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What Consumers Think of AI and Their Privacy

November 28, 2023
Written By
November 28, 2023
Season 4 Episode 13
29:07
Written By

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.

Are Americans aware of the rapid pace of change in AI? How do they feel about companies mining their personal data and leveraging that data into LLMs and other AI tools? What are consumer expectations of the right to privacy alongside ethical data principles like transparency, fairness, agency, and accountability? In test purchase scenarios, will consumers choose products with ethical AI features?

Joining Tom and Vivek on The {Closed} Session are Slingshot Strategies partner and pollster Evan Roth Smith and Ketch Head of Solutions Jonathan Joseph to dig into the survey results and get us into the head of the typical American consumer. Find out just how much consumers will reward ethical AI - with their hard-earned cash and trust - when offered by the companies and products they love.

To learn more about The Ethical Tech Project, visit ethicaltechproject.org and subscribe to their Substack newsletter at news.ethicaltechproject.com.

Download the survey report at ethicaltechproject.com/survey.

Learn more about Ketch at www.ketch.com

Learn more about Slingshot Strategies at slingshotstrat.com.

Transcript

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

Vivek Vaidya: Helloand welcome back to season four of The Closed Session. I'm Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez: And I'mTom Chavez.

Vivek Vaidya: Sotoday we have something special for our listeners. We're joined by JonathanJoseph from super{set}'s portfolio company, Ketch and Evan Smith, a pollsterand partner at Slingshot Strategies. We worked with, uh, J, uh, JJ and Evan,worked together create this survey which we're, which we're gonna, gonna diveinto today. Evan was a, is a partner at Slingshot Strategies. He overseesinternational polling and data operations. Uh, he's an advisor to variousdiverse campaigns and causes and he's a co author of, uh, a book called Putin'sMaster Plan. Actually, Evan, I've seen that book in bookstores. And I, I thinkI'm going to buy it cause I'm reading, I'm actually reading a fiction bookright now called Moscow X, which is, uh, by, uh, McCloskey. He's a former CIAanalyst. It's a spy fiction book. Of course, Putin is there and, and money,money people from Putin and they want to get money out and on all of that. So,uh, yeah, I'll, I'll check your book out as well. And then JJ is at Ketch. He'sa Head of Solutions and Marketing for Ketch.

Tom Chavez: Welcometo both of you. This is going to be, this is going to be a good conversationhere. So let's, let's go ahead and jump on in here directly. There's no, a lotof good stuff to cover here. I was wondering, let's just kind of back it up forour listeners and give them a quick a quick sense of the story behind thissurvey. Why now? What's the point of this? JJ, how do we, how do we get goinghere?

Jonathan Joseph: Youknow, Tom, first of all, thanks for having us, Tom and Vivek. It's um, we justfelt like nobody was really talking about AI, and we felt like we needed tokickstart that conversation, you know, if you know what I mean. Um, no, butseriously, we, we wanted to understand how consumers felt about AI, given thatit was so, so present in the zeitgeist. But the way we wanted to approach it,uh, Evan and I was to think about, if you did the right thing with AI, wouldconsumers reward companies that approached it ethically, that approached itresponsibly? And if so, how much would they do that? Uh, would they spend morewith you? Would they trust you more? And so there was a quantitative piece herein addition to the qualitative. And that's,, that's really what drove us.

Vivek Vaidya: Andthen you, this survey was done in partnership with the Ethical Tech Project,right, JJ?

Jonathan Joseph:Yeah, that's right, Vivek, and the Ethical Tech Project, you know, it's a, it'sa convening of industry people, academia, policy makers, legal, and, and theidea is how do you establish the frameworks for the responsible use of AI? Bothfrom, first of all, what are good data practices? What does that even mean? Butalso, what does that technical footprint look like to actually execute onethical data, on, you know, privacy by design? Which are a lot of words thatget thrown around, and we wanted to put some real practical meat behind thebones. And of course, as you know, Ketch is all about that as a privacymanagement software company. And so it was a natural convening, uh, and Evansruns some great surveys, uh, as well, and so we thought this is the... this isthe triumvirate.

