frankly, that's really where the AI is getting really exciting. And we can maybe talk about that later on is that we can now, with all that data, automate that entire loop. 

Tom Chavez: Well, in an earlier podcast, Rex, we were interviewing Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who's the author of Everyone Lies, and so exactly to your last point about what F-150, Ford F 150 buyers say versus what they actually do, what they think they care about versus what they really, in fact, care about as evidenced by their buying decisions, right? What it reminds me of now is, okay, there are these pesky human beings on the other side of the screen buying and doing things, and as these strategies become ever more sophisticated, it feels like we're bumping up against a line of, wow, you can get very personal. It's one, is it one-to-one? I don't know if it's one to one, but we're getting deep into the nooks and crannies of what people actually think and do, which naturally calls to mind a set of, of privacy concerns, right? So how do you think about how much information is too much information? Do marketers actually care as the whole planet tilts towards broader regulations for privacy. Well, it's certainly in Europe and California where we live, many, many other places. Is it a tempest in a teapot? Should marketers or is it just a momentary little flash in the pan and it'll pass? How should we be thinking about these things? And do marketers actually care?

Rex Briggs: Yeah, I think that there's two layers that I'd like to talk about. One is on the first layer, it's important to recognize that I don't need to have data that's perfect about you specifically to connect with you. I need to signal, uh, and I can still have some noise. So when we were working on Alexis as a brand, the, you know, the data brokers, for example, gave us the target of people who were highly likely to buy a luxury car will turn out that their target audience of who they're giving us was twice the size of all the people who are in market to buy a luxury car. And so, you know, at 1st, I'm like, well, that data can't half of that data has to be wrong because I know how many are sold each year. And it's not that number, that's much, you know, it's a much smaller number. But as I looked deeper into it, what really mattered was as I looked at their data, I'm like, actually, the data is pretty good because this population, this audience has an index of 300%. They're three times more likely to buy a luxury car than if I just grab someone at random. So there was signal in that data, even though it wasn't perfect. So there's quite a lot that we can do with AI and analytics that doesn't require privacy or specific personal data. We can do it with cohort data, we can do it with, with information that, that's aggregated, that, that has signal to it. So that's the first layer I think to understand is that these things can get very, very good even without PII data. The second part is I have thought from the time I was Director of Research at Wired to today that consumers really should, uh, have more control over their data. And I've seen many attempts to try to get zero party data. Maybe this next wave, you know, we'll finally see that happen. I haven't seen the business model pull that off yet, but I am hoping I am cheering for a team, give consumers control of their own data, let them benefit from that data as well. I personally have I never got COVID 19, but I did get 19 pounds during COVID. So I want to lose that and if their marketers knew that and could help position and message to me things that would be healthier for my lifestyle or would help me achieve that goal, I would love that. 

Tom Chavez: Yeah. 

Rex Briggs: And so there are a lot of things where I think if we're connected with data and information, we can share that in a way that brings us the, you know, the type of outcomes that we want, that could be a really beneficial ecosystem. 

Tom Chavez: Well, going back to the mid 1990s and to the point you just raised, Rex, I remember Bill Gates wrote a book called The Road Ahead in 1996-ish. Do you recall that book? 

Rex Briggs: I do recall that. 

Tom Chavez: Right. He was, he was foretelling the emergence of a data economy where an individual consumers could say, nope, I will, if you want to market to me, I'm going to control my data signature and you're going to pay me for these bits of data. So exactly to the point that you just made, you know, we, a lot of us including Bill Gates and many others have had this vision of data control for the consumer. It remains so elusive, right? I mean. 

Rex Briggs: Yeah, it does. And, and, you know, they bought Firefly, which was the technology they used to try to create their passport and they, they can pull off and they had all the resources of Microsoft. It may have been too early. It may have been just the execution wasn't quite right. But I do think, I do think that we're about to enter a whole new phase with a whole new media. And that media, in my opinion, is going to be an agent, an AI agent that knows us and that interacts with us. And really look, you want to know where technology is going with, uh, internet, always look at porn first because that's where these things happen first. And right now there are people who are paying good money to chat with a virtual AI, flirt with them, have sexy talk, whatever you want to call it. And that is giving a tremendous amount of data about who you are and what you want. 