Tom Chavez: So Evan,roping you in here. So back us up now and how did you think about, you know,you do a lot of this kind of work. So maybe even just a brief tutorial for ourlisteners. How do you think about standing up one of these studies fromscratch? How do you design it in the way that leads to, you know, the greatestinsight covers, you know, the most interesting or important swath of the topicsat hand? And how did you approach, how did you approach it here specificallywith, with regard to these topics?.

Evan Smith: Well, forthis survey, and, and as, as JJ was alluding to, you know, there, there is thiswhole conversation going on around AI and, you know, when I hear these newtopics breaking into the news, breaking into the zeitgeist, breaking out of theworld of specialists and practitioners and people making all sorts ofassumptions and trying to react quickly. First reaction I had, first reactionJJ had and the folks at, at ETP had was, you know, let's get some data behindthis, right? Show us the numbers. Let's really nail this down. Because thenotherwise these narratives spin up and, and, uh, we're dealing with all sortsof, you know, potentially false assumptions that work their way into how peopleoperate. And so to stand this survey up, we wanted to tackle not just the, youknow, multitude of questions that we would ordinarily ask, that we've even seenother surveys, um, by other pollsters come out and talk about, right? You know,what, who do you trust to get this right? How do you, you know, how much do youvalue privacy? How concerned are you? We wanted to tackle this with some reallyheavy duty, uh, statistical analysis. And so as part of this survey, we didwhat's called a conjoined analysis, which is a statistical technique where yousort of throw thousands of scenarios, in this case over 20,000 different testsof product comparisons in front of respondents. Uh, and we had 2,500respondents in the survey. All of these you know, options that we tested, dataprivacy features, standard consumer features, price features, to see how in, ina real choice and selection scenario. Respondents and consumers reacted, right?And so that's what let us, I think, cut to some really the, the, the mostbiting conclusions, the most fascinating conclusions out of this was to, to goa level deeper than what we've seen a lot of other quantitative research do.

Vivek Vaidya: So asyou were thinking about designing the questions and, and figuring out how youwere going to do all this analysis, what were your expectations, both of you,like, what were your expectations going in and how do they compare to reality?

Jonathan Joseph: Youknow, I, I thought that people would be super worried and concerned about AIjust given, it just... it seems like there's a lot of negative sentiment aroundit and that's going to generally cause more harm than benefit. So I was alittle surprised that it was more balanced than that but also a whole lot morenuanced. And so there's a couple of pieces there, you know, I would say thatconsumers are cautiously optimistic about AI. They pretty split onfavorability, unfavorability, pretty evenly split, split on, is it, is it aharm or will it be a benefit? But when you dig in by the use case, it starts toget super interesting. Like for example, things that are seemingly innocuous,that help us in our everyday lives, like translation or navigation, people wereall about that and AI is going to do great for us there. But you start talkingself driving cars and you start talking wealth management and healthcare andpeople start to get really worried. So, you know, there is something about AI asit applies to the use case. And the worry kind of splits, if that makes sense.

Vivek Vaidya: Howabout you, Evan?

Evan Smith: One thingI was, I was concerned about going into this and... was sometimes when you dosurvey research on something that is so quickly evolving, um, and the peopleare learning about in real time and is new to so many people as, as AI is,sometimes you get mush, right, in your, in your results, right? Sometimespeople don't know what they think, they're answering not sure and don't know toevery question, people are too split to draw real meaningful conclusions and...and that was a concern here, right? Because AI is, is new, and we didn't getthat. We got really conclusive consumer sentiment here around this, this reallyburning desire for someone to go out there and get AI data privacy right, andget ethical data privacy practices right. A clear, deeply, widely held evenupon probing, uh, sentiment that people are unhappy. Consumers aren't happywith the current state of data privacy. They feel violated, uh, in theirprivacy rights. They don't have one, you know, lodestar that they're looking to,that they feel will come and save them. They are waiting for someone to, tocome out and get it right, and they're ready to, to reward whoever gets itright, whether it's the government, whether it's industry, whether it'sadvocates consumers are really strongly, passionately motivated for someone tocome along and make sure AI is, is done right.