Tom Chavez: Right. 

Rex Briggs: In a very specific narrow sense. But if you imagine that there might also be one who's your buddy, who's watching the sports game and giving you tips for your fantasy football league, about which players you should go for or whatever, we already have agents that are helping us book travel and other things. And those agents will learn enough about us to where they can also have host read-ins pretty much advertising to us, right? So why not figure out in this next wave, a mechanism as we build these agents to where you have control over that data? I'm working with my son, Jared, who's in college, he's a junior. And this is an entrepreneurial idea that he's working with, which is, can I create agents? And could you have control over that data or have a different kind of model when you create that. I'm sure lots of other people will have something similar and we'll see, you know, which of those ideas when, but that's one way in which you might end up in a world where consumers do have control over their data because people build in the business model from day one, rather than what Bill Gates was doing back, you know, in the internet after it started taking off, trying to bolt it on after the fact. So I do think we have to catch it in a generational change and have it built in from the beginning for it to, for that idea of consumers and control their data to take off. And even then it might not work. It might be because it was just don't care. I think they care. I think they should care. I think us close to the data look at and say, you should care. But maybe they don't. 

Vivek Vaidya: I think... 

Tom Chavez: Yeah, sorry go ahead. 

Vivek Vaidya: Sorry. The interesting thing over there is a lot of these ideas you talked about with agents, right. Like some of them are actually useful in that they save you time, like an agent that books travel for you. And some of them are vanity tools like, Oh, I have this agent that is telling me how to change my fantasy football team lineup or whatever in real time if I, if I can, right. So I think the interesting thing over there would be to see which agents... can you combine a set of agents into a business? Because individually each of them could be useful, but then is it worth building a business on? I think that's, that's where the key question is in my mind at least. 

Rex Briggs: Absolutely. And if you think about it, what is a TV network? But a collection of different media programs and so forth. So why couldn't you have a business that is a collection of different agents and modalities and relationships? So I think that there's going to be a lot of exciting space. Eventually someone will come by and maybe consolidate the space and create a network of agents and data. And I think if you do it with consumer design in the beginning, where they are going to own their data and they're going to have the right to say who does or doesn't have permission to use this and market it. That could be really interesting. Uh, and you might even have an agent that's smart enough to help you advise on which things you should turn on or not. 

Tom Chavez: We're looking at AI avatar projects inside super{set} right now and none of them are porn related, but you know, semi earnestly picking up on a joke that Chris Rock made where he said, listen, I don't want to go on any more, any more first dates, nobody should go on first dates, you should just send a representative. Well, in the realm of data, why not just send my avatar to your point Vivek, get some useful information, see if our avatars like each other. And is this actually worth, you know, $3.50 on a cup of coffee. 

Rex Briggs: Yeah, exactly. And there are, there are agents right now that, well, first of all, in the darker side of dating, there are people who are already using AI to help them do the flirting part of it. And then they, they go in for the date later on. And, you know, that was a controversial story that was posted maybe a year or so ago about, uh, about a company doing that. And they weren't disclosing that it was AI behind. So I think the challenge as we enter this new phase is how do we have transparency and still have authenticity? And how does that balance and connection? I mean, Google got their hands slapped with duplex, which people thought was great when it first came out. Oh man, you've got this thing that's calling and making an appointment for my, my hair appointment. And it even pauses and says, um, uh, it sounds very natural, but it's a robot. Uh, so you know, then after all the applause died out and people said, ethically, is that such a good idea? You know, they, they put the brakes on and said, well, we'll figure out how to disclose. So I think we're in that weird space in society in the uncanny valley where we don't really know how to signal? 

Tom Chavez: Right.

Rex Briggs: There was years ago, a robotic performer that had a, an actual bladder in that had air coming out and they blew a horn and it sounded incredibly analog and human like because it was designed to be that. And at the end of the performance, which was an amazing performance, people were like, do we clap? I mean, does a robot need applause? And so we're in that space where we don't really know how to interact yet. 

Tom Chavez: Yeah, no, I mean, we're all figuring it out. The social norms are very strange. I don't know where we land, but I do look forward to the day, Rex, in about 10 to 15 years where I get to go to a party. And somebody's scolding me for something naughty or saucy that, that I did or said. And I'll say, listen, my avatar did that. I had nothing to do with it. And I, on behalf of my avatar, I want to apologize profusely. We're headed there. 