Tom Chavez: Well, so,so diving in here, because I think as JJ points out, what the study seems to betelling us is that the consumers are cautiously optimistic and at the sametime, they're worried. So one of the first findings is that 75%, right, 75% ofour respondents would go back to a time when companies didn't have so much oftheir personal data. So it's this kind of, I don't know, it's, it's adorable,quixotic, what's the word? Like really? You want to go back to a time when, youknow, let's, let's go back to a time when, when we had horses and buggies and,and we were smelting our own steel, that was beautiful too. I'm playing withthis a little bit, but it, it, on the, it feels strangely, it feels bizarre tome that cause, that people want to go back to that time when this is so plainlywhere we live today. So what, what do we infer from this? Are people fed up? Isit just a skepticism? Is it... what inference should companies listening tothat draw from, from that 75% number?

Jonathan Joseph:Yeah, well, you know, what are they really saying when they, when they say theywant to go back to this time when companies didn't have so much data, Tom, Ithink it's... maybe it's a frustration or a little bit of hopelessness that thecat's out of the bag a little bit. And the companies have this data already andconsumers are maybe a little fed up about what's happening to that data andreally the lack of control over it, I think. If you tie that statistic, that75% of people want to go back to the time when people didn't have so much data,and you start to ask people, well, we can't go back there. What can we do aboutit today? The answer is, well, we want choice and control. We want to be ableto choose as consumers what businesses are doing with our data, we need to beable to revoke their permission, uh, when we feel like it. We want people to,we want brands to be responsible when they collect and use our data. Andthere's a ton of rules around that, that we can dig into later on what theymean by that. But that's what I think it is, Evan, I'm kind of curious what youthought here as well, because it's... going back to a time, I think to me justmeant we need to control this thing and, and, and we let brands have this data,you kind of want to be crazy on it.

Evan Smith: Yeah, I,I, I agree entirely with JJ, you know, if you can't go back to the horse andbuggy, what do you do? You, you invent the traffic light, you invent theseatbelt, you invent the airbag, you invent the, you know, the, the cloverinterchange, right? You do everything that gets people comfortable with the newreality and, and willing to engage with it and patronize it at scale. Uh, and,and, and that is what we found, you know, we've of course found this deep doubtand deep skepticism and in, in many ways worry, concern around personal data,business data, all these sorts of things. But then when we went ahead andtested, okay, if a company did this, did X, Y, Z, P, Q, R, consumers areresponsive. They're ready for the seatbelt. They're ready for the trafficlight.

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah.And I think that's consistent with JJ and you, as you were pointing out, right?One of another finding was most consumers, I think 90%, think that companiesshould give them choice and control over their data. My question though is dothey know what that means? So Evan, what do you think about that? Do you knowconsumers know what choice and control over the data would look like?

Evan Smith: No, no,they don't. They don't. They're, again, they're ready, they're ready for, forsomeone to ride, you know, the king over the mountain, right? To, to ride inand say, here's someone ready to get this right. And, uh, and we shouldn'texpect consumers to articulate the details of what good data privacy practiceslook like or understand the technical side of what's possible and what's notpossible, uh, for a company to engage in. But what that leads us to is thishuge first mover advantage for, for people who are willing to again, whetherit's a regulatory mover or an industry mover or an advocacy mover to come inand do it in a way that, uh, you know, to do data privacy to do AI data privacyspecifically, uh, in a way that consumers, uh, feel. Yes. Okay. Finally,someone is reactive to this. There is a long, uh, history, right? Prior to AI,prior even to the, you know, the widespread adoption of, of the internet ofconcerns around data privacy, personal privacy, you know, how that's regulated,how industry treats that. And, and those fears have never really been fullyaddressed in, in, uh, the US consumer population. And so, the, the first moveradvantage is enormous and, and I think explains some of the, the findings, someof which are quite dramatic, uh, in this survey, that, that we see when, whenconsumers are presented with real data privacy options that, that theycertainly wouldn't be able to articulate themselves. But when someonearticulates it for them, they're responsive.

Tom Chavez: Bearingin mind what you just said, Evan, which is people want this, they don'tnecessarily know exactly what it looks like. But they're receptive to, to asolution. It is still surprising, at least to me, that, that the respondents inthis survey so overwhelmingly agreed with the idea that businesses should adoptethical data practices. Maybe I'm naive, maybe I'm, but I, because certain daysI think a lot of us connected to these issues are a little disheartened, like,are we just kind of slogging away in the wilderness? Who's with us? Here theresults were just unassailable, right? They're so clear. Were you guyssurprised by by this result? Because I, I certainly was.

Jonathan Joseph: Iwas... I was surprised at the extent of it, for sure. I mean, above 90%, youknow, overwhelming agreement on most of these issues. I think generally, wedon't give consumers enough credit for understand... in how much theyunderstand that data and their data is the currency, right, that fuels the dataeconomy, that they really get it, they understand that in exchange for theirdata, they get better things from businesses, they get personalization, theyget discounts, I mean, even discounts, they get, they get whatever, and I don'tthink we've given them enough credit, and if you tie that to what they've seenover the past five or six years with data breaches and Cambridge Analytica andthe whole long list of things, right? And when you think about it in thatcontext, well yeah, then of course, of course it's unassailable that they wouldwant some, some control over this.

Evan Smith: And Ithink it, you know, part of what's, what's, what's working here is the selfinterest that consumers have, right? They're not viewing this as ethical datapractices necessarily. They're viewing this as data practices that protect me,right? The, the abstraction around ethics isn't, you know, isn't as salient,but what's salient is my company was targeted by a, a, a phishing attack, youknow, my, my parents or grandparents were targeted by, by this or that, youknow, my friends was, was involved in a data breach and lost all theirpasswords, right? All of these things, horror stories that you read about,personal experiences that people have, uh, to them it's not, it's notnecessarily the ethics that, that motivate the consensus. It's the, the selfinterest, and yeah, I don't want bad things to happen to me. And if thesedata... are the data practices that will present, prevent that then I endorsethem fully, and we see, we see consumers endorsing them fully.

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah.And, and just so building on that, right. One, another interesting finding forme at least was that businesses implementing ethical data features, liftpurchase intent among consumers by double digits above, uh, above baseline. Sowhat, how did we, uh, what was the process to get to this finding, Evan?

Evan Smith: Yeah, soso this is the finding of the conjoint test. So we tested six feature sets. Wetested a privacy feature, fairness features, agency features, accountabilityfeatures, transparency features, and then standard consumer incentive featuresas well as price. Consumers saw you know, different business types, they sawcable TV providers and online retailers and travel packages, they werepresented with product pairs about 900 different product types randomlyassembled from, from all those different feature sets. In, as I mentioned22,500 different pairings. And were asked to select between them which one ofthese are you going to buy? If these are, you know, cater... you know, betweenthese two features, in between these two products. Uh, and which one of thesedo you trust more from a brand trustworthiness perspective? So, we're then ableto take all that data together in, in the conjoint analysis. And establish whatthe absence of a certain feature does in terms of how, uh, you know, how likelya consumer is to, to purchase a product with or without it. And how likely aconsumer is to, to trust a brand that has it or doesn't have it. And, andacross everything we tested, right? We saw an average of, of 15.4% increase inpurchase intent when a product had at least one of these ethical datapractices. And of course, some are more impactful than others, we had a littlebit of a scale. But they all outperformed traditional incentives like discountsand, you know, easy return guarantees and consumer customer support guaranteesor whatever the case may be right for the product. But we, we went in andtested, you know, literally tens of thousands of scenarios here. And, andsifted through the data and found, yeah, these, these incentives work when, whenconsumers are, are confronted with this Stark choice between having good datapractices and, and not having them.