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah, but yes, but take that to just a little, take that a little further. And your avatar does something or says something that results in something terrible happening. Are you liable? 

Tom Chavez: I know. I mean, and that's, that's the world we're hurtling into, it's hard. I'm, I'm being a little cheeky and it's perilous. I agree with you. 

Rex Briggs: Yeah, well it is. In, uh, in the other project I have with Jared's twin brother, Caleb. Caleb, uh, was the primary author in the book, The AI Conundrum. And, uh, and as we co wrote the very last chapter together, what I couldn't sleep at night because I'm thinking about the implications of anonymous, autonomous AI, these agents. And my fear is that if they're anonymous, uh, we don't have a responsible party attached to them. 

Vivek Vaidya: Exactly. 

Rex Briggs: Like, I think your point is that we actually do need to have an identity system for AI that is attached to an individual who has authenticated ID, who is accountable and responsible for the actions or a company that's accountable and responsible for the actions. Now, the challenges, if you go there, there and we've just removed a tremendous amount of privacy because if the AI has to have identity and authentic connection that we can trace back to what they do. So to humans, because you have to be able to track everything to be able to have that system work. So I think we're going to get to a place where we have to really have the debate about what is the risk and perils of giving up privacy for identity in this AI world. Or are we okay with things like chaos GPT, which is that, you know, the AI that was programmed to try to manipulate humanity and destroy humanity. And, you know, within, I mean, that, that came out less than a week after the first autonomous agents were being connected to GPT 3.5, I think in that, in that version, and here it was trying to get the nuclear bombs to destroy humanity. And when it couldn't do that, it went through the logic and said, what's the second most destructive thing I can do? It opened a Twitter account. 

Vivek Vaidya: But actually, you don't even have to go that far and imagine crazy use cases like that, right? Let's go back to the travel agent, right? And if that travel agent is acting on your behalf, and if you haven't specified the right constraints, it ends up booking a ticket for you that costs $10,000 and suddenly you have to pay because it's, it's acting on your behalf. And now suddenly you're in this fight with the credit card company and the airline that, Hey, I didn't book the ticket, my avatar did, but it did it on your behalf. So who's liable, right? 

Rex Briggs: That's right. So ultimately I think we have to have a model where you are responsible for your AI. 

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah. And then if you do that, then you're right back to it needs human identity. 

Rex Briggs: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that that is actually going to be the big issue that we have to contend with very relatively quickly. I mean, the other one is authentic content creation and, you know, we will have more and more AI content coming at us and the watermark ideas that the AI companies have said are, you know, help them, cover their ass, but actually doesn't do anything to protect humanity because any organization that wants to do something malicious with AI content simply won't use the watermarked version. So I think what we have to do is we have to flip the model and says that all authentic content has a trust mark on it, and if you don't see that trust mark, then you should question whether or not it's, uh, it's synthetic or created by AI. And if it is created by AI, but a scrupulous AI, it will have a trust mark and you can see that, you know, it's, it's different than the, the non AI generated, so... 

Tom Chavez: which works just great 

Rex Briggs: ...pretty soon before our election starts rolling. 

Tom Chavez: Which will work just great right up until the moment until an unscrupulous AI learns how to fake the watermark.

Rex Briggs: Yeah. Yes. And that's a really interesting part, which is how do you do a zero trust system? And the good news though, is I think because of, uh, I'm not a big crypto currency person, but I do like some of the blockchain capabilities of doing zero trust, uh, authentication and tracing. And so, yeah, but, but you, yeah, you're right. I mean, the model then becomes, okay, if I see something that has been uploaded into Meta, uh, and I see the trust mark and I click on that, then I really have to trust that Meta did its validation of the content before it came up in that chain. That's not actually a hard technology that technology exists with blockchain right now with uh, so I think that that part is solvable. I think the harder part is getting people to adopt fast enough and flip, invert the idea that, that AI gets marked. And it's like, no, no, no authentic content gets marked because if it doesn't have it, then you question its reality. 