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah.And JJ, like one thing that's fascinating to me in this whole discussion,right? And specifically the answer to this question is. In our work at Ketch,right? Privacy is always and privacy compliance, ethical data practices, etc.They're always viewed as a defensive move, right? So this finding tells analternative story that businesses can and should perhaps play offense, right,with adopting ethical data practices. What do you think about that?

Jonathan Joseph:Yeah, 100% agree Vivek. It's, um, you can't just approach privacy, for example,as a compliance thing, as a defensive compliance thing. First of all, you won'teven get budget within your own organization if you approach it that way, it,it has to be an offensive move. And it's funny in all, in all the angles thatwe try here, one of the, one of the ones we wondered about is like, you know,well, businesses just do the right thing. Well, they just do the right thingand, you know, approach data ethically and, you know, sad to say, notnecessarily right. Not all of them will, maybe we should say, and so that's,that's one of the key reasons we wanted to do this study. How do we put anumber behind ethical data use and as Evan was saying off the charts, peoplewill buy more from you when you do this in a lot of ways as we think throughother values that consumers share with brands, like sustainability, likediversity and inclusion. This isn't that different. And I mean, just look atPatagonia and everything it's done in creating equity value as it plows intosustainability. And I think as you say Vivek, it's for businesses who doprivacy right, who do ethical data right, who do AI right, it's not justbecause you're a good guy, it's, there's cash on the other end of it, there'srevenue, there's brand growth.

Tom Chavez: Speakingof cash and brand growth, Evan, you do a lot of these studies, so you're,you're accustomed to different levels of brand and purchase intent response.Can you kind of calibrate the 15.4% here relative to some of the other tacticsthat you see out there?

Evan Smith: Sure. Imean, I mean, we have to be clear about, about what that finding means, right?This is an experimental environment and consumers are asking to choose, they'rebeing presented upfront in their face with these choices about data privacy.And, and they're, they've just been asked a whole bunch of questions about dataprivacy, so they're thinking about it, right, as they're making these choices.Uh, but what it, what it suggests to me is, is that foregrounding this stuff,you know, and we did, of course, foreground it in this study, foregroundingthese choices, um, is, is, as JJ said, you know, it's a sales incentive, right?It's, it's, you know, we compared this stuff against discounts and all theseother things that, that, that, uh, companies are used to doing and used todoing, you know, an ROI calculus against, okay, if we discount our product by10%, that costs them money on, on, on their revenue, but they're seeing somesales uh, improvement out of it. So this is a way to understand data practices,ethical data practices in a similar way to say, okay, yes, there might be somecosts or, or internal process sacrifices around, for example, you know,limiting how long you keep customer data or allowing, uh, consumers to, torevoke customer data access, right? These were two of the most popular thingsor issuing transparency reports to your customers about, about how you're usingtheir data. Okay, of course, there are costs associated with that, just likethere are costs with any other sort of incentive, you might offer a customer.But there are also clearly here upsides in, in purchase intent. And we testedthose traditional incentives in the exact same environment, in the exact samecontext, side by side with these, uh, data practices. And the data practicesoutperformed the traditional stuff. So as, as, as consumers start to thinkabout this stuff more and more, as it's in the news constantly, and as, asscandals happen around companies that do this the wrong way, uh, and, and, and,you know, put customer data at risk and as people hear about these things, uh,it will become more and more top of mind. Uh, and consumers will look for forthese more ethical approaches, more self preservationist again, from the, fromthe consumer standpoint approaches. And how they make purchase decisions andwhich brands they trust when they're choosing who to buy from or engage with.

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah, Iwant to come back to one thing that JJ, you mentioned earlier, and you and Ihave talked about this in other contexts as well. You guys also test support oropposition. across various use cases, right? And I found fascinating that foruse cases like translation, navigation, and virtual assistants, as you werecalling out JJ, there's overwhelming support. But when it comes to use caseslike customer service, investment advice, and self driving cars, there isn'tthat much support. In fact, there's overwhelming opposition to these use casesin the use of AI. So Evan, what do you think is behind that that difference infinding across use cases?

Evan Smith: I thinkit has to do with finding the balance between helpfulness, because all the usecases we've tested are more or less helpful, and accountability, right? Becausethere is a trust deficit right now around AI, uh, it's, it's, easy to hold atranslation software accountable. You can cross check against your GoogleTranslate or your Pocket Dictionary or your friend who speaks, you know,Spanish or Chinese or Russian or whatever you're trying to translate to. It'sharder to hold an AI car that T-bones you accountable, right? You know, do Igo, do they have insurance? You know, consumers don't, haven't wrapped theirheads around what that looks like yet. Same for, for things like medicaldiagnosis, right? Which was another one that, that sort of had a, a middling,uh, outcome, uh, with consumers compared to some of these other things. Youknow, what, what tested at the top was translation and, and, and autocorrectand spelling and navigation, fraud detection, right? Things where it's justalmost all upside and there's very little risk of having to hold an AIaccountable. So any, any scenario, you know, we've seen this around writingarticles and essays. Who do you blame if someone goes and asks an AI to writesomething and it gets something wrong? Right. We've seen high profile caseswhere AI written pieces are wrong. Who's accountable? The person who put in theprompt? The... you know, the, uh, the, the prompt engineer, the developers ofthe prompt, you know, how do you hold something like that accountable? Meanwhile,something like a translation software and an autocorrect or whatever, that'seasy to hold accountable in the consumer mind. That's, that's at least myperspective on what's, what's motivated some of these, these preferences. Notnecessarily how helpful it is, but how easy it is to hold, hold accountable orsort of do a backstomp against the AI.

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah.JJ, what do you think?

Jonathan Joseph: It'sum, I go back and forth on this one, Vivek. It's interesting, I know we'vetalked about it a lot, uh, with Evan. There's something to the downstreameffect of the result that AI gave you and some kind of understanding, I think,innately that, that consumers have on the risk. So translation, you get atranslation wrong, like what's the worst that can happen? You know, you get anavigation wrong and hey, you're five minutes out, not even gonna, you're not,you're not even really going to know that you are five minutes out. You're justgoing to go the way that, that, you know, AI told you to go. But then there'ssomething about customer service and investment advice, I think they'redifferent. Customer service, you're pissed off and you call a helpdesk. Look,you need help, you want help. Like, last thing you want is to talk to an AI.You're pressing zero, you're getting a, you know, customer representative assoon as you can. Investment advice and self driving cars just... I mean, one's,one's touching your money and the other one's touching potentially your health,right? Yeah. Like the, the consequences are huge. And I think people naturallyworry about AI making decisions there. You know, especially, Vivek, we'vetalked about this, just the way that AI works, the res... the, the result couldbe different every time. So you ask it a question about investment advice andyou ask it again, and you're gonna get the same answer. And does that give youconfidence?

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah.And dev...Definitely. I found that, I found that breakdown by use case is veryinteresting. Uh, one thing that struck me was also for things like translationand navigation, you don't know the answer, right? That's why you're asking themachine, right? But with, with investment advice and with self driving cars,like. Well, I can drive a car better than an AI, right? So there's, I thinkthere's some of that also that plays into it, uh, in my opinion, but I foundthat finding quite fascinating. So we're coming up on closing, but before weclose out, we have this thing we do, which is a completely unpaid forpromotion. And, uh, so we're gonna do something different over here. We'regonna, we're gonna give you guys some prompts and ask you to choose one or theother. And so I'll start JJ, should we leave AI regulation to big tech or toDC?