Tom Chavez: Well, so speaking of AI generated content, Rex, and before we go, I was wondering if you would tell us a little bit about this more recent work you've done in the use of gen AI for the generation of content for advertising, right? And what happened as you saw the early results, I mean, just talk us through end-to-end because it is tectonic. And I hope it's okay. We can talk about it on the podcast. I know it's about to be on court and more, more broadly disseminated, but maybe our listeners can get an early view of, of the breakthrough results that you generated there.

Rex Briggs: Absolutely. I think the, so it started with some of the work around the pandemic and trying to figure out how do you talk to such a diverse country about vaccinations and trying to get authoritative information and facts and a company ArtsAI. I had volunteered to do some work with the ad council with me. And I had a sense that it should work better, but I was really blown away when I saw 43 percent lift. And then we rolled it out to more, more states. And ultimately it's, uh, with some of our work at Brown University, we calculated, we saved 3,500 lives and kept over 20,000 people out of the hospital because of that ability to connect more of the information that, that, that would resonate with someone and get them to want to learn more. 

Tom Chavez: Amazing.

Rex Briggs: So we then brought that to other marketers through MMA Global's consortium for AI personalization. And it turns out that the vaccine in states like Mississippi and Missouri is a hard sell. And so that was the 43%. That was a low mark. And actually, when we did it in commercial businesses, the average lift has been 107%, so doubling of conversion rates. So, um, the next piece of that was connecting ArtsAI with Claritas because they have got all this history of this great data and inform information that isn't necessarily PII in some cases you can do it without it, but this cohort data that could make the advertising better and then connecting that with generative AI so that the generative AI could be fed profiles from Claritas and insights about, from ArtsAI about which ads work when and, uh, and with synthetic voices, you can create, uh, and OpenAI's GPT 4, you can create great scripts and synthetic music. All that comes together automatically and the information is feeding back and learning from itself. So we're doing the first couple of studies now. And, and, and as I said, you know, the ArtsAI, Claritas, uh, merger just happened. So, I had a vision of what they could do together and I'm really excited to see them come together. And I'm, I think we've, we haven't announced who the first marketer is just yet, but the market of the CMO has said, Hey, I need this to present in a board meeting in Q1. So let's go. So more will come soon. 

Vivek Vaidya: Wow. Good luck with all that, Rex, this sounds fascinating as it kind of all comes together, right? 

Rex Briggs: So it'd be fun. And I know you guys are working on some really, really great closed loop systems. And so I think that is the generation that's coming now is this ability to, I mean, it's a little bit frightening because it's a very, very powerful tool. And to your point, it may may make some products and brands that we might have questions about, you know, are they healthy? Are they good for us? You know, may, may help them accelerate. And so, I mean, that's, I think that's always the struggle, which is how do you make sure that we do things and use things in a way that that's responsible. And so, yeah, people have some thoughts about how do we help build it up. I mean, what the key thing that actually someone from Kroger and someone from PNG had told me is that they were showing the story that said, you know, we weren't trying to make a social statement or whatever when he was talking about when he worked at PNG, but when we did the Don ads, we wanted to make sure we weren't just showing women doing the dishes, even though the majority of people who buy Don are women, we wanted to show diverse representations that was important for, uh, so, cause we, maybe we helped create the society where.... 

Vivek Vaidya: ...exactly... 

Rex Briggs: So how do we become positive and show more diverse imagery? And he turned to me and said, how do we do that with AI? 

Tom Chavez: Mm-hmm. 

Rex Briggs: It's automatically learning from its feedback loop. 

Vivek Vaidya: It's a fascinating question. 

Rex Briggs: And I do not know the answer to that question. Yeah. I do not know the answer. But if someone, some of your listeners do, I wanna make sure we solve that because otherwise we become regressive with our whole use of AI and I don't want that to happen to our society.

Vivek Vaidya: Yep. And what a great note to end on. Rex, thank you. It's been a fascinating, fascinating conversation. So much, so much interesting stuff. I hope our listeners enjoyed it too. Thank you for joining us today on The Closed session. 

Tom Chavez: Really awesome, Rex. Thanks for joining. Thanks to our listeners for tuning in. Don't forget to sign up for the newsletter to stay up to date in our latest episodes and news at superset.com. Thanks all for listening and we'll see everybody next time.

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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.

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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."

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Overheard @ super{summit}

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

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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 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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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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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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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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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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Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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."

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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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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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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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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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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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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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