Jonathan Joseph: Iwould lean towards DC on that one. All right. Wow. Only because we've, we've,yeah. What do you guys think? I mean, only because we've seen data regulationbeing left to big tech and we kind of all saw how that worked out. Uh, so Ithink I want to give DC a try on this one.

Tom Chavez: I thinkyou got major fox hand-house issues, if you leave it to big tech. Evan, soyou've worked on a number of campaigns. I don't know if we adequatelyunderscored that at the beginning, but thank you again for all of the helpwith, with this survey, but you've worked on, on, on polls, your professionalpollster. I don't know if I, if that's the right way to characterize it. You'vebeen on lots of campaigns. What's the favorite one you've worked on?

Evan Smith: I wouldsay, uh, Congressman Pat Ryan Congressman from upstate New York. Terrific!Terrific member of Congress. Very bright future. Very excited to, uh, see himwin re-election and, uh, and continue on. And I would say outside of, outsideof, you know, outside of electoral campaigns, very proud of some of the workwe've done around closing 13th amendment loopholes, uh, around unpaid labor orlow paid labor in prisons.

Tom Chavez:Wonderful. I got to ask though, as a, as a segue, most chaotic campaign? Comeon.

Evan Smith: I was, Iwas the pollster for the Andrew Yang 2021 New York City mayoral campaign.

Tom Chavez: Oh!

Vivek Vaidya: Wow.

Evan Smith: You, youand some of your listeners may, may have closely followed some of the chaossurrounding

Tom Chavez: that hadto be sparty.

Evan Smith: It's hardto top it. Hard to top it

Tom Chavez: Yeah. Forboth of you, who's your, who's your favorite politico? Who's the mostintriguing political figure you're, you're looking at right now in, in US?

Jonathan Joseph: Oh,geez. That's probably a better question for Evan. I don't know if I want toweigh into that one, Tom, but you know, I'm a capitalist on outward appearance,but actually I'm quite a socialist on the inside, so I feel the burn from timeto time. I like what he was trying to do.

Tom Chavez: How aboutyou, Evan?

Evan Smith: I'm, uh,I'm quite interested in the, in the political future of Gretchen Whitmer.That's, that's not a, uh, not a particularly revolutionary answer, but someonewho's gotten the electoral and political mechanics quite right in a state whereit's tough to do it. She's gotten the governance mechanics, right? And she runsa really tight ship within her state party. It's very frustrating whenpoliticians win elections and do nothing. She manages to win elections and thendo something. So I appreciate that about her. And I, I'm curious to see whereshe goes. She's not a client or anything. I'm just excited about...

Tom Chavez: 100%. Sheis super intriguing to me. It's amazing what she's achieved in Michigan underreally fraught circumstances, but, but getting results, right. Even amidst thechaos there. Yeah. She's she's remarkable. She's got a big, interesting futureahead of her.

Vivek Vaidya: Evan,what's your, uh, best Indian dish?

Evan Smith: I don'tknow if I, if I possessed the qualifications to, to really, I mean, the, theeasy, you know, an onion chili uttapam from Saravana Bhavan. Oh, wow. Is that afair answer?

Vivek Vaidya: That's,wow, that's, that's very specific. That was not what I was expecting, but anonion chili uttapam from Saravana Bhavan too. That too. Wow. That's...

Tom Chavez: Damn, younailed, that's like a 10 from the Russian judge, Evan, because, uh, Vivek overhere is a serious, serious chef. Top notch Indian cuisine.

Evan Smith: Okay,well, I'm glad I passed the,

Vivek Vaidya: I can'tmake uttapams, but I, I love, I love to eat them.

Tom Chavez: Well, thething you got to love about Indian food is it only takes about 10, 15 minutesto whip it up.

Vivek Vaidya: Yes. Itdoes actually just take 10, 15 minutes to whip up an Uttapam. It's south Indianfood, Tom.

Tom Chavez: I knewthat. I was just testing.

Vivek Vaidya: I know.I know. I know. I know. Is there anything about Indian culture, food, etc. Thatyou don't know?

Tom Chavez: If youhave any, any questions, I'm here for you.

Vivek Vaidya: Yeah.Okay.

Tom Chavez: Always.

Vivek Vaidya: Okay.

Tom Chavez: Allright, everybody. That is going to be our wrapping up point before Vivek and Ilaunch into a bunch of extra unnecessary tomfoolery. Let's call it there. JJ,Evan, really such a pleasure to have you both with us today in the ClosedSession.

Vivek Vaidya: Thankyou so much guys.

Evan Smith: Thankyou.

Jonathan Joseph:Thank you.

Vivek Vaidya: Allright, everyone. Thank you for listening in and don't forget to sign up for ournewsletter at superset.com. We'll see you next time.

Tom Chavez: See yousoon.

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Introduction to The {Closed} Session

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

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Starting From Scratch

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

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The Business Plan

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

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Early-Stage Funding Do’s and Dont’s

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

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Early Team Formation

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

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

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Building a Kickass Product & Technology Engine

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Women in Tech

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How to Interview for a Startup

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

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And, we’re live at super{set}!

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

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To Sell or Not to Sell

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Quarantine Edition: Let the Rants Unfurl

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Equity and Inclusion

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

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Big Tech and Regulation

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

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super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

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

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Back to the Office, Kinda Sorta

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

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To SPAC or not to SPAC

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

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From Watsonville To The Moon

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

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Not Just On Veterans Day

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

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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

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

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The Studio Model

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

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

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

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New Venture Ideation

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

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Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

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

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Good Ideas, Good Luck

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

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Data Eats the World

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

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The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

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

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VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

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

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People, First

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

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The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

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

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Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

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

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

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

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Too Dumb to Quit

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

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The Product Heist

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

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Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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Early Stage Customers

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

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Overheard @ super{summit}

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

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How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

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

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

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The Era of Easy $ Is Over

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

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The super{set} CEO

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

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How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

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

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When Inference Meets Engineering

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

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Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

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

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Calling BULLSHIT

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

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

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

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

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

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When and Why to Bring on VCs

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

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Startup Boards 101

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

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Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

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

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Arthur Patterson on Venture Investing

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

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Four Tips for a Distributed Workforce

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

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Arthur Patterson on Company Building

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

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

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

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Frida Polli, CEO and co-founder of pymetrics

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

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Diamonds in the Rough

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

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The RevOps Bowtie Data Problem

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

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Alysa Hutnik, Chief Privacy and Data Security Architect @ Ketch

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

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The Information: "TikTok Is Not the Enemy"

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

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

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

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Building the Creator Platform for Music Makers at Boombox.io

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

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

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

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Horizontal Scaling at super{summit}

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

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

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

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Jamming with Habu’s Matt Kilmartin on Partnership Strategy

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

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MIT Professor Rama Ramakrishnan on How ChatGPT Works

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

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Pivots and Possibilities

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

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The Future of Work and Talent in Tech

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

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AI Alignment with Brian Christian of 'The Alignment Problem'

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

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Hold Fast: Game-Changing Wisdom from Seamus Blackley

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

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An Intro to Product-Led Growth from MarkovML

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

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Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

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

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

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

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Lessons from the Startup Circus

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

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Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

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

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Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

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

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High-Velocity Personal Growth

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

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Harvard Computer Scientist James Mickens on The Ethical Tech Project

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

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

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

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ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

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

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How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

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

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

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

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Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

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

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

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

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The Product Mindset for Engineers

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

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Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

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

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Marketing in the Age of AI with Rex Briggs

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

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Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

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

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

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

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Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

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

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

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

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

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

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Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

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

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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.

read more

Data Eats the World

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

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

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

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

Overheard @ super{summit}

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

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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

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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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

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....

read more

Not Just On Veterans Day

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

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The 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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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 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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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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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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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